Anonymous Rex, Ctd.

From an op-ed at the New York Times:

Facebook also encourages you to share your comments with your friends. Though you’re free to opt out, the knowledge that what you say may be seen by the people you know is a big deterrent to trollish behavior.

This kind of social pressure works because, at the end of the day, most trolls wouldn’t have the gall to say to another person’s face half the things they anonymously post on the Internet.

Instead of waiting around for human nature to change, let’s start to rein in bad behavior by promoting accountability. Content providers, stop allowing anonymous comments. Moderate your comments and forums. Look into using comment services to improve the quality of engagement on your site. Ask your users to report trolls and call them out for polluting the conversation.

It’s written by Julie Zhuo at Facebook. I’ll be honest in saying that my initial reaction sounded something like this, “Fascinating. Facebook wishes to advocate for more online accountability. Privacy much?” She finishes the article with a line intoning that by lifting the veil of anonymity we can see that we are all human.

I don’t think she could have missed the point any more than she did in this nice but misguided editorial piece. The problem is not anonymity, it’s about civility. Mrs. Zhuo’s post seeks to lump all anonymous comments and replies into one giant guilty pile. That’s extreme in its scope and unreasonable in its criteria.

Anonymous authorship is the second amendment issue of free expression. Just as there are many gun owners who are responsible law abiding citizens, there are many well spoken and articulate people who write anonymously online. For every crime committed by a gun, there is a standard hue and outcry about how gun are awful, horrible things that no one should have. This ignores the staggering volume of non-incidents that occur with or around guns each and every day. One could draw the same parallel to trolls and other acts of anonymous uncivil posts that go on every day versus the majority of perfectly reasonable and rational anonymous comments and postings.

It is all in the perception of the issue. You will always see a news story about gun violence and online stories about people engaged in trolling behavior. You will never or seldom see a story about a responsible gun owner teaching respect for firearms or gun safety and stories about people who have perfectly normal anonymous discussions. The focus is skewed toward the salacious and tawdry side of the issue about how bad it can be, how bad people act, and the rare acts of awfulness that cross the lines of social norms. Where is the data to support this position before requesting that every content provider eliminate anonymity in the name of accountability?

In my reckoning, the anonymous posting is just a symptom of overall societal incivility and the polarization of speech at present. It is a matter of re-asserting and re-establishing a courtesy for the views and opinions of others. It is a matter of respecting the free expression of another person. It doesn’t matter whether they are anonymous or not; what matters is the appreciation of differing viewpoints.

(I talked about anonymous authorship recently in my post “Anonymous Rex”, a response to Emily Ford’s post “X” at In The Library With The Lead Pipe.)

2nd Annual Online Secret Santa!… is almost here!

For those people who might be wondering, right now I’m trying to figure out how to do the 2nd Annual Online Secret Santa Extravaganza (you can see last’s years post on it). I’m thinking about using one of those Secret Santa sites since last year had some painful organizational moments with Google Docs, but I’m working out the logistics of how to add people to the group without having to email everyone an invitation. I’m going to post something tomorrow so that people have time to sign up.

If anyone has any ideas on this front, let me know! Yes, this is a short timeframe, but nothing quite like the present to get motivated about covert presents!

Andy’s Library Shirt Giveaway Contest!

A month or so ago, I had an idea for a t-shirt design that I thought ALA could like and use. I contacted my friend Jenny Levine and told her what I had in mind. After talking with ALA Designs and bouncing it back and forth, I’m pleased to say that they will be turning my design idea into a t-shirt! Behold!


The design won’t be available at the ALA store until December 20th, but the good folks at ALA have been nice enough to offer me some t-shirts to give away to my blog readers. So, here’s the deal: between now and 11:59pm on December 20th, you can submit an entry via the link below for a chance at one of five t-shirts. The link only asks for your email. On December 21st, I will choose five numbers via random number generator and contact those people by email as to what size and where they want it sent. Limit one entry per person, US residents only. (Sorry, my UK buds.)

Andy’s Library Shirt Giveaway Contest Entry

[A link because free WordPress hates iframes]

Big thanks to Rachel Johnson and Diane Buck at ALA Graphics for their patience with the design emails and offering t-shirts for a giveaway. You can “like” the ALA graphics Facebook page if you want to get the latest news on new and upcoming ALA products. (While you are there, you can also “like” my author Facebook page.)

Good luck!

[Note: the design itself does not have a black border to it. I just turned on the border on the picture embedding because the background is white as well. Click on it for the full non-black border effect.]

The Case for the Great Good Place, Ctd.

From Walk You Home:

One of the most important parts of library advocacy at the moment seems to be setting the record straight; explaining to people where they’ve got the wrong impression of libraries (be that because they’ve had a bad and unrepresentative experience and/or because they haven’t used a library in many years).


It’s been suggested that we should just ignore the naysayers and leave them to their ignorance. This is not an option! It’s really tiring to argue against all the misconceptions and misunderstandings of public libraries, but we have to. And it’s worth it.

In Lauren’s post, she goes through the comment sections of different online articles that talk about library funding. It’s a task I do not envy in the slightest, but her post is an excellent listing of typical comments with some excellent rebuttals. I just really like the fact that she took the time to find the comments and research answers to them.

As I said before in the LIS Syllabus post, advocacy is the new norm. It’s up to the profession to push back on comments that are misguided or wrong. We’d never let someone leave the library knowing that they had the wrong information, so why let public commenters have their words go unanswered?

This is not to say that you should fight all the internet trolls you see, but be on the active lookout for where you can make a mark in an online discussion forum. This will not result in a spontaneous conversion of the masses, but if it can change one person, then that’s one person more than we had before.

(H/t: Patrick Sweeney)

Books in 2025 over at LibraryThing

From the Library Thing blog, Thingology:

The group aims to centralize and restart a site-wide conversation about the future of books and reading. It’s a conversation that’s been going on for years here and there on Talk, especially Book talk and the librarians group, in comments to my Thingology posts about ebooks and my Twitter stream. It needs it’s own group. It will also be refreshing to hear more from LibraryThing members–not technologists or industry people. After all, who better to discuss the future of books than the people who love them most?

Be sure to check out the Books in 2025 group since there are some discussions already going on (the current largest discussion is whether the disappearance of the physical book stores matter). I admire the concept of an ‘everybody in’ huddle where book lovers of all stripes are being called together. If you’re a librarian, this is good marketing research as to what people are looking for or expecting out of books. This wouldn’t be a bad time to ask your own questions about the future of the book, either. (Don’t marry it with the future of libraries!)

Sunday Speculation: Weeding Your Life

Today, I spent the early afternoon at my grandparent’s house helping my parents move furniture and items around, do some yardwork, and load undesired items into an antique dealer’s truck. Prior to moving out this July, my wife and I had lived at the house for over four years. We had moved there after graduation from Clarion with our Masters in Library Science. My grandmother needed someone at the house to cook dinner and do housework and we needed a place to live while we found work. It was an excellent arrangement in the time after my grandfather’s death a few years before that. 

In staying at the house, I would ultimately bear close witness to the decline of my grandmother through dementia and other health ailments. When she needed more care than we could provide, she went to an assisted living place. On New Year’s Eve of 2008, she passed away. We continued to live in the house as it was rent free and the housing market was particularly lousy in 2009. But, like all things, that time came to an end when my mother and uncles wanted to place the house on the market. So, we moved out this past July.

The house has since sold and so it brings me to today to help move or remove the things that remained after my grandmother’s passing. A good portion of the furniture and furnishings had been removed from the house prior to today; there was a big push to empty the house in order to stage it for the sale. But with the contract in hand and the closing within sight, today was the penultimate preparation day for the last of the objects still left.  

The hardest thing for me to see leave the house was my grandfather’s bed. My grandparents maintained different bedrooms later in life due to their own idiosyncrasies and different sleeping schedules. It was the bed he was born in, of all things, though it was not the bed he would die in. It was also not a standard size, falling somewhere between a double and twin. My grandfather liked his mattress notoriously hard which felt like something slightly short of sleeping on the ground. After he passed, the bed was given more cushion. I would stay there on nights when I had a hard time getting to sleep; something about the bed just knocked me right out after hours of frustrated attempts.

That was one of the items that went with the antique dealer today. Having lived among my grandparent’s personal affects for a time made me relatively unsentimental about a majority of them, save for certain pieces. This was one of those pieces. It was hard to see it go, but I knew it was the right decision to let it go.

Save for that brief moment, I can’t say the same for the rest of the items in the house. My grandmother liked to collect, well, everything. We are not talking Hoarders level amount of crap, but there was certainly a large amount of things that they accumulated in their lives. In moving in the last few months, my wife and I have discovered items in boxes that we had not seen in over six years. They had been stored when we were out in Clarion and later stored again at my grandmother’s house. Since then, we have parted with a good amount of items that we simply don’t use or need anymore. It’s been nice to clean out and unburden ourselves of items that have no place in our lives.

This brings me to the question of the post: how do you ‘weed’ your own life? Do you weed your own life? What is the criteria for donating and/or trashing? For a profession dedicated to a constantly evolving collection, what do you do when it comes to your personal affects?

From Across the Pond, Ctd.

From the Guardian UK:

Without libraries, another campaigner predicts, many of the uneducated, unemployed and otherwise forgotten former users will end up needing much costlier help, further down the line, inside job centres, doctors’ surgeries, advice centres, housing offices. But a more pressing problem is that "community-run" can only, where it is divorced from the prevailing library service, be a euphemism for permanently trashed.

Supposing every devolved library were to be taken over by a group which was, by chance, composed of kindly, discreet book-lovers with no family commitments, willing to travel and with a gift for incessant fundraising and building maintenance, there would still be no way customers – or beneficiaries – could depend upon it. How do users complain when the library is shut during advertised opening hours?

While I don’t know all of the nuances when it comes to British politics and their political scene, it’s a shame that over two hundred and fifty libraries are earmarked for closure. I’m really hoping one of my UK peers can shed some light on this commentary and give it the proper perspective. It sounds like the decision for closing is going to be regional, there is something about volunteers taking over, and it sounds like non-responsive politicians.

At any rate, take a look at the commentary and then scan the comments. Does every library funding article have the same kind of comments, or is it just me?

(h/t: Neil Gaiman)

The Unbearable “Like”ness of Being

Check one!

There’s something very weird about setting up a Facebook Page for yourself. It’s an exercise in ego and self-consciousness all at once as you look to add details to make it interesting yet silence the small voice of rejection in the back of your head. As inspired by the picture above, it’s a little bit of the social politics of high school.

This creation is part “mission of mercy” to my Facebook friends, part my own branding and centralizing publicity, and part springboard for some projects I have kicking around in my head. I’ve been writing a lot more, the projects I’m working on are starting to get bigger, and I try to cram all of this into my News feed. When I was posting two or three times a day recently, all I could think was, “Ugh, my family and non-librarian friends are going to kill me for oversharing. And probably the library people will too.” So, in setting up this Facebook Page, I’m moving that content out to its own space. It should make it easier to keep personal and professional items separate from each other.

As my thoughts turn towards my own publicity and branding, a Facebook Page is currently a decent landing spot for such things until I get the energy and inclination to set up my own website. There is certainly an appeal to the inner narcissist, but Facebook does make sharing pretty easy for publicizing projects, presentations, and other things that I’d like to let people know about. So this page is more of my “official feed” from the various output sources that I use. Right now, it’s just this blog and the A View from Your Desk Tumblr (which is still looking for more pictures, so submit one today!), but I’ll see how that works out.

The last aspect is probably the most important to me at the moment. December is going to be a big month for me with some things coming out that I’ll talk more about later. In looking down the line, I’m excited to be working with my good friend Julie Strange on a new joint blog concept; we are hoping to have that active and posting in January if the details work out to our satisfaction.  (Nothing wrong with being picky if you are going to put your name on it.) I’m also kicking around some ideas for a newsletter which would be distributed exclusively through the Facebook Page. (Facebook gives you the option of sending messages to people who “Like” your page; this newsletter would take advantage of that tool.) And, to complete the list of teasers, I have a ton of notes down for an advocacy project that I’d really like to undertake. In doing so, I’d like to take advantage of some of the tools and resources that are available to me on Facebook in order to expand the reach of these projects.

I hope to see you on my Facebook Page. Now, I’m off to determine the implications of whether I should “Like” myself or not. As they say, Freud would have a field day.

Ten Things You Won’t Find On Your LIS Class Syllabus

I generally try to avoid posts comprised of a list but every now and again I get inspiration to put one together. I give credit to Jill Hurst-Wahl for providing a catalyst with her blog post “What I want LIS students to know”. In doing my own reflection of the last couple of years, I’d like to offer my own advice on this avenue. So, without further ado…

1) Don’t buy into the “Old vs. New” librarian generation meme.

At its most basic form, it is the idea that young librarians are just wishing for older professionals to die or retire to make room for them in the job market. In its advanced concept, it is the notion that older professionals are resistant to change and are actively engaged in the prevention of new ideas from being heard, implemented, or otherwise considered.

This is bullshit.

I wouldn’t rule out that the “get out” idea hasn’t passed through the mind of a new librarian. It’s a normal upward pressure felt when new members are trying to make room in a field that is crowded. Nor would is it completely unlikely that an older professional squashed, outmaneuvered, or otherwise dismissed an idea from a young or new librarian simply because they are set in their ways. But to me the embracing of the meme means two things: first, that older professionals are an obstacle to the development of younger librarians; second, that the older generation is incapable of handling change. That, simply put, is asinine shortsightedness. Without the older generation of librarians, there are no mentors, no guides, and no retained professional intelligence that can be passed onto the next generation (and likewise when the current young group becomes the older hands). Nevermind the notion that the older librarians cannot handle or manage change; it’s a rehashing of the saying that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. There is no age limit on being a progressive librarian. One cannot pass around a video of a woman over one hundred years old using an iPad or learning a new dance and praise it while then saying that older librarian generation cannot handle change.   

Don’t get caught up in this meme. It’s a waste of your time.

(Some people will have a problem with the use of the term “progressive”, so I define it as someone moving towards new services, materials, and policies that better reflect the needs of the communities they serve. You may now argue it from there.)

2) The mission is static. The implementation is dynamic.

It’s an oversimplification, but the mission of a library (any library, either public, school, academic, or special) could be summed up in a simple phrase such as “to provide service to a community”. Along with other core librarian values, they do not change regardless of the setting.

As it relates to how services are rendered, collections are maintained, and policies are outlined, that is a whole different train of thought. Furthermore, it is highly influenced by the circumstances under which the library operates. What works at one library may not scale to another. It doesn’t mean that it is wrong or a bad idea, but that it just doesn’t fit or apply to another situation. Be open enough to recognize the differences in libraries and how different approaches work towards similar outcomes.

Libraries are not a ‘one size fits all’ prospect, but they are operated under the same philosophic ideals and principles.

3) Libraries are not information vaults, but information launch pads.

Like Mrs. Hurst-Wahl stated, the profession is in flux. It is a paradigm shift from being one of few source of information and literacy to one of many. Libraries are not the end of the line for knowledge, but now a gateway to the greater intelligence networks of the world. Communication and computation have made global sharing of collected wisdom the new reality of a connected world. That is the concept that we have moved towards: the people who can make the connection between a person and the information or literacy that they seek. It will be the evolving measure of success for the library and a key element to future measurements of library effectiveness.

4) Service matters.

The passive service model in which a person sits at a desk and waits for inquiries is half dead. While there is merit to having someone on hand to answer patron’s question, it is up to librarians today to provide service remotely. Whether it is by phone, email, chat, text, mobile, or website, people are going to be looking for information on other platforms. It’s up the profession to provide additional reasonable access venues to meet these emerging or established means.

In becoming more connection oriented, the emphasis on customer service has never been greater. It is about creating, cultivating, and maintaining a relationship with the patron community. For myself, I think about the kind of service I like to get at store and restaurants and put that into my efforts to help my patrons. I want them to leave not only with satisfaction, but the desire to come back.

5) Advocacy is the new norm.

In my opinion, advocacy is now integral to librarianship. The days in which the library did not have to sell itself to its community are past and gone. While marketing library services, materials, and programs is important, it is important that the profession be able to articulate and demonstrate the value of libraries to their communities. It’s not simply a matter of reaching those who come to the library, but reaching beyond to those who do not but still support the mission of the library. Whether it is politicians, adults, students, superintendents, provosts, or corporate officers, the ability to show value for the investments placed within the library is an ongoing and important endeavor. In times of need, it is integral to have the ability to call upon supporters.

6) Politics is not a dirty word.

This is simply not limited to elected officials, but the social politics that exist in other settings. While there has been a distain for engaging in such lobbying as we pride ourselves for being neutral and objective, I find there is an important difference between offering information objectivity and being active in the politics of those who make decisions regarding the fate of the library. There is no taint to creating and maintaining relationships with decision makers. I would argue that there is no conflict of interest; in fact, it would be in the best interests for the continuation of the library to curate these friendships.

Politics (as political science or social politics) is something that librarians have been involved with in one way or another for many years; this end of the spectrum should be utilized to the best advantage of the library.

7) Professional development is in your hands.

While there are great libraries and systems out there that provide excellent monetary support for attending continuing educations classes, workshop, and seminars, it’s up to you to find the resources that will further your career. They may send you to the state or ALA conferences, but it’s up to you to attend the programs and talk to the people who share your interests. Beyond that, I’d suggest delving into other professional outlets, whether it is trade publications, academic publications, or online in the form of sites, forums, blogs, and/or social media.

Where there are opportunities, utilize them. Where there are not, make your own. Only you can advance your career.

8) Know your library’s basic maintenance.

For anything that has more than a handful of moving parts, requires electricity to work, or has a computer within it, I’d highly recommend learning as much as you can about it. Whether it is a computer, toilet, fish tank, printer, fax machine, copier, or electrical/plumbing system, you don’t need to know how to repair it, but should have an idea of what to do when things go wrong. Stopping a bathroom from flooding due to a leaky sink, helping graduate students from losing their minds when the printer isn’t cooperating, or being able to figure out what to do if the lights go out or the fire alarm malfunctions, these are the things they don’t talk about in an LIS program. As someone working in the library, you are a first responder to these issues and you should prepare yourself for these situations.

For myself, I’ve learned how to read and reset the fire alarms, reboot and reprogram the phone systems, check for sewage or other plumbing problems, who to call for animals in the library, and the basic fixes for all of our printers, copiers, and a few of our testier computers. No matter what the library setting, knowing your building is an important bit of knowledge to possess in my opinion. Under the right circumstances, this advanced knowledge and preparation can save the day.

9) Be yourself, no matter what they say.

There will be trying times. There will be trying situations. There will be obstructive people, whether they are coworkers, administration, or patrons. The important thing is to remain true to who you are as a person and what you believe in about the profession. Everything else will follow after that. And if you can’t be who you are or follow what you believe, then it’s time to hit the trail in search of a better fit.

That’s it. Be yourself, no matter what they say.

10) Have fun.

For myself, I love what I do. I enjoy what I do for the community I serve. I also like to have fun with what I do. Over a year ago, I started the “People for a Library Themed Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Flavor”  Facebook group because I thought it would be fun to do and to promote. It has serious undertones that relate back to advocacy and awareness, but the first impression was meant to appeal to people’s sense of fun. Same thing for last year’s librarian online gift exchange (which I will be doing again this year, just working out details/logistics) and with the #andypoll stuff on Twitter. Look at what my fellow librarians and friends Justin and JP did with the Project Brand Yourself A Librarian over 8bitlibrary; they had people getting tattoos!   

The bottom line for me is that I can act in a professional manner, enjoy what I do, and have some fun at the same time. I think people forget that last aspect at times, but I hope that this will remind them. Take what you do and bring some joy to it. Trust me, it is totally worth it.

Now, go forth and change the world. Or your little corner of it.

A Day of Thanks

In giving thanks for the season, I’m reprinting my best man speech from last year for my brother’s wedding. This year, once more, my family is missing another person from the Thanksgiving table. So, hug the ones you love, remember the ones you miss, and take joy in a day of thanks for both.

The months of October, November, and December have not been kind to our family. Over the course of years, we have lost many good friends and family members during this autumn season. But today, I believe, this wedding will mark the beginning of a new era of joy for this late year season. On behalf of the Krafts and the Woodworths, it is my honor and privilege to welcome Meghan to our family. I am very pleased that my brother has found someone to share the experience of the journey ahead.

On your wedding day, I wish to offer you this advice, the collected life lessons of our grandparents, Randy, Beverly, Mary, and Richard.

Follow your dreams and passions, wholly and completely, for they are the true essence of life and happiness.

That judgment and acceptance are mutually exclusive. While the former need not be favorable, the latter should always be given.

That love is boundless and unconditional; it is the product of a multitude of small personal acts.

That separation is merely a temporary illusion; that there are no ‘goodbyes’, only ‘bye for now’.

To the happy couple, I offer you simple and unfettered best wishes.

In looking at it now, it has a different resonance to me. But the sentiments still remain for them, my family, and my friends.

Happy Thanksgiving.