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)