Why Wikileaks Matters to Libraryland

From NPR:

"This is the biggest free speech battle of our lifetimes," says Marcia Hoffman, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "This is the moment when we will see whether publishers can continue to freely distribute truthful political information online."

While some might find the statement of this EFF attorney to be a bit of hyperbole, there is an undeniable underlying idea being tested here: the scope of information distribution in the digital age. It is important because what happens now has implications for the dissemination of controversial information in the future. While we in the United States enjoy excellent free speech rights, the rules of expression can changes dramatically outside of the country. This is certainly not a new notion or concept; however, within the international framework of the internet, it creates its own new unique dynamic.

It matters to libraryland for several important reasons. First, in expanding our holdings to include digital collections, we are becoming more reliant on content that is delivered via the internet. While we may not be collecting the kind of sensitive information that Wikileaks has been publishing, the important notion is that there are individuals, corporations, and governments who could potentially exercise control over any point in the connection from the server to the end user. Not only could local officials pull the plug on a server or block traffic, but internet service providers (ISPs) could be pressured into not allowing traffic to move their networks. Or ISPs could regulate the amount and type of traffic that goes through their servers. (Think Comcast vs. Netflix, only with streaming video databases.) While there are ways around such things (mirrors for servers, rerouting of traffic for connections), it is up to the profession to be vigilant for such actions taken against digital information providers. It’s crucial to combat disruptions wherever they might be.

Second, the Wikileaks case represents the adage that once something is online it can be very hard (if not impossible) to fully remove. This is an important lesson as we seek to teach our patrons (especially the up and coming generations) about the implications of the online world in regards to privacy and personal content online. While this is not meant as a stern warning against putting anything online, it is a lesson about being vigilant about what gets put online. The most obvious lessons revolve around embarrassing Facebook updates, pictures of drunkenness and illegal activity, and unauthorized sharing of nude cell phone or digital photographs, but it extends to other potentially reputation damaging online postings. This is about teaching people about the positives and the perils of online life and how to take care of themselves in the new information age. If we are going to show our patrons the wonders of social media, we should do our best to put them on the path to good net citizenship.

Third, and what I consider to be most important point, if we as a profession are interested in the availability of literacy and information to the greatest number of people, we are going to have to fight for it. There are plenty of worthy causes for you to pick from: net neutrality, proprietary ebook platforms and/or formats, rural broadband access, book challenges/removals, unequal vendor pricing schemes and practices, and the granddaddy of them all, funding. While not all in the profession may agree with the practices or publishing of Wikileaks, we do share a common cause in trying to share information that is meant to educate and enlighten. In going forth under this ideal, librarians must be willing to take up the banner and fight for these causes. Not simply for the sake of the library as an institution, but for the best of what is yet to come in a digital information future. What this represents goes well beyond the doors of the library and encompasses the world at large.

For that, we must struggle, toil, and fight the good fight.


On Twitter today, I posted an #andypoll that asked: “Invent a new library word, provide a definition, & use it in a sentence. GO! RT plz!” I didn’t get many replies, but I loved the ones I got so much that I wanted to post them. So, here they are:

  • libraderie: Friendship and goodwill between librarians. “Little makes me happier than the libraderie I have with my colleagues.” (by @gingeringeorgia)
  • Lamenter: A person who constantly complains. “He got fired because he’s a lamenter.” (by @uberlibrarygirl)
  • Transvesselify – to provide timely information in the format (or vessel) most appropriate to the user. "This resource is going to be extremely popular – we need to transvesselify to cater for old and new markets." or "Traditionally that book has always been popular in print, but we need to transvesselify." (by @theREALwikiman)
  • Inforationale: helping students learn the rationale of good information seeking skills. (by @dianekauppi)
  • Virtuarefassist: where students get virtual ref to do their homework. "I used virutarefassist to find the answers." (by @andi33079)
  • e-new: to renew electronic resources from outside the library. “I’m e-newing ‘The Lost City of Z’, excellent!” (by @LibraryCynthia)
  • Smold. The smell of a closed study room during finals. “Even after two days, the smold in room 214 was tangible. Next year we hand out Febreze.” (by @bmljenny)

If anyone wants to add their own word, use the comments to add your own perfectly cromulent word. It embiggens our professional vocabulary!

Selling Myself. Literally. Ctd.

Over the course of a week since I started a Facebook ad for my Facebook Page, I’ve been watching the ad campaign unfold and seeing how it has been doing. These are my results from when the ad started to when I tweaked it on December 8th.


For such large numbers, it’s so easy to dismiss its actual impact. I think Facebook ads are a lot like Google ads now; they are things that you gloss over while you are on your way to other parts of the screen. My original targeting for the ad was for people who like or have an interest in “libraries” or “librarians”. In mulling it over, that’s not the audience I’m trying to reach which is why I’m not getting the clicks I’m looking for. I wanted to get fellow librarians and I thought about how to narrow it down.

In talking with another librarian about Facebook ads, an inspiration struck me: I’m looking for people who ‘like’ the American Library Association. Chances are pretty good that they are going to be librarians themselves or have an interest in the library world. In reworking the ad, the potential number audience rocketed downwards to roughly 13,000. Excellent. I downwardly adjusted my maximum bid from the suggested one since it was a much smaller audience and based on what the average CPM (cost per impression) runs. So, the ad campaign is much more focused and cheaper than before. But how will it do for yielding results?

The early data is that I’ve gotten the same number of clicks in one day that I got in the first two. I can see that there are a greater number of clicks happening because a friend is shown as having ‘liked’ me. Most excellent! Now I just need to let this new ad stretch its legs over the weekend and see how it does. I have a feeling that the refocus of interests is where it is at; but I do wonder if there are other interests that I should be looking to include in order to reach other library professional who may not ‘like’ the ALA. I’ll have to look for other likes or interests that might be viable ad terms.

It’s certainly something to think about over the next couple of days, but this ad campaign has been a good and fun experiment. And cheap to boot, as indicated above in the graphic; $10 is a bargain for this hands-on lesson, in my estimation. So, we’ll see where it stands next week!

Why I Write

Adrian: Why do you wanna fight?
Rocky: Because I can’t sing or dance.

Rocky (1976)

For me, writing reminds me of the bleeding techniques of early Western medicine; it was a school of thought regarding the draining of excessive humors from the body in order to reach a better state of health. In applying this principle to my blog, it is a matter of giving voice to ideas, thoughts, opinions, and commentary that would otherwise be rattling around my brain pan, demanding to be let out or returned for use by some other higher brain function.

As much as I grew up being a reluctant reader (I basically stopped at Encyclopedia Brown), I have been a reluctant writer as well until the last couple of months. There was always a willpower barrier that required to be overcome to even start a post, nevermind finishing one. For a long time, a writer’s block would mean that all work would come to a screeching halt until the proper wording, phrasing, or transition had been constructed. Frustration would take hold and the post would live as a draft while the roadblock was dealt with.

From my experience, draft status is somewhat of blog post Purgatory, a limbo in which the fate of an entry is measured by the mettle it would require to finish it. Some drafts never move on to Publish status as thoughts and opinions change on the subject or it is found to be wanting of certain support criteria. Others are able to survive the process and appear as a fully formed and properly birthed internet prose. They do serve as a memory lane for me where I can look at some of the ideas I had before that never made it out of this step.

As time has progressed, I’ve gotten better about the writing process. Fewer posts see time in the draft stage and most will make it out into published status in one sitting (albeit a long sitting, but still). To relate it back to the opening metaphor of this post, I have become better at diagnosing which humors are affecting the body and how best to treat them. My personal epiphany has been to shift my mindset and stop treating writing as a solo act and approach it more as a complete series of steps. As a doctor would listen to the symptoms, perform tests, and make a diagnosis, it is a matter of undertaking the process.

And a process it is, I would heartily agree. My brother, a talented fiction writer of his own right, refers to it as ‘laboring in the wordmine’. Writing the words into the computer would appear to be on the easy end of the entire system. Finding the words, expressing the thoughts, the arrangement of sentences within and how they relate to those that precede and those that follow, the flow of the paragraphs, all in service of an overarching concept or story or point. The construction of everything before your eyes right now is the result of writing, adjusting, re-writing, re-phrasing, and re-positioning. I’d offer a calculation as to the time consumed, but it is nothing compared to the urge to get it to be right in one’s own eye.

A friend of mine asked me how I wrote, what motivated me, and why I wrote. There is no way to answer her simply. I hope that this post offers something of a clue towards her questions, but in closing I can offer her this additional explanation. For me, writing is freedom. I can organize and arrange my words and thoughts in ways that make sense in an overactive thought process. I am more honest, more true to myself here than I am speaking or behaving since I can properly express myself in the perfect vacancy of the computer screen. I feel lucky to have this gift, for it makes me feel in tune with other people and with the world.

For me, writing is life. An expression of myself that is both pure and raw. It is myself on display for all who care to gaze. In public or in private, it is the best measure of who I am and what I believe. It doesn’t get any better than that. And that is why I write.

Librarianship Under The Big Tent

My BackTalk article, “We Need Big Tent Librarianship”, is available on the Library Journal website now and will be in print shortly. Before I get into it more, I’d like to thank Josh Hadro and Rebecca Miller at Library Journal for their editing and sounding board support for this piece. I really couldn’t have done it without them.

I really mean that last sentence. For me, this article was the most personal thing I’ve written regarding the profession. It’s one of the closest things to a This I Believe sort of statement, loaded with the hopes and dreams that I have. It might seem odd to some, but it was emotional at times to write it for I was dumping out my heart’s contents onto the page for all of my peers to see. It’s hard to be that vulnerable, but the opportunity to share it on such a platform made the reward worth the risk. So, now you know what lays at my very core when it comes to librarianship.

I’ve said it before on here and in person, but I will repeat it once more. The buildings, technology, services, and materials of the library are all transitional. What interests me, what compels me to write in this blog, and what intrigues me the most when I query my peers about their beliefs and philosophies is what lays at the soul of the profession. We can add video games, Kindles, garden tools, computers, funny t-shirts, video instruction, chat/text, and whatever else is being added to collections all over the world, but it means nothing without our basic dogma and principles. It is the fundamental concept, the basic idea, the primitive notion of the library in an information age that is the most important element; that we are for literacy, we are for all who seek assistance, and that we are information experts in an age of exponential data growth.

I can see from the first comment on the site that someone has asked the next logical question:

If learning more about each other is the first step, what comes next? When comes the step where we act collectively for the sake of endangered libraries and librarians and the people who depend on them?

My gut instinct is to say “soon”, but my brain is saying that this idea has to gain a foothold (grow some roots, one would say) before it can grow. It’s a matter of finding like minded people to build the bridges over the current lacunas that exist. It’s the baby steps of establishing that the underlying concepts of big tent librarianship are a good and worthy ideal. This is not an idea that will march in the streets by next July at the ALA conference, but will need to grow at the person-to-person level. That’s where it needs to be, opening up the mind of one librarian at a time. It’s a matter of not letting chances slide by, but taking them up as a collective challenge to the profession and (more importantly) to the institution of the library itself.

I will have to ruminate on this some more, but for now, I’m just trying to reach one librarian at a time.

“the Amy Winehouse of occupations”

From Counterpunch:

So why have hipsters latched onto librarians?  Because we’re losers, at least in the public’s mind.  Ask anyone with French tip nails and a frappuccino, and they’ll pretty much describe us as the Amy Winehouse of occupations: people with odd hair and odder interests. We’re crazy cat lady of professions, except we don’t smell like cat pee.  Most of the time.  But to those whose idea of the perfect day is having a quote from The Aeneid inked in Latin onto their forearm after scoring the perfect cardigan from Goodwill (preferably one designed for the opposite sex), a librarian is the personification of their post-millennial aspirations: props from friends for being the smarty-pants slacker that they are.   But if you hold such aspirations, you don’t have to go to library school to be a librarian: you can at the very least look and act like a librarian.  Why incur student loan debt and classmates with the demeanor of Dick Cheney without the sparkling repartee when all you need are your English lit books and access to your grandparents’ closet?

I think I owe the author of this piece, Linda Ueki Absher, a drink. Specifically, I’m thinking of a box of wine. I had written about librarian stereotypes as a guest post for Will Manley’s blog over the summer, but Mrs. Absher’s piece on the image of the librarian has taken it to a completely new level of brilliance. It embraces the darkest elements of the librarian stereotype: useless liberal arts degree, the drudgery of public service, and the quirky/deviant nature of the people who aspire to provide information service in this day and age. It’s does in one piece what the Annoyed Librarian can’t do in ten or twenty entries; bring the full on ridiculousness of the hipster librarian, display it in all its glory, and send it on its way like a loved but wayward child.

Yes, we are librarians. We are a fun, hard working, hard drinking, and defiantly curious and quirky bunch. But that’s the way we like it.

(h/t: LISNews)

As the Wikileaks Turns…

If you are going to read any two articles about the Wikileaks phenomena right now, I highly recommend this Glenn Greenwald article regarding the disconnect between what the media and the government are saying about the cables and what is actually being released by Wikileaks. It’s an eye-opener, for certain, because it corrects some of the stories that are being perpetuated throughout this whole hype laden story. I don’t always agree with Mr. Greenwald on some issues, but his attention to the facts of a matter is impeccable.

The other article to read is Julian Assange’s op-ed piece in The Australian. It’s an interesting takedown of the governmental critics of the project and what has been shared and released to the public. The most salient quote of the whole piece (and I will leave it as the closing to this post) is this:

Every time WikiLeaks publishes the truth about abuses committed by US agencies, Australian politicians chant a provably false chorus with the State Department: "You’ll risk lives! National security! You’ll endanger troops!" Then they say there is nothing of importance in what WikiLeaks publishes. It can’t be both. Which is it?