Saturday, July 28, 2012

Friday, July 27, 2012

Today's weather -- partly cloudy

Hoping the last of the clouds blow through before tonight, since I'm walking in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life -- though I'd rather walk in the rain than in 95 degree weather! If you want to make a donation to the St. James team, you have until 9:00 pm tonight, CDT. [I'm substituting that last minute push for advertising early and often this year]. I'll be walking in honor and memory of Suzanne and Susan, and, always, for Robert, Bob, Marg, Bill, and Rosemary. And Sally Ride, and millions of other touched by this disease.
 Relay for Life Manitowoc County

A very interesting article on the future of libraries

The Bookless Library
It is nice to read an article with a good working knowledge of libraries from a non-librarian, though an academic faculty member at a major research university has a different perspective from a public library user in a small town.

I have yet to see any figures on the cost (economic and environmental) of everyone getting all their reading material and information electronically, and I think that it would be best to remember that we don't actually have any information on the longevity of electronic materials, in archival terms.

That doesn't mean that e-books are not a reasonable alternative for casual reading.  Most public libraries don't have historical collections, except for their own local history collections, and databases have already replaced most reference books. And certainly the more archives that can be digitized and added to the web, the better for researchers.  There are a lot of great local history and special collections projects already being done in libraries everywhere. 

And how did I find this fascinating article?  I subscribe to a great Internet comic, Unshelved, by email, and they linked to another online comic, Sheldon, which had a cartoon and blog post about e-books.

Follow me through cyberspace by starting with  Unshelved for Thursday July 26 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

After the Rain

Not to focus too much on the weather, but it has been on all our minds this summer.  We finally got some rain -- maybe too much of a good thing.  I don't think it will help the corn much.  My lawn looks a little more alive -- what I can see of it under the fallen sticks and tree limbs.  No major damage,  but there are some big broken branches still in one tree, and I can't quite figure out where they came from, since they don't match the tree they're in. . . I need to look at it from another angle.

Finding the perspective to understand anything -- past, present, or future, is always the challenge.  A friend of mine and I have been talking about the future of libraries, especially the public library.  She has a good vision of what might be created, but it is hard to get that perspective on the future.  She sent me this interesting link to another blog The Ubiquitous Librarian

How could I not like an academic librarian talking about data and decision making and referencing The Very Hungry Caterpillar?   In addition to having excellent reading taste, he asks how we can plan for a future that is unclear using data from the past?  It's a fair question. 

In the course of my work as an online reference librarian, I look at a lot of library policies and a lot of library web pages.  Libraries are working hard to keep up with change, as they have all of my working life.  Libraries have always embraced new technology, and, often, made it their own.  We also have a long and important history of resource sharing. 

I've seen a lot of libraries looking at new models, not just providing databases, e-books, and other downloadable media, but reinventing their public spaces as well.   Almost all of them are using social media, and many allow interaction with the catalog -- tagging or rating books.   Urban UK libraries seem to have more newly imagined spaces, including cafes and child care, but a lot of libraries are working on the issue of relevance to the community in a lot of different ways.  If you have not looked at your own library's web site (or Facebook page or Twitter feed) check it out.

One of the issues is that, to date, our society's adoption of new information technology has been cumulative.  Movies did not replace stage plays, television did not replace movies, mobile video has not replaced television -- and the same is true in print media, and though newspapers have folded, many are still in print and viable.

I am sitting in the neighborhood coffee shop -- I have my computer, smart phone and a print book with me;  the daily print newspaper is on the counter for people to share, along with a rack of print magazines.  The library  across the street has almost the same profile, adding the thousands of books (and the need to bring your own coffee, which is allowed). 

Because people expect both cutting edge technology and traditional services, and because everything costs money, the cumulative effect is part of the questioning process.  We can't assume anything will go away, even if economics dictate cutbacks. The obligation of libraries to serve everyone in the community is also a factor -- it's where people go when they can't afford their own technology.  Public libraries have been the providers of public computers since the early 1990s, and now they are lending e-book readers and iPADs, and providing wireless Internet access to clients and visitors alike.  They also provide a lot of free education on the uses of technology -- both technical and content based. 

What's your perspective?

All of today's photos were taken at the Woodland Dunes Nature Preserve, Two Rivers, WI

Monday, July 23, 2012

Heat Advisory

Another heat advisory, another day in the library.  Your Kindle app won't get you a quiet air-conditioned workspace with free WiFi. . . though, as we library advocates are quick to point out, you can use your Kindle or other e-reader to borrow library books, and, if you have the Kindle Fire or the Nook Color, to access the library's free WiFi. 

I actually have a semi-quiet workspace, because my quest for electricity has me in the young adult corner of the youth space, and I can hear the clunk of blocks from the play corner.  Unusually enough, I have earphones with me, so I could log into iTunes and go totally 21st century, but I'm okay with people playing and reading aloud -- and even talking about books! 

Not quite unrelated picture of the day -- this is one of the book boxes that the United States Lighthouse Service sent to the Lighthouse Keepers.  Since Keepers were frequently moved to different locations, all the boxes were numbered, and a librarian somewhere made sure that people did not get the same box twice.

Friends of Rock Island State Park
Wisconsin Department of  Natural Resources: Rock Island State Park

Surrounded by books -- and knowing I already have too many checked out -- I have a lot of both respect for the librarians and sympathy for the Lighthouse Keepers and their families.  The lighthouse on Rock Island is restored to 1910 and is a lovely, airy space, even on a very hot July day.  It doesn't take much imagination though, to think that it might not have been quite so pleasant for a family of 10 in February, though they may have been able to move to larger Washington Island when the shipping lanes closed for the winter.  Still, I'm sure they looked forward to their boxes of books.

Lighthouses are mostly automated, now, and books are becoming so.  How does that change our experience of books and reading?  Race car driver Danica Patrick was recently advised by her fans [on Twitter, of course] that if she used an e-reader, no one would know that she was reading recent bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey.

She said:
"I'm holding the book, baby," she said. "I like to turn the pages. It's the same reason I like to take a cork out of a bottle of wine. It's romantic. I like to turn the pages and I like to see how far I am, and then I look over at my husband and I say, 'Look, honey, see how far I am?'
"I finished the 514 pages that were in that first book. It's sad I even know that, but it felt like a victory for me."For Danica Patrick, 50 Shades of Red (ESPN W)

I was on vacation with a friend who said she liked big bookmarks, because it was easy to see her place. I don't know if people looking at the page numbers of their e-readers feel the same way or not.  I read print books, but I do most of my news and sports reading on my phone or computer -- though I still have the New York Times on Sunday and Sports Illustrated and the New Yorker delivered to my house.  I like holding them in my hand.  But am I just fond of a relic from the past?  How much value does that "romantic" feeling Ms. Patrick described have, when e-books and boxes of wine are cheaper to produce?   Has anyone done the math on the environmental footprint of the electricity needed for e-reading (across all platforms) vs. the cost of printing, distributing and recycling print materials?

More important to my mind, has anyone done any brain research to see if we process electronic information differently?  And is that difference important?  I write non-fiction of all kinds -- this blog, work reports, curriculum plans, email, cover letters, resumes -- at the computer.  I learned, as a journalism student in a high school with manual typewriters, to compose at the typewriter,  and was perfectly trained for the transition to computers, which I have used throughout my working life.  However, I write fiction and poetry in longhand, and make corrections even on poems I've typed up on printed copies of the poem, with a pen, not on the computer.

Is it habit?  personal preference?  or does the physical medium make a difference?

Should we find out, before we decide to no longer teach handwriting in our schools?
Cursive out of Common Core Standards
Schools Debate Handwriting

It is easy for me to see the questions -- the answers are more difficult.  However, shouldn't we be questioning everything we do -- from changing our reading habits to changing our cultural institutions to global warming?  And shouldn't we find a way to return to civilized debate and scientific exploration rather than screaming at each other about issues too important and too complex to be reduced to sound bites or bytes?

The upside of the drought here in northeastern Wisconsin has been really beautiful, sunny days -- more than warm enough to go swimming, which is unusual. Of course, the water has to be clean enough to swim in, which is not true everyday.  So I would also like to ask some questions about xeriscaping, factory farming, and other threats to the Great Lakes.
Wisconsin Beach Health
Natural Landscaping University of Wisconsin Press (print or e-book)

Fortune Cookie

Information is not knowledge.
Knowledge is not wisdom.
Wisdom is not truth.
Truth is not beauty.
Beauty is not love.
Love is not music.
Music is the best.
Frank Zappa