Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Some fun images re: librarians and serach engines

FYI: At Cafe you can search and create a variety of print items. If you search for "librarian" two Google-esque images come up as options: "Librarian as Google Logo" & "Librarian the Original Search Engine." Clever, and relevant to our most recent class topic! I thought you might find it fun! Thanks ..... Kristina

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Just in time for our discussion today: Google comes to Madison

The new online Capital Times reports that Google has arrived in Madison:

Google has been running a lab just off the Capitol Square, at 10 E. Doty St., since October. Representatives of Google said the company has signed a lease for an office at 301 S. Blount, just off Williamson Street, and plans to move into that space in the fall.

Google representatives would not comment on other specifics, including how many employees work at the facility, but the company did provide The Capital Times with a release that stated: "We are opening an office in Madison because the city offers an excellent quality of life, a deep local talent pool and commitment to education at all levels, including the University of Wisconsin."


Google's engineering office in Madison will be directed by Jim Laudon, who received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the UW in the mid-1980s. Laudon was not available for comment.

Another prominent member of the Google lab in Madison will be Jim Smith, who recently stopped teaching as a professor of both computer sciences, and electrical and computer engineering at UW-Madison. Smith's research area was in computer architecture, a UW-Madison specialty.

"After Jim Smith stopped being a professor (in the summer of 2007), Google wanted to hire him," said Guri Sohi, the chair of the UW-Madison computer science department who collaborated with Smith for many years. "But he wasn't willing to move to California, so Google basically said they'd start a site in Madison for Jim. And then they found some other people to run it with him."

Interesting Tid Bit

April 28, 2008

London Journal

Shh! In British Library Reading Rooms, Flirting and Even Giggling


LONDON — In its old, mustily glorious quarters in the British Museum, the British Library’s main reading room was as exclusive as it was glamorous, a club rich with tradition whose distinguished alumni included Karl Marx, Virginia Woolf, W. B. Yeats and George Bernard Shaw.

But in 1998 the library moved to a modern red-brick building on Euston Road, and four years ago it liberalized its admission policy. It opened its new reading rooms not only to writers and academics who depend on material from its singular collection, but also to “anyone who has a relevant research need,” a spokeswoman said.

Which is all fine. But “anyone” includes college undergraduates, and the problem with them, at least in the eyes of the older researchers, is that they tend to behave like the teenagers that many of them are.

They hog the seats.

They gather into clumps of chattering hormonal aimlessness.

They flirt, look one another up in Facebook and make complicated social plans about who will meet whom later in the cafeteria.

And to the extent that they are poring over texts, complained Tristram Hunt, a historian, professor and television personality, it is the sort of texts they intend to send to their friends across the room.

“The worst is that they actually answer their phones,” he said. “The phone vibrates and they go, ‘Hold on a minute, Nigel,’ and then they run out of the reading room and take the call.”

Researchers have been grousing about the boisterous atmosphere and crowded conditions at the British Library for years. But the dispute — a philosophical battle, really, over who should be allowed access to a great national library — spilled out in public last week when The Times of London published an article quoting various distinguished figures complaining about the out-of-control mood over spring break.

The article described how the author Lady Antonia Fraser had been obliged to wait for 20 minutes in freezing weather just to enter the building, and another 20 minutes to leave her coat at the mandatory check-in desk.

It described how another writer, Christopher Hawtree, had been “forced to perch on a windowsill” because he could not get a desk.

Claire Tomalin, a historian, was quoted as saying that the library was “full of what seem to be schoolgirls giggling” and not using the library for any necessary research purpose.

“I heard one say, ‘I’ve got to write about Islam. Can I have your notes?’ ” she said.

In a letter to the library, Lady Antonia said that while she did not object to the admission of students per se, she felt that the library had failed to address the “chaos and confusion” that came with the larger numbers.

A library spokeswoman said that the crowds were a reflection of the library’s success and that today’s researchers have a new, more interactive approach to their work.

“The library has changed and evolved, and people use it in different ways,” said the spokeswoman, who asked that, in accordance with library policy, her name not be used. “They have a different way of doing their research. They are using their computers and checking things on the Web, not just taking notes on notepads.”

With 127,000 active readers’ passes in circulation and a total of 1,480 dedicated studying seats, the library is doing its best to manage the situation, including dispatching monitors to remind members of things “like not talking in reading rooms and not leaving your books on the desk and going off for lunch,” the spokeswoman said.

The library has also installed plasma screens announcing which reading rooms are full, in the manner of municipal parking lots. But that has failed to placate the older members.

“There’s loads of people dressing like they’re in an episode of ‘Skins’ and high-fiving each other,” said Matt Taunton, a 28-year-old postdoctoral research assistant, referring to a television series about the wild and crazy lives of teenagers in Bristol.

He said he had recently asked a group of students to be quiet. “They looked at me like I wasn’t cool,” he said. “I thought, ‘This is a library — we’re not supposed to be cool.’ ”

Mr. Hunt, referring to students with iPods, said: “They’re sitting next to me with their Walkmen on, and I tell them to turn it off. I’ve become like a granddad, and I’m only 33.”

Richard Martin, 26, a first-year doctoral student, said the undergraduates were not the only group behaving badly at the library.

“The only defense is that the people I see most asleep are the old-men academics,” he said. “They turn up with a dozen books in the morning, briefly flick through one, fall asleep and then go out for a long lunch.”

Lady Antonia’s daughter Flora Fraser, 49, a biographer who was using the library the other day, said that at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, readers reserve seats in advance on the Internet. That way, no one turns up at the library only to find that all the spots are taken, a common problem at the British Library.

“Actually, I really recommend it,” she said. “Maybe the answer is to get on the Eurostar and go to Paris.”


The Capital Times published its last daily paper edition on Saturday but will publish a weekly paper edition each Wednesday, and a weekly entertainment edition, 77 Square, each Thursday. I indicated otherwise in my context presentation last Tuesday. As they say in the business, I regret the error.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Reading Questions for the Week of April 21

1. In what ways does the formation of the internet mirror the development of libraries in terms of function and users? Do you think the originators of the internet were as elitist as Michael Harris accuses the public library founders of being?

2. For the D’Elia article, did the conclusion that libraries and computers are complementary for the moment seem correct to you? What should libraries' tactics be centered on: joining forces with the internet or becoming a quality-based service center in competition with the internet?

3. Will a digital public library be possible because of copyrights? What are some other issues with the idea?

4. Is web 2.0 at all a realization of Tim Berners-Lee and Nelson's original idea of shared information? Is it closer or further from their vision?

5. How has the economy altered the development of the internet and technology in the library? Would it have been different if technology were not profit driven? How has this aspect most affected the development of the internet?

6. How does Bernard Frischer’s idea of an ideal new research library compare with the findings of the D'Elia study? Are they compatible, or not, and why?

7. Considering all the visions of libraries present and past that we have read about, what would your own personal ideal library look like? Does yours differ very much or not at all from the San Francisco Main Public Library?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Questions for Readings

"Libraries increasingly will be understood less in terms of their physical holdings than in terms of their services." (p. 11, Role of the Council of Library Resources)

"... the agenda for the start of the next century is almost entirely dominated by addressing the effects and implications of technological change." (p. 68, "From Automation to Transformation")

"Will (libraries) be needed when the raw materials with with they have traditionally dealt are no longer available in printed form but are all readily accessible, on demand, to anyone with a terminal and the ability to pay for their use?" (p. 356, "Whither Libraries? or, Wither Libraries")

"So labor was to blame -- in its decisions, its skill, and its cost in time and money for the poor reaction on the part of LIBRARY 21 visitors to the Univac computer." (p. 47, "The Librarian and the Univac")

"Finally, we come to the present ... In trying to come to grips with what is happening ... libraries need to be understood in the historical context within which they have been created and developed as outlined here ... to begin to know more fully what libraries are for and how they work." (p. 13, "A History of Computer Applications in Libraries.")

My questions for discussion are:

If that last statement were rephrased as a question -- what are libraries for and how do they work? -- did these readings help answer it? Did they set up or further a collections-vs.-service debate?

What kinds of effects do you think labor and cost considerations have had in automation and technological updates in libraries? Will have in the future? Did it surprise you that so few librarians were involved in the CLR projects?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"Plan features new Downtown library"

I just saw this article on from the Wisconsin State Journal. I feel like this article would be so easy to dissect in terms of what we've talked about in class. Mostly, it reminds me of the video we saw on the New York Public Library. The glass entry is like the library in Brooklyn (if I am remembering it right). However, according to the article it seems the architect created it to mirror the Overture Center. Which then made me think of the first article in the reader (the very first one that wasn't assigned to write a blog on) about the main San Fransisco library. Why would a library want to be architecturally similar to a place designed to make noise louder? Just thought I'd post it to the blog.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Social Justice and Public Interest

The fundamental philosophy of public libraries in the United States, starting with the Library Bill of Rights, has consistently maintained that libraries are for everyone, “regardless of country of origin, age, background, or views.”

~Library Bill of Rights, American Library Association, Adopted June 18, 1948

Since the very beginning of Public Library services in the United States, we have debated about how to best serve our diverse communities. After more than a century, the debate continues. As natural community centers and believers in intellectual freedom, libraries and librarians have been obvious defenders of social justice.

Critics of outreach to the underserved often put heavy pressure on library decision-makers. According to those who, for example, oppose library services for immigrants, linguistically relevant collections and cultural programming causes a drain on traditional library services and is a misuse of taxpayer’s money. When you have an exclusively elite (white, middle/upper-class) group in power of the allocating and advocating of library funds, certain voices will most likely be left out. These are the voices of the underserved, the poor and disadvantaged.

Not only are libraries under the elicit power of an elite group within the library, but they are also receiving intense pressure from an array of diverse stakeholders from outside the library.
An example of anti-immigrant groups pressuring libraries played out recently in Denver. In 2005, members of the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform wrote a letter to the Director of the Denver Public Library, Rick Ashton, demanding his resignation. Reasons for their demand included the library’s possession of Mexican foto-novelas, sending librarians to Guadalajara to purchase materials in Spanish, for being a member of the National REFORMA organization that caters to Spanish-speakers, and for holding community forums to discuss outreach services to support their changing demographics. The letter accused Ashton of squandering public funds, duplicitously undermining their otherwise excellent English-language library system and accommodating “illegal aliens” at taxpayers' expense. (About 35% of Denver’s population is Hispanic. About 55% of the Denver Public School population is Hispanic.)(Quintero, 2005).

In response to situations like those outlined above, advocates across the country who support freedom of knowledge (especially those who advocate for library services for Latinos) have organized, prepared resolutions, and coordinated concerted efforts to guarantee equity of service. A leader in this work has been REFORMA, The Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking. REFORMA has dedicated a section of their website to resources and official public statements concerning immigrants and the Spanish-speaking. ( ) In April 2006, REFORMA approved a resolution opposing H.R. 4437, stating that “REFORMA will encourage library workers to act as advocates for the education of undocumented immigrants about their human rights.” REFORMA members also developed a “Librarian’s Toolkit for Responding Effectively to Anti-Immigrant Sentiment” and signed on to the White Ribbon “Campaign for Dialogue”, an expression of support for meaningful conversations about immigration reform. The American Library Association and REFORMA both have agreements with the AMBAC (Asociación Mexicana de Bibliotecarios, AC), the Mexican national library association, to share information and opportunities.

Other efforts have been coordinated nationwide by librarians and by those who support libraries. For example, the Suffolk Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee presented “Breaking Down the Walls: Making Your Library a Community Cultural Center,” a symposium that discussed ways of serving immigrants including library cards for illegal residents. National library conferences, such as the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color (JCLC) and the American Library Association Annual Conference, have hosted programs to discuss the topic. In June 2007, Web junction hosted the webinar “
Effectively Dealing with Anti-Immigrant Sentiment.” Speakers discussed how libraries can develop effective strategies for ensuring access to information to all people in their communities. Leaders of the library world led a live-nationwide discussion about the topic for and by librarians. Topics included advocacy, federal legislation, issues and options for academic, public, and school libraries. (García-Febo, 2007)

Another initiative that promotes library services to immigrants is “The American Dream Starts @ Your Library” project sponsored by ALA’s Office for Literacy and Outreach Services. This program offers mini-grants to libraries across the nation that wish to improve and expand adult literacy services to English-language learners.

The American Library Association identifies Equity of Access as one of the guiding principles for investment of energies and resources: “The Association advocates funding and policies that support libraries as great democratic institutions, serving people of every age, income level, location, ethnicity, or physical ability, and providing the full range of information resources needed to live, learn, govern, and work.” (Ramírez Wohlmuth, de la Peña-McCook, 2004)

During January 2007, ALA passed a Resolution in Support of Immigrant Rights stating that, “ALA strongly supports the protection of each person’s civil liberties regardless of that individual’s nationality, residency, or status; and be it further resolved that ALA opposes any legislation that infringes on the rights of anyone in the USA (citizen or otherwise) to use library resources on national, state, and local levels.”

But why does this matter? Why do we need to serve the underserved, the poor and the disadvantaged? As my ex supervisor, Patrick Jones, once said, Outreach to underserved communities matters because “the ability of the public library to remain indispensable in the eyes of society depends upon our ability to serve those who need us most.” And since the golden rule of libraries is to serve our community, we would be breaking our moral contract with our communities of we denied services to certain members.

But, even after writing all of this and wanting to believe that librarians are of course warriors of social justice, I hear the echo of Sandy Berman in my head and I can't help but pause and wonder...

Whether intended or not, are we "disseminating only white, middle-class cultural values?" Is there a huge gap between everything mentioned above that ALA claims to be doing to defend intellectual freedom and the reality of how libraries actually work? Are we truly walking the walk or only talking the talk?

Is there, as Samek suggested, a "deliberate but subtle use of force by an entrenched hegemony to maintain its grip"?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Diversity and Discrimination in American Libraries

In the six articles we read for this week, I came to relate the articles to one another through two main questions. First and foremost, is the manner in which libraries are used determined by the society that frequents them, or do libraries shape the way that society uses them? Second is the question of the degree to which the ALA is guilty or not guilty of bad behavior over the years as described as Michael Harris--that is to say, are libraries merely tools of elitist suppression and assimiliation...and is this necessarily always a bad thing if it is true?

Article 1: The Use of Library and Educational Facilities by Russian-Jewish Immigrants in New York City, 1880-1914: The Impact of Culture

In this article, author Nelson R. Beck exposes a glaring flaw in Michael Harris's controversial revisionist history. While the author maintains that many of Harris's critiques of formative library culture ring true, he criticizes Harris's own selective use of facts, as well as Harris's own elitism. Beck admits that assimilation into American culture was the goal of many top-down organizations that intended to educate immigrants of all walks of life. "Indeed, Edward G. Hartmann contends that the Educational Alliance, the Aguilar Free Library, the Baron de Hirsch Fund, and the older Americanized Jewish population all worked for the assimilation and Americanization of the Russian Jews" (133). Another signal of top-down manipulation came in the form of librarians denying Russian Jew children material in their native languages (of course, some of this appears to have stemmed from demand for such material from adult users). In the end however, it appears (at least according to Beck) that immigrant Russian Jews shaped the use of the library to according to their own needs and because of a desire to be educated due to the conditions prescribed by their native culture--a direct assault on Harris's own assertion that immigrants did not care to be educated. "In spite of slaughter and destruction, the Russian Jews maintained an educational system that reflected and perpetuated their religion and culture. Central to this education was moral training through the home and Synagogue. The scripturers and the Talmud demanded education" (131). For many immigrants, "Americanization" was a voluntary process as since education was important to Russian Jews, they wanted to learn English. Libraries often reflected what their immigrant patrons wanted in the library. There was no shortage of periodicals in the Aguilar Libraries related to Jewish topics, and Jews in New York City started up at least eleven different newspapers. At the end of the article, the author admits that this is merely one case study, and that while Harris's own elitism and "historical tunnel vision" may have been misguided, in order for his vision to be fully refuted, many more immigrant populations' educational habits would have to be examined.

1) To what extent did top-down assimilation strategies succeed? For example, did libraries succeed in creating a generational divide between young Russian Jews and their parents? Did libraries do anything that may have reinforced such a divide?
2) What are some of the ways in which Russian Jews had an impact on the institutions that helped educate them besides some of the reasons mentioned above?
3) Did Jewish culture have an effect on libraries more than libraries impacted Russian Jewish culture as Beck suggests? Is there a way to refute such a claim in favor of a top-down explanation?

Article 2: White Privilege in Library Land

This article proved a bit troublesome for me, because I could only answer half of the twelve "white privilege" questions with an unequivocal "yes." While I would not deny that I benefit from white privilege, I had to question if the twelve questions were indeed fair to the reader. In looking at the numbers provided by John D. Berry, the racial numbers regarding librarians who received higher education library degrees did not change in very significant ways over time--which is self-evidently significant in its own right. Perhaps we have not come as far racially as Americans as we would like to think we have since 1973. The only number that really evolved over this period is the massive growth in the percentage of females receiving upper level library degrees over their male counterparts.

1) Is the growth in females receiving high level degrees (and hence, leadership positions) in librarianship a boon for women's equality, or does it only serve to reinforce irritating gender-related stereotypes within the library field?
2) How many of the questions provided by Barry did you answer "yes" to? Does this number vary depending on where you have worked in the past? Where does Wisconsin generally fit into this twelve question equation?

Article 3: Toward a Multicultural American Public Library History

"If historians choose to see libraries as earlier forms of communication and information technologies, then it might be possible to look for ways in which libraries and their constituents engaged in similar struggles against restrictions, sometimes on the same side and sometimes not" (78-79). This quote lies at the center of the question that I would like to address today. As Cheryl Knott Malone addresses in her essay, a study of library history and culture tends to focus on leaders--the movers and shakers in libraries from the top down. In our own studies of Apostles of Culture and The Dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown, we have often seen this to be true. By this time, we know the names of all sorts of prestigious librarians in our field today, as well as many of the prestigious librarians of history. Malone asserts that bottom-up activity holds plenty of sway on the library as well. She cites the impact of Polish and Russian Jewish people on library culture in America, for example. She claims that creating a multicultural library history would involve a study of use, users, and nonusers. In creating a multicultural history of Chicago, Malone suggests leaving no ethnic stone unturned in piecing together a bottom-up epic. As Malone cites, "Takaki asserts that only by recovering different pasts, told from divergent perspectives, can a full appreciation of the complexity of United States history can be reached." Too often, such histories are only told from the top-down instead of the bottom-up--a shift to the latter would be helpful in telling a more complete story with respect to any history.

1) If libraries are an earlier form of communication like the article suggests, what parallels can be drawn between the way the library is shaped and the way later communication technologies were shaped (think bottom-up vs. top-down, think technological determinism vs. social shaping of technology perspective)?
2) What are some reasons that historical stories always tend to be told from the top-down? Is it so difficult to imagine a world in which such stories are all told from a bottom-up perspective and the top-down point-of-view is neglected?
3) Why has such close attention been paid to black-white relations in library history as opposed to more focus on American immigrant history?

Article 4: The Ugly Side of Librarianship

This is an article in which Michael Harris's distaste for ALA self-aggrandizement seems to be warranted. While the ALA took responsibilty for immigrants (a widly diverse group), African-Americans were dismissed as being a problem too wildly divergent between various American regions. Such hypocrisy appears to be impossibly thick-headed for a supposedly progressive institution--at least on the surface. Hatred towards black people was intense enough in the South that librarians did not want to alienate their white patrons by admitting black people to their libraries. Again in American history, separate but "equal" was thought to be the only solution. Librarians such as Rachel Harris celebrated the existence of ANY library that catered to the African-American population, even employing the writings of W.E.B. DuBois to back up her position. After all, the library did indeed offer education for those for whom it was lacking. In fact, the opportunities provided by the Louisville Free Public Library (Eastern Colored Branch) allowed some African-Americans to become college students, medical students, or university professors. Through 1950, virtually no library in the South was truly "'unrestricted'" (86). Northern libraries weren't terribly accomodating, either. The ALA was a complicit partner in American racism.

1) Would integration in American libraries circa 1900-1950 have been asking for too much, too fast? Could libraries as well as society as a whole expect to see a backlash from forced integration too early? In matters of racism, is there ever any room for compromise--even though racism is wrong?
2) Why did immigrants receive special attention from the ALA and not black people? Could it be that Michael Harris is right?...that the ALA and other interested parties wanted to assimilate immigrants into American culture?...perhaps African-Americans were deliberately excluded from such assimilation?

Article 5: Breaking the Color Barrier: Regina Andrews and the New York Public Library

The story of Regina Andrews might be considered a story of "middle-up-and-down" as opposed to top down. She was a member of her Harlem community--an active participant in the Harlem Renaissance. From her position within the NYPL, she fought her superiors alongside W.E.B. DuBois for equal pay. Still, this is a bit of a top-down sort of act (while also fighting from the bottom-up)...she was a "mover and shaker" within the library, and eventually came to hold a position of prominence. Regina Andrews invited controversial topics into her library with open arms, but also was in charge of more mundane Family Night at the Library program, a program that died with her retirement.

1) "Perhaps, though, the very ethnic background that at first impeded her progress also gave her the strength to ultimately succeed" (419). Please relate this to Louise Robbins's discussion of Barack Obama and Geraldine Ferraro from last week.
2) Is this story more of a top-down or bottom-up affair? Please explain your answer.

Aricle 6: Gays in Library Land: The Gay and Lesbian Task Force of the American Library Association: The First Sixteen Years

While the ALA has been cowardly in taking a stand against discrimination in the past, there is an instance of forward thinking that might give Michael Harris reason to pause and take notice. In 1970, the ALA recognized the Task Force on Gay Liberation of the American Library Association. This group was responsible for such successes as the Gay Bibliography, the Gay Kissing Booth, and the Gay Book Award. Though "[their] job was as much to unsettle ALA over gay issues as to settle into the ALA fabric," the branch was still nonetheless approved by the ALA and its SRRT. The TGFL had its share of failures too, however. Their Gays in Hollywood Film project, AIDS Awareness Project, and a discrimination survey were all busts.

1) "And I think it was more than chance that ALA was the first professional organization to be liberated by gay activists. Librarians are after all committed to inquiry, the open mind, and dissemination of information" (92). Has it been your experience that this is entirely true of libraries? What about from 1970 to the present day?
2) Could such promotion of LGBT culture be considered top-down indoctrinating elitism as defined by Michael Harris?...or would this be a step foward according to Harris? (I'm asking because I really don't know.)