Thursday, November 24, 2005

Multi-Tasking Ourselves to Death?

Minnesota State University, Mankato got written up in Wired for their new addition to the gym: surf the Web and answer your e-mail as you work out.

For another take on multi-tasking, see this story written while sitting in a college lecture hall. It's part of a week-long series, Slate Goes to College. I've heard librarians complain about students doing their e-mail during library instruction sessions; this is a little more extreme.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Google + LC = World Digital Library

CNN posted a story today about Google giving $3 Million to the Library of Congress to build a "World Digital Library" that Librarian of Congress James Billington said would be, "an attempt to go beyond Europe and the Americas ... into cultures where the majority of the world is."
The story references the American Memory Project that LC has been working on for some time. I can say from personal experience that American Memory is an amazing digital resource. I used it last semester to search the Library's collection of Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper of the U.S. Armed Forces during the Great War, for a project on Camp Libraries. If the proposed World Digital Library turns out as well as the American Memory Project and really does have the global focus Billington describes, I'm excited for the research opportunities it will provide us and our patrons.
An interesting tidbit hidden in the article says Google will, "work with the Library of Congress on developing standards for indexing the digital collections ..." I'm curious to see how this will develop and to see what effect, if any, Google's influence on this project will have on the way we are currently cataloging and indexing digital materials.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Holding the Line on the PATRIOT Act

Whiplash. That's what it feels like to hear on Thursday it's pretty much over and the PATRIOT Act will be reauthorized, warts and all. And then for a bipartisan handful of senators to do the right thing and refuse to be rushed - once again - into legislation that gives federal law enforcement too much power.

As an editorial in the LA Times says, Congress gave the executive branch the benefit of the doubt when the law was passed. They haven't proven that this set of laws is effective or that they will use it responsibly. Though the Senate's modifications are minor, they are at least symbolic.

I was trying to keep an eye on this developing story when Jane Kirtley came to campus Thursday to speak as part of our involvment in The September Project. Interestingly, though she spoke about the PATRIOT Act, she also spent a lot of time on the various ways this administration is drawing the blinds on government activities. An example: under Attorney General Janet Reno, information requested under the Freedom of Information Act was released unless there was a compelling reason not to. John Ashcroft reversed that formula: information would not be released unless there was a compelling reason to let it out. Fascinating that a government that wants to know so much about us is resisting efforts for the public to know about their activities. Which makes a certain amount of sense when you consider how embarrassing so much of it is.

Though librarians' involvement in PATRIOT Act activism revolves around sections that affect libraries and privacy, we have a broader role to play in defending access to information and the freedom to read. All of which makes it interesting to be in the profession these days, when those principles are so challenged.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Using copyright to squelch speak--even speech we don't like

Here's a fascinating article at Wired. Seems that the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association are using their copyrights to force the Kansas State Board of Education to change its curriculum standards--because the NAS and the NSTA do not endorse the Board's inclusion of "intelligent design" in the state's science curriculum. As much as I disapprove of teaching intelligent design in the classroom, the author of this article points out that copyright was not intended to squelch speech or "bring people into line." Librarians, copyright scholars, and other interested parties should oppose the NAS and NSTA's actions here.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Distance Blues

A graduate of an online program published her thoughts about it in Library Journal. She argues that for a variety of reasons its better than a traditional degree program. On the other hand, she reports that there seemed to be quite a bit of skepticism among hiring libraries.

I shoud dig around and see if there are any reports with more actual data comparing online and traditional LIS programs -- after I've had more coffee. Yesterday was one of those days: meetings scattered throughout, followed by an evening shift at reference until 10 p.m. and now I'm trying to wake up for an 8 a.m. meeting... all of which probably betrays my inability to manage my calendar more than anything else.