Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Patrons and Patriots

Michael Gorman has some things to say about the Patriot Act - boiled down to one word: Kafkaesque.

There's a fascinating article in First Monday by Joan Starr that goes over the history of librarians' responses to national security threats.


Monday, July 18, 2005

"Research at Risk"

One of my library heroes, Thomas Mann, has published a new article in Library Journal.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Environmental scans

The library literature that I've read on strategic planning stresses the importance of determining the external factors outside of the library that may influence future library users, collections, and services. OCLC, a major player in the library world, published a document in 2004 titled 2003 Environmental Scan: Pattern Recognition. As the introduction states, the purpose of the study "is the identification and description of issues and trends that are impacting and will impact OCLC, libraries, museums, archives and other allied organizations, positively and negatively. ... The scope... is the social, political, economic and technological spheres in which [these] organizations operate." It's a fascinating document, and a "must read" for librarians and library administrators.

Right now, environmental scanning is being discussed in a blog written by three OCLC staff members, It's all good. You can read part one here and part two here.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The ethics of academic librarianship

At the ALA Annual conference last month, I attended a session that explored the ethics of academic librarianship. It was a wide-ranging discussion, and there were few answers to many of the ethical quandaries that librarians face everyday in the college or university. At the present, the library profession is guided by the American Library Association Code of Ethics, the Library Bill of Rights, and the Freedom to Read Statement. I keep a copy of the Library Bill of Rights and the Code of Ethics taped on the wall near my computer so they are always in view.

One of the ethical dilemmas that was mentioned involved equitable service. As one of the speakers asked, do we really provide equal levels of service to college or university library users? For example, suppose you are helping someone at the reference desk, but then you receive a call from the college president's office, requesting some reference assistance. Would you finish helping the patron you are currently working with, or would you give preferred treatment to the president? The president, after all, influences college policy and makes decisions that directly affects the library. But according to the first part of the Code of Ethics, librarians provide "equitable service policies" "to all library users."

These and other issues are challenges librarians face everyday. It is important that we reread the Code of Ethics and other such documents frequently to remind ourselves of the basic principles that we as the profession have agreed should guide our behavior and services.

wiki mania

I am tech savvy person. I started using an RSS reader over two years ago before it really became a "big" thing both in the tech world and among the general public (and I'm not sure really how pervasive RSS is among the general public). I studied computer science in college and worked for three years in the college IT department. However, I have a healthy skepticism when new technologies are introduced. One such technology is the wiki, the technology that drives the Wikipedia.

Some librarians in the library blog community are known for their tech enthusiasm (they shall remain nameless here). And wikis are really big among these bloggers right now. These bloggers have mentioned two new library wikis that launched this week: Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki and LISwiki.com.

The former I see as having a definite purpose and potential. It reminds me of the Association of College and Research Libraries Instruction Section's PRIMO project. "Best practices" Web site and articles seem common in the library world.

As far as the latter wiki, I don't understand what it is for or about. Is it trying to be an Online Dictionary of Library and Information Science or an Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science or something more? Or is this simply a demonstration of "technolust"? That is, is this an example of a wiki set up just because it's the hip new cool tool/toy of the moment?

Sharing library tips

In recent blog posts over the past two days, non-librarians are sharing their library advice. LifeHacker has a post on How to finish library books on time. Ask Metafilter had a recent question about the best way to handle a lost library book.

I really like the Ask Metafilter site because users can submit questions about virtually any topic and receive lots of valuable answers. Many of these are questions that reference librarians simply can't or won't answer: questions that involve personal opinions or recommendations or speculation--basically questions that may not have an "answer" or a source to which librarians can point patrons to.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The "i" in IL: internet or information?

This recent CNN news item covers a new standardized test that has been getting a fair amount of coverage in the press lately. Some librarians think it's a good idea to have some sort of assessment tool that goes beyond how to use libraries and can be applied in various settings. Others worry that if information literacy is conflated with tech skills we'll fail to keep our eye on the ball. And still others (like me!) wonder if multiple choice testing isn't too blunt an instrument for assessing something as complex as mastering the art of inquiry. Still, there are several on-the-ball librarians who are working on this project so I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

The real surprise to me was Dominc Basulto's take on the issue. He thinks librarians are trying to "own" information and be gatekeepers of what will be considered legitimate--and this test is just one more manifestation of our worst control-freak impulses. Though I initially thought "huh? librarians as censors? Where is that coming from?" But on further reflection I do think the word "literacy" carries with it some very odd, controlling baggage. And we do tend to use scare tactics in "selling" information literacy as a cause. Careful with that information! It might explode!!