Saturday, July 26, 2008

both a borrower and a lender be

This map surprised me. It uses data and alters maps to reflect the numbers by changing the size of countries; here, it shows how many books were borrowed from public libraries per capita around the world in 1999. US circulation rates are on the rise, but still - what a surprise that Russians borrow more than Americans. Well, maybe not ... though I wonder what state their libraries are in these days.

The saddest thing is this last bit of commentary: " Where many people cannot afford books, it appears they often cannot borrow them either."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

privacy and security

Here's another stumper for the files. A librarian, surrounded by large police officers searching for a missing girl, asked for a warrant when they tried to seize a computer. And she stuck to her guns.

A missing girl is serious, and it's not hard to see that time is of the essence. But like most states, Vermont has a law protecting library records. I am not sure if they have a law enabling phone warrants in an emergency, but many states do - basically, you get a judge to sign off fast and do the paperwork later.

To my mind, not getting a warrant is risky if you're expecting to prosecute someone successfully. If the evidence were thrown out, so would any evidence arising from the search as "fruit of the poisonous tree." You have to balance speed with the very real need to not just respect the Constitution, but to build a case that can lead to conviction.

I think librarians need to do more than talk about privacy and slippery slopes to explain why a librarian would refuse to help police in a case like this. It's not self-evident to everyone that privacy is important at all when a child's safety is at risk - and we run the risk of sounding like rule-bound twits.

It's something to think about. How would you handle a situation like this? And how would you explain your decision in a way that even skeptics could understand?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Future of Libraries ...

... is sounding interesting. This is quite a fascinating time to be in the profession.

I really like the idea of the library as kitchen rather than grocery store. In the early 20th century, John Cotton Dana envisioned the library as an industrial place. People were supposed to get in and out, fast, with maximum efficiency. A counter-idea to the workshop/factory library was the welcoming living room, where female librarians nourished proper habits. Early works on library design show some fascinating underlying assumptions.

I like the idea of it being a welcoming kitchen where you can do some cooking, have a chat around the kitchen table, and where everyone's comfortable. But most of all, where you get to cook your own, not be served a meal that someone else decided was nourishing nor to be efficiently served by a machine.