Links of interest: April 8th, 2011

Problematic editorial responses:

There’s been a lot of discussion in the past week or so about Wicked Pretty Things, a young adult anthology focused on ‘dark fairy romance’. Seanan McGuire, originally part of the anthology, posted a very good summary of the problem: namely, that the editor had rejected a story that included a gay romance (in ways that were otherwise tasteful and appropriate to the age group.) As Seanan says:

And here’s the thing. There is absolutely no reason to censor a story that was written to the guidelines (which dictated how much profanity, sexuality, etc. was acceptable, as good guidelines should). If Jessica had written hard-core erotica, then rejecting it would have made perfect sense. Not that kind of book. But she didn’t. She wrote a romance, just like the rest of us, only her romance didn’t include any girls. And she didn’t get a rejection; she got her story accepted, just like the rest of us. Only while we got the usual editorial comments, she got “One of your characters needs to be turned into something he’s not.” And that’s not okay.

She continues to talk powerfully about why she feels the need to stand with the people who resist bullying through exclusion.

But the story doesn’t end there: along with a lot of other online discussion, and statements from the anthology editor (not particularly satisfying) and the publishing house (ditto), the publisher used an opinions essay in Publisher’s Weekly to scold the original author (misrepresenting what she’d done, for people who didn’t know the background, in the process.) That part? Really not cool. Good thing there’s a ‘Net with more information, really.  Dear Author has a post about this, including a link to the essay and additional background.

Cleolinda has been doing a series of posts with far more exhaustive links: part 1, part 1.5, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.

Professional challenges and changes:

Joyce Valenza links to a great project from the librarians at McPherson College, who came up with a short graphic novel called Library of the Living Dead to explain library services to new students. It has me thinking of all kinds of great ideas (and glad that generally libraries are not zombie-infested.)

Doug Johnson has a post on the reality of paraprofessionals taking on roles previously filled by MLS-degreed professionals brought on by an email asking for help. This is one of those painful situations where everyone’s got a point, but I always wonder who we’re serving by pushing people into a role they’re not prepare for. Many paraprofessionals (as I was, when I was one) are great at the day to day stuff, and I suspect everyone reading this knows places that would never work without them.

But where the MLIS degree focuses is on looking at larger issues and how to navigate them over years or decades. As with most things involving learning a new way to look at the world, that’s not an easy thing to pick up on the fly, while trying to do two people’s jobs. Some people will manage – but what happens to those served by the people who don’t? I’m not just talking here about them not offering the kinds of services our students need and deserve – but also about the costs to them in trying to do a complicated job without adequate staffing, support, training, or time for reflection and renewal.

Jessamyn West, Fiona Morgan, and Justin Grimes did a presentation at SXSW 2011 on the digital divide in rural areas. Lots of great notes and resources, too.

Brian Herzog talks about some of the challenges and triumphs of dismantling their reference section – and why they did it.

Social media:

Troy Swanson has a great guest post at Tame The Web about how libraries need to look at how they use social media a bit differently – and how it can bring employees in a library who don’t get to see each other in person into a common community.

Denise, one of the co-founders of Dreamwidth had two great posts recently. One, in her formal managerial hat, is about development decisions there, and specifically how they’ve been spending a lot of time paying down technical debt (that’s the stuff you do because you need to get it done, but knowing it’s going to need to be fixed later). It’s got me thinking a lot about the equivalent in the library world (and I hope that’s going to gel into some writing sooner than later.)

She’s also made, from her personal account, a very powerful post about recent issues with LiveJournal, where she worked for a number of years (and where I volunteered under her direction.) I’ve had a number of online homes over the years, but LiveJournal is one of the longest-lasting: I’ll have had an account there for 10 years in May, during which time I’ve posted thousands of entries that help me follow threads of information and connection through my life. (These days, I focus more on Dreamwidth, because I want to specifically support some of their priorities, but due to cross-posting and other tools, still am around LJ a lot.)

Anyway, LiveJournal became, for various reasons, the pre-eminent free press outlet in Russia, both before being bought by the Russian company SUP, and since. Denise explains some of why this was, how it raised complex issues questions on a practical level, and how the site’s contributed to free expression in Russia in a variety of ways. (The reason this is relevant this week is that LiveJournal’s been under substantial DDOS attacks and other problems that have made use of the site more complicated (like lots of spammers.))

Links of the Week, March 22nd, 2011

Welcome to a middle-of-the-week roundup (as I said last Friday, this coming Friday I’ll be running around making an event happen, so you get links today, and then a week from Friday.)

Here, on this blog:

You’ll notice I’ve rearranged the sidebars – added is a new box with quick links to some of my favorite posts and post series. (I think the new layout works a bit better, but please let me know if something doesn’t work for you.)

You’ll see that one of those links is to Copyright Videos: this is the round-up of videos about copyright. My focus was on videos that were short enough (5-10 minutes) enough to be played briefly at the beginning of a discussion, but that also informative enough to give students or teachers something to dig into. (There are a few longer ones that I thought were especially interesting.)

I looked fairly broadly, but I’m sure there’s lots of amazing stuff I missed. If you have a favorite that fits the criteria, please leave it in comments or use the contact form.

Information bits and pieces:

Brian, at Swiss Army Librarian, has a neat post about the American Library Association Library, which posts some of the reference questions they receive (with answers) and links to some of their other resources. Brian also has a post showing how Delicious (whose future is still up in the air) and Diigo compare, using the same links and basic structure.

Joyce Valenza shares several posters she and her practicum student, Jenni Stern, made to illustrate how both traditional and new information skills matter.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan has been about how information is communicated. I don’t want to do a roundup of links, but I do want to highlight two that I found particularly interesting. One was a conversation on my favorite Minnesota Public Radio show, Midmorning, talking about news and journalism relating to the quake. It’s actually one of the least smooth conversations I’ve heard from the host in a long while, but that shows how hard it is to have a conversation about some of the deeper issues (and it does settle down into the goal topic eventually.)

I’m also fascinated by the geek comic xkcd’s illustration of radiation levels. You can see some more about the design over on their blag, and his source for the data has a different presentation of it (with more about some specific effects) as well. (She’s a senior reactor operator at the Reed Research Reactor, and as she says “.. one of my many duties is being aware of radiation levels in the facility and adjusting my behavior appropriately.”)

Connecting online:

There’s a great post about what social networking might mean in academia from the Tenured Radical. I definitely agree that it’s much more about making things easier than anything else.

And in the latest round of privacy issues in online settings, Etsy (which has been moving towards adding more social networking tools) made people’s past purchases visible online. Fortunately, they turned this off, but in the meantime, there were some interesting posts about the specific issues of privacy in a purchase setting. Ars Technica has a summary, and Yvi has a roundup of several other posts, as does The Consumerist.

Jonathan Martin has a great post on edSocialMedia about the dilemmas and tensions of blogging as an educator. Personally, I blog because writing for an audience (even a very small one!) makes me think about what I say (and how I say it) in ways that improve my life (and my professional work), because I like sharing neat stuff with other people (hi, librarian), and because it also helps me have a record of what I was thinking about (at least partly) at a particular time.

(I’ll also be honest here and add that I’ve spent more time on the professional blog rather than other forms of writing in the last 10 months or so because it’s also a great way to demonstrate my technical skills, information literacy interests, and much more to potential employers. But I’d been blogging in other settings long before that, and knew that once I found the right tone and focus for this space, it’d be great, which it is.)


The big conversation this week has been about ebooks, and more specifically pricing. First, there’s the question of how much money is saved by having an electronic version rather than a print version. iReaderReview has an older post from 2009 breakdown of costs with links to some other analysis. (but the print book numbers probably haven’t changed that much: I wanted something for context.) Here’s another take from an eBook publisher. There are definitely various ways to look at pricing, but the short answer is: the costs aren’t always where readers expect.

(The rest of this gets long, so you get a ‘continue for more’ cut at this point.)

Continue reading Links of the Week, March 22nd, 2011

Links of Interest : February 18th, 2011

Tech literacy notes:

danah boyd has a new piece about how teens use Twitter, and the related privacy negotiation involved. (And the fact that teens seem to be doing just fine with it, mostly.)

New technology needs:

I’ve seen extensive discussion in several places recently (The PubLib list, in particular, but elsewhere) about library patrons using apps to scan their library (or grocery, or whatever) card and carry the device, not the card. Brian at Swiss Army Librarian has a great post on the issues of using scanned barcodes on mobile devices, and looks not only at the policy piece, but at the technology one (many scanners won’t correctly read the screen version, but there’s a cheap fix).

Brian also had a great piece on keyloggers, and why it’s so critical for librarians to be aware of what their technology devices look like and do, so they can spot things that shouldn’t be there. This lead him to a third post, talking about what technology skills librarians should have, and why (or at least a start on a meaningful list.)

Better teaching:

Iris, at Pegasus Librarian, has had several great posts this week, on multi-disciplinary seminars, uncovering research practices in student writing, and “Breaking up with best practices, hooking up with learning goals“, which is a great title and an even better post.

I always love Iris’s attention to process and detail, but I particularly love the post on research writing, and the rubric and materials she links to immediately made my brain start wandering across what things could be implemented in other settings – both other educational settings, but also in conversations about online literacy, digitial citizenship, and so on.

Doug Johnson has been running pieces this week from a chapter of the “technology survival” book he’s working on for teachers. In it, he lays out three samples of how different schools and settings might use technology, all of which have some obvious benefits, but also some flaws or at least challenges. You can read some of the background behind his approach (with links to the three examples).

And from a different perspective, a post on one of the personal finance blogs I read, Get Rich Slowly, had a guest post about an 11 year old’s first budget (and ongoing cost decisions) that I found really interesting from the perspective of “stuff we don’t always teach/talk about well”. I found the need to jump back and start with more basics (about what the point of a budget is, why it’s useful, etc.) to be a really interesting analogy to where I sometimes find myself in information literacy work – just because someone knows how to use a piece of technology for one task doesn’t mean that they know all about using it thoughtfully.

Future of the field:

Doug Johnson has an interesting post on how to answer the question of “Should I go into the school library field?” I also like the two School Library Journal articles he links to at the end of his post.

Links of interest: January 21, 2011

Welcome to the return of the links posts! I’ve got an interesting collection again, so here we go:

Continue reading Links of interest: January 21, 2011

Links of interest: December 6, 2010

(Yes, I try to do these on Fridays, but last Friday I had an interview, and the Friday before was Thankgiving. This week is busy too, so I’m doing this now.)

Last Wednesday and Thursday, I took part in a free WebJunction conference that focused on 21st century librarianship. There were lots of great ideas and discussions (and the WebJunction staff and software worked very smoothly). You can now see all the conference materials (including the presentations and the simultaneous chat sessions) online. I particularly liked Pat Wagner’s presentation on staying committed to great customer service, but there were lots of other good conversations.

On the topic of learning more, how had I missed the site until now? They ask experts in a field (anything from architectural history to political satire to mysteries to .. well, anything) to recommend five books that would give someone a solid understanding of the topic. And why, which is in many ways the more interesting bit.

And Discover Magazine has an intriguing article about using a simple writing exercise to vastly improve student achievement in a challenging class.

What’s the goal of being online?

Several links I’ve come across in the past week or so have talked about both the powers and perils of online interaction.

Doug Johnson revisits an old post of his from 2005 that talks about why restricting online access in schools is problematic. What I find interesting is how much is still like that – but also how much things have changed in some schools.

And I love Scott McLeod’s post about the things we’d be doing (differently) if we truly supported educational technology. (I’m glad to say I’ve done more than a few of them.)

Common advice to authors these days is to be involved online – but how? A post from Betsy Lerner (an agent) looks at a few of the complexities.

I’m very fond of Common Craft’s explanations of media and technology – and they’ve got a new one about social media and the workplace. Particularly great if you know people in smaller businesses trying to figure out where to get started with the subject.

And BoingBoing shared a presentation that makes one think about the power of online tools, and the importance of teaching evaluation skills – and common sense. (The actual combination of events is, as commenters point out, unlikely, but at the same time, I think it’s an interesting case study in looking at other ways to send a situation.)

For librarians and library geeks:

Links of interest : November 5th, 2010

Today is Guy Fawkes Day which always reminds me of how people interact with information, and how what we know about an event can shift with bias. (And which, if you know some of the history, is a really fascinating example of how to evaluate information about an event.)

Anybody for…? Emily Lloyd at Shelf Check (one of my favorite library comics) has a fascinating post about creating a social physical library – allowing people in the building to connect with other people who are there doing similar things, or would be interested (a spontaneous story-time, a chance to practice a language, play a game of chess, etc.) Folks in the comments there mentioned a related conversation at thewikiman, with more ideas in the comments.

Let’s try that again. Related to some of the posts last week, Iris has a post about a discussion at her college’s Learning and Teaching Center about Harvesting Our Mistakes. Both some of the specific there – and a reminder to keep up with the process of reflection and adjustment – spoke to me.

First attempts: Scott McLeod (who focuses on technology in K-12 education, and who does a lot of work with administrators trying to figure out how to implement technology in their schools) has an interesting post on how to look at the first steps of technology practice.

More things we’re not teaching: His post made me realise that I missed something in my Things we’re not teaching post: how many schools are teaching students how to find a task management technology that works for them that goes beyond “Write it in your planner”. These days, kids with access to their own tech devices (whether that’s a phone, mobile device, laptop, or home computer) have a lot more choices in figuring out how to manage deadlines and assignments – and it might be good to talk about them, show off some options, and so on.

What’s getting asked: Brian Herzog has been writing about his experience at the NELA 2010 conference, and has a great post about changes in reference questions in public library settings, based on Pingsheng Chen from the Worcester (MA) Public Library presentation.  Summary: libraries are getting fewer of the easy questions, but more of the time consuming or challenging ones. (Since people are tending to do their own searches for the simpler stuff, and only coming to the librarians when they get stumped.)

Community concerns: The Disruptive Student series at ProfHacker (a Chronicle of Higher Education blog) has an interesting post today on dealing with bullying in academic settings. While focused on teaching settings, there’s some interesting stuff in there for people in libraries to think about too.

Understanding other experiences: While browsing around ProfHacker, I found a couple of posts on dealing with students with disabilities or other access needs, with some useful information for anyone who teaches.

For another take on this situation, FWD/Foward has a post this week on how teachers and professors can help students with disabilities. (FWD focuses on an intersectional approach to disabilities.)

The problems with copying: Seanan McGuire, author of a number of books (the October Daye series, and as Mira Grant, the NewsFlesh series) made a post this week about Internet piracy and who it hurts. She has a follow-up post with a few clarifications and additional points, too.

In a related area, my reading lists have been full of people talking about a really blatant example of why copying is stupid. Author writes an article (a comparison of apple pie recipes.) A small local newspaper publishes it – without permission or recompense. Author writes politely, requesting a donation to a program of her preference, in lieu of payment.  Editor responded that, well, it was online, so it was in the public domain – and oh, by the way, she should be grateful for publication and badly needed editing.

You can guess at the outcome, but John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, has the best overview of it: The Stupidest Thing an Editor With Three Decades of Experience Has Said About the Web Today. (With links to the author’s original post about it, including a copy of the relevant email.) He has a follow-up post, too.

Dear people: stuff on the ‘Net is not automatically in the public domain. Please share with anyone who has not yet learned this.

Link post: August 27, 2010

An interesting post – with links to other ideas – from Joyce Valenza about things she wishes school librarians would unlearn.

I definitely agree with several points on her list, including the Wikipedia one. My comment on it to students has always been that it is a starting place. From there, you can learn:

  • useful terms and phrases common in that subject area (fantastic for me when someone asks a reference question about a topic I’m not already familiar with.) Better terms = better searches.
  • names and dates of relevant people involved (useful for getting broader context)
  • links to further sources, so you can go look at the initial material yourself.
  • and sometimes other things, like recent books about a topic or other resources that can help you dig deeper.

The search that brought this home to me was comparing the Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia a couple of years ago (right around the time The Other Boleyn Girl movie came out) on the subject of Anne Boleyn – scarcely a minor figure. The Britannica version was 500 words, didn’t mention most of her family by name, didn’t give any background on a number of topics – her brother and sister, her interest in religion and philosophy, background issues and politics of the time.

In contrast, the Wikipedia article (at something like 2500 words), gave all of that, plus included links to current biographies with a summary of their main focus and theories, a link to an analysis of the choices that Phillippa Gregory had made in her writing of the book (and the subsequent changes in the movie) and how that fit in with different scholarly theories.

Which one do you think is most useful to high school students who got interested in Anne because of the book or the movie? And which one do you think starts a better conversation about how we study history, and how our own interests and focus and choices affect what we see in that history? Even more importantly, the Wikipedia article showed that real people – people like them – could do that kind of analytical work too, and contribute to understanding how all the historical fragments might fit together in various ways. Not bad for 2500 words.

I think a lot of people remember what Wikipedia was like initially, and forget (or don’t know) that in the past few years, they’ve done a lot to improve citation requirements, address some of the problems of prank edits, and other such things. It’s not perfect (and like all online sites, there are still quirks) which is why you still need to go look at the original sources.But that’s always been true, regardless of your tertiary source. Growing up in an academic family, I’ve long been aware that the ‘authoritative published sources’ (like traditional encyclopedias) have the potential for flaws. There are politics and person wrangling and pet projects, and all sorts of other things that introduce bias and inaccuracy there too. They’re just much more hidden from the end reader.

Michael Stephens shared an updated assignment for the class he teaches on Participatory Service and Emerging Technologies: to read one of the selected books and either do a report (the old fashioned option) or to do a media presentation (podcast, video, all sorts of other options.) That part’s great – but the list of books is also useful (and a good reminder to me: I’ve read about half of them, and should read the rest.)

And to go with my post earlier this week, LifeHacker has a top ten list of Facebook fixes you might want to look at. (including videos on how to adjust privacy settings, if you prefer that to text instructions.)

Links of interest: July 9th, 2010

(I missed last week’s both because a bunch of travel for a job interview threw my schedule off, and because I’ve been in the midst of the Real Name posts.)

Related to the link a few weeks ago about how browsing the stacks is dated, here’s a very nice counter example from Barbara Fister on Library Journal Online who makes a case for mindful browsing as peer-to-peer review.

If you’re like me (and many of my generation) who learned a whole lot from Our Bodies, Ourselves, you might, like me, be delighted to discover that the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective has a blog. Recent posts include information about a revised scale for maximum heart rate for women, and about proposed changes to visiting rules in hospitals (especially of interest LGBTQ folks, but of use to many others as well.) That post includes the links on how to make comments on the formal proposal and other good things.

A discussion on Metafilter about bookless libraries. It’s rather more anti-library than might be productive, but I think it’s also useful to be reminded that different libraries serve different purposes. (I particularly like Hildegarde’s comments, in terms of explaining that.)

For people unfamiliar with libaries, donations not only require time to decide if they’re appropriate additions, but they also require staff time and resources to process – cataloging, labeling, property stamping, adding a protective cover, and so on and so forth. The library I previously worked at, this comes out to a dollar or two of supplies, and probably 10-15 minutes of someone’s time per book: it doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up fast when you’re talking more than a handful of books. (And when that someone has a bunch of other stuff that they also need to do…)

And a great slideshow from a researcher at Google (Paul Adams) talking about the challenges of social networks in terms of how we actually form and have relationships with people. Great stuff.

And finally, Blizzard has announced that they’re retracting their decision to require real names on forum posts: much more information on the WoW forums. (I still plan to continue with the Real Name series, don’t worry, because we all know this is going to come up again.)

Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

More about my job and a day in the life

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner