October 2004
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Month October 2004

the future is WOW

After the Film Discussion Group flap I received an IM from a supportive patron. I doubt she knew how excited I was to A) get some more supportive communication and B) receive that communication through IM.

During our conversation the patron mentioned some of the things that she enjoys about the library, one of which was audiobooks. I then took a moment, as I’m apt to do, to promote Listen Illinois, the books on mp3 program in which we’re participating. She liked the idea of this and told me she’d IM me later when she had put together a book basket. I placed a hold on the player for her and she IMed me shortly after.

As if this wasn’t great enough, when the player became available for her I noticed that she was online. I sent her an IM letting her know that I downloaded her items into the mp3 player, which was ready for pickup. The next day I came into the library and noticed that the mp3 player had been circulated.


infotech, not just for the young

My smartphone (a now sadly outdated Treo 600) piques people’s curiosity. If I’m waiting in line someplace chances are I’m either catching up on email, texting someone or logged into Bloglines which has a really good mobile interface, by the way. I’ve noticed people trying to figure out what the heck it is I’m doing, and quite a few people have asked. Today as I was waiting for food at The Spaghetti Bowl an older gentleman approached me and asked, “That’s not a Treo 650 already, is it?” I replied that it was not and I was being a luddite with my 600. A short and friendly conversation about new technologies ensued, and of course I mentioned that I was looking forward to seeing him in the library using our wireless connection.

So much of our thinking about libraries and new technology is focused on the young. This makes some sense considering that younger people are driving this market, but older people certainly shouldn’t be ignored. Doing so would be at the very least not providing equal services to your library users. At worst, not thinking about older people and new technologies in libraries is ageist.

Related articles:
The Scotsman reports
‘Gadget grandparents’ turn on to the latest technology”
thanks, barbara

Textually.org uses some strong language and reports that Japan’s mobile operators target elderly. Phone manufacturers are making user-friendly phones that have a “simple mode” which enlarges the screen font. Market leader NTT DoCoMo had a really neat idea. To make sure users know which button they need to press next in order to perform a specific function, the button in question helpfully lights up.

generation text

My previous post reminded that I wanted to find a transcript of a great segment on NPR’s “On the Media”. Titled Generation Text it is a short conversation between two (big name) linguists, Geoffrey Nunberg and Naomi Baron. It was interesting because the two have different perspectives on the way younger ppl r writing. Below are two quotes from the show, but be sure to read it all or listen to it all [real audio]

GEOFFREY NUNBERG: The more you write, the better you write. The best way to learn to write is not to learn the rules or take courses. Just sit down and write. To that extent, I think you could argue that the kids who are now doing text messaging and email and, and IMs and so on and so forth, will wind up writing at least as well as and possibly better than their parents or than any generation in history.

NAOMI BARON: We know that children learn to talk because there are some people—we call them adults or older kids—who already know the system, and the younger kids pick up an awful lot of what we model for them. My question is not “Can you have a range of different registers -some informal, some formal, some texting, some essays that you turn in for class”—but “Are we modeling those more formal forms of writing that we used to?” And I don’t think we are so much any more.

no babel fish

I’ve occasionally posted a few cute things kids have sent to the library’s IM screen name. Not only are they funny, but they give an insight into the way IM is being used. Also, I think posting it here counts as sending it to ten people. I’m off the hook. Anywho, if you’re not familiar with how some kids write using IM and text messaging, consider this a training session.

u r my friend…..send this to 10 ppl in the next 5 min………and……..u will get kissed on friday by da luv of ur life…. DONT BREAK THE chain!ur crush will ask u out. 2morow will b da best day of ur life. Howeva, if u don t send this 2 least 10 ppl bye least 12:00 2nite u will hav bad luck in ur luv lyf for eternity NO SEND BK

internet librarian 2004

Through some crazy turn of events, along with Barbara Fullerton and Sabrina Pacifici I’ll be on the closing keynote panel at internet librarian 2004. It is titled “Wacky World of Gadgets: The 70’s and Beyond!” and should be fun. I’m a bit of a gadget enthusiast, but I’m sure there are some I’ve missed. If there’s some sort of cool tool you think needs to be mentioned, just lemme know.

Aside from this, I’ll be talking with Michael about IM as well as giving two quicky presentations. One will be with Jenny about the books on MP3 program, ListenIllinois and the other will be a short primer about library and newish technologies.

easier dynamic pages with movable type 3.12

You may recall from an earlier post that I updgraded versions of Movable Type, which I’m using as a content management system for my library’s website. The problem is that I can’t get dynamic publishing to work. Therefore I can’t easily have RSS displayed as HTML on the site.

Shifty* sent me an email that cheered me up:

Did you see 3.12 is out? “Dynamic pages are easier to configure: Movable Type creates .htaccess file for webserver configuration.”


I’ll be on the case, upgrading and testing tomorrow morning.

*see, if i keep linking to her by that name, i can slowly start a meme so that eventually she’ll be a top search result for the word. why? i dunno.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Creating a Public Forum

(non-tech post)

I’ve been wanting to post about this for some time but the entire story was still unfolding. It is now over for the most part, so I can write a bit about it. In short, the library and people in our community were told how to think.

I run a film discussion group at the library. I have fun doing it, and it is a good for the community. My pal Gabe at the La Grange Park Public Library started a film discussion group years ago for that library. Being clever, we host our groups on alternate Fridays so that nearly every Friday, people in our area can see independent/art house/or otherwise important films close to home. Our FDGs groups have been well received. We’ve both been featured in the local papers, and we have a number of people who regularly attend our movies. Yay.

For those of you who might think it was naive of me to schedule “Fahrenheit 9/11” for the end of October, please understand that the decision wasn’t come to arbitrarily. When it came out on DVD, I exhibited Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine” to the delight of many people in my FDG. Even better, there was a interesting, healthy, lively, and friendly discussion afterwards. The event was a stellar example of a public library qua community meeting place. People came together to listen, learn and reflect. When I mentioned its release on DVD, people in my group expressed interest in Moore’s latest offering. This wasn’t a surprise considering that the film has received plenty of attention in the media and is the highest grossing documentary of all time (about $100 million).

A number of weeks ago we received two emails objecting to the showing of the film. I was happy that someone was using the email submission form to the board’s email address, and didn’t think too much of it. We also received a number of positive comments about our showing of the film. People were looking foward to seeing it. The board was supportive of the department heads’ decision to continue with the showing of the film. The fact that we discussed the film at the board meeting was in the local paper. The next issue of the paper contained a lovely letter to the editor commending the library on its decision. People approached us and thanked us for not backing down.

Some time later, another public library in Illinois faced some controversy for their scheduled showing of the film. I started to get a bit nervous when they decided to cancel the film because of vitriolic telephone calls and the like. Last Thursday I joked with the director of our library, “Only 8 days to get through before I show this!”

It turned out to be a tough next few days for the library. Two days ago the showing of “Fahrenheit 9/11” at my library was a topic of discussion on a right-wing radio show broadcast in the Chicagoland area. Ouch. After the show, there were a number of negative phone calls to the library. When I arrived at the library Monday afternoon, there had been some more calls. They continuted in the evening.

Many of these people shared the same outrage, and thought it was inappropriate for the library to be showing the film. Many of these people were not even residents of our community, which invalidated any business they had phoning us. Regardless, the library’s director (best.director.ever) was harassed by a number of random people. At this point we decided to route all communication about the movie to email and letters. The telephone calls were too much to handle. Later on in the evening a man stopped in to tell me that if we didn’t agree to cancel the film, he was going to file a temporary retstraining order to stop us. He then told me that “Fahrenheit 9/11” wasn’t a documentary. I encouraged him to come to the FDG to share his views on cinema. Then another person called and also mentioned bringing an injunction against us. It was a tough day at the library.

Things didn’t get truly bad, however, until today when the library received some threatening phone calls. With this, the library’s director and I had a long conversation and decided to cancel the film. Neither of us wanted to, but we felt that there were staff and patron safety concerns that could be resolved by doing it.

After we put a sign on the doors to the library, four or five people approached me within the hour stating how terrible they thought it was that we were forced to cancel the film. One patron echoed my thoughts exactly when he stated that he didn’t understand what the big deal was. Just like we don’t force people to read any of our books, we don’t force them to come to my film discussion group.

I’m sad that those that wanted to come to watch and talk about the film won’t get the opportunity to do so. I’m also sad that the bully tactics of a few people were effective.

As for silver linings, I learned a number of things from this ordeal and it confirmed other thoughts I have had.

-The library does well under stress. Some of the people that called were so livid that they could hardly get the words out of their mouth. Think of your least favorite raving political radio pundit and multiply that by two. Even so, we all kept our cool and were very professional. The library board did a fantastic job letting us make our decisions and supporting them.

-Some people like to communicate, orthers like to rant. Early on in the taking of phone calls, I thought, “Okay, you’re right and they are wrong. If you calmly explain what is going on, perhaps you can diffuse the situation.” Trust me, I was mistaken about this.

-The current political climate is hindering free speech. Not wanting to participate in a conversation is one thing, but to prevent the conversation from taking place is another. There are many people who do not want conversations taking place in which criticisms of the current administration might be found.

Friday night from 6:45-7:00 I’ll be sitting on the bench outside of the library explaning to dissapointed patrons how their freedoms of speech and thought were violated.

Public libraries are one of the last potential public fora. Let’s do our best to keep them that way.

blogging class

I’m posting this from the blogging class I’m giving at the MLS. I hope someone gets into bloglines and subscribes to my feed.

google sms

google’s latest offering appears to be google sms. this makes me excited.

Proposed uses for the service, according to google, are:

-Get local business listings when you’re on the road and want to find a place to eat
-Compare online product prices with ones you find in retail stores
-Look up dictionary definitions to expand your vocabulary or prove a point
-Find other specialized types of information, as described in how to use Google SMS

To send your google sms queries to 46645, which is GOOGL on most phones.

As soon as I get into an area with cell service (i.e. not the library) I’m going to check it out.

press release from google blog
how to use google sms


there is a post about netLibrary going on at metafilter. it is funny/sad that people haven’t heard about this service.