As a new hire at my public library system, I received the mandatory day-long Customer Service seminar last Monday. It was what it was. Customer service training is one of those things that is hard to pull off without sounding cliché. I’ve taught seminars like these, and I apologise for the wacky acronyms.

But, the up-shot this time was this wacky spot-the-stereotype video. I’ve been humming the little shanty all week, in between listening to better things.

What I took away from the CS training day was a thought about what and why we call people who use/visit the library. The happy, dancy video above uses “patron” (which some people don’t like), and “user” is a little loaded… as is client (which always makes think “person visiting a social worker”). All the terms have strikes against them. Nothing quite fits because the variety of people and ways a library is engaged by its community are far too complex to fold under one term.

The OPL likes the word “customer”.There is a genuine sincerity to the logic. The decision is probably fuelled by optics. The term customer is useful because it’s familiar and reflects an aesthetics of service. It also implies the exchange of money. Which isn’t always a bad thing. Public libraries are funded by the people coming through the doors – through taxes, donations, fines, and bookstore purchases. So, it could be like they’re paying and getting a service. It helps, maybe subtly, people know that it’s their money that gets them the services they use.

On the other hand, because the Public Library is a publicly funded institution, you could also say that the people who use the library and pay into the system are also co-owners. Maybe, I work in one large information co-op. I wonder what that could mean for the social/service contract of public libraries.

The Toronto Public Library vs. Mayor Ford thing continues, though the public outcry has done a lot to seemingly stem the tide (but it’s not over yet…)[**UPDATE** Rob Ford declares he won't support cuts to the TPL**UPDATE**].

On that note, Halifax bloggers at go it alone (together) have done an good job of summing up the social and political nature of libraries (and a reason why right leaning conservative fellows might think they could want to cut libraries):

For people who believe in the need for radical social change, the fight to defend libraries is an extremely important one. Libraries are the most hopeful institutions our communities still have, and not only can they be used as a hub for community organising, but they are a familiar example of what a more just society could look like.

Libraries espouse the principle of the commons. Our communities own library holdings collectively, and libraries are one of the last indoor public spaces. In an increasingly alienated society, libraries continue to be a place where communities convene.

Libraries are radical. And people love them.[source]

Also, they posted that awesome poster, above. Thanks, ladies.

Ok. So, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. The fact is, I’ve been learning the ropes at the Ottawa Public Library – in between training and meetings, I get to do some actual work. What work? Well, as an Integrated Library Systems Librarian, I get to bang literal and metaphorical wrenches against the largely metaphorical pipes that keep information flowing around the library.

I’ve latched onto the metaphor of being something like a Victorian steam engineer, working away in a gritty bunker trying to keep this big ol’information mill spinning. Without all the Steampunkish insinuations, it is a cool enough idea. Never mind that I cross through a children’s library to get to the office where my desk is…

Anyways, I’ve been remiss in following up on some posts I’ve half-started. So, in the interest of clearing my slate, here’s a run-down.

1.  The New Surrey BC Main Library looks like a space base. Cool.

2. A paper released by the Public Lending Right Commission gives the  state of affairs vis-a-vis eBooks in Canada. It’s a bit watery, but the point is things have to change for eBooks to remain viable for public libraries (duh…).

3.  A cool graffiti taxonomy archive.

4. Author Lev Grossman declares himself to be crochety about eBooks via the New York Times. Nice art with the article, though.

 


In the last post, I wrote about how the big wigs in the UK we’re and still are looking to lean on social media to curtail riots and whatnot. As ridiculous as that is, this wonky mindset is catching on Canada’s side of the pond.

From Canada.com:

…proposed “lawful access” legislation would make “warrantless wiretapping pretty much normal,” David Murakami Wood, a member of The Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., said Wednesday.

Lawful access is part of the Conservative government’s comprehensive bundle of crime legislation that Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to pass within 100 days of the May 2 election.

Researcher Murakami Wood said, if passed, it would make the interception of communications a more general police tactic, rather than one that is only used in special circumstances.

Critics say the bill would require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to disclose customer information to law enforcement without court orders and to invest in new technologies allowing for real-time surveillance of their networks. It would make companies, such as RIM, the gatekeepers of users’ privacy, and government would hold the key, they contend.[source]

It’s the sort of threat-inflation that tends to make me squeamish over the potential for state abuses of privacy. A recent Globe and Mail opinion piece criticized the proposed legislation for being paranoid and illogical.   I can’t help but agree with this.

However, there hasn’t been a lot of buzz about this in Canada yet. Once the UK riots died down, the issue faded.  But, I think as the Conservative government tries to push through their omnibus crime legislation, we’ll hear more about it.

This is something on horizon. We watched this rapid erosion of privacy in the US, and, yelp, it can happen here in Canada.

UPDATE: The CBC, way back on August 9, posted an article about an open letter sent to PM Harper about all this. You’ll notice that this pre-dates the UK riots a little, but I’m sure the Conservatives were happy that David Cameron’s anti-RIMism is greasing the wheels. END UPDATE

****Personal Note****

I apologise for the slow rate of posting. I started a new job last week, and I am actively learning the ILS Librarian ropes. This means that posts will sporadic until I settle in. Which is good, since my new job is giving me plenty of grist for this here blogging mill.

I will not make the same Clash song references. London knocks itself around a little.

I’m a big fan of roots causes. The UK riots are intriguing in part because the part of British political and economic culture that are driving the hooligany strife seem far and away more complicated than authorities (and much of the press) are saying. Nothing happens for no reason, but there is a sense that proximate causes get more blame than is their due.

One of the first to be pilloried on the ol’It’s-This-Guy’s-Fault stage is social media. Authorities in the UK have stepped up to say that Blackberry Messenger, Facebook, and Twitter, erstwhile heros of the Arab Spring are bringing down British Civil society.

From the CBC:

When social media helped protesters organize and overthrow corrupt regimes in the Arab world earlier this year, while also providing citizen journalism when the mainstream media was shut out, they were lauded as tools of democracy.

However, when the same methods are used in a scenario like Britain, they are seen as disturbing, says Boler, who teaches at the University of of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

“Here it’s not about a dictator. Here the issue is the corporation as a representative symbol. These things always spiral off into hitting the mom and pop stores, which is unfortunate,” says Boler.

A writer named Kami makes the same point with this post on Facebook.

“Cuz [sic] people who protest in the western countries are rioters, looters, and violent enemies of the good state, so social media is the “catalyst.” In Egypt and elsewhere, social media was the tool that made revolution against evil dictators possible. Look for facebook [sic] and others to either have a major overhaul, be a tool for arrests/disappearances, or be named an enemy of the state when massive uprisings happen in the US.”

The social media aspect is actually a distraction from deep-rooted issues and the real story, which is chronic economic malaise and the growing disparity between rich and poor in Britain, just as was the case in the Arab uprisings, says Boler.

“It’s no coincidence this would happen so soon after the world-wide freakout about stocks and the economic crisis.[source]

I think the declaration that social media has become a political force is probably tasting a little more bitter than it did back in February. To some at least. Not myself. I think that pinning the Arab Spring to social media’s chest and now in the UK is as much an unfortunate oversimplification as blaming riots purely on hooliganism.

Sure, you can blame Facebook or Blackberry, but limiting these services will hardly stop the effect. Egypt is a good example of how this doesn’t work. Scapegoating is often used a quick fix for deeply seeded social problems, but it is not necessarily the best long-term response to over-boiling social issues.

Walk the Moon: dancy dancin'

Today is my last day at NRC-CISTI. Neat. On Monday, I’ll be starting at the Ottawa Public Library as their newest Integrated Library Systems Librarian (It’s important because it has library in it twice!). In between, I’m going to hocking my shirts etc. at the Wolfe Island Music Festival. I’m sitting in a triangle of sweet times.

Here are my pics from this week’s library soundtrack.

Walk the Moon (I’m a sucker for schmaltzy indie-pop. No apologies)

Belle & Sebastian

The Vaccines

See you all soon from a new cube! Have a great weekend!

The world should learn not to mess with librarians!

Last month, I wrote about the Toronto Public Library’s hard stance against proposed cuts. Well, after some gaffs from the Mayor’s brother, city councillor Doug Ford , and lots of discussion,  Torontonians are starting to see a shift.

From the Toronto Star:

Another councillor in Mayor Rob Ford’s inner circle is backing away from a proposal to close libraries.

When asked Wednesday if she would support library closures to save money, Councillor Frances Nunziata (Ward 11, York South-Weston) said “no, of course not” and that if anything, branches should be better utilized to host more city programs.

“I don’t think there’s a will on council to close libraries,” said Nunziata. “I think we have to make better use of what we have… these are great facilities for programming.”

First it was right-winger James Pasternak (Ward 10, York Centre). Then TTC chair Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence). Now Nunziata, who is the council speaker and one of Ford’s longest and most loyal supporters.

Nunziata’s split is the clearest sign yet that libraries will likely be safe come fall when council is left to consider the service cut recommendations proposed by KPMG during the core service review.[source]

Not a sure thing, though. It’s great to see the city rallying and staying on the city council’s back. Keep it up, Toronto. Here’s some fight music to help!

Torontonians can take action by contacting their city councillors and/or by signing the online petition.

DIYD... the second D is for Doomsday!

Homebrew science took a little bit of a hit today.

From the Toronto Star:

A Swedish man who was arrested after trying to split atoms in his kitchen said Wednesday he was only doing it as a hobby.

Richard Handl told the Associated Press that he had the radioactive elements radium, americium and uranium in his apartment in southern Sweden when police showed up and arrested him on charges of unauthorized possession of nuclear material.

The 31-year-old Handl said he had tried for months to set up a nuclear reactor at home and kept a blog about his experiments, describing how he created a small meltdown on his stove.

Only later did he realize it might not be legal and sent a question to Sweden’s Radiation Authority, which answered by sending the police.

“I have always been interested in physics and chemistry,” Handl said, adding he just wanted to “see if it’s possible to split atoms at home.”

The police raid took place in late July, but police have refused to comment. If convicted, Handl could face fines or up to two years in prison.

Although he says police didn’t detect dangerous levels of radiation in his apartment, he now acknowledges the project wasn’t such a good idea.

“From now on, I will stick to the theory,” he said.[source]

Well… yeah.

Anyways, no library themed post this week. I’m wrapping up stuff at my old job… because… I’m starting a new job next week. Hooray! More to come on this, I suppose.

They are some frankly pretty cook kids, indeed.

This Friday, where I am, means another long weekend! I’m using the free time to make shirts for a wicked music festival next weekend. But, before the weekend comes is the work week and the work week’s musical accompaniment. Here are some highlights.

The Cool Kids

Gold Panda

Ohbijou NEW NEW NEW Yessss!

For people in a different sort of listening mood, I highly recommend Dan Carlin’s Fall of the Roman Republic – a pretty engaging 10 hour free audiobook about, obviously, the fall of the Roman Republic.

Have a great weekend, long or otherwise!

Just like Johnny Mnemonic... look at him!

People have been murmuring  that the Internet is “ruining”  our memory for a while. Ruin? I don’t know. Recent studies have shown that since the advent of the Internet our memory practices have been evolving and that this is also reversible.

Whether you think it’s a bad (Luddites!) or a good thing (non-Luddites! or normal people or “norms”), there is a change taking place in how Internet users combine their brains with the information on the web.

From Scientific American:

Led by Columbia University psychologist Betsy Sparrow, the researchers conducted a series of experiments whose results suggest that when people are faced with difficult questions, they are likely to think that the Internet will help them find the answers. In fact, those who expect to able to search for answers to difficult questions online are less likely to commit the information to memory. People tend to memorize answers if they believe that it is the only way they will have access to that information in the future. Regardless of whether they remember the facts, however, people tend to recall the Web sites that hold the answers they seek.

In this way, the Internet has become a primary form of external or “transactive” memory (a term coined by Sparrow’s one-time academic advisor, social psychologist Daniel Wegner), where information is stored collectively outside the brain. This is not so different from the pre-Internet past, when people relied on books, libraries and one another—such as using a “lifeline” on the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?—for information. Now, however, besides oral and printed sources of information, a lion’s share of our collective and institutional knowledge bases reside online and in data storage…

And if our gadgets were to fail due to a planet-wide electromagnetic pulse tomorrow, we would still be all right. People may rely on their mobile phones to remember friends’ and family members’ phone numbers, for example, but the part of the brain responsible for such memorization has not been atrophied, she says. “It’s not like we’ve lost the ability to do it.[source]

Neat, right? The world is catching up with librarians in this respect. We’ve been using our collections, catalogues and reference tools (digital or physical) as prosthetic memory contraptions since always. The Internet for some is a revolutionary change in how people remember and access information. For LIS professionals it’s one new step in an ongoing evolution.

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