Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Link Smorgasbord, November 18 - 24

DIY Star Wars Snowflakes
Gorgeous and intricate Star Wars themed snow flakes.  I'm trying to convince the youth services librarians that they would make for a great craft.

24 Tickets Every IT Person Is Sick Of Getting
ALL OF THIS.  Much giggling was inspired by this collection, perhaps it leans towards hyperbole and snark, but it is also pretty spot on.

"Douglas County Model" gives libraries new e-book leverage
I've mentioned the Douglas County ebook platform/model before, as well as Jamie LaRue.  This article gives a pretty good idea of what libraries are looking into on their own since we cannot get what we were looking for from publishers, and how what we are looking to do is expanding because we had to strike out on our own.

The Absence Of Serendipity, Or, Why I Hate Shopping At Amazon
The concepts here go beyond just shopping at Amazon.  This is why I turn off as much personalization as I possibly can on just about any service I use.  I don't want just the news articles on topics I seem sympathetic too, I want to stumble across a variety of topics and opinions.   Often what an algorythm may mark as similar doesn't match up with actual preference, as I am sure most Pandora users are overly familiar with.  Florence and the Machine does NOT sound anything like the seeds of Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphies, and I'm still puzzled how one of my stations started with Maroon 5 and ended up with Tool (which for me is an entirely different mood).
"Which brings me to Amazon. I do indeed like it if I know what it is that I want to buy. Various bits and pieces of electronics have been purchased over the years. But I find it an intensely irritating way to buy a book. Cheap, yes, convenient, most assuredly, but intensely irritating. For I’m almost never going out to buy a book that I know that I want to read. I am, rather, browsing to try and find one that I do want to read. And that is something fueled almost entirely by serendipity and in my case it’s what makes second hand bookshops near to nirvana. Being able to flip through the first couple of pages of twenty to forty books, spotting the pile of mouldering 50s sci-fi pulps, shying from the radioactive evil of the chick lit shelves, it is this browsing that has done more to introduce me to new and interesting authors and or genres than anything else. And try as I might I cannot gain that same experience from Amazon, the recommendation engine (at least the level of my knowledge about the actual use of computers) doesn’t manage to replicate that experience."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Shoes, a Simile for Employment

A new job is a lot like a new pair of shoes.

It may be worth noting right now that I abhor shoe shopping and have difficulty finding shoes that fit well.  This may color how I view the process.

It doesn't matter how careful you are, the shoes never fit quite like they did in the store once you've purchased them and brought them home.  You have to wear them around, get used to how they feel.  Discover how they pinch or rub, let the leather stretch and mold.  Sometimes they are almost immediately a disaster, and if you have my luck, you end up never wanting to go to a business again after the owner accuses you of cutting in front of other customers and screaming when all you did was wait off to the side until they walked over to give you a chance to talk quietly to see if the shoes could be returned (but I digress).  Other times you have to decided if the pinches and rubs are bearable until the shoe breaks in and hope that fixes the problem, or if you need to get a different pair or go back to the old faithful.  I could also go on about how any job is like a pair of shoes, a really good pair you can repair and wear for a life time, etc.  Let's just stop the analogy there.

When you start a brand new job you often don't really know what you're getting in to.  You can read the job description, meet some of your future co-workers, tour the environment, but some things you just won't discover until you've started the new position.

For various reasons I've found myself in a position where I'm not really sure if the new shoes fit at all.  They might fit amazingly, horribly, or about average with the normal rubs.  So I'm in the process of trying to decide what to do, and how I feel about things.  I'm not particularly enjoying the process, as I like to find a space, settle down, and not move on.  I had an amazing interview today, and will be interviewing at another library on Friday.  Do the old shoes still fit, do they just need a refurbish?  Would these new shoes fit any better? 

I haven't made up my mind about anything.  Perhaps the best thing about the application process in this case is that it takes time.  In this case, allowing time to calm down from serious upset, and at least attempt logical review.  I have met with the relevant parties involved and attempted to explain.  A number of my concerns have been addressed, and others I have been informed will not be.  I'm worried that by asking too many questions and trying to make sense out of a seeming utter lack of logic I may fail my new hire probationary period.  It seems I have a more marketable than usual skill set, but that's only useful when libraries are hiring.  In what direction do I want to ultimately take my career?

All I want is a good comfortable pair of shoes that I can wear all day, day after day.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Link Smorgasbord, November 11 - 17

Why “Magic: The Gathering” Matters
On how Magic: The Gathering (and by extension other games) is more than an amusing diversion for the socially maladjusted.  Rather, MtG helps develop critical thinking, imagination, vocabulary, social skills, and more.

Amazon e-book offer riles independent bookshop owners
So what seemed to be a prank to many booksellers when initially contacted turns out to be an actual program by Amazon.  Amazon is trying to reach out to independent booksellers asking them to sell Kindles, similar to the partnerships between some indie bookshops and Kobo.  Booksellers seem generally less than amused by the program so far.

Google Books ruling is a huge victory for online innovation 
I'm torn between utter shock that this was ruled in favor of the scanning project, and not surprise since we know how much money Google has to throw at the project.  Check out the summary judgement for full details.

Some more on the ruling from other bloggers:
A win for Google? Yes. A win for you? Maybe… (LibrarianShipwreck)

Fair! Google Books case dismissed.  (librarian.net)
Google Books and Black-Box Copyright Jurisprudence (Go To Hellman, from the 18th, but I wanted to include it with the rest)

Bill Gates: Here’s My Plan to Improve Our World — And How You Can Help
For some reason I've found several articles relating to Gates and his mission in the past few weeks.

Friday, November 15, 2013

[Book Review] The Other Boleyn Girl

The Other Boleyn Girl / Phillipa Gregory

"Two sisters competing for the greatest prize: the love of a king.

When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her family's ambitious plots as the king's interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king, and take her fate into her own hands.

A rich and compelling tale of love, sex, ambition, and intrigue, The Other Boleyn Girl introduces a woman of extraordinary determination and desire who lived at the heart of the most exciting and glamorous court in Europe and survived by following her own heart."
THANK GOD THIS BOOK IS DONE.

I read this for a book club pick. I would not have likely read past the first chapter otherwise.  "A rich and compelling tale," my ass.  The writing failed to compel any sympathy in me towards anyone in the book.  William, Mary's second husband was OK, and there were a number of secondary characters with absolutely no development that I didn't mind, such as George's courtier lover.

I think I liked one thing that Gregory did in this novel.  I appreciate the symmetry between how it starts and ends.  I'm sure she is a delightful writer, and the book itself was reasonably well written and edited, but I found this book neither "rich" no "compelling."

What shocks me about my utter lack of sympathy towards the characters is that Mary is largely a victim throughout the whole book.  I don't care how historically accurate marrying girls of 12 is, I don't really like hearing about how fantastic a 12-year-old virgin was rumored to be on her wedding night.  The king is a self-centered, spoiled, and manipulative predator.  Mary is an immature girl with hero worship.  Anne is a monster.  The whole Boleyn family is made up of egotistical monsters who would sacrifice their country just to rise in rank.  They don't think that the risk of their actions igniting a war is anything to be concerned about.  Gah!

It is a tale of ambition and intrigue, largely of that of those around the narrator, who sort of floats along.  Sex occurs, but largely behind closed doors and with mostly coded language.  Don't expect steamy scenes, you will be sorely disappointed.  As for love?  I guess there are several strands of love story intertwined, but they are largely secondary to the overwhelming ambition of ego.

Statewide eBook Pilot

Late August of last year I received a rather exciting email:
Congratulations!  You have been identified by your librarian peers as having what it takes to be one of our five “Alphas,”  for our upcoming statewide e-book project trial. The MBLC sponsored, Resource Sharing Committee is excited about this undertaking.  The scope of the project is listed below:

SCOPE:

The goal of the Massachusetts e-books. proof of concept is to identify, implement, and test a solution for providing e-book borrowing to users throughout the Commonwealth via a single user-friendly discovery platform offering a broad selection of titles.  This solution will also have the goal of connecting users directly with authors, booksellers, and publishers.  The results of the proof of concept will be evaluated to determine its feasibility as a long-term statewide solution.

The first phase of the proof of concept will include fifty libraries of various types and sizes – twenty-five public, ten academic, ten school, and five special.  The start-up collection will consist of approximately 10,000 titles which will be selected to accommodate the needs library types represented by pilot participants.  The collection will serve users of all ages and will support a variety of learning needs.

The first phase will launch in May 2013 and run for two months. If, at the conclusion of the first phase, evaluation results show that the concept appears to be viable for the long term, and all high-impact problems identified by development partners have been successfully addressed, other libraries who wish to participate will be added on an ongoing basis.


So, what will the Alphas do?

Criteria:

Alphas will  agree to be lead participants in the Massachusetts E-Book Pilot Program. The first phase of the project will include a two month trial of this model.  Alphas will be responsible for recruiting 9 other libraries, within close geographic proximity to participate. You will choose:

    5 Public Libraries
    2 Academic Libraries
    2 School Libraries (must be automated )
    1 special Library

(The Project total will include:)

25 public
10 Academic
10 School
5 Special

Alphas will be contributing to the preparation of group Training Materials, both for participant libraries and also ultimately patrons of those participating libraries.

Alphas will be responsible for outreach to communities participating in the trial.

Pilot participants  will work together be responsible for facilitating assessment of project and reporting back to the Resource Sharing Committee.

Although the Alphas most likely won’t be asked for financial commitment  from their library to participate  in the pilot, there is the expectation that their library will contribute if the pilot is successful when the new fiscal year begins in July.  The dollar amounts for various library type participation  is still T.B.D.
This really excited me for a few reasons.  First, it indicated that in a rather short period of time (just under 2 years as paid library staff, and in a professional position for less than six months) I managed to develop a strong enough reputation to be considered for one of the 5 Alpha testers for the state.  Second, I would get to take part in a project that has potential to explore new and lightly trod areas of library access to digital materials.

The downside to being an regional Alpha tester, as it soon became apparent, is that I simply couldn't accept all the libraries interested.  Some of this was out of my hands, participation reserved by those with higher authority in the project, the limited size of the pilot project, the distribution of libraries that actually expressed interest, and because I wanted to have a balanced sample of participants.  I wanted a well distributed selection of libraries based on size and location, not a collection of similarly sized libraries from neighboring towns.  Looking at a map of the libraries shows I definitely did not completely succeed on geographic distribution.

I was swarmed with interested public libraries on several occasions (the project was officially announced the regional contacts after I already had a potentially full dance card of interested participants).  Not only did I have working relationships with the interested libraries and librarians, I have friendships with a number of them.  Whittling down enthusiastic and interested parties I don't think is something I will ever enjoy.

Huge spoiler alert: the project did NOT launch in May 2013.  Also, it will run for longer than 2 months.

Fast forward to today.  15 months and employment at a new library later.  I have a solid group of test libraries and have been working with librarians across the state from the different regions.  Vendors were vetted and selected, with different content and ownership models.  We have explored the different platforms.  A vendor has dropped out after a merger.  Contracts with vendors are finally being signed.  Different committees are actively working on different areas of the project including Statewide Collection Development & Policies; PR, Promotion & Training; and Funding & Sustainability.  A launch party is scheduled for next week.  We are actually about to release this to the wild.

It doesn't matter how adaptable I am with programs or how comfortable I am with the different platforms (regardless of what I consider unnecessary steps or unfortunate features).  This in many ways is a new game for me and my excitement is definitely tempered by anxiety.

One area I still have trouble with is that the pilot has multiple platforms.  I understand why this is the case, but circuitous access is one of the bigger issues I have with library ebooks.  The access is barely user friendly in the best of cases, and dividing our materials across entirely different platforms is unpleasant.  That being said, this is a pilot to get a feel for a statewide platform, and under the initial timeline and constraints developing a unified platform was not possible.  So instead of one access portal through which all the materials can be borrowed and downloaded we have a union catalog that links out to two (supposed to be three, but vendor #3 was eaten by a grue), platforms, and each platform has its own mobile app (or for one vendor, TWO mobile apps).

So why is the pilot starting six months later than expected?  Possibly because the complexity of this project was underestimated, but also definitely in part due to contract negotiations.  I have so much respect for what Douglas County did with negotiating contracts with publishers based on how long negotiating contracts with vendors took.  Or maybe it would have just been easier to go direct to the publishers.  While I keep seeing these fantastic announcements that another large publisher will sell ebooks to libraries for the most part none of that would be applicable to us.  Those announcements are that the publishers are willing to let individual libraries purchase/lease through select vendors, and explicitly will not sell to consortia or other collections of libraries.  All those Macmillian and Penguin titles?  Can't buy those.  We also wanted to ensure ownership of titles acquired for this platform, but now are experimenting with various acquisition/ownership models as we try to address content for Public, School, and Academic Libraries.  When it comes down to it we are investing a sizable amount of money for a short term project, we need the flexibility to move materials into a final platform after the pilot.

So, fingers are crossed and we'll see how this goes.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Link Smorgasbord, November 4 - 10

A Manifesto for the Truth
It should be obvious by now that I'm for privacy.

We’re About to Lose Net Neutrality — And the Internet as We Know It
FFS.  I know these efforts are anything but new, but I also have a huge problem understanding how anyone but ISPs think this is a good idea.

An exclusive interview with Bill Gates
I've got some respect for this man.  "Bill Gates describes himself as a technocrat. But he does not believe that technology will save the world. Or, to be more precise, he does not believe it can solve a tangle of entrenched and interrelated problems that afflict humanity's most vulnerable: the spread of diseases in the developing world and the poverty, lack of opportunity and despair they engender. "I certainly love the IT thing," he says. "But when we want to improve lives, you've got to deal with more basic things like child survival, child nutrition.""

Battle of Orland Park library’s Internet porn policy heats up 
The quote "I read the books so other parents won’t have to," just makes me shudder.  I'm also not surprised the library told the mother that she couldn't use the kid's computers, I have yet to be at a library that DOES allow parents to use their children's cards to use public computers, regardless of the children are with them or not.  I do think if a library has a policy that obscene materials are not allowed, then the responsibility does fall on the staff to deal with violations of the policy, but I also applaud the library for offering unfiltered internet access to adults.

Leaving Douglas County Libraries 
This one is of lesser interest to those outside of the library field because you're not likely to even know who Jamie La Rue is.  He's the driving force behind the Douglas County ebook program, where they built their own platform and negotiated their own content contracts with publishers.  Other consortia are working towards different iterations of this, most notably Califa, which is taking Jamie's code and growing it into something more universal that can be easily adapted to different ILS. 

Doody Decimal System: When Librarians Must Deal with Unwelcome Book Deposits
One thing I do miss from my previous library is the fact that we had a full time maintenance staff who took care of janitorial work.  Which meant when the adorable toddler informed her mother that she needed a diaper change, and her mother replied "you're not wearing a diaper" I didn't have to deal with the mess on the tile floor.  I'm a bit concerned about future incidents here based on the nice carpet we have throughout most of the library...

We’ve Reddit, have you? What librarians can learn from a site full of memes
Another poke towards getting me on Reddit, instead of just visiting it as a tourist periodically.

For the first time, Macmillan adds entire backlist to OverDrive Marketplace
Fine Text: this only applies if you're not buying as a consortia, which is often the only way smaller libraries can afford to offer this at all.

Valve’s Steam Machine is the anti-console. Here’s what it’s like to play.
I've been dying to play around with a Steam box.  Once the Steam OS is out of beta and actually available, we have plans of converting a laptop with the free OS and experimenting.  Quick note: we actually permanently have a laptop hooked up to our TV, it's how we watch DVDs and Netflix.

EFF shows how "metadata" collection is bad for freedom of association
I've posted about this before, but the story was more about how a bunch of groups you really wouldn't expect to band together were doing just that.

Want to protect your Android phone? Here's how to kill its crapware.
On removing that excess pre-installed bloat-ware from your phone's manufacturer.

Monday, November 11, 2013

[Book Review] Vintage Beer

Vintage Beer : A Taster's Guide to Brews that Improve over Time / Patrick Dawson

A great book for lovers of quality beer and its complexities.  The book also provided some very good and easily digestible information on evaluating and defining beer flavors and composition.

As someone who brews and who enjoys craft beer I found this book interesting.  It does change how I think about some things.  I never thought to deeply about aging beer or its freshness.  Generally 'aged' beers are marked as a feature of specialty craft beers, regardless of if they actually taste good.  Cheap beer I'm generally not buying for it's taste.  Now I understand a bit more why sometimes 'aged' is not always better.  This is a nice addition to my knowledge base.

[Book Review] Deep in Crimson

Deep in Crimson / Sarah Gilman

Book two in the Sanctuary series.  I still think some of the base components of the seeing are cool, and the first book was cute in a simple romance novel way.

This book had a bit to much of tortured past and anguished true love.  I'm not big on that.  I feel like these were used as crutches in place of actually developing plot our characters.  That being said, this is often a failing in romance novels, and the author refrained from using utterly ridiculous descriptors.  So on that basis the novel is an enjoyable action romance, it just wasn't for me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

[Book Review] Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake / Margaret Atwood



I was asked while mid novel to describe what this book is about.  Now that I'm finished there still isn't really a good way to describe this book.

Atwood doesn't write simple novels. If this was a simple novel I would say it is about the folly and greed of man bringing about humankind's downfall.  Or maybe I would say it was about the fallout of a zealot's hubris.  Oryx and Crake could be a love story, could be about an I am Legend struggle to retain humanity, a debate over what makes us human, an environmentalist metaphor, all of these in one, or something else altogether.

Our narrator, Snowman/Jimmy, is not particularly special or even likeable.  Born into the corporate cultivated intellectual middle class, raised amid genetic tinkering and tampering, he largely meanders along through life with little actual effort or achievement.  Jimmy's biggest distinguishing feature is his friendship with Oryx, possibly the only person who Oryx considers a friend, a pathological genius.  Orxy is the sole reason for Jimmy's survival, saving Jimmy to look after the recreation of human he engineered.  And then we are also left with the question, has Jimmy actually survived?

Link Smorgasbord, October 28 - November 3

UVU professor plans first deaf culture digital library
Awesome project, I really hope it prospers.

Goodbye Sticky. Hello Ara.
This is pretty awesome.  I already was into Phonebloks, and it looks like Motorola (*cough*Google*cough*) is teaming up with Phonebloks to make this happen on a large scale.  I'm very intrigued.

Apple Blocks Lawrence Lessig's Comment On iOS 7 Wi-Fi Glitch
The story is more than just Lawrence Lessig vs. Apple, it just happens to focus on Lessig.

Announcing the Web Literacy Standard (specification)
Mozilla has this great resource, webmaker.org, which has tools for teaching, learning, and general web development skills.  They've gone a little bit further and started developing outlined skills sets that are key to web literacy:

"The Web Literacy Standard is a map of competencies and skills that Mozilla and our community of stakeholders believe are important to pay attention to when getting better at reading, writing and participating on the web."

Ten Steps You Can Take Right Now Against Internet Surveillance
A good chunk of these are just good to do even if you aren't worried about surveillance.

Neil Gaiman to teach at Bard
If I was a Bard student in the appropriate major I'd be head over heels with excitement (and hoping for an early enrollment slot).

The #@%& Joys of Library Work
There's actually a cut out of this from a newspaper on the staff bulletin board at work.

Microsoft Research uses Kinect to translate between spoken and sign languages in real time
I love this sort of thing.

eBook Heaven
Thoughts on libraries, ebooks, and open access.

Orson Scott Card: Mentor, Friend, Bigot
I've written before about my mixed feelings about Card's work, and my difficulty coming to terms with the fact that a man who wrote some beautiful books about loving and accepting the other can also be so hateful towards the other.  I particularly like this reflection on Card and his work.