Sunday, July 27, 2014

Award for Best Graphic Novel Collection in a Library. And the WINNER is....

So Thomas Maluck @LiberryTom says,
I keep seeing "Best Retailer" among comics awards. Its time for them to add "Best Library." Who agrees?

And I agreed.

Let me clarify. I hate awards. Because I don't think librarians should be awarded for doing our jobs. But as part of our communities, we should show some pride in the ways we manage and spend the money we are given. And if that means we need to stick a ribbon on our collection that tells everyone WE DONE GOOD, then maybe we should do it.

Clarification Expanded: I also hate extra work. I don't have time to READ graphic novels and EVALUATE content. So here is my PROPOSAL for an award for GRAPHIC NOVEL collections in libraries.

If this were my project and I wanted to get it started asap, I would limit to giving awards for graphic novel collections that include each of the titles from these lists:
YALSA Best Graphic Novels Top 10 Lists, 2007 to Current
the Wikipedia entry for List of award-winning graphic novels

Libraries could check their collections against the lists and get nominated if they think they have everything or most of everything or everything for given years. The actual award doesn't exist so I don't have the rules sorted out. Except for the one that says, if you had a book in your collection and it's now missing and it's currently out of print and can no longer be purchased: tough titty. If it doesn't show in your catalog as being part of your collection, you don't get credit for it.

The rules for the first awards should be kept simple. Until we get a committee, then YEE-HAW, the more rules the better!

Award Process (DRAFT)
  • Library collections are nominated through an online form.
  • Libraries may be nominated in multiple categories (when separate category awards become active).
  • Nominations are verified through online searches such as library catalogs for collections and library websites for programs. Media sites may be used to verify news stories.
  • Only print collections are accepted. Animation (video / DVD) could become a separate category.
  • All Titles must have an ISBN.
  • In event of a tie, libraries will be awarded based on annual purchasing budget sub-categories: under $10K, $10K-$50K, Over $50K.

There could be Future Categories, if someone WANTS EXTRA WORK. Wikipedia uses these nine categories that we could use to give awards for library collections:


    ► Adventure graphic novels‎


    ► Crime graphic novels‎


    ► Erotic graphic novels‎


    ► Fantasy graphic novels‎


    ► Horror graphic novels‎
    ► Humor graphic novels‎


    ► Non-fiction graphic novels‎


    ► Science fiction graphic novels‎
    ► Superhero graphic novels‎

Final Clarification. I would love to do this. And I could do it. But I can't imagine any library would accept an award from the.effing.librarian. So I don't know what to do with this DRAFT. Except post it and hope I can be involved in some way if-when it finally gets going. But I'll have to probably use my real name at some point. So promise you won't tell anyone it's me.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

the first library to partner with google will be the last library standing

A recent story had the mayor of Miami-Dade saying that his library system could be run with one librarian on Skype.

After you're done shouting, Fuck You, Motherfucker, at this shitbag asshole of a mayor, take a moment to acknowledge that he's probably right.

Many librarian skills have been devalued. Research has little value to people who have settled for being idiots. The number of people who claim Google can find anything they need, yet CAN'T USE GOOGLE, are growing exponentially. I have to stand next to an incredible number of assholes who use Google to get to: Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL... AOL is only 3 FUCKING LETTERS! So I stand there as they type G O O G L E and then press enter and then say, "Your Internet is down" with the same fucking authority I might imagine my doctor would use to tell me I have cancer. "I'm sorry. The test came back positive; your Internet is down."

And I need to pretend that this is a teaching moment and remind them that GOOGLE is nothing, but GOOGLE.COM is something. And then they say back, "Well, not on my computer at home. There must be something wrong with your computers."

And I don't say, "Using your logic, you should be able to leave this room, take a left, pull down your pants and take a shit because in your house there's a toilet there. But in the library, that's where the copier is. Have you been shitting on our copier?"

So traditional Reference is dying. People don't want correct answers, only fast ones. And librarians, due to, I don't know, caring or education or professional ethics, can't get their heads around just giving their patrons the fastest answer without it necessarily being the right one:
PATRON: Do you have books on how the building of the Panama Canal encouraged drug trafficking to the United States?
LIBRARIAN: Here! [Hands any random Panama book] And would you like to learn more about Discount Hotel Accommodations in Panama?
Thank you. That was my impression of a search engine.

Library research takes some time, several minutes usually, to locate the right answer to a question. But people have been conditioned to accept every answer from Google as the best answer. Why? Because the Google results often link to a pretty good answer and people have decided that a pretty good answer really fast is better than a really good answer not so fast, or ten minutes later. 

And,... I'm leaping way ahead here (because the adrenaline is burning off and I'm losing interest in the topic), this is why your governments, refer to Miami-Dade at the top of this post, do not want to fund libraries: BECAUSE LIBRARIES ARE HERE TO EDUCATE.

And it's pretty damn clear to anyone paying attention that politicians don't need their voters to be educated in order to get elected.

Now that my political announcement is out of the way, let me get back to whatever it was I was trying to say.

Reference librarians are finding is harder to do their jobs because of not only the historical reasons, people don't know what they do or are afraid to ask; but now people are just settling for some search engine to tell them what the the answer is.

So what the people seem to want is Google-fast with librarian-smart. So like the title of this post says, the first library to partner with google will be the last library standing. If you think a library should still employ librarians.

Libraries will forsake librarians. You will see fewer of us in the future. But there will still be library jobs, just $12-$15 an hour jobs like everywhere else. And the library CEO will make 10X more than that just like real business.

And the librarians who are left will probably be your "rock stars" because they've been climbing over the rest of us for the past 5 years trying to be the important ones, when, frankly, I couldn't name one useful thing any of them has done. Other than get the rest of us to follow them on Facebook.

So expect more mayors to question why we need librarians. Because educating the public, according to them, is the goal of the also underfunded public schools and the out-of-most-of-our-reach-without-borrowing expensive universities and NOT the role of the publicly-funded and therefore free-to-all public libraries. So fuck us for caring.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fun with German Libraries, or You Can't Use the Spear of Destiny to Attach that Photo to Your Email

If you work in a public library, then you understand the agony of helping old people. Some of our elderly patrons will gleefully proclaim their ignorance of all modern technologies and smile as if this should make them appear cute and endearing. But it doesn't.

I've been using computers since around 1985 and I know people who started a few years before me. And AOL, your grandparents' Facebook, started in 1991. But I'll give these oldsters the benefit of the doubt and remind them that Google started in 1997, so that's 15 years they've had to get up to speed with computer technology.

So there's been more than enough time for them to learn something, anything, anything at all. But they haven't.

The old people who know about using computers probably never visit the library, spending all their free time, most probably, helping their computer illiterate neighbors get all their money back from that deposed Nigerian prince.

And this group of helpless mouse fumblers, virus spreaders, accidental rebooters and reckless spam clickers, is, according to Tom Brokaw, The Greatest Generation. Partly because they won World War II and defeated the Nazis.

So this is what I don't get: if our oldest Americans are so clueless about computers and digital technology and claim they can't learn to use any of it because it's new and strange and confusing, AND these are the Americans who beat Hitler's master race, then... wait for it... what the hell are the old people like in Germany?

Do German librarians work with even stupider people than we do? How did America beat the German Army or the Nazis? You know, the cool looking Germans who held their cigarettes upside down and wore monocles and polished their black leather boots until Colonel Hogan could read the latest secret codes in the reflection. One would think it's because we were better or smarter. Hell, we broke the Nazi code. Or maybe that was all just something that Hedy Lamarr did.

So this Greatest Generation can't figure out email, but they deciphered the Enigma machine. Where does that leave the German former soldiers, the defeated? Does this make them completey incompetent? Or something else entirely?

Based on what I learned from movies, I know Hitler was fascinated by the occult. Maybe German librarians face completely different problems from their aged veterans.

I can almost hear someone telling this to their confused patron and former Nazi: 
"Sie können keine anhängen foto mit the Spear of Destiny." Or, You cannot attach a photo with the Spear of Destiny.

Or worse yet, but would probably only happen once, "Ich kann nicht helfen, I can't help you to email the Ark of the Covenant because I will need to cover my eyes when you open it."

Monday, November 4, 2013

Bestsellers are not always what they seem.

Americans spend $6 billion a year on books. And this industry goes largely unregulated by the government. There is no Agency like the FDA or the FCC to test books for adherence to  purity or national standards in publishing.

But using a method called DNA encoding, Canadian researchers have uncovered literary fraud in one-third of the New York Times bestsellers for fiction.

Consumer advocates say that the public has fallen victim to questionable and even unsafe practices whereby popular novels are nothing more than filler and falsified ingredients. Of the 44 novels tested, many showed outright substitution from materials created from the minds of others and not of the stated author whose name is printed on the cover.

Using a test called DNA barcoding, a kind of genetic fingerprinting that has also been used to help uncover labeling fraud in the commercial seafood industry, researchers tested popular novels from over a dozen large publishers.

For example, of one unnamed novel sampled, a current legal thriller on multiple bestseller lists, was not written by the well-known author, but actually penned by Tito Wagner, a much lesser-known thriller author who makes his home in Switzerland. The novel bares no resemblance to the claimed author's work other than for locations set in Mississippi. But the DNA testing showed that often Swiss place names appeared in the work, such as the location of the story's courthouse as being listed in Büttenhardt, Mississippi.

The test also showed that other sections of the novel contained almost no portion of the original story and others were only a sprinkling of source material diluted with Project Gutenberg content from a public domain title, mostly Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

An example:
Nobody spoke for a minute; then Jake said in an altered tone, "You know the reason Lettie proposed not having any presents this Christmas was because it is going to be a hard winter for everyone; and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in the army. We can't do much, but we can make our little sacrifices, and ought to do it gladly. But I am afraid I don't," and Jake shook his head, as he thought regretfully of all the pretty things he wanted.

Sure it doesn't make much sense as a legal thriller, but so far no one has seemed to notice, heaping immeasurable praise upon this fraud.

Representatives of the publishing industry said that while mislabeling of novels was a legitimate concern, they did not believe it reached the extent suggested by the new research, stating, "Meg (from Little Women) is one hell of a character."

But because the latest findings are backed by DNA testing, they offer perhaps the most credible evidence to date of adulteration, contamination and mislabeling in the publishing industry. And given the explosive growth of ebooks, an area where demands for new books are continuing to rise, the need for fresh content has encouraged this unacceptable behavior. Critics say this blatant misuse of older texts to create new works is either being created from ignorance, incompetence or outright dishonesty.

All agree that more oversight is needed.


story idea ripped off from this NYT story about herbal supplements with some sections stolen outright and left unchanged. because it's funnier that way.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why Public Libraries are no longer WELCOME in the MODERN WORLD

I have a theory that public libraries are tied to the Middle Class in society. And like the disappearance of the middle class in the 21st century, the loss of well-paying jobs, the weakening of trade unions, libraries can also see that there are many who don't want to pay to support something that doesn't directly affect themselves.

When you read about libraries today, you will often see the author repeat that he has not entered a library in many many years. And that is why the library isn't needed. "I" don't need it, so "You" don't need it.

It seems to be a lack of empathy that is killing libraries. You can do just minimal research to learn the part of the brain that guides or forms feelings of empathy is one of the last to develop and that it doesn't develop equally in everyone. You can have a highly developed brain in other areas, be a genius, but develop little or no empathy.

By Trade, the librarian is taught to say, We and You and They need this because the librarian represents everyone. "I need this" is not usually a factor in the decision process.

I'll acknowledge that this role does not explicitly represent empathy. Buying a GED book for the library because the librarian perceives a public need may not be a sign of empathy if that same public wants something else. Librarians believe they are building infrastructure. If there is a general need for something, a librarian considers that material part of the core of the collection.

The worst thing about the "I don't need libraries, so you don't" people is that they attempt to use logic to justify their narcissism:
I don't use libraries.
No one I know uses libraries.
Everything is on the internet.
Everyone has smartphones.
No one needs libraries.

But they don't even use simple reasoning to find out if libraries are useful: VISIT THE LIBRARY.

The most basic rule of science is to observe. Is the library parking lot full? Are people passing through the doors? Are they entering and leaving with objects? What are those objects? What behaviors do you witness on the inside of the library? What are the people doing?

I don't use an Apple iPhone or iPad, but I don't expect the company to go bankrupt because I have no need for their products. Because I can make these observations and apply critical thinking to what I see.

That there are some who don't want to see the need for libraries is just another reason for librarians to work harder to serve the people who actually need us. Otherwise those we serve would just be invisible.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I coulda been a Mover. I coulda been a Shaker. Instead, I'm just a bum.

I first took notice when the phone rang. It was my brother Charley's voice. He said, Take the fall.

What? I said.

Tank it. Flub it. Do not answer that question correctly, he said. His voice a mix of anger and desperation. And the line cut off.

So I flubbed it.

A little girl was at the desk looking for a book on Bolivia. The catalog showed we had two on the shelf. But I looked at her innocent face and thought of Charley. Why would he call me at work, here in the library at that exact moment and tell me, beg me, to take a dive? It must be important.

So I sent that girl away with nothing. I didn't even ask her if she could use a book on Paraguay or Argentina. Hell, any librarian would have offered Argentina.

I flubbed it. I told her all the books were checked out. And I did it for Charley. Because he's my brother.

I learned later that the Mafia had moved into the library. Mobsters began taking book on the outcomes of reference queries: would she find the answer, or not? Laying odds based on Google pre-searches, catalog queries, the color of the librarian's cardigan, whether she wore contacts or glasses, many factors. And people were betting money. Big money. The odds in Macau on whether a certain Brooklyn librarian could find one tiny fact hidden within a terabyte of data fluctuates based on what she had for lunch: lo mein and spring rolls or a tuna hoagie.

At first I was surprised that gambling had come to the Reference desk. But then it began to make sense. Was that book on the shelf? 3 to 2 it wasn't. Is the document feeder on the copier going to jam on that folded sheet of paper? 17 to 5.

The library is all about numbers. Most people mistakenly believe the library is about words. But numbers rule. The words are just the decoration.

Item records are numbers. Statistics are numbers. Shelf locations are numbers. Many people have gone through library school after earning their liberal arts degrees in a bewildering cloud of unexpected numbers.

So it's no surprise that these numbers are going to make some people rich.

And that is how I got that call from Charley. He was helping to make his boss rich by taking the long odds against my finding that book and helping that girl. All it took was a threat to something Charley valued to make him make that call. Knowing Charley, it was probably the threat of someone cutting off his balls.

But for me, it was terrible timing because I'd just heard back from the awards committee at Library Journal that I made the short, the extremely short list to be named a Mover & Shaker. I wrote that Chrome browser extension where every instance of the word 'book' links in real time through IP or cell tower to the nearest library location when you touch or click the link. It works great and I was going to get some national recognition. But then Charley called. And, well, as you can guess, I didn't make the final cut.

He had "some guys" who wanted me to sabotage my algorithm to make it less accurate. And I said, Hell, No, and Charley said, But my balls! and I said, Okay. So I pushed the update with the weaker code and now 30% of the clicks direct users to the website for a Subway restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida.

But I almost made it. Almost counts for something, right? And maybe the next time Charley calls, it will be to say that some other schmuck librarian is going to take the dive and it will be my turn in the spotlight. Next time.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

How we killed the public library

Don't know if you've heard, but the public library is dead. Or dying. Or has a really bad cough.

If you don't know if you know how public libraries worked when they were around, but they were places where people could read and borrow books without having to pay any money for the privilege. Lots of other people with money paid so that people without money could spend their days in a comfortable space away from all the places where the people with money went to spend their days. 

And at one time libraries had a noble goal, to educate. And then they had the somewhat less noble goal, to entertain. And now we see libraries without any goals at all, filled with librarians who sigh all day long. Until they can go out and drink all night.

The original primary goal of libraries was probably to find and store copies of all the stuff -- but since that wasn't possible as more stuff was produced, libraries chose to just collect the best stuff. So all these professional associations and publications formed to try to evaluate all the stuff and decide which stuff by which publishers and authors was worth having.

And that worked great for the last 75 years. But then libraries stopped caring so much about the best stuff and began collecting popular stuff, regardless of quality. But at least people borrowed that stuff.

But now we're in a period where we have vendor driven stuff, meaning you get what you get. We had vendor issues in the past with print materials and with CDs and DVDs, but libraries were able to get pretty much anything that was produced. But now we have ebooks available to libraries from one to three vendors and the selection is very limited with some publishers completely opting out from offering any e-content to libraries. And downloadable music has one company that I know of that gets all it music from one publisher. And streaming music and video probably suffers from the same conspiracy of limitations.

And that's where we are now, in a conspiracy of limitations. We get what we get based on any number of intentional or random factors.

So what does this mean in the really bad cough of libraries?

I guess there will be libraries with no books. They will call themselves Conversation Stations, or some other bullshit, and they will feel successful because the seats are filled every day with people streaming movies to their "devices" - whatever the fuck those will be. But there might still be libraries that are still serious about being libraries. And they will have books. (Please, let them have books.)

Ask any library professional to speculate on the future of the public library and as you listen, you will hear a prediction of its death. You will hear about the evolving space and the concept of community and some other incarnation whereby the library is essentially an open-air toilet with some bookmarks left over from a summer reading program in 2006. Services will evolve, they say as if those words are brand new.

But when free wireless is available city-wide, delivered from Google dirigibles or a massive congestion of overlapping signals from McDonald's and Starbucks, what will the library have left to offer?

I read articles where some idiot laments the difficulty with using library resources, catalogs, databases. They want everything to be easier. But tools are not easy to use; you cut your finger on a kitchen knife or smash your thumb with a hammer, but no one stops cutting or hammering. We learn. If tools were easy, we would all fix our own cars. But no, professional mechanics fix your car. Some librarians want to dumb down the profession of librarianship! To what end? Why the fuck would you want to do that? So what if the catalog is difficult to use: teach people to use it. The people who learn will be smart and the other assholes will remain assholes; it's that simple.

The librarians want people to share more with others. Share. More. You know identity theft didn't affect hardly anyone 15 years ago. There was maybe one movie on Lifetime about how "She Stole My Identity and My Daughter." But now everyone, EVERYONE, has received a letter from some company stating that your credit card information may have been included in the 200 million accounts that were stolen from their computers and that you should monitor your credit for $6.95 a month FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

So what is the future of the public library when there are no books, everything is in the cloud, wireless access is everywhere and professional librarians are replaced with videos and online tutorials?
No books means no building.
The Cloud means no building.
Online tutorials mean no building.

And no building means no staff.

But wait! The librarians say, We're a Conversation Station! Or a Community Center! Or a Homeless Shelter!

Sure you are. But is that a Library?

You can cheer and say you did your job because everyone has what they want and the mission is served, but the library will be gone.

My idea of the library has always included some form of Quality Control. I went to school to learn what that is. But now we don't seem to care about what content the library offers, just that it circulates.

The librarian used to provide answers. But this new librarian just wants to sit back and let the people converse.
What is the answer? everyone asks.
And the librarian grins, Exactly. Because everyone is talking.

I think librarians feel inadequate compared to the internet. After all, the internet has all the answers. The internet got faster while the librarian just seemed like an unnecessary second step in finding information. So the librarian quit offering to find information. The librarian outsourced more of the answers to the database vendors and told people how to search but not how to find the right answers.

And when the people proved too stupid to find the answers in the databases, the librarians gave up on those and funneled all the money into streaming movies and music. Which is okay because if you look at the library mission, there's always something in there about "community needs." And when your community is too dumb to learn, then give them Adam Sandler flicks.

I don't think about what the library will be like in 2020. Maybe it will be an organ farm, forming body parts in organic 3D printers. I don't give a fuck. I just know that for a library to function, information should be accessible. And that requires three things: information, the information seeker and the librarian.

And moving any part of that equation farther and farther from the library is not how I define accessibility.