Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tech Talks

Tech Talks are a new type of library program aimed at providing patrons connection to new emerging technological tools. It's goal is to do roughly what book talks do, but for technology; provide people a place to find new technologies, talk about how technologies impact their lives, and discover new uses for technology at their library. Each Tech talk should be organized around a theme, and have a between 4-7 minutes spotlight on 3-5  technologies, apps, or tools rather than focused on a particular technology or product. 

While technology programming at libraries generally features longer sessions organized around a class or workshop model, Tech Talks are a poppier way to connect patrons with emerging tools and trends. Just like a book talk on non-fiction subjects, Tech talks can integrate elements of a class, or demo, but should included a broader focus on multiple tools. For example a Tech Talk on word processing programs might include a demo of certain MS Word features, but would also discuss other programs.

The goal of Tech Talks is to decrease alienation with technology and encourage trans-literacy. Trans-literacy, is the ability to communicate across a variety of platforms. Tech Talks should be focused on productive technologies rather than on technologies that drive consumerism. Technologies that allow for the storage of data, the creation of artistic works, creation of data sets, and representation of information (ie websites/blogs) should be showcased. Patrons should also be given a basic understanding of how the technology works, and any underlying issues.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Notes from the frontline - Blaft

It's been a little bit since I wrote about my long standing project creating an annotated bibliography of science fiction translated into English, the project is well over the half way point. It should be done before the end of the month. Currently, I'm working on wrapping things up with my two largest sections, Japaneses and French science fiction. When these are done, I'll just have a few holes to fill, notably Russian, and German, both of which have substantial work, just not a lot of it.

Lately, I have been browsing a very high quality collection of short stories translated from Tamil into English, The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction. Jess Nevins, a librarian and knowledge producer, who I find worthy of esteem thinks highly of it. After getting a chance to peruse them myself, I have to say I agree with his assessment. If you're into pulp fiction, or science fiction, I would definitely by a copy, or two, or three. The book features extremely high quality annotations and illustration, and the first volume deals with modern authors rather then with pulp from the past, while the second volume also seems to have longer excerpts then the first one did and have a bit broader of a focus.

Blaft is an Indian publisher with an alternative bend who focuses mainly on translating stuff into English. They have a wonderful website, and I hope that they keep up the good work.

Keep it locked here for more updates, I'm a book away from finishing with the Japanese section the bib. I'll be posting something like that shortly.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

You stay classy South Carolina

South Carolina's legislative bodies have, in their wisdom, passed a bill which severely limits (pretty much eliminates) the ability of municipalities to launch there own broadband networks. Ars Technica reports this effort was largely a result of lobbying from AT&T using an ALEC drafted proposal.

For those of you who haven't been paying attention ALEC is a "bi-partisan" group largely dominated by conservative interests. They gained prominence in the news cycle when it came to light that they were supporting some very unsavory legislation. Eventually ALEC came close to disbanding as major corperate sponsors pulled their backing. I think we can take this as evidence, that like the John Birch Society, we'll be dealing with ALEC for a long time to come. Other states beware, now that this has passed in SC the other conservative controlled legislatures may be passing similar bills.

A large portion of South Carolina is called the 'Corridor of Shame'. It's a largely rural stretch of the state where underfunded and supported schools and services have produced a startling amount of illiteracy in some counties, including adult illiteracy rates are as high as 29%.. A digital divide is another systemic problem that faces South Carolina. This digital divide is not just another barrier to solving for adult literacy and providing education, but also to the very development of the state itself.

Admittedly providing digital services to these rural areas will be expensive for private industry, especially considering that many people in these areas won't be able to subscribe to these services. In many ways, broadband to rural areas faces the same problems infrastructure challenges providing electricity and sewer access posed to these same communities less then fifty years ago. Even into the 1960s areas in counties within the corridors of shame were lacked access to basic utilities like electricity and especially telephone service. Federal legislation was created to solve the problems posed by a lack of infrastructure (in 1936, and expanding the legislative mandate to telephone service in 1949).

This legislation had effects beyond just improving peoples lives. From 1933 to 1967 income rose in the area covered by the Tennessee Valley Authority, from 49 to 69 percent of the national average. Broadband internet can have the same impact. According to a report from PPIC a public policy think tank, there is a positive correlation between broadband access and economic growth. By providing broadband services, you generate commerce and taxes, and provide the state with a workforce that can attract businesses. All things South Carolina desperately needs.

The same report notes that $7.2 billion was designate by the federal government for the expansion of broad band to undeserved areas. Areas which are defined as areas having access then of less then 200kbs. The South Carolina bill prohibits public networks of more then 190kbs. You can see the problem.

The effect of the South Carolina Law is that when underserved by the private sector theirs no recourse for someone in an undeserved area has not alternitive. As Ares reports the law contains more grandfather clause, so communities using federal grant money to serve citizens now have to divest themselves of the network. Jim Baller, one of the nation's leading experts on public broadband points to a broad effort to delay and destroy public broadband efforts.

While at a county level South Carolina does OK, when you break it down at a census track level 60% of South Carolinians live in areas where less than 60% or households have broad band access. With a 3 out of 5 house holds state wide having broadband access above 200kbs, and less than 1 out of five meeting the national target speed of 3mbs according to tracking released late last year by the FCC. South Carolina has a lot of work to do especially in rural communities. Which is why this law doesn't make since from a policy point of view.

In 2007 the state auctioned off a huge portion of it's wireless spectrum, in South Carolina, the state, not institutions held educational broadcast licenses and the associated band width. Two companies bought the rights to 90% the states educational band. Two years later the local alternative weekly launched an investigative report and found that little had been done to develop those licenses, while the two companies used their monopoly to freeze out local competition. There's a large technical challenge to establish the infrastructure to provide broadband access to residents of a state. Having sold the easiest way to connect the state to the web, law makers have now put another nail in the coffin of this states economic development.  This law represents another barrier to citizens getting the services they need, and cuts off what was ending the legacy of the "corridor of shame."

Admittedly I am a bit of a big government guy. But I prefer to have market mechanisms provide services, including utilities. The problem with this bill isn't that it privatizes a public good, its that it prevents governments, municipal, local small governments, from being able to address the failures of the market, which are dire in rural South Carolina. The state legislature again shows its allegiance is more towards those in power then to fixing the considerable problems facing the state. I think they would be wise to remember something my mother told me: You don't have to be part of the solution, but don't be part of the problem.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Open Letter to the Book V Blogger who sparked ARCGate

Paper Back Book Rage
Paperback Book Rage by Daven from Le Rage Comics

The Library communities response in #ARCgate bothered me. Not necessarily because of anything any one person said or did, but because of the whole climate it created. More then that I don't think any one really reached out to the creator of the video that set the whole thing off. Instead we just debated about whether ALA was just for librarians or not. I went back and found the video creators blog and I read her posts and about her. After looking at her post, and the other content I'd seen posted I decided that the best thing would be to write her myself. I'm posting it as an open letter because I hope that in the future rather then tearing people down, we can actually connect to them. I know I wish I had written the author of the Forbes piece. I'll be emailing the blogger a copy of my letter as well.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Forbes Flubs

Recently Forbes put a list of 10 best and 10 worst master's degrees on-line. They made the mistake of rating a Master Degree in Library Science as the worst. I take issue with their selection for obvious reasons. However, rather than just poo poo the state of libraries and feeding our self-image complex, I'm going to take umbrage with the poor reporting of Forbes.

According to Forbes:
"Library and information science degree-holders bring in $57,600 mid-career, on average. Common jobs for them are school librarian, library director and reference librarian, and there are expected to be just 8.5% more of them by 2020. The low pay rank and estimated growth rank make library and information science the worst master’s degree for jobs right now."
True, library salaries do tap out in the mid-range, and true like all public sector jobs, librarians aren't going to be in any great demand until Keynesian economics comes back into vogue (keepin' my fingers crossed for 2013). However, is getting a library degree really such a terrible idea?

According to those that track the numbers, getting an MLIS is probably a better option then getting a MBA, or MA in Journalism (Regretting your life choices now Forbes?). For instance newly minted librarians have about a 6.7% unemployment rate, not bad in this economy (Library Journal). New MBAs on the other hand have a unemployment rate of approximately 14% (Business Week), and a new MA in Journalism has a 16% chance of being unemployed (2010 Survey of Journalism and Mass Communication Grads).

Average salary wise librarians can't compete with the lucky MBA's who find jobs,they make an average of $79,806, according to a Business Week piece. But a new librarian makes about $5,000 more than a new Journo, who only pull in an average of $36,200. Library Jounral's annual 2011 placement report breaks salary down by region, but eyeballing it showed an average starting salary of about $42,000 for new librarians.

Of course cost of degree matters as well. A library science degree costs between $10K and $40K (2006), while that MBA will set you back an average of $60,000. Graduate degrees in Journalism are comparable to an MLIS in cost, but again there's a significant salary tradeoff, and that trade off continues over time with Journalism degrees starting salary decreasing, along with the overall prospects of the profession.

Running business well relies on having good information. Forbes as a business publication should probably be doing a better job checking it's facts. You can make an argument, as Forbes does that MLISs are a bad degree, you'd be using the wrong information to do it though. I suggest Forbes hirer more librarians to help it's reporters, after all it's like Neil Gaiman says, "Google can bring you back 100000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one."  #Truefact

I guess I got the right degree after all.

Edited 10:02PM 6/12/12 - Fixed Typos

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Update - Graduated

While I conceived of this blog while a bookseller at Borders, I didn't really start posting on it until I started the process of Library School. Since then I've posted in spurts. Now that I have received my degree I hope to post here more often. Currently I've restarted work on the Bibliography project, I'm in the early stages of another book project, and I've got a book review on the burner right now. In short, despite not having a "real" job yet, I'll have lots of things to write about.

Keep it locked.

- Zack

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Research Journal Update

I've written before an area of research I am interested in involving information's role in NPDA debate. Specifically, I want to understand how debaters use information and what role access to information plays in NPDA rounds. I've narrowed the area of my initial study down to a research question: Is there are correlation between wireless internet access affect NPDA round outcomes?

At the end of last term I created a study proposal. Since then, I've shown it to a few people and gotten positive and constructive feedback. I've learned a few things from that feedback. Most importantly I've learned that I need to operationalize my variables.

In the initial proposal I poorly defined the particular variables that would be tested. There were a few reasons for that, but one of the primary ones was uncertainty over the type and availability of data. I've done a preliminary survey of debate resources, and found that there is no widespread historical record of debate rounds, beyond the last three years, exists. Even then it isn't standard practice in the community. I don't have enough data to make that a conclusive statement, but it's my strong impression.