Ink Paper Words' Profile

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Pacific Northwest, United States
In elementary school, I desperately wanted my mother to order books for me from those flyers Scholastic hands out to kids. She refused, citing the "perfectly good library down the street." I exacted revenge by becoming a card-carrying ALA accredited reference librarian. Ha! Take that!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Death of Libraries?

A recent series of articles on the funding crisis affecting public libraries (and indeed, all public agencies these days) examines their relevance in this age of apparently ubiquitous information and access. Comments to these articles reveal a variety of misconceptions, for example:

Libraries and Books are Outmoded

When I attended library school, back in the mists of ancient pre-history (that's 1987), I remember writing in one of my papers that it was essential for librarians to remain on the cutting edge of technology in order better provide students with a conceptual framework with which to access information.With the benefit of intervening years, I'd have to say that libraries have done admirably well for themselves in this regard. My local library currently offers texts, music and language instruction via e-book. Reference service is available via text message. They've had self-check for ages. And since the mid-80's, when I began working at the public library in Puddletown, I don't even think in terms of a "book\not-book" dichotomy. Things are just materials. Some are books, some are VHS, some DVD, etc. In view of this, I'd have to say that people who assert libraries are outmoded hasn't been in one for a good while.

Everything (and then some!) is already on the Internet

True, there is a lot of “information” on the web. Much of it is solid information from reliable and credible vendors. However, much of it is crap. How is the casual user to know the difference. I participate on various forums on the web and it's a bit ludicrous to see the links to screed\rant pages presented as “proof” of some ridiculous assertion. Clearly, people do not know how to evaluate information. At Stanislaus County, we frequently got patrons whose homework assignment indicated that no .com web sites could be used as sources. While I applaud the intent of the teacher\school who drew up this policy, it ignores the fact that lots screen can hide behind .org domains as well as any other.

Yes, technology continues to make access to information ubiquitous, but that does not mean it's available to everyone. Effective search strategy is key, and not a quality that is inherent. I don't know how many times people came to the reference desk looking for information and I would ask about the sources they had already checked. They'd say "oh I Googled it and didn't find anything." Then I would search and find all kinds of things from credible sources that answered their question. There may well be a lot more vessels on that ocean, but the navigator is still essential. Librarians more necessary than ever. There seems to be a misconception that information = knowledge and that simply is not the case. Knowledge has an intrinsic value-added quality that can only occur after accurate information has been synthesized.

Another issue is pay walls. If something is on the web but the user can't get to it because they lack the appropriate credentials, what good is it? In all probability, the local library subscribes to expensive databases and subject-specific reference sources that provide information you simply can't pull up without paying and authenticating. Libraries and database producers want you to use those. And believe it or not, everyone does not have cell service and a smart phone.

I see the greatest threats to libraries is funding. Budgets are being slashed everywhere and when faced with a choice between 911 service and libraries, I certainly understand a community opting for police and ambulances, if those are the only choices. Those who argue that librarians care only about funding their own jobs have no idea what motivates us. I made a pretty decent salary at my last library position, but it was certainly not exorbitant given the location and local cost of living. I don't know of anyone who goes into librarianship because it's a ticket to wealth. People who are driven my money tend not to go into public service.

Librarians do nothing but read – what are they good for?

Librarians have always had an image problem (one shared, BTW, with most other public service employees).  Laura Bush said in the school library she worked in she was happy to read gardening books all day. Way to support the profession, LB. Frankly I cannot imagine how she lucked into a job that allowed her the freedom to indulge her personal interests in this way. I spent my time reading book reviews (fun ;^) ) and boring emails from the county (not fun ;^\ ).

This misconception is only exacerbated by corporations such as LSSI, who claim to work for results and not allow librarians to “coast” until retirement age. Every library I've worked in was very heavily driven by quantified results and the dead wood was gotten rid of. Furthermore, I have a real issue with for-profit companies taking over. They've invested nothing into the enterprise except the time it took to wine and dine decision-makers. The burden of infrastructure and materials still resides with the funding source.

If there is money to be saved or made from a publicly-funded agency, shouldn’t it be cycled back to taxpayers as either a tax reduction [lulz] or at least put back in that agency's budget?

Libraries are nothing more than senior center, day care, homeless shelter and Blockbuster

Patrons who are part of those demographics certainly use do library facilities – what's wrong with that? I think it speaks to our ability to reach across social and cultural boundaries to bring potential users into the building. I wouldn't use that as a reason to avoid a resource with boundless benefit.

Comments on the HuffPo articles are quite revealing. While a majority of those commenting seem to be pro-library and pro-literacy, a vocal and uninformed minority continue to claim that “everything” is on the Internet. No, everything is not on the web and even if it were, how do users learn to evaluate it? Doesn't someone need to teach them? There seems to be a misconception that information = knowledge and that simply is not the case. Knowledge has an intrinsic value-added quality that can only occur after accurate information has been synthesized by the user.

Libraries take money away from critical services

Whenever I see an article about libraries and funding, some seem to think that library staff is arguing for funding them over critical services such as fire, police and EMT's. I certainly have not seen any library professionals making this argument, nor would any rational person. But it is bandied about as though it were a given. Obviously in times of financial crisis, hard choices have to be made. Systems such as Hood River and Josephine County, Oregon, have been compelled to make that choice. After being closed for a year or so, Hood River is back online with actual paid employees. Josephine County is back as well, but as a “member-based” library staffed only by volunteers. Their main branch is open only 19 hours per week.

Oh...and the coffee cart in the library? It's a way to get back some of the money that's been cut. I attended a workshop once in Sacramento on “entrepreneurial libraries.” It focused on identifying retail outlets that would complement the library's mission. I've heard it said that libraries with a coffee cart are nothing more than Barnes & Noble's red-haired stepchild, but the fact remains that leasing out space to local businesses not only brings in sorely needed revenue, it returns income to the community as well.

And bear in mind:
Bad information can kill you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Blighted Hope of Herman Cain

GOP Hopeful Herman Cain
Darn. I actually feel sorry for Herman Cain. Based on his recent interviews and debate appearances while attempting to snag the Republican nomination for POTUS, he just seems such a joke – and a rather well-scripted one at that. If all one knows about him is those statements he would be easily dismissed as a serious or credible candidate. Notice I haven't even delved into the multiple accusations of sexual harassment, nor will I except in a rather general way.

In a comment to an article on Huffington Post yesterday, someone referred to Cain having Stage IV cancer, which I hadn't previously heard. I checked his article on Wikipedia and found that this condition was diagnosed in 2006 and apparently, after surgery and chemotherapy, Cain is currently in remission.

I was stunned to learn, though, about his amazing academic accomplishments. Stunned because the buffoon he currently portrays in his campaign to date would never lead one to suspect that at one time he was capable of them.

I'm the first one to admit that I am a number dummy (except for birthdays, phone numbers, zip codes and of course, Dewey, they make my brain hurt. I believe the PC term for this condition is “innumeracy,” but as is often the case, the Anglo-Saxon is so much more expressive). The result is that I greatly admire people who do not share this condition; hence my surprise to discover Can's BS in mathematics in 1967 and a subsequent MS in computer science in 1971. I believe it was 1978 or so that WSU was offering an introductory programming class but I knew that this class was intended for those with abilities beyond my ken.

Cain's professional achievements were no less astounding. Ballistics analyst for the Navy, systems analyst for Coca-Cola. One imagines that positions like these are not handed out to just anyone. Hence the great puzzlement that his campaign has suffered so many gaffes, both at the hands of Cain himself and his staff. Something I have observed time and time again is that many highly intelligent and successful people are seriously lacking in social skills. I suspect that may ultimately be Cain's biggest albatross. Knowing his impressive background, his fall is that much more painful to watch.

My belief is that it is simply impossible for Cain to win the nomination of his own party, let alone win a general election. Face it, the harassment issues that have dogged his campaign so far are certainly not endemic to Cain alone, nor the sole province of any particular party. However, his response to those accusations shows that he is in no way able to cope with the responsibilities of the office of the president. "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown...." etc, etc.

And Hermie? No, I don't know who the president of “Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan” is, since there is no such country, but in case you meant Uzbekistan, it's one Islam Karimov. Isn't it great to know where to look?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Comment Moderation Bot Avoider

As a service to humanity, I have put together an alphabet for use on message boards where the general sentiment is that comment moderation is a bit too heavy-handed. There is a particular forum in mind, but I won't name it here. That forum is pretty transparent about their moderation and readers are notified that comments will be screened prior to posting. One gets the impression that an actual human is reading all these comments; however, I doubt it. On hot topics, I'll be reading comments and when I hit the icon to advance to the next page of comments, I find myself 3 pages back at comments I've already read. No human could possibly keep up with shotgun posting like that.

This site's Terms of Use are wordy and seem benign, but in actual practice I don't see much consistency in comment deletion. To avoid the key words that might not make it through filtering software, many posters resort to intentional misspellings. Frequently, though, the misspelling makes the meaning of the word unclear.

To that end, then, I present the Comment Moderation Bot Avoider. This alphabet is not a font in the usual sense; rather, it is simply characters pulled from the character map for their beauty and resemblance to the English alphabet. Readers are free to copy the entire alphabet or individual characters at their leisure.

Note: I will probably be changing some of the characters occasionally as I determine that others are better suited to a given task.

A word of advice, however. I am informed that using more than 2 special characters per word might trigger the bots, so use them judiciously.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Occupy Vancouver

"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."
~ Howard Zinn

Vancouver, Washington. Quiet bedroom community just across the Columbia River from Portland The current population is around 160,000, or about 4 times what it was when I grew up here. The orchard where I used to keep my horse is a couple of sub-divisions now, and due to several influxes of immigrants, it just is not the same white bread town it used to be.

Not to be outdone by the larger and more sophisticated Portland, which has been staging its own “Occupy” movement for a week or so, there was an “Occupy Vancouver” rally today in Esther Short park downtown. Despite pretty short notice (the first I heard about it was last night on The Columbian's web site) there was a decent turnout. My state assembly person and acquaintance from high school, Jim Moeller, was scheduled to speak. The thing had been going on for a bit when I got there and I didn't see or hear him. I saw Nurmi Husa, another guy I knew from high school, there and he guessed about 800 people. Vancouver police estimated 700.

At any rate, it was a peaceful gathering and the demographic was anything but “a bunch of stinking hippies smoking pot and needing a shower.” Interesting to see how many people there were my age or older. In fact, I'd say that far and away the majority of attendees were over 65. A smattering of 20- and 30-somethings, a few parents with small children, sure, but not many. And the only "fleabaggers" I saw there wore leashes and collars. My 80-year old mother has expressed affinity for the protesters but due to her health issues is not able to attend. She would have fit right in. So would my grandmother's church group.

Although the mainstream media keeps spouting the “no centralized message” meme, the signs I saw there were clear enough. When will the PTB realize that a revolution is brewing? This is not a few spoiled college kids who can't be bothered to look for work. This is turning into a global phenomenon. Curious that when people decry  abuses in the middle east, they are freedom fighters, but when they do it here they are spoiled kids, whiners and dirty hippies.

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
~ John F. Kennedy

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Now this is what I call equality

It Gets Better Project' Finds Support In Male Librarian Pin-Up Calendar

From the Huffington Post:

Forget the stereotypical crabby female librarian with a tight bun and nerdy glasses. The Men of the Stacks project introduces 12 steamy bibliophiles in a pin-up calendar to support struggling LGBT youth. 
Frankly, the bit about "crabby female librarian" makes me pretty crabby, but looking at the pics made me forget all about it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Well, we knew it was coming

For those who were waiting with bated breath comes the latest in a long series of Palin attention-whoring: Bristol's "auto-bio" tome.

Comments on The BookPage's blog and Amazon are harsh, but honestly -- what did she expect?

Cute kid, though. Too bad Bristol has decided that it's okay to diss the baby daddy.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The IPW Plan to Balance the US Budget

Why do we allow those jokers in DC to take on something so important? It's obvious that their interests benefit themselves and their corporate owners and NOT the electorate who gave them their jobs.

I am in no way an economist or politician. I am, however, a person who has learned to make do with little. One thing about librarians: we are so cheap we even recycle scrap paper. Frankly, I think we as a profession have those on The Hill beat all to hell when it comes to frugality and responsible stewardship of public funds.

So, without further ado, here is the IPW Plan to Balance the US Federal Budget!

  • Institute a flat tax rate. Remove loopholes so that corporations and businesses don't have to recruit a team of lawyers and accountants to weasel out of paying their fair share. And to the canard that business has to pay fewer taxes to enable job creation, I say BS. The 10 years of Bush tax cuts, which our obviously sold-out government voted to continue (!) not only did not create jobs, but also led to the highest unemployment rates since The Great Depression. A rational person would realize it didn't work and now it's time to try something different. This part of The Plan has the added benefit of reducing the size of the IRS. A flat rate will be easier to administer because the tax code itself will be less arcane. No need to worry about finding some obscure form -- there will only be one. Since the tax code will be less complex, fewer auditors will be needed to ensure compliance.
  • While we are talking about flat rates, another area to address is in cuts to the budget itself. Don't pare away only the agencies that provide services to the poor and elderly; make them even across the board. Perhaps if we weren't busy sending our military to kill people in oil- (and opium) rich countries, there wouldn't be any need to regard the military budget as sacrosanct. That will benefit our foreign policy in that mebbe, just mebbe, the rest of the world won't hate us so much.
  • Stop all immigration. Yes, I know, this sounds odd coming from someone with many friends who are either naturalized citizens or resident aliens, but let's face it. More people + fewer jobs = higher unemployment. Now, math was never my strong suit, but this seems fairly obvious to even a second grader. I also question why I visit  the social security or employment office and am served by people with obvious foreign accents.  Many state and federal agencies indicate Veteran status as a preference. In the same vein, then, why doesn't the hiring process for all federal jobs specify US Citizenship as a preference rather than merely asking about it on the EOCC form? I'm not saying that anyone already here should be deported; just close the gate.  This would lessen the burden on INS and free up resources for border patrol.
  • Offer tax credits to businesses who reverse/stop outsourcing. There is only one reason jobs are sent overseas and that is money. Money is the only incentive that will either keep jobs here or bring them back. I worked in technical support for AOL several years before they closed the Albuquerque call center (employing 1200 people) in favor of outsourcing those jobs to India. I believe the call center in Oklahoma City was closed as well. No idea how many jobs might have been lost with that closure.
  • The next point is possibly the most radical of all and frankly I am amazed that no one has uttered a word of it yet: remove the tax exemption for churches. They are not as altruistic as they seem on the surface; a person seeking aid frequently must first listen to the church's conversion spiel. Clearly the intent is to gain converts more than to feed or clothe the poor and with the exemption, the US government is indirectly promoting it. I say The Fed needs to get completely out of the religion bidness. Or is that whole “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion” just so much lip service?
  • Remove agricultural subsidies. They are nothing more than corporate welfare. I know it's very popular right now to demonize poor people, but corporations with their mouths at the public teat are either ignored or rationalized away in some hardscrabble Dustbowl Farmer John fantasy.
  • Legalize marijuana and tax it. Pot is, in fact, the single largest cash crop in the country and much is already being grown on federal lands. Legalize it, tax and regulate it. Prohibition for alcohol (a much more dangerous substance, IMO) didn't work, and prohibition on weed won't, either. Think of the law enforcement and jail resources freed up as a result. Think of the income generated. Yes, of course, some crime will still occur, but despite alcohol being legal and regulated, DUI's and liquor store robberies continue.
  • Use open source software. My god, how many millions does the government hand over to Microsoft for operating systems buggier than a swarm of locusts? In my experience, there is little difference for the casual end user between a Linux and Windows interface. IT staff would certainly appreciate the change because rank and file employees could no longer “customize” their systems, the likelihood of downloading virii will decrease and their jobs overall will be much simpler. Plus they won't be shelling out millions to one specific company with ridiculous restrictions on its user licenses. My system runs free SuSE Linux and OpenOffice. I just bought a new computer for my son (who can't seem to think outside the Windows box) and spent nearly $200 just for Windows. And that's just for 1 system. Multiply that by the number of computers used by the federal government and you get...some really big number (hey, I did say that I'm not much on math).
  • Perhaps the most obvious solution of all is to establish and maintain ethical and efficiency standards for each agency.
There, wasn't that easy? It didn't take months of bickering or threatening anyone's reproductive choices to dream this plan up. It's fair across the board and actually reduces the size of more than one agency. If I can come up with a simple plan like this, why is it that our 600+ representatives making $174k annually cannot?

Bueller? Bueller?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Life After Dancing"

Sigh...should have known it was just a matter of time.

Come on, Bristol Palin is only 20 and surely she couldn't have had more than a year since the whole dancing gig. Although I must confess that a few of the statements in the NY Times article have me wondering about not only authorship of this item but the reason it exists at all. I noticed that Palin the Elder's oeuvre was mentioned at the top of the article, with links given to them reviews of them and to the HarperCollins site.
Could this be nothing more than a marketing ploy? After reading Bristol's Facebook rant, I have trouble imagining that she is capable of authorship. Furthermore, I recall that there was some discussion about who the real author of heSarah's books was.

Per the NYT, 
Bristol Palin is writing a book. Not Afraid of Life will be released this summer by HarperCollins, the publisher of Sarah Palin’s books, Going Rogue and America By Heart.

 Why do I anticipate that this will be a tome with a heavy right-to-life theme and sounding absolutely nothing like her Facebook posts?

PS  – The saved images of the flame war seems to have largely disappeared from the Interwebz. I was able to locate a copy of the transcript (posted as jpg to preserve the interactions). As I do not own the copyright to the image I am unable to post it. Email me for a copy).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Your Virtual Self and the Job Hunt

I recently received this very interesting and informative article by Susanne Markgren on how to manage your online presence. Certainly, it can be no secret to anyone by now that employers can, and do, search for information about you online. That's only fair; I do the same thing to potential employers before I even bother to fill out their application. Frequently I find information about them which indicates financial woes or other issues that cause me to look askance at some aspect of their management or stability. Who wants to go to the trouble of moving to some place and end up being left high and dry?

As few years ago, as a lark, I googled myself and was amazed that a quote of mine in the local newspaper had been picked up and run in American Libraries. Some took offense at my comment and used the quote as a reason to vilify me. I don't find that online discussion any more, which is just as well. But the thing I have to wonder about is this:

We are told that resumes have to be concise because poor employers are inundated with hundreds of applications and they apparently have no more than 30 seconds to spend looking at any one of them. How, then, is it possible that these same overworked employers have the time to spend googling us and making judgments based on blog entries, Facebook status updates and the like?

I refuse to apologize for having an opinion and expressing it. Those libraries who fear my thoughts lack a fundamental conception of intellectual freedom.