December 29, 2003

A Blog-Free Interlude

I won't be blogging for a few days; I'm taking a writer's holiday (lots of reading). Walt Crawford recommended an occasional writing sabbatical in his latest Cites and Insights, and it's a really good idea.

Note that I've rewritten the RSS tutorial. It now uses Gary Price's Resource Shelf as the example, though I think I'll add four or five examples... next week.

Thanks for reading Free Range Librarian. See you in 2004!

Posted by kgs at 12:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 28, 2003

Bloglines E-mail Posting: Follow-Up

Tech support for Bloglines said the ability to reply from Bloglines will come soon enough, but suggested many lists provide e-mail confirmation. That's true if you're running more modern list software. PUBLIB is still running on LISTPROC 6, and that's a bigger problem. (Web4Lib, on the same host, has the same problem.) PUBLIB needs a new home; that's a goal for 2004.

Meanwhile, Steven, on Library Stuff, said he doesn't subscribe to discussion lists. That's fine, but I disagree with him on the value of these lists, which he describes as 90% "crappola."

A good blog is a great resource, but it couldn't possibly replace the collective input of thousands of librarians sharing (and accumulating) information. It's a completely different tool.

PUBLIB and Web4Lib are two examples of discussion lists with long and honorable histories of providing information, discussion, advice, and sometimes just a sheer sense of community. Both have editorial oversight; PUBLIB is moderated by two of us who have been around the block a few times--Sara Weissman and me--while Web4Lib has a four-member editorial board that provides oversight and general direction for the list (admittedly, I'm on that board, too). Other lists, such as Stumpers, Autocat, and LM-Net, also serve as an important voice for their communities as well as a resource, sounding board, and historical archive of how we done it good or bad, or just plain done it anyway.

I like voicing my opinion in this space, and I appreciate reader commentary. But it's not the same as participating in a longstanding community. Nothing like 5,000 reality checks for your ideas!

Posted by kgs at 11:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 26, 2003

Bloglines E-Mail Posting: A problem

Oh ho... a problem. I've written the Bloglines folks.

Ruth Seid of Los Angeles PL captured it in a nutshell: "Okay. I can't figure out how to subscribe to PUBLIB on bloglines. I know there's a way to subscribe to an address different from the one you use to send the subscribe command, but then doesn't it ask for confirmation? In which case I can't answer, because you can't send from the bloglines email."

Most list software requires confirmation of one sort or another. I'm curious what Bloglines will say.

Meanwhile, tut-tut to me for touting a featured I hadn't tested. I wouldn't have caught this problem with PUBLIB, because as a list co-moderator I would simply subscribe myself with goddess-like command-line capabilities, but I would have caught it had I tried any list where I was a rank & file subscriber.

Posted by kgs at 11:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 25, 2003

Santa Brought Me RSS E-list Tracking

I have a goal that I want to use RSS for anything I don't reply to. Bloglines has added a terrific new feature called "Manage Email Subscriptions" that brings me closer to this goal by adding the capability to track e-mail discussion lists by RSS, bringing us a giant step closer to taming the e-mail monster.

Through Bloglines, you create special (and spam-resistant) e-mail addresses tied to your Bloglines account, then use these addresses to subscribe to discussion lists. "You can create an unlimited number of special Bloglines email addresses that are tied to your Bloglines account. The email addresses show up as subscriptions in your My Blogs page, and email sent to those email addresses appears as new items."

Winged Pig notes that Bloglines will soon add the ability to reply to Bloglines e-mail messages. That's great, but just tracking the lists through RSS will be a bountiful addition to the Bloglines capabilities. God bless us everyone!

Posted by kgs at 08:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 22, 2003

Crawford on PLoS: I Love You, Man!

The latest Cites and Insights is a delight, as always, but Walt's comments about the Public Library of Science rocked my world.

After we added a record for PLoS to LII, a reader wrote to complain that our record description, pulled straight from the site, didn't match the actual content on the site, which to date is skimpy. Point very well taken, and record reworded.

The hype for the PLoS--certainly a nice venture--came close to another scantily-clad emperor, the International Children's Digital Library, which a year ago was trumpeted in newspapers and other media. It has improved since then--it's not bad--but at the time, this "global" resource featured a demanding Java-based interface rivaling the geekiest Sourceforge contributions in arcane and child-unfriendly design. The site now features a "basic" version, which is what it should have started with in the first place, and it now has some content--over 300 digital books.

Still, for every overblown product of some fevered flack's imagination, we get 30 more good sites, often from the most unlikely places: from mutual fund calculators emerging from a corner office buried in the SEC to tiramisu recipes from an ad exec who knows from mascarpone.

Thank you to the everyday Santas out there, in government program offices and nonprofits and wannabe startups and even the occasional dedicated and surprisingly good hobbyist sites... you also rock my world.

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December 21, 2003

'Tis the Season, Far Too Long

The Department of Education announced an official White House site called "Season of Stories," in which the White House presents stories and read-alouds, some by senior White House officials. Not only that, continued the press release, but "At the same site, every weeknight at 8:00 p.m., bedtime stories will be read by administration officials." Secretary Paige even reads "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas"--as Freud says, there are no mistakes.

I understand the following stories will be presented later this month:

President Bush: The Very Hungry Budget Deficit Caterpillar

Secretary Rumsfeld: Dude, Where's My Weapons of Mass Destruction?

John Ashcroft: I Know What You Read Last Summer

Colin Powell: Kick it Up a Notch: The Protracted War Cookbook

Cheney: Babar and the Insider Contract

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December 20, 2003

My Sharona--I Mean, My Feedster

I'm puzzled by all the breathless hype, as this product doesn't sound vastly different from Bloglines, but the new Web-based aggregator, My Feedster, is worth a look. Find it at .

How long before major browsers integrate aggregators? (And when are we going to find better names for these tools?)

Posted by kgs at 12:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 19, 2003

Day Three of the Hostage Crisis

It's not quite that bad--I've done other things while I prepped my new equipment and upgraded my 2-year-old Dell in order to hand it down to Tom, one of the stringers at LII. Plus, it's rather meditative work to watch the status bars change color and press Enter now and then.

This kind of computer grunt work is worth doing once in a while--just often enough to serve as a reminder that stinting on library equipment is usually a false economy.

In a lil' peanut organization such as LII, we can be forgiven the artisan approach to hardware, where equipment purchases are made one by one, and older equipment is upgraded on an as-needed basis. And most libraries "get it." But occasionally--less often than in olden tymes, but it still happens, and bad budgets can make this more tempting--some library will take it into its head to "save money" by overextending the life cycle of computers, purchasing junk, or getting by on far less equipment than the staff need to get the job done. It all comes home to roost, though. Pay me now, or pay me later.

You'll have to excuse me again--I have to go hit the Enter key. You have been warned...

Posted by kgs at 11:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Yesterday's excursions into the Blogosphere were preempted by an only occasionally harrowing e-mail migration activity in which I brought up Thunderbird 0.4 (couldn't they have named it something like Gallo, or Bonnie Doon?) and Outlook 2003. The gauntlet is thrown. (Well, not quite; it was all so harrowing that after everything worked, I shut down the machine and went back to my old 'puter...)

I am an IMAP user, and I have two major accounts; I only brought up one account (and through one wrong click, I initially set up a POP account and then downloaded all of my mail into it--exactly what I didn't want to do--although I was able to copy a lot of mail back to the server).

So far, it's a tie. I like the one-click design of the junk-catcher tool in Thunderbird, and I'm very impressed by the user interface for its rules tool. Outlook has it backwards; you don't want to create a rule for every address--you want to create a rule and add addresses to it. Thunderbird's design supports this better. I am really, really serious about rules (or filters, depending on your product--but you know how I feel about the word, "filters"!), so this was the second thing I looked at, after the junk catcher.

Still, Outlook 2003 is good, too--the new interface doth please the eye-- and it has that whole "PIM" thing going on. I've long since become addicted to turning messages into contacts, notes, and appointments, and my PDA goes with me whenever I leave the house.

The tie-breaker may well be how well either product integrates with third-party sp*m-catchers. Norton Anti-Sp*m was part of the Norton suite I bought for my laptop, but I don't have it running on the desktop yet. I wasn't completely convinced by the interface; Thunderbird's one-click junk-catcher is a major ergonomic plus. But I'm completely sold on yielding junk-mail decisions to an intelligent third-party, as long as I can rummage through the junk occasionally to hoover up misplaced messages.

Outlook 2003 also identified the folder where my ISP had been tucking IMAP messages over their limit. Now we're both happy.

More in a couple of weeks, when I have some history with both products and am no longer able to lean on my crutch of old hardware.

Posted by kgs at 08:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 17, 2003

Google Print

The DYOL (Disaffected Youth of Librarianship) seem to be unmoved by this, perhaps because they now accept major tech advances as pro forma "what have you done for me lately" developments, but we librarians of a certain age are intrigued by Google Print, which "lets Web surfers call up brief exerpts from books, critic reviews, bibliographic and author's notes, and in some cases, a picture of the book jacket."

Go ahead and call this boring, ye DYOL who remember not the world of Gaylord charge machines and print indices, but once again, I wish a typical library catalog came even close to this kind of functionality. {thump thump} goes my heart.

(And Seth, thanks so much for pointing out that Google is a large database!)

Posted by kgs at 10:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 16, 2003

Weathering the Feeds

For the most part, I'm avoiding "gee, what a neat feed" posts, but as a long-time Weather Channel addict, I'm delighted that the National Weather Service is providing regional feeds for weather updates.

Posted by kgs at 10:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 15, 2003

Barb Stripling for ALA President

We are very fortunate to have two very highly qualified candidates running for ALA president. ALA has benefited from the many contributions of both Michael Gorman and Barbara Stripling. Both of them share core values I can identify with.

However, it is Barb's candidacy I am excited to throw my weight behind. Barb Stripling has the poise, presence, and just-in-time ability to articulate ALA positions, we need in an ALA president. I think of this year, when ALA president Carla Hayden so ably responded to Patriot Act issues. Barb inspires a similar confidence in her ability to handle hot-button issues, from digital rights to classic censorship challenges.

It's also good to see an ALA presidential candidate who is so up on technology. Barb is the first-ever ALA candidate to have a blog (and if the library press doesn't pick this up, fie on 'em--this is a red-hot scoop). This means Barb understands the Web is a place not only for posting positions--which she does quite well--but for interacting with people. She "gets it" in a way we haven't seen yet. Go see her blog, and post a greeting or question!

It's almost funny to say this--because school librarianship is one of the few places I've never worked--but it's also time we had someone with school library background in the ALA presidency again. Barb has a long background in this area, and it shows not only in her platform, but in her ability to connect with people and articulate issues related to young people and information access.

Barb Stripling is running on a platform called "Building Community." This is a natural concept for her. She has an innate ability to cross type libraries and move across issues with grace and articulate diplomacy. We need her leadership! I hope you will join me in supporting Barb Stripling for ALA President.

Posted by kgs at 10:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 14, 2003

Google Slowly Catching Up with SWISH-E

Breathlessly reported on library blogs is a change to Google that SWISH-powered LII has used for years:

"Google now uses stemming technology. Thus, when appropriate, it will search not only for your search terms, but also for words that are similar to some or all of those terms. If you search for 'pet lemur dietary needs', Google will also search for "pet lemur diet needs", and other related variations of your terms. Any variants of your terms that were searched for will be highlighted in the snippet of text accompanying each result."

Good for them to do this; it's worth noting that stemming technology is pretty common, though since most library databases don't support it, I guess it would seem like a rara avis to most of us. (LII also has a spell-checker, and try to find that in most integrated library systems.)

I am curious why Google hadn't implemented stemming earlier (and no, I don't think it's because they were too busy installing their new toilets) -- or why they are implementing it now.

Posted by kgs at 11:59 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 13, 2003

Cites and Insights: Take That, Ashcroft

Walt Crawford is a charter member of the "I was dialing up Dialog on my 300-baud modem when Al Gore invented the Internet" club, and he's a great writer, to boot. He quickly dispatches Ashcroft's lies in the latest issue of Cites & Insights, and is also very funny about RSS, cataloging, OpenURL, and anything else that meanders across his plate.

I know he's committed to the PDF format... but if he published this newsletter in two formats, PDF and Web-readable, some of us could use Walt to relieve the dreariness of bad meetings by sneaking him on our handhelds. (Not that I would ever do that, of course.)

Posted by kgs at 11:50 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 12, 2003

Dispatches from SoCal

McSweeney's just launched Dispatches from a Public Librarian, at Author Scott Douglas says he "will update this dispatch on a sometimes-regular basis, and will include stories about strange patrons, strange tales, and otherwise just strange things." This is an interesting start, although when he says librarians have "been in a tiff about the Privacy Act," I think he means "Patriot Act." Editors? Editors? We don't need no steenkin' editors!

Posted by kgs at 11:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 11, 2003

Marketing Wireless in Libraries

Someone on Web4Lib asked about posting symbols or signage to identify wireless access in libraries. This is a slightly revised version of my reply on the list, sent after several folks referred the original poster to the wireless warchalking symbols popular among the digerati.

Essentially, this is basic library marketing 101. If you're planning to market wireless services not only to the folks who will seek it, but to folks who would either find a way to use it if they knew what it was or may never even use it but will mentally file this service under "what a great library this is," then integrate the fancy symbols with very plainspoken, large, plain-lettered wording. Go to a site that offers wireless for its customers and see how they peddle it. (Remember, that's what you're doing: selling a service.)

Make the language achingly clear. "Wireless hotspot" comes to mind... but maybe something else makes more sense locally. Assuming you have a bookmark or brochure advertising this service, repeat the logo and the phrase throughout the materials. I know that libraries offer things for free anyway, but why not push that as well? Wireless--FREE!

A funny idea that comes to mind is a play on the universal blue and white "library" sign, emanating radio waves from a slab that is more laptop or PDA than book, with WIRELESS HOTSPOT on it.

Or you could practice another kind of library marketing, and either put up one tiny, very obscure sign, or make it very large and then title it "Bibligraphic WEP-enabled 802.11* Access." And in your assessment of the service, observe that very few people use it. ;)

Posted by kgs at 05:05 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 10, 2003

Carla Hayden on Ms. Mag Top Ten List

Carla Hayden, current ALA president, is one of ten Ms. Magazine Women of the Year for 2003. ALA's press release notes, "Hayden drew nationwide attention by voicing the ALA's opposition to sections of the USA PATRIOT Act," and played a key role in forcing Ashcroft into declassifying the Justice Department report on Section 215.

ALA is rarely disappointed by its presidents, but some stand out. We often say "libraries change lives," but libraries are just buildings. Librarians change lives. Rock on, Carla!

Posted by kgs at 06:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 09, 2003

Wireless at ALA: Empty Your Piggybanks

Ouch! Based on preliminary phone calls, it appears both San Diego and Orlando conference centers charge conference attendees $4.95 an hour or $24.95 a day for wireless access. I have a second call in to San Diego to reverify these costs, which are at least a couple weeks old.

I'm somewhat breathless at these costs--not to mention suspicious of industry price-fixing. I realize a conference hot dog costs $5 because it is crafted by hand by sausage artisans hired specifically for our very own conference. Internet wireless, though, is fairly inexpensive to provide. The Philadelphia conference center charges $40 for an entire conference, and Monterey, which just hosted Internet Librarian, and which is not exactly in a low-rent district, charges $10 a day. This is a reasonable cost for what you get, and more fun than a conference hot dog (even if the conference center is making a mint even at $10 per diem).

ALA conference committee members, take note. When you're evaluating convention centers, cost out attendee wireless Internet access (if they are clueless and ask "cell phone?" or "exhibitor?" reply, "no, 802.11 for attendees"). It's not the only or the most important factor--but it's one to add to the mix.

Posted by kgs at 07:51 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 08, 2003

ALA and Cuba: More Bad Press

Nat Hentoff brought ALA sharply to task on this issue, and I can't say as I blame him, even though I don't know who told him that the Washington Times is a credible publication.

Appearing to agree with that shrill pest, Robert Kent, makes me squeamish. Nevertheless, allow me to fully distance myself from the faction in ALA that appears almost Stalinist in its refusal to recognize the very real human rights violations in Cuba, particularly those related to the right to read. This faction hypocritically splits hairs over the definition of "librarian" in order to turn its back on the imprisonment of the people who regardless of their formal education are resisting, as Hentoff put it, the "censorship of ideas," and have been arrested, tried, and found guilty of--get ready--providing small personal "libraries" of books that are hard or impossible to procure in Cuba. (And in library school, we told you providing access to information was a good thing to do.)

It is rarely a good idea for ALA to get involved in international relations, but when it does, the stand of ALA should always be on the side of free speech in open societies. It is even more shameful to hide behind what one librarian aptly called the "red herring" of the credentialing of the librarians.

I also condemn the widespread references to "dissidents" in ALA documents, used in these instances to dismiss the work of the Cuban activists, as if dissidence anywhere, but particularly in Cuba, was a bad thing. This double standard is as obvious and glaring as Rudolph's red nose.

Unfortunately, few in ALA seem willing to risk the wrath of the Cuban hardliners. Nevertheless, based on the feedback I get, I am not alone in shaking my head at ALA over this issue.

Posted by kgs at 10:24 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 07, 2003

Librarians, Image, and Cognitive Dissonance

The library director who was canned due to her well-advertised extracurricular hobby as a sado-masochist dominatrix is at the top of my "Library Darwin Arwards" for 2003, leading even OCLC's attempt to sue the Library Hotel over using Dewey numbers for its hotel scheme. Still, it's fascinating that though the story has cropped up--oops, no pun intended--on, we haven't seen it anywhere in the library press.

So let me revisit the issue of the Librarian Action Figure. Some of you have a really big issue with this doll representing librarianship, because we all know librarians are hip gals in Prada frocks and screw-me shoes. But still, we have to draw a line. Put her in fishnet hose, pierce her lower lip, give her a pushup bra, but whatever you do, don't overtly acknowledge her sexuality. For that matter, let's run from the s-word as fast as we can.

Here we are again, trapped in our own contradictions, somewhere between condemning a librarian who does her own thing sexually and getting our collective shorts in a bunch over a doll in a long blue dress. I'll stick with the middle ground: the gold standard for library sex appeal was established by the smoldering, mildly homoerotic bookish look perfected by Niles on Buffy the Vampire and continued by Nancy Pearl, in her prim dress, holding her copy of Book Lust. At least I don't have to work too hard to explain myself.

Posted by kgs at 07:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 06, 2003

A Belated RIP for a Great Publication

For some time I had wondered why I hadn't seen recent issues of "Less Access to Less Information by and about the U.S. Government," which ALA began publishing in 1981. I found out today that it ceased publication in 1998, when its author Anne Heanue, retired from the ALA Washington Office. Fellow ALA Councilor Bernadine Abbott Hoduski noted, "It is sorely missed."

(As I commented on the Council list, it would be good to update the reference to it on the ALA "Fact Sheet," "Your Right to Know.")

Posted by kgs at 03:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 05, 2003

LISNews10K: Join the Fun!

LISNews is only 160 entries away from reaching the 10,000-entry mark. To celebrate, they are requesting images or photos (why not ASCII art, folks?) that pay homage to "10,000." "Get out [your] digital cameras, crayons, colored pencils, Photoshop or MS Paint and send us something that shows us how happy you are that we hit 10,000 stories. ... Be creative, get a tattoo, stack up some books, shave it in your head, or just draw it on a napkin. You can send in a URL, or email an image file to blake at lisnews period com."

I just got my hair done, but the other options are tempting. And they offer a prize!

Posted by kgs at 06:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 04, 2003

ALA Campaign Endorsements

As a Councilor, I have an obligation to be up front about my own position on the issue I'm about to discuss. In a nutshell, this stinks.

The ALA Council list has had a flurry of posting activity related to the question of internal candidate endorsements, starting with a resolution posted by a current candidate for ALA president that if approved at Midwinter would allow divisions and roundtables to endorse candidates, and would further allow divisions and candidates to spend their funds to promote their picks.

It's good for ALA to clarify its position with respect to candidate endorsements (and versions of the resolution have been subsequently adopted by ALA members without such blatant conflicts). This came up, in fact, because a roundtable wanted to spend its funds to promote a candidate.

This is painted as a "free speech" issue by some, but I see the original proposal (passionately supported by a determined cadre) as a major disenfranchisement of ALA members.

ALA is already highly politicized, and has a lot of power and decision-making concentrated at the division and office level, and operates on a relatively modest budget for such a large association (as we are repeatedly advised when we ask for new electronic services).

We are constantly told that our membership dollars go to support key legal issues, literacy activities, and improvements to member services. Do you want your ALA dues diverted to annual campaigns? Is that what you paid for?

We are also told that every member counts. Not in this model of misrepresentation, where a handful of people at the divisional level would be able to provide massive leverage to the "company candidate." Candidates, in turn, would be forced to spend far too much time courting endorsements from key divisions in order to get elected.

We are told this is important for communication. If ALA really cared about sharing information about election candidates, it would try harder to connect candidates with members. There are so many cheap, easy tools for this these days. I proposed a candidates' blog as a very reasonable forum that many of us could "attend." We only get a few hundred or maybe a couple thousand people at an ALA candidates' forum. It's 2003, folks. Howard Dean does it; why can't we?

It's my sneaking suspicion that for some time some of the ALA muckety-mucks have been trying to figure ways to replicate the effect of the former practice of announcing only nominated candidates for ALA president and other offices. Once upon a time (the practice only ended in the last five years), petition candidates weren't announced; only those candidates anointed by the inner circle were presented as "the" candidates. Naturally, this provided a huge edge to these candidates, and sure enough, when this practice ended and ALA had to announce all candidates, nominated or petition, the nominated candidates lost their edge. (I crunched through some election results a year or two ago to demonstrate that.)

I support the idea that divisions, roundtables, and other units will neutrally announce "their" candidates. I'm also resigned to the fact that many units will implicitly endorse candidates (or as recently seen at a state conference, rather explicitly, in all but short of a coronation). But as official ALA practice? With funding, to boot?

I like Janet Swan Hill's response, to someone who wondered what other organizations did, that we are not like other organizations and that's a good thing. Let's stay good. Let's use our funds to fight the good fights, let's use our time and energy toward good works, and let's stay the hell away from anything smacking of summer-camp wars--for goodness' sake.

But never mind about me. What do YOU think?

Posted by kgs at 12:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 03, 2003

Wireless at ALA Midwinter

... I wish. Liz Lawley commented at Internet Librarian that wireless access for attendees is now matter of course for most of the conferences she attends (as a professor at RIT who has "crossed over" from librarianship). Not so for ALA. We don't request it as a conference service, we don't push it as a benefit (even if we had to pay for it), and as members, we don't demand it.

This points to our chronic time-lag with technological innovations, and begs some larger, more pointed questions about who we are as a profession. Can we really be "information professionals" if we are chronically four to ten years behind the rest of the world?

(Note: I did contact the San Diego conference center about wireless, hoping against hope. If I read the message correctly, it's $25 a day and may be limited in range to the exhibit floor. Our state conference, in Ontario California, didn't offer wireless at all, and I think I'm the only one who missed it. But on the bright side: I once thought that when I returned to California I would be overwhelmed by the vast technical sophistication of the library community, but it turns out that's one less thing I have to worry about!)

Posted by kgs at 06:05 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 02, 2003

RSS in Gummint

Found this well-tempered blog on RSS in government through a mention on the Shifted Librarian:

One of the managing editors is Ray Matthews, an RSS disciple based in the Utah state government. Ray has done a lot to champion RSS, and his "workshop," though primarily geared toward the implementor (versus the end-user), is terrific.

Posted by kgs at 07:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 01, 2003

World AIDS Day

Jessamyn West lists a number of good Web resources on

AIDS inspired one of my first real-time, patron-in-front-of-the-desk Internet searches for reference, in 1993, when I worked at the science/business/government desk at Newark (NJ) Public Library. A man walked up to the desk and announced, "I've been diagnosed with AIDS." I walked to our reference shelves, and was horrified to see that our books on the topic were seriously outdated. (But we had twelve reference books about cats.)

We had one phone line at the reference desk, with several extensions throughout the reference area. That meant when I needed to use the Internet (and at that point most librarians could not fathom anyone "needing" to use the Internet to begin with), I had to holler "on the Internet!" and then during the search pop my head up like a prairie dog to guard the phone line from that tell-tale hiss and crackle that meant someone had picked up the phone and broken my connection. (Yes, we did have a computer, a dusty old Compaq placed there for catalog access and the occasional Dialog search.)

Several moments from that reference experience stand out for me to this day. I remember finding dazzling quantities of current, high-quality information from government sources. I remember the patron's surprise and amusement at my unorthodox reference methods. Most of all, I remember the sense that the patron needed me to minister to him even more than he needed the information; no matter how it is done--with a book or a computer, in person or across the Web, reference service, like any good public service, is its own sacrament.

Posted by kgs at 10:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack