February 29, 2004

Final PLA Congrunt

Like a few hundred other folks, I attended Thursday's program on "dead wood in libraries." It was the only program I was able to go to--had I not been felled with a cold, I would have done a couple more on Friday, but such is life. At any rate, this was a great program. I'm so glad I work with live wires, not dead wood!


Characteristics of dead wood:

identity through their job

people who talk about The Good Old Days

I-deserve-this-job syndrome--entitlement

deserve to slack off

ease into day gently

got meaning from routines [My objection to this one: routine is very nice. Particularly in jobs with a lot of change, including self-induced change, it can be good to know that "the sun also rises."]

Strategies for dealing with dead wood

1. facing the problem directly

2. let dead wood stay on staff until retire/die

3. getting people to change--NOT a recommended strategy! Can take more time and energy than is worth the investment

Why people don't perform to standards

1. they don't realize there are standards
2. the reward is for not doing what they should do
3. no negative consequence
4. they think they are doing just fine
5. they think their way, not yours, is best
6. they have obstalces that limit their performance
7. they don't want to

All staff should have annual performance appraisals

Clearly state the performance standards

Explore solutions with the employee

Develop an improvement plan with actions and target dates

Downsizing and reorganization can be opportunities to resolve staffing problems

For union jobs, be very careful with what jobs are on the chopping block

Consider using coaching or counseling to help staff transition out of the job

Third-party intervention: broker a "peace agreement" so that both you and your dead wood walked out of the meeting with dignity intact. She did not see this done in libraries but saw it a lot in commercial settings. 20% of the time, employees agreed on the spot to leave; over time, more decided to leave

Posted by kgs at 11:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Frank Rich Hits One Out of the Park

"Marriage, whatever the word's separate meaning as a spiritual or religious rite, will remain a pressing constitutional issue in a country founded on equality. If marriage laws were set in stone, after all, same-race marriage would still be the only legal kind." Frank Rich, 2/29/04

Frank Rich--drama critic, political columnist, arts writer, and novelist--may well be my favorite writer; many's the time when I have put off reading his latest column in the Times because I didn't want the experience to be over just yet. (And wait for another discussion from me about how Readers' Advisory needs to grow up past fiction.)

Today Rich completely overwhelms the competition with his discussion of gay marriage.

This more than makes up for the news, shared by Sarah "Librarian in Black" Houghton, that Orscon Scott Card is a flaming homophobe. I would find this much more distressing if I found Card remotely readable. (If life is so short, why do his books seem so long?)

Thank you, Mr. Rich! We'll think of you on our wedding day this Friday.

Posted by kgs at 11:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 27, 2004

Two Great Books

I recommend these titles for anyone interested in learning more about Cuba:

Isadora Tattlin [pseud.]. Cuba Diaries: An American Housewife in Havana.

A view of Cuba during the worst part of the "Special Period." While the writer had unusual privilege, her camera's-eye view of Cuban life at many levels is interesting and valuable. This is also a great book for anyone coping with a major move or life transition.

Ann Louise Bardach. Cuba Confidential : Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana.

This is delightful, not only for the quality of Bardach's reporting and analyses, but also for her even-handed goring of all available oxes. The book is loosely organized around the Elian Gonzalez brouhaha, but is hardly limited by this conceit. It's a very fast, enjoyable read.

Note that for both titles, the Amazon "reader reviews" are highly suspect. If you're still uncertain, check out the major book reviews.

Posted by kgs at 10:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Final PLA Congrunt

I came down with such a powerful cold that I left early on Friday, but on Thursday, from early morning until mid-evening, Thursday was a glamorous whirlwind of programs, vendor meetings, and parties. The Webjunction party was where every it-person in librarianship seemed to be. So nice to see everyone! Wish I had pix from the PUBLIB party, but my camera is very shy.

Posted by kgs at 09:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 25, 2004

PLA 2004 Congrunt 2-25-04

Congrunts are a takeoff on refgrunts, which in turn are brief near-real-time brain dumps of what you experienced on the reference desk that day.

Raced to convention center, split cab with Highsmith vendor. We discussed RFID for a while and then debated whether or not ALA had met at Seattle sometime in the 1990s (I say no--I'll check the handbook later).

Comments to me while headed to opening general session:

Love LII!
Love the crochet sites in LII!
Love the newsletter for LII!
Love the LII introduction every week!

Sat next to Michael Stephens. We looked for open wi-fi networks, but alas, found none.

First, Bill Gates Senior spoke for a bit. Best library-related one-liner about his son: "he's only 48 years old, and he's already reading at the 52-year level!"

Anna Quindlan spoke next. Most of what she had to say was about writing and reading--delicious, delicious stuff. Tidbits:

Though she grew up in a beautiful suburb, "I lived within the cover of books, and they were more real to me than anything else in my life"

talked about books teaching the difference between good and evil, and right and wrong

"my voice is who I am"

"reading is the ultimate democratic act of the ultimate democratic nation on earth"

"the greatest threat to the book is not the computer; it is the censor."

Off to the PUBLIB party!

Posted by kgs at 05:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Newsom to hold LGBT Town Meeting, Saturday 2/28/04

From the Human Rights Campaign: "Mayor Newsom is ... having an LGBT Town Hall meeting this Saturday, February 28th. It is being held in the auditorium of James Lick Middle School, 1220 Noe, San Francisco from 11 am to 1 pm. He would very much like as large an attendance as possible."

Other resources from HRC to support gay marriage are at:


Posted by kgs at 04:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 24, 2004

Jack Stephens Voted Off FRL Island

Jack Stephens crossed a line, and didn't apologize, so he is banned from this site. (Actually, it was a hat trick: his comment was homophobic, xenophobic, and disrespectful.) Jack may figure out how to get around the technical aspects of the ban, but at that point his behavior would be harassment. Don't go there, Jack. (I hesitated for a while, because I was warned that Jack "goes after" people. Then I asked myself... when have I let that kind of comment stop me?)

Steven, I respectfully disagree with you on the need to state guidelines. I believe it's really o.k., even on a personal blog, to say some behavior is acceptable, and other behavior is not. I want friends and colleagues, and even people who disagree with me vehemently on many or all issues, to feel free to post here. Jay Currie, who Jack insulted, has very different views from me on some issues. But Jay expresses his views respectfully, and for that, he has my admiration and support. Jack, on the other hand, needs to be monitored 24x7. I want to keep the comment feature open on this blog, and I can't provide that level of adult supervision for one misbehaving person.

Let us now resume regular programming.

Posted by kgs at 08:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Free Range Librarian: Guidelines for this Blog

Here are some basic facts and posting/comment guidelines for Free Range Librarian.

As the tagline notes, FRL is a personal blog, owned and operated by one person. FRL is one librarian's daily meditations about librarianship and any other issue that interests her. FRL features subjective, opinionated entries without benefit of editorial review.

Unlike many blogs, FRL accepts the overhead of "comment management" in order to encourage reader discussion of the issues raised on this blog. However, FRL is not a public forum. The author, Karen G. Schneider, reserves the right to share, praise, mock, criticize, or delete any comment on this blog. The author also reserves the right to ban comments from any organization or person, either temporarily or permanently. Comment spam is routinely cleaned up with MT-Blacklist.

A good guideline to go by in posting comments on this site is to imagine you are meeting new friends of friends for coffee, and an interesting discussion arises. What would you say, and how would you say it?

Comments that have a good choice of being retained have these characteristics, as determined by the site author:

* Interesting, even if inaccurate or poorly-argued
* Amusing, intentionally or otherwise
* Historically significant
* Pertinent to the discussion
* Generally rounding things out
* Concurring with previous posts

Comments that have a good chance of being deleted have these characteristics:

* Rude, particularly to friends and colleagues of the site author
* Intolerant, particularly if homophobic, racist, sexist, or just plain mean-spirited

The author reserves the right to delete comments without warning, but may ask the poster to reconsider his or her remarks before the comment is deleted and/or the poster is blocked from this site.

Restoration to posting status may require apologies and/or promises to behave better in the future.

Posted by kgs at 11:46 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 21, 2004

75 Imprisoned Cuban Dissidents Cited in Parade Magazine

The spring, 2003 arrests and lengthy prison sentences of the 75 Cuban journalists, writers, and independent librarians receive some much-needed attention this Sunday, February 22, in a Parade Magazine article, "The World's 10 Worst Dictators," by journalist David Wallechinsky. The reporter interviewed human rights organizations to determine this year's list, and focused on the spring, 2003 crackdown to justify listing Fidel Castro as the 9th "World's Worst Dictator" (a ranking Castro earned last year, as well). Parade is distributed to over 300 Sunday papers, and has a readership of over 78 million.

Posted by kgs at 09:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 20, 2004

The Bells are Ringing

My partner and I stood on line for over three hours tonight, but after that long haul were able to make an appointment to get married at noon on Friday, March 5, 2004, at San Francisco City Hall. Thanks to Mayor Newsom and all the supportive people in SF's government for making this possible. We are thrilled beyond belief to receive full recognition for our relationship in this society.

Posted by kgs at 09:15 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

February 18, 2004

Blogging at PLA: Any Insights?

I'll be at PLA conference next week for a whirlwind tour, from Wednesday morning to Friday afternoon. Tried to determine if the Washington State Convention Center sells wireless... no luck. Anyone else find out anything? I sent them a query a minute ago--I'll post what I learn.

Posted by kgs at 11:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 17, 2004

Government Recall Site adds RSS feed

The The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission just added an RSS feed for its recall information. What a terrific way to stay up to date with this information. Kudos! The feed is here:

Posted by kgs at 10:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

LIS Blogsource Adds Mission Statement


Nice! I had personally groused that they needed this. It squarely places this resource in the biblioblogosphere for what it is--two guys and a blog, and a very useful one, at that.

Posted by kgs at 08:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

California Needs Gay Marriage--Now

Yesterday, my partner and I tried to get married in San Francisco. We naively assumed that if we showed up at 3 p.m., we'd stand in line for a little while and be married by 4 p.m. at the very latest.

We quickly discovered that hundreds of people were lined up to marry, including many who had been waiting since the previous day, some with small children. The few exceptions included a couple where one partner who had given birth hours earlier, stumbled into City Hall on the arms of her partner, then after the ceremony headed back to the hospital for postpartum care. Other people told us they had flown in from Minneapolis, New York, Washington State, and other places throughout the country. They were determined to wed, and Mayor Gavin Newsom had made this possible.

We stood in the rain with many other people, watching couples bound down the steps of City Hall. Sandy and I misted up. It was so moving, so beautiful--a truly spiritual experience.

Then a man next to us chatted about his experience as a volunteer that day.

"Volunteer?" I asked, and something in my left cranial lobe began whirring.

"Oh yes, the mayor deputized many people, who are working for free."

I felt my brain shift into fourth gear, and a vein in my forehead began pulsing.

"How many people have been married so far?"

This was the kind of question that immediately stimulated everyone within ten feet to demonstrate his or her mathematical prowess by sheer guesswork. "Sixteen hundred!" "Five Thousand!" "Four hundred today!" "No, seven hundred!"

"That's o.k.," I said, "good enough." I felt my eyes stinging with hot tears. Not over the lost chance to marry--we were both overcoming bad colds, and waiting overnight was impossible; this made us sad, but it didn't make me cry. No, I wasn't crying over the major strike for equality this event represented--although we were in the middle of a historical moment. I wasn't even crying out of gratitude for Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose leadership on this issue is nothing short of brave and brilliant.

Instead, I felt myself weep over the three little words I, as an administrator, so love to hear:

"Local revenue stream."

My heart thumping, I began doing the math. It's only about $100 for a marriage license (good grief--no wonder people do this so casually--it costs more to register a car or a boat). But City Hall was cranking out over 100 marriages an hour, and though some staffing was required, they did deputize a lot of volunteers. Even at a conservative estimate of 2,000 marriages as of Monday night, that's a gross of $200,000. After factoring in additional staff time and security requirements, plus the overhead of the requirements for the physical plant, City Hall would be lucky to break even on this special event. But that doesn't include the additional tourism revenue, and I already read about the couple staying at the Fairmont all weekend.

Let's assume gay marriage isn't stopped in San Francisco. Presumably the marriage registrar's office could handle the increased volume during regular office hours with, with additional staffing. Increase the license volume by 500-1000 licenses a week--and I don't think that's unrealistic, given the number of gay people in the United States--which could be as high as 29 million (ten percent of the total U.S. population). Even if it's one percent of the population, and only one percent of that group comes to San Francisco over a period of a decade, that's a lot of licenses, again, and that's even before we get to rooms at the Fairmont or tables for ten at the Washbag.

Now I really admire Gavin Newsom. The Mayor is not only brave and righteous--he's downright entrepreneurial!

Gay marriage is a tough question for many, and even I, out of empathy and compassion, believe we can't turn our backs on those who "aren't there yet" on this issue. Still, we in California need to come up with new and better ways to make ends meet. Every city in California is suffering badly right now. Every school, library, and fire station is scrambling to find ways to meet ends meet, and I don't know of a single county in our state that is anticipating better times to come just yet.

This is an issue whose time has not only come, but whose arrival is in strictly pecuniary terms, highly timely. Any county or city government on the fence on this issue needs to factor in the revenue and ask if continued discrimination against marital rights for same-sex couples is worth the loss in revenues this opportunity presents.

Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley, San Rafael; Los Angeles, Mendocino, Eureka; every corner of this state needs to look at its checkbook and then ask itself, can it afford not to join Mayor Newsom in granting same-sex couples the right to wed?

Posted by kgs at 03:23 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

February 15, 2004

Acosta's Latest

I received another letter from Acosta, which I'll simply post verbatim, as I believe it speaks for itself.

I'm rather flattered that this humble blog is worth even a nanosecond's time of any national librarian, let alone lengthy, scolding messages at fairly regular intervals. Once again, I haven't censored any comments about Cuba on this blog, even (and particularly) those I disagree with (and as noted earlier, the press release he refers to is right where it always was). Let a thousand flowers bloom, even when it's skunk cabbage.

While I don't feel any obligation to respond to the particulars of his e-mail--why would Mr. Acosta set my writing agenda?--he has inspired discussion topics for future entries--particularly about what I learned from living and working abroad, and how this relates to why I feel so strongly about the 75 dissidents suffering prison terms for their actions.

And remember this: Mr. Acosta and I will both wake up tomorrow in our own safe beds. Not behind bars, not in prison, not facing decades of bleak living conditions for what we said or wrote. There are 75 people who need our attention, right now. These are the people we need to be thinking and writing about, not two librarians parked behind their computers.

Mr. Acosta, will you join me in acknowledging that Cuba can and must release the 75 dissidents arrested in the spring 2003 crackdown? Or can you at least agree that their prison conditions should be improved?


Dear Ms. Schneider:

This is the second letter that I am sending to you, and, as with the first, I am not hoping for anything different than its being “written up” in the Free Range Librarian with as much objectivity as what you had said this last January 15.

I don’t believe I need to tell you that we, the real Cuban librarians, don’t agree with you in your appraisals about the reality of our country. Maybe this will make you laugh, but thousands of Cuban librarians, despite everything that your country’s government has done to impede the development in education and culture in our country, do an excellent job with its communities. In fact, these librarians seem to make no difference to you.
Our real Cuban librarians, those that don’t receive a monthly salary from your government for conspiring against the Constitution and current laws in the country, don’t exist for you, or for Mr. Hentoff, Kent, Marquardt, Jorge Sanguinetty, or IFLA’s FAIFE.

This doesn’t surprise us, or worry us. In fact, neither does the luck of those who serve prison sentences which the law established for those that collaborate for money, not for ideals, in following the suggestions of your government’s agencies charged with total war against the Cuban people for the past 45 years, just as it doesn’t appear that you, Ms. Schneider, or your co-thinkers are much concerned with the plans of Bush’s neoconservative government which is disposed to bombing us and massacring us in order in order to make us “free and democratic.”

All of you utilize those people while they are convenient for your campaigns, but when you keep a complicit silence or express only symbolic condemnations against the genocidal blockade which affects every Cuban, you show that your “extraordinary zeal” for the future of our nation will have as short a life as such had for Nicaragua, Haiti or occupied Iraq. After those historic experiences, nobody can believe in your repeated democratic and liberated statements, least of all the Cuban people, who have an elevated political and general culture.

Which of those countries has enjoyed justice, peace, development and freedom? In which of them, after the dirty war of the 1980s as in the case of Nicaragua, or the U.S. invasions in the case of Haiti and Iraq, are freer, more peace loving, more cultured, more developed, less corrupt, or more democratic today?

With complete frankness, it seems to me tremendous hypocrisy to say that the destiny of the Cuban people interest you all while you organize and direct part of the war of lies and slanders against that same people, with the intention of isolating them, thus preparing the road for an aggression. You, who have eight years service in your country’s Air Force, where you attained the level of Captain with three missions abroad, maybe you can clarify for us which countries of the world are more cultured, more democratic, freer, and happier. I hope that your answer isn’t measurable in tons of bombs or by the number of missiles launched, but by schools and libraries constructed or by the number of illiterate people rescued from ignorance.

When and at the request of whom were you enlisted in this new war?

Whomever reads your resume is amazed that you consider yourself so well informed about the reality of Cuba , that you had felt prepared to present a resolution to ALA Council about a country in which you have never been; that you hardly know except though the kind of tales of terror of Mr. Robert Kent (employed by the government of your country, and for whom Freedom House paid for ten trips to the island as a subversive, clandestine courier, with a disguise as ‘perfect’ as Inspector Closeau), and Mr. Jorge Sanguinetty (specialist in “neoliberal transitions”, employed by USAID, or rather, to the government, that just allocated 26 million dollars to overthrow a sovereign government, which before had diplomatic representation.) No reading room, and much less the tales of tricksters like Mr. Kent and company, will give the Cuban reality, or what the Cubans think and feel, nor will come to understand why this Revolution, which you have decided to enlist a military-style campaign launched from you own web page has endured and will endure, surviving invasions, wars of every type and many terrorist aggressions.

Your resolution against Cuba in San Diego scarcely received the support of four people beside yourself. It didn’t achieve its goal with which you had been entrusted: it didn’t divide Cuban and U.S. librarians, united beyond any difference, by ties of professional and collaborative respect. I can’t stop but note, as a consequence, that a fierce campaign against Cuba, from the Free Range Librarian, has acquired a seemingly mean vengefulness from rage and rancor, disguised as pity for other librarians, devotion to freedoms and right, and good humor from the unpunished, a campaign which has unfolded ever since the San Diego conference..

Before choosing Cuba as an objective of your new campaign plan, you enjoyed professional respect. I want to think that you will reflect and will rectify your course while there is still time. But less time remains each day. A bad sign for your prestige, for the honor of a librarian who talks about defending freedom of speech and the right to information, is that you have CENSURED what we have sent to Free Range Librarian and the opinions of those who don’t think like you.

You know very well that I responded to Mr. Marquardt’s criticisms about the existing differences between embargo and blockade last January 16, and I sent the message at 10:19 P.M. From that date, only the comment by Mr.
Marquardt dated Jan. 15 has appeared on your web page.

You know very well that days later I sent the English text of the press release from the Cuban information community, who represent twelve thousand in-the-flesh Cuban librarians, about the text passed by the ALA Council to the Comments on your web. This text was on your web for some days, as I could verify, until you discovered it (it had been attached thanks to an automatic program that allows it), and in a surprising fashion, eliminated it.

How can you and your friends present yourselves as defenders of freedoms and the right to dissent, when all of you ferociously censor our Cuban dissent against your position?

How can all of you maintain the professional prestige in the eyes of your colleagues of which you all boast, when you lack the most elemental ethics in censoring our opinion and the right to be heard by others in response to your allegations?

How can you try to give lessons to the world when all of you lack moral objectivity for it?

The Cuban librarians, like our people who fought only 30 years in the 19th century for freedom and independence, we will carry on defending the justice won, the schools and libraries that we have constructed alone, with out own hands, without donations of millionaire corporations. We will continue defending, to its logical conclusion, the elevated, comprehensive general culture that the Cuban people — all Cuban people freely including those that aren’t in agreement with the Revolution.— have achieved and enjoy.

In the name of the principles which you say you defend I challenge you to open Free Range Librarian to all opinions, and not only those that have asked you to be received, and that you replace the Cuban Press Release which was censured.

Again, I invite you to get to know the real Cuba. Take advantage of the opportunity in March when an important professional event will be held (INFO-2004). Several U.S. librarians will participate. Don’t shut your door to the real Cuba, and remember the saying of the great Mexican President, Benito Juarez:

“The respect for the rights of others is peace”


Eliades Acosta Matos

Havana, February 2, 2004

Posted by kgs at 08:06 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Going to the Chapel... Oops!

Talk about pent-up desire! At 4 p.m. Sunday, at least 100 same-sex couples were camped out in front of San Francisco City Hall, waiting to get married tomorrow, Presidents' Day. More on this later.


Posted by kgs at 07:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"'They Are Killing These People"

"'I would like to make an appeal to the world's conscience,' Paya said. 'It seems like there is a lot of indifference about the reality of human rights in Cuba.'"

Another important article about Cuba, in the Washington Post. Note the emphasis on the 75 dissidents arrested in the crackdown of spring 2003. This issue is about real, living, breathing people.

Registration (free) required:


"At least 20 Cuban dissidents, part of a group of 75 journalists, librarians and economists arrested nearly a year ago, are seriously ill in Cuban prison cells where they are being held under inhumane conditions, according to their wives, friends and human rights activists in Cuba. ... in telephone interviews this week with family members who have visited the dissidents in prison and with human rights activists in Cuba who monitor the situation, a picture emerged of inhumane prison conditions and continued harassment of the dissidents' families by Cuban security agents."

Posted by kgs at 07:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 14, 2004

How Blogs Work: A Tutorial for Mr. Acosta

The director of the National Library of Cuba has been e-mailing me fairly regularly (the messages are forwarded through an American librarian). I have been preparing responses to his messages, but have not rushed to publish because I wanted to get my citations correct (and frankly, because I have been busy with managing my running-dog life).

However, Mr. Acosta and, apparently, many of his librarian supporters in this country need a quick tutorial in how to search and browse a blog. I say this based on the following accusation, now making the rounds of lists such as PLG-L:

"(2) When is Ms. Karen G. Schneider, the self-proclaimed champion of freedom and rights, who has placed her website at the service of the cause of Mr. Robert Kent [not really--I called him shrill], which [website] is lacking in objective balance and has tendentiously slanted contents, going to have the decency and good taste to put back on Free Range Librarian the English text of the press release issued by the professional organizations that represent more than 12 thousand Cuban librarians, which was erased in the past few days, thus committing a grave violation of professional ethics?"

Disregarding Acosta's misunderstanding about the nature of this blog--its tagline is "one librarian's daily meditations about librarianship," which hardly commits me to anything other than thinking out loud--I understand how Acosta rushed to conclude that the press release was "missing." He's a director of a very large library, and in just about any country, most high-ranking library administrators are technically-challenged. I am patient with these folks (anyone over 20 has been there, and that includes me), and have found myself explaining to fairly high-ranking librarians, without cracking a smile, how to press the "Enter" key, how to insert a CD-ROM right side up, and even, for the truly daring, how to right-click.

Therefore, I have a lot of sympathy with Mr. Acosta's inability to locate the press release I had earlier published on this blog. Mr. Acosta: type the word acosta in the search box and then click the Search button. The press release will pop right up. You can also browse for this entry using the monthly archives, although my archives aren't as fine-tuned as I'd like--so I recommend searching. (Mr. Acosta, if you invite me to your library in Cuba, I'll conduct Internet search classes for your staff and the public. You do let the public search the Internet, right?)

What I don't have much sympathy for are my colleagues in librarianship with such limited research skills that they would take Acosta's words at face value without looking for themselves. Such is the pathetic state of library reference in this day and age that librarians would mindlessly forward, forward, forward without checking facts. If our collective abilities don't have a sharp uptick very soon, we will be a dead profession in fifty years.

Posted by kgs at 01:14 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 12, 2004

Lesbians Marry in San Francisco

URL: http://sfgate.com/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/02/12/GAYMARRIAGE.TMP

(Updated!) We interrupt this blog for an important announcement: dozens of same-sex couples were married today at San Francisco City Hall. Among the group were Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. two lesbians famous among gay rights activists. Neither lesbian is a librarian, but no doubt by the week's end at least one gay librarian should be married, given the number of librarians in the Bay Area, the number of gay people in the Bay Area, the high percentage of gays and lesbians in librarianship, and the proximity of San Francisco Public Library to SF's City Hall.

"The wedding came just two days after Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that he wanted San Francisco to take the lead in bestowing the same marriage rights to gays and lesbians as are awarded to straight couples, saying he is duty-bound to fight discrimination."

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon are pioneers of the gay rights movement, and were founding members of Daughters of Bilitis, an early lesbian organization.

Personal note: my partner and I have discussed marrying many times, but have been waiting until we could do it legally in this country. If the law is still valid when we can next get to San Francisco (and SF accepts couples from the Mysterious East Bay), we'll get hitched. Who would have thought it..!

Posted by kgs at 03:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Nancy Kranich on Why Filters Don't Work


Former ALA president Nancy Kranich explains that "forcing libraries to choose between funding, equitable access, and censorship means millions of library users will lose, particularly those Americans who reside in the most poverty-stricken areas of the country."

I wish this article gave more thought to the elephant in ALA's living room: the problem of our policy of age-neutral access. I disagree with this policy both strategically and philosophically, and I believe it is this issue that truly divides the ALA governing bodies from the ALA membership and the public at large. Kranich gamely tries a diversionary tactic, pointing out that "too often, filters are set to apply for the youngest users at the expense of all others," but in doing so, leaves an opening for the reader to begin to ask, when is it acceptable to make decisions on behalf of a child? To use her analogy, when do we teach children to swim--and when do we simply prevent them from using the pool?

The net result of our age-neutral approach is implicit in Kranich's article. She points out that many libraries are offered the chance to select whether or not children will have Internet access. An age-sensitive approach to filtering would result in more children having access to the Internet in libraries, even though filtered, and would stand the best chance of ensuring open access as a choice for every adult.

Still and all, when Kranich isn't attempting to argue for ALA's age-neutral policy, she does an excellent job of underscoring something I have said since 1996: filters don't work. Most adults don't need them; no one, hearing how filters actually function, really wants to be filtered. (Some people want others to be filtered, but that's a natural human tendency.) Most adults behave responsibly in libraries, and those that don't should be dealt with through policy and procedure.

Now how do we get off this petard we hoisted ourselves on?

Posted by kgs at 11:34 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 11, 2004

Google Picks Atom for Syndication


Dan Gillmor reports, "Google's Jason Shellen confirms that the company is dropping RSS support in favor of Atom." Gillmor adds Dave Winer is worried Google is building its own aggregator.

RSS is such a standards mess that it's ripe for competition. What is not in competition is the proof of concept for a lightweight Internet headline service. May the best implementation win!

Posted by kgs at 06:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 10, 2004

Blogging about Blogsource Blogging: Catch the Fever


icontemplate wondered, "Hmm, 'the library weblog about library weblogs.' I wonder...if others try to copy Steven and Greg's neat idea, would someone out there create a Blogsource blogsource? Would its header say 'the library weblog about library weblogs about library weblogs?' And if others copy that idea, would that be called 'the library weblog about library weblogs about library weblogs about library weblogs?' And if others copy that idea... "

I suppose there is room in the biblioblogosphere for a blog about library blogs, but only if it is Comprehensive, not to mention Complete, Impartial, Now Online, Check It Out, Sweeeeet, Kewl, New (oops, momentarily sidetracked by a firestorm of buzzwords and jargon)...

Posted by kgs at 09:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 09, 2004

CIPA Article in First Monday


First Monday--one of the best journals on the Web--has an outstanding, must-read article about CIPA: "Potential legal challenges to the application of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in public libraries: Strategies and issues," by Paul T. Jaeger and Charles R. McClure.

These gentlemen speak truth to justice, outlining not only short-term implementation problems but issues that touch the heart of our profession, pointing out that librarians "need to be aware of the true nature of the dilemmas that CIPA creates in libraries"--such as forcing librarians to be "speech gatekeeper[s]"--and stressing the many limitations of filters.

With librarians rolling over on the filtering issue as a done deal, it's good to read a critique of CIPA that doesn't rush to conclude that filtering is palatable or inevitable, and that focuses not only on the potential damage to the First Amendment CIPA presents, but on the many possible challenges to this new law.

Like most items published by First Monday, "Potential Legal Challenges" is a fairly chewy read. Set aside the lightweight blogs today, and make time to absorb, think about, and discuss McClure and Jaeger's excellent article. The First Amendment you save could be your own.

Posted by kgs at 11:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 08, 2004

Two New Library Blogs of Note

I waited until I was sure these blogs were sustainable. I highly recommend both Librarian in Black and Tame the Web.

Librarian in Black: http://librarianinblack.typepad.com/librarianinblack/

Normally, I would run fast and far from a blog by a "Self-proclaimed Techie Gamer Librarian Chick." From what I can tell, "chick" is usually a synonym for "allergic to grammar." However, "techy librarian" Sarah Houghton not only gleans the best of the best of technology news--she can really write, and her observations are insightful and amusing, with a soupcon of edginess I find very appealing.

Michael Stephens, author of Tame the Web, at http://homepage.mac.com/mstephens7/B143020931/index.html, has a mellower, more pedagogical view of life. His blog is worth tracking for the concise snippets of Web-life he captures; who else would give me a one-paragraph synopsis of Googleblatting?

Posted by kgs at 06:54 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 06, 2004

OCLC's Environmental Scan


"The scan provides a high-level view of the information landscape, intended both to inform and stimulate discussion about future strategic directions. "

Strategery: good stuff. But the real reason to "read" this report is that the Flash animations and search functions make it fun to play with. I can hear the folks at OCLC now: "but this report is not a TOY!" Hey, sure it is, and a good one! Very nice use of Flash on the main page, and it could double as a geography test. Texas, or India? You decide!

The searchable report doubles as an ego-surfing opportunity for the librariati (try "schneider," "levine," "tennant," or "crawford"). I was interviewed for this report, and perhaps my highly erudite observances about the state of the state of portals influenced it somewhere, somehow, but to my great surprise and indeed pleasure, it is my blog that gets quoted, not my for-sure real-offishul day job. Search the report for "free range," and you will find me opining about Amazon's Search Inside the Book.

Oh, how it pleaseth me to see FRL quoted very seriously by an organization with the heft of OCLC, given that once upon a time, when FRL was brand-new, a Very Important Librarian sniped behind my back that "Free Range Librarian" was "stupid." (Soon after that, wrath descended upon my head, and lo, I was sorely punished. What is it about OCLC that inspires this faux-Biblical turn of speech?)

In any event, what a great way to start a Friday. Cluck, cluck!

Posted by kgs at 09:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 05, 2004

The Cuba Report Amendment: The Director's Cut

It didn't take long for the proposed amendment to IRC's report on Cuba to morph into something it was not. I am going to be charitable and chalk it up to post-conference amnesia (what did we vote on? who did I lunch with?), but today, one of the members of the Cuba report task force warned the readers of ALA's member-forum, "please do not be misled by quotes taken out of context"--and then proceeded to grossly misrepresent the amendment, suggesting it was a "demand" to release a "specific number" of prisoners.

Look, if you're going to disagree with me, please do so on the merits of the amendment, not on hearsay. We're information professionals, and we don't get our facts via the DRE method. As a lawyer once commented, "we give good citation."

So here again is the failed amendment to the IRC Cuba report, in gloriously plain text, suitable for framing (or forwarding), with a couple of explanations built-in for those of you who aren't parliamentary-procedure junkies.


Proposed Amendment to the IRC/IFC Report on Cuba


Proposed: the following modification to the IRC/IFC Report on Cuba:

Changing this:

ALA joins IFLA in its deep concern over the arrest and long prison terms of political dissidents in Cuba in spring 2003, and urges the Cuban government ...

To this:

ALA joins IFLA in its deep concern over the arrest and long prison terms of political dissidents in Cuba in spring 2003, and calls for their immediate release. ALA urges the Cuban government ...


[Note: the above is the actual action language. The rationale below was provided to support the proposed language, but would not have appeared anywhere in the report. Amendments do NOT have to be submitted in writing; I did so at the encouragement of the parliamentarian, and I believe it helped facilitate debate and closure on this issue.]


This change would add action language related to the arrest and lengthy prison terms of the dozens of journalists, writers, and others arrested in the March, 2003 crackdown. These journalists, writers, and other activists were arrested for a variety of actions that we have repeatedly affirmed in numerous ALA policies: writing and speaking about free speech and civil liberties, and owning private book collections (often referred to as "independent libraries"). Additionally, personal book collections were confiscated and in many cases destroyed.

In calling for the release of the people arrested in the March, 2003 crackdown, we join Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, President Jimmy Carter, journalist Nat Hentoff (recipient of the 1983 ALA Immroth award), and other organizations and individuals who champion free speech everywhere. This action language is consistent with ALA policies, including ALA Policy 58.8, which affirms our support for Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights; "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression") and ALA Policy 58.1(2) (International Relations, especially 58.1(2), a policy objective to "support human rights and intellectual freedom worldwide."

ALA's commitment to free speech everywhere is so strong that in the last fifteen years ALA has passed resolutions on behalf of human rights and intellectual freedom in these countries: Romania (1990), Afghanistan (1991), Thailand (1995), Zimbabwe (1996), Nigeria (1996), Yugoslavia (1999), Cuba (2001), Palestine (2002), and Iraq (2003). These resolutions were not limited to calling for free speech for formally accredited librarians or for access to "official" libraries, and some of the individuals we cited in these resolutions were labeled dissidents in their own countries.

Several of the Cuban dissidents arrested in 2003 received prison sentences of over 20 years. The dissidents include several journalists for the organization Reporters Without Borders, an international journalists'
organization dedicated to free press everywhere, and Journalist Victor Arroyo, whose sentencing documents note that his "antirevolutionary"
activities earned him an award from Human Rights Watch.

It is worth asking what kind of "criminal" behavior prompted the mass roundup of dozens of Cubans in March of 2003. The arrests appear to be related to a crackdown following the Varela Project, a pro-democracy petition that despite the risk it posed to those who signed it, received tens of thousands of signatures after it was mentioned in a speech by President Jimmy Carter in his visit to Cuba in 2002. The actual "charges"
against the dissidents include such charges as accepting radios, battery chargers and cash donations; owning and sharing books critical of Cuban government; and for the journalists, independently reporting news, which is illegal in Cuba.

For More Information

Reporters Without Borders: http://www.rsf.org/

Human Rights Watch: Americas: Cuba: http://hrw.org/doc/?t=americas&c=cuba

Amnesty International 2003 Report on Cuba (pending, online)

Posted by kgs at 01:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 04, 2004

The Problem with LCD Monitors

When I had a monitor the size and weight of a 747, Dot sat on top of it, and all was well. After my new Dell flat-panel 1901 monitor arrived--and it is absolutely gorgeous and crystal-clear--Dot prowled around my desk for a week, no doubt waiting for me to restore "her" monitor. She finally gave up, but I now have a little problem printing and copying, particularly when she leans on the feed tray (which causes it to fall out). I get attitude when I try to lift the lid to make a copy by hand, and she occasionally leans over to bite paper as it emerges the printer.

There's no moral to this story. Dot is a cat. She sits where she wants, and she's beyond morality. Emma, the other cat, sleeps on the couch, and I doubt I'll exchange it for a two-dimensional version any time soon...


Posted by kgs at 05:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 03, 2004

(Re-)Discovering Dickens, the Olde Tyme Way

Stanford's Discovering Dickens project is terrific. However--and call me an old geezer if you must--I do not recommend that you try reading the PDFs on your handheld or PC, however au courant that seems. This is a literary reenactment, enabled by the Web, and the fun part is participating the olde-tyme way, not by attempting to scroll through a book-like object on a computer (let alone a screen the size of a piece of Melba toast).

For the true Dickensian experience, download and print the missives (and then rub them in your hands for a minute, so they look more authentic). Better yet, do as I did and send in to get the free weekly snail-mailings, which Stanford is providing for the first 5,000 takers. The pamphlets, printed on thin newsprint, are cute as a button and highly portable, and you can also pride yourself on being one of the project pioneers.

At any rate, however you read it, bon appetit. It's a lot of fun to be part of this experience!

Posted by kgs at 12:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 01, 2004

Reporters without Borders: 2003 Roundup

2003 was a rough year for press freedom. Read about it here:


Posted by kgs at 09:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack