April 30, 2004

Help, I'm Trapped in an LSTA Grant, and I Can't Get Out!

From last year's LSTA grant (which I'm cannibalizing, of course): "An outcome-oriented approach to evaluating this objective is an outcome-oriented qualitative approach to determine if awareness of lii.org services..."

Posted by kgs at 10:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Honoring Those Who Serve: Social Justice Versus Censorship

My eight years in the military was (among many other things) a consciousness-raising experience. Persons of color, and people from poor and rural communities, are disproportionately represented in our armed forces.

For many of the people with whom I worked, socialized, and lived among, the U.S. military didn't merely represent one of many choices for improving their lives; it was, at least to them, one of the very few options they knew of. The general trade-off was a life of fairly modest means, hard work, and frequent change, and the ultimate trade-off was to give your life or at least your health, but many people (including me) served proudly on exactly those terms every day until they resigned or retired.

As a veteran, it saddens me to think that anyone I worked with, any of the people I knew who had made that bargain with the government, came home in a box or, at best, on a hospital stretcher. But it angers me that the same country that has an agreement that the poor will fight its wars, under the leadership of government officials who exploited that agreement for their own benefit, tries to censor the inevitable outcome of that agreement.

As Dylan Thomas wrote, "bury the dead, for fear that they walk to the grave in labor." Let the public close the circle on these lives, with one last glimpse of these soldiers as they complete their final tours of duty.

Posted by kgs at 08:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 28, 2004

Comparing Apples and Rutabagas

Jessamyn wrote about the new Seattle Public Library: "Let's just say it: the more money you spend building your Big Beautiful Library, the less you have to pay for staffing, and open hours."

This is weird science: facility construction and operational costs are nearly always unrelated. Libraries are built with one-time building bonds and major capital fundraising drives (and sometimes, government grant assistance), while support for routine library operations comes from local government.

For supporting library services year to year, it is a well-supported truism in libraryland that you will be better off if you go directly to the voters for their support, taxing them directly for your services. Library staff hours are often first on the cutting block when cities need to make cuts, and I remember how tough it was as a rural library director to appeal to a tiny government for additional funding. Yet voters are often surprised into opening their pocketbooks when asked to make a relatively modest direct contribution for good local library services. A reporter for the Seattle Times, commenting about the service cuts at SPL, made this point eloquently if somewhat obliquely: "King County libraries are funded differently from Seattle's. Their operating costs come primarily from property tax revenues, while Seattle's come from the city's general fund."

My local public library in the city of Richmond, California can tell you all about that. Always poor, always underfunded, always begging for scraps, the library has now closed its three branches and may shut down entirely at the end of June. Having weary old pre-prop-13 buildings hasn't helped it any.

Don't begrudge Seattle its biblioedifice. The new facility draws much-needed attention and interest to library services at a most opportune time, and who knows what can happen for library services when all eyes are drawn to the building that houses them. Instead, let's just say it: learn the strategies that work for real library advocacy.

Posted by kgs at 08:39 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 27, 2004

Preliminary ALA Election Analysis

Turnout up, E-ballots carry the day! It's great to see more people participating in the governance of the association.

Ballots Cast, 2003 9,844
Ballots Cast, 2004 12,562
# Increase 2,718
% Increase 27.6%
# E-ballots Cast 2004 10,614
% E-ballots Cast 2004 84.5%
# P-ballots Cast 1,948
% P-ballots Cast 15.5%
P-ballots distributed 2003 55,484
% Return, Election 2003 17.7%
P-ballots distributed 2004 14,404
P-ballots distributed 2004 25.3%
% Returned, P-Ballots 2004 13.5%
E-ballots distributed 2004 42,433
E-ballots distributed 2004 74.7%
% Returned, E-ballots 2004 25.0%
All ballots distributed 2004 56,837
% Return, Election 2004 22.1%

Posted by kgs at 06:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 24, 2004

Librarian Writers, Part Deux

The response to my earlier post about librarian writers was fascinating. I'm trying to probe what it is we feel we need. I'm tossing out the following to see what resonates with you (and I'll create a new post on my blog, since many but not all of the respondents are already on NMRTWRITER):

* A blog to post successes/questions/failures/whatevers

* A discussion list oriented toward published writers

* An informal organization for librarians who write

* An entity not necessarily related to ALA (no offense there to ALA)

* A casual community of published writers

What needs are we trying to fulfill? I think they exist, but pinning them down may be another issue. I sense needs for writers who are already writing--something low-overhead (presumably, we're all busy writing), but a community to tap when you are struggling with questions such as is this contract o.k., should you try writing outside the library press, how do you market my book, how can you get past writer's block, where can you find an indexer/editor/illustrator, how do you get over a bad review, how do you organize time for writing, how to break into a new writing area, what kind of experience did you have with X editor or Y press, or even writerly questions about the mechanics of style, grammar, and punctuation. Not to mention the inevitable get-together at library conferences, or even very occasional chats by AIM or other low-cost means.

... Or even just to be able to list on your c.v., "Founding Member, writerlibrarians.org..."

I'll add that I was surprised to hear that NMRTWRITER existed, and that it is under the aegis of NMRT was even more surprising. Sometimes I am asked why I am not on such-and-such list, and I usually say, "because I have a life." But I would have been on NMRTWRITER a long time ago if I had known it existed. That said, without a Web presence or easily-accessed archive, I don't know if NMRTWRITER is more than ephemerally useful to us.


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April 23, 2004

How to Talk at Conferences, Continued

Following Michael's and Jessamyn's threads:

1. Before the talk, try to communicate directly with the technology people who will configure your setup. Mention these folks during your talk, and thank them afterwards. They will remember you. And they are the reason people can hear your voice and see your presentation.

2. Label any equipment you bring to the podium. I use tiny Hello Kitty stickers. It doesn't matter what you use: the objective is to be able to immediately distinguish your cords from those of your co-panelists or cords that are attached to local equipment.

3. I always ask for a lavalier mike, or at least one that isn't fixed to a podium. I like to walk and point, and you can't SEE me behind a podium, anyway.

4. Ask someone to be your timeclock, and request that they give you several warnings before your talk is up. You will be too engaged to look at a watch, and ten minutes is enough time to adjust your talk, if you have underestimated how long it will take to speak.

5. If you are on a panel with someone going way over their time, hand them a very large note. People often don't realize when they've busted their time limit, and you are entitled to your slice of the action. It's only fair to you, to the audience, and to the people who invited you (and probably paid for you to be there).

6. I am not sure what Michael and Jessamyn mean by "self-promotion," but if you've published a book, had a baby, or just figured out a cure for cancer, it's my advice to go ahead and brag. The audience will enjoy your excitement, partticularly if you don't go overboard. Try sharing a human moment about the experience, and it's o.k. to make fun of yourself--"I ate Stouffers' for six months while I finished this book."

7. Wear something nice. However, wear something you've worn before, so you're comfortable in it.

8. Praise your audience. (They were smart enough to attend your session, after all.)

9. Consider going post-Powerpoint during the presentation. Ask yourself if your lengthy pile of slides with bullets serves any purpose. By all means, do not show up and read from your slides. Increasingly, I am doing talks "unplugged," using Powerpoint primarily to make impressionistic or humorous visuals during the talk (and it's a great way to provide your contact information at the end). But if your talk consists of reading slides, think about using Powerpoint as a visual backdrop, then use your Powerpoint "notes" as an internal planning tool, to practice what you have to say. You have a story: what is it? How will you share it?

10. Of course, you may be using real-world examples from the Web, in which case, have good screen captures as a backup.

11. If it's a choice between my computer and theirs, I always pick theirs, because it's equipment they are familiar with. I bring mine anyway.

12. Remember the first rule? No matter who you are dealing with, never, ever assume the technology is "taken care of." Find out what the setup is, find out who your point of contact is, and if you have to be a nudge, be a nudge, however nicely. The talk you save could be your own. A couple of years ago, I had a presentation that crashed and burned because I assumed that the tech-oriented person arranging the talk had coordinated the technology. This person, in turn, had also simply "assumed." We were both wrong, and it was very painful (and a huge waste of our time). Your assertive engagement on this particular issue will go a long way toward a happy outcome for all involved.

Posted by kgs at 10:51 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Librarians who Write

For librarians who write--in country or not--what about an Algonquin Circle, just for us? A list, or a blog, or even just a button we could wear on days we're feeling proud of our efforts? We could meet at library conferences and do Show and Tell.

I've proposed this from time to time over the last ten years. It's always met with tepid interest, although in my most insecure moments I'm sure this group already exists and that there's an agreement that I won't be invited to it ("she has comma issues, and did you catch that run-on sentence in her last piece for AL?").

I like the NWU guidelines for membership: "You are eligible for membership if you have published a book, a play, three articles, five poems, a short story, or an equal amount of newsletter, publicity, technical, commercial, government, or institutional copy. You are also eligible for membership if you have written an equal amount of unpublished material and are actively writing and attempting to publish your work."

Posted by kgs at 08:32 AM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

The Pragmatic and Unimaginative Shall Inherit the Earth

Late this June, I'm starting an MFA in Writing at the University of San Francisco. People ask: poetry? Fiction? (Just this week, a colleague persisted: "no, tell the truth! You write fiction, don't you?" To which a friend once responded, "you write great fiction, Karen--I've read your grants.")

For anyone who missed my last 100 articles and two books (actually, that would be quite a few of you, but never mind), I write non-fiction (a term right up there with "horseless carriage," but that's a rant for another day). And courtesy of Ruth Seid, I know I've made a good choice (although I should add writers that choose their genres like parents choose their children):

Life of Verse Is Not as Long, Study Says

Nonfiction writers outlive poets by six years, literary researcher finds.

By Sandra Murillo
Times Staff Writer

April 23 2004

From Ernest Hemingway to Sylvia Plath and Virginia Wolff, the literary world has long had its share of tortured, depressed souls. But poets, says one San Bernardino psychology professor, die younger than playwrights and nonfiction writers.

The complete article can be viewed at:

Visit Latimes.com at http://www.latimes.com

Posted by kgs at 08:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Google's SafeSearch

I was quoted today in "Google's chastity belt too tight," a news.com article about Google's Safesearch by Declan McCullagh:


As a filtering expert emeritus, it's fun to come out of my lair once in a while and growl at the moon.

Posted by kgs at 07:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 22, 2004

ALA Election Update: The Crisp Scent of Democracy

(Updated: note percent increase from last year already over 20%. Thanks to ALA Councilor Jim Casey for catching the error!)

Man oh man, do I love voter turnout. The ALA election is going gangbusters! Put your peepers on the latest stats, and tell everyone who hasn't voted to get to it before Sunday night, April 25, 11:59 p.m. CDT.

As of 22-Apr-04:

E-ballots: 10,151
+ 1,562 since 4/15

P-ballots: 1,753
+ 185 since 4/15

Total ballots: 11,904
+ 1,747 since 4/15

Early pollster summary:

Ballots, 2003: 9,844
Ballots, 2004: 11,904
# Increase: 2,060
% Increase: 20.9%
# E-ballots: 10,151
% E-ballots: 85.3%
# P-ballots: 1,753
% P-ballots: 14.7%

I'm still waiting for the data to run these nums:

P-ballots distributed 2003
% Return, P-Ballots 2003
E-ballots distributed 2004
% Return, E-ballots 2004
P-ballots distributed 2004
% Return, P-Ballots 2004

Posted by kgs at 06:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Questions for Site

Have a question for me? (Note: if you caught a series of errors in the last post--I beat you to it.)

Please e-mail me your questions if you don't want to include your e-mail address in an online comment. I really hate rhetorical questions ("wouldn't you like to take out the trash?" "No, thanks, I'm fine")--I have been guilty far too often of using them myself.

Posted by kgs at 10:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Contractor loses job over photo of coffin

Here's what happens when the truth gets told:


"A military contractor has fired Tami Silicio, a Kuwait-based cargo worker whose photograph of flag-draped coffins of fallen U.S. soldiers was published in Sunday's edition of The Seattle Times. ... Since 1991, the Pentagon has banned the media from taking pictures of caskets being returned to the United States."

Posted by kgs at 10:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 19, 2004

New Appeal for Cuban Librarians Launched

To celebrate National Library Week, a new free speech campaign, FREADOM, has launched with a special letter-writing appeal on behalf of the independent Cuban librarians jailed in March 2003. Check it out at http://freadom.info (Yes, I am part of this group, but not its leader, and this group is unrelated to any other group.)

I would have posted something about this yesterday--but I have had severe XP problems ranging from extensive PDA bluescreens to Outlook mail problems to inability to post to Movable Type on this machine. After reading up a bit, I disabled hyperthreading, and this computer is suddenly happy. If only they could talk...

Posted by kgs at 05:55 PM | TrackBack

April 17, 2004

Other Activities Afoot

For those of you tracking this blog, I've been very busy on a free-speech project. More about this later!

Posted by kgs at 09:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 16, 2004

ALA Election: Last Year's Turnout Exceeded Ahead of Schedule

The turnout for the ALA election has now surpassed 2003's turnout! Here's a PDF
I cranked from Excel, which I used to quickly run the numbers; it has ALA election turnout data from March 23.

The ALA election turnout rate is also a little higher than I predicted, with most of the pick-up in the e-ballots. If you have been waiting to vote, get going--you can no longer count on the "small pool" theory to elect your candidates. (Democracy: catch the fever!) Polls close Sunday, April 25, 11:59 p.m. CDT.

4/15 Turnout, and Increase From 4/8/04

E-ballots 8589, +1523 (17.7%)

Paper Ballots 1568, +325 (20.7%)

Total Ballots 10,157, +1848 (18.2%)

Total Ballots 2003: 9,844

Posted by kgs at 10:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Test to the Blog

Having severe posting and template-modification problems since yesterday... let's see if this works.

Posted by kgs at 06:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 14, 2004

HBO Special: Human Rights in Cuba

Blogging my impressions of Waiting for Fidel:

A chill down my spine to see and hear Oswaldo Pay of the Varelas Project;
Fidel as a stubborn old man;
Oliver Stone looking his age;
The ills of micromanagement (a thought that bubbled to the surface as I listened to Castro read from the sentencing documents of the hijackers);

Castro demurring that "he" didn't shoot anyone (meaning the ferry hijackers). Stone commenting that they were "shot by the state."

Brings up dry-foot/wet-foot policy;

Stone tries to bring up the inevitable point about sole rule. "I am not in power. It is the people who are in power."

Castro continually confuses his own accession with U.S. attempts to defeat him.

Castro refers to the "Batista followers" who gave Bush the 2000 election (are any of them still alive?)

Re the 75 prisoners: Castro says they all took money to defeat the Revolution.

Castro denounces the news about the prisoners

Stone asks why it was a closed trial

Stone interviews relatives of prisoners

Stone: in the Americas, "Cuba's pretty low on the human rights abuse list"--there's a statement for the tourism bureau!

Castro on AI: "Cubans do not believe in Amnesty International." Refuses to clarify.

Stone asks Castro, "what is proper criticism" (as opposed to improper criticism)? Castro won't answer the question.

I have to ask, if this guy is so popular, why does he need to step on people?

Posted by kgs at 08:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Please Do Not Googlebomb LII

(Update: Cohen has called off the Googlebomb.)

I woke up this morning to see a well-meaning request to Googlebomb LII (the place where I work... o.k., I know you know that, but there is a very intentional veil between FRL and LII). Not only that, Jessamyn has already critiqued the practice. Lordy, lordy... can't a girl do something other than the Internet for an evening?

I don't like the Googlebomb action (or "meme," to use a dreadfully worn word now trotted around), for exactly the reasons Jessamyn specifies. LII may have its marketing challenges, but we (and here I quote directly from the Karen G. Schneider who runs LII, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Free Range Librarian) would like to handle them ourselves; and as Jessamyn writes, it just seems wrong (not to mention so-last-year) to finegle with an index. More to the point, while we certainly don't control the universe, we at LII would like to control our own destiny. We should have been asked if we wanted this--and if that's how we wanted it, and that's when we wanted it. I know it was well-intended, but I'm asking you folks not to participate in this Googlebomb. It is so very, very not what LII is all about.

I'm proud of the increase in usage for LII that has happened during my tenure as Director, Senior Cheerleader, and Da Boss, even though my pride is really derivative from the profoundly wonderful work of the staff who make LII tick. Wendy Hyman, Jennifer English, Maria Brandt, Charlotte Bagby, Tom McGibney, Pat Fell, and a host of contributors--they are amazing. And I'd like to see usage statistics based on our efforts. And I'm very pleased people care about us enough to compare us to Library of Congress.

But please--if you have the energy to Googlebomb--you have the energy to direct your efforts toward Good Works. Go read to a child, or help out at a soup kitchen, or go help get out the vote for the November election. Or if you feel you want to "do something" for LII, share it with a library patron, a volunteer, a neighbor, or a local newspaper. Get us a radio spot on NPR--that's a "meme" we can live with. But Googlebomb LII? Please. Just Say No.

Posted by kgs at 08:52 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 13, 2004

ALA Election Update: Better than I Thought

I had been glum (and puzzled) about what appeared to be a sudden and steep drop in turnout in this year's ALA election. However, I had made a crucial error--I had mixed up the total ballots submitted with just the e-ballots. Turnout is on track!

If we sustain the participation rate of a little over 200 ballots per day, by 4/25 we should have around 10,700 ballots, for about a 10% increase in turnout from 2003. I'd like to see my colleague win his bet (a 10% increase in turnout), but I'd be happy to win my own bet (5% increase in turnout).

Total ballots, 2003 9,844

Total ballots, 4/8/04 8,309

Total ballots, 4/1/04 6,756

Increase in total ballots, 4/1 - 4/8: 1,553

E-ballots, 4/8/04 7,066

E-ballots, 4/1/04 6,122

Increase in e-ballots, 4/1 - 4/8: 944

Paper ballots, 4/8/04 1,243

Paper ballots, 4/1/04 634

Increase in paper ballots, 4/1 - 4/8: 609

Posted by kgs at 07:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More on that Mystery Rose

Enquiring minds wanted more information about the sneaky stranger in my garden. It's larger than a paperback book, smaller than the OED.

Note: this was an inherited plant. It comes from a garden where a former owner had spent some nice money on good roses. The current owner, a friend, brought over a dozen roses, carefully dug up, but some of the parentage information had been lost ("what tags?"). So it's something nice--I just don't know what!


Posted by kgs at 06:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Name That Rose!

Thanks to the Rose Database, I am fairly sure this isn't William Shakespeare (although it comes very close). This plant has medium-large fully-double, damask-scented blooms in eye-popping dark pink on a small plant with foliage not much larger than a Susan B. coin. I'd say the blooms are big for the plant, which I am estimating will get to be about 3 x 3 this year. (It was in a terrible location last year, and never budded, let alone bloomed--I almost threw it out, but when I moved Double Delight, I had room for this fellow, and decided to give it a month in a sunnier spot with more room for its feet. Four weeks later, it's covered with buds.)


Posted by kgs at 12:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

RFID in Libraries

Laura Smart of CSU Pomona has a terrific blog about RFID in libraries. Pick it up at: http://libraryrfid.typepad.com/libraryrfid/index.rdf

(Hey, people really DO read my blogroll! I see this got picked up before I even blogged it; in my copious spare time, in between buffing my taxes and updating my personal financial statements, I'm deep into reading Mary Minow's piece on filtering and preparing questions for her before I post about it.)

Posted by kgs at 09:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 09, 2004

ALA Election Update

The rate of submission is predictably slowing; the question is whether the rate of submission will slow even further. In the last six days, ALA has received only about 250 ballots (as of April 3, we had 6,756 ballots submitted). All ballots must be received by April 25.

From ALA:


As of April 8, 2004:

Electronic ballots submitted: 7,066

Paper ballots submitted: 1,243

Total: 8,309

Total votes in 2003 election: 9,844


An email reminder to vote was sent on April 5. Another will be sent on April 19.

Paper ballot mailing was completed on March 24 (one week earlier than last year).

If you requested a paper ballot and have not received it, please contact membership@ala.org by Monday, April 12. All requests for paper ballots that have been received to date will be mailed on or before Monday, April 12.

Posted by kgs at 07:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 08, 2004

Clearly Not Scalia's Duck-Hunting Buddies


"HATTIESBURG, Mississippi (AP) -- Two reporters were ordered Wednesday to erase their tape recordings of a speech by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at a Mississippi high school. ... [Scalia] said he spends most of his time thinking about the Constitution, calling it 'a brilliant piece of work."

Posted by kgs at 01:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

GMail: Google Stepped In It

"All this handringing by librarians and others is ridiculous. Google is a commercial service and business. They clearly state what they will be doing. If you don't like it go someplace else. Also, remember the old internet adage: 'Do not send stuff in an e-mail that you would not want on the front page of the New York Times.'" -- Bill Drew, post to Web4Lib, 4/8/04

(Or on the front page of Free Range Librarian?)

Here's my reply.

When Google offers a service, they should first of all be up front about how they plan to (ab)use personal information. As an 800-lb gorilla, they have a particularly strong responsibility to behave appropriately on the Internet. If they can't, and I suspect that is true, then they should be regulated by the government to force them to behave responsibly, and if they don't like that, boo-hoo: they got a chance to get it right the first time. Being piggy gives commerce a bad name.

I hope other search engines are rushing forward to offer private, non-abusive e-mail services, big mailboxes or not. (There had to be a reason they were offering so much space. Of course they want you to keep all of your mail on their servers!)

Second, there is no strong connection between your "adage" and this situation. That adage, while apt, applies primarily to friends and colleagues forwarding/sending mail to others. It does not refer to the WalMart of Internet appliances skulking through our mail, automatically or otherwise, and bombarding us with advertisements based on our personal information, or about hovering up our email addresses to trawl for their own purposes.

Good on the Times (and other media who have caught this) to report on it.
The world beyond us should understand these privacy encroachments much better.

And one again (waving trifocals in air, thumping sensible shoes on floor) we digital librarians need to be not only having "hackfests," to reimagine librarianship, but also "ethicsfests," to port our values to a new platform, as it were. If there is one thing we can bring forward from the quaint old days of bound books and Gaylord charge machines, it is our historically fervent commitment to free speech, the right to read, and privacy. "Let them eat cake" is not in my vocabulary.

Posted by kgs at 10:24 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 07, 2004

Letter to ALA from OLOS on Gay and Lesbian Rights

The following eloquent letter to ALA comes from the Office of Literacy and Outreach Services (also by way of the Council list):


To: Mr. Fiels, Ms. Hayden, Ms. Brey, Ms. Grady, and Ms. Sheketoff:

The Advisory Committee of the Office for Literacy and Outreach Services urges ALA and ALA-APA to take a public stand against discriminatory philosophy and treatment of gay and lesbian employees. We believe that such policies are in opposition to not just one but various of ALA's priorities and principals. It goes against Equity, Diversity, and Intellectual Freedom.

The proposed new interpretation by the new Federal Special Counsel would have a deleterious effect on federal gay and lesbian librarians and library workers, but if implemented its effects would go even beyond that. It would result in a rollback of their rights. It would also encourage further discrimination in other aspects of life towards glbt individuals and groups.

As we have seen repeatedly in the history of this county, legal decisions that make distinctions to discriminate often give elements in the general public a license to not only discriminate, but sometimes even to carry out acts of violence. Perhaps the most extreme and powerful example of this is the Plessy versus Ferguson Supreme Court decision that established the "absurd" separate but equal doctrine. History has shown that the epidemic lynchings that occurred in the decades following this decision were not coincidental. Likewise, legislation that sets up English as the official language has too often resulted in employees and citizens being discriminated for their use of languages other than English. So too are legal decisions that allow for unfavorable treatment of gay and lesbian people in one arena, likely to foster widespread mistreatment in many other arenas.

ALA has a duty to enter into the public debates on these issues and to advocate for greater freedoms for the publics that we serve and the employees who are our members, so that there is true equity and outreach on the part of the American Library Association.

Isabel Espinal
Chair of the Advisory Committee of the Office for Literacy and Outreach Services

Posted by kgs at 11:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gay and Lesbian Librarians Seek ALA's Help

I'm forwarding the following message from the ALA Council list, where it was distributed by OLOS (ALA's Office of Literacy and Outreach Services) . Go GLBTRT!


Dear Mr. Fiels, Ms. Hayden, Ms. Brey, Ms. Grady, and Ms. Sheketoff:

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table (GLBTRT) urges ALA and ALA-APA to take a public stand against discriminatory philosophy and treatment of gay and lesbian employees. We believe that such policies are in opposition to not just one but various of ALA's priorities and principals. The policies go against equity, diversity, and intellectual freedom.

The proposed new interpretation by the new federal Special Counsel Scott Bloch of federal workplace protections would have a deleterious effect on federal gay and lesbian librarians and library workers, but if implemented its effects would go even beyond that. It would result in a rollback of their rights. But it would also encourage further discrimination in other aspects of life towards GLBT individuals and groups. Bloch has already in his brief tenure removed all references to protection from discrimination within federal employment from Web sites in his office. He has also removed this protection from presentations and materials available to federal employees. This protection was first given after the decision in Norton v. Macy when the United States Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit found that being gay was not a reason for dismissal from federal employment. The Office of Personnel Management has held since 1980 that discrimination based on sexual orientation is covered as a prohibited personnel action under the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act. Mr. Bloch seeks to roll back 24 years of protection for federal employees and legal precedence.
As we have seen repeatedly in the history of this country, legal decisions that codify discrimination often give the general public a license to not only discriminate, but sometimes even to carry out acts of hate and violence. Perhaps the most extreme and powerful example of this is the Plessy versus Ferguson Supreme Court decision that established the "absurd" separate but equal doctrine. History has shown that the epidemic lynchings that occurred in the decades following this decision were not coincidental. Likewise, this administration has made it clear that the removal of equal opportunity protections from all types of employees, applicants, student loan recipients, is in danger of revocation based on its court cases and rulings. Once the protections are rolled back for one group of people it will be that much easier for protections to be rolled back for other groups and individuals.

We strongly believe the American Library Association has a duty to enter into the public debate on this issue and to advocate against discrimination toward those we serve and the federal employees among our membership. Doing so will continue the long tradition of equity and non-discrimination on the part of the Association. Therefore, we urgently request that ALA and ALA-APA take a strong public stand against rollbacks in job discrimination protections for federal workers.


Anne L. Moore
Stephen E. Stratton
Co-chairs GLBT Round Table

Posted by kgs at 11:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

First Anniversary of the ALA Web Site Roll-Out

ALA rolled out its redesigned Web site on April 7, 2003. It wasn't the best day in ALA's history. The site was a debacle: a lot of content was missing, the design was confusing, the search engine was worse than terrible, and as the week unfolded, we found many, many other problems.

The worst part of the Web site roll-out was that ALA initially rebuffed members' comments, which ranged from mild puzzlement to howls of pain. Our own Council, our elected body, was initially complacent and quiet. It took a revolution of e-mail messages and postings to sway ALA's thoughts and make it realize that the new Web site was, if not exactly FUBAR, well on that road.

It might not be readily apparent from the site, but ALA has come a long way in the past year. I don't just mean the technical improvements, which move along at a glacial pace, but are indeed in work. ALA restored a lot of the "disappeared" content, made some minor but crucial usability changes to the site, and even has a search engine consultant (and a good one, at that) working with them to help them select and implement the right tool. That's all well and good. But along the way, something else happened. Council is more interested in ALA's technology. Executive Board members know to ask about technical improvements, and follow up on these questions in their monthly meetings with the Executive Director. And elsewhere in the organization, there appears to be more of a focus on technology, and more effort to integrate technology into the association. We now have a priority list that ALA staff, governance, and committee members can review and discuss.

When I first became involved in the ALA Web site mishagosh, my mantra was "we cannot change ALA, but we can improve the Web site."

I still think that's true, but I'm pleased to see examples (and I hope no one on ALA staff takes offense) where ALA has clearly taken action to move itself forward. Like most big organizations, it's a slow-moving barge that is hard to turn mid-stream, and as an ALA staff member once said to me, "Karen, there is a reason we call them 'divisions.'" Considering all of that, and that ALA had way underinvested in technology for a very long time, and still doesn't spend what it could, and probably never will, we've seen a lot of good things happen in the past year. We have a long way to go, and ALA will always be more reactive than proactive. Nonetheless, I predict continued good things. (And if I have guessed correctly, that new search engine will rock.)

Posted by kgs at 06:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 06, 2004

Hey, But Tell Us What You Really Think!

Mark Rosensweig's latest post, about an "On My Mind" piece I did on Cuba that AL published in its last issue.

I don't mind the swipes at me (and I'm flattered to be compared with Nat Hentoff), but I will say that AL is one of the finest and fairest publications I have ever had the pleasure to write for. Too bad Mark couldn't simply disagree with what I had to say.

Once again, if I'm misled, I'm in great company--with Sandy Berman, Noam Chomsky, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and a host of other people and organizations. I would like to be this mislead more often.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Privileged access to AL by anti-Cubans
Date: Wed, 7 Apr 2004 15:28:53 -0500
From: Mark
Reply-To: iskra@earthlink.net
To: srrtac-l@ala.org, plgnet-l@listproc.sjsu.edu

Dear Friends,

I was angered and dismayed to have opened up the latest American Libraries today to see an "On My MInd' column in there by the omnipresent ALA Councilor, Karen Schneider, about her own putative 'heroism' in 'falling on her sword' over the Cuba issue in Council -- and about Council's having been duped by 'extremists'.

In this latter charge she lines up with all those on the far Right who are claiming that ALA is controlled by a Left-wing cabal, a red conspiracy, something she, in any case, knows very well not to be true, but which she is exploiting.

Schneider's self-aggrandizing fable about her 'falling on her own sword' in Council is obviously a tall tale. Or, rather, if she actually fell on her own sword it was apparently neither too sharp nor too strong, because she's still around to continue blathering away about Cuba ( of which, in my opinion, she knows very little and, in reality, cares even less --except as a means for positioning herself in her on-going 'campaign for the promotion of Karen
Schneider') and is alive and well and performing with even more volubility, smugness and mendacity than ever. Next time, she can borrow MY sword to fall on.

Most troubling is that, apparently dissatisfied with Council's decision himself, the editor of AL, Leonard Kniffel, has decided to turn over the journal to a one-sided attack on Council, on Schneider's opponents there -- all 150 odd of them (?)-- whom he gives her a venue in which to deride them as extremists or dupes.

I didn't think that AL was supposed to take sides in such a disagreement, especially taking sides against the decision of Council. There is something unethical about it, which is an issue I will pursue further with the ALA Executive and ED Keith Fiels (undoubtedly to little effect).

It is fine that Schneider is unwilling to accept that she tried entirely unsuccessfully to get the ALA to bow to the dictates of Robert Kent's Friends of Cuban Libraries ( so unsuccessfully that only herself and one other Councilor voted for her resolution no matter HOW she tried to pitch it) in accepting the specious and absurd claims of the so-called 'independent Cuban librarians' that they were arrested and sentenced for the practice of librarianship and not, as was indeed the case, for paid criminal conspiracy (merely posing as librarians at the stage direction of their American controllers, but that is hardly the central issue) with the US interest section in Havana, and that in a situation in which the US is admittedly organizing, both overtly and covertly --and, certainly, illegally -- for 'regime change' in Cuba (like the regime change it helped effect in Haiti -- restoring Duvalieriste thugs to power -- and is working on in Venezuela and is so ably pursuing in Iraq -- where it's chasing the whirlwind of its 'kill for peace' and 'demolish for democracy' regime-change program with maniacal alacrity and disregard for human rights).

It is fine that Schneider insists that famed anti-abortion-rights editorialist Nat Hentoff --who has been attacking ALA and its officers column after uninteresting syndicated column about his current bete noir , Cuba -- should be appeased so that he will stop the bullying meant precisely to smear ALA's reputation to get it to relent and repent.

But American Libraries should NOT be given over, one-sidedly, to Hentoff and Schneider's crusade against Council and ALA for disagreeing on how to handle the issue of relations with Cuba and, above all, Cuban librarianship

The most irritating and disturbing thing is that AL editor Leonard Kniffel is getting away with giving Schneider's side, Kent & Hentoff et al., carte blanche and has given them yet another opportunity to attack the integrity and intelligence of Council, with Schneider now disingenuously playing this card where, saintly and beleaguered, having lost by a near unanimous vote of a body of malefactors, she pretends to be with the 'little guy' against the big
bad(elected) Council which voted for a balanced and thoughtful report of an IFC/IRRT committee charged to investigate this matter and report back, Schneider representing this as bowing to Castroite extremists, something patently not the case.


I hope you will write to Leonard Kniffel and demand that the other side be given access to the next issue of AL to fully represent its case, that the ALA took a rational, ethical and balanced position in relation to Cuba.

Mark Rosenzweig

Posted by kgs at 02:46 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 04, 2004

GMail: When Monkeys Fly Out of My Butt!

Just one little catch with Gmail: Google's computers will be scanning your messages and sending you ads based on message content. (I guess I'd get Preparation H ads for that title.) Hey, I trust them--not. Though the company claims it won't read users' email or share personal information--please.

Google compares Gmail to spam filters, "which have been used for years without raising privacy concerns." Talk about not getting the picture. Talk about confusing form with function! A spam filter is designed to protect you, based on incoming mail. It is not designed to bring commercials into your personal communications. I give it to them for moxy and creativity. Big Brother married Clear Channel, and begat Gmail.

This merry disregard for privacy is not restricted to commerce. I also didn't register with the Do Not Call database, after reading its privacy policy.

Aside: I've heard talk about librarians having hackfests to think through interesting problems. I think we could use some breakout sessions for thinkfests or ethicsfests or even just letstalkcommonsenseinthedigitalenvironmentfests.

I still remember the time at some library back in the day I installed this Really Kewl Tool that showed me in real-time every action patrons were taking at our Internet computers. I could see every site, every page they were linking to. I showed it to my boss, who said, "very nice--now don't use that again." Exactly.

Posted by kgs at 09:59 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 02, 2004

ALA Election Update

We're up to 6,756 total ballots so far in ALA's election. Last week this time, 5,231 e-ballots had been submitted. So in the last 7 days almost 900 ballots were submitted. Also, the paper people are starting to send in their ballots, bringing the total for the week to over 1,500 ballots. 17 days into the 52-day election period, we're 2/3 of the way toward last year's total participation.

Don't forget to vote!


From ALA:

As of April 1, 2004:

Electronic ballots submitted 6,122

Paper ballots submitted 634

Total 6,756

Total votes in 2003 election: 9,844

Web email and paper ballot mailing have been completed.

We will send email reminders to members who have not voted (or who have "parked" their ballots) on April 5 and April 19. Please cast your ballot!

We will update you regularly.


Posted by kgs at 08:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack