Friday, June 24, 2011

soapbox

Is this light waiting for you?

But, you aren't waiting for it, are you? Nope, you're already gone.

That's okay, I know you're in a hurry. You know what? I'm not in a hurry, I'll wait for you.

You know who you are: as soon as you wander (or speed walk) to the corner, you press the big, shiny button on the light post for the walk light, so you can cross the street. But 4 seconds later, the two visible cars within a half-mile have gone by, and you boogie across the street and on your way. No problem. Mission accomplished. Pressin' buttons, and gettin' things done.

60 seconds later, I come along in my car--I know, I'm a bad person for driving the 5 miles to work every day--and what do I find but a red light. No problem, I'm a patient driver, red lights happen all the time. But then the walk light comes on... it stops traffic in both directions... all of us carbound folk look around for the lil' ol' lady we're expecting to see, waiting to cross the road... but, where are you?

You're gone!

Maybe its a pet peeve. Maybe I'm the only one who notices this, and everyone else is happy to wait, or just doesn't notice. Maybe.

If, on the other hand, this scenario seems familiar to you, or even, dare I say it, you've pressed that button without a second thought, then maybe you should read on. And if by chance, this happens to you when you're driving AND you also press the walk light button without thinking (And I know you do) then by all means, read on, and perhaps bookmark this page for future reading whilst performing self-flagellation.

Before we get started, let me just say that there is a fine line between a rant and respectful, social commentary. I'm pretty sure that line runs right through here somewheres.

Pressing the walk light is an implied contract, between you and the people around you. See? BOOM, I just came right out and said my thing. I'll explain later. We live in a world, that is populated, my dear friends, with other people. People who care about the world they live in, just as you do. America, especially, is an experiment in freedom, and we American's revel in our freedom. We can do whatever we want in America right?

Not really. And that, is where I believe the problem lies. I know careless walk light pressage is a small issue, but what better, than an insignificant issue to test the American ideals of freedom and liberty. Y'all remember this little diddy, right?

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. - Thomas Jefferson


That's from the Declaration of Independence. Life and liberty, baby. Our rights! Sweet. Life we got, but this liberty thing is a little trickier. Jefferson explains liberty this way:

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual. - Thomas Jefferson


So its not a whatever-you-feel-like-it kind of deal. Your liberty is limited, and so is mine, by the equal rights of the other. Its not the law that prevents you from pressing the walk light when you don't need it. Or, heaven forfend, allowing your kid to smack it over and over and over again, while you wait for the bus! for real yo, seen it. And this one too. check it out. Or--and this one makes my skin ccraawwwl--purposefully pressing the walk light with the express intent of slowing and or stopping rush hour traffic so that you can wave ELECT ME FOR... (Mayor, city councilor, or whatever) signs at the folks sitting in their cars, trying to get home. It boggles the mind! Who's going to vote for the chump that made their commute last an extra 10 minutes?

So how does all this highfalutin talk relate to walk lights? Like so: when you press the button to call for the walk light, you're making an implied contract with the people around you, regardless of whether they are standing next to you, or are in a car down the road that you can't even see. Just because you can't see me, don't know me, or are just in a hurry and hedging your bets, that doesn't mean its okay to hit that button to stop traffic for you if you have no intention of using it. You have a social responsibility to the rest of us, to think about someone other than yourself.

And that's the trick right? If you're using the light to get across the street, then I'm right there with you brother. Press away. Cross at liberty and pursue your freedom! But if you're planning on just crossing the street as soon as you get a break in the traffic, why press the walk light? In most cases, the walk light won't even activate until the next light cycle. What that means is: its not going to come on until the light turns red anyway, so if the light is going to stop traffic, you'll have plenty of time to get across the road then, so just wait for the traffic light.

And pressing the walk light won't make the lights turn red any quicker either. Any more than pressing the call button for an elevator 19 times will make it travel any faster, or skip over other floors, in its efforts to get to you and your trembling, button jonesing fingers.

So whats the right thing to do? Its simple; be careful with other people's time, and expect them to be careful with yours.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

the digitized library

This is exactly what I was talking about!

Gwen Glazer has just written a paper about making all the information in libraries accessible on the web. I'm so excited, I could spit!

Image: National Diet Library digitization project. (They're digitizing everything yo!)

My recent blog entry--of which I spit--is titled "what is a library[an]" This blog entry was actually noted in the June 1, 2011 American Libraries Direct newsletter! That publication directed over 1,600 people to my lonely little blog, and some folks were nice enough to read a little, and even click through! Sweet! Anyhoo... what that means to me is: that in some small way, AL Direct has been nice enough to include my ideas in the conversation, for which I am grateful. So imagine my excitement when I hear that one of the biggest ideas I'm crowing about, namely: getting access to all that great stuff in our libraries, shows up in a policy paper from the ALA's information policy office!

Go ALA, I'm right there with ya, brotha! Or sista!

Okay so, the paper is like 10 pages, so I'll summarize for you. The ALA has such a thing as the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) which releases policy briefs on info tech. The announcement on the 2nd was for the inaugural edition of their OITP Perspectives. A new publication designed to supplement the policy briefs, and to "provide an outlet for topics that are more specialized than those covered by policy briefs." So they tapped Gwen Glazer.

Glazer is a writer, editor and social media coordinator at Cornell University Library. She put together this ten page paper for the American Library Association's OITP in Washington, D.C. The ALA announced this just days ago. Click here to read the press release which includes a link to Glazer's paper.

Here's how I break it down:

THE GIVEN
-Libraries hold a vast amount of info
-Often, these collections contain local and/or special info, available nowhere else
-This info is searchable (typically) by title, author and subject only
-This info is searchable (typically, and as stated above) only from within the library*

THE VISION
-It would be good if all of this info was accessible, and searchable
-It would be even better is all this info was accessible, and searchable, from anywhere

THE PROBLEM
-If this info is not made available on line, it will become increasingly 'invisible'**
-Special collections may be at an even higher risk of loss, due to reduced demand over general info
-In their current forms, some special collections are at risk of loss, or decay
-Some items are difficult to convert to digital forms given their age, fragility, or form
-Smaller institutions are especially disadvantaged due to lack of resources

THE PLAN
-Establish a program to digitize collections in public libraries
-Digitize all the info
-Create a single portal through which these collections can be accessed


Easy, right?

So what does all this do for us? Making our collective knowledge, history, memorabilia and records available on line and in a searchable form will put our libraries back in our own hands, allow access to materials that many don't know even exists, and may allow for some of these rare and or historical materials to be linked to other materials, projects, records and data-streams elsewhere. And you know how I love the linkage!

Image a Smithsonian type institution, with a display on hometown parades, with all kinds of old-timey documents and prints to help flesh out the exhibit, all tied into their on line exhibit, with all of the materials cataloged. We've all seen things like that, right. Now imagine another layer, that digs down to the historical collections in your own hometown--right there on the Smithsonian site.--Links to pictures, postcards, advertising, newspaper stories, speeches by the town fathers, at the parades in your own town, from your library. See, it ties these stories to us. Yeah, gimme some of that.

In fact, don't imagine, go to the Library of Congress site, and check out their digital materials collection. There's even a page on their standards for metadata and retrieval protocols. Clicky-click around on there for a few minutes and see for yourself. Go ahead, I'll wait...



Your back, great! Amazing, right?

One of my favorite short stories in a collection I just read by Orson Scott Card, is based on Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. Card's short story takes place, far in the future of mankind, 10,000 years or more. Man's spread across the galaxy is vast, and this collective of human inhabited worlds is what is know as Foundation. spoiler coming Card's story is essentially about the end of Foundation, or more accurately: the beginning of a new, Second Foundation. Built by librarians.

Let me say that again: The Second Foundation, according to Card, is a movement to [re]create a better Foundation for all mankind, by building a better, more interconnected and annotated public library; the basis for a reborn civilization. And there is a physical place where the librarians work, called a library, which is the repository of man's collective history and knowledge, and a workplace for the librarians and scholars, specifically designed to aid in the fruitful and free thought processes, upon which the Second Foundation will be built.

Maybe it is pie-in-the-sky, but I don't think it ever hurts to think big, and then act incrementally. Glazer and the ALA are talking about the first incremental step in this move toward our technologically rich future. There's enough crap on internet; wouldn't it be nice to have the internet enriched with more quality information?

* - In this case, 'within' the library means via the library's catalog system, whether or not the catalog is being searched remotely. This is whats called a 'Hidden Collection'.
** - That is, unused, or at the very least underutilized.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

burnham library marker

The public library in Essex, Massachusetts is named after their local son: Thomas Oliver Hazard Perry Burnham. Who, according to the town's website, was born in Essex in 1814, and during the mid 1800's became a successful and affluent used bookseller & publisher in Boston. In his will he bequeathed $20,000.00 for the building of a town hall and library in Essex. The design, by Frank W. Weston, of Malden, Massachusetts was selected over two others in a blind competition and is representative of the Shingle Style architecture.

The building was apparently describe in the March 1894 issue of The Library Journal:

The interior is finished in antique oak, and the walls are painted in hues of brown and yellow. In the upper story is situated the town-hall proper. It has a seating capacity for 550. There is a stage and a gallery which will allow of entertainments being given there. One-half of the lower floor is devoted to the library, and will accommodate several thousand books.

I've been by the building a number of times; its got a great site looking out over the Essex River flats, and hasn't been messed up yet with any major additions or renovations, altho it is still home to both the town hall and library for this growing New England town.

Friday, June 3, 2011

making logo video etc

Okay, so that happened.

Here's how that went. I'm thinking of the third post on this logo thing, and the second post had a distinctly part-two movie-title thing going on, and this one makes the trilogy right? So being the geek that I am, I put together a little movie-advertising-type image for the post, that I was going to paste in at the beginning of the text. It was a L:3, as in Logo 3. Think Terminator 2 (T2) and Mission Impossible 3 (M:I:3). This little L:3 shows up at the end of the Coming Soon post.

My son saw me drawing this up and after explaining it, he suggested that it should be 3-dimensional. I said "Why? Its fine." and he says it'll be great, and I say, "go ahead."

So he's got my CAD drawing open, and he's drawing the thing up in SketchUp, and extruding it to make it three-dimensional, and I show him how to facet the edges, and fill it in with a metal color...you get the idea. Well, we're spinning it around to look at it, and I remember explaining the Mission Impossible example to him... and we make movies for buildings in the office all the time in SketchUp, sooo... the two of us ended up with the movie-style coming attraction, along with the explosion, in SketchUp.

We exported the movie, and then added the sound track in iMovie, and then uploaded to Blogger, which uses the YouTube format for movies, just as it uses Picasa for images.

Anyway, in other news, American Libraries Direct was nice enough to pick up my blog about the future of libraries and include it in this week's newsletter, which is sent out all around the world. Nearly 1500 people clicked on the link and took a peek at my blog in the last few days since the newsletter came out. Very exciting!

The AL Direct is a great newsletter that I use to stay up to date on the latest library buzz. If you take a look at the newsletter, there is all kinds of great stuff in there. My item is featured in the Actions & Answers section, near the bottom. Thanks to George, and the AL Direct team for including me in the discussion!