Friday, September 30, 2011

accessibility article

I wrote an article for Library Journal's Library By Design supplement: its packaged with the magazine 4 times a year, so this was the fall issue.

The process was fun: I sent in an article about providing access for all, in the public library, and how complicated it can be to that do in an historic library. I worked with an editor who asked me to do a re-write to include an example of one of our building projects, so I chose the Haston Free Public Library in North Brookfield, MA.

I won't get into the nitty-gritty here, go read the article, yo!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

lughnasadh

The fatted flesh of summer,
Wrought of Lugh's love for Earth,
Hangs gravid in festooned packages
-- and shines.

Waning summer winds
Tumble clouds across the sky,
Laden with the lifeblood of the wood,
-- they cry.

The sacrifice of flesh now made,
The trees don fiery hoods,
Draw their lifeblood deep within,
And harden their bones of wood.

Rich is the feast of hill and field,
Lain upon Lughnasadh Earth.
Within the fullness of life she's borne,
The seeds of her own rebirth.

Worn from the test, with nodding smile,
She lies among trees.
The rains toil in their courses deep,
And deliver her to the sea.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

art of war

Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War over 2000 years ago; and its still kicking ass today. Master Sun is considered one of the ancient Tao masters, and a lot of what he says is still used today by practitioners of war, and any other person or group in conflict. I read the soft cover version of The Art of War, translated by Thomas Cleary, and published by Shambhala Publications out of Boston.

I thought Cleary did a job job of laying the groundwork for me about Sun Tzu, The Art of War and the Tao, so that I could understand the significance of what I was reading, in the introduction. Now I won't fool with you and say that the introduction was an easy read--it was a little long at 40 pages or so--but it was interesting. One of the things Cleary mentions is that their are different ways to translate ancient Chinese, and that he tried to translate it from the perspective of the Tao.

He has also included translations of the multitude of commentary added to the work over the centuries, by other Tao-types dudes, generals, and thinkers. These comments are sometimes handy to help understand what Master Sun was trying to get at. But other times, it seems pretty clear that my guess was a good as theirs, or worse; they didn't have much to say at all. And occasionally, the commentary sounded like a bunch of yes men clucking around their boss, trying to sound smart. Here's what I mean. Master Sun would give some sage advice to young wannbe generals, trying to make their way in the world and so, say he says something like:

Master Sun
Don't take any wooden nickles.

Fine, right? Okay I get it, its a dumb example, not quite sure what it has to do with kicking some ass, but sounds reasonable. Then the yes men chime in and say stuff like:

Du Mu
Wooden means emptiness, and nickle means fullness.

Meng She
Emptiness is bad. Fullness is good.

Jia Lin
It is better to have fullness, than emptiness.

Wang Xi
If you are bad, and your enemy is good, do not fight.

Cao Cao
You will loose.

Zero Wing
All your base are belong to us.

You see what I'm saying? Apologies to the commentators, whose fine names I slandered, but for real: some of the comments were just about that helpful. Now, maybe its because I don't understand the Way, and this is the first book I've read about the Tao, but some of the comments just didn't seem to add much to the discussion. I would be interested in re-reading this translation without the comments. Maybe Shambhala should do a version that has both. The full text, without the comments, can't take up more that 40 or 50 pages, and could be followed by the full version with the yes-men commentary.

Check it out, full text in English and Chinese. Translation by Lionel Giles (1910). no commentary

Okay, so that was a hoot. But seriously, I liked it. I was amazed at the thought that went into this 2000 years ago. Thanks for the book loan Tom!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

geek

I am a geek. I'm not ashamed. I geek out about a lot of things: technology, science, etymology, philately, bookmarks, books, and libraries, to name a few.

But I'm not alone, especially in this last one. Now there is geekthelibrary.org. From their web site:

Geek\Verb. 1: To love, to enjoy, to celebrate, to have an intense passion for. 2: To express interest in. 3: To possess a large amount of knowledge in. 4: To promote.

‘Geek the Library’ is a community-based public awareness campaign designed to highlight the vital role of public libraries in today’s challenging environment and raise awareness about the critical funding issues public libraries face.

What's not to love about that. The campaign has a bunch of materials you can purchase, or download to get your library involved. And you can even input what you geek on their site, like I did (that's the image right there, man! woo hoo, I'm somebody now!)

Backers of this thing are OCLC, funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

What do you geek?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

the next librarian

Where do we see our libraries fitting into our future? Will they be totally virtual, existing somewhere out there in the cloud, searchable and accessible to all, as some folks envision? Or will they still be mostly brick-and-mortar places that people will visit, to review physical, digital and metadata, and interact with others in the community as well as library professionals?

Image: Diffusion spectrum image shows brain wiring in a healthy human adult. The thread-like structures are nerve bundles, each containing hundreds of thousands of nerve fibers. - Van J. Wedeen, M.D., MGH/Harvard U.

As I speculated in another post not too long ago, where they really end up is up to us. But that's true only as much as we, as patrons of the public library, use our influence to direct our libraries toward the future we want. I believe that our future library--at least for the foreseeable future--will be a combination of the two models mentioned above. Our demand for increasingly advanced technology, in access and search-ability, can provide the guidance to get us there, but someone needs to drive the bus.

That's where librarians come in.

So what kind of person will the Next Librarian be? Librarian's themselves are answering that question as they strive to keep pace with the changing landscape of information technology. And this is happening around us right now!

When the Jones Library in Amherst, Massachusetts needed a new librarian a few months ago, they made their selection process open and democratic; the public got to chime in on who their librarian would be. The two final candidates were interviewed in public, and both were asked to make a public presentation at the library. The topic: Do We Still Need Libraries Today? Aren't Community Centers, With Computers, Enough? In her presentation, successful librarian Sharon Sharry gives many examples of the kinds of things modern libraries can provide: from internet search assistance, to a "technology petting zoo" that helps patrons learn about and interact with new technologies. In her comparison of the library to the traditional community center, Sharry says: "the library of today is better positioned to guide our patrons through an ever more complicated system of information." Damn straight.

In their talk, titled "In the Spirit of Benjamin Franklin" given at the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) 2011 Conference in Philadelphia, Andy Burkhardt, Catherine R. Johnson and Carissa Tomlinson lay out 13 virtues of the next-gen librarian. The first one: "Courage—Act not from fear, but in spite of it..." The second is Flexibility: "Libraries, education, and the nature of information are constantly changing. Next-gen librarians are able to scan the horizon and identify trends and impending change." The Next librarian won't always have all 13 virtues, but the list is a good start for what to be aware of as we move forward.

Dan Messer, the Cyberpunk Librarian, said this in a recent post: "...I found a video about grocery shopping in South Korea and by the time it was over, I had an idea for library and circulation outreach." Awesome! These are the kind of people I'm talking about. Is Dan Messer Next? Yes. What he was talking about by the way, are QR Codes, and using them to put books and other materials on your library hold list with your smart phone. Scan 'em at the bookstore, yo. Off a poster in the subway, video, or online. Or, right out of the New Yorker Sunday Book Review! hint

In her new book, "Working in the Virtual Stacks: The New Library and Information Science" Laura Townsend Kane covers topics like "Librarians as Technology Gurus and Social Networkers" and "Librarians as Teachers and Community Liaisons." Kane talks about disintermediation and what it means to librarians and researcher alike. Disintermediation in this context means cutting out the middleman (in other words, doing the research yourself, via Google, or some other thing.) The Next Librarian is a tech savvy guru and may be a subject specialist, or can connect you to one. While disintermediation gives you 1.2 million hits in 1.4 seconds, a subject specialist can tell you what 4 websites, publications or databases you should use for your research paper, and explain to you why you can trust them. That's intermediation, baby!

You don't want to go it alone bunkie, its scary out there. You don't want to waste your time, or worse, get left behind. What you need, friend, is a librarian.

You need the Next Librarian.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

the inventer

I ran across this little book in an antique shop in Yarmouth last week. Its got a beautiful feel in the hand, and a little red ribbon bound bookmark. Then I find that its got a raised seal on the title page indicating that it comes from the Mark Skinner Library in Manchester, Vermont; a building I have recently complete a study on, and am now engaged to design a replacement building for, as they've outgrown their building and their property. So that cinched the deal.

When I got this book home, I found that it was signed and numbered by the author. This brought me back to the title page and I find that this book was written, illustrated, printed and bound by the author at the Diamond Hill Press in Brandon, Vermont. The Inventer is the second book in the Beanville series, which I understand are collectable.

The Inventer, by Philip Sutherland, is a chapter book, so I read it in an afternoon. The writing is folksy and warm, and some of the feelings the author attributes to his child characters walk the line between 'thoughtful for this age group' and 'do ten-year-olds really think like that?' The illustrations appear to be linoleum block prints, and fill full pages within the body of the book. The illustrations are printed in a deeps sepia brown, but they aren't plates so I wonder if the the text is also the same deep brown, but just isn't as obvious.

Sutherland also does a great job of setting the tone and the mood, of a quiet New England town, in the first weeks of of summer vacation. Its so sleepy, that when the excitement begins, its almost seems like too much for this quiet town to handle.

The story was fun, and I can see that Beanville could be rich with stories to fill a series of these beautiful little volumes. I'll keep my eye out for another, but not so much for the story, but for the whole package. Its clear that Sutherland loves books, loves stories, and enjoys the craft that goes into creating them from beginning to end.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

i, robot

Me, Robot? I don't know, maybe its a Roman numeral one. I didn't find any compelling evidence for a first person reference to robots, unless Isaac Asimov is saying that he's a robot, or that we're ALL robots, and that robots are essentially like us. OR maybe he's saying that robots are man's offspring. Our Singularity-esque next generation. Yeah, maybe that's its. Asimov is probably smarter than Kurzweil anyway, 'mIright?

Okay, so I guess we covered the title. Onward!

I read I, Robot years ago--its safe to say decades ago--and I didn't remember all of the details, and some of the stories I didn't remember at all. I, Robot, like Foundation, is a series of short stories, when read together, make a up a whole. The short stories are set as a series of anecdotes told by the leading robopsychologist working for US Robot & Mechanical Men Corporation, to a young reporter who has come to see her late in her career. She's all: robots are awesome, but they're tricky, tricky.

I'm not really sure how you get the Will Smith movie* from a few years back after reading this, other than to say that they did rip off some of that tricky behavior that robots exhibit in these stories, and put it to use in different ways to move the story of the movie. Maybe 'inspired by the book' would have been a better way to put it.

And okay, here's the last thing: this copy was full of typos. So I'm not sure what the deal is, but I don't remember seeing any in the first part of this volume when I was reading Foundation, but there were some screw ups in I, Robot. Maybe its was originally released with the mistakes and this copy is being true the original? Sounds lame. I mean, one typographical error in a printed book is odd; I, Robot had like three! The word 'no' was used instead of 'not' and a whole paragraph was tacked on to the end of a scene that should have been the first paragraph in the next scene, after the double carriage return. I don't remember the others. Not a big deal, but as a reader, I end up tripping out of the zone. [pop!]

All in all, I liked it and I'm glad I read it again. Thanks for the book loan Tom!

* IMDB says there is a sequel in the works for 2015.

Friday, September 2, 2011

foundation

Asimov knows how to do it! I really enjoyed Foundation. Its old-school, soft science fiction with a thoughtful construction and a really readable (if dated) writing style. First off, by setting Foundation SOOOOooo FAR into the future, Asimov avoids the pitfall of having a well loved story catch up to its future time setting. I, Robot, which I'm re-reading now for example, takes place in the 1980s through 2058. Oops! No walking and talking robots by 1996, unfortunately.

Anyway, back to Foundation. I laid out some of the basics in a recent post, based on a short story I read by Orson Scott Card, which takes place in the Foundation Universe. I don't know what the other Foundation stories are like, but I can tell you that Asimov leaves plenty of room in this universe for story telling. This first book is really a series of related short stories, that by themselves are interesting, but when strung together chronologically as they are, tell the story of what Foundation is, and the mechanics of how it works.

How it works is based on something called psychohistory, which isn't explained in a while lot of detail, but who needs it, right?

The main characters are robust, thoughtful and full of life, while supporting characters are just that. If the stories lasted a bit longer, their personalities might have developed a bit more too, but because they aren't any longer, Asimov seems to have focused on the main character in each book, and let the others recede.

I'm looking forward to the next installment, and the good news is, I don't need to hurry. No cliffhangers here. Read this book.