Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ranganathan Online!

It is a happy, happy day for me. My #1 hero and professional idol in the library field is on-line and inching nearer the position of respect and recognition that he deserves. Ranganathan revolutionized the institution of the library in India in the 1930s with his Five Laws of Library Science:
  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every reader his or her book.
  3. Every book its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader.
  5. A library is a growing organism.

I was researching S.R. Ranganathan's work this past fall, and checked out his Five Laws of Library Science (1931). Understandably, considering its age, but unfortunately, considering its value, the copy I got from my college library was falling apart, having very brittle pages and no surviving binding. Now it has been digitized courtesy of the University of Arizona's Digital Library of Information Science and Technology and the introduction and chapter 1 are already available as pdfs at http://dlist.sir.arizona.edu/1220/.

If you want to learn a little more about the library legend himself, try this site: http://www.garfield.library.upenn.edu/essays/v7p037y1984.pdf

Or if you want to see how his laws apply to technology-based resources, try: http://www.webology.ir/2004/v1n2/a8.html

Who's Afraid of My Space?

Everyone in the field of education, it seems at the moment. Parents are worried about what their teens are posting and who else is seeing it. Teens are lying. Sexual predators are lying in wait. Teachers are split - some think it's the devils work, other are using it to check up on their students. The government is trying to ban it. Librarians are signing on in droves, putting up personal pages, library pages, you name it. It seems like good practice to go where the teens are and try to win their patronage by any means available. But what is really going on with My Space - is is being typecast as the newest technological villain or is it really an unsafe space? Or, perhaps more importantly, is it less safe than the rest of the world? If so, does that make banning an acceptable answer.

This month the house held hearings on the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA). It seems social software providers like Friendster and MySpace are teeming with pedophiles, drug dealers, and numerous other permutations on the theme of law-breaker/pervert. If DOPA is approved, schools and libraries that receive federal funds will have to deny access to such pages to minors, as well as other sites that allow users to create personal webpages or offer other forms of communication such as e-mail. It's not hard to see where this could go. Read up more on various views of this act at ALA News: http://www.ala.org/ala/alonline/currentnews/newsarchive/2006abc/july2006a/dopahearings.htm

Like other forms of censorship, this one will hit hardest those who cannot buy their ways around it. If you have a computer at home, the sky's the limit. If you go to a school that doesn't get federal funds, I guess it will be up to your state, district, principal, or PTA to decide how high the risk is. Personally, I use both of the vilified programs to keep in touch with people living at a distance, find old friends from college, and post my latest news. Out of all the friends I have that use similar spaces, none of them are up to sinister activities. I do, however, have a friend who has been suspended from work without pay for the last month over information on his MySpace page related to privacy settings. Are we coming up on another round of witch hunts in which tech-savvy individuals will have their every move scrutinized?

Again, who will this act hurt the worst? The teens that caused the explosion in popularity of these sites. Young people who are socially or physically isolated (such as those who are lgbtq or live in rural areas) and are seeking connections with like-minded individuals they may not otherwise have access to. People like my friend who value their privacy and want to publish information for friends without putting it on display for the whole world. Librarians like me who believe the best way to provide service is to go where the teens are.

Here is what my professional organization, YALSA, has to say about my space, along with some good reading suggestions and lots of examples of positive ways in which social software is being used with and by young people:
http://www.leonline.com/yalsa/dopa_teens_social_networking.pdf

Personally, I support the use of technology in education, and I think social software is some of the most exciting new technology available. If you agree, please join me in talking this up to friends, family and colleagues. Also, join me in signing the Friends of My Space's "Save Your Space" petition.
http://www.friendsofmyspace.com/

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Minneapolis Central Library

When the new Minneapolis Central Library opened on May 20, it was a zoo. At my volunteer training a week before that, it was hard to believe that it would be up and running in seven short days. But it was, and Minnesotan turned out in droves to enjoy the party on Nicollet Mall, explore the new facility, and check out books. My third visit found the library busy with patrons, but gave me as bit more freedom to explore and compile a list of some of this new community center's best features:

From the Top Down:

  1. Looking over the balcony at "Ripple Effect," the stunning floor that depicts the water that is so important to Minnesota's identity.
  2. "The Power of. . ." 4th floor fireplace with it's tiled mural, and the view over downtown beyond.
  3. Special Collections entrance arch of beautifully carved wood transported from the original library of 1889.
  4. 3rd floor Piano Rooms with grand pianos, available for public use for free!
  5. Picture files for fun browsing - collections of1970s to much older pictures on alphabetical topics from bubbles to buses.
  6. Best seating in the house at Emma B. Howe Teen Central - silver bean bag chair positioned to gaze out at the 2nd floor Green Roof.
  7. Style lessons from Teen Central - silver dry-erase walls in the meeting room and read and black Japanese ash shelving.
  8. "sMOTHer inFLAME" 1st floor fireplace, a thought provoking work on censorship playing with the element of fire.
  9. Giant dragonfly guides leading the way through the Children's Library, a space defined in shape-and-color-plays.
  10. The building exterior, a glass and stone interpretation of Minnesota's natural beauty - the four designs adorning the windows on each side of the building should not be overlooked.

Minneapolis Central - worth the wait and raising the bar for the library as a physical space. And don't forget to all hail Minerva, goddess of wisdom, watching over three downtown libraries for over 100 years.