Mystery in the Library

A colleague e-mailed me the other day expressing appreciation for the DLTJ blog in part, and also describing a mystery that she is running in her library:

Blah

Adrian (MN) Police Chief Shawn Langseth gathering evidence in the library “crime”.

Because I am staring out the window, at yet another snow-storm-in-the-works, having just learned that school is called off AGAIN (waiting for the library urchins to pour in), I am trying to get caught up on life outside of a small prairie town.

To combat some serious winter blues (and who doesn’t have them this year?), we have decided to have a just-for-fun “crime spree” at our library. Thus far, the local Chief of Police has no leads (he has graciously agreed to participate and has been kept in the dark as to the identities of the perpetrators). We decided that having a crime spree might be a more interesting way to get people to talk about the library.

Model Language on Library Data Ownership

In September, Carl Grant wrote a blog post on the ownership of library data (“We have a problem… another vendor appearing to need education about exactly WHO owns library data“) that has been rolling around my own thoughts for, well, months. The spark of Carl’s post was a Twitter conversation where a major library system vendor appeared to be taking steps to limit what library/customers can do with their own data.

The Security Implications of Teaching Librarians to Program

Should librarians be learning to how to develop software? This theme has come up in the past few years1 and I think it is a good thing. I once had a boss that told his group “I want you guys to automate yourself out of your job because there are far more interesting things you could be working on.” I think that is an empowering philosophy for staff of any type.

Libraries as Provisioner, Quartermaster, and Curator

Yesterday I heard Catherine Murray-Rust give a keynote at the Georgia Knowledge Repository workshop. She used the phrase, and I think I transcribed this correctly, “provisioning of knowledge” when describing the activities that institutional repositories can do. That phrase reminded me about a recent discussion on a mailing list (I can’t find it now) where people were seeking short definitions of what it is that libraries do. I think I have a new one: in your knowledge journey, libraries are your provisioner, quartermaster, and curator of resources.

Provisioner

pro·vi·sion \prə-ˈvi-zhən\ : to supply with needed materials (as food)1

A Walk Through the Vancouver Public Library

I’m in Vancouver, British Columbia, for the Access 2011 meeting which starts tomorrow. Coming across from the eastern timezone I had to come a day early, so — being a self-confessed library nerd — I checked out the Vancouver Public Library. I’m impressed with not only the physical structure but also the obvious degree of community engagement. The Central Library was very busy on a Tuesday afternoon, and first impressions are that it is beloved by its patrons. Included below are some pictures and some notes; some of the pictures have annotations — you can mouse over the boxes to see them. You can also click on the pictures to go to larger versions on Flickr.

Teaching Search Engine Literacy with A Google A Day

A Google a Day screenshot

Back in April, Google announced its announced its A Google a Day project as “a new daily puzzle that can be solved using your creativity and clever search skills on Google.” For example, today’s question is “This planet’s slow retrograde rotation results in the universe’s longest day. How many Earth days equal one day here?” I solved this puzzle by first searching for “planet retrograde rotation” and found that Venus and Uranus are the planets that rotate counter to other planet rotations in our solar system. Then I searched for “planet rotation rate” and found a nice table in Wikipedia that showed the rotation periods of major objects in our solar system. A quick peek at the history of that wikipedia page shows that it hasn’t been tampered with recently, so I’m pretty sure the answer is 243 — the number of Earth days it takes Venus to complete one full rotation. And, sure enough, that’s the answer! Each question comes with a brief description of how one can find the answer, so if someone gets stuck they can see hints on how to find the answer. And the questions use Google offerings other than just search; for example, the last Saturday’s question uses Google Translate and the one from July 6th uses Google Maps.

When this first came out I thought it was a stunningly good way to demonstrate the kinds of search skills that libraries teach patrons when demonstrating how to use the internet. So I sent a message to the generic service address and started a conversation with a product marketing manager at Google. After some back-and-forth with him and other librarians, it does seem like there is a possibility of a really neat collaboration. To start us off, Google put together the information below on how to embed the question in library websites (see below). On a conference call with other librarians we also talked about possibilities like a categorization of questions (so if you wanted a chemistry question or one that uses Google Street View you would be able to find it quickly) and “guest written” questions based off of real life reference interviews.

Encryption of Patron Data in Modern Integrated Library Systems

“How much effort do you want to spend securing your computer systems? Well, how much do you not want to be in front of a reporter’s microphone if a security breach happens?” I don’t remember the exact words, but that quote strongly resembles something I said to a boss at a previous job. Securing systems is unglamorous detail work. One slip-up plus one persistent (or lucky) attacker means years of dedicated efforts are all for naught as personal information is inadvertently released. See, for example, what happened recently with Sony Online Entertainment’s recent troubles.

Full Text of ARL SPEC Kit 278 on Library Patron Privacy Now Online

Almost a decade ago while at the University of Connecticut I conducted a survey of ARL libraries on their patron privacy practices. The full text of that survey and ARL member responses are available from Google Books and from HathiTrust. Lee Anne George of ARL confirmed via e-mail that permission has been given for full view of SPEC Kits up through 2005 as well as other ARL publications. Lee Anne said that there are over 400 titles now in full view.

The Challenges and Rewards of Open Source

Note!Below is the text of an article I wrote for the LYRASIS member newsletter in which I talk about how a community of users of open source software is as important (if not more so) than the code. I’m reposting it here for the DLTJ readership.



One of the challenging and rewarding aspects of open source software is building and sustaining the community that surrounds the software. It is challenging because people and institutions use open source software for a variety of reasons. For some, having the computer source code means that they are empowered to adapt the software to fit their needs. For others, contributing talent and budget to a communal effort – something arguably aligned with the general ethos of libraries – means that ultimately a better solution is created for their own users. Yet another group sees an open source solution as simply the best tool to solve a particular problem.