Sunday, October 30, 2005

about time for .lib

Picking up a strand from my post about gophering making the Internet neat and orderly, I said that nowadays it is more like messy, random. I can't pretend to have good organizational skills and as such I'm sure I would make a poor cataloguer, but the librarian in me thinks that the web is very poorly catalogued. I think added top-level domains (TLDs), would help. For example, it is about time we got some respect with a .lib domain.

The domain name should mean something, should give a clue. It seems to me that the most important aspect of the information on the Internet is the source, and .lib very clearly identifies the source of the information, just as the .edu and .org domains do. I don't see much in the professional journals regarding this issue and I think it's a shame, as I think it would further the profession and bolster our identity.

Wikipedia (which I will try to post on in the future) has a list of the current top-level domains and I was dumbfounded to see .cat is on the list as a sponsored TLD. .cat is a domain name for websites that promote the Catalan language, spoken in the province of Catalunya in Spain. I have a personal interest, as I studied the language while living in Barcelona. Some of those that I studied with had a problem with the Catalan language, they had come to Spain to hone their Spanish and were surprised that some were unwilling to speak Spanish with them. Because Franco had outlawed the language, it is now fiercely protected. I remember seeing "En CatalĂ " spray painted on shops that only posted signage in Spanish and corrections to signs with poor Catalan were also spray painted. I guess I needn't worry about the Catalan language anymore, as it is the only language to have its very own sponsored TLD! Visca Catalunya!

But I digress, I had never heard of a sponsored TLD before and wonder if the library world could do something similar. Sponsored means some institution must sponsor it (ALA?) and I suppose therein lies the problem, as this would require some cash, no?

I found a 2001 article on the subject and it confirms that money is part of the problem. In 2000, the Calgary Public Library apparently proposed it (which the article says requires shelling out $50,000, are they really rolling in it in Canada?), see the article here.

Is there any group or anyone actively working on making this happen? If we don't push for it, I don't see it happening. If anyone knows anything about this issue and could enlighten me, please comment, I would appreciate it.

digital divide

When we talk about the digital divide, many people think we are talking about groups of people more likely to have access and people less likely to have access. The federal government has dissected that one in a report that most librarians would find interesting and should take a look at here. But in my experience there is also a digital divide among libraries.

I work in a low income community that makes a pitiful stab at providing Internet access. To serve a population of approximately 85,000, our main library offers only six computers with Internet access and Microsoft OS. There are 2 more computers at our small branch. All of these computers are courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. At the main library, there are an additional six computers reserved for research, with access to our subscription databases and some preselected free websites. We offer no remote access for our databases, partly because it is expensive but also because our patrons would largely be unable to take advantage of remote access. We also suffer a Mac divide and a Linux divide, but those are other issues.

A neighboring suburb, with a population of just over 50,000 people (and a decidedly different socioeconomic status) has 48 computers, 19 laptops connections, and wi-fi access. The paradox is, of course, that libraries in affluent areas where patrons are more likely to have computers and Internet access in the home are more likely to have ample computer workstations, wi-fi access, color printers, etc. available for their patrons to use. In other words, those patrons that need the least from their libraries are offered the most. And those that direly need the basics go begging.

Denise E. Agosto took a look at this issue in an article in Progressive Librarian entitled "The Digital Divide & Public Libraries: a first hand-view." Unfortunately, the article is only available by subscription, see citation here. She agrees with me about the disparity between libraries, asserting that "...the digital divide is more than just a question of fairness or convenience. With respect to public libraries, the digital divide means that the people who most need access are the least likely to be able to get it at their local public library." (p. 26) Of her own public library in an affluent suburb, she states: "There are almost always more public computers available than people who want to use them, partly because there are so many computers, but also because almost every member of the community has computer and Internet access at home. And at work. And at school." (p. 26)

Friday, October 21, 2005

book rescue on Belmont Ave.

I took a look at Clare's posting on her CPL memories and promised to post my own. The Portage-Cragin branch on Belmont near Laramie was, and still is, my home branch, about three blocks away from our house on George St. I was a bookworm from an early age, the kind of kid who liked getting books for Christmas and looked forward to the annual library book sale. I forget how much we paid, perhaps .10 cents a book. One year, I went to the sale with some of my sisters and we bought enough to fill two paper grocery bags. We started to cross Belmont to go home when we heard a fire engine. It was racing down Belmont. Panicked, we ran across to get out of the way but the paper bags gave way and our books scattered all over the street. We didn't dare run into the street to retrieve them, paralyzed with fear we could only look on forlornly as the fire engine bore down on our books. It seemed they would meet a bad end when, suddenly, out of nowhere, a woman appeared. She must have been shopping at the Jewel, which is across the street from the library. She went into the street and, working quickly, picked up all the books and threw them into a shopping cart. She returned them to us and, just as quickly as she had come on the scene, disappeared, our hero.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

blogging play-by-play

Getting in under the wire with my weekly blog posting. Procrastination is one of my weak points and I am finding blogging to be no exception, I never get around to writing letters or sending cards either. This week though I have had some welcome diversions as an excuse. Namely, the pennant push by the Sox and the ILA Conference in Peoria.

Having just watched Game 4 of the ALCS, we'll start there. My awareness of blogging prior to this class was practically nil. The pennant push led to my most exciting blogging discovery to date. Stuck at work on one of the nights the Sox were playing the other Sox, I looked around on the computer to see how I could watch it, since I don't usually follow sports through the computer. I was chagrined to find I couldn't watch it or listen to it on the radio through the computer unless I was willing to shell out a few bucks. I settled for the Yahoo Sports version with the page automatically refreshing every 30 seconds. I also found MLB GameChannel which has a graphic of a baseball diamond that updates when something changes but couldn't get it to load.

After the game I was curious to see how quickly the local papers would put up articles about the game and discovered that the Chicago Tribune had Rahula Strohl, a guy in a cubicle stuck at work like me, watching the game and blogging a play-by-play. Hilarious comments came from all over the country, a certain Bartman was commenting quite frequently but didn't seem to be in the Sox corner. The play-by-play was excellent but the bonus was the commentary on the commentary, I always find the sportscasters to be somewhat inane and Strohl and the commenters showed them no mercy. I attempted to post a comment but the board closed before I could get mine up. To see Strohl's blog on tonight's game, click on the Game 4 link in the previous paragraph.

I would never have guessed a blog would be used in that way but, if you read the comments, you see it really worked, it seemed as though all the people following the blog were watching the game together, interacting about plays that had just happened. People are coming up with all sorts of blogging applications and I think we have really only seen the tip of the iceberg.

Okay, now on to library stuff. I had said I wanted to go to Peoria but was regretting the decision on the drive down there very early, say 5:45 a.m. early, on Thursday morning after I had stayed up to watch the Pierzynski controversy game. My library could only afford one night at a hotel so I had to make the most of it and get there at 9:00 a.m. I consider the hotel a step up, since at my previous job as a legal aid counselor whoever had a free place to stay in the conference city got to attend the conference.

I attended some very good sessions. None of them were specifically on technology, though some were offered I had to attend what I thought would be most helpful for me in my position at my library. There was a very interesting session, however, by some foreign librarians who are at the Mortenson Center at the U of I. Presentations were given on customer service innovations in seven foreign countries. A Japanese librarian spoke about patrons using their cell phones to access the library's catalog and said that they see patrons walking along the stacks with their cell phones looking for the books they have pulled up on them. She gave statistics about the prevalence of cell phones capable of accessing the computer in different countries and Japan was ahead of us but I definitely think that younger patrons especially will start to use the library in this way.

Friday, October 07, 2005

the art of web design

To keep harping on the Gopher thing, I found a good quote in an article celebrating Gopher:

"The user-friendly Gopher made the Internet a neat and orderly place, like a library. "

The full article can be had at

Today the size and look of the Internet seem far from neat and orderly, more like messy, it's a navigation jungle out there. One of my class assignments is to design a website and some work I did in another class will be helpful. I was required to design promotional flyers in accordance with the design principles laid out by Robin Williams, see:


Williams asserts that while most people can recognize if design is good or bad, we can't necessarily pick it apart and say why that is so, why one is pleasing to the eye and the other a visual assault. Now when I design flyers for library programs, I have those principles in the back of my head and am able to see my work with new eyes.

There are websites that are neat and orderly and well-designed that also strive to elevate the format to another, artier level. Something that makes a statement. I was hoping we would get to critique a library website for this class because I see so few websites that are truly artful and wanted to showcase the stunner that the Waukegan Public Library has up at It is, I daresay, elegant. Good design usually is understated, almost demure. The site is the opposite of in-your-face and browsing it actually has a calming effect. Even the kids' page is playful without assaulting the senses.