“Orwellian” Kindle Deletions: Legitimate Copyright Kerfuffle, Giant Yawn, or Teachable Moment?

Last week, Amazon remotely deleted copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from users’ Kindles.  As it turns out, the ebook publisher selling the editions didn’t actually own the rights for these works.  As one could imagine, the blogospheric reaction to this event has been a mixture of smirking irony, outrage, confusion, and lots of I-told-you-so.  (See the first link above for an excellent overview of the reaction.)

I had a quick succession of thoughts while reading about the deletions:

  • ZOMG!  Jeff Bezos is stealing your stuff!
  • Um, you bought an unauthorized ebook from a shady publisher.  Why are you so surprised?
  • Wait, how were you supposed to know the publisher was shady?
  • Huh, remote deletion wasn’t in the terms of service.  But who reads those anyway?
  • How can consumers avoid this in the future?

Any ideas for how to address this event with our users?  It seems like a great opportunity to talk about DRM, reading legalese before you buy/agree, copyright terms, applying information literacy beyond books, etc.

And as librarians, how can we use news items like this to our advantage?  What knowledge and services do we provide that could be particularly relevant in situations like this?

transforming libraries

The latest issue of Library Journal featured an article about Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm’s proposal to eliminate the Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries. This would involve transferring most Library of Michigan functions to the Department of Education, abolishing the position of State Librarian, and downgrading library services, such as circulation and interlibrary loan – all in the hopes of saving a few million dollars.

Currently, I work at an academic library and budget concerns have been the main topic of conversation and meeting agendas for nearly a year. Last month, we began planning a major restructuring of the university libraries in response to our provost’s charge to create innovative resources and services that will transform and position the library as the center of the university. So far, we’ve brainstormed some interesting ideas that we hope to begin implementing in the near future.

I’m curious to hear about the challenges and opportunities facing other librarians with regard to budgets. How are the libraries you are associated with dealing with the pressure to justify operating costs and emphasize the importance of library resources and services in a climate that, at times, seems eager to view libraries as an unnecessary luxury?

Information Literacy vs. Crap Detection

My good friends at Derivative Image have a short overview of Howard Rheingold’s “Crap Detection 101,” including a mention of the fact that librarians aren’t listed as a valuable “crap detection” tool.

As librarians, how do we promote the value of our services–particularly the ability to teach skills like info/visual literacy? Well, attention to terminology might be a first step. The average student (and even some faculty members) has no idea what “information literacy” means, but we can certainly all understand a rather colorful term like “crap detection.”

Other ideas? Comment away!

Headed to Chicago for ALA?

Looking for museums, galleries, music, theater, or architecture?  Check out the ArtsGuide to Chicago, produced by our colleagues in the ACRL Arts Section

Make you conference experience enjoyable and productive: “Five Tips for a Better Conference Experience,” courtesy of ACRLog

Need to find restaurants, coffee shops, a good bar, a free show, or pretty much anything else?  The Chicago Reader or NFT Chicago can get you there.

Have tips for surviving ALA Annual?  A favorite spot in the Chi?  Let us know in the comments!

Mobile Technologies

At my institution, we’re doing a fair amount of thinking about mobile technologies. We have a text-a-librarian service, and a really nice iphone interface for the library catalog. But as we think towards a future of Palm PREs and 3G networks, I can’t help but wonder… is the world of art librarianship ready? Try, for example, searching ARTstor on a mobile device (or even a netbook). Even the Kindle is not particularly suited toward viewing images (let alone *using* those images in a research context).

So… what do you think? Where do we need to go in order to be ready for a mobile research world? Are there examples that we could follow? Are there things that we should push for as a profession? I’d love to hear other thoughts.

Professional Development

If there’s one sure thing in life – it’s change. As librarians, we must be quick to adjust to the changing information needs of library users, which can include adapting our collections, service models, and the physical space of the library. Many libraries are undergoing a time of intense and rapid changes spurred on by shrinking budgets and increased numbers of users. A recent report on the Today Show brought attention to this.

So, how can librarians stay one step ahead and not only adapt to change but also anticipate and plan for it? One way to accomplish this is through continuous professional development. It’s not enough to get the job (see last week’s post on Surviving the Presentation for tips on successful interviewing). To be able to understand the factors that affect libraries, librarians, and our users it’s important to engage in self-assessment, both personally and professionally, and set goals for new skills and responsibilities you would like to acquire. Then, develop a plan for how and when you will obtain these goals. Continuing education is one element of professional development but there may also be informal, community-based groups that provide learning and networking opportunities.

The current budget crisis can make professional development feel like a dream but there are many opportunities for professional development within your organization as well. Job shadowing, attending staff meetings, and keeping in touch with your colleagues and offering to participate in projects they are working on are all excellent ways to gain professional experience and increase your knowledge.

Do you have suggestions of opportunites for professional development? Please share your ideas!

Surviving the Presentation

For our discussion topic this week, I’d like to tackle an issue that’s likely on the minds of many ArLiSNAPers these days: giving an effective presentation during a job interview.

I work at the University of Michigan Library, and we’re currently in the process of filling a large number of librarian positions.  For nearly all of the positions, a presentation is a required part of the interview process.  I’ve spent the last few weeks going to a staggering number of candidate presentations.  I’ve seen bad ones, good ones, and great ones.  Here are a few thoughts I’d like to share:

  1. Even if you’re not on the job market, go to these presentations anyway.  They’re often open to library staff or other members of the community, and they can give you a sense of what to expect.  Even if they’re for positions outside of your subject area, you can still gain valuable tips for success.
  2. If you’re the candidate, try to find out beforehand where you’ll be giving the talk, who will be there, what technology will be available, etc.  Knowing these things up front can help make your presentation better by allowing you to tailor it to your audience and venue.
  3. Employers often give you a topic to address.  If you don’t understand what you’re being asked to talk about (for example, the topic is long, rambling, and appears to have been picked by a large committee with conflicting interests), don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
  4. While keeping this topic in mind, think about the purpose of the presentation.  Do they want you to demonstrate your skill as an instructor?  Knowledge of particular resources?  Critical thinking about an issue that’s important to the profession?  Use this thought exercise as a way to guide your choice of presentation style and content.
  5. If you’ll be using PowerPoint, Keynote, or other presentation software, take some time to look at the work of Edward Tufte, particularly The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint.  Think about how you can avoid presenting your audience with nothing but bullet points and copious amounts of text.  We are art librarians, after all!
  6. If you’ll be demonstrating a particular resource (particularly electronic resources like ARTstor, the Avery Index, an OPAC, etc.), make sure you know it extremely well, including all of its potential quirks.  Be prepared to soldier on (while remaining calm!) if something goes wrong.
  7. Practice your presentation!  Get feedback from peers, mentors, supervisors, etc.  Practice some more!
  8. Be prepared for at least one completely off the wall question during the Q&A afterward.  Don’t let it rattle you.  The same goes for hard questions you’re not able to answer.  Don’t be afraid to say, “Can I think about that for a minute?”
  9. Remember that the presentation is only one part of the much larger interview process.  Don’t limit your prep work to the presentation and then completely blow it on the search committee interview.
  10. Let your personality show through!  You’re funny, personable, and a great conversationalist, right?  Then don’t act like a robot when you get up in front of the audience.

Have other questions or advice about surviving the presentation?  Comment away!

May I have your (un)divided attention?

There have been a few recent items about the scarcity of attention in our hectic lives full of texting, social networking, “ambient awareness,” and “digital intimacy.”  Two articles stand out as having interesting implications for libraries and librarians: “Is Google Making Us Stupid” (Nicholas Carr, Atlantic Monthly) and “In Defense of Distraction” (Sam Anderson, New York Magazine).

In his discussion of Google’s effect on our behavior, Carr asks how the internet is changing the ways we think and read. Is online reading changing the way we approach other forms of text? Carr says yes, and laments what he sees as the loss of “deep reading” and “deep thinking”–extended, critical engagement with texts, our own thoughts, other people, etc.:

What Taylor did for the work of the hand, Google is doing for the work of the mind.

Incidentally, I don’t think Carr is saying that Google is solely responsible for this change. Rather, I think he’s using “Google” as a stand-in for a much larger shift in internet usage and behavior.

Anderson’s defense of overstimulation makes an interesting read alongside Carr’s Atlantic Monthly piece. Anderson notes that we are experiencing a “poverty of attention,” and the conventional wisdom seems to be:

Google is making us stupid, multitasking is draining our souls, and the “dumbest generation” is leading us into a “dark age” of bookless “power browsing… We are, in short, terminally distracted. And distracted, the alarmists will remind you, was once a synonym for insane.

Anderson points out that there’s little we can do to turn back the clock. Instead, he’d like to know how we can adapt to this new reality. Anderson ends the piece by noting that despite widespread disdain for the divided attention of “digital natives,” their skill at multitasking could be recognized as something new and valuable that could be harnessed for good.

Some of the questions that came up for me while reading these two pieces…

  • How do you see the scarcity of attention affecting our interactions with users?
  • How does the realization that attention may be the scarcest of resources change the kinds of collections and services librarians provide?
  • How do you communicate effectively with your users knowing that they are in a near-constant state of information overload?
  • How have you seen users’ information-seeking behavior and demonstrated information literacy skills change in this world of attention scarcity?

Have thoughts? Let’s duke it out in the comments.

Integrating Library Instruction into the Curriculum

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about library instruction. The art history department at my university has invited me to help develop a new course, tentatively titled “Information Technology for the Art Historian.” The course will focus on a variety of skills that are needed to be successful academically, such as conducting research, acquiring and using images, preparing presentations, and writing research papers. I’m really excited about this opportunity to include the library in the art history curriculum!

There seems to be a trend toward integrating library instruction in the curriculum, rather than the more traditional one-shot approach to library instruction. At the recent ARLIS/NA conference, I attended a discussion group that focused on making library instruction an integral part of student’s educational experience. Some suggestions included, using assessment tools such as Survey Monkey for pre-and post-testing during library instruction, incorporating games and group-work, and using visual mapping/mind mapping to teach the research process.

I’m wondering what other tips and tricks librarians can try to make the research process fun and interesting for students, especially in a semester-long course. Has your library integrated library instruction into course curriculum or developed a course (either required or for extra credit) for students at your institution? If so, what challenges and successes have you experienced?

Twitter in the (Art) Library

As I’m sure we’ve all heard, Twitter is The Next Big Thing. This micro-blogging site allows you to post 140-charater messages to your “followers” and in turn follow the “tweets” of others.

The New York Times has published several great pieces about Twitter in the last few weeks:

After reading all that, I’m sure you’re asking how this shiny new Web 2.0 tool could become a Library 2.0 tool. Here are a few examples of twittering libraries:

So what do you think? What can art, architecture, and visual resources libraries do with Twitter that perhaps hasn’t been possible before? How does tweeting support our basic mission(s)? Know of a particularly good example of libraries or librarians using Twitter? Let’s talk about it (and more) in the comments below.