Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for November, 2006

Link Responsibly

Posted by lpearle on 26 November 2006

One of the things we librarians do is link to sites that are helpful to our communities. We also like to teach people how to find information that is valid, useful, authoratative. However, as Chris Harris points out, that linking can help create a so-called Google bomb:

Page Rank technology weighs quite heavily the incoming links from other pages. The text that is the link becomes the search term. A classical example of this is the “miserable failure” Google bomb where overwhelming numbers of people linked the text “miserable failure” to the White House page for President Bush. Therefore, when you search on Google for “miserable failure“the first hit is for President Bush [more info]

This wouldn’t be a problem if all we linked to were sites like the Library of Congress’ American Memory Project. The reality is, we also link to sites that are “bad” – examples of things that we want our communities to learn are false sites (extremely biased, inaccurate, whatever). Some are quite funny. Others are not.

Some evil people created a site to spread lies about Martin Luther King, Jr. and then through a combination of their evil practices and many unwitting accomplices, got their site to the top of Google searches for MLK. But we can change this!

Step 1) Do NOT and I mean NEVER, EVER, EVER again link to or type out the url for martin|luther|king|dot|org. Every time you link to it for a lesson on bad websites, you increase its rank on Google. We say it is bad, but Google sees the links as an endorsement.

Step 2) We can take steps to ease the damage that has been done by all of the links by promoting other links for the phrase Martin Luther King Jr. This is done by linking to various pages using “Martin Luther King Jr.” as the link text within your blog posts. Thanks to Tom Hoffman for the code to make this a quick and easy post.

Step 3) Actually do this
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.

We need to use our Voice to influence the Search. If you have a blog where you can post this, please take a few minutes to help out. Thank you. And thank you to Tom Hoffman for getting this started!

Go forth and do likewise!

ETA: If you use Mamma, Yahoo or another search engine, the offending website does not appear in the top links.


Posted in Ethics, Links, School Libraries | 3 Comments »

What age is right?

Posted by lpearle on 21 November 2006

A while ago, Educating Alice posted about The Holocaust for Young Children. Since then, I’ve been mulling the question she poses:

But is this intended child audience developmentally ready to really understand the Holocaust?

I’d venture “no”.

I grew up in a “survivor” community, and my Jewish upbringing was basically God of Abraham-Isaac-Jacob/Masada/Holocaust. With some Hebrew thrown in (prayers and Rocket to Mars). Nothing really about the joy of being Jewish – nothing about the great accomplishments (running away from pogroms does not count). The constant message was “we’re doomed – everyone hates us”. What a way to grow up, right?

Children don’t always understand context. They don’t always understand adult motivations. So giving them books like this isn’t likely to increase understanding between religious groups, nor is it likely to make them aware of the horror that was the Holocaust (or genocide in general). My guess is that the more we dwell on this, the more we force them to “understand” the less they’ll take in at an age when it’s really appropriate. They’ll watch movies like Schindler’s List in an inured state, without reacting the way they’re “supposed” to.

I’m not suggesting that all books for children be happy-laughing-fairy dust type books. Far from it. But let’s not preach at them in hope that they’ll Learn Big Lessons. Let’s let messages creep in “Past Watchful Dragons”.

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Pedagogy | Leave a Comment »

I repeat, "practice, dude!"

Posted by lpearle on 12 November 2006

Nancy White talks about a Time to Experiment. She makes sense. As does this.

Years ago, I became bunk champ at jacks (house rules: passies five, poison eights, Boston backs, two hard and one easy fancy). How’d I do that? Practice. I can type about 90-100wpm. How? Practice. I blog… I know how to download to my iPod… I drive a standard car… all practice.

Yes, it’s a commitment, trying to learn these new “2.0” tools. Yes, it takes time from The Boys and reading. Why, then? It’s my job. Not every tool. Not every tweak. But some tools, some tweaks. When I stop practicing and get comfortable with what I’m doing, it’s time to quit.

Posted in Pedagogy, School Libraries, Techno Geekiness | 2 Comments »

More Things I Hate A Conferences

Posted by lpearle on 12 November 2006

(part three of what I’m sure will be a series)

  • Do not talk down to your audience. Particularly if they’re a bunch of technogeeks – acting surprised that at least one of them is liveblogging, and there’s chat activity, and possibly some VOIP action just means that you lose credibility.
  • On the other hand, assume that someone in the audience is Mr./Ms. Clueless and prepare a handy cheat sheet for them (you’d be surprised how many Big Thinkers still don’t know what RSS is, despite attending several sessions on it). A glossary to be previewed before attending is really great.
  • If you’re doing the One Book/One Conference thing, make sure that everyone knows which edition you want them to read. If a book’s been updated, tell them you want the 2006 edition, not the 2004.
  • Allow more time for cracker-barrel discussions. If it’s a small conference, held in one hotel/conference center, where you start at a group breakfast and end at a group dinner/cocktail party, give them time to relax and talk without it being five minutes in the ladies/mens room!. Otherwise people end up staying up really late and are shot for the next day’s sessions. If it’s a large conference, people have to pick-and-choose what they’ll go to, and not have enough time to compare notes with others.
  • Double check wifi availability. Particularly at a tech-heavy conference, it’s really upsetting when half the people can’t get on/do the work because there’s not enough bandwidth.
  • Presenters, Do not pepper your talk with references to your clients. Do not pimp your latest book. Do not pimp your next conference.

You’ll note that my last rant provoked a response from one of C2’s leaders. I’m not ignoring that, just saving my comments for another post.

Posted in Conferences, Rants | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Go S.L.O.W.

Posted by lpearle on 10 November 2006

People that know me are always amazed that I don’t have a high-speed connection at home. There are times (like the upcoming Winter Break, or this weekend) when it would be handy, but for the most part, I don’t do so much on-line that I need speed.

When I start thinking about ways to get a higher speed at home, it’s usually because I have a lot of work I want to get done. Then a little voice says, “Let’s think about this.”

Let’s think about going faster and getting more done. Sounds good, right? Sounds productive. Sounds responsible. Sounds like I won’t get the most important stuff done: relaxing. Reading. Resting. Playing with The Boys. Being with friends.

And that stops me dead in mid-dial to Optimum (or Verizon or whatever). Because ever since I got mono a few years ago (and let’s not talk about why someone in their 40s got mono, or go over the 2+ years it took to get it out of my system but not really out of my system) I need down time. I need time to relax and think and sleep and read and do all those other slow things. If I don’t, I end up sick. And tired. Or sick and tired. But not healthy, and certainly not able to work to the best of my potential at the one place I do have high speed: MPOW.

There’s a whole slow movement out there… maybe it’s time more of us hopped (slowly, of course) onto that bandwagon and stopped worrying about VOIP and T-1 connections and working way past quitting time.

Posted in Life Related | 3 Comments »

More brain food

Posted by lpearle on 9 November 2006

I’ve been contemplating the definition that my group came up with at the recent SLJ Summit:

How do I make this work at MPOW? How can I work with my tech coordinators, teachers and administration to create this?

Combining this with Joan Williams‘ thoughts makes my head spin – I’ve got ideas, but the road map is still fuzzy. I’ll be looking at others for guidance, and inspiration. The important thing is that I know I can take small steps and get there. Somehow.

Posted in Pedagogy, School Libraries, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

School Libraries, 2.0 and moving onward…

Posted by lpearle on 9 November 2006

We knew going in that this was going to be difficult… there is so much confusion about exactly what School Library 2.0 really is. So, the task for our group is “define the vision.”

Michael Stevens spoke first – I’ve heard him before and he’s usually very inspirational. It’s interesting to hear from the academic/public world at times, but mostly I’m glad he’s here, learning from us!

  • L2.0 is “library service that encourages constant and purposeful change… physical and virtual services… constantly evaluating” – it’s about breaking down barriers
  • some considerations: 1. conversations (between users), 2. blogs can be the voice of the library (as at Anne Arundel and Waterboro), 3. search success, 4. collaboration

David Warlick said that students value Money, Brains and Time (and resent something that’s a WOMBAT (IM slang)).

Doug Achterman reminded us that collaboration is a real world skill, and that we need to figure out how to be part of the digital workspace.

Diane Chen said a lot… I’ll let her blog speak for her.

Then we broke into groups, to discuss the critical elements of SL2.0. What’s amazing to me is that the definition we finally came up with is scaffolded by my group’s critical elements. It’s nice to know that my thinking is right on target.

Posted in Pedagogy, School Libraries | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Reinventing the wheel

Posted by lpearle on 8 November 2006

According to Alan November, empathy is the most important trait for the CEOs of tomorrow. Hasn’t he ever heard of, or read, Carol Gilligan‘s Making Connections? We knew this stuff ages ago: the ethic of care is critical to a healthy society.

Posted in Conferences, Ethics, School Libraries | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »


Posted by lpearle on 8 November 2006

(aka, “what I’m trying to get my head around right now”)

Wow. Just… wow.

Joan Frye Williams is one of the most inspirational speakers I’ve heard in a long time. Why? Because she was practical. She started out by stating that not all of us can do/be Library 2.0, that not all of the SL2.0 “cool tools” will work in every environment. However, she did give us some thoughts to help us revision what we do, within whatever limitations we have. As she so bluntly put it, “we’re always painting utopian pictures of 2.0 ideas… I’m going to focus on reality”.

So, what’s reality? Reality is context. What context do you see yourself in? What context do your students see you in?

Innovation is no longer starting at the top, it’s “trickle up”; with this comes many ways to “get it right”. That’s right, folks: there are multiple choices, we’re not a monoculture.

Then she told us the questions that students will ask when they think about the library. We need to think about them as we rethink our service to our community.

Question One: Is this my kind of place?

Often, the answer is based on past experience, on public perceptions. We need to address this. But how?

  • Trumpet our “green” practices. Students today are eco-conscious – they know that not all technologies are computer technologies. Tell them about the recycled paper in the copier… trumpet your energy saving techniques. Let them know that this is something you care about, too.
  • Make sure you’re well-equiped with both staff and wireless. Remember, to them, information = technology.
  • Williams encouraged us to “practice, dude!”. There are no digital natives, no digital immigrants. When you whine about not knowing/understanding/getting something, you’re losing ground with students: you ain’t got no street cred, no reliability. “We are in a culture of mastery: and we need to acknowledge that it’s difficult to be a novice again and again and again and again…
  • Can I try new things? Is the library simply a book place, or do we offer book arts? multi-media (both doing and watching)? new technologies? In other words, is the library an idea factory? Students want to get, apply and learn in one place (NB: teachers don’t think of us as a container, so we have to change that)
  • What does it look like? We’re talking furnishing here. Is it comfortable? Well-lit? Is there space for lounging and space for collaboration?
  • Does it emphasize the pleasure of learning? Start thinking in their terms – don’t use words like “Bibliographies” and “Pathfinders”, try “Easter Eggs” and “Cheat Codes”. Remember: you are the level keeper in SchoolQuest.

Question Two: Will I succeed?

  • They want an experience that does not require an assist; we need to create an environment that allows them to succeed on their own.
  • Let them fail on their own terms. Become a candy store of ideas and data, and let them in to play and learn.
  • Create simplified wayfinding tools: reduce initial choice and clutter, give situational directions, use natural language (what does “bound periodicals” mean to them?!), prepackage tips/shortcuts/FAQ (and call them that!)
  • Remember, our sense of “enoughness” is different from theirs. While we may want them to have every possible resource, they may not feel that same need.
  • Reduce the number of directional questions (“can I help you?” “have you tried this resource?”) and let them figure out what they want/need with the tools we provide – they’ll come to us when they need our help. Act as a service “bookend”: get them started, then circle back later.
  • Merchandize the collection. The best part of the book is not the spine.
  • Consider creating “information neighborhoods
  • Best sign at a reference desk: “Homework Insurance”

Question Three: Does this intergrate with the rest of my online life?

  • We need to deeply engage/mesh with the rest of the electronic world. Libraries are part of an open information system: information is no longer scarce, it is ubiquitous.
  • There is nothing that we do that search engines can’t do better (OCLC survey) so… we need to become the activity, not the container. “Put the hay out where the goats are.”
  • Talk about “Extreme Googling”, or create a library toolbar
  • Does your library have a wikipedia entry? a Flikr account? What about podcasting booktalks or poetry slams?
  • Students have “continuous partial attention”, so find ways to engage at least part of their brain – don’t worry about all of it.

Question Four: Am I allowed to participate?

Students want to FUSE (Find, Use, Share and Expand – a great way to teach the research process!). How do we allow them to do this?

  • Find recommender systems like Movielens. Users trust personal recommendations.
  • Mash-ups need to be shared.
  • What can we do easily? Allow students to review; ask them to help create folksonomies; get input from student discussion groups.

The big takeaway: Think like a student: look for new ways to add value

Posted in Pedagogy, School Libraries, Techno Geekiness | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Prescient or Curmudgeon?

Posted by lpearle on 8 November 2006

Bill Joy, at the The Aspen Ideas Festival:

Bill Joy on the Internet and education

Joy, the cofounder of Sun Microsystems, dismissed the suggestion that the online communities formed around Internet games and LiveJournal pages could provide an educational boost for America’s young people.

This all … sounds like a gigantic waste of time. If I was competing with the United States, I would love to have the students I was competing with spending their time on this kind of crap … [P]eople are fooling themselves that they’re being creative in these spaces … [T]he standard of creativity in the world, to be competitive and be a great designer, is very hard: you have to go to school; you have to apprentice; you have to do hard things. It’s not about, your friends like something you did. So I think this is setting a false expectation: you can create your own island and people come to it in a video game … and I don’t see any correlation between that and what it’s gonna take to be a designer and have a skill set to succeed in the world. So I go back to what I said before: we’re amusing ourselves to death; there are good uses of this technology, and I don’t see this as a good use of the technology …

[T]he real problem is, by democratizing speech and the ability to post, we’ve lost the gradation for quality. The gradation of quality was always based on the fact that words had weight—it cost money to move them around. So there was back pressure against … junk …

[U]ltimately, not everyone can have a million readers, because all the readers have run out of time. So it’s a false promise to people, that they can get the big audience. Because in the end—once [you’ve] gotten to the years when you’ve got a job, you’ve gotta raise your kids—you’re not gonna have time for this.

(from The Atlantic Monthlylogin required)

At NYSAIS, I’ll be hearing from Will Richardson. He doesn’t agree with Mr. Joy. I wonder if he’s thought about it from this perspective. I know it’s one of the things that worries me.

Posted in Conferences, Pedagogy | Tagged: | 1 Comment »