By Elizabeth Wroten
On 28, Dec 2012 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten
These links have nothing to do with the holidays except for the fact that this post is published between Christmas and New Years. Sorry to disappoint.
Google Search: I found this one Stephen’s Lighthouse. It is a set of Google search tips for students. I know kids like to think they are good at finding stuff on the Internet. And they are. What they find just isn’t always relevant. I love ridiculous videos as much as the next person, but these tips can help them find what they really need.
In keeping with Google Search, I’m not sure if I’ve shared this before, but Google has premade lesson plans for teaching search techniques to a range of age and skill levels.
Library/-ian Stereotypes: A great infographic about what librarians actually do and what libraries can do for you. I know we all know how important librarians and libraries are, but sometimes the public forgets or doesn’t know. From eBook Friendly via Stephen’s Lighthouse (of course).
Library Extension for Chrome: There is a nifty little extension for Chrome that will tell you if an item you are looking at on Amazon is available at your local library. I’m giving it a try in the next couple weeks. I think I found this one through someone on Twitter, but I hate to admit I’ve forgotten who.
I hope everyone has a safe New Year’s Eve and a happy, healthy 2013. Hope to see you back here in the new year.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 26, Dec 2012 | In Research | By Elizabeth Wroten
‘Tis the time for charitable giving. Many people are either more aware of those in need at this time of year or they are trying to get the last tax-deductible donation in by the first of the new year. Either way, the question of who to give your money to may come up. To answer the question of how to get the most for what you give there are a couple good places to look.
I was recently listening to NPR and they had an interview with a moral philosopher who had started an organization dedicated to giving a significant portion of income to the most effective (and affective) charities. Giving What We Can has evaluated charity effectiveness based on case studies, control trials, statistical evidence, etc. You can read about Giving What We Can on their website. The arguments for giving and giving to their top three charities is very compelling and very interesting. You can listen to the interview with the founder Toby Ord here.
If you want more comprehensive information about more charities (including ones that get poor ratings) you can also visit another charity evaluator, this one based in the US, Give Well. They have three top charities, but include information about others. If there is a particular type of charity you want to give to (microfinance, health, etc.) they can give you suggestions for good recipients as well as steer you clear of any charities that are ineffective.
My own family will be giving this year and in the coming year and I will be relying on these sources to help my money go further.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 24, Dec 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
I do think this whole Instagram maelstrom has raised some interesting issues about privacy and ownership on the Internet. Although I am considered a part of the Millennial generation, I did not grow up with Internet or even a computer in the house until I was older. And our setup looked nothing like the setup of kids a good 10 years younger than me (who are also lumped into the Millennial generation). That being said I do share more characteristics and opionions with a younger set when it comes to the Internet and privacy. I really think there is a generational gap in regards to these issues.
Let me begin by sharing what practices I think are not okay, because I know my feelings are not what everyone in Libraryland agrees with. I disagree with the implied idea that Instgram can use and profit from someone’s photos without compensating them. I don’t think children should be targeted. Prey on those of us who are capable of understanding what you are doing with our information and can make more informed decisions. I don’t think publishers are being reasonable in their “agreements” with libraries. Help libraries out by providing them with sustainable models that protect their investments (i.e. possible ownership of electronic materials or continued access to what has been paid for). They are some of your biggest, or even only, customers.
But really when it comes to ownership of things like eBooks I am lax. I understand that libraries feel the need to own their collections. I understand that there are weird gray areas because of the possiblity of losing access to things you have paid for. Personally, I purchase physical copies or download (and occasionally print) electronic copies of articles and books I really want to have access to in perpetuity. I think publishers are preying on people, but I also think we need to begin looking at digital content in a new way. I remember balking at the thought that I would have to buy a new computer every few years or upgrade my software, but I no longer bat an eye at that. I think in part this is because I have adapted to a new way of thinking about technology. I’m not saying we need to accept what the publishers are offering in terms of licensing agreements, just that we need to think of eBooks and eContent as different from physical books and physical content. Do we really need to hang on to Fifty Shades of Gray for the next fifty years? God, I hope not. Weeding could get a whole lot easier.
In terms of internet privacy I have read quite a bit about the information being collected on me. I have also read about how companies use that to market to me and to others like me. But all things told, I don’t worry too much about it. Not yet. I am not opposed to targeted ads. If you’re going to give me coupon I would prefer it be for something I would want to buy. I can always ignore it. The quantity of data collected and my own obscurity also reassure me that I am not being singled out. Google collects a lot of data, yes. So do Facebook and Amazon. But they collect it on millions of people. Millions. I don’t stick out in the crowd. It is unlikely that, currently, I will be singled out. I think the possibility of my wallet being stolen and credit card being used as more of a threat. I believe my generation is much less private (as evidenced by Facebook) than generations before us. Is this good or bad, here or there? I don’t know.
There must be a line somewhere and I don’t want companies to cross it before we can ensure our safety and well being. Obviously ownership, eBooks and privacy are things that are huge in libraries and in other circles right now, so I’m keeping my eye on the situations. I’m even following privacy legislation and law. As things develop and change I’m sure my opinion will too. For the time being I just don’t worry about it. Not to mention I’m not going to stop using Google, or Amazon, or Facebook. Sorry if I sound like something out of Tron, but we live on the grid now.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 21, Dec 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
I hopped on the eBook bandwagon about five years ago when I purchased my first Sony eReader. I was curious about the technology and had a lot of free time to read (i.e. no kids), so packing fewer books in my purse was very appealing. I was a little irked that the books weren’t cheaper than their print counterparts since I was funding the reader too. But who was I kidding? I was going to buy the books regardless. What was a few more dollars to pay for the reader.
Now my family has that old Sony, several iPads, and a Nook. Not to mention the Nook app on our iPhones. (Hey, my husband is a technology director.) As much as I enjoy reading the occasional novel (mostly YA) on it, I haven’t been super impressed with eBooks.
The technology has improved drastically since I bought that Sony. But to me, most eBooks aren’t any different than what Gutenberg was turning out on his press. The problem with this is is, eBooks are technology. They aren’t bound (ha!) to the physical page. They can and should engage you in a different way.
I remember when the magazine Project came out on the iPad. (See here for a video walk through from Tech Crunch.) That to me was a huge step in the right direction for what eBooks should be doing. It utilized some of the many things that made the iPad unique- touch, animations, sound, color display, etc. Now many eReaders have the same features, so use them!
I remained unimpressed, until the other day when I downloaded the Charlie Brown Christmas app as well as Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton. Both were books for my daughter. It suddenly dawned on me that children’s eBooks have actually been quite innovative in an attempt to engage those squirmy little beasts. We have Pat the Bunny, Pete, and Nighty Night on our iPad and all of those books make use of the broad range of iPad/eReader features.
I would like to note, at this point, that my daughter has an enormous personal collection (we’re talking hundreds strong) of print children’s books. I don’t think eBooks for children will replace beautiful copies of their most beloved books (although…if I have to read Happy Hippo, Angry Duck one more time…), but I think it’s really wonderful to see that someone out there in the land of publishing is thinking about more than just scanning the print version of a book. I would like to see this for textbooks, non fiction books, and even fiction novels. How about special features like on DVDs, like author interviews, different versions of the cover, interactive drawings (I’m thinking of you Leviathan!), etc. So, let’s start thinking outside the bound book.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 19, Dec 2012 | In Remix | By Elizabeth Wroten
I just read this article about the racism that is rampant in YA book covers. It was such an informative post and I for one will admit I was only partially conscious of the state of YA covers.
What I wanted to add to this article was something I became acutely aware of after becoming a mother to a girl. These YA covers are detrimental to white girls, too. Notice that the girls on the covers shown (and the many more put on display in libraries and bookstores) are very airbrushed? They have flawless skin – not a pimple, red spot or freckle in sight. They are wearing sexy clothing. They are very thin and mostly tall. How many girls of any color do you know that are naturally built like that? I only know one, maybe two. Lucky her. Unlucky the rest of us who are told to make our bodies conform to that ideal. No matter how accepting we are of how we look (tall, thin, short, round, busty, hippy, brown, white, etc.) we still feel the pressure and still have moments of weakness where we look at ourselves in the mirror and wish we were just a little bit thinner, a little lighter skinned, a little taller.
And it isn’t only girls who get bombarded with impossible body ideals. Boys get it, too. Not every man has a rippling chest and six pack. Not every man is tan with perfect skin. I feel for the boys too.
Now it’s creeping into our books. A place that should be an escape. Especially since so many books do such a good job of putting girls of all stripes up on a pedestal. How about Katniss? She wasn’t much of a “girl” but she still kicked some serious ass. How about Ismae from Grave Mercy? She’s got some serious scars on her body, but she also kicks ass. Even Bella from Twilight is supposed to be plain, not some great beauty. I like beautiful book covers and I frequently pick up books where the cover has caught my attention. But I think you can have your cake and eat it too. You can have normal looking girls, girls who match the character in the book, and a beautiful cover.
So it comes down to the question, what can we do about changing or at least impacting bad body image as librarians? I don’t know. I really don’t. As a parent I will be doing my utmost to ensure that my daughter has a healthy self-image and understanding that Hollywood bodies do not equal normal. We don’t talk about weight in a negative way. We don’t hold up images of women as an ideal. I try to show her diversity of all kinds. I tell her she is beautiful. Did I mention my daughter is only 16 months? It needs to start early because the media gets to them early (Pink Legos? That make tea parties? As if girls can’t play with “boy” colors and don’t want to make their own forts, planes, trains, etc.). But as a librarian, I just don’t know.
I have seen an activity that could help to combat some of this negativity. It might be worth a try and if nothing else, it would be fun. Have either a book club or TAG or English class read a book with out seeing the cover (enshroud it with kraft paper), then create their own cover. I know a lot of kids might shy away from this. Especially, if they felt they had to draw a person, but I would encourage them to take their own pictures or find images online. This doesn’t have to be a super-slick, publisher-quality cover. Just a good representation of what they think the cover should look like. Then do a big reveal of the publisher’s cover and compare and contrast the two. I’d be very curious to see what happens if you use one of the books where the picture on the front doesn’t match the words in the book at all.
My husband sent over this article to me. I’ve been using Instagram to take pictures for my other two blogs, so I was glad for the heads up. I personally don’t like the sounds of this, but I’m interested to see how it plays out. Was it a poor wording choice on Instagram’s part (I sort of doubt it) or is it really meant to leave the option for exploiting its users open?
In the meantime, I have switched over to using Eyeem. There are other app options for those of you who are concerned. I believe the above article mentions Hipstamatic, too. If Instagram doesn’t change the wording by the time the new changes go into effect on January 16th I will be deleting my account just to be on the safe side. I don’t really take fantastic pictures, but I don’t want to be taken advantage of in any case.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 17, Dec 2012 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten
Here is a collection of links (with comments, because it wouldn’t be complete with out my blatherings) of various things that I have been reading online over the past few days. They are all things I have found interesting and pertinent.
Oops, I did it again: Forbes article on the war over eBooks. I know I’m fed up with hearing about eBooks, but they are important. I know I don’t have experience as a purchaser of eBooks for libraries, but I can certainly see and understand how problematic it is. I do tend to agree that we need a new model for purchasing them and I also agree that the status quo (and the stalemate) are not doing anyone any good.
I would also like to add that, I wish book publishers would also stop thinking about eBooks as physical books. Let’s not have a legacy culture in eBooks, with pricing or with format. The technology we have now and will have can open up the book experience. (Upcoming post about how I think children’s eBooks are busting out of the mould).
Yes, just yes: Oh how I want to have a drink with these ladies. I also want to start up a Sacramento chapter of their book club. Any takers? This blog is now added to my reader.
Timely: I thought this was a timely article given the post I wrote a few days ago to the Octagon. I’m not sure Facebook in schools can really be considered intellectual freedom, but if you begin encroaching on one thing it’s easier to get to the next. I would rather err on the side of caution. Personally. I also know there are a lot of reasons for not.
Brain Pickings: Okay, I subscribe to this weekly email. They review books and talk about stuff. Existential, brainy, think-y stuff. Sometimes I skim it, sometimes I read it top to bottom. It is always thought provoking and I love it. Found this particular article reviewing a book about how to talk about books you’ve never read. I think, as the skill is described, it is a skill all librarians need to have and need to continually fine tune. There (sadly) isn’t enough time to read everything, but we need to sell it and we need to be able to place it in a framework (as the book/article suggests). Take some time with this little piece. I think it will resonate with librarians.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 14, Dec 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
Wednesday I attended the ALA webinar on assessing digital literacy. (It was quite interesting and you can watch the recording here.) As a school librarian this is obviously a topic that interests me, but after the first question the moderator fired off I realized I hadn’t really thought enough about the fundamentals.
Here are just a few thoughts I had while listening to the discussion:
- What is digital literacy? This was that first question and one of the presenters gave a fantastic definition. But is it more or less?
- Adding to that idea, does digital literacy include digital citizenship? I think it should, but it might make teaching and assessing digital literacy too unwieldy. Certainly being culturally literate, which is a partial real world counterpart of digital literacy, invloves being socially literate.
- Does it include hardware (like turning the computer on) and/or software (like how to use Word)? Or is it just skills you can apply as you jump from one software, platform, or media to another? I think it’s the latter, but I’ve seen it taught as software and also think hardware shouldn’t be ruled out, especially with certain groups of people.
- Tying in with the previous question, does the definition of digital literacy change with type of library you work in (e.g. public vs. academic/school)? Patrons of a public library may have very different digital needs from students in a college research library. Do we expect every person to acquire the ability to formulate successful database searches for academic articles? Do you need to double check that college students can turn their computer on?
I don’t have the answers, or at least complete answers, to these questions. And I’m not sure anyone does. I also think we could debate this stuff until the cows come home, but it won’t get us any closer to successfully teaching digital literacy. Still, I think it’s helpful to have at least a basic understanding of what we mean when we say “digital literacy”. If only so it can evolve as time goes on and technology continues to become more ubiquitous and powerful. If you have any thoughts, please feel free to leave them in the comments.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 13, Dec 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
The high school students of the school where I worked recently decried the Internet filtering policies, claiming they are censorship. I’m glad they are not ignorant of the issue, but the article made some pretty frivolous points. Disclosure: the tech department of the school consists of one person who is also my husband. Read the article here. Below is my response to them.
Dear Students of the Sacramento Country Day School High School,
I know you don’t know me much beyond being the quiet girl in the library or Tom’s wife, but I want you to know I am someone who thinks a lot about censorship. I’m a librarian.
Admittedly that sounds trite, but it isn’t. In fact librarians are often the only ones who stick up for those being denied access and for those being censored. Our professional organization, the American Library Association, has an entire division devoted to dealing with censorship. They often face down committees, administrators, patrons, parents, and even their peers. It’s not fun; it’s not glamorous; we don’t win adoration or fans, but it needs to be done.
I applaud you for being concerned enough to confront the filtering problem. The best thing you can do to fight censorship is to stay informed and keep others informed in turn. I personally believe that filtering the Internet on campus is not ideal. However, as someone adamantly against all forms of censorship, I take issue with your argument.
The sites you are really upset about, especially those mentioned in your article, are filtered for the simple fact that they don’t currently support the mission of the school. You don’t have access to Facebook on school computers for the same reason you can’t watch TV during class- it’s distracting and detracts from the educational atmosphere. The sites are not blocked because Tom or Mr. Repsher or Mr. Wells or anyone else on campus find them personally offensive or morally reprehensible.
Being enraged that you have to wait to go home to log onto Facebook to post the latest gossip or read the SparkNote about The Scarlett Letter in an attempt to fool Dr. Bell into believing you did last night’s homework, does not make the internet filtering censorship. School owned machines and school operated networks may be filtered, but you have other avenues for accessing the content.
Most of you have smart phones, which I am sure you have used to access Facebook and YouTube while on campus. I watched you do it while sitting at my desk in the library. Most of you have Internet access at home which you also use to access filtered content after school hours. I have seen your comments through our mutual friends on Facebook. You all have access to the public library.
But, the most important and easiest access you have is through Tom. If you have a legitimate reason for needing a site to be unblocked, permanently or temporarily, you can request that the block be removed. He is very open to discussion and reasonable requests. I know because I went to him with requests to unblock various sites while working in the library.
I believe the best solution is for you to open a respectful and honest discussion with the administration in which you make a case for taking down the filter. Demonstrating that you can responsibly use these sites will also help- that means no more sneaking Facebook during class time or watching cat videos when you should be watching math lectures. Also, splashing black bars across the school paper and baiting the administration with sensitive terms like censorship only makes them defensive and reactionary. This needs to be a dialog not a power struggle.
I highly suggest looking into how China restricts and monitors its Internet. Or how the Arab regimes and dictatorships shut down access to the Internet in an effort to contain the Arab Spring. Or Iran’s fraught relationship with social and print media. Or how libraries sometimes choose not to purchase controversial and sensitive materials for fear of conflict. Censorship affects everyone no matter how far from or close to home it is. You, the next generation, need to ensure equitable and open access for everyone. Basing your argument for a freer Internet experience on campus in the culture of fighting censorship will only make your point stronger.
You are all extremely bright and capable students. I hope you will continue to stay engaged with and vigilant for censorship in all its forms.
“We change people through conversation, not censorship.” Jay-Z
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 12, Dec 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
QR codes have been around for awhile now and I am here to ask that they please, please just go away. I know they seem like they have such potential. Brick and mortar stores use them. Libraries love them. Even magazine ads print them. But really, they’re just a nuisance.
What initially rankled me about them was the UX process. I have to get out my iPhone. Unlock it. Find the screen where my QR code reader app is. Launch the app. And then, and only then, can I scan the thing. Seriously, five steps to be taken? And all to take me to some advertisement?
Beyond that, advertisers (and others who employ them) seem to misunderstand what they are. They are barcodes with an embedded URL that will take you to a website or webpage. So the QR code Whole Foods put out on its sandwich board on Saturday morning took me to a special, early bird deal. The QR code on the strawberry container I bought took me to the company’s website. Great. I hate ads, but I knew that was probably what I was getting myself into. But what about those people and companies that put a QR code on their website? Just think about that for a moment. Why didn’t you put a link? I am not going to get out my phone and go through all that rigamarole to be taken to a website. On my phone. While sitting at my computer. This is an extreme example, but start looking around at QR codes and how and where they are used. You will find lots of weird little placements and uses.
As ridiculous as those things are, I think the final nail in the QR code coffin is that I never see anyone scan them. Never. Have you? Most of our friends don’t even know what they are and we hang out with a mostly tech savvy crowd. My husband and I are the only two people I know who have actually scanned a QR code. And I certainly don’t know anyone who has a QR code reader installed on their phone. In fact, those two examples I gave above are the only two QR codes I ever scanned, after which I deleted the app. That was over three years ago.
This is the point where the librarians reading this throw their hands up and say, but I do totally awesome scavenger hunts with them! I’m sure you do, but consider this. I think QR codes are emblematic of what libraries do wrong with technology. We’re so excited to use technology and so ready to find a place for it that we will adopt gimmicky technology without thinking about the applicability and practicality of the technology. (I think this stems in part from our desire to predict “the next big thing”, see my post here about that.) If we want to appeal to our customers and show them “the way” with technology, the application of if needs to be organic. It needs to be seamlessly integrated. It helps if it looks slick, too. Technology use that is forced just won’t catch on. No matter how excited we get about it. How long do you spend explaining what a QR code is and how to scan it before your patron (frequently a bored kid) can get on with that totally awesome scavenger hunt?
I’m not trying to be overly critical, at least not of libraries. I know there are people out there that use technology beautifully and show their patrons how to as well. I read their blogs. I do! I think our work in preaching the gospel of technology is very valuable and worthwhile. I just would like to see us employing technology that is useful and that people truly connect with, find useful, and find themselves wondering how they lived without it. And when they don’t, as with QR codes, move on.
-Update 12/18: Gizmodo agrees, QR codes suck.-