The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte
 Tuesday, March 19, 2002

In catching up with On the Mark, I also found the post about meta tags for which I had been searching. Mark even provides a metaTags macro to help prod us along. Thaaaaank yooouuuu, Mark! This is now on my to-do list.
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A Busy Writers Guide to Radio Renderers

"This document provides a quick introduction to writing stories using HTML renderers in Radio 8.0. Renderers provide a simple mechanism for formatting text within specific HTML constructs (e.g. a table) without specifying the actual HTML tags. The renderer infers the desired HTML construct based on 1) a directive to use a specific renderer and 2) the hierarchical structure of an outline." [Mark Woods]

In the back of my mind and for future reference, precious brain cells have been guarding the fact that Radio could produce HTML pages via the outliner. I had planned to explore this someday, but now Mark has made it that much easier. Unfortunately, I don't have time to go any further with this right now, but I will.

Steve, I have just as many questions about this as you do.  :-)

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"This collection of fiction and nonfiction MP3 audio books is financed with brief commercials between book chapters. Children’s books carry no advertising. Browse for desired books by author, title, and genre or use the search engine with filter settings for strong language, duration, author, and adult content. Registration required to download." [Swift Current Comprehensive High School's Educational Links]

If you want to get a free taste of what audio ebooks are like. The filters are particularly interesting because in general, we need more of these types of search parameters in our catalogs.

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I've barely been able to read or accomplish anything other than cleaning and laundry tonight because I've been on pins and needles about my home library's referendum. I'm extremely sad to report that it didn't pass. It was up against a major, major tax rate increase request from the schools and the fire district, so we knew it was going to be an uphill battle, but it's still depressing. I hope the rumors were true that residents felt they had to vote for the schools and FD this year and that they'll vote for the library next year. The staff at the Homer Library are top-notch, and I hope they don't think this is a reflection on them, because it's not. They're going to be very busy this year with a grant to purchase a bookmobile, so they've got plenty to keep them busy until next year.

And congratulations to the libraries whose ballot issues did succeed, among them Flossmoor and Orland Park. Both definitely need the space, so kudos to them!

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Librarians will have fun debating the 100 Best Characters in Fiction Since 1900 from Book magazine, March/April 2002. [via bOing bOing]

  1. Jay Gatsby, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
  2. Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, 1951
  3. Humbert Humbert, Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955
  4. Leopold Bloom, Ulysses, James Joyce, 1922
  5. Rabbit Angstrom, Rabbit, Run, John Updike, 1960
  6. Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1902
  7. Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
  8. Molly Bloom, Ulysses, James Joyce, 1922
  9. Stephen Dedalus, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce, 1916
  10. Lily Bart, The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton, 1905
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College Radio Targeted, Corporate Radio Thrives

"One of the more predictable ingredients of the DMCA is the sudden increase of fees specific to Internet broadcasting. Right now, KVRX, The University's student radio station, mails checks to a host of intimidating acronyms to keep the feds off their backs, but the amounts so far are relatively trivial: 20 bucks a year here, 200 there. The DMCA, however, threatens to add two more digits' worth of bureaucratic lovin' - somewhere on the order of $10,000 if the U.S. Copyright Office gets its way....

The act calls for a limit to the number of songs that can be played from the same CD or by the same artist each hour. This would automatically dissolve the station's popular "Artist Hour" program if they were to broadcast simultaneously over the Internet - which they do.

Worse though, is the insane amount of paperwork the DMCA not-so-gingerly asks for. Each song must have eight pieces of information displayed online as it is broadcast. In addition (according to the position paper available at, stations must submit "monthly reports which include title, artist, retail album title, label, catalog number, International Standard Recording Code, if available and feasible, and date and time" of broadcast.

The only stations that have the resources to pull any of this off are large, incorporated stations." [at The Daily Texan, via Doc Searls]

I'm still trying to figure out how broadcasting over the internet should cost more than broadcasting over the radio spectrum. Just like ebooks should cost the same as print books. Must be that fuzzy math.

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sxsw envy

Meryl pointed out the 37signals, thank to the presentation they did at sxsw (which I dearly wish I could have gone to). I'm very impressed by their site and their services, and the current link making the rounds is 37BetterFedEx by 37signals. I wish I had more time to delve into usability because it's such a critical area. I often feel that I am the proverbial jack of all trades, master of none, treading water in even fewer.

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A Different Kind of Wayback Machine

Too cool - the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica is online! For non-librarians reading this, the 1911 EB is considered the epitome of encyclopedias, with an almost embarassing wealth of contributors and wonderful articles. Many a librarian wept when it was taken off shelves. Highly recommended for browsing and fun reading.

"When reading the articles of the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, it may help to keep in mind the time period in which this was published. The beginning of the twentieth century was a time of unprecedented wealth, and an age of great technological achievements when humankind bragged that it could build an ocean liner that God, Himself, couldn't sink. It was a time of honesty when people said what they felt, in spite of whom they may offend. It was a time of great passions and the beginnings of serious reforms in society. Teddy Roosevelt and his trustbusters had not yet dissolved the great business conglomerates of Standard Oil, the Motion Pictures Patent Company and U.S. Steel. The economy was booming -- sort of. Yet with all the razzle-dazzle, the early part of the twentieth century was still an age of innocence when the syrupy-sweet sentimental movies of D.W. Griffith were major box office draws and novels like 'Trail of the Lonesome Pine' dominated bestseller lists." [via Library News Daily]

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Time's up. Pencils down. Polls are closed. Fingers and toes are crossed.
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I had really wanted to attend the Sticky Web Sites pre-conference at PLA, but it didn't happen. Luckily, Carrie has posted her presentation about Sticky Sites on a Shoestring. I'm still looking for the rest of the presentations from that session, so if you know of them, please let me know!

Also, I saw Catherine on the exhibit floor and she told me about a session she went to about libraries in Singapore using cell phones in new ways. For example, she said they are sending reminders about upcoming due dates for materials via text messages to cell phones. I wish I'd been able to go to that session, too. No URLs for this presentation yet.

I plan to go through the other presentations available online at

And I see that Catherine didn't waste any time getting a search box for the SWAN catalog on the Library's main page. Good for her!

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Blackboard and WebCT pricing

"WebCT changed its pricing options about a month ago, and it announced a newer, much costlier version of its software on Monday. Blackboard substantially revised its pricing options about six months ago, when it released an updated version of its course-management product. For some colleges, the new pricing structures mean substantially higher annual fees....

Some colleges are also complaining about WebCT's decision to drop a low-cost pricing plan called the 'standard edition.' But Ms. Gage, of WebCT, says that a similarly-priced option still exists -- with a different name -- as a low-end version of the company's 'campus edition.' " [at The Chronicle, via Serious Instructional Technology]

Increasingly, I am questioning using WebCT for LibraryU since we don't use 90% of its functionality. I'll have to investigate the Open Knowledge Initiative now, too.

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Tom highlighted the eBook Wiki, which I think is an interesting experiment. I've toyed around with the idea of using wikis for various projects, but in the end, I'm hesitant to use them because it's still stationary information. I want my information coming to me, not waiting around for me to get to it. Yes, you still need the depository, but these days I want it in my news aggregator or my email. I haven't gotten around to installing rssDistiller yet but if I do, maybe then I could scrape the eBook Wiki. Otherwise, I fear I will never take the time to actually visit it, and I know it has valuable information.
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Again, I'm catching up so I just now read Taming the Consumer's Computer.

"Of course they didn't quite phrase it that way. Michael Eisner, chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, complained that the technology industry made it too easy for 'people wanting to get anything for free on their television or computer or hand-held device.' Peter Chernin, president of the News Corporation, worried that the Internet's 'ability to empower the general public' would lead to the online theft of some of the contents of media companies' digital treasuries." [New York Times]

The phrase "ability to empower the general public" really caught my eye. Living with an eight-year old who has essentially learned to read and who naturally tries to read everything around her has made me realize the power of literacy. Oh, as a librarian I understood it, but at home it's up close and personal, to the point where I am changing my behavior. No longer do I blindly scroll through the channel guide slowly reading all of each description. No longer do I leave magazines laying around, open to a page about terrorism, reviews of scary movies, and the like. Even spelling short words during conversations with another adult is becoming a problem.

This is not new and I know I am not the first person to experience this, but it does make me view Kailee in a new way. She is empowered, simply by putting letters together to form words which magically turn into sentences, and it has improved her world forever.

So when Chernin bemoans the "ability to empower the general public," I can see why he's scared. But just as empowerment has been good for Kailee, empowerment is good for the general public. Chernin should be worried about illegal empowerment, the kind which the entertainment industry is fostering by refusing to provide legitimate services now that mimic existing services customers expect.

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Back on March 7, Dave  called the Minneapolis Public Library to generously offer to talk about donating wireless access equipment and even setting it up and configuring it. But apparently MPL isn't even considering it, let alone calling him back to thank him. That's just sad, especially because I think MPL does some good things in other areas.

I want to revive the whole wireless in public libraries debate that I inconveniently started right before going on vacation, but for the moment I want to post today's comment from Dave and publicly thank him for the link (both of them, actually).

"Still no word. Not even a peep. But some good commentary from James Lileks today."

I'm leaving the link as he submitted it intact because it goes to a really great 404 page that will give you a good laugh. You can then move on to the discouraging article itself at the correct address.

Unfortunately, the service Lilek encountered is still too prevalent to be called "rare" in public libraries. (Note to Sony Barari: this is how you get your point across with satire.) When I praised the Phoenix Public Library's customer service the other day, it was because they provided the exact opposite experience of what Lilek encountered. Sure, they were "on" for the conference, but I could tell it wasn't just for show one week out of the year.

I love circ staff, but the stubborn folks that place policy above CIRCULATING MATERIALS TO PATRONS or providing actual service should just retire now. It's difficult enough for libraries to remain relevant, important, and accessible given our lack of funding, resources, and status, but we still manage to do it. There's a lot of creativity and energy behind those efforts, and I hope library directors impart from the top down that your patrons are your most important asset. They're the whole point.

I hope Minneapolis PL wakes up to this and at least gives Dave the courtesy of a call back.

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Did my civic duty on my way into work this morning and voted. Fingers crossed for my home library, as well as all of the others on the ballot this year.
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Ransom by E-mail

"At least one of the kidnappers used Hotmail to send the electronic ransom note. But if he thought that using a Web-based e-mail service would keep him anonymous, he thought wrong....

The story of the world's first high-profile cyber-ransom begins on January 27, four days after Pearl was taken prisoner, when the militants e-mailed their list of demands to news organizations. ...the key part of the e-mail, law enforcement sources say, was its 'header file' (the string of numbers and letters at the top). In the header file, computer experts saw two key clues: the time the e-mail was sent and the Internet service provider where it originated.

But for the average Net user who for private reasons chooses to send an anonymous e-mail it begs the question: Are those e-mails as anonymous and private as they seem?

'If you're looking to stay anonymous, for whatever reason, say if you're a whistle-blower, you have to ask yourself if Hotmail is the way to do it,' says Richard M. Smith, a privacy and security expert formerly with the Privacy Foundation. 'Basically, it's not....'

Increasingly, e-mail provides invaluable clues during police investigations, such as the correspondence between the so-called American Taliban John Walker and his parents, the e-mail messages of executives mixed up in the Enron debacle, and the story of the Palestinian woman who used e-mail and instant messaging to lure a teenage Israeli boy to his death (a case that Yahoo! Internet Life covered in a story called Fatal Liaison from the July '01 issue)....

Operating under the radar of snooping authorities is a matter of using a perfectly legal service known as a remailer, such as W3-Anonymous Remailer.... 'If these guys had been smart enough to use a remailer,' says Madsen, 'the FBI would be on a wild goose chase in Finland right now.'

Although we can't rely on e-mail to serve as a smoking gun at all times in the future, there is a lesson about privacy here for law-abiding people. Whether it's e-mail from your home computer or from a Web-based service such as Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail, the messages you send contain markings that allow a trained eye to determine where and when they were sent. And Americans are hardly beyond Carnivore's reach. Antiterrorist laws passed by Congress in the shadow of September 11 grant the FBI power to use Carnivore against any American citizen suspected of terrorism. Says Madsen: 'If they want to trace it, believe me, they are going to get their hands on it.' " [Yahoo Internet Life]

Long quotes from the article, but I thought it was worth the reminder, especially about Hotmail and Yahoo Mail not being as anonymous as they seem.

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For Kate: Irish Fitted for Broadband Rings

"In a government-funded gambit to jump on the broadband bandwagon, Ireland will encircle 123 towns and cities with high-speed, fiber-optic access rings. Karlin Lillington reports from Dublin." [Wired News]

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Userland has thrown yet another curve ball at this batter at the plate.

"Radio Community Server (RCS) is a software application for Radio UserLand or Frontier/Manila that makes it possible for individuals or organizations to host communities of Radio users. It offers all of the community functionality currently offered by UserLand's centralized system.

RCS is the perfect product for the development of private knowledge networks that live behind firewalls in corporate or institutional environments. It also is perfect for publications and ISPs that want to host public communities on their own systems. By offering this software for free, UserLand is saying: Let's Grow Communities Now."

Check out the full list of everything does, and now I have to wonder how do I truly integrate this into my organization. Does this mean I should consider Radio instead of Frontier? I'm still missing pieces of the puzzle, but I'm definitely going to have to explore this. What if we could use this to build the mythical online community of libraries I've recently been dreaming about?

Oh, and it's free. Unreal.

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Stephen King's New Book Is on the Beam, Literally

"The promotion, which involves telephone kiosks on the streets of myriad Manhattan neighborhoods, shows how far publishers will go to identify and exploit nontraditional ways of stimulating demand for books....

Those who point their gadgets at the 100 telephone kiosks equipped with the Streetbeam technology — which are identified by posters urging passersby to "beam an excerpt from Stephen King's new book to your hand-held now!" — will get, about five to seven seconds later, five or six paragraphs, around 350 to 400 words total, from "Everything's Eventual" downloaded onto the devices. The sample may also be shared with other owners of similar hand-held computers. Another 50 kiosks displaying the posters do not have the Streetbeam feature." [New York Times Business Section]

What is up with the price of the ebook on this one?? How can a company be so gung-ho about "trying something new and out of the box," but then fall down on the most important selling point of the item? At this rate, libraries will be the only ones willing to pay that kind of money for an ebook, and we won't even be able to circulate the damn thing. Bah humbug.

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