30 September 2005

metablogging 2: the why I blog post

So Travis Ennis wants to know why we--we here being ML(I)S students--blog.

The snarkier part of my nature is of course tempted to say "Because I can" and/or "Because I'm good at it"--two responses often given by Famous Authors who have been asked Why They Write. I am not a Famous Author (I mean, really, I'm not even dead yet!), and such a response would seem pretty obnoxious even if I were.

I have always known that I am pretty good at writing--it's one of those things that makes up for other things, like being unable to run or throw or catch, being unpopular, being awkward and unsure of your place in the world. Going through an MFA program is a pretty good way to shake your confidence in your writing abilities, in some cases because everyone seems so much better than you do and in some because everything they're doing seems like such crap that you figure you can't be much better, but I got through more or less intact.

I used to write a newspaper column, which is still my idea of a totally ideal job. I keep hoping someone will say, "Here, let us pay you a living wage to give us 800 words several times a week on whatever you're thinking about," but it's never happened. I loved writing a newspaper column even when I only got $15 0r $20 for it, though, and I'd do it again for that little, or less. In the interim, though, blogging is a nice substitute. (Among other things, there are no deadlines and no required word counts. I sometimes miss the discipline of 800 words every seven days, but not too often.)

There's a very long explanation over at my other blog about how that got started, and there's a little explanation of my original reason for starting this blog in its very first post. Oh, and then a few weeks later, I hopped on the metablogging bandwagon again with a little more explanation. lis.dom's purpose has changed over time--as I've noted before, starting a blog in order to tell people about the existence of blogs is probably a little illogical--but some of what I've said before remains the same.

At the moment, though, the real reason that I blog is that I want to be part of a community (or, as I sometimes put it, I want to be one of the cool kids). Can you imagine a library run by the members of the biblioblogosphere? I think it would be the most amazing library in the world. It would have all the hottest new technology, but the technology would work for us, not the other way around, and nobody would get burned. It would have provocative, timely, and enriching programming. It would be the place everyone wanted to hang out and where everyone was welcome. It would be staffed by people relentlessly, zealously working to make the library a better place--working to make library vendors give us what we want, working for, and often with, patrons to make sure they had the information they wanted. It would be a thing of beauty, if not a joy forever. Some people work in libraries that are closer to that ideal than others, but here--wherever here is, wherever you imagine cyberspace to be--we all get to be a part of it. I think that's pretty neat.

the obligatory banned books post

Just in time for the end of Banned Books Week, here's a little something I wrote three years ago, long before I ever thought of becoming a librarian. I find I still pretty much agree with myself.

So read freely--and fight to keep our libraries free--free to speak in and free to use.

25 September 2005

the long tail of relief

I'm glad to hear that organizations are getting their act together and jumping in to do what Geaux Library Recovery set out to do. Now they're trying to decide what to do with the site:
One idea is to use it to apply Michael McGrorty's endangered libraries idea. Maybe a clearinghouse of information for libraries in crisis--any sort of crisis. ALA chose not to officially support a resolution on endangered libraries, for several reasons. My thought is that this would be a source for libraries that wanted to identify themselves as endangered. Mind you, it's still all very much in the brainstorm stage. Since we have this space, we'd like to do something with it. Your ideas are appreciated. And, if shutting down is the best idea, we'll honor that. --rochelle
Perhaps such a project will have a similar effect on the powers that be and ALA will get serious about libraries that are endangered by budget cuts. Well, one can dream.

I've been fascinated over the past few weeks to see not just the outpouring of aid to people and institutions on the Gulf Coast but also to see the varieties that aid has taken. You know about Geaux Library Recovery, and about ALA's Adopt-a-Library program. You've probably also seen Radical Reference's compilation of resources for Socially Responsible Katrina Relief. But there's more.

The Neighborhood Story Project, which I wrote about a few weeks back, is looking for volunteers to "help get their local independent bookstore to take a box of these incredible books to sell as a way to raise money for relief and recovery, and as a way to get out the amazing stories of the people and neighborhoods of New Orleans." Contact jamieschweser [at] yahoo.com for more information.

On September 8, I got an e-mail from Poets & Writers with a list (since added to) of how writers can help.

And then a few days later, someone from my old writing program forwarded this e-mail [thanks, pasta!] from Bret Lott, editor of The Southern Review at LSU.

Common Ground is running an incredible clinic (and then some) in Algiers, and Naomi Archer is writing up a storm of Real Reports of Katrina Relief from the ground.

And I could go on.

While I am as appalled as the next person by the level of disorganization and incompetence in the official response to the disasters of the last month, I'm simultaneously cheered by the many people--and the many kinds of people--who have come out to help. It pleases me to know that there are as many kinds of help as there are people affected. Perhaps it's not enough--perhaps nothing ever could be enough--but it's a start.

21 September 2005

big wheel keeps on turning. . .

Carnival of the Infosciences #7, at Mike's Musings.

Carnival #8 stops next week at The Industrial Librarian. Send your submissions to davehook [at] rogers [dot] com. Here are the carnival guidelines, in case you're new to the show or want a refresher.

I have all kinds of things to say but no time of late to get them written up. A substantive post or three should be coming up sometime in the next week or so; in the meantime, cruise on over to the Carnival and enjoy the ride.

13 September 2005

back to school

by the numbers
Originally uploaded by newrambler.
update on 9/21: URLs fixed!

I've now started all my fall classes, which are a slightly different line-up from when I last posted on the topic. I'm now taking

LIS 721 Library Materials for Children
LIS 745 Searching Electronic Databases
LIS 763 Readers Advisory Services

All told, that makes for 9 hours a week of class, 19.5 hours a week at the library, 8-12 hours a week of dog-walking, and 8 hours a week commuting, not counting time spent schlepping between dogs. And all told that adds up to lots of time spent on various duties and not so much time for blogging, I expect to be checking in periodically.

Also, may I belatedly add that you should check out the most recent stops of the Carnival of the Infosciences:

11 September 2005

this post will self-destruct. . .

Surely you've seen this by now, but in case you haven't:
"Our users want the world to be as simple, clean, and accessible as the Google home page itself," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt at a press conference held in their corporate offices. "Soon, it will be."
And as a special bonus, all the archives of The Onion are now available online for your perusing. I first heard of America's finest news source one night in college. I was working patrol and walking around with a friend, who said, "Do you read The Onion? No? You should. This week's headlines: 'Secondhand Smoke Linked to Secondhand Coolness.'"

Thanks to Jenna for the link. . . and by the way, have you ever wanted to run for ALA Council? She's recruiting people.

05 September 2005

while supplies last. . .

Originally uploaded by newrambler.
(Gosh, this Flickr business is fun. . . .)

I don't normally keep track of the books I read, although I keep meaning to. I didn't manage to this summer, either, but in case you did and feel that your summer reading efforts have gone underappreciated, may I offer you this handsome certificate, complete with Latin motto, suitable for thumbtacking to an appropriate surface?

The end of summer reading seemed to coincide with a lot of vacations, and thus a number of kids never showed up to pick up their certificates. If you would like one, please send an e-mail indicating your name as you wish it to appear on the certificate and your snail mail address to lauracrossett [at] hailmail [dot] net. I can also fill in the number of books read, and any number of Book Bucks you want, though I'm afraid that at this point they're about as useful as Confederate money in 1865.

Iowa City Ped Mall

Iowa City Ped Mall
Originally uploaded by newrambler.
I'm just practicing this whole blogging photos thing. This is what the downtown of my hometown looks like in late August, mid-morning. If you kept going straight down the ped mall and then swung left, you'd hit the Iowa City Public Library.

on and off the bandwagon

I am late to jump on many bandwagons, and, quite often, just simply late. Last weekend, which now seems impossibly long ago, I took a trip home (though I spend most of my time in Chicagoland these days, I'm still an Iowa resident, and Iowa City is still home) to do a few things and see some friends. It was in the course of hanging out with my friends that I realized that in the last six months or so, I have started to speak another language.

A few examples:
I got a lot of blank looks from my friends, who, as you may surmise, are not technologically oriented. They are very smart people. Most of them graduate students at the University of Iowa; the rest are the over-educated, under-employed types one finds around a college town. I don't consider any of them hopelessly uninformed. But I now inhabit, at least part of the time, this whole world that most of them are only barely aware of.

Now that I've found this world, I'd never want to leave it behind, but my visit home was a little reminder that it is, in many ways, still a small and insular community. I love RSS and think it is one of the greatest things since the resurgence of decent bread, but I've been reminded that it's not part of the picture for a lot of people and that, for the most part, they are getting by just fine without it.

You've probably heard about different kinds of learners (visual, oral, etc.) and different kinds of intelligence (emotional, intellectual, practical). There are also different ways of gathering information. I get most of my news from the radio, though when I lived in Iowa City, I also read the Daily Iowan in its hard copy version. I got an iPod for Christmas, and while it's a nifty little device, at least a third of my music collection is still on LP and cassette. In my car at the moment all I have is radio, and thus when I'm driving around on my dogwalking route, I mostly (shudder) listen to commercial rock stations, since "Fresh Air" loses something when heard in 5 minute chunks with 20 minute gaps in between.. I did listen to a bunch of Greg's podcasts on my drive home (I don't have one of those handy gadgets that will play your iPod through your radio, so I did this by listening through one ear bud), and they were pretty great, but I don't know that I'm going to get hooked on podcasting. My friends are mostly not tapped into the world of feeds and aggregators and social bookmarking, and that's okay.

I started this blog with the idea that it would be a way to show fellow grad students about the wonderfulness of library-land blogs, which I now realize was kind of a nutty idea. I continued it, though, because I was getting so much out of it, which seems like a fine reason. And now just as I've learned that lots of people are considering jumping off the Flickr bandwagon, I'm jumping on. I don't actually own a digital camera, so posts will be few and far between, but I did borrow my mother's while I was home for the weekend and put together a little tour of Iowa City (only the parts I like, and only some of them). Take a look if you like (and remember I've never used a digital camera before). Enjoy!

04 September 2005

New Orleans stories

I've never been to New Orleans, though, as I've written elsewhere, I feel connected to it by way of water and the imagination. The closest I come to a real connection is this:

In high school I knew a guy named Jamie Schweser. He was a senior at one of the town's high schools when I was a freshman at another, and I met him via the anti-war movement--the "first" Gulf War happened that year. He went on to do various things--he was involved with a pirate radio station and public access television and all kinds of activism, and he co-wrote a book called Tales of a Punk Rock Nothing with Abram Shalom Himelstein. Some time in the late 1990s or early 2000s, they both moved down to New Orleans and got active down there, and I'd get an occasional e-mail from Jamie. I haven't heard from him in years. Just a few weeks ago, though, I read a piece in Publisher's Weekly [sorry; only the abstract is available without a subscription] about what Abram Himelstein is up to now: working with kids in New Orleans on the Neighborhood Story Project, an oral history project, a writing workshop, and now, five books, all written by teenagers. I meant to write about this sooner; now, of course, one can't send mail to or from New Orleans, and so you can't order the books.

The other day, I got this e-mail of another New Orleans story from Ted Glick, via the Independent Progressive Politics Network mailing list:

One of the better pieces I've seen.


----- Original Message ----- From:
Sent: Friday, September 02, 2005 4:42 PM
Subject: Notes From Inside New Orleans
Thanks to all the loved ones and long-lost friends for your sweet notes of concern, offers of housing
and support, etc. Yes, I stayed through the storm and aftermath. I'm fine - much better off than most of
my brother and sister hurricane survivors. Below is my attempt to relay some of what I've seen these
last few days.

Please Forward

Notes From Inside New Orleans
by Jordan Flaherty
Friday, September 2, 2005

I just left New Orleans a couple hours ago. I traveled from the apartment I was staying in by boat to a
helicopter to a refugee camp. If anyone wants to examine the attitude of federal and state officials
towards the victims of hurricane Katrina, I advise you to visit one of the refugee camps.

In the refugee camp I just left, on the I-10 freeway near Causeway, thousands of people (at least 90%
black and poor) stood and squatted in mud and trash behind metal barricades, under an unforgiving
sun, with heavily armed soldiers standing guard over them. When a bus would come through, it
would stop at a random spot, state police would open a gap in one of the barricades, and people
would rush for the bus, with no information given about where the bus was going. Once inside (we
were told) evacuees would be told where the bus was taking them - Baton Rouge, Houston,
Arkansas, Dallas, or other locations. I was told that if you boarded a bus bound for Arkansas (for
example), even people with family and a place to stay in Baton Rouge would not be allowed to get
out of the bus as it passed through Baton Rouge. You had no choice but to go to the shelter in
Arkansas. If you had people willing to come to New Orleans to pick you up, they could not come
within 17 miles of the camp.

I traveled throughout the camp and spoke to Red Cross workers, Salvation Army workers, National
Guard, and state police, and although they were friendly, no one could give me any details on when
buses would arrive, how many, where they would go to, or any other information. I spoke to the
several teams of journalists nearby, and asked if any of them had been able to get any information
from any federal or state officials on any of these questions, and all of them, from Australian tv to local
Fox affiliates complained of an unorganized, non-communicative, mess. One cameraman told me "as
someone who's been here in this camp for two days, the only information I can give you is this: get
out by nightfall. You don't want to be here at night."

There was also no visible attempt by any of those running the camp to set up any sort of transparent
and consistent system, for instance a line to get on buses, a way to register contact information or find
family members, special needs services for children and infirm, phone services, treatment for
possible disease exposure, nor even a single trash can.

To understand the dimensions of this tragedy, its important to look at New Orleans itself.

For those who have not lived in New Orleans, you have missed a incredible, glorious, vital, city. A
place with a culture and energy unlike anywhere else in the world. A 70% African-American city
where resistance to white supremacy has supported a generous, subversive and unique culture of
vivid beauty. From jazz, blues and hiphop, to secondlines, Mardi Gras Indians, Parades, Beads, Jazz
Funerals, and red beans and rice on Monday nights, New Orleans is a place of art and music and
dance and sexuality and liberation unlike anywhere else in the world.

It is a city of kindness and hospitality, where walking down the block can take two hours because you
stop and talk to someone on every porch, and where a community pulls together when someone is in
need. It is a city of extended families and social networks filling the gaps left by city, state and federal
governments that have abdicated their responsibility for the public welfare. It is a city where someone
you walk past on the street not only asks how you are, they wait for an answer.

It is also a city of exploitation and segregation and fear. The city of New Orleans has a population of
just over 500,000 and was expecting 300 murders this year, most of them centered on just a few,
overwhelmingly black, neighborhoods. Police have been quoted as saying that they don't need to
search out the perpetrators, because usually a few days after a shooting, the attacker is shot in

There is an atmosphere of intense hostility and distrust between much of Black New Orleans and the
N.O. Police Department. In recent months, officers have been accused of everything from drug
running to corruption to theft. In separate incidents, two New Orleans police officers were recently
charged with rape (while in uniform), and there have been several high profile police killings of
unarmed youth, including the murder of Jenard Thomas, which has inspired ongoing weekly protests
for several months.

The city has a 40% illiteracy rate, and over 50% of black ninth graders will not graduate in four years.
Louisiana spends on average $4,724 per child's education and ranks 48th in the country for lowest
teacher salaries. The equivalent of more than two classrooms of young people drop out of Louisiana
schools every day and about 50,000 students are absent from school on any given day. Far too
many young black men from New Orleans end up enslaved in Angola Prison, a former slave
plantation where inmates still do manual farm labor, and over 90% of inmates eventually die in the
prison. It is a city where industry has left, and most remaining jobs are are low-paying, transient,
insecure jobs in the service economy.

Race has always been the undercurrent of Louisiana politics. This disaster is one that was
constructed out of racism, neglect and incompetence. Hurricane Katrina was the inevitable spark
igniting the gasoline of cruelty and corruption. From the neighborhoods left most at risk, to the
treatment of the refugees to the the media portrayal of the victims, this disaster is shaped by race.

Louisiana politics is famously corrupt, but with the tragedies of this week our political leaders have
defined a new level of incompetence. As hurricane Katrina approached, our Governor urged us to
"Pray the hurricane down" to a level two. Trapped in a building two days after the hurricane, we
tuned our battery-operated radio into local radio and tv stations, hoping for vital news, and were told
that our governor had called for a day of prayer. As rumors and panic began to rule, they was no
source of solid dependable information. Tuesday night, politicians and reporters said the water level
would rise another 12 feet - instead it stabilized. Rumors spread like wildfire, and the politicians and
media only made it worse.

While the rich escaped New Orleans, those with nowhere to go and no way to get there were left
behind. Adding salt to the wound, the local and national media have spent the last week demonizing
those left behind. As someone that loves New Orleans and the people in it, this is the part of this
tragedy that hurts me the most, and it hurts me deeply.

No sane person should classify someone who takes food from indefinitely closed stores in a
desperate, starving city as a "looter," but that's just what the media did over and over again. Sheriffs
and politicians talked of having troops protect stores instead of perform rescue operations.

Images of New Orleans' hurricane-ravaged population were transformed into black, out-of-control,
criminals. As if taking a stereo from a store that will clearly be insured against loss is a greater crime
than the governmental neglect and incompetence that did billions of dollars of damage and
destroyed a city. This media focus is a tactic, just as the eighties focus on "welfare queens" and
"super-predators" obscured the simultaneous and much larger crimes of the Savings and Loan
scams and mass layoffs, the hyper-exploited people of New Orleans are being used as a scapegoat
to cover up much larger crimes.

City, state and national politicians are the real criminals here. Since at least the mid-1800s, its been
widely known the danger faced by flooding to New Orleans. The flood of 1927, which, like this
week's events, was more about politics and racism than any kind of natural disaster, illustrated
exactly the danger faced. Yet government officials have consistently refused to spend the money to
protect this poor, overwhelmingly black, city. While FEMA and others warned of the urgent impending
danger to New Orleans and put forward proposals for funding to reinforce and protect the city, the
Bush administration, in every year since 2001, has cut or refused to fund New Orleans flood control,
and ignored scientists warnings of increased hurricanes as a result of global warming. And, as the
dangers rose with the floodlines, the lack of coordinated response dramatized vividly the callous
disregard of our elected leaders.

The aftermath from the 1927 flood helped shape the elections of both a US President and a
Governor, and ushered in the southern populist politics of Huey Long.

In the coming months, billions of dollars will likely flood into New Orleans. This money can either be
spent to usher in a "New Deal" for the city, with public investment, creation of stable union jobs, new
schools, cultural programs and housing restoration, or the city can be "rebuilt and revitalized" to a
shell of its former self, with newer hotels, more casinos, and with chain stores and theme parks
replacing the former neighborhoods, cultural centers and corner jazz clubs.

Long before Katrina, New Orleans was hit by a hurricane of poverty, racism, disinvestment,
deindustrialization and corruption. Simply the damage from this pre-Katrina hurricane will take
billions to repair.

Now that the money is flowing in, and the world's eyes are focused on Katrina, its vital that
progressive-minded people take this opportunity to fight for a rebuilding with justice. New Orleans is
a special place, and we need to fight for its rebirth.

Jordan Flaherty is a union organizer and an editor of Left Turn Magazine (www.leftturn.org). He is not
planning on moving out of New Orleans.

Below are some small, grassroots and New Orleans-based resources, organizations and institutions
that will need your support in the coming months.

Social Justice:

Cultural Resources:

Current Info and Resources:
I don't imagine that Abram Himelstein, or Jamie Schweser, if he's still there, are planning to move out of New Orleans either. I hope someday I'll get to see their city. And I hope that they, and the people they know, are safe.

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