Category Archives: Community

Archiving the Internet

Brewster Kahle, the mastermind behind the Internet Archive, wants to archive every web page on the internet. Check out CBS This Morning’s video on some of the challenges inherent in this archival work, as well as the lowdown on Kahle’s project.

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Before You Could Google It: NYPL Makes Weirdest Patron Questions Public

Readers, who would answer your random questions before the internet age? The answer: librarians. The New York Public Library has begun posting some of its most bizarre patron questions on its Instagram page, and I have to say, they are pretty fantastic. Check out this post on the blog io9 by Lauren Davis, which showcases some particularly good ones.

A personal favorite of mine:

All photos courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Free Wi-Fi! At your local branch of the New York Public Library.

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New York City is working to address the digital divide with a new NYPL initiative that will provide free, portable, wireless Wi-Fi hubs for check-out.

“At every branch you walk into, every computer is being used all the time,” [NYPL President Anthony] Marx said. “As more and more of what the library offers moves online, it became obvious that there was a problem.”

This initiative seeks to reach out to the 2.5 million NYC residents without their own access to the internet, and will focus on patrons in adult-learning and/or ESL programs,  and  patrons without home broadband.

This is an exciting time to see how the digital divide is being addressed by public institutions, businesses and governing bodies!

Wondering if Libraries are still Relevant? The Ferguson Public Library is Your Answer.

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Readers, as we all know, Ferguson, Missouri has been in a continual state of tension and unrest since the August 9th shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson. Protests swelled on the 24th of November after Wilson was not indicted for any of the charges brought againts him, charges, according to Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch , which ranged from “first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter.”

Although many public services, including public schools, closed their doors to Ferguson residents after the verdict, the Ferguson Public Library remained open, scheduling impromptu classes for students out of school and providing a space for businesses to meet if their establishments had been hit by looters or arsonists.

More than just providing necessary services, the Ferguson Library, with Director Scott Bonner at the helm, has created a refuge for patrons. Donations have been pouring in, and Bonner hopes that these donations could help support a full-time children’s services staff member. In the meantime, he has been putting together “healing kits” for local children, each containing books about dealing with traumatic events as well as a stuffed animal for the child to keep. As Bonner says,

When there’s a need, we try to find a way to meet it. I have a very broad definition of librarianship.

In times of trial, it is heartening to hear about the very real good that libraries champion, day in and day out.

Detroit Little Free Library

Hey Readers! Cool development in the spreading phenomena of the Little Free Library. Kim Kozlowski has spearheaded an effort to build 313 little libraries in the city of Detroit. Kozlowski has explained that she wants Detroit to have the most little free libraries in one area in the world – an effort to combat Detroit’s battered public image.

“I thought it would be exciting to raise money and put the libraries in various places around Detroit,” said Kozlowski. “We’ve had some pretty bad monikers, like murder capital, and I thought we could flip it and make it the little library capital.”

We’ll keep our eyes peeled to see how the continuing construction of these little guys goes! Props to everyone involved in the project – very inspiring.

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Kitchen Library

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Do you love to bake and cook, but have no cash to buy specialty appliances or room to store them? Look no further than the Kitchen Library in Toronto, a non-profit started by Dayna Boyer, a Canadian food enthusiast. “There’s a whole revolution happening around home cooking and being in charge of what goes into your food,” explains Boyer.

The Kitchen Library is open 4 days a week to anyone over 18. Members must pay an annual fee of $50, and can check out items for 3-5 days (depending upon the appliance). Items range from canners to bread and pasta makers; juicers to chocolate fountains. If items are returned broken, the annual member fees generate enough money to fix or replace them. There are also fees for lateness, which run from $1-5 a day.

The Kitchen Library does have its critics. “I think it’s a bad idea from a design standpoint because everything in the kitchen is designed around the appliances,” said Vince Felicitta, the owner of Brown Felicitta Design. “You can’t design properly if the appliances are constantly changing.”

In any case, the emergence of such non-profits as the Kitchen Library is an interesting and growing trend, one that signifies a change in how we relate to space and to objects. While from a design standpoint I can understand the necessity of permanent fixtures, from a financial and social standpoint I think that projects like the Kitchen Library may be where the future is heading. Thoughts?

For more info, check out Dayna Boyers Kitchen Library website and blog.

The Robots are Taking Over!

… Well, maybe not quite yet.

But Westport Library in Connecticut did make the headlines as the first library to purchase a pair of humanoid robots. These robots, named Vincent and Sandy, can speak in 19 languages, have conversations, do Tai Chi, walk, dance, and pick themselves up if they fall over. But even though they look a bit like Fisher Price toys, standing two feet tall with blue and red accents to their white bodies, they are amazingly complex. Equipped with cameras, microphones, sonar, and motion sensors, they can even “feel” with tactile and pressure sensors. While their obvious bells and whistles are pretty astounding on their own, the bots have a wealth of internal information. They will primarily be used to teach coding and programming skills to animate and modify machines similar to themselves.

Westport Library is known for its willingness to embrace the latest in technological innovation. Vincent and Sandy will become a part of Westport’s “Maker space,” an area in which patrons can explore different technological skills such as computer coding and 3D printing. Library staff are particularly excited about the bots. As Maxine Bleiweis, the executive director of Westport, says in an article from the Wall Street Journal,

“Robotics is the next disruptive technology coming into our lives and we felt it was important to make it accessible to people so they could learn about it…From an economic-development perspective and job- and career-development perspective, it’s so important.”

What is “disruptive technology”? Coined by Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen, disruptive technology, or “disruptive innovation,” describes an innovation which completely changes existing markets or sectors, “disrupting” the playing field with “simplicity, convenience, accessibility, and affordability where complication and high cost [had previously been] the status quo.” The classic example is the personal computer, which built an entirely new market and completely destroyed the existing industry.

This, Readers, is what the library of the future will look like. People sometimes forget that libraries are information hubs, whose scope is much wider and more varied than simply  serving as storage space for much-loved hardcovers.  It is an exciting time in the world of technology! And as the source of information which many community members rely on,  libraries must work to evolve and grow with the latest innovations. Here’s hoping the next technological leap is a hovercraft (:

 

BANNED BOOKS WEEK 2014: September 21-27

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Readers, that time has come again!  September 21-27 is Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of the freedom to read put on by the ALA. Censorship continues to be a very real threat to libraries, schools, and anyone trying to access information. Take a look at these stats published by Pat LaMarche in the Huffington Post:

The Office of Intellectual Freedom recorded 307 instances of banned or challenged books in 2013. Jennifer O’Brien, Serials and Government Documents Librarian for Western Connecticut State University, cautions that this might represent a fraction of the censorship cases actually going on in the United States. O’Brien explained, “Teachers or librarians may just be self-censoring. And not because they don’t want to use the material… it’s possible that they didn’t even purchase a book or periodical because they thought it would be challenged.”

So do your part to fight censorship! Get involved by staying up to date on what is being challenged and where, maybe drafting a letter to your local newspaper, school board or library director,  or contacting your local elected officials to urge them to publicize Banned Books Week. For more ways to help out, check out the ALA website.

In the meantime, come to the Mason Library to check out our awesome Banned Books Week display and exercise your freedom to read by taking one home!

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