July 24, 2014

Feedback: Letters to LJ, April 15, 2013 Issue

The Twitter thing

I was going to hold off commenting on the twitter thing—largely because I believe in an age of ubiquitous tools you have every right to choose what works for you (Cheryl LaGuardia, “Stuff I Don’t Understand About Libraries Right Now,” Not Dead Yet.)

But I may as well tell you what I like about Twitter. It’s like being on [an email list] of everyone you think has something interesting to say (you choose who’s on the list)—every poster is succinct and the message is the subject line (so no wondering whether to open an email that says “Help needed”)—and you never have to delete any messages or feel guilty about the ones you missed. There’s still room for inter­action, retweets act like star ratings, and there are links to more in-depth analysis if you’re interested. It’s efficient and fun.

Being in a remote regional university it gives me a feeling of linkage to other professionals that I lost moving from a capital city. And that’s just for keeping up with what’s going on.

It has utility in providing services, too, but it’s early days. For example, I use embedded tweet feeds in web pages to display system status issues to users (library staff and our clients).

I can only concur on the book-ebook debate. I wonder if there were opposing camps of dissent when some people started painting on canvas instead of walls. Content not container.

—Alan Cockerill, Lib. Technologies Coord.,
LIS, James Cook Univ., Cairns,
Queensland, Australia

Learn messy topics

Acknowledging that most information specialists can use preprogrammed software and tools to aid in the HTML and cascading style sheets (CSS) landscape, I believe that in order to be fully cognizant of your platforms and the inner workings of content it is within a professional’s best interest to have a cursory understanding (Roy Tennant, “Why You Should Not Learn HTML.”) Too often do I speak with fellow professionals who believe that the codification work is “messy” or “not their problem.”

Take the initiative. Understanding all the pieces of the whole will enable you to find better solutions to problems, where enhancements can be made, and, most important, how to work smart and not hard and bring those lessons to the rest of your working relationships.

This not only addresses learning HTML and CSS but also learning any number of “messy” topics that are associated with information management.

—Ashleigh Faith, Taxonomy &
Document Indexing Mgr.,
SAE International, Pittsburgh

Playing is experimenting

I think the idea behind “play with it” at libraries comes out of very broken ideas about pedagogy (Cheryl LaGuardia, “Stuff I Don’t Understand About Libraries Right Now,” Not Dead Yet,): that teaching/learning is always boring; that you can trick people into learning by saying it’s fun; and that unrestricted “play” is the best way to learn.

For some people the chance to sit with a hunk of technology and “play” with it helps them learn. They’re not ­really playing so much as experimenting. By poking around they may understand the structure better. They quickly learn what doesn’t work, and then it’s easier to figure out what does work.

The big problem for me is that not everyone likes to do that. Many people learn better in an environment with more structure. Many people when confronted with a roomful of technology and told to play will say, “But how and why?” Giving people some guidance, suggested things to try to create, etc., makes that experience much better.

—Julia Starkey, Cambridge, MA

Bloomberg and NYPL

One result of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s continual cut in the New York Public Library’s (NYPL) budget has been NYPL’s replacement of librarians with other staff that receive lower salaries (“Annual Library ‘Budget Dance’ in NYC Leads to Call for Baseline Funding.”) Most library employees in the three New York City systems have not received a pay raise in over three years. Mayor Bloomberg’s actions are responsible for lowering the quality of library service to the citizens of New York. His refusal to put money in the budget for salary increases for library employees has also meant that they are being ­impoverished.

—Ray Markey, Honolulu;
former President, New York P.L. Guild,
Local 1930, DC37, AFSCME

Lip service to change

Librarians have been believing it is “business as usual” for a decade now, but it just ain’t so. Kudos to the board for attempting to rescue this library from financial collapse and irrelevance (Meredith Schwartz, “Vermont Library Lays Off Whole Staff; Librarians Protest.”) I sympathize with the staff; I’m a librarian myself. But the world is changing, and lip service to change is not nearly enough. The Athenaeum is the tip of an iceberg. We’re going to be seeing lots more of this kind of restructuring down the road.

—Gord Ripley, R&D Libn., Bata Lib.,
Trent Univ., Peterborough, Ont.

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