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Adieu 2009

This past year, I wrote (at least) 256 poems. Not all of them, of course, were any good at all. Some, I fervently hope, were worth preserving. Writing a good poem, even one, still strikes me as a worthwhile life goal. Below are two poems written on this final day of 2009. Both follow the traditional haiku conventions of 5/7/5 syllables per line. Both are based on and are informed by a seasonal/natural reference.

Happy New Year!


last day of the year
sunshine clears the mountain road
snow in the shadows


Wisdom of seasons:
blossom to green leaf to fall
to bare branch. Repeat.

Internet Explorer for Linux

As I've noted several times on this blog, I have been using Linux for several years now. Both at work and at home, I run it on machines that are now about 5 years old, and they perform beautifully. But lately, I'm finding more applications in use by the library community (payroll and web conferencing for instance) that simply don't work with Firefox on Ubuntu.

While I very much like the idea of Open Source software, like the idea of updating my operating system and applications for many years now at no cost, like the fact that I haven't had a single virus in all that time, and like the idea of not having my business assets be part of somebody ELSE'S business plan, it's not a religious issue for me. But Linux remains at 1% of the market, and people are clearly designing important applications so they DON'T work with it.

So I thought I should report a nice find: IEs4Linux allows you to set up a program that thinks it's Microsoft Internet Explorer version 6…

Sony Ebook Reader PRS-600 - first impressions

A month or so I bought Suzanne a Kindle. Setting it up was simplicity itself. Turn it on, follow on-screen instructions, pull books from the air (via 3G), and voila. The manual for the device was one of the built-in books. Really, a piece of cake.

But I was a little troubled by the proprietary format, and the rather high-handed way content can suddenly disappear from your device if Amazon gets notions.

So I asked for, and got for Christmas, a Sony. This is the little touch screen. Suzanne also bought a cover for it, with a built-in light. That'll be handy as a bedside device.

Over the next few days or weeks, I'd like to blog about how it is to use. It's interesting to have two librarians, and two ereaders in the same house. We're comparing notes.

SETTING UP, FIRST TRY (LINUX)

I had to plug it in to a USB port on my PC to charge it up. That didn't take long (maybe an hour, I guess) but I couldn't use it while it charged. (I could the Kindle.)

Now we come to the p…

A morbid little story

After my talk at Henrico County Public Library, I was chatting with Barbara Weedman, Public Services Administrator for the library. She mentioned a story from her childhood. Later, she emailed me this:

"Below you will find the morbid little story I begged my Southern Great-grandmother to tell me over and over again as a child."

The Little Bird

Once there was a little bird who lived outside the door.
He wanted to come INside and hop upon the floor.
"Oh! No! NO!" said the Mama bird,
"You must stay here with ME,
for little birds are safest up in a tree."
"I don't care!" said Robin, and gave his tail a fling,
"I don't think old folks know quite everything."
So dowwwwwwwwn he flew,
and Kittie seized him.
"Oh!" he cried, "I'm sorry, but I didn't think."


This reminds me of my daughter, who after I read her a Grimm Brothers fairy tale said it was "Gruesome! But good."

Poudre River Public Library District - Platinum LEED

I saw this from Studiotrope:

The Council Tree Library, which sDC (Studiotrope) recently completed for the Poudre River Public Library District, has been awarded the first Platinum Level Certification in LEED for a Commercial Interiors program in the country! It is one of only two LEED Platinum libraries.

The Library is the first to feature the Supple Collection of sustainable furnishings which were designed in concert with library staff. The LEED certification specialist on the project, Kelly Karmel, credited the interior furnishings and finishes as a significant contributor towards exceeding the Gold Level mandate by the City of Fort Collins.

"We don't normally get to see such exuberance and style in recycled content furnishings. The displays and shelving units are very cool, by the way. The quality of this project is very high indeed." _K. Karmel

Join us in congratulating the Poudre River Public Library District for having the dedication and awareness to reach for such …

Library speaking

I'm back from another speaking engagement, this one for the Henrico County Public Library in Virginia. I am reminded, as I am so often, of how wonderful librarians are. The group at Henrico came together for a two-day staff day (half the staff for half a day on December 8, and the other half on December 9). They laughed a lot -- the sign of a healthy culture. I also got to see, thanks to the gracious guidance of Public Services Administrator Barbara Weedman, the quite beautiful Tuckahoe Area Library.

Like most libraries, Henrico is trying to figure out what's next? They have done many, many things right. But getting to the next level of service in today's challenging economic environment takes real thought. My presentation to them was an attempt to call out what the best research of our times is telling us. The second day, in particular, generated a lot of lively discussion, which is fun.

If I had to boil down what I believe the Douglas County Libraries has to focus on over…

Maddy's blog

Maddy, my daughter, completed her undergraduate education this year (a year and a half at Jacob's University in Bremen, Germany, and a year and a half at the American University of Paris). After another brief study in Prague, she emerged with a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate. Since then, she got a job teaching at the Shane English Schools in Taipei, Taiwan.

Her new blog is a joint effort with her longtime friend Lauren Greyson. Lauren is now in London, England. So this is a joint blog by two very bright, observant, and versatile ex-patriates.

Recommended!

Andy McKee - Guitar - Drifting - www.candyrat.com

My daughter writes me that one of her colleagues (teaching English in Taipei, Taiwan) played guitar the other night and stunned them. This was the piece (although this isn't her colleague). It is a pretty darn cool way to play guitar. Obviously some kind of open tuning. But great percussive effects and rhythmic drive. I've played it about six times in a row now.

Seven Arguments for Building New Libraries

Recently a friend of mine, now a director in the midwest, told me that he's hearing more and more often the refrain that building libraries just isn't necessary. Not in the 21st century. Not in the age of the Internet. I think we need some talking points about that. Here are 7 that occur to me. But I don't see why we have to stop at 7. Feel free to add to the list.

Argument #1 - The library is an anchor store and traffic generator. Libraries pull a cross-section of the public, all ages, all day long, through our doors. We are the business that (at least in most communities) never goes out of business. In fact, in a down economy, library use goes UP. You want your business to be by a library. If you're planning a development, you want the liveliness of a public building in the heart of it.

Argument #2 - Library construction is a powerful economic stimulus, esp. in a recession. People often overlook that a public construction project employs architects, general contractors…

Barriers to support: it's all on the web

Recently, a colleague showed me an editorial in a small local newspaper that demanded the immediate resignation of both the director (my colleague) and her board. The reasons weren't exactly clear; it had something to do with her actually quite astute decision to snap up some property at foreclosure prices for a desperately needed library.

This week, there was a letter to the editor here in Douglas County, protesting the direction of our own library.

Of course, people voicing their objections to public decisions of any kind is a First Amendment right. I quite enjoy it myself.

But my interest is this. OCLC identified in its study ("From Awareness to Funding") a perception that is an "obstacle to support:" the idea that "the web has it all." Generally, OCLC concluded that you can't change people's mind about this one, so don't waste your time. But I think that misperception is quite broad these days, and may need special marketing attention.

P…

CALCON09 - LaRue's View

I just returned from the Colorado Association of Libraries (CAL) conference 2009. At the end of Saturday, I realized that virtually everything I attended was about a common theme. I thought it might be useful to connect the dots.

What was the theme? It was captured by the title of the preconference I attended: "From Awareness to Funding," based on the OCLC report of the same name. For a long time, libraries have done a lot of things to increase awareness and use. But as that report and recent events have demonstrated, neither of these has resulted in consistent public support for libraries (in Colorado, anyhow) as measured in voter support.

Yet many libraries are working on "awareness" -- such as celebrating their recent Library Journal Index ranking of being 5 or 4 star libraries (including Telluride, Vail, Boulder, and Douglas). There were presentations on branding, both internal and external - which has now taken place at Denver Public Library, Estes Valley, High …

Threat to our communities

Today I sent this out (from my personal email account, of course) to many interested parties.

As promised at the 2009 conference of the Colorado Association of Libraries, I'm posting this to libnet and to the Colorado Public Library Directors lists. It concerns three measures -- two constitutional amendments, and one initiative that if passed would become statute. They are quite likely to make it to the November 2010 ballot.

If they do, and if they are approved by a majority of Colorado voters, the results will be catastrophic not only to public libraries, but to virtually every local government (most definitely including public schools and higher education), as well as the state itself.

Below is my summary of a meeting I attended on November 16 of a group of interested parties, many of whom are from the private sector. Again, if these measures pass, not only government will suffer. It's hard to imagine that any business would choose to live in a state in which the infrastructure…

From Fedora 11 to Ubuntu 9.10

I was beginning to have problems with my aging PC -- an HP Pavilion a520n. If you do a search on this machine, the consensus is clear: upgrade. I bought it in May of 2004. I've been using various versions of Linux on it ever since.

Most recently, I was running Fedora 11, which was actually pretty snazzy. It was gorgeous onscreen, and remarkably responsive. Then, suddenly, I was having all kinds of issues with my wireless connection. The reason had nothing to do with the operating system. As I determined through popping in a bunch of live CDs, the problem was the wireless card. It was dying.

So one of my friends installed a new card for me. It works great. But something about the change disabled all my cool graphics -- the nvidia resolution, the Compiz effects, all refused to function.

With a little diligence, using Google as my troubleshooting manual, I probably could have fixed it. But I admit it: I got bored. I started distro hopping. (I'd made a backup of my files before I tur…

LaRue interviews ... LaRue

One of my more interesting duties is interviewing writers for "Authors @ Douglas County Libraries," produced by the Network Douglas County. They're a creative bunch, and came up with an idea for a promo of the series. Here it is: me, interviewing me.

Aurora library election loss

So Aurora citizens soundly defeated (54 to 46%)the proposal to shift funding of Aurora, Colorado public libraries from the falling sales tax to more stable property taxes. All understood that 4 of 7 libraries would close, and some 40 jobs be eliminated. Said the victorious leader of the opposition, "This is not a referendum on libraries." Rather, it was to save property owners an estimated $5.69 a month.

Aspen Walker at Internet Librarian

My executive assistant, Aspen Walker, is a recent MLIS grad. Before she came to work directly with me, she was in our Community Relations Department. Recently (Oct. 28, 2009), she presented at the Internet Librarian conference. The title was "We're All Marketers Now." Aspen is a rising librarian, focused on the Right Stuff.

Aspen blogs, and tweets (as AspenWalker)-- both worth following.

Here is her intriguing presentation.

Zombies and the library

I don't know which I like best about this -- the clear animated description, so helpful to the earnest student, or the fact that well, zombies are just everywhere, and hardly deserve comment. This is true for so many of us these days.

Halloween book burning

You can't make this stuff up. To get the UK-based report about this upcoming North Carolina event, click the title of this entry.

To get the list of books to be burned, and why, go right to the Amazing Grace Baptist Church site (in Canton, North Carolina) here.

Does the Brain Like E-books?

Click the title of this entry to go to the fascinating compilation of short essays in the New York Times.

The question: is reading an electronic text (or video book, called "vook") qualitatively different from reading ink on paper? My two favorite quotes:

"I have no doubt that the digital immersion of our children will provide a rich life of entertainment and information and knowledge. My concern is that they will not learn, with their passive immersion, the joy and the effort of the third life, of thinking one’s own thoughts and going beyond what is given. Let us bring our best thought and research to preserving what is most precious about the present reading brain as we add the new capacities of its next iteration." Maryanne Wolf, author of "Proust and the Squid."

"Reading online is thus not just about reading text in isolation. When you read news, or blogs or fiction, you are reading one document in a networked maze of an unfathomable amount of infor…

Speaking to libraries

I've just come back from giving three talks to librarians in as many weeks: Burley, Idaho, Elko, Nevada, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.

All were fascinating. I like librarians and library people. And although there are some regional differences, I think we have far more similarities. (Well, OK, Jefferson Parish, just outside of New Orleans, dealt with two hurricanes. That's kind of unique. I hope.)

My talks to these groups have centered around three themes:

* brain research. Science has learned a lot about how and why we think, how we learn to read, and why that's so important for humanity.

* models for library development and market penetration. Some librarian pioneers from around the country (and beyond) have done some useful experiments that point the way for the rest of us. Those models and trends need to be shared -- they'll save us time and money.

* combining all of these things into a new story that will work on building not just library use, but library support. T…

So do you want to be happy, or what?

Thanks to Hank Long for this one, although I don't know where he found it. It does seem to size things up.

Invest in Early Education Now, Spend Less on Prison Later

Click on the entry title to get a wonderful report from the state of Washington. This is what I mean by "community outcomes:" the demonstrated value of a program.

A quote of note: "At-risk children randomly excluded from the Perry Preschool Program were 85% more likely to have been sentenced to prison or jail by age 40."

Another: "Program participants were 47 percent more likely to attend a 4-year college than those left out of the program. Kids who were left out of the program were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime before their 18th birthday. By the time they were 24, the high-risk individuals who had not participated in the program were 24 percent more likely to have been incarcerated than the participants. When the 100,000 participants have all turned 18, the Child-Parent Centers will have prevented an estimated 33,000 crimes in that city."

I hope it goes without saying (not that I intent to let it stay that way) that an investment…

Two library stories

I'm in Elko, Nevada, for a gathering of Nevada Library Association folks. Tomorrow, I'm speaking on library advocacy. It happens that I got two emails today, one about a library in Illinois (where I come from), and one about the library I now direct in Douglas County, Colorado. The timing couldn't be better.

Here's the first article, with a snippet from the beginning, then the link:
Telling her mother that she wanted to come to the aid of a library under attack, 11-year-old Sydney Sabbagha stood at the podium before the Oak Brook village board.

"I used to go to the library knowing there were people there to help me find a book. Now there is no one to help me," Sydney said solemnly. "It will never be the same without the people you fired."

Sydney nestled back into her seat, but that didn't stop 69-year-old criminal attorney Constantine "Connie" Xinos from boldly putting her in her place.

"Those who come up here with tears in their eyes …

"A History of God," by Karen Armstrong

After returning from a speaking engagement for the Idaho Library Association (wonderful people!), I came down with what might be, but I hope isn't, H1N1. (Back from the doctor. Yeah. Probably is. Got it from my son, who got it from school, which seems to be the main vector this time of year.) It's flu-like. I've spent about 30 hours in bed, sweating, shaking, coughing, and napping. In between, I picked up a book I've been wanting to read for years, "A History of God," by Karen Armstrong. Together, the experience is kind of shamanistic. I emerge from time to time for ritual soup, then back into a swelter of holy words, delirium, and dreams.

I've read a lot of Armstrong's works now, and find them consistently insightful. But she's subtle, too. She doesn't lay out her conclusions in a "first I'll tell you what I'm going to tell you, then I'll tell you, then I'll tell you what I told you" manner.

The subtitle is "the 4…

Wine on Fedora 11

I'm a Linux user. Right now, I'm using Fedora 11 from home. I like it, a lot. But one thing I've had trouble with is accessing webconferencing sites. So I tried an experiment tonight.

1. I installed the Windows emulator (well, Windows compatibility layer) for Fedora. Easy: yum install wine

This puts wine under the Applications menu.

2. I found Firefox for Windows, downloaded the installer, and from a command line went to my download directory and typed:
wine Firefox[tab] which expanded the file name and installed Firefox. Now it appears under Applications>Wine>Programs....Firefox

3. I went to the Adobe Connect site and managed to install Flash and another plug in, just as any Windows user would.

4. I went to the "test" page: https://admin.acrobat.com/common/help/en/support/meeting_test.htm and it failed at the Acrobat Connect Add-in Test.

I just can't install it (and yes, I clicked on Install Add-in). It fails. Don't know why.

Anybody out there tried thi…

haiku from US 24

snow faintly purple
on pine covered ridge
this grey morning


two big boulders
slathered with moss
frogs mating


on telephone wire
and almost too small to see
the grass-blonde bird sings


ant crawling up hill
or man driving up mountain
the immensity!

Kseniya Simonova's Amazing Sand Drawing

I'm a fan of animation, and this art form is live animation. The woman performing won Ukraine's version of "America's Got Talent" sand painting her interpretation of Germany's occupation of Ukraine in WWII. On the one hand it freshens the pain of a terrible tragedy, and so perhaps nurtures the seeds of another. But there is also great beauty.

A shattered Republican party?

Click on the entry title for a link to read an excerpt from Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, by investigative reporter Max Blumenthal.

Blumenthal refers to a couple of writers I read deeply as a young man, and whose themes continue to resonate for me: Eric Hoffer ("The True Believer"), and Erich Fromm ("Escape from Freedom").

I was for 15 years or so a registered and active Republican, although I have never voted a straight ticket in my life. Individual competence, intelligence, and integrity are of more significance to me than party ideology.

Eventually, I left the party, an ephiphany I wrote about here.

These days, virtually all the moderates have abandoned positions of party leadership, disgusted by the rise of rhetoric and the decline of common sense. The folks who are left are "conservative's conservatives." Now, I hear from multiple sources that they are seeking to seize control of the school board -- a non-partisa…

Multinational joke

My daughter told me this one. She heard it in France.

Last month, a worldwide opinion survey was conducted by the United Nations. The only question asked was: “Would you please give your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world?”

The survey was a huge failure, because …

In South America, they didn’t know what “please” meant.
In Eastern Europe, they didn’t know what “honest” meant.
In China, they didn’t know what “opinion” meant.
In the Middle East, they didn’t know what “solution” meant.
In Africa, they didn’t know what “food” meant.
In Western Europe, they didn’t know what “shortage” meant.

And in the USA they didn’t know what “the rest of the world” meant.

District 9 - movie review with spoiler

I knew we were in trouble when all the previews were horror films. But when "District 9" started, the tone was very different, like a documentary. For a while. The premise of the film was on the one hand intriguing: some 2 million plus aliens are stranded in Johannesburg, South Africa. After 20 years, the "camp" where they were rounded up has devolved into a slum. As a result of xenophobia and fear, the aliens, called "prawns" by the natives, are about to be forcibly relocated to a camp farther from town.

On the other hand, let's just stop a minute to think about that. After traversing vast interstellar distances, the command module of the mothership just fell out, leaving the mothership moribund (but hanging effortlessly in the sky over Jotown) and it took 20 years to find and refuel it? As premises go, it's a little lame. But hey, I'm watching a movie about aliens, so suspending disbelief is certainly an option.

It's hard not to cringe at…

Classic Kung Fu Movies blog

OK, here's the blog that matters. Click on the entry. When I lived in Illinois, I watched Kung Fu Theater. Outrageous costumes, plots as outrageous as Bollywood, but instead of item numbers, you get lavish fight choreography. My salute to this fine contribution to culture.

Using technology to teach

This appears to be an older video - I don't think I saw any stats more current than 2006. But on the one hand, I agree with the point. Technology has certainly changed, accelerated and made more retrievable, the things I learn. For instance, I ran across this video while searching online for various articles about the science of "attention." (This video is called "Pay Attention.") I particularly liked the focus on creation as an intrinsic part of learning.

On the other hand, it's easy to mistake process for product. The presence or absence of technology does not, in itself, add up to learning. Intelligent use of technology might, though.

Anyhow, now I know how to embed a video on my blog.

Relovilles in Douglas County

Click the entry title for the Forbes article about those towns that attract corporate movers -- literally. These are the highly educated, white collar workers who move around the country as they climb the corporate ladder.

Parker is #4 out of the top 25 relocation choices in the nation. Castle Rock is #5.

An interesting question is this: by definition short-timers, what kind of civic investment (emotional and financial) might these folks bring to their relovilles?

(Later: I expanded that provocative article into a column, called "Welcome to Reloville!)

Health care reform: an EMOTIONAL issue

This popped up on my Facebook page: an exchange between Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York, and Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009's "Morning Joe." You can read about it, and see it, here. A couple of salient quotes from that article:

"Weiner asked some simple, direct questions that no politician, much less Obama or HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has managed to pose:

'What is an insurance company? They don't do a single check-up. They don't do a single exam, they don't perform an operation. Medicare has a 4 percent overhead rate. The real question is why do we have a private plan?'

"'It sounds like you're saying you think there is no need for us to have private insurance in health care,' Joe asked at one point.

"Weiner replied: 'I've asked you three times. What is their value? What are they bringing to the deal?'"

Later, Joe "even repeated Weiner's points clearly: The government would take over onl…

Colorado libraries on NPR

Click on the entry title to get to the NPR session for Sunday, August 23. Start it up. A pop-up window lets you choose "High-Tech Library Gleams in Colorado Town." Mostly, this piece by Teresa Schiavone is about the new library in Walsenberg. But she manages to do a great interview with Monica (library director), an 84 year old Trustee, Keith Lance and me, and the best of the batch: a nine year old patron.

Supersense

Just finished "Supersense: why we believe in the unbelievable," by Bruce Hood. The thesis is this: the design of our minds inclines us to "infer structures and patterns in the world and to make sense of it by generating intuitive theories." Later, these theories may be be reinforced by culture, especially religion. But not all "supersense" contructs are religious. People knock on wood, believe in UFOs or alien abductions, or hold other notions for which there is scant or contradictory evidence.

The book is riddled with a host of fascinating stories. My favorite is the one about the lady who is told by her doctors that she could not possible have been the mother of her children -- no DNA match. But it turns out that she was a "chimera" -- a person who absorbed the DNA of a fraternal twin in the womb, and thus was literally two people.

Here's another: "A recent survey of two thousand solitary travelers by a U.K. hotel chain revealed that o…

Open Library Environment

This project report (click entry title for link) describes the attempt to assemble a radically different approach to library automation: an enterprise-wide, web-services based series of modules that work well together.

This one bears watching.

Libraries at the heart of our communities

Click the title of this link to go to a lead article in the Planning Commissioners Journal. The topic, once unusual, now has gained traction: libraries are becoming "important 'economic engines' of downtowns and neighborhood districts."

See the link within that story about the Hudson, Ohio library, about which the author writes, "Why in today's internet and digital age would libraries need to be larger? More importantly, why do they seem in even greater demand? What I've been finding so far .... is that in today's digital age there's even more demand for public libraries. The role of the library has also been evolving, taking on a broader range of community-related functions."

Or consider this statistic from the report itself:

"In 2006, the most recent year for which data is available, there were some 1.4 billion visits to the nation's 9,208 public libraries.

"To put library visits in perspective, consider that in 2007 the attendan…

And Tango Makes Three

Another ALA note. I spoke at a session sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Roundtable called "What Makes Tango So Scary?" "And Tango Makes Three," a children's picture book based on an actual story from the New York City's Central Park Zoo, has been for several years now the most-challenged book in the United States. The book's authors, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, were also speakers, and they were articulate, insightful, and altogether delightful. (They also showed up with their equally delightful and lovely young daughter.)

The story describes two male penguins who tried to hatch a rock together. A sympathetic zookeeper gave them a duplicate egg from another penguin couple, and the two male penguins did hatch and raise "Tango" (because it takes two to tango, don't you know).

After the book was published (and after Tango was grown), the two male penguins split up; one of them went to mate with a female. A cons…

Union Station, Chicago

civic cathedral:
big benches almost empty
at Union Station



I can still remember -- particularly around major holidays -- when Union Station was packed. There were throngs of people, all ages. Train stations had a grandeur and civic significance that airports really don't. In Chicago at the recent ALA conference, I visited the station and although the building seems lovingly restored, it was nearly deserted, as this photo records.

The other thing I love is that the broad marble steps into the station are scooped out -- the weight of millions of footsteps.

Amazon putting ads in ebooks?

Click the title to read this. You have to admit, the minute you hear of it, you know it's inevitable.

Why not offer contextually sensitive, up-to-the-minute advertisements on your Kindle? In order to, um, enhance the reading experience?

After all, when you're reading a paper book, there's all that unused white space: the margin at the top. The margin at the right. Wasted! Just think how the reading experience could be improved by pulsating multi-colored links to whisk you away from Upton Sinclair's "the Jungle" to free coupons for McDonald's!

Yessirree, there's money in literature. I can hardly wait.

"Columbine," by Dave Cullen

I hope soon to interview Dave Cullen, local reporter, whose book on the Columbine High School shooting is based on "hundreds of interviews with most of the principals, examinations of more than 25,000 pages of police evidence, [and] countless hours of video and audiotape." I just finished it last night. It's a harrowing book, vivid and thought-provoking. We've contacted him for our "Authors @ Douglas County Libraries" Internet video series, and he seems willing. What impresses me most about Cullen is that he never takes the easy option. All parties -- evangelical churches and families, angry parents, SWAT team members, the media, and even the killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, all come under consideration in a way that is both dispassionate and compassionate.

15 people died at Columbine (including Harris and Klebold). Twice that number were injured. But the plan was considerably worse. If the bombs, made and planted, had gone off as intended, the death …

Douglas County Libraries is #1

I just got a message from Nancy Bolt, the former state librarian of Colorado. She is the first to inform me that in the latest Hennen's American Public Library Ratings, we are #1 in the country. The data is actually a little old -- based on 2006 numbers. We've done way better since then. But it marks our entry among the libraries serving populations between 250,000 to 499,000.

My warm congratulations to my extraordinary board, staff, and of course, the enthusiastic patrons of Douglas County.

You can see the rankings at www.haplr-index.com/HAPLR100.htm.

Hjorring (Denmark) Public Library

This features some interesting pictures about the public library in Hjorring, Denmark. According to the link (click title) "It is part of a civic center that includes a gym, restaurant and library."

The space looks like a lot of fun. But we don't really see much "merchandising" of adult materials, and I'd sure like to know what goes on behind the scenes. Nonetheless, it appears that Denmark is one of the serious competitors to North American libraries.

haiku: prickly pear on Memmen Ridge

prickly pear cactus
is sporting a new bonnet:
bright yellow blossom

Douglas County Libraries Sundolier video

Thanks to our Facilities Manager, Richard McLain, we did an interesting experiment to bring sunlight into the center of one of our libraries through a device called a "sundolier." And thanks to local TV station The Network Douglas County, and producer David Schler, we've got a great piece on Youtube about it. Click the link of this title to see it.

Incidentally, the creator and installer of the sundolier is Jim Walsh. His company, Sunflower Corporation, can be found on the web at www.sunflowerdaylighting.com.

Slideshow of our "Neighborhood Library" model

Recently, I gave a phone workshop for the North Suburban Library System on some of the trends that are, I think, leading up to a far greater visibility and impact of our reference librarians. One of those trends was "merchandising" the collection. Sometime back, my assistant, Aspen Walker, put up a slideshow showing some of the elements we've been developing for our "neighborhood libraries" -- smaller locations that strive to be high volume. In an attempt to remember where that link was, I'm putting it here. Just click the entry title to see it. (And thank you Aspen for putting it up in the first place!)

NIH Human Stem Cell Guidelines

Click the link above, to go to the comment form about the National Institutes of Health's proposed guidelines for the use of Human Stem Cells.

These comments are only being received through May 26, 2009, and may well have a profound effect on the policy's adoption. Meanwhile, according to this link, the site is being flooded following an effort by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is opposed to the scientific use of "human embryonic stem cells that were derived from embryos created by in vitro fertilization (IVF) for reproductive purposes and were no longer needed for that purpose."

I support this research. First, I do not believe that these tiny embryos are full human beings. Second, they are routinely destroyed now. Third, they have great potential to alleviate suffering for living children and adults.

At any rate, I have registered my comment, and urge you to do the same.

Library challenges

For a long time, my library has consistently been among the top in the nation for receiving formal challenges by the public to various materials and services. We had so many I even wrote a book -- "The New Inquisition" -- in which I explored why I thought that was the case. (Basically, it came down to a generational dynamic: my community is dominated by lots of Baby Boomers in a moralistic phase of life, and the rise of parental overprotectiveness generally.)

But there was another reason, passed along to me by one of my library school professors. He said he simply required that the form in which an objection is documented could only be handed out by a supervisor. The intent was not to squelch the right of the public to complain. Rather, it was to ensure that the patron was well-served, listened to and talked with, not just handed a form and brushed off.

So I set that issue before our staff, and indicated that indeed I had noticed that many of the completed forms were so curso…

Judith Krug dies

Today, in the Denver Post (and many other newspapers around the country) the news was carried that Judith Krug, Director of the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom, died over the weekend after a year-long battle with stomach cancer.

I didn't always agree with her. More than once, I found her public positions harsh and divisive. I thought there might be a better way to make the library point without polarizing the debate.

But I never doubted her deep and genuine passion for one of my profession's core values -- the freedom from censorship. Her contributions to the cause have been many, stretching over 40+ years. She made a difference in an area where it mattered. She served the profession.

Well done, Judith Krug. Very well done indeed.

Her morning elegance

I've been interested in animation since the late 1970s, mostly because of the BBC series "International Festival of Animation" (hosted by Jean Marsh of "Upstairs Downstairs" fame), and the very beginnings of computer animation. A couple of years ago, my son got interested in stop action animation, which I find fascinating, too.

My daughter just sent me a wonderful piece, "featuring photography by Eyal Landesman and music by Oren Lavie." It has a wonderfully surreal quality to it, with more than a dash of whimsy. Click the title entry to watch it.

Sixth Sense Machine

Here's a video (click the entry title) to see a protoype wearable web interface, running off natural gestures, and capable of projecting onto any surface (a nearby wall, a T-shirt, the inside of a book, your own body). It shows that the integration of the Web into daily life, with a simple physical interface, is right around the corner.

Word cloud: what is literacy?

We asked a group of long time library users living in Douglas County, often vocal about library support, to respond to this prompt: "In four words or less, what does literacy mean to you?"

Here's a word cloud of the phrases they used to respond.

Tomorrow's library

I wrote my second column about the post-Kindle public library building, here.

Then Sharon Morris sent me a couple of links about not just imaginings of what I wrote about, but actual experiments in Aarhus, Denmark.

The Children's Interactive Library

and

The Transformation Lab (I think my daughter Maddy sent this one to me about a year ago -- probably where I stole all my visionary ideas, once I forgot where I got them. Sigh.)

It's clear to me that a fact-finding trip to Denmark is in order. Mail contributions to my home address.

Fedora 10 wireless issues

I'm about to give up. Fedora 10, as noted below, is a gorgeous and well-documented distro. But I have had persistent problems with my wireless connection. These days, Web access is my main home computer use.

1. Fedora defaults to the Network Manager "service" to manage wireless devices. That is, it uses EITHER Network Manager OR Network. Since I've been having so much trouble with this (other wireless networks show up but mine doesn't, when it does connect I often get a kernel bug message, the connection disappears after a logout), I went to System>Administration>Services and turned off Network Manager, then enabled and restarted Network (an alternative service to manage connections). Then I edited the Network settings to make sure those were right, and reboot.

2. The boot process took a lot longer -- and failed. I saw something that other folks have reported -- it tried to connect using completely different encryption keys (verified in iwconfig). I managed t…

Jeff Donlan's "At the Library" newspaper column

One of the things I enjoy about being a librarian in Colorado is the extraordinary quality of my colleagues. Case in point: Jeff Donlan, director of the Salida Regional Library. Jeff writes a weekly column called "At the Library," which he posts at his library's website, and is available here. This location gives you his most current. If you want previous pieces, pull down "Choose a column" from the top.

His March 23, 2009 piece on Amazon's ebook reader, the Kindle, got me thinking, so I wrote my own column on the topic, available here. I think it's a good idea to pose some scenarios based on radical change. As we learned from the newspaper world, it can happen fast.

Carl's cancer blog

My good friend and mentor Carl Volkmann has his own blog up now, detailing his now 10 year+ battle with cancer. (Click the title of this entry to get there.) That's how he sees it (a war -- and he's a very gentle man!), and his continuing focus is impressive.

We were talking today (as he chauffeured me around Springfield) about this weird truth: there are some people who avoid him now. They don't know what to say about his cancer. Yet the important thing to Carl is that his friends know what's up -- he's convinced that their active support is part of what keeps him healthy and whole.

I have other friends battling other diseases. But I found this a powerful reminder: talk to each other. Ask direct questions. Let our friends know they matter to us. We are more than our diseases.

Springfield IL

I'm a keynote speaker for tomorrow's "On the Front Lines" conference, put on by my friends at the Illinois State Library.

When I arrived at the Springfield airport, I was picked up by my former boss and mentor, Carl Volkmann, and his wife, the wonderful Roberta. Later, we were joined by Judy Rake for a fabulous Italian dinner.

Now I'm in the conference hotel. It happens to be just north of Lincoln Library -- where I worked as Circulation Department Head, then Assistant Director. I'm on the 24th floor -- a rare height here in the midwest. And I'm listening to a train moan through the town.

My talk focuses on several things: current brain research, how to grow use, how to zero in on some of the key trends of modern librarianship, and finally, how to grow support. Being here again reminds of just how much I learned in this town, from this library.

I hope my comments are helpful.

Nokia morph concept

Click the entry for the link -- a Youtube video about a nanotechnology-driven mobile device called Morph. Fascinating. My son sent this to me.

I like this approach: illustrate some concepts with simple animation, and show how such technology might really be used. Clearly, the progress toward ever more capable and flexible mobile devices is a trend.

Synching the Acer Aspire One to the Palm Centro

It turns out to be simplicity itself -- once you know the arcane commands. They can be found by clicking the title of this entry.

I have to say that since installing Fedora 10 on my home computer, using Linpus Lite (the Xfce version of Fedora 8) seems easier. I suppose it's about getting comfortable with the menus and mindset.

But at any rate, this little netbook now communicates quite easily with the other mobile device in my life: the Palm Treo. Wonderful!

(I also added some Gnome themes that better matched the Xfce themes, giving me a nice graphite scroll bar to match the Aqua look of the window decorations. Man, I am geeking out.)

Generations Updated

My daughter sent me this link (click the title of this entry) to Kate Zernike's New York Times article, "Generation OMG." It does appear that the coming-of-age Millennials are facing tougher times as they enter the world's workforce. But what struck me was the generation still at home, born after 2000. One name proposed for them has been the "Homelanders" -- born in the post-911 world, and so even more obsessively protected than the Millennials. The works of Howe and Strauss continue to hold up for me, their notion of the generational dynamic as a reliable predictor of social moods.

All of which seems to suggest the sort of hunkering down we see everywhere: caution, restricting expenditures, and slowly starting to rediscover the value of the public sector.

Fedora 10

For several years now, I've used PCLinuxOS, a Linux distribution, on my home machine (an HP Pavilion). But PCLOS is mostly based on the KDE desktop environment. I generally prefer the Gnome desktop, but installed Gnome too (KDE and Gnome coexist just fine), and was quite happy for a long time.

A recent series of updates made my system very unreliable, though: my wireless started winking out, and there were strange delays, once per session, when my screen would go unresponsive. Eventually, I have no doubt that the good people over at PCLinuxOS forum will iron things out through a series of updates. But I got restless, and popped in a Fedora 10 disk I got in the mail (from my about to expire LinuxFormat subscription). Then I completely reformatted my hard drive, and installed the new software. That whole process took about half an hour.

Fedora -- an offshoot of Red Hat -- is very well documented. I quickly got online (a great little pop-up wireless tool), and found several long FAQs.…

Palm Centro

I've been a Palm user for a long time -- since the very second version of the device. I got pretty good at Graffiti, which I tended to use more than the onscreen keyboard. My third Palm was a T|X, which at first I liked quite a lot. Very clear, colorful, and large. I do a lot of writing on mine, or did.

But I wound up being pretty unhappy with it. The digitizer got out of whack, and short of replacement there seemed no fix for it. The screen also got scratched up quite a bit, although I took reasonably good care of it.

Over time, I also got irritated by having to carry both it and a cell phone.

Enter the Palm Centro. The library has a Verizon plan which allows for regular upgrades of phones. The Centro was just $49. I was able to get it to sync with PCLinuxOS and Ubuntu very easily (and with my assistant's Windows PC). All of my contacts, memos, calendar, etc. came over lickety-split. I particularly appreciate that it used the same USB synch cable as my T|X.

I like it as a phone.…

End of "Harvey"

Tonight was our last performance, and it was fun. So strange that all these hours of memorizing and rehearsing come to less than a handful of performances, then a cast party, then it's done.

It was, I think, our best performance tonight. It's good to hear the audience laugh. And it was a good respite from too many other things to think about -- tugs on my consciousness that will now resume.

Thank you, my fellow actors and stage crew. Thank you, generous audience.

Curtain.

The Long Emergency

Jim Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency, has a pungent posting entitled "Clusterfuck Nation," available by clicking the title of this entry. Bottom line: he argues that as a nation, and perhaps as a global economy, we are in a period of contraction. Kunstler fingers oil dependency, which he calls the vision of "Happy Motoring," as one of the big things we have to eliminate. Our easy credit economy is gone, and will not return, he believes.

But I liked his ending: "My hope for the year, at least for my own society, is that we will transition away from being a nation of complacent, distracted, over-fed clowns, to become a purposeful and responsible people willing to put their shoulders to the wheel to get some things done."

Planning for budget cuts

Since our failed election, since our projected drop in revenue next year, I've been engaged in discussions with board and staff about how best to respond. We've put together a framework for dealing with the times, and I'm proud of it.

First point: the library is in better shape than many. No debt. Money in the bank -- the "rainy day fund" everybody talks about but few set aside. A balanced budget. A history of planning ahead -- as evidenced by our RFID/self-check/automated materials handling. No greedy, short-sighted and foolish investments that gambled away our future.

Second point: an eye to the realities of public finance. When people vote against sufficient funding for a certain level of service, then you can't provide those services. You must, instead, restructure your operations to make them sustainable and logical within existing resources.

Third point: rather than come back year after year with different strategies for cost-containment, I'm urging th…