Contact me

These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

3M and the Douglas County Libraries

3M was one of the big hits of ALA -- an alternative to Overdrive. As it happens, DCL had a lot to do with this product, as in pretty much defining the goals, doing the mock-up of how it should work, getting it to directly integrate with our catalog, and more. Major kudos here to Monique Sendze, my Associate Director of Information Technology, and her staff.

I spoke with Eric Hellman at ALA about it, and he wrote a nice blog post here. He's a smart guy.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Jefferson County Public Libraries hosts 6 community meetings

JCPL Facing Closures: Learn More at Save Jeffco Libraries Community Meetings

(GOLDEN, Colo. – June 17, 2011, UPDATED June 21, 2011) Save Jeffco Libraries is hosting six community meetings to inform Jefferson County residents about the significant budgetary issues facing Jefferson County Public Library (JCPL) and the group’s efforts to form an independent library district.

“Over the past several years, the Jefferson County Commissioners have diverted $6 million in property taxes from JCPL’s dedicated mill levy to other County departments,” said former Library Board chair and Save Jeffco Libraries founder Tom Atkins. “Diversion of these funds has resulted in staff layoffs and Monday closures.”

“If JCPL remains a part of Jeffco government, things will only worsen. The 2012 Library budget will be $2 million short, and it is obvious when you look at the numbers that Jeffco residents will likely see some of our libraries close. As an independent library district, five-year projections look much better. Funding will be tight, but they will be able to keep the doors open.”

Discussions will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. in the meeting room at the following JCPL locations:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011 - Arvada Library, 7525 W. 57th Ave., Arvada
Thursday, July 7, 2011 - Golden Library, 1019 10th St., Golden
Tuesday, July 12, 2011 - Standley Lake Library, 8485 Kipling St., Arvada
Wednesday, July 13, 2011 - Evergreen Library, 5000 Hwy. 73 (at Buffalo Park Rd.), Evergreen
Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - Belmar Library, 555 S. Alison Pkwy., Lakewood
Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011 - Columbine Library, 7706 W. Bowles Ave., Littleton

For more information, visit Savejeffcolibraries.org, or call 303.726.9003. County residents can support the formation of an independent library district by signing the Statement of Support at Savejeffcolibraries.org and writing the Jefferson County Commissioners at Commish@jeffco.us and the Library Board at board@jeffcolibrary.org.

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About Save Jeffco Libraries
Save Jeffco Libraries is a grassroots initiative formed by Jefferson County Public Library patrons, including many former Library Trustees, who are concerned about the Library’s funding and independence and believe creation of a district is the only way to preserve and protect its future. Save Jeffco Libraries is not affiliated with Jefferson County Public Library, its Board of Trustees, Jefferson County Library Foundation, or Friends of the Library.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Back from ALA - the death of commercial publishing

On June 25, I was one of the panelists speaking at "The Future is Now! e-books and their increasing impact on library services." I made one deliberately provocative statement that woke up some people. I mentioned that my book, which retails for $40, earns me $4 with each sale. 10% is pretty good for a first time author. But somebody publishing an ebook on Amazon can sell it for $10, and make $7. I said, "The bullet has passed through the brain of commercial publishing. Now we're just waiting for the body to fall."

My point here is that the economic model of commercial publishing isn't so attractive anymore. The numbers show it.

I only had 12 minutes for my part of the panel, so as you can imagine, I have lots more to say about all this. Obviously, commercial publishing is still around. Patrons still ask for traditional content. Libraries have to find ways to get it. My library is working with Overdrive, 3M, and others.

My premise is that ebook and self-publishing together represent an explosion in the quantity of writing, and librarians don't know much about it. It's easy to dismiss it all as bad. Much of it may be. Much of commercial publishing isn't so hot, either.

But if the job of public libraries is to gather, organize, and present the intellectual content of our culture to the community, we'd better get busy. We need to look into it, find ways to sample and deliver it, figure out what it means. Maybe even take part in it, help our communities make rich, compelling, and high quality contributions to it. Become publishers ourselves.

And in a time when a lot of publishers are suddenly refusing to sell this content to us at all, I think it's important to remind them that they aren't the only game in town. They are not even where the action is. Many independent publishers and writers are EAGER to sell to libraries.

Librarians can whine about how corporations are unilaterally redefining the whole system of public access to content. It's true, too. Or, we can do something more than react to a market. We can help define one that is far more interesting and modern. Guess which one sounds like more fun?

Incidentally, our own library's attempt to grow a new information infrastructure that seamlessly integrates print and digital media, through one unified catalog, instead of a series of vendor silos, is pretty neat. But I was blown away by Brewster Kahle talking about the enormous scale and success of the Internet Archive.

My message to the ALA audience was to start some experiments with the managing of content, instead of passively waiting for vendors to tell us what they'll allow us to do. But Kahle is doing it internationally, with all kinds of media, and his message was even more powerful. Go to publishers and tell them this: we want to buy your ebooks. Will you sell them to us?

Obviously, I think our messages go together pretty well. And it was a pleasure to meet the good people involved with that effort.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

LaRue versus Colorado Board of Education

The ACLU website has the press release here. There have been other articles about it in the Denver Post, EdNewsColorado, and others.

There are a few facts I want to declare.

First, this is a private action, not a library action. My wife (Suzanne) and I are doing this as parents of a child at Douglas County High School. Although I am indeed the director of the Douglas County Libraries, this action and my employer are completely separate. Public servants do not sacrifice their rights to free speech and civic engagement. We are taxpayers who strongly disapprove of the rechanneling of public funds into private and religious institutions. I repeat: THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE DOUGLAS COUNTY LIBRARIES.

Second, why are we first on the list of plaintiffs (and there are many eminent plaintiffs, as you'll see in the complaint)? I don't really know. Perhaps because the name LaRue is so mellifluous. But when we agreed to be plaintiffs, we agreed to be a part of the public process.

Third, I think it's important to recite a little history here. We homeschooled our daughter through first grade, and our son through second. Suzanne and I were co-founders of the Academy Charter School, the second charter school in Colorado, and the first to be initiated by parents. A friend of mine, Laurel Iakovakis, and I were key in its adoption of the Core Knowledge Curriculum (which was subsequently adopted by many charter schools). I served on ACS's Board twice. I have served on Douglas County School District committees. I've worked on state curricular standards. Both of us (although Suzanne far more than I) volunteer for various school organizations like the Douglas County High School Band, and the DCHS International Baccalaureate program. I have written many newspaper articles about issues related to public education.

In other words, we are not opposed to educational choice, or educational reform. We are firmly committed to the support of public education, whose work is so vital to our nation. This isn't a new thing for us.

The Colorado Constitution is quite definite that public moneys shall not be spent on religious education. From my reading of early American history (as reflected in my book "The New Inquisition") the separation of church and state is a founding principle of our nation, and I fully support it. In our view, the policy decision by the School Board to launch a voucher program is illegal, inherently inequitable (taxpayers in the relatively poor Costilla County are supposed to underwrite the religious education of wealthy Douglas County taxpayers?), and profoundly destructive to the sustainability of public funding for education. It is also destructive to the rigor and consistency of education within Colorado, much less the United States of America.

Finally, please note that here, as in my newspaper columns, I don't cast aspersions on people's motives, or try to assassinate their character. I just think the idea is wrong, and should be vigorously challenged. Naturally, I don't imagine for a moment that this courtesy will be extended to me.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Haiku: the Centipede Saga

Awhile back, I wrote a haiku about a centipede. It went like this:

towering cloud
dominates evening sky
and centipede

It happens that I'm part of a haiku email list with a couple of close friends, Sharon and Jeff. Sharon was tickled by it.

I was driving up to Windsor one day, which took a long time. Along the way, I turned on the radio, and NPR was doing a fundraising drive. So I got this idea. We should write 100 centipede haiku. It was kind of a matching haiku program. I imagined the call: "Send in ONE haiku, and we'll put another one right up against it!"

And because there wasn't much to listen to, I cranked out a bunch of them:

journey begins with
a single step - but which one?
centipede quandary


martial melody:
rhythm of centipede feet
drumming on window


for haiku chorale
just 96 centipedes
to go


first take a deep breath -
the centipede's ambition
to climb Mt. Evans


when centipedes sing
they have to stop walking and
hold perfectly still


stopping is just wrong
it takes so long to get it
all going again


wind rippling through grain
centipede whirring along
the edge of wet field


if for every foot
someone gave him a penny
he'd have a dollar

OR
if someone gave him
a penny for every foot
he'd have a dollar


master machinist
needed to build centipede's
tiny bicycle


what is the sound
of fifty handsclapping
one centipede



So then Jeff came back with a couple of his own:

In the moonlight
flowing like silk
centipede



How does one know
when a centipede
is bored?


Then a few more:


applause
at the centipede opera
sound of thunder


PBS special
about the viking ships
centipede favorite


how many
centipedes does it take
to change a light bulb?


centipedes gather
to watch the truck pull in
piano movers


pale centipede
organs of Tömösvary
night touch


sightless
the old centipede still knows
she's got legs


then even more:

sign at the
centipede foot massage
sticker shock!


no broken legs
in the centipede
emergency room


how to hold hands
on the first date
centipede angst


no market for
roll-on centipede
deodorant


at the stadium
centipedes take too long
to do the wave



Now the interesting thing is that centipedes rarely, in fact, have 100 legs. According to Wikipedia, though, "Centipedes have an odd number of pairs of legs, e.g. 15 or 17 pairs of legs (30 or 34 legs) but never 16 pairs (32 legs)." So you have to ask: is 100 poems right?

This just in: Sharon writes,

centipedes
dosey do
among the clover

(and an alternate:)
Centipedes
Dosey do in the clover
Allamande for luck



And now I'm thinking:


centipede
marching band
only one horn


and


crack the whip:
one centipede
at the roller rink


So this is my frank call to the universe. This may be your ONLY chance to contribute to a haiku centipede saga. Remember, poets are standing by.

---
Later. More from Sharon:


Please keep off the grass
Sign on justice center lawn
Savvy centipedes

Squirming blades of grass
Catches robin's searching glaze
Centipede for lunch

Centipede hand jive
Too complicated for
Curious worms

Centipede searches
Through the field of clover
Any with four leaves?


--
And another one from Jeff:

do centipedes
ever dare to ask
for handouts?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Linux Mint and Xfce

I mentioned that I'd upgraded to Ubuntu 11.04. But I was irritated by the fact that it wouldn't display the right resolution: it did 1024x768 instead of 1280x1024. I messed around with the Monitors program, but couldn't get it to work. Eventually, in a fit of pique, I just wiped it all out with the latest Linux Mint. It's based on Ubuntu, but has all kinds of special applications.

The good news: in Mint, the Monitors program allowed me to reset the resolution for a session without much fuss. ANOTHER program allowed me to set it as a startup setting. Why it didn't work in Ubuntu, I have no idea.

But something about the Linux Mint Gnome setup just didn't feel right to me. So I downloaded the Xfce desktop. I like it. It seems much cleaner. I did have to mess with display settings yet again: Settings>Appearance>Fonts, then enable anti-aliasing, do slight hinting, and RGB pixel order.

That's a lot to go through just to get it to look good on a generic LCD monitor.

But I'm happy with it now. It's fast, spare, and easily customizable through the user interface. I set up the panel to include the programs I want readily to hand, and it already feels unobtrusive and comfortable.

Besides, it beats doing anything useful on a Sunday (other than taking out the recycling).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Library standards - videos

The video here is my interview, arranged by the Colorado State Library's Shelley Walchak, talking about the new library standard of community engagement. This is just one of the series, but I was proud to be a part of this. Not only are the standards good in themselves, genuinely useful, but I like the video format as a way to introduce people to them.