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The library board and staff must work together to support “Going Green” at the library. Develop and submit a plan that will make the library more environmentally friendly as envisioned by the Green Governments Illinois Act [20 ILCS 3954].

The preceding quote is a requirement for the FY2011 Illinois Public Library Per Capita and Equalization Aid Grants Application.

This makes me smile.


Almost as a rule, librarians love acronyms/initialisms and associations. What’s even better is that, as a rule, associations are known by their acronyms/initialisms!

Enter ARSL – The Association for Rural and Small Libraries. This association, an affiliate of ALA, was founded in 1982 and works to “create resources and services that address national, state, and local priorities for libraries situated in rural communities.”

Browsing the website, I can see that ARSL’s annual conference may be of interest, but its member-benefits are otherwise a little lite. With ILA, PLA, and potentially YALSA all vying for attention, I can’t say whether ARSL will be able to count me as a member anytime soon. However, it could be nice to be a member of an association whose other members share the particular joys and challenges of rural librarianship.

Brought to you by the ALA, this is Choose Privacy Week. The UI Library has put together a LibGuide on the subject and its made a few more appearances than usual over at LifeHacker. So its not without a little bit of irony that I stumbled upon GoogleHealth this week. It has apparently been available for over two years, and is touted as a value for

consumers being able to own, use, manage and share their medical data online with whomever they choose. (Official Google Blog)

It works by Google Users manually or electronically importing their health data into the system and then managing it themselves, allowing them to share the data as they see fit (as stated by the Google Blog quote above). It is important to note that GoogleHealth, and other services like it, are not covered under HIPAA privacy laws, so that data has much less legal protection from prying eyes than before it was uploaded.

If you’re interested in learning more without giving Google your own data, Matthew Holt of the Health Care Blog gives a guided tour of GoogleHealth here.

I understand the desire for easily portable health records that are under patient control. I really do. I’ve even argued for them. However, this tool from Google gives me goose bumps. If you are a user, especially an active user, Google already collects a vast amount of data about you. Lets look at some of the potential data you feed them every day, if your account is set just right (or just wrong): your internet search activity, what sites you visit,  your email, your appointments, your documents, your photographs, your location, your movements, your deepest thoughts, and your reading habits. Does Google really need to know your medical history as well?

Before I go any further, let me just say that I use all of those services, except that I have set my account to not log my search or surf activities (trusting that it doesn’t anyway). That said, and not knowing nearly enough about the field of Health Informatics, I feel that this sort of service is best left with someone other than Google as the provider.

Who would you trust with your most personal of personal information? The Government? A health insurance company? Is this data more secure in monolithic databases or scattered to its points of creation?

I go with the later. Just like your bank account, individual hospitals where patients establish a primary care provider could establish web-based patient accounts to an industry standard of security and portability. When a patient changes primary care providers and moves away from that hospital, it would be a simple matter of transferring the data to the new primary care provider’s hospital. I am sure this proposal is overly-simplistic and will be told it can’t be done for reasons x, y, and z, but is it any crazier to think about than turning over control of this data to a search engine company?

Please, think before you act online. If you think and choose to act anyway, be sure to use a VERY strong password.

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day today, let’s remember the positive environmental impact of libraries:

  • Shared Resources – Using shared resources reduces overall consumption and waste
  • Education – The PLA points out that “environmental literacy is a part of information literacy”
  • Community Building – Libraries serve as a nexus for the community in a way that few other institutions can claim. All demographics walk through our doors allowing partnerships to form the serve to create health communities, which can lead to a healthy environment
  • Third Place – Neither home or work, libraries are a third place for patrons, providing a social outlet and a gathering place. This puts libraries in a position to lead by example by implementing recycling programs, encouraging energy and water conservation, and using green building techniques where possible

If you have anything to add to this list, please do!

*Image by Kevin Muckenthaler and courtesy of Wikicommons.

A post on LISNews from today lists a few alternatives to Google, all created by librarians. The point of these various alternatives is to provide vetted internet search results to users.

While these searches are certainly interesting and may even be good starting points, the can not begin to cover the scope of Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. Simply searching for “University of Illinois” in Infotopia does not bring up the University’s homepage. However, all of the sites listed provide interesting topical browsing functions.

If you haven’t explored such search engines before, you probably should. I’m not recommending any of these – though if you are in need of a safe-search scholastic internet environment, you can do much, much worse.

It seems to have become conventional wisdom that libraries banish bulky print in favor of ethereal electronic editions whenever possible to both save space and encourage use. The space-saving aspect of e-books and electronic materials can not be seriously questioned. But how appropriate are they for libraries?

D’Agostino hits on some points that I ran in to while working in publishing that make e-books rather unattractive. HTML and PDF e-books were the de facto formats  of the pre-Kindle era. However, many publishers, unwilling to navigate the choppy waters of competing e-reader devices, are clinging to these formats even though they are not favored by the few e-book users who actually exist.

Even those favored formats (Kindle, Sony, etc.) have their problems. Princeton’s  experiment using (free) Kindles for instruction produced lack-luster and disappointing results.  Besides, who wants to take detailed notes though a complicated process that can be erased without notice by some office worker half a continent away?

Cushing Academy has charged ahead into a brave new library world without cumbersome paper books, but who will inhabit it? What is a library without books?

While the administrators and Cushing certainly believed that an all-digital approach was best for their patrons and usage patterns, public libraries are a long way away from that world. All levels of technological literacy and economic status must be served in a public library and the humble book is still the way to do that.

Contrary to some claims, e-readers are not environmentally friendly alternatives to paper books, either. One must consider the energy and material required to create an e-reader, the power to sustain it, and the vast amounts of e-waste generated when it and its cohorts have outlived their perceived usefulness.

The classic paperback, when returned loved-beyond-repair to the library, can simply be recycled.

Will e-books hold a place in my library? At this point, I have to say probably not. I will certainly look to replace out-dated, bulky, and expensive print references materials with their on-line counterparts. You can now purchase the entire run of  National Geographic, a publication my library currently stores back-issues of in a closet, for less than $60 in an easy-to-use electronic edition – something else that I will surely add to the library.

As e-readers form a market and the battle-haze settles a bit, demand will likely rise for e-book availability, at which point we can consider adding them. For now though, books – those dusty lovable icons – will continue to form almost the entirety of my library’s collection.

See today’s article on Slate : “Wait, Who Says My Tweets Belong to Google or the Library of Congress?” by Heidi Moore. Moore seems rather upset that Google is creating a searchable archive of all Tweets. And, in case you missed it, the Library of Congress announced yesterday:

Your 140 characters or less will now be housed in the Library of Congress.

That’s right. Every public tweet, ever, since Twitter’s inception in March 2006, will be archived digitally at the Library of Congress. That’s a LOT of tweets, by the way: Twitter processes more than 50 million tweets every day, with the total numbering in the billions.

Announcement link here.

Moore is not outraged over privacy, she’s outraged over the ownership implications of this move:

Think for a second, not of a zillion little 140-character bursts of history. Think of the “producers” of that history, and of the slippery slope Google and the Library of Congress are creating for personal rights over any work product. The precedent here might be: If it’s on the Internet, we (Google) own it.

She makes a few pointed jabs along this line and is obviously seething about the issue, calling for Twitter to “inform its users clearly what they were getting into.”

The problem for Moore is that they did.

Everyone who signs up to use Twitter agrees to Twitter’s Terms of Service, which states, in plain English (emphasis added):

You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).

So, while yes, Heidi, you own your Tweets, you did, however, tell Twitter they could do whatever they want to with them with out further consulting or compensating you.

If that keeps you up at night, see Section 11 of Google’s Terms of Service.

Generally speaking, these are the prices we pay for free services. (See Slate write Chris Thompson.) Also, please, please read the Terms of Service of the service you plan to gripe about on national fora before griping (because I’m sure you didn’t before using the service).

Also, as another Slate writer (Chadwick Matlin) points out,

Heidi, when you write a book—and, come to think of it, you should write a book!—does it end up in the Library of Congress? Yes. Is it still your work when it goes in there? Yes. We’re not talking about Google (GOOG) or the LoC “owning” your intellectual property. We’re talking about archiving it.

Much of this conversation – the outrage, the confusion – stems from our misunderstandings and disagreements about the role born-digital content plays in our society. In this case, Twitter is the publisher, Heidi – and ever other Twitter user – is a writer published by them. When examined from this angle, the case becomes quite clear. The publisher is exercising their distribution rights, the Library of Congress is exercising their rights as a library to collection published works, and Google is exercising its right to form a partnership with a publisher.

As creators of born-digital content, this electronic ephemera and grey literature, users must be aware of these concepts and Terms of Service clauses so that they have at least a partial understanding of their rights and roles as content creators.