Congratulations, Guardian. You’ve discovered the internet

“The point is that authority has migrated from critics to ordinary folks, and there is nothing – not collusion or singleness of purpose or torrents of publicity – that the traditional critics can do about it. They have seen their monopoly usurped by what amounts to a vast technological word-of-mouth of hundreds of millions of people.”  Source: Neal Galber

Online resources for learning about privacy issues

This month, I’ll be focusing my off-the-clock reading habits on issues of privacy in academic libraries. The term “privacy” carries a lot of baggage and calls to mind many different issues. In the context of the internet and social networks, the discourse tends to focus on regulation (who should do it, how much should be done) and advertising (esp. behavioral targeting). In the context of health or medical privacy, there are concerns over access to patient records, both print and electronic. On the whole, privacy discussions in the popular media tend to focus on information collection, storage, and use and the difficulty of determining which information should be public and which should be private.

Some of these issues relate to academic libraries, though many do not. In future posts, I’ll be looking at the privacy statements of academic libraries, issues in the blogosphere, and ALA’s official stance on current issues related to individual and consumer privacy, especially online and through mobile devices. In the meantime, I’ve put together a short list of useful resources for learning more about privacy in today’s cultural environment.

  • Electronic Privacy and Information Center: a public interest research center in Washington, D.C created “to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment, and constitutional values.” Check out the “Hot Issues” topic in the left sidebar for latest news and thorough summaries of current issues.
  • Center for Democracy and Technology’s Guide to Online Privacy: a guide developed “to educate Internet users about online privacy and offer practical suggestions and policy recommendations.” It includes privacy basics, current issues, existing regulations, and national surveys. The CDT site also contains information on health privacy, internet openness, and free expression.
  • Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute: this page contains info on existing privacy laws, rights extended by the constitution, and court decisions.
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation: the “first line of defense” when freedoms in the networked world come under attack. EFF works with citizens and other advocacy groups to influence legislation in favor of individual privacy rights.
  • American Library Association’s Privacy Resources for Librarians, Library Users, and Families: related to all types of libraries, this guide outlines ALA’s stance on the confidentiality of patron records, an explanation of the Library Bill of Rights, and help for developing an institutional privacy policy.
  • CQ Researcher: If you have access to this resource, check out Patrick Marshall’s 2009 article on privacy. It includes a bibliography, a summary of current issues, pros and cons of various federal actions, directions for further research. (Marshall, P. (2009, November 6). Online privacy. CQ Researcher19, 933–956.)
  • Wikipedia on Privacy: always a good starting place.

What resources on privacy do you recommend? What issues on privacy are most important to academic librarians? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Making connections in online LIS programs

I’m a huge advocate for building and engaging in online communities. Recently, I wrote an article for the SLIS Descriptor, a publication of San Jose State University’s ALA Student Chapter, detailing how and why LIS students should get involved in communities online.

The mind can discover some remarkable things when moved beyond the pressures of the classroom and the compulsion to perform. All it requires is space in which to play and other minds with which to engage. As students in an online program that favors asynchronous communication and lacks a physical, communal space, how can we recreate these experiences?

Online communities offer surrogate spaces for these interstitial moments by providing some of the benefits of physical information commons (or “information grounds” as they are sometimes called) , but in digital form: a shared space (the software or platform), a shared culture (interests, hobbies, or in our case, LIS studies), and a shared language (netiquette). Just as a physical campus has predefined pathways between buildings that can facilitate chance meetings and conversations, online communities provide various opportunities for serendipitous discovery through shared links, shared digital interfaces, and common connections (e.g. friends of friends).

You can read the full article at the SLIS Descriptor blog.

All in favor?

“Perhaps in the futility of undergraduate careerism lie the seeds of a new vocational outlook in higher education. It is worth remembering that monasteries were the first institutions in the West that allowed people to explore options beyond the circumstances into which they were born. […] Why not bring together a core group of serious-minded but underemployed academics—who already have adopted a life of poverty, more or less—to form a college that has none of the superfluities that have made higher education the equivalent of a four-year Carnival cruise?”

Source: “Getting Medieval on Higher Education” by Thomas H. Benton, the Chronicle of Higher Education.


I finally started reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. In the first few pages there are two references to Tolkien (even a deep cut reference to the Silmarillion) within the context of adolescent romance and bloody dictatorships. I think I’m going to enjoy this book =)

From unity to diversity

“The sciences are most successful when they seek to move from the diversity and particularity of their observations toward as high a degree of unity, uniformity, simplicity, and necessity as their materials permit. The humanities, on the other hand, are most alive when they reverse this process, and look for devices of explanation and appreciation that will enable them to preserve as much as possible of the variety, the uniqueness, the unexpectedness, the complexity, the originality, that distinguish what men are capable of doing at their best from what they must do, or tend generally to do, as biological organisms or members of a community…”

From Crane, R.S. “The Idea of the Humanities.” The Idea of the Humanities and Other Essays Critical and Historical. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967.


And for tonight’s schedule, we have a variety of wheat beers and applications for home loans. Let the house buying begin!

Democratic bow ties

Not everyone who wears a bow tie is an overgrown republican frat boy. Some of us are commie-loving, tree-hugging liberals with occasional extremist tendencies… we just can’t grow facial hair. Just sayin.’ Fuck you, Tucker Carlson.

Information literacy, instruction, and the social web

Yesterday, I took a few moments to sit down and read Greg Bobish’s recent article in The Journal of Academic Librarianship, “Participation and pedagogy: Connecting the social web to ACRL learning outcomes.” In it, he claims that a constructivist approach to learning underlies the ACRL standards for Information Literacy and, as such, Web 2.0 tools can provide a rich landscape for building instruction activities rooted in pedagogical theory and practice (as opposed to being used simply for their “shiny” qualities).

He cites five requirements of the ideal constructivist environment and links these to qualities inherent in many Web 2.0 tools/platforms:

  1. Complex and challenging learning environments
  2. Social negotiation and shared responsibility
  3. Multiple representations of content
  4. The understanding that knowledge is constructed
  5. Student-centered instruction

The first half of the article lays out his justification for integrating Web 2.0 into the academic library classroom using these five elements. But what I found especially valuable was the latter half of the article which provided an example of a learning activity for each of the 87 performance indicators and outcomes in ACRL’s standards. These are brief but they offer some unique ideas for instruction.

For example, Standard 4.3.c states that information literate students can “incorporates principles of design and communication” as part of the act of “using information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose” and “communicating the performance and product” of that act. Bobish offers the following activity for this learning outcome:

Students are asked to present the information they have gathered to a Facebook group created by the instructor. A follow-up discussion is held (either in-class or online) about how the platform influenced the way they presented their findings and how they might have done it differently if it had been an in-class presentation or a PowerPoint slideshow. (p. 61)

I love this idea! It takes a step beyond simply using Web 2.0 for its entertainment value (or just because we can) and asks students to question the platforms they use daily to communicate information, both personal and professional. Granted, some of Bobish’s examples fall into the former category (“shiny”), but most promise to provide simple ways to engage students in familiar, digital environments and reconsider the assumptions inherent in them. I recommend keeping this article on hand for when you are looking for ways to update your instructional cookbooks.

Tips from ACRL’s self-branding panel for librarians

Today, we bring to a close ALA’s Midwinter Conference for 2011. For me, it was a whirlwind tour, only spending one full day on the conference floor (instead of three). After checking in to my hotel late Friday afternoon, I wandered the exhibit floor, talking with vendors about new products, picking up arm-loads of free books, and grabbing delicious niblets of hors d’oeurve. Sunday was even briefer after deciding to head back to Los Angeles earlier than I originally planned.

On Saturday, the ACRL New Members Discussion Group held their panel on digital self branding. Brett Bonfield, Kiyomi Deards, Lisa Carlucci Thomas, and Andromeda Yelton offered their advice and talked about their experiences building a reputation online and on the library circuit. If Twitter and after-session discussion are any indication, the panel was a brilliant success. Over 40 people attended and we even got some coverage on ALA’s Youtube channel.

Here’s a summary of the best advice offered by our panelists. Thanks to everyone who came and we hope you enjoyed it!

Why should you take the time to set up an online brand?

  1. People will Google you: vendors, administrators, future employers, colleagues. What do you want them to find?
  2. It can be mutually rewarding to you and the people who could benefit from your skills and knowledge.
  3. When you have an online presence, how you present yourself in face to face situations may be seen in the context of your digital self.

What can you do to make it work?

  1. First off, it is an organic process. You may have to grow into it. So don’t panic!
  2. Building a professional brand may seem like fishing with a thousand poles. You may have to throw them all out and see which one bites.
  3. Imagine you don’t have a resume. What would you do/say/build online to highlight your skills?
  4. Find an niche and find a community.
  5. Find a way to participate, do good work, and then link back to your website.

And finally, some sobering advice:

  1. Can you verbalize how social media and online branding is helpful to your career? If you’re in academia, you should be able to do this, especially if you plan to take the time to work at online branding, because…
  2. Twitter won’t get you tenure.
  3. Be very careful about being negative in a public, online space. If you’re going to say something negative online with your real name, people will notice (and find it).

Did you attend the panel? What did you think? We are planning to continue the discussion online at ALA Connect. So if you’re interested, jump over there and let us know your thoughts!