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Friday
Nov042005

Be nice to your Sims

Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice. - Robert Frost

Last Sunday, I fussed that Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near was overly optimistic about technology’s impact on the future and I needed to re-read Bill Joy’s Wired article, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us.” Once again, I suffer from premature articulation.

Kurzweil addresses Joy’s doomsday scenarios: genetically engineered disease spread (ala Atwood’s Oryx and Crake); nano-tech gone wild (ala Crichton’s Prey); and artificial intelligence that turns against us (ala Simmon’s Endymion).

As a bonus he adds some of his own dark futures, he labels existential risks. And “the simulation will shut down,” is pretty interesting. He writes:
“Another existential risk ,,, is that we’re actually living in a simulation and the simulation will be shut down. … The best way we could avoid being shut down would be to be interesting to the observers of the simulation. Assuming that someone is actually paying attention to the simulation, it’s a fair assumption that it’s less likely to be turned off when it’s compelling than otherwise.”
So please folks, do something interesting this weekend. Humanity may depend upon it!

 

And be extra nice to your Sims. 

Thursday
Nov032005

Librarians have an image problem?

flibrarian.jpg
Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library via American Memories Collection

Once again a great storm of discussion has blown into the LM_Net list over the image of the librarian in popular culture. Despite the made-for-TV movie, The Librarian, that featured an Indiana Jones-type hero, the drunken heroine Carnahan’s proud assertion, “I AM a librarian!” in The Mummy, and a very hot Shirley Jones as that "sadder but wiser" librarian in The Music Man, it seems the great unwashed public still see us as bun-lovin’, shushing, frumps.

Well, I say get over it. This was my contribution to the conversation (slightly edited):

_________________________________

I can't think of any profession that doesn't suffer from some negative stereotypes. Lawyers, dentists, cab drivers, teachers, Enron executives, county road workers, prison guards, priests - name an occupation that doesn't have some popular negative stereotype. (Well, tech directors don't, I suppose.)

I think we can all get Mary Kay makeovers (but I'd have some 'splaining to do to the wife), dress better, write letters about the unfairness of the world to the paper, and debate this ad nauseum among ourselves, but the plain fact is that only our positive interactions with individuals are what really matter.

If image is that important, well, become a car mechanic or actor or politician or accountant... Well, bad examples.

And I added:

PS. Male librarians don't have an image problem.

(To which someone responded: I always thought that male librarians either had long hair and were of the “very clean, knowledgeable hippie” variety or they were of the “uptight, anal, and gay always wearing a sweater vest” variety.)

_________________________________

Lynn Butler, Lamar Elementary Library, San Angelo, Texas, said it more eloquently (reprinted her with her kind permission):

I found the remark about Mary Kay makeovers somewhat out of line. Who doesn't love a makeover?  <SMILE> Seriously, if the librarian image that prevails in our society is one of a frumpy woman wearing sensible shoes, and hair in a bun who goes around saying, "Shh!"  then we might ask ourselves how that image came to be?  Only we can change our image and reinvent ourselves personally as well as professionally. The question was asked, "So how DO we go about changing our image?"  Personally, that is up to each individual person.  Manner of dress and hairstyle is a personal as well as a professional choice.  Ask yourself, "Am I comfortable with how I dress?  Do I look like a professional who knows her stuff or do I look like some ancient creature who wouldn't know a good book from a dark hole?"  "Do I have a pleasant expression on my face and seem approachable to students or do I have an, 'I'm busy. Don't bother me.' look?"
Unwarranted interruption: If I remember, Lillian Gerhardt once explained in School Library Journal column that the buns, drab dresses, and sensible shoes are a direct reflection on the economic realities of being a low-paid professional.
To change our collective image from the stereotype involves not only knowing how to teach but how to reach.  To reach our students we must stay on top of the latest research skills as well as the latest fads. We need to know who's who in American history as well as who's who in pop culture.   Librarians need to know who the hot characters are in children's literature as well as the hot stars in movies.  I just returned from a professional librarians' delegation to Russia and one of the places we visited was the University of Art and Culture in St. Petersburg.  Librarians who train there go through an intensive six-year program of not only library, technology, and information skills classes but literature, drama, art, music, and dance.  In Russia, librarians are the repository of all art and cultural knowledge.  They are respected and admired and particularly in smaller towns, are viewed as the fountain of all wisdom.

As librarians of the new century we must reshape our images as we rework our job descriptions.  In my humble opinion, the old stereotype has no place in our world and until we work diligently to change that, it is going to remain with us.  As we redefine the job, we will redefine ourselves and bury those stereotypes for good.

Should we change our image? Can we change our image? Wouldn't most people rather work with a knowledgable, effective, pleasant frump than a glamourous airhead? Do male librarians (or tech directors) really have an image problem?

 mlibrarian.jpg
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USF35-1326]

 

Wednesday
Nov022005

Future of libraries article

The article, The Future of Libraries: Beginning the Great Transformation by Thomas Frey, Executive Director of the DaVinci Institute, lists 10 Trends impacting the "next generation" library.  Those trends?

  • Trend #1 - Communication systems are continually changing the way people access information.
  • Trend #2 - All technology ends.   All technologies commonly used today will be replaced by something new.
  • Trend #3 - We haven’t yet reached the ultimate small particle for storage.  But soon.
  • Trend #4 - Search Technology will become increasingly more complicated.
  • Trend #5 - Time compression is changing the lifestyle of library patrons.
  • Trend #6 - Over time we will be transitioning to a verbal society.
  •  Trend #7 - The demand for global information is growing exponentially.
  • Trend #8 - The Stage is being set for a new era of Global Systems.
  • Trend #9 – We are transitioning from a product-based economy to an experience based economy.
  • Trend #10 - Libraries will transition from a center of information to a center of culture.

I think Mr. Frey would get some argument about Trends 3 and 4 from Ray Kurzweil, but most of these trends seem pretty evident.

Mr. Frey also lists some "recommendations for libraries." Well worth reading.

Some answers to the superintendent who received the letter from the Flat World Library Corporation