Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians

#156, October 4-11, 2002

Or why you might want to hire me for speaking engagements or workshops. To see outlines for previous presentations I've done, click on Handouts

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Order My Book

Click HEREto place a direct order for my book, The Quintessential Searcher: the Wit and Wisdom of Barbara Quint

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What IS Ex Libris?

The purpose and intended scope of this e-zine

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E-Mail Subscription?

For a combined subscription to Neat New Stuff and ExLibris, please click HERE, complete the form, and click on "subscribe." To unsubscribe, use the same form but click on "unsubscribe." To change addresses for an existing subscription, unsubscribe from that form and return to the page to enter the new address.

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Highlights from Previous Issues:

My Rules of Information

  1. Go where it is
  2. The answer depends on the question
  3. Research is a multi-stage process
  4. Ask a Librarian
  5. Information is meaningless until queried by human intelligence
  6. Information can be true and still wrong

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Guru Interviews

  1. Tara Calishain
  2. Jenny Levine, part I
  3. Jenny Levine, Part II
  4. Reva Basch
  5. Sue Feldman
  6. Jessamyn West
  7. Debbie Abilock
  8. Kathy Schrock
  9. Greg Notess
  10. William Hann
  11. Chris Sherman
  12. Gary Price
  13. Barbara Quint
  14. Rory Litwin
  15. John Guscott
  16. Brian Smith
  17. Darlene Fichter
  18. Brenda Bailey-Hainer

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Cool Quotes

The collected quotes from all previous issues are at

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When and How To Search the Net

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Wanna See Your Name in Lights?

Or at least on this page, anyway? I'd like to print here your contributions as well as mine. As you've noticed, articles are brief, somewhere between 200 and 500 words -- something to jog people's minds and get their own good ideas flowing. I'd also be happy to run other people's contributions to the regular features like Favorite Sites on _____. I'll pay you the same rate I pay me: nothing.

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Drop me a Line

Want to comment, ask questions, submit articles, or invite me to speak or do some training? Contact me at: marylaine at

Visit My Other Sites

My page on all things book-related.

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Best Information on the Net
bestinfo/default.htmThe directory I built for O'Keefe Library, St. Ambrose University, still my favorite pit stop on the information highway.

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My Word's Worth
a weekly column on books, words, libraries, American culture, and whatever happens to interest me.

Subject Index to My Word's Worth at

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Book Proposal

Land of Why Not: an Appreciation of America. Proposal for an anthology of some of my best writing. An outline and sample columns are available here.

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My personal page

SUBJECT INDEX to Past Issues

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Neat New Stuff I Found This Week
October 4: highway safety statistics, a historical guide to TV programs, search engine for message boards, and more.

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My resume

NOTE: There won't be a new issue of ExLibris for October 11, since I'll be busy speaking at the Iowa Library Association, but as a follow-up to Banned Books Week, you might be interested in my columns on the Fahrenheit 451 game: If you were going to preserve a book by memorizing it, which books would you choose and why? "Becoming a Book, Part I" -- -- is my own answer. Part II -- -- reports on my readers' answers, and gives a complete list of their choices. It's a game you might like to try in your own reading groups.



by Marylaine Block

I have to admit that except for reading (and writing for) American Libraries and attending some ALA conventions, I haven't paid a great deal of attention to our primary professional organization; I'd devoted my time instead to local library organizations whose benefits to my own library and professional development were obvious to me. But as I worked on my book on managing the unintended consequences of the internet, with almost every chapter I was surprised and pleased to find that ALA and its affiliated organizations had already thought about the problems I was addressing. They had produced policies, sponsored research, gathered statistics, selected appropriate web sites, compiled reading lists, provided answers to FAQs, and created model programs. Where necessary, ALA's Washington Office and the Office of Intellectual Freedom had provided information on pending legislation and model letters to send our representatives, sent librarians to testify in congressional hearings, and gone to court to contest laws that intruded on privacy and first amendment freedoms.

For instance, as I was working on the chapter on disappearing digital data, I came across an ARL legal memorandum advising librarians at depository libraries on whether they could legally refuse to return documents or CD-ROMs to the issuing agencies on demand. I discovered that ALA had long since amended its policy on preservation of library materials to include digital preservation. And I reprinted Julia F. Wallace's eloquent testimony explaining ALA's opposition to the most recent attempt to move government printing functions away from the Government Printing Office.

In researching my chapter on legal issues the internet has embroiled librarians in, I found that ALA already had come up with clearly articulated policy positions, legal briefs, and relevant research. While the enemies of libraries were portraying ALA's principled stand against filters as the actual encouragement of pornography and pedophilia, ALA and the ALSC were protecting children by informing their parents (the Librarian's Guide to Cyberspace for Parents and Kids) and selecting kid-safe Cool Sites for Kids; ALA was also providing a guide to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act so that librarians and parents could both do a better job guarding children from predators and commercial exploitation.

Just browsing through the site map on the ALA web site, here are some of the resources I was pleased to discover:

  • Partnership Opportunities: tips on building community partnerships and examples of successful collaborations.

  • The Public Programs Office's suggestions on topics for book and media discussion programs, resources for planning them, grants for Live @ Your Library events, and September 11 discussion resources.

  • The Equity of Access pages, which include the ALA policy statement on library services for people with disabilities, an ADA Library Kit to help librarians implement the law, and links to resources for web-accessible design.

  • The ALA Office for Research and Statistics, which provides basic facts and figures about libraries in America, the annual Survey of Librarians' Salaries, a report on the impact of outsourcing and privatization, a survey of internet management policies in public libraries, and more.

  • Resources for adult literacy programs

  • Standards and guidelines for every aspect of library service: access, children's services, information literacy, information services, accreditation, etc.

    What impressed me most was the extent to which ALA can save our time and effort. What a boon, especially to small libraries with limited staff, not to have to devise their own guide to the internet for parents; all they have to do is hand out or modify the one ALA has already made available. They don't have to figure out what to do to comply with the ADA, because ALA has provided an ADA toolkit. They don't have to fumble around looking for program ideas, because ALA has provided examples, suggestions, resources, and even funding. They don't have to do frenzied research before Legislative Day because of the truly impressive work done by both the ALA Washington Office and GODORT's legislative committee in preparing issues briefs.

    And of course the magazines produced by ALA and its affiliates help to flesh out policies and guidelines by showing us how they are applied in libraries in real life. When I started choosing articles for my book, my criteria included practicality and readability. I didn't want abstruse theory, but solutions librarians could put into effect themselves. I didn't want articles that made your eyes glaze over because they were intimidatingly technical, were rife with jargon, or had "I'm-up-for-tenure" written all over them. That's why I ended up drawing heavily on American Libraries and ALA affiliate publications like College & Research Libraries News -- so many of their articles are both useful and well-written.

    I've heard a lot over the years about ALA's flaws, and they do exist. But I've heard relatively little about its virtues. I was pleased to discover that its virtues are many, because, when you come right down to it, ALA is us. Those policies and resource lists and issues papers are the product not of a stodgy association but of a lot of dedicated, hard-working librarians, who've spent a lot of time thinking, analyzing, planning, writing, arguing, advocating, and compromising. So what I want to say here is: that hard work is appreciated. Thanks. And good on you.

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    Too often, when technology sees a drowning man, it throws him the Titanic. When will organizations recognize that it is people who make them successful, not pieces of silicon?

    Before you invest in fancy content management software, make sure your people have the skills to create, edit and publish quality content. Before you invest in fancy search technology, make sure your people are trained in how to search efficiently. Before you succumb to information overload, train your people to send less emails, and to be more succinct in what they send.

    This world of ours is drowning in rocket science. Throw it some common sense. Gerry McGovern. "Information Technology: Trojan Horse of Information Overload." New Thinking, Sept. 29, 2002.

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    You are welcome to copy and distribute or e-mail any of my own articles for noncommercial purposes (but not those by my guest writers) as long as you retain this copyright statement:

    Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians and Other Information Junkies.
    Copyright, Marylaine Block, 1999-2002.

    [Publishers may license the content for a reasonable fee.]