Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians sponsored by my bulk
mail provider,


#289, October 27, 2006

SUBJECT INDEX to Past Issues

* * *

Neat New Stuff I Found This Week

* * *

My resume
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

* * *

My Writings
A bibliography of my published articles and columns, with links to those available online.

* * *

Order My Books

Net Effects: How Librarians Can Manage the Unintended Consequences of the Internet, and The Quintessential Searcher: the Wit and Wisdom of Barbara Quint.

* * *

What IS Ex Libris?

The purpose and intended scope of this e-zine

* * *

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.

* * *

Highlights from Previous Issues:

My Rules of Information

  1. Go where it is
  2. Corollary: Who Cares?
  3. The answer depends on the question
  4. Research is a multi-stage process
  5. Ask a Librarian
  6. Information is meaningless until queried by human intelligence
  7. Information can be true and still wrong
  8. Pay attention to the jokes

* * *

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
  19. Walt Crawford
  20. Molly Williams
  21. Genie Tyburski
  22. Patrice McDermott
  23. Carrie Bickner
  24. Karen G. Schneider
  25. Roddy MacLeod, Part I
  26. Roddy MacLeod, Part II
  27. John Hubbard
  28. Micki McIntyre
  29. Péter Jacsó
  30. the "It's All Good" bloggers
  31. the "It's All Good" bloggers, part 2

* * *

Cool Quotes

The collected quotes from all previous issues are at

* * *

When and How To Search the Net

* * *

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 750 and 1000 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.

* * *

Drop me a Line

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

Visit My Other Sites

My page on all things book-related.

* * *

How To Find Out of Print Books
Suggested strategies, resources, and finding tools.

* * *

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.

* * *

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

* * *

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.

* * *

My personal page


by Marylaine Block

It seems to me that citizenship is harder than it needs to be, because the information we need in order to vote intelligently is rarely all in one place. The information about the mechanics - voter eligibility, registration, where to go to vote, what the ballot will look like, how to use the voting machines in our precinct - is likely to be distributed among the state's and the county's web sites.

But these sites provide little information on the candidates other than their names. We can certainly find information on the candidates' own web sites, or perhaps their parties' web sites, but to find objective reporting on the candidates' backgrounds, voting records, and stances on issues, we would need to read news articles and visit a variety of nonpartisan sources that analyze this information. To see who is supporting the candidates, we might visit the FEC web site or an organization like

Even those sources may fail us, however, in the case of little known candidates for obscure offices like Soil and Water District Conservation Commissioner. Even sitting district judges, or candidates for small but important offices like the local school board can be remarkably hard to track.

And then there's the question of finding objective information on the exact wording of ballot issues and their meaning, as well as the pros and cons of each. Again, we might find what we need in local newspapers or through organizations like the League of Women Voters.

As it happens, I'm a skilled searcher for information, so I can track this information myself, with considerable effort.

But I'd sure rather not have to. I'd rather go to my library's web site, find a front page link to Voter Information, and find there one central repository of ALL of the above kinds of information and maybe even more.

Unfortunately, my library doesn't do that.

I spent a little time searching the web with the terms LIBRARY and VOTER or ELECTION to see what libraries were providing voter information on their web sites. I was pleased to see a fair number of libraries providing those central repositories of voter info I'd hoped to find (though some of them hid the information rather than promoting it on the front page of their sites). Others did all that and more. Here are some of the particularly interesting kinds of voter information, above and beyond the basics, that I came across:

  • the Hartford (CT) Public Library <> offers a fairly standard set of links (advertised prominently on the home page) but adds a couple of really useful touches: a series of programs for "Democracy in Action Week," and programs in which city and state officials discuss important public issues including "The Clean Water Project" and "Life after Landfill." (I wonder if they plan to carry this one step farther and make these available as podcasts or streaming video after the fact?)

  • The Arapahoe (CO) Library District <>, whose Election Central is prominent on the home page, includes a list of important dates for voting, and information on League of Women Voters meetings discussing ballot issues. The library also takes this opportunity to promote some really good books about elections.

  • The Minneapolis Public Library <> presents the information as an FAQ page. Among the information included: the wording and explanations of The Instant Runoff Voting Question and a State Constitutional Amendment, and links to e-debates between the candidates for governor.

  • The LaGrange County (IN) Public Library <> links to information about the state's photo ID requirement (nice to know that before you head to the polls!), and to information for military and overseas voters. And while for most candidates it does nothing more than link to their web sites, for the judicial candidates, it links to both news stories about them and to the Indiana State Bar Association recommendations on retention.

  • The Contra Costa County (CA) Library <> lists important voting dates, gives the numbers for voter registration hotlines in several languages, links to a League of Women Voters (LWV) analysis of ballot measures, and to "an independent, non-partisan, plain-language guide to the California budget, the investment priorities it represents, and their impact on the future." While many such voter guides link to the major parties, this site includes four minor parties as well.

  • With so many precincts using new equipment, it's genuinely helpful of the Wilmette (IL) Public Library <> to link to an explanation of how to use the optical scan or touch-screen ballots.

  • The Oshkosh (WI) Public Library <> provides the date, time and place for a LWV Candidates Forum, and to, "Wisconsin's Premier Political News Service."

  • The St. Paul (MN) Public Library <> links to a similar comprehensive state politics site provided by the University of Minnesota; it also offers parents and teachers a way to interest kids in the process by linking to Kids Voting Minnesota and to Kids Voting USA

  • The Las Vagas Clark County Library District's Smart Voting Guide <> includes links to the most relevant databases (including the local newspaper and Newsbank) and to sites to interest kids and young adults in the voting process. It links to four minor parties as well as to Democrats and Republicans, and is the only site I've seen that links to any outside groups' guide to candidates (in this case, the AFL-CIO guide).

  • The Salt Lake City Public Library has provided space for a "Democracy Store" operated by the LWV and local chapters of the American Association of University Women. At the "store," citizens will be able to try out the new electronic voting machines as well as find information about candidates.

  • The Palm Beach County Library System <> proudly proclaims on its home page that it is "an active partner with the Supervisor of Elections Office in providing an array of services and information resources for both registered voters and new participants in our electoral process. Many library staff members serve as poll workers on election days to assist voters at their local precincts."

    I hope that if I do the same search in 2008 that I'll find even more libraries meeting this critical information need:

    Because a public library is supposed to respond to important community needs.

    Because if people come to your library's web site hoping to find it and it isn't there, they'll think poorly of your claim that the library is the information place.

    Because if they feel unable to navigate the complicated information maze to find out how to discover and vote for the candidates and issues they care about, they may not vote at all.

    And because libraries that help them vote might just turn them into library voters in the process.

    * * * * *


    We increasingly live in a complicated world in which those things that can be done in one click get done, and those that can't, don't.

    Brad DeLong. "One-Click Rules." Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal, October 18, 2006,

    * * *

    You are welcome to copy and forward any of my own articles (but not those by my guest writers) for noncommercial purposes as long as you credit ExLibris and cite the permanent URL for the article. Please do NOT copy and post my articles to your own web sites, however. Instead, please copy a brief excerpt and link to the URL for the remainder of the article.

    Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians and Other Information Junkies.
    Copyright, Marylaine Block, 1999-2006.

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