Sunday, July 12, 2009

ALA Day 2 Continued

ALA President's Program--The Secrecy Hangover

ALA was fortunate to have Tom Blanton, Director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University speak about freedom of government information past and president. Because of his actions and his 50 lawsuits against the U.S. government, thousands of pages of information have been declassified, and U.S. citizens have learned the good and the ugly actions of their government. According to Mr. Blanton, the government will almost always choose secrecy. Why? What is classified is an individual decision based on the feelings of that person at the time of the decision. Mr. Blanton showed the audience that much of this overclassification is due to embarrassment, turf control, and fear of criminal liability. Trying to hide the actions of a government official under the guise of national security is an all too common event. One of the incidences he discussed was the FBI Library Awareness program of the 1970's. I remember this one well. Librarians were supposed to turn in anyone with a foreign accent looking for information that could be considered sensitive. At the time I was working at Brooklyn College, and every week a nice Russian gentleman came to the federal depository library asking for armed services committee hearings. Needless to say he had as much right to this public information as anyone.

ALA Day 2

Libraries and Mobile Devices:Public Policy Considerations

Well, this session was certainly not what I expected. But it was really interesting. The growth in mobile device use has been incredible. Can you think of any other consumer product that has penetrated 60% of the world's population and in such a short time? The prediction is that it will be 90% by 201o. So how do libraries stay relevant? One panelist believes that there is no point in having something in the library if there are 10,000 copies available. I don't necessarily agree with that, but he also said that it's up to us and our patrons to make the unique content that we keep. We need proactive reference and we need to insert ourselves in real time into what's happening around us. This guy is really out there, but I wonder if what he is saying may prove true. Another panelist said that the future of information is streaming media, not downloadables. As connections continue to improve, information will become experience, not something tangible. Then there are the privacy issues. We must be deligent in making sure we maintain our patrons privacy, and make sure personal information belongs to a library, not a vendor.

So where will all of this leave us? Do we need to create experiences and content for our patrons? Probably. Will people still want us to buy books? I think so. And will there really be a time when there is no digital divide? I hope so, but I'm not holding my breath.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Day 1 of ALA 2009

Today I spent some time with Library Friends groups and other advocates. Not only am I constantly on the lookout for good speakers, but I also have to learn more about library friends and what they do. The president of the foundation of the St. Paul Public Library said that the best way to advocate for libraries is by direct contact: talk to your community, your business leaders, your legislators. We all do that, I know. I think talking to legislators in New York must be different than elsewhere. First of all, they actually go into session. But I spoke to an Illinois legislator who really knows how to listen and really cares about his constituents' concerns. He agreed with me that having patrons come and tell a story is more effective than having librarians lobby. After all we have a vested interest in our jobs. But we can't expect people with jobs and kids and busy lives to hop on a bus to Albany for a day. Maybe there is a place for YouTube videos. Tell stories and make movies?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cover it Live