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Next Year in Chicago

Note that SLA 2012 is in July, not June as in the past.

See you next year in Chicago!


Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

SLA 2011 Closing Endnote

James Kane

The closing endnote was by James Kane, an expert on loyalty and author of The Loyalty Switch and Virtual Loyalty.   He began by introducing himself at some length by telling his life story along with many other details about himself and  the minutiae of his life.  He explained that this first lesson of loyalty.  He does this because something that he shared might be familiar to you, and you would then think “I like him because he is like me”.  You may think that if we like one thing in common, we will like many other things in common.

Our brains are constantly looking for shortcuts.  They find patterns, which is how we build relationships as well.  We are not good about making predictions about the future, even though we like doing it.  When someone in authority makes a future prediction, we all believe it.  We tend to base our predictions on the present.  When we are born, our brains have no information in them.  We spend our lifetimes in gathering information from people (like librarians). We do not need to be above average, just be good at building relationships.  Most of want to have our lives fulfilled and have the people around us care about us.  It doesn’t matter that you can connect to the rest of the world.

Humans do not have claws or fangs, cannot run very fast, and our skin is thin.  Yet we dominate the planet because we have learned to work together.  We are social animals.  We have had to develop skills and emotions to tell us who we trust.  From the moment we are born, we need other humans to survive.  We cannot take care of ourselves very shortly after we are born, like animals can.  We do not have instincts; our emotions protect us and help us get through life.

Loyalty is not made up.  It is about making our lives easier and better.  If I have you in my life and you do these things then I want you around.  It does not come out of a competitive edge.  We do not need to be loyal to want someone to make our life easier.  You need to eliminate choice.  We trust things that can simplify for us.  Control is what makes us happy.   Your brain hates losing control; too much choice will paralyze your brain.  The real challenge is to develop relationships that are not simply about making lives easier, but also making them better.  Making lives better is the core of what you have to do.

Trust is competency, character, consistency, capacity (can you fulfill the objectives?).   It is an expectation.  We trust people until we learn that we cannot trust them.  What do your relationships already expect of you?  If you do those things, you will not need to promote your value.  The only way to fix a trust issue is to manage expectations of your boss, client, etc. (recognize that it may be unrealistic).  That will force you to interact with people.

Purpose is vision, fellowship, and commitment and what we do for each other.

Belonging is made up of these characteristics:

  1. Recognition.  Do you know who I am?  Am I just another number?  If you want loyalty, you must know who I am.  If you do not know which people are most valuable, you must recognize them, who they are, and what they care about.  Remember things people tell you so you can learn something about them and develop a relationship.
  2. Have insight into what I won’t tell you and the challenges I face. Understand the other person, show some empathy and find what causes them to act that way.  If you have insight, you become more valuable to that person.  That is why they stay loyal to you.
  3. Proactivity.  Once you have insight, you can solve their problem before they ask you.  Anticipate their needs before they ask you and solve their problems.  We collect information from people all the time.  Do we collect what matters to us or what matters to them?
  4. Inclusion is a very powerful motivator.  If you include people in your circumstances, they will be loyal to you.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

Copyright Challenges of the Day

Dorothea Salo

Dorothea Salo, Digital Repository Librarian at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and one of Library Journal‘s 2009 Movers and Shakers gave a stirring challenge to librarians on the biggest threat to libraries today.  Surprisingly, that is not money, but rather modern copyright practices.  Network neutrality is a major worry for her. We are on the cusp of losing the Internet, and a major reason involves copyright owners who consider the Internet a platform for piracy.  Today’s Internet does not care what is being sent over it.  Copyright interests want to make it care, and that should not happen!  The DMCA is threatening the Internet in favor of huge corporations.

Where are libraries intersecting with CR and how is it threatening them?  There are 4 major areas:

  1. Collection development. Physical books are perishable in a way that e-books are not.   The 26 checkout limit recently instituted by Harper Collins is a high handed and stupid approach. What is different about e-books is that there is no first-sale doctrine, in which the seller ceases to have control over an item once it is sold.  A recent case, Costco vs. Omega may have implications for the first-sale doctrine.  (Although that case applied to watches, it has been applied to the first-sale doctrine.) Because copyright design elements in books bought overseas do not apply in the US, we cannot legally import or lend them.:spacer:
    Another area related to collection development is the perennial serials crisis.  Copyright owners know that libraries will not have any money for subscription price increases, so they are desperately looking for other ways to replace those revenues. For example, Nature Publications tried to impose a 300% increase on serials prices at the University of California, which threatened that faculty would boycott their publications with the result that Nature Publications rescinded the increases.:spacer:
  2. Teaching.  Libraries are teaching organizations.  They believe that offering e-reserves is a fair use.  Several university presses are suing universities to prevent them from offering an e-reserve program.  If this is decided in favor of the presses, it will spread to all universities which will lead to terrified faculty and libraries.  This is really about the death of Fair Use, which copyright holders would like to extinguish.Other efforts by publishers are disturbing:
    • The STM Association’s Statement on Document Delivery would prohibit digital interlibrary loans across international boundaries, except by the publisher, which would give the US the most restrictive copyright law in the world!
    • If you bought an e-subscription to Harvard Business Review, you cannot put it in your course management system unless you pay an additional fee.  This happens because contract law trumps fair use, so you no longer have those rights.  Teaching gets much harder!
    • E-theses are popular with colleges.  But the American Chemical Society will not allow students to publish their articles in their e-theses because the articles are open access.  And if dissertations are available as open access, some publishers will not consider publishing them.:spacer:
  3. Digitization.  Some universities are not digitizing sound files because of copyright concerns.  So those files might as well not exist.  We have lost sight of the fact that digitizing something does not create a new copyrightable unit.  Orphan works are another large problem.:spacer:
  4. Preservation gets hard to do because of copyright.

Despite this gloomy picture, some good things are happening in libraries and there is hope.  Some universities have instituted open access policies, and new organizations like Unbound and Gluejar have proposed innovative ways to meet the costs of open access.  Librarians can do collective collection development on a global scale.  The HathiTrust has launched a major effort to identify orphan works.  And libraries are taking open access seriously in their own industry; College and Research Libraries is now an open access journal.

Salo closed with the thought that the day of the nice librarian is over:

  • When copyright holders act as enemies of all we value, we need to treat them as such.  We are in this game for fairness and for our users, and we do not owe publishers a living!  It’s not all about us.
  • If we think open access is important and want it, it is time to pay up.
  • We are not the copyright police and should resist all attempts to turn us into copyright enforcers!

Good luck to all of us, we are going to need it!

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

Everything You Wanted to Know About Ice Cream–And More!

Each year at SLA, the Sci-Tech or Chemistry Division presents a session on a subject of general interest, usually related to food.  Last year we heard about hot peppers and salsa; previous sessions have been about coffee and beer.  These are always fascinating, educational, and enjoyable.  This year was no exception; the title was “The Science of Ice Cream”.

Thomas Palchak

Thomas Palchak, Manager of the Penn State Creamery gave an outstanding and detailed look at ice cream to an overflow audience.  (Maybe the attendees thought they might some samples, but unfortunately none were available.)

An overflow audience of ice cream lovers

History of Ice Cream

The Romans made the first water ices in about 100AD.  Only the upper elites were able to afford it.  Crystalline sugar dates from  Persia in 627AD.  Beet sugar in the 19th century caused prices to drop so the masses could afford sweetened products.  Ice cream became a sensation at the White House in 1812 at President Madison’s 2nd Inaugural Ball.  Ice cream as we know it today was became available in the US with the development of large scale freezing.   The first freezer was patented in 1843, and the first ice cream plant was established in 1851 in Baltimore.  In 1892, Penn State University offered the first course in ice cream manufacture.  Today, ice cream production is 1.6 billion gallons/year.  Annual consumption in the US is 24 quarts per capita, second only to New Zealand (26 quarts per capita).  Ice cream is a great cementer of memories from childhood; it is one of the few foods with that capability.


Ice cream is unique because it is frozen when eaten.  It melts to cool and refresh (its melting is endothermic–heat absorbing), tastes sweet, and its aroma is suppressed until eaten.  It is smooth and creamy (producing a relaxed feeling), appearance is important, and it is available in many flavors (the PSU creamery makes over 150 flavors!).

The FDA Standard of Identity for ice cream is fairly rigorous.  It must be frozen under agitation for rapid removal of heat and to prevent spoilage.   Ice cream is a colloid; air and flavoring are added after pasteurization.  Everything else is added before.  Kelp is used in small amounts to aid in stabilization and emulsification.

There are a bewildering number of types of ice cream, including:

  • Reduced fat: 50% less than the standard market amount of fat.
  • Lite: 1/3 of the standard amount of fat.
  • Lowfat:  2% fat.
  • Nonfat: no fat.
  • Gelato: a fanciful name with no standards.
  • Dairy sherbet: no more than 2% milk fat.
  • Ice milk: any frozen dessert with 7-10% fat.  “Ice milk” is becoming obsolete.
  • Soft serve: frozen without agitation.
  • Mellorine, paravine: obsolete terms for ice cream made with vegetable oil.
  • Frozen yogurt: No Federal standard. It can be anything, even with no yogurt.


The roles of the ingredients in ice cream include:

  • Milkfat gives richness of flavor and a smooth texture, lubricates the palate, and improves ice cream’s insulating qualities.
  • Nonfat solids enhance the texture, increase chew resistance, and prevent the product from being snowy or flaky by protecting against heat shock.
  • Proteins contribute to structure development, including ability to foam, which is important because air is incorporated to about 50% of volume.  They resist ice crystal formation and help ice cream retain its flavor.
  • Sweeteners increase the acceptance of the product.  Sucrose is the most commonly used sweetner.
  • Stabilizers and emulsifiers are used in small amounts (usually less than 0.4%), but they perform a critical function by increasing the viscosity of the mix and producing stable foam, melt resistance, and a smooth texture.  They firm the ice cream and allow longer storage time, and produce a dry and stiff ice cream that resists rapid meltdown.
  • Water and air are also important, though their effects are easily disregarded.  Water is the solvent.  It never completely freezes in ice cream.  Air is dispersed in the emulsion and the interface between water and air is stabilized by unfrozen material.

Flavor is the  most important characteristic of ice cream.  It is not the same as taste, which includes body and texture. Flavor is very subjective and depends on the individual doing the tasting.  Delicate over harsh is preferred, only intense enough to be recognized.

Ice cream is a major market for fruit growers.  Fruit-flavored ice creams account for about 15% of sales, second after vanilla.  Fruit flavors may be variegates, background flavors, and are often enhanced by the addition of fruits, nuts, and candies.

Consumers “eat with their eyes”, so  color must be delicate and attractive.  Colors must be certified; the term “natural color” is not allowed.

Food Safety

Milk is sterile when secreted from healthy cows; contamination occurs afterwards.  It is perishable, easily contaminated, and must be refrigerated at all times.  Ice cream is not sterile, does not contain harmful bacteria, and must be pasteurized and homogenized.  Every particle of milk must be heated to 175 degrees F and held for at least 25 seconds, which will kill every pathogenic organism. A primary concern is  post-pasteurization contamination. Homogenization uniformly distributes the fat throughout the product and prevents separation of the milk. Homogenization is critical for sensory attributes of ice cream and promotes a smoother texture.

The US has the safest milk supply in the world. California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, and Pennsylvania account for over half of the milk supply in the US.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor




The Corporate Library in Turbulent Times

It seems that almost every day we hear about another corporate library facing financial challenges, being downsized, or even eliminated entirely.  Having spent a good many years of my early career in a corporate library at AT&T Bell Labs, I was interested to hear from two leaders in our field how things have changed.  So I made the l-o-o-o-n-g walk to this session (the room was about as far away from everything else in the convention center as you could get!) and heard two pioneering and award-winning speakers give an outstanding presentation about how to identify warning signs of upcoming trouble and how to behave in challenging times.  It was an outstanding presentation, very well worth the long walk, and to say the least, it brought back many memories for me.

This was a joint presentation by Jim Matarazzo, noted former Dean of the Graduate School of Information at Simmons College, and Toby Pearlstein, recently retired from Bain & Co.  Matarazzo and Pearlstein have written a series of articles in Searcher on corporate libraries and how information professionals can survive in a time of upheaval by recognizing the danger signs and react to them.

Toby Pearlstein and Jim Matarazzo

The turbulence that corporate libraries are currently experiencing is the new constant.  We are always being asked to explain what we do and prove our value to the organization, which makes corporate libraries very different from public or academic ones.  We are having trouble thinking about what to call ourselves and what name to put to our skill sets.  In some organizations, we are trying to figure out who we work for.  This is an extremely challenging environment in which to work!

What did people do with the information they get from the information professionals?  Libraries are not well known in organizations.  If users knew what they wanted, their local information professional can find it.  But for things they do not know about, they turn to the library.  All they want to know is what has been done for them lately.  This is different for special librarians: you have to continually prove your worth.  Often, the person receiving the info takes it over as their own and does not credit the library.  Recent economic difficulties have caused this to change in other areas; now academic libraries are being asked to prove their value  (See a recent ACRL monograph for a detailed look at this subject).

Corporate librarians are in a constant state of having to do SWAT analysis: find strengths, weaknsses, threats, and opportunities coming from the threats.  The best defense is a good offense: you must get out ahead of this and not be surprised at what is going on at your firm.

For a number of years, Matarazzo has been tracking the number of advertised job vacancies in the information industry in New England.  The turbulence in the industry is obvious.

Jobs advertised in the information industry in New England

In the past, if you lost your job, there were many opportunities at new company libraries.  Now it is doubly important to keep track of the state of your firm because few new libraries are being opened.   There are also 40% fewer publicly held firms than there were in 1997.  It is interesting to note that the largest number of vacancies in New England were in law libraries.

We can be masters of our own fate.  Here is a predictive model of a way to think about what is going on in your own organization.  If you can answer “yes” to one of more of the questions, that should be a red flag to you.

This case study of a publisher’s library (the name has been changed) shows some danger signs.

Over 5 years, half the staff had left, and management bought into the recommendations of a consulting firm without consulting anybody in the library.  Are we paying attention?  We are all smart and can read the published information.  Sitting by and watching is not a viable course.  Don’t be caught by surprise–assess where you stand.

You will never have enough resources to give your clients all they want. Competing for scarce resources in a company is how you have to work every day.  As a manager, you must go out into the “real world” of your company and promote your value.  Be aware of where the money comes from and which budget (i.e., capital or expenses).  Get to know your financial people very well and help them understand what you do.

You are what you measure: customers, finances, internal processes, learning and growth metrics.  Look at every one of your services and see if your customers are satisfied with them.  Are people really using them?  If you stopped doing them, would anybody notice?

The SLA Alignment Project identified driving priorities and roles–what librarians want to do and what users want.  Don’t manage containers!  We cannot just do what we want to do or what we do well; we must do what the clients want.  Who are we serving?  Are the clients driving our actions?  You cannot allow a disconnect to continue in your organization because you will never be able to prove your value.  Service models include gatekeeper, intermediary, and facilitator.  There is no single right model of service.  You might play different roles for different customers.  Understand which is the most effective role for the situation.

Strategic planning brings imagination into focus.  Develop an internal vision statement, and refine it with stakeholder involvement (don’t take an “I know what’s best” attitude).  Create a 360 degree view of information needs (ask everybody), and identify and prioritize target audiences (don’t try to be all things to all people).

The well known recent case of the EPA libraries shows what can happen.  The early business case was irrelevant to agency management, and there was no unifying strategy driving roles and priorities.  But the data were all usage based.  The EPA was interested in results, not the numbers.  The call was for a business case, which was not made.  So the funding was jeopardized and some of the libraries were closed.  (Fortunately, protests got the funding restored.)

Scenario planning is a good sustainability tool. Be prepared to participate and position yourself to drive decisions.  We may be afraid of outsourcing, but we have been using alternate sourcing for a long time, so get into the decision process and use your expertise to drive the decisions.  If outsourcing happens, you want to be the one asking the questions about implementation.  Here are some steps to take:

  • Document what you are already doing
  • Brutally review your priorities
  • Honestly review who is doing what and why
  • Position yourself to drive decisions

You must assume every company (including yours) is for sale any time.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

Watch Out!

Visitors to the Exhibit Hall had to watch out for Segway traffic cruising the floor.  A number of them were used by exhibitors to cover the entire hall quickly with their promotions.


Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

Visualizing Science

A Spotlight Session looked at information visualization in science.  Some good examples can be found in the O’Reilly book, Beautiful Visualizations.

Chaomei Chen

Chaomei Chen, Professor at Drexel University and author of Turning Points: The Nature of Creativity and other books looked at visualization from three viewpoints:

  • Hindsight–what happened in the past?  How is it represented in the literature through citations, etc.  Our attention is changing all the time, and we can indicate this through different representations (color, etc.).  Indicators allow us to get a sense of what is happening before we read the documents.
  • Insight–What is the mechanism for new discoveries?  Visual attributes indicate values of different areas.  You might be able to ignore some areas in the first pass.  Networks have some special places that we should pay more attention to because they link different areas.
  • Foresight–What is the nature of creativity and what will attract our attention?  Are there generic mechanisms of creative thinking?  Where is a creative idea likely to appear?  Creative work tends to integrate different types of knowledge.  Looking at how people are foraging lets us tell what’s important.

Kristi Holmes

Kristi Holmes, Becker Medical Library, Washington University said that visualization lets us retrieve data from what we might consider noise.  We begin to visualize at a very early age.  The most iconic scientific visualization is the periodic table, where similar elements are visualized together.  If you have a large amount of text and want to pull out the meaningful bits of information, a visualizations like Wordle can help you.  In this visualization of terms used in Obama’s (on the left in blue) and McCain’s (on the right in red) nomination speeches, you can see what they agree on (the overlap in the center) and where they disagree.

Two tools to get started in visualization are  Science of Science, a network of scholarly datasets, and Network Workbench.

There is a growing emphasis on information visualization, with a huge renaissance in mining bibliographic data to understand research outputs and identify impact, an increased emphasis of research, and increasing data sharing and management.  Libraries hold the key to this because they understand data structures, curation, bibliographic data, and have technical expertise in these fields.

Gail Halevi

Gali Halevi, Director of Market Segment Marketing, Elsevier, reported on a recent symposium on mapping and measuring scientific output, which discussed research measurement metrics and visualization methods.  A live webcast of the symposium attracted more than 500 people worldwide.  Presenters’ slides are available here.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor




Going Mobile: The Smithsonian’s Mobile Strategy and eBook Production at Smithsonian Libraries


Smithsonian Panel: (L-R) Martin Kalfatovic, Katie Velasco, Mary Savig

Many museums are implementing mobile services to benefit their visitors.  This presentation focused on the efforts at the Smithsonian.  Martin Kalfatovic, Assistant Director of Digital Services at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, reported on a survey of 1,600 Mall visitors to determine their mobile needs.  Forrester Research conducted a conference and strategic planning workshops, resulting in the development of the Smithsonian’s mobile strategy and key development tactics.  The strategy envisions the use of shared tools across all the museums, followed by an infrastructure for mobile initiatives, products, and services.  Here are some of the metrics for success:

The Smithsonian Libraries and the Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press have formed a partnership for digital publishing.  The library would like to turn its collections into an e-book platform, with the Press responsible for the editorial content.  An initial test showed that this platform would be favorably received.

Katie Velazco, New Media Project Specialist at the Museum of Natural History, described the museum’s first mobile app, MEanderthal.  It allows users to morph a photo of themselves back in time to see what they would have looked like as a Neanderthal.  The app has been downloaded 215,000 times in the last 14 months.  90% of the downloads were for the iPhone.  Katie showed what she would have looked like:

Other mobile apps recently developed include:

  • A scavenger game for students.  Students found the navigation difficult, and the novelty of the iPad wore off after a while.
  • LeafSnap to identify trees from their leaves.  The user takes a photo of a leaf which is identified from the Smithsonian’s database.  Although the database is limited to trees from Central Park, New York and Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC, it has been downloaded 150,000 times so far.
  • A National Mall Visitors’ app to connect visitors to SI museums.

Free WiFi is a priority for all the museums in 2011, so that visitors can browse content by museum and see current exhibits and museum highlights.  The Natural History Museum’s website has been optimized for mobile devices.

Here are the lessons learned from these activities:

Mary Savig described the Archives of American Art, which she said is the art world’s “Ft. Knox”.  The Archives have 16,000 linear feet of storage, with about 16 million documents and 6,000 collections.  It is currently accessible on microfilm and is one of the world’s largest resources for preserving art.  People get to the website in traditional ways, using social media, Flickr, Stumbleupon, etc.  Many people only stay on the website only for a short time, just enough to see a single image that they are looking for.   Some functions can be optimized for phones, but some aspects of the site will be difficult to read on phones.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

Intentional Misinformation on the Internet

Anne Mintz (L) and Eli Edwards

A standing-room-only audience turned out to hear Anne Mintz and Eli Edwards discuss intentional misinformation on the Internet.  Anne concentrated on the recent rise in criminal activity, and Eli discussed how extremist views spread.  Following their presentations, Anne read a presentation from a speaker who was unable to attend.  Anne began by saying that the Internet is a Petri Dish for the growth and spread of misinformation.  Some of it is innocent, but a lot is intentional, harmful, or even criminal.  Anne is the author of a book published about 10 years ago, The Web of Deception, but now intentional misinformation goes much broader and beyond individual websites.

According to Consumer Reports, the annual damage from spyware and other forms of misinformation is in the billions of dollars, so this is not a small issue.  For example, the Enron scandal began with intentional misinformation in a proxy statement, which was exposed by a 30 year old journalist, and the resulting economic impact was huge.  Credit agencies were heavily implicated in the financial crisis of 2008 with inaccurate ratings and intentional misinformation, and a respected accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, was forced into bankruptcy as a result.  The rise of social media has enabled criminal activity to spread far and wide.  We do not know how widespread this is.  One study reported that 26% of parents have exposed their children to predators by posting their names and photos.  And some people post on Facebook when they will not be home, thus exposing themselves to robberies.

Social media has few editors or fact checkers, so it has become a common place for sophisticated criminal activity.  Many job seekers fall victim to criminals preying on their vulnerability.  In another scam, ads are placed by offshore money laundering operations looking for US citizens to engage in illegal activity such as opening bank accounts in false names and transferring the money to the offshore criminals. The citizens pay the price of this activity with prison terms.

Identity theft has become a much bigger business than ever before.  More than 347 million records have been compromised in the US since 2005.  The Haiti earthquake spawned nonexistent charities to siphon relief money through false websites with fake addresses and phone numbers.  The FTC warns people about such scams within hours of a major disaster.

Information warfare is also used on social media.  During the recent Egyptian uprising, activists protested, then loyalists created a shouting match on Facebook, causing the government to cut off Internet access.  More than 23 million people were affected, costing Egypt millions of dollars.  In another incident, a computer worm, Stuxnet, attacked nuclear reactor computer control networks.  Intentional misinformation is evolving in the non-physical world.  A growing problem for law enforcement is the development of sophisticated computer networks allowing attacks from outside the US.  Technology enables the misrepresentation of information as truth which then spreads rapidly.

Knowing how to think for ourselves and act accordingly is critical for a democracy.  We must find a way to agree on facts on which we base our decisions.  What was once something connected to individual websites has evolved into a much more dangerous picture.  Anyone using the Internet must use sound critical thinking.

Eli Edwards noted that supposedly our society is post-racial, multicultural and tolerant.  However, in many areas there is still an “us vs. them” mentality, and people use the Internet to propagate extremist views.  These views spread in three ways:

  1. Many extremists got their ideas at a young age as they were playing Internet games.  For example,  in the Border Patrol game, the player tries to prevent Mexicans from crossing the Rio Grande by any possible means.  The game contains racist language.  It was created for white-power racist sites and leaked into mainstream gaming sites that attract casual players looking for a quick game to play while on the web.  Other games are run by extremist sites like the KKK which encourages kids to use them to write history papers for school.  This sort of thing is meant to desensitize and manipulate the young.  “Gamification” is a process of putting game mechanics into online work or social networks, thus blurring the lines between what is fun or frivolous, and work or more serious venues.
  2. Political debate is turned into histronic breastbeating, particularly at the intersection of Islam and American politics.  People questioning Obama’s birthplace who think his beliefs were kept secret as he campaigned for President are an example.  Are these rumors latent, waiting to recur in the heat of the 2012 election campaign?  On the internet, nothing really dies. In moments of fear and hysteria, facts can be distorted and reasoned discussion can turn to shrill and bullying.
  3. Lies and Pseudo-Statistics can be manipulated.  Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa, a prolific author, and professor at the London School of Economics, was known for a blog written for Psychology Today.  He published graphs of statistics supposedly showing the physical attractiveness of people of various races.  The scales of the graphs were different and distorted the data as well as the margin of error.  Kanazawa took the data as objective rather than subjective.  Reaction from the blogosphere was swift and vehement, and his blog has been discontinued.

The use of authority to promote extremist beliefs is exactly the sort of thing of which information professionals must be aware.  Our critical thinking skills are put to the test, and some things are designed to try and slip under our radar.  Social media are being used heavily in dissemination of extremist views.  The odds are that we will have to confront this sometime.

Anne Mintz presented a paper on political misinformation by Laura Gordon-Murnane of BNA, who was unable to attend.  Much rumor, innuendo, and gossip never gets checked.  Many people appear uninformed when they have been intentionally misinformed. Reasons for this are:

  • Distrust of government is high, which has stopped it from helping the American people.
  • It is almost impossible to correct false information once it gets out on the Internet.  When we are evaluating political information, we must process it to come to our conclusions.  This is difficult and is being derailed by the misinformation thrown at us.  Citizens tend to resist facts and use inaccurate information to form preferences.
  • The mainstream press plays a role in spreading misinformation.  The news industry have been under assault because of the rise of digital information, declining readership, lower profitability, all leading to a mistrust of the media.  Many people are angry and deeply skeptical of what they see in the media.
  • There is a high cost of these activities.  Many news bureaus have closed, and many news people have lost their jobs.

To fight political misinformation, we must demand that politicians hold to the facts, use fact checking tools and media organizations, political blogs, and accountability and transparency organizations that watch the media sites.

Here are some criteria to use in identifying political misinformation.

Gordon-Murane’s presentation contained a number of slides with useful websites.  These will be posted on the SLA News Division website.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

Steve Abram: Getting Out in Front of the Curve

Stephen Abram

Who would turn out out at 8AM on a Monday morning to hear a talk?  Lots of people, that’s who.  And of course when the speaker is Steve Abram, that just increases the attraction!  Steve hardly needs any introduction to readers of this blog.  He has had a long and distinguished career in the information industry, and continues to entertain audiences wherever he speaks.  Now with Gale Cengage Learning, Steve was formerly with Sirsi-Dynix and is a past president of SLA, as well as the Ontario and Canadian Library Associations.

Steve gave his usual excellent presentation and delivered a strong challenge to librarians as he discussed how they should behave in the coming technological environment.  He said that we have a big opportunity to become the MBAs and CPAs of the next generation economy.  Although there are some obstacles to this, some of us are not thinking through things.  Are we marching towards irrelevancy if we are not marching where the people are?  Why would we not take advantage of something (like Twitter or Facebook) that is aligning with something we care about?  We are in the midst of huge changes that are bigger than the financial or industrial revolutions.  Copyright is a big issue because copyright laws will govern how the next economy will work. This is a massively disruptive change.  Active negotiations on copyright are happening in secret.

There are two kinds of people: those who work with changes, and those who resist them.  We only get so many once-in-a-lifetime chances to do great things.  Humans have materially changed in the last 25 years.  Our brains have shifted, as have our understandings.  We must align with what we know now instead of with our old prejudices.

The Internet has progressed into its infancy.  We are at a critical juncture–control beginning to happen based on the device.  Why should Steve Jobs dictate what should be banned from the iPhone and the iPad?  We are being remarkably silent on the shifts that are happening now, and the shifts are happening extremely rapidly.  In the past 20 years, remarkably little happened.  The shift that is about to happen will cause 20 to 50 times more change than in the last 20 years.  Our role is moving into a world of sense-making.  How do we make sense of information?  We have not begun to arrive at information overload yet.  We can already index everything spoken on video–being overloaded is on a fundamentally different scale.  There will soon be 150 million books online.  Are you ready for that?

What are the 4 things getting in the way of doing something? According to Seth Godin, they are:

  1. You don’t know what to do.
  2. You don’t know how to do it.
  3. You don’t have the resources or authority to do it.
  4. You’re afraid.

The emphasis is not about the technology any more; it is about representing our role in the technology.  Now that everything is online do we need librarians any more?  All the laws are online, but we still need lawyers!  It is the same with librarians.  If you believe that you suddenly have know-how by having virtual access to everything, then you haven’t figured out what librarians do.  We make sense of the information.  We know that improves the quality of questions, and we know that libraries are for learning, discovery, and making progress.  We are asking for money to explore something and we do not know what end result will be.  We just know that if we are not on the journey, we will die.  Here are some questions for libraries today.  What is the role of human beings and end users?

End users have changed and are different.  75% of the Millennials are now in the workforce.  Now we are looking at the post-Millennials who are all infinitely connected and read electronically like we read print. How do we train our colleagues to deal with different social behaviors?  Physical access and basic reading have already evolved to intellectual access with new capabilities.   The ecosystem has annotation and sharing capability embedded into it. Libraries will not be at the center of the campus in the future.  Students are receiving their information at the lesson level of learning.  Researchers are connected beyond their host institution.

We are moving into a world of intentional experiences.  Can we help people find a job, get the health information they need, etc.?  Then we get to experiences on demand: co-create experiences with your end users.  What is the end user going to be like at the end of an experience with our products?  Librarians have a vital role in building the critical connections between information, knowledge, and learning.

Many of us are good text-based learners, but that is a minority learning style.  Many people are visual-based learners.  How do we put together the learning styles?  The visual part is the most important.  How do we structure our organizations to integrate all these styles? We need to plan for interactions.  What should a group of knowledge portals look like?  Don’t just give them databases!  Users are not bad at searching, but they do not have good finding schools.

Librarians must be biased towards quality.  Information from search engines can be manipulated and is dangerous for your company. What changes with ubiquitous access?  Is your organization working to adapt to the learning styles of the users you serve? Information becomes knowledge through a process of learning.

Strategy is a choice.  Find reasons not excuses.  Our research results need to be customized to end users.  As technology advances, emboldened librarians hold the key.  Putting a mouse on a book or a library will not work; we must get mobility and bring the information to the users.  When we make mobility free across the country, that will shift our users behavior.

There were many more valuable insights in Steve’s talk.  The slides are available on his blog, Stephen’s Lighthouse.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor