A Great TEDTalk on Why Privacy Matters

Most people who know me know that I care deeply about information privacy issues. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I was drawn to librarianship in the first place. It may not be “cool” to use my privacy concerns to guide how I behave online, but we need to have a conversation about this issue in the digital age. Glenn Greenwald’s wonderful TEDTalk is a great place to start. Have a listen, and let me know what you think.

Let the conversation begin!

An Update from Your MIA Blogger

Greetings! I’m now a few weeks into my second and final year of my LIS program, and I decided it’s high time I commit to this blog. And I really don’t have an excuse not to. I may be busy, but my view is that if you don’t have time for something you care about…then, well, you make time.

So, here’s what I’ve been up to over the last six months:

1. I completed a really rewarding e-learning project for my university’s engineering library. You know, to teach them that the library catalog and IEEE Explore are their friends. It’s 5 minutes long, and it includes a little quiz at the end. I even got in touch with my artistic side to create a pretty cool poster about it…

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(Try and ignore the pink sign that looks like it’s poking out of the top of my head. And the terrible lighting.)

I’ll be talking about this tutorial, as part of a presentation on the library’s e-learning initiatives, with two of my colleagues at OLA’s 2015 Super Conference in January, which is really exciting! Stay tuned for more info. on that.

2. I coordinated a weeding project at a small science library. We got rid of 1,200 print items that either hadn’t circulated since 2000 or had never circulated at all. It’s a lot, considering how tiny the print collection is. Sadly, I didn’t take before and after photos. I wish you could see all the space we created.

3. I have the honour of being part of the first class of U of T’s Toronto Academic Library Internship (TALINT) program. I’m part of a team that’s working on overhauling the library catalog website, which is a really fun and intensive project. Expect pretty pictures come the launch this winter.

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(A sample search with the keyword “Picasso” in the Cornell University Library catalog. So usable, I think I’m in love.)

So, what are some of the things that you can expect to hear me talk about over the next little while?

- Making the most of conferences
– Open Access Week
– Any big news in the Land of Books (because as much as I’m interested in the digital landscape, I’m also a bibliophile)
– Library websites, of course!
– And much more :)

And with that…happy Banned Books Week, my dear southern neighbours!

Happy National Library Week!

I may be Canadian, but that’s not going to stop me from wishing everyone in the LIS world, and beyond, a very happy National Library Week!

Like you, I believe in the power of libraries to make a huge difference in people’s lives. Call me naïve, but I think that as long as people want to read and learn (no matter how they do so), as long as there are threats to intellectual freedom, and as long as people want to “get away” from their regular lives for a little while, libraries will continue to thrive. And I don’t think that any of those three key factors are going away any time soon.

This week, I encourage everyone to take stock of how their lives have changed thanks to their libraries – school, public, academic, or special. And remember the power of books. They’ve started social movements and even wars, after all!

(For example, a book that stands out for me is Quiet by Susan Cain. It really taught me to remember the importance of valuing introversion both personally and professionally – perhaps now more than ever before.)

So, what book has rocked your world?

 

 

 

 

The Libraries are All Right.

So, it’s been a while! Anyone in library school will tell you that March is the craziest month of the year, myself included. But with all but one of my assignments out of the way, I have time to write a little something.

I came across a blog post yesterday which I think deserves more publicity. Granted, I know I don’t have the biggest audience, but I think I ought to do my part, because this Ryerson University librarian has a very important message: Libraries are doing fine. We are adapting to the digital age. We are staying relevant. So, there’s no need to panic. Read her posting here.

Being in library school, it’s no fun to see people in the LIS community occasionally predict our impending doom (I don’t want to make a sweeping generalization, but that message is definitely out there). Nor do I think that panic is a healthy motivator for any person or any profession. At the OLA Super Conference back in January, David Usher gave an amazing plenary talk on creativity. Is the creative process hard work? Yes. Is it worth it? Definitely. And I believe that maintaining a creative mindset is vastly superior to panic when libraries are seeking to innovate. Panic leads us to ask: “How can we survive?” A creative mindset leads us to ask: “How can we thrive?” The former is about scraping by; the latter is about becoming a sustainable institution for many years to come. Which is why I’m so thrilled that next year’s Super Conference theme takes creativity as a point of departure; the theme is, “Think It! Do It!” And why an upcoming issue of CLA’s Feliciter is “Change vs. Panic.” To me, it’s important to not let those two things get too intertwined.

So, I would like to say thank you to all of the librarians who remind me that with a creative mindset, the libraries will, indeed, be all right.

Librarians and fellow students: What are your thoughts on this?

Canada Reads update: And the winner is…The Orenda!

Congratulations to Joseph Boyden, whose novel, The Orenda, has won Canada Reads 2014!

And, of course, kudos to Wab Kinew, for his outstanding defense of the novel throughout the week. (Read more about the Canada Reads finale here.)

Of course, as Jian Ghomeshi said on CBC Radio’s Q this morning, it’s naïve to think that one novel can literally change the nation. But I agree with Wab Kinew’s statement that we are at an important moment in the reconciliation process between aboriginals and the mainstream here in Canada (why not have a listen?). I don’t care if this goes against the principle of neutrality in the LIS profession: The way that the white Canadian mainstream has historically treated aboriginal communities is repulsive to me. We need books like The Orenda to hold a mirror up to ourselves and ponder how much (or how little?) our attitudes have changed.

So, to my fellow Canadians (and Americans – it’s worth reading south of the border too!), let’s all pick up a copy of The Orenda. And let’s continue the important conversations that Jian Ghomeshi, Wab Kinew and company have begun.

Day 2 of Canada Reads: And then there were three…

Perhaps you could call me old-fashioned. Yes, I think technology is awesome. I think it’s transforming the world of information in fascinating ways. But to be honest, a big reason why I decided to pursue a career in LIS is because I like to read. A lot. About many different things. And because I feel strongly about the importance of literacy skills and critical thinking, even – and especially – in the age of Google.

Those are also the reasons why I love listening to the Canada Reads debates on CBC every year.In case you’re not familiar with them, here’s how they work: Five Canadian celebrity panelists each pick a Canadian book to defend in a debate on CBC Radio. In recent years, they have been thematic, such as non-fiction books or “Turf Wars,” with different books representing different regions of the country. Each day, Jian Ghomeshi, the host, asks questions that promote debate among the panelists and require them to effectively defend their books. Based on what they hear, the public can recommend that the panelists eliminate a specific book, but it’s ultimately up to the panelists to decide which book they would like to see eliminated. Panelists whose books have been eliminated continue to participate in debates, supporting books they like or critiquing ones that they don’t, and they also continue to vote. On Day 4, the winner is announced as “the book that all Canadians should read.”This year, the theme is: One Novel to Change Our Nation. This year’s selections are: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan, Cockroach by Rawi Hage, and Annabel by Kathleen Winter. Respectively, they are being defended by Stephen Lewis, Wab Kinew, Donovan Bailey, Samantha Bee, and Sarah Gadon. The Year of the Flood was eliminated yesterday, and Half-Blood Blues was eliminated today.This year’s novels take on an impressive range of issues, including the environment, the aboriginal experience, the immigrant experience, racial profiling, and gender roles (you can read more about the novels and their defenders here). It may be down to The Orenda, Cockroach, and Annabel, but really, I believe that any of these books could help change our country for the better. I often wonder what, if anything, is capable of triggering international action on climate change. In the wake of the Loretta Saunders tragedy, with all of its cruel irony, a lot of Canadians are thinking about the plights of aboriginals, especially aboriginal women, and rightly so. Racism continues to limit human dignity and equal opportunity in just about every country, and Canada is no exception. Immigrants’ academic and professional credentials often go unrecognized, which I personally believe is a disgrace. The controversy over the “genderless” baby Storm in 2011 shows that there is still progress to be made when it comes to how we treat people who transcend the traditional male/female gender binary. So, any one of these books can play an important role in facilitating dialogue on a contemporary social issue. And I think that all of those issues deserve attention.This is why continue to need books, regardless of format. Books have ideas. Ideas are at the root of all progress. Even the most vile and hateful ideas are capable of facilitating progress because of the backlash that they promote. So, we need to keep ideas going. When the flow of ideas stops, human progress also stops. As long as we have books, humans will continue to mean something.So, I guess that in the end, I didn’t just decide to become a librarian because I love to read. I chose this line of work because I want to help people continue to be human – to read, to think critically, to create, to share ideas. In an age of rapidly evolving technologies, we can’t afford to surrender the qualities and capabilities that set us apart from machines. And so I say: Here’s to five Canadian books that help us to continue to mean something.

Freedom to Read Week Review #3: Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

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(Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Harry_Potter_Books_1-7_without_dust_jackets,_1st_American_eds._2.JPG)

Where do you even begin to discuss a magical series that inspired a generation of readers all over the world? I can’t speak for all readers, but I think that J.K. Rowling and her characters taught us a great deal about love, loss, power, and the forces of good and evil. Unfortunately, there have been many zealous attempts to keep young people from learning about these things from her novels in the very places where learning is supposed to take place: our schools.

I won’t even get into censorship attempts of the Harry Potter series in the United States, because there have been so many that I could write a graduate-level thesis on them. No wonder it’s ranked #1 on the ALA’s Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books for 2000-2009. We’ve had far too many attempts to censor Rowling’s works in Canada as is. If our country had a similar list (CLA, take note), it wouldn’t surprise me if J.K. Rowling’s beloved seven-novel series topped the rankings in the Great White North, too.

According to the Freedom to Read Challenged Works List, the year 2000 was a very hard year for poor Harry and company here in Canada. In Corner Brook, Newfoundland, a parent complained about the novels’ presence in an elementary school. As is the case almost everywhere this series has been challenged, the parent took issue with its depiction of wizardry and magic. The principal ordered that the books be removed from the school, but here’s the real kicker: Neither the parent nor the principal had ever read a single book in the series. And it’s not like they had a shortage of Harry Potter novels to inform their thinking, since four out of seven had been published by the end of 2000.

A similar complaint, with a different outcome, was made to the Durham Board of Education here in Ontario. Initially, the board decided to withdraw the books from the classrooms, but keep them in the library. However, in a hard-won battle, the board reversed its decision. Nevertheless, in some areas, like in Corner Brook and at Rockwood Public School in Pembroke, Ontario, teachers are prohibited from using the Harry Potter books in the classroom.

But alas, Harry’s trials and tribulations didn’t stop there. Two years later, in the Niagara Region here in Ontario, a parent asked the school board to remove the books from the areas’ schools, on the grounds that they contained violence and promoted Wicca. Again, had she read a single one of the books? No. Thankfully, the Niagara District School Board turned down her request.

You see, as a librarian-in-training, attempts to ban books naturally bother me – but what bothers me most of all is when people try to keep other people from having access to books without ever reading the books themselves. To me, it comes down to treating others as one would wish to be treated. You wouldn’t want some stranger to decide what you can’t read, especially when their opinion isn’t an informed one, right? So why do that to others? If a parent wants to believe that the Harry Potter series promotes Wicca, then that’s fine, so long as a) his/her opinion is an informed one, and b) that person lets intelligent young people decide for themselves what Rowling’s novels are really about.

Finally, all of this opposition to Harry Potter on the basis of its inclusion of witchcraft and wizardry assumes that those forces must be used for evil purposes (although a viewing of The Wizard of Oz would prove otherwise). Throughout the series, Harry, Ron, and Hermione combat dark magic and dangerous creatures. Souls and mortality are prominently featured. Maybe I’m missing something, but I would argue that those kinds of themes ought to appeal to Christian readers, rather than drive them away. None of the three major characters support Voldemort, the widely feared dark wizard, also known as “He who must not be named.” They don’t spend a lot of time hurting other people; in fact, a lot of their time is spent trying to avoid getting killed or keeping other people’s souls, or lives, from being taken away from them. In many ways, Harry and his friends just want to make their magical world a better place – an admirable goal, really, regardless of your religious beliefs.

LIS students and librarians: What censorship attempts of the Harry Potter series have you encountered, personally or professionally? How did you (or your employer) respond?