Thanks in part to Library Journal, librarians from all spheres of the field have engaged in some lively debate about whether librarianship is a profession. It all began when Ryan Deschamps authored a post titled "Ten Reasons Why 'Professional Librarian' is an Oxymoron" at his blog The Other Librarian. While the post received a fair amount of attention, and dozens of comments, Library Journal gave the post a larger audience by reprinting it and then providing Deschamps an opportunity to respond to his own assertions that librarianship had no claim to professionalism.
Personally, I thought some of the commenters to the original post, including myself, did a fine, and possibly even better job of refuting Deschamps' rationale for our lack of professional status, than he did on his own.
Who cares if we're professionals?
I understand the value of writing a post that raises some difficult questions, and which forces us to confront challenging issues we face in moving librarianship into the future. Playing devil's advocate is a sometimes necessary function that encourages us to think deeply about why we do what we do—and those for whom we do it.
I was inspired by the mostly positive responses to Deschamps' ten reasons why librarianship is not a profession. As I asked in my comment, does it really matter whether the world sees us librarians as professionals or not? What really matters, as I and others wrote, is the quality of our work and the difference that we make for our colleagues and our campuses. If I have earned the respect of those I serve and they treat me as a professional, then what else really matters?
Having second thoughts
It turns out, in retrospect, that I must care a little bit about this issue because now I'm wondering if I had it wrong. When you look at this issue from at least one particular angle you could very well claim that librarians are not professionals. At least one commenter to Deschamp's original post brought up the issue of regulation, asserting that the one thing that distinguishes professionals is that they are licensed to perform their duties, and that they are legally responsible for damages that might occur during the delivery of their services.
A physician or attorney is the common example; each must past rigorous exams to become certified to practice in their state and both are subject to damages when derelict in the performance of their duties. By that standard your plumber and your hair stylist are professionals, but not your librarian. Though I dare say that all of us are guilty of it at one time or another, no academic librarian was ever sued for professional negligence. Then again, how would anyone prove it?
A parallel discussion about professionalism
A debate similar to the one started by Deschamps is taking place in the world of business. It began with a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article about why management is not a profession. Richard Barker makes a case that because management lacks the qualities of a profession, such as licensing and regulatory oversight, MBA schools are technically not professional schools; the bulk of the article focuses on MBA education and changes that are needed to promote professionalism—and much of what is said could apply to LIS programs.
Barker says that, "Professions are made up of particular categories of people from whom we seek advice and services because they have knowledge and skills that we do not." That suggests that librarians are professionals. Surely we have knowledge and skills that laypersons do not. We are experts in conducting research. We know how to mine unique oceans of information and data to come up with the exact information needed. When faculty need a comprehensive citation count for their promotion and tenure dossier they often seek out an academic librarian who has the special skills to do the job thoroughly.
Then again you could make the point, as Deschamps did, that anyone can find or organize information on their own. A savvy faculty member could figure out how to use the appropriate databases to do their own citation counting; some libraries even offer faculty guides on how to count their own citations. They may do it less well or efficiently than a librarian, but what are the consequences? You could point to a few cases where a decision based on poor or misleading information led to disastrous results, but these events are so few and far between that there's no societal initiative to establish a network of certified librarians, regulated by the state, who are the only ones deemed qualified to dispense information.
What really matters is how we think
One response to Barker's HBR article suggests there is or could be something unique about the work librarians do that could establish the field more concretely as a profession. Roger Martin, dean of the Business School at the University of Toronto—and a leading proponent of design thinking—suggested that what makes managers unique is the type of integrative thinking they bring to their work.
By integrative thinking Martin means a particular thought process that enables individuals to develop solutions to complex problems. For example, the library faces a difficult problem with no clear solution. Option A and Option B are obvious solutions, but neither is quite right. An integrative thinker has the capacity to take the best of both options A and B and come with a new and better option C; it is a solution that integrates existing ideas and information into something new and different (for more on integrating thinking read this).
In a brief essay about Baker's article, Martin states that "if we can demonstrate to the world that the inability to integrate is the prime cause of managerial failure, then perhaps management could move toward being a profession in which people could be tested and certified on their ability to think integratively."
We have the knowledge and skills
When I read this I thought it could also apply to the academic library profession. So much of what we do is integrating many different types of knowledge—our disciplinary expertise, our insights into the creation of scholarship, our skill at promoting collaboration, our ability to educate—so that we can quickly assist those needing research assistance and develop solutions to enable them to succeed. Deschamps touched on this briefly in his response when he said "our expertise lies not in surface learning but in the synthesis of a variety of topics."
Embracing the concept of integrative thinking as our professional expertise moves us further in the direction of laying claim to a unique body of knowledge that defines professionals. As Barker states, "Professions are made up of particular categories of people from whom we seek advice and services because they have knowledge and skills that we do not."
Yes, everyone can find information. If we seek to claim professional status, whether or not it's regulated and even if there's no clear code of conduct with legal consequences for violations, then we must promote our unique expertise as integrative thinkers who do much more than just find information. We must differentiate ourselves as integrative thinkers who synthesize many different types of knowledge to help individuals find solutions to their complex information needs. We have the knowledge and skills. Do we have the motivation to create change?
Thanks in part to Library Journal, librarians from all spheres of the field have engaged in some lively debate about whether librarianship is a profession. It all began when Ryan Deschamps authored a post titled "Ten Reasons Why 'Professional Librarian' is an Oxymoron" at his blog The Other Librarian. While the post received a fair amount of attention, and dozens of comments, Library Journal gave the post a larger audience by reprinting it and then providing Deschamps an opportunity to respond to his own assertions that librarianship had no claim to professionalism.
Burgeoning with optimism and unadulterated fun, these gold-star picture books are sure to alleviate students' first-day worries, generate enthusiasm for things to come, and set the tone for the best school year ever. It will be smiles all around as children enjoy stories that blend realistic back-to-school situations and emotions with a bit of whimsy here, a comfortingly upbeat touch there, and an always-satisfying resolution. In addition to solid storytelling, these titles also feature eye-catching illustration in an array of vivid hues and varied artistic styles. Share these tales to welcome your students, reel in their boisterous energy, and begin to build a classroom community.
It's only the first day, but a curly haired girl and her classmates already feel confident that This School Year Will Be the Best! (Dutton, 2010; K-Gr 3). Humor and high hopes abound, as their teacher gathers them in a circle and asks each one to share a wish for the days to come. Varying from the feasible ("I won't lose things in my desk") to the far-fetched ("We'll have a chocolate fountain at lunch!"), each aspiration is presented along with a cheerful cartoon-style illustration that adds both detail and imaginary flair. Kay Winters and Renée Andriani create a sense of bright expectancy as the students express their desires and take ownership over the school year. The final spread shows the kids posed around their teacher, proudly displaying pictures illustrating their wishes. Use this buoyant book to launch a similar discussion and art project, and help your students to feel right at home.
Though your young learners may still be longing for summertime, you can grab their attention by sharing an amusing poem or two and irrefutably proving There's No Place Like School (Greenwillow, 2010; K-Gr 4). Selected by Jack Prelutsky, these 18 offerings cover the elementary experience with fresh childlike perspectives and lots of chuckle-inducing humor.
Topics include Lee Bennett Hopkins's image of a "wide-awake/freshly-painted-yellow/school bus" carrying sleepy-eyed boys and girls and "hundreds/upon/hundreds/of/school supplies"; Kalli Dakos's breathless "Countdown to Recess" on a sunny day ("Dash!/Gone in a flash!"); and Kenn Nesbitt's hilarious "Drinking Fountain" mishap ("The water squirted east and west./It squirted north and south./Upon my shirt, my pants, my hair-/but nothing in my mouth"). Aglow in kaleidoscope colors and featuring a cast of appealingly offbeat characters, Jane Manning's illustrations are filled with comical high jinks and dynamic motion. This is an enchanting book to dip into at the beginning of and throughout the school year.
Antoinette Portis's Kindergarten Diary (HarperCollins, 2010; PreS-K) charmingly chronicles a youngster's September experiences. Though Annalina worries about going to "Big School," things quickly settle into happy routine in room 2K, where she becomes comfortable with her not-at-all-scary teacher, conquers show-and-tell fears, and makes new friends. Set against crisp backdrops of wide-ruled paper with dotted lines, the characters and their environs are depicted in fluid cartoon artwork. Photo collage images add a sense of realism that will have readers smelling the crayons and hearing the bounce of a playground ball. By September's end, a contented Annalina proudly proclaims, "We are room 2K. We are fine!"
Fielding familiar worries with a nimble touch, Audrey Vernick's silly but reassuring picture book asks that ever-important question: Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? (Balzer + Bray, 2010; PreS-K). A large brown critter with a cheesy smile and teeny-tiny backpack follows a pigtailed girl into a classroom. At first, he feels a bit shy (after all, "it can be hard to start something new" and he's the "only one with horns. And a mane. Okay, and a hump"), but the children are soon waving hello ("who can resist that furry face?"). Though he can't master every skill or social situation—yet—the buffalo quickly realizes that "Everyone's special in his or her own way" and you can certainly "learn to get along without using your horns."
Daniel Jennewein's droll cartoons work in harmony with the tongue-in-cheek text to underscore the importance of cooperation, patience, and accepting people (or bison) for who they are. Kids will giggle out loud at the protagonist's expressions and antics, particularly on a wordless spread where he proudly poses with a hoof-painted masterpiece.
With the publication of the July issue of Current Cites we are celebrating 20 years of continuous monthly publication. Standing alone, that statement is not all that impressive in a world of publications that have much longer publishing histories. But I think there are two things that make that statement into something much bigger than it appears: 1) it is produced by an all volunteer team, and 2) the publication has been freely available on the Internet for nearly the entire 20 years (predating the Web). It was distributed on the PACS-L list by October 1991, and on the MELVYL online catalog before that. Here is an early message about it on PACS-L.
I’m the only one left of the original team, largely because I founded it and it has had my enduring personal commitment. But there have been many contributors who have stayed on for years, contributing citations of current literature that they believe are worthy of attention with insightful commentary written in their personal voice.
In thinking about how to celebrate this anniversary, I thought I would do a couple things. One was to create a web page that described how the publication came to be. Another was that I would write about what I’ve learned over the 20 years of doing this kind of thing. The former is now up on the Current Cites web site. The latter I am doing here. These are some of my lessons:
•Current awareness continues to be important. The changes that are battering our profession are many and substantial. It is more important than ever to keep up with what is going on not just in libraries, but also in the societies within which we work. What we should never do is stick our heads in the sand.
•Current awareness continues to be difficult. When I started Current Cites it was with the belief that it was difficult to keep up with rapid technological change in librarianship. If anything, with the advent of the Web it has sped up and diversified. We have a tremendous number of channels through which we can receive information, with precious few ways to filter them appropriately for our own purposes. Therefore, the need for a publication like Current Cites has only increased, although it must be acknowledged that it adds yet another channel to the diversity of information sources.
•The most important ingredient to keeping something going for 20 years is a responsible individual with the will to make it so. I’ve often thought that if the publication was managed by a committee, or even an organization, it long ago would have ended. I believe this to be true for a couple reasons. It is hard for a group of individuals to have enough personal buy-in to do what needs to be done to keep a publication like this alive. And organizations, in these trying economic times, would find it hard to justify keeping a free publication going. In the end, the personal commitment of a single individual who felt responsible for its continued existence was probably the single biggest factor in its longevity.
•Contributors come and go, but the publication remains. Over the years we’ve had 34 contributors, but probably no more than a dozen active ones at any one time — often only about half-a-dozen. Periodically, as enthusiasm wanes or the call of other responsibilities increases, I need to find new contributors. This not only renews the enthusiasm, it can provide different perspectives and/or a different set of publications that are watched.
•Editors come and go, but the publication remains. Current Cites has had three editors in its life: first David F.W. Robison, then Teri Rinne, then me. I doubt anyone would discern much difference in the publication during each of our tenures, but having someone in charge is important. When I decide to step down I’ll be looking for someone to take it over. I’m certain I will be able to find that person and that it will go on.
•Hosts come and go, but the publication remains. Although Current Cites started at UC Berkeley, when it was clear that support for the server where it was hosted was waning I moved it to WebJunction.org. This was long before I joined OCLC, or even thought to do so. I just needed a logical home for it that would be stable and long-term. My personal server doesn’t qualify.
The last 20 years have been interesting, engaging and challenging. The next 20 promises much more of the same, but faster. My sincere hope is that you will continue to have Current Cites help you find the gems in the information technology literature so that you can focus on not just getting libraries through the next 20 years, but enabling them to thrive.
I also hope that by sharing this story it might inspire some young librarian to take on a similar task, and to apply themselves to draw in other talented individuals to make their project successful and useful for a long time. I know they are out there; I’ve met them, I’ve talked to them, I am even privileged to mentor some of them. I really can’t wait to see what they come up with.
This entry was posted on Friday, July 30th, 2010 at 11:29 am and is filed under Uncategorized . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
A colleague's perspective helps guest columnist Char Booth see the difficulties librarians face in building their ebook collections
If digital literacy is exploding, the visually disabled are taking the shrapnel. I would wager that most librarians consider ourselves committed to accessibility and make individual and organizational efforts to comply with (and often exceed) the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in our buildings and the Rehabilitation Act Section 508 standards on our websites. We may not, however, have had the sobering experience of trying to access an ebook or e-journal using screen-reading software or other assistive technology. Despite our best intentions, this limited insight can lead us unwittingly to collection development and web design decisions that make digital literacy far more difficult for the print disabled.
Over the past year, I've been working closely with Lucy Greco, a colleague and disability advocate at the University of California-Berkeley (UC-B). Lucy, who has been blind from birth, has transformed my understanding of the word access. Not only do librarians need to understand the accessibility front of the ebook wars, we have the responsibility to embrace our advocacy role in shaping its outcome. As one of the few public sector agencies charged with recognizing the access rights of all, libraries must collectively examine how we can steer the e-text trajectory-from ebooks to e-journals to any other format-in a more universally usable direction.
Ebooks and DRM
Lucy is partial to a few sayings that have helped me understand the e-text accessibility paradox. The first is that "ebooks were created by the blind, then made inaccessible by the sighted."
Online text formats like DAISY and EPUB were pioneered in part by the accessibility movement as an alternative to expensive and cumbersome Braille texts. As ebooks have gained popularity, however, digital text became inexorably less accessible as for-profit readers like the Kindle and Sony Reader muscled onto the scene. A patina of digital rights management (DRM) has been added in order to protect the intellectual property of vendors, contrary to the open and accessible orientation libraries have long held toward literacy and learning.
Device- and interface-specific ebooks are often "locked down" to other readers, meaning that by default they block attempts to be read by JAWS and other screen-reading software. The Kindle—still the dominant hardware ereader—has text-to-speech capability, but its speech menus remain inaccessible despite a 2009 promise from Amazon. [The Kindle 3, announced last week, has addressed this particular flaw.—Ed.] Hence the recent Department of Justice letter to college presidents warning against inaccessible emerging technology use and a suit brought by the National Federation for the Blind against Arizona State University's Kindle DX pilot.
Dollars = leverage
While we might only represent a portion of the ebook market, our organizations are the largest collective subscribers to e-journal and other e-text vendors, meaning we have the clout to acquire from publishers in a way that effects positive change. This advocacy can occur at both an individual and programmatic level. For instance, in addition to pursuing EPUB, validated HTML, and other screen-readable formats, why not specify in our consortial licensing agreements that e-text and search interfaces must strictly adhere to accessibility standards, or we will not renew/purchase them? Already 508 compliant are many major vendors, such as Safari Tech Books (Proquest), EBSCO, and Ebrary, but countless others do not focus as clearly on textual accessibility.
We hand over the funds that keep content providers afloat. And, as anyone who has ever met a hard sell with a bluff and won a discount from one of these companies can attest, suggesting you might walk elsewhere with your dollars unless an interface becomes more usable is productive leverage.
We must also be careful not to take accessibility statements at face value, as some "508 compliant" sites are so in name only. We can collaborate with our disabled users to evaluate true usability, hands-on. Lucy and I are working together to develop a usability evaluation rubric, for example.
Usability is accessibility
Our own websites are some of the worst offenders. Library sites as well as e-text platforms and interfaces suffer from an abject lack of standardization, spawning a dizzying array of learning curves, tricks, and workarounds. Lucy's second saying is that "accessible design is usable design." What is the good of providing accessible texts if they are impossible to navigate to and through?
Beyond buying usable e-texts, we have to make a strong commitment to usability standards in our own sites and services. The same principles that make a digital document "visible" to a screen reader are universal design best practices. Screen readers rely on behind-the-scenes coding to narrate a page's structure to a visually impaired user. If that "invisible" underlying architecture is shoddy, the information access process breaks down-and in almost the exact same way it would for, say, a mobile device user.
Lucy's third saying is that when it comes to e-texts, "separate is not equal." Users with visual impairments should not have to request a separate file from a vendor, but that is often exactly what they are forced to do. More ebook and e-journal platforms than you might believe have deep accessibility flaws: Adobe Digital Editions and Flash texts have significant accessibility barriers as evinced by problems with OverDrive books; non-OCR PDF files have proven quite problematic; and CourseSmart, the largest online marketplace for e-textbooks, produces by admission what can only be characterized as dismally inaccessible e-texts (although, according to Lucy, it is working toward improvement).
There is a dearth of end user studies that evaluate the universal usability of research databases and ebook platforms. While not every librarian has the time or design expertise to evaluate individual resources, we can ensure that the tools our institutions provide and create follow core best practices: consistency, flexibility, accessibility, and simplicity. In this vein, resources like ASCLA's Think Accessible site and the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) are invaluable. For our own discovery interfaces, the WAVE Web Accessibilty Evaluation Tool and other WebAIM and WC3 products help validate websites for sound design.
There are already accessible e-text initiatives among open access content providers: the Internet Archive recently announced it is making one million books available in DAISY talking book format, while more vended ebook platforms are coming around to their responsibilities in this area. Open access texts in general are created accessibly-the open textbook movement led by Flat World Knowledge operates on an universal access model. The (hopefully) soon-to-be-released Blio is a promising cross-platform reader that could give the proprietary device paradigm a run for its money.
By making access-positive decisions and partnering with the Lucys of the world, we can resist ereading inaccessibility and promote universal usability.
Recently, I read an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education by David Hiscoe, an academic who left a tenure-track faculty position long ago for the corporate world and has recently returned. Looking around the campus, he likens himself to Rip Van Winkle and marvels at the changes. While he was away, the university became bloated with staff and too many competing agendas, students began to take on crippling debt, and the whole house of cards is trembling, on the verge of collapse. He takes temporary solace when he goes to the library, because he sees students taking delight in their learning. He writes:
A big part of my day is spent in the university library. Coming in one morning recently, I paused to watch a young man walk up and join three students who had pulled chairs together around a table. As the new arrival settled in, he let out the archetypal "That's awesome!" cry, loud enough so that I leaned in to see what he was admiring. He was looking at what appeared to be an animated differential equation making itself visual in stages embedded in a PowerPoint chart. As I walked by, he was practically chewing his lower lip off in his enthusiasm and was asking the laptop driver, "How did you do that?"
It was a moment that could have awakened Rip Van Winkle's long-dead dog. A moment that crystallized all the reasons that most of us went into teaching to begin with. And I see a half a dozen of these a week. It's easy, since this place-the library-is crowded, packing in the equivalent of a fourth of the student population on a good day. I generally walk around for 10 minutes or so each afternoon to recharge.
Some of the students are on Facebook; some are watching cats do funny things on YouTube. But most are heads down in their studies, or working out physics problems together on whiteboards they've drawn into impromptu circles. When we started lending out iPods, they would sometimes come back loaded up with an app that some student had developed herself to make the device more useful. I interview lots of students, and they tell me they love the library, love the university. They are not kidding. They are idealistic and hardworking.
And they're lucky enough to attend North Carolina State University, which has a fine library and the combination of insight and wherewithal to hire Hiscoe as its communications director. (His PhD is in medieval poetry; his corporate work was for a large telecommunications firm that was big, but not too big to fail—it went bankrupt soon after he returned to academe.)
The best place on campus?
But a lot of us who work in academic libraries recognize those moments of joy when walking through the library. We see the potential, we see moments when students have made the shift from transcription clerk (gotta get that paper written, gotta find sources to quote) to becoming engaged and curious co-creators of knowledge. Those members of the faculty and administration who don't take a few minutes every now and then to reclaim their sanity and sense of mission by strolling through the library when it's busy are missing out. Sadly, that category includes the vast majority of faculty and administrators.
As one of the commenters noted, the library is not just student-centered, it's knowledge-centered, and that meeting of students and raw knowledge can catalyze learning and spark a whole new relationship between students and the world. He (or she; the comment was anonymous) writes, "The library should be the best place on campus; the challenge is to figure out a way to channel the 'awesomeness' of students clustered in the library out to the classroom and further, into the world of adults who are hungry for the chance to reflect and learn."
Or corporate mill?
So how do we do that? We can't all hire gifted scholars to tell our stories, and even if we did, those stories still wouldn't pry people away from their constant stream of email and meetings to visit the library.
And as Hiscoe himself points out, those stories aren't necessarily going to change anything. The solace he takes in the moment is matched by the heartbreaking knowledge that what these students are experiencing will likely be extinguished in a few years. The house of cards is toppling. One symptom of that collapse, though Hiscoe doesn't mention it, is the fact that those students will be expelled from that library and the knowledge it holds; the minute they stop paying tuition, we slam the door and turn the key. No more knowledge for you! Our instructional programs don't do much to help them find ways to continue those energizing conversations with ideas after they graduate, whatever platitudes we utter about information literacy for lifelong learning. We're mainly helping them survive as students, using tools available only for as long as they're students.
Hiscoe acknowledges he is not awakening from a golden age; the trend to corporatized higher education was already entrenched when he had his apprenticeship toiling as an underpaid adjunct before finally landing a coveted tenure-track job. But the problems he witnessed in the academy are even worse now. And I can't help but notice that this situation has exactly the same timeline as the so-called "serials crisis," which we all know is not just about serials; it's about the commodification of knowledge that in the good old days was created to be shared. We no longer create knowledge for the common good and to advance our understanding of the world. We create it as grist for the corporate mill, and it's getting pretty dark and Satanic, that mill.
Toward unfettered sharing of knowledge
So I'm left pondering the question of how we get out of this situation, and how to sustain that excitement and energy we see in students and pass that light along to our exhausted, discouraged colleagues. As my mind does its hopscotch act, I remember Thomas Jefferson's argument against treating knowledge as just so much property:
He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.
However we solve the twin crises of scholarly communication and the damaging effects on all of higher learning caused by the corporatization of the university, libraries can be a source of light, a light we need to share. We need to rekindle in our faculty and administrators—and in our taxpayers and legislators—a faith that knowledge can do more good when it's freely available than when it's hoarded as property.
Around the same time that Hiscoe's essay was published, a representative of the Association of American Publishers appeared before Congress, reassuring legislators once again that there is no crisis in scholarly communication, that by adopting rules that would make federally funded research free to the public that funds it would be the ruination of peer review and accuracy in research, and could even endanger national security because American research could fall into the hands of foreign nations. (I am not making this up; read it for yourself.)
If anyone needs the skills of critical information literacy, it's decision makers like those in Congress listening to that kind of testimony, packed with misinformation and baseless scare tactics. I'm not sure we can do much about politicians, given the corrupting influence of money in the campaign system, but we need to ensure that more people in a metaphorical sense, if not in reality, visit the library to see in action the value of the unfettered sharing of knowledge. It's too important to let that fire go out.
But can it actually work?
Steven Bell, Associate University Librarian, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA -- Library Journal, 3/18/2010
Free, according to Chris Anderson, is the new model for how business will work in the future.
Could free, as in absolutely no cost to the student, ever work for higher education? No one knows for sure, but at least one innovator is a believer. Shai Reshef, an Israeli entrepreneur, is the founder of the University of the People (UotP), the world's first global, tuition-free online university.
There are countries where higher education is free to the students and their families, but not really. Taxes far higher than our own, such as those added to gasoline (as in the Scandinavian countries) or other essentials are what really fund the salaries and materials required to support colleges and universities. Reshef’s institution really is free because, in essence, all the resources are provided free by their creators. The courses, the technology infrastructure, the registration process, virtually everything it takes to deliver higher education, is free. But will it work?
A year later
When I first learned about the UotP I had to admit being skeptical. Those of us who work in higher education know how expensive it is to produce learning and scholarship. If the academic world is profoundly challenged to create a sustainable free, open access scholarly publishing system—which everyone acknowledges must be financially supported by someone or some organization somewhere along the knowledge production chain—then how can we possibly devise a working system of free higher education?
Talk about a wicked problem. It is an overwhelming and perhaps impossible task to be sure, but perhaps that is what drives Reshef to conquer it. Why bother? To bring higher education to the people of the world whose own countries either have no higher education system or one that is in utter shambles.
Now that the first year of operation for the University of the People is coming to a close, what are the future prospects for this incredible venture?
To date the UotP has admitted 380 from 50 countries out of nearly 3000 that applied. How does it work? According to an article from Inside Higher Ed, “The University of the People relies on free syllabuses and learning materials from open courseware projects from institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It currently offers only two programs, business administration and computer science, and employs only five paid instructors. Those instructors administer courses designed by a corps of faculty volunteers numbering about 800, by Reshef’s count. Those professors put together courses using open courseware.”
A small amount of revenue is earned in the form of nominal student fees for exams and admissions. According to Reshef it will take nearly 15,000 students to make UotP viable.
One other small thing would help to make UotP a viable institution of higher education: actual degrees. As described in this article from BusinessWeek, while it does have students on track to earn two and four-year degrees in the two existing programs, “no degrees will be granted until the university obtains proper authorization from relevant authorities…. Obtaining accreditation is a top priority for the school, says Reshef, noting that the school is incorporated in Pasadena, Calif., making it easier for the school to work with American accreditation agencies.”
Where are academic libraries in the free equation?
For-profit, online higher education firms have already proven that a brick & mortar library is no longer a necessity, even to achieve accreditation. As long as the institution can demonstrate it offers students access to some sort of commercial information resources, possibly with toll-free help from a virtual librarian, it’s sufficient for the accreditors. It’s widely accepted that online learners just tap the Internet or local libraries when they need to complete a research paper. That’s exactly what the creators of the UotP must be counting on when it comes to library services.
It’s hard to imagine any institution calling itself a school—especially one of higher learning—when it has not even one physical book to offer its students. But we find ourselves in a boldly different world of learning, where books and libraries no longer carry the symbolic weight they once did. The absence of traditional libraries and learning materials from free universities will hardly slow down the growth of the UotP and other experiments in free higher education.
Supporting a worthy cause
Given that UotP promotes and delivers higher education to those who have no other options, there are distinct parallels with the open access and open education movements—both efforts to provide educational materials to those who otherwise have little chance to access them. This is an institution that will never have a budget for expensive books and journals and profession librarians to manage them. Perhaps those of us who already have these resources should examine ways in which we can use them to support the students at UotP. For example, we could allow students from UotP to receive a higher level of support through our virtual reference services. Our interlibrary loan networks could award the UotP’s of the world via some sort of “partner” status allowing its students to receive free article delivery.
Its impact on the market of traditional providers of higher education is infinitesimally minute, so UotP presents no threat—today. But free higher education is a powerful idea, and would be irresistible to many. The question is whether free higher education is an idea that actually works. With just one year at this scale, it is too soon to tell.
Lauren Barack -- School Library Journal, 3/15/2010 8:52:00 AM
Are so-called digital natives more engaged in cultural and political causes? Experts are questioning whether the innate facility young people have with technology has truly translated into more thoughtful participation in the political arena—or whether the idea of what being politically involved means is actually changing.
“Traditionally, we’ve defined political engagement in terms of citizen engagement with their government through, for example, voting behavior,” says Henry Jenkins, Provost's Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, by email. “We certainly saw a significant surge in youth participation in the last presidential election, but this may have also set up expectations about change, which have not been borne out by the partisan rancor and the stalemate in Washington, DC, over the past year or so. Young people are as likely to turn to other mechanisms for bringing about social change.”
Data bears out Jenkins’s point that traditional modes of political activism are not what younger people favor. Those who fall between the ages of 18 and 24 are the least likely to use email to contact government officials and least likely to be active online for a civic or political activity, according to a 2008 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
But that doesn’t mean young people aren't involved with political causes or those issues that tap into their concerns, such as attempts to restrict their freedom of expression.
Jenkins cites "buycotts"—basically, boycotts conducted through purchasing decisions—as one example of a tactic young people use to express political or social concerns. He also notes that organizations like Invisible Children and the Harry Potter (HP) Alliance have captured young people’s attention online—and harnessed their enthusiasm toward certain goals, such as gathering 2,893 signatures for the Dream for Darfur’s “Switch Over Campaign.”
So digital natives are politically and socially active, but in ways far different from the activism of previous generations.
“These groups tap skills that have developed through their fan or sub-cultural practices and deploy them toward civic causes,” says Jenkins. “We want to better understand what makes groups like the Harry Potter Alliance or Invisible Children so effective at reaching young people who are left cold by more conventional forms of political organizing.”
By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Maryland and several other states are pushing rapidly toward adoption of new academic standards proposed Wednesday for English and math, adding momentum to the campaign to establish common expectations for public school students across the country.
The District also is on track to adopt the common standards drafted by experts in a project led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. However, it is possible that Virginia will not join the apparent surge toward approval.
Widespread adoption of common standards would mark a watershed for schools, triggering consequences for curricula, textbooks, testing and teaching. Some critics say common standards amount to a thinly disguised ruse to establish national standards under federal control -- an allegation that state and federal officials deny.
In most places, power to adopt standards rests with state boards of education.
Ohio officials said their board plans to vote June 8. Maryland officials are pondering a possible spring vote. Florida's board is pushing toward action in the summer.
"I think you'll get half of the states by the end of the year [to adopt the proposal], based on what they've said to us," said Brenda Welburn, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education.
Kentucky last month became the first to adopt the proposal, acting on a late-stage draft before the public release.
In Maine, the legislature holds power of approval. Maine Commissioner of Education Susan A. Gendron said she expects a vote next week that would allow the state to adopt the standards when they are finalized in the spring.
"What is different about mathematics in Maine from California?" Gendron said. "I don't believe there is a difference. You will see far more states adopt the standards than not."
Alaska and Texas are the only two states that declined to join the common standards project when it began last year.
Virginia is part of the project, but state officials have been cautious about changing standards. Asked whether Virginia would consider approving the proposed standards, state Education Department spokesman Charles Pyle said the Board of Education has not discussed doing so.
"Virginia has a successful standards-based reform program -- the Standards of Learning," Pyle said. "Abandoning those standards would be very disruptive to our school divisions, our teachers and our students. We've made all of this progress in the last 15 years under the SOL program. It's not something we're just going to walk away from."
Under the 2002 No Child Left Behind law, states are free to set standards and testing systems to rate schools. As a result, benchmarks vary widely in rigor and quality. Experts say many states eased academic requirements to enable schools to meet the law's accountability targets.
To address that issue, and enable academic performance to be judged consistently across the country, the governors and school chiefs are seeking common standards that would have all students ready for college or career after high school. President Obama has encouraged the initiative, but his administration played no role in drafting the blueprint.
By Susan Froetschel -- Library Journal, 2/15/2010
Public libraries can make a local author feel like a hometown celebrity or a major public nuisance. With total book output up and the rise of self- publishing, local authors are no longer rare in many communities.
These days, authors actively court libraries, and I detected a new hesitancy about local authors this year after publishing my third mystery novel. For each of the three novels, I resided in a different community: Henrico County PL System, Richmond, ordered my first novel, Alaska Gray, and invited me to speak at its 1995 annual meeting. New Haven Free PL, CT, ordered the next book, Interruptions, and asked me to run a mystery workshop.
The latest book, Royal Escape, received the best reviews of the three, and yet Takoma Park Maryland Library and nearby Montgomery County PLs expressed no interest to offers of a free program, nor did they purchase a copy. It's puzzling that 26 miles away in Fairfax, VA, eight branches ordered copies of Royal Escape, steadily checked out throughout the summer, according to WorldCat, and I was invited to speak twice at libraries in Frederick County, MD, about 30 miles away.
The need for policies
Local authorship is a common criterion for library selection, along with demand. To handle the onslaught, more institutions enact local-author policies. For example, the policy of Alamance County PLs, NC,begins on a hopeful note: “The Library wishes to recognize the literary efforts of local authors by including their works in the collection when possible.” But it also discourages debate: “Due to limitations on staff time, we cannot discuss individual titles with authors” and warns, “The Library bears no responsibility for the marketing of the author's work. The Library will not act on the author's behalf as a literary agent, reviewer, proofreader, publisher, editor, publicist or bookseller.”
One can only imagine the demands prompting this list.
Other libraries must fend off author donations. Some, like Prince George's County Memorial Library System, MD, ask that authors submit reviews with potential donations. University City PL, MO, has guidelines for print-on-demand or self-published books: “the library is not under any obligation to add to its collections everything about Missouri,” and “In most cases, the library will not purchase self-published materials that are not reviewed in established review journals.”
Specific rules can limit options. Self-published books, often amateurish, can also be the best available on a local topic, and so Tom Cooper, director of Webster Groves PL, MO, recommends making decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Tapping local potential
Innovative libraries find ways to use the growing ranks of local authors as a valuable promotional tool for programming and fundraising, inspiring local readers and writers, or creating new connections. For example:
•Local authors judge writing and bookmark contests sponsored by Catawba County Library System, NC; Friends of the Hull PL, MA, and Hull Garden Club teamed up to present flower arrangements inspired by favorite books, including those by local authors, and sell raffle tickets; and fundraisers in Burlington, VT, and Anaheim, CA, have featured signed books and character names as auction items.
•Libraries co-opt local authors into Big Read programs: Tompkins County PL in Ithaca, NY, relied on author Philipp Meyer for John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath; I led a workshop on Carson McCullers's The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC.
•Recognizing that local authors are taxpayers, and vocal ones at that, some libraries design programs to kill a lot of birds with one stone. Juneau PLs, AK, hosted the state writer laureate and more than 20 local authors in March. Branches of Cuyahoga County PL, OH, hosted a local-author fair in October, asking that ten percent of any sales go toward a Friends program. In December, Nampa PL Foundation, ID, sponsored a holiday reception for the state author in residence and its annual crop of writers.
An opportunity to connect
In the end, 15 libraries in neighboring counties and beyond tapped me for programs on Royal Escape, though my own did not. A local librarian urged persistence, but, as I suspect most authors would do in similar situations, I simply turned to other locales.
With tight budgets, libraries can set limits and still remain lively, welcoming centers for local readings, workshops, discussions, or Q&A sessions about getting published. All this can be accomplished with some public space, initiative, and not much more publicity than quick mention on a community web site.
Josie Leavitt - March 15, 2010
Yesterday, I spent seven long hours waiting at JFK Airport, trying to get back home from a quick weekend away in Florida. When faced with so many hours in an airport, I don’t read. I people watch.
I saw more Kindles than I ever have in my life: three. I was curious about these Kindle readers, so I tried to speak with each of them. Only one was interested in talking to me.
I was curious what he was reading and was very surprised to hear he was reading a Louis L’Amour novel. He actually whispered it, telling me, “I would never go to a store to buy this.” He loves his Kindle.I asked if he still went to bookstores and he said somewhat sheepishly, no. This echoes what my family in Florida said, too. I was worried about this, then I looked around the gate area.
The three Kindle readers had stopped reading and were just looking around, as if they needed a break from the screen. All the other book readers, and there must have been about thirty readers at my gate, had their heads down, happily turning pages, fairly oblivious to the chaos around them.
One other thing I didn’t see was anyone recharging their book. Not beholden to the proximity of outlets, the book readers were literally strewn about. (Before folks get mad at me, I understand the battery life of the Kindle is long, but at some point they do need to be recharged.)
Are books dead? Hardly. But it’s clear to me at least, who lives in a very bookstore-friendly state, that the e-reader is creeping into the larger book reading world. The Borders here at the airport even sells preloaded Sony e-readers.
One last quick scan of the gate revealed book readers outnumbering Kindle owners by ten to one. That’s a number I can live with, I think.
By William Hageman, Tribune Newspapers
3:57 p.m. CST, March 11, 2010
A child is never too young to visit the library.
To hear Thom Barthelmess and Marisa Conner tell it, you should stop off on the way home from the maternity ward.
"I believe that library visits can begin right away. And by right away I mean as soon as the child has arrived in the world," said Barthelmess, president of the Association for Library Service to Children, a 4,000-member division of the American Library Association. "One of the biggest areas of public library development is programming for babies."
Conner, youth services coordinator for the Baltimore County Public Library, is all over that. She's organizing a conference called "Active Learning Environments for Children" at the Public Library Association's annual meeting this month in Portland, Ore. She also has launched Storyville (bcplstoryville.org/storyville_home), an interactive early-literacy learning center for kids 5 and younger.
"Reading is a bonding experience between parent and child and early literacy behaviors (such as vocabulary, comprehension, etc.) are developed from a very early age," Conner wrote in an e-mail.
A study in School Library Journal in 2008 suggested the promotion of early literacy resulted in higher reading scores in elementary school. The study (schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6590044.html) found that of states in the top half of reading scores, 82 percent also ranked in the top half on circulation of children's library materials.
Conner pointed out other ways libraries are targeting young visitors: children's arts and cultural programs, enhanced children's spaces, children's computers with age-appropriate games "and, of course, lots and lots of books."
These programs aim to be a baby's introduction not only to the library but to books and literacy, Barthelmess said, helping kids "with what we call early literacy, which is everything a child needs to know about reading before she learns to read, things like understanding that letters exist, and that words exist, and that words are built up on the page with letters.
"We know that for kids to take the next step and become avid and fluid readers they need to know all this stuff," he said. "And a library is a great place for all that knowledge to happen."
Because most kids don't start school until age 5, there are few free resources for them and their parents, Conner says.
Today's public libraries see serving young children and their caregivers as one of our primary goals," she said, "promoting early literacy and a lifelong love of reading and learning, providing parents with the resources they need."
Everyone has the potential to be a children’s writer. We’ve all been children. A lot of us are still kids at heart. Furthermore, you probably know (or are) a parent figure and have some insight into parental concerns. This gives you the knowledge to make an interesting children’s book.
In a genre with such a rich history, it is easy to get wrapped up in clichés. Talking animals and fairy princesses are great, but strive for originality in your story. Make your tale different from the many other children’s books available. Ideas could come from researching hot topics in publishing for your age group. For example, multicultural books are very popular right now.
Foster originality by thinking back to when you were a child. Try to remember your thoughts and feelings when your imagination ran free. What type of book would you have liked to read? What type of book would you have written? It may also be helpful to look up some information on child psychology. Researching children’s thinking may help you find some interesting topics that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.
Avoid Talking Down
You probably remember very simplistic children’s books from when you were younger. Today’s children’s books aren’t the same. The stories told now are sophisticated and creative, encouraging readers to imagine a world or situation they’d never thought about before. Today’s youths have access to so much information and entertainment that it takes more to hold their attention.
Don’t assume that your audience can’t follow a somewhat complex story. The purpose of a children’s book is not only to entertain, but also to bridge the gap between childhood and the adult world. Use rich language that will initiate learning and curiosity. A story will be more entertaining and worthwhile if it challenges your reader to think and ask questions. Remember, children want to learn.
Share your work with children you know, as well as parents, teachers, and childcare professionals. Listen to their ideas, and use their constructive criticism. Chances are, they have good ideas that you haven’t thought of yet. Be open to advice and welcome new perspectives. Your willingness to learn and grow will make your children’s book the best it can be.
Also, don’t overlook editing. Many children’s writers make the mistake of assuming that children’s books don’t need editing, because of the simplified writing style. There’s always room for improvement, so the more sets of eyes that see your writing, the better.
Deadline: 5th of every month - Writers' Forum Ongoing Short Story Competition
Prizes range from a minimum 1st prize £300, 2nd prize £150 and 3rd prize £100 with an annual trophy and a cheque for £1,000 for the best story of the year. The competition is open to all nationalities but entries must be in English.
Deadline: 15th of every month - Writers' Forum Ongoing Poetry Competition
Poets are invited to enter their unpublished poems for a competition to be held in each issue of Writers' Forum. There will be a first prize of £100 and three runner-up prizes all published in the magazine.'
Deadline: March 1, 2010 - The Tawani Foundation Pritzker Military Library Literature Award
The Pritzker Military Library Literature Award honors authors that have made a significant contribution to the understanding of American military history. Entries can by academic, non-fiction, fiction or any combination of the three. The submitted work must be written in English. Winners recieve $100,000 as a cash prize.
Deadline: March 10, 2010 - Next Generation Indie Book Awards
Self-published authors can enter in one or more of the sixty categories in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Entries must be written in English and have a 2009 or 2010 copyright. Winners recieve a cash prize, national exposure and possible representation by a leading literary agent.
Deadline: March 20, 2010 - IPPY Book Awards
The 2010 IPPU Book Awards are accepting entries for books with 2009 and 2010 copyrights or release dates. Categories include 67 subject national awards and regional awards for 8 U.S. and 2 Canadian regions.
Deadline: March 31, 2010 - National Indie Excellence Awards
The Indie Excellence Book Awards have issued a call for entries for the 2010 award competition. Entry is open to self-published books with publication dates from 2007 to 2010. Entrants must pay a fee of $65 and submit one copy of the book per category.
Teens turn to dystopian novels
By Karen Springen -- Publishers Weekly, 2/15/2010 12:00:00 AM
Sure, teens are still reading about vampires, but end-of-the-world scenarios are bigger than ever.
Happily ever after? Not so much. Ruth Leopold, 15, of Wilton, Maine, loves dystopian books like The Hunger Games (teens fighting to the death in a televised, government-sponsored game), Gone (kids trying to survive in an adult-free world) and Life As We Knew It (an asteroid hits the moon and wreaks havoc on the Earth's weather). “I like the fantasy in it—and thinking about how it would be if I were in the future in those places,” she says. She imagines hanging out with Katniss, the 16-year-old heroine of The Hunger Games. “Sometimes I even have dreams that I'm in that world,” she says. But in the end, she is glad she's not: the gloomy tales make her feel lucky she lives “a good life with my family and everything I need.”
Like Leopold, hundreds of thousands of today's teens are reading future-as-a-nightmare novels—and not just the 1984 and Brave New World classics required by their teachers. Publishers will be releasing dozens of new dystopian titles over the next few years. Among the scenarios: no more gas, no more water, viruses run amok, genetic manipulation gone awry, totalitarian leaders, reality TV gone too far, and so on.
Why now? Newspaper headlines about swine flu, terrorism, global warming, and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are inspiring authors—and making kids feel uneasy. Some publishers also point to publicity surrounding December 21, 2012, the end of the 5,126-year Mayan calendar—supposedly an apocalyptic sign.
Still, most editors and authors credit lingering unease from the World Trade Center attacks. “After 9/11, it seemed people started thinking about the destruction of the world,” says Karen Grove, who edited Susan Beth Pfeffer's This World We Live In, the April 2010 release that will end the trilogy that started in 2006 with Life As We Knew It. “Then we got hit with New Orleans and earthquakes.”
Uncertainty plays a role, too. “There's so much mystery about what the future will hold,” says Lauri Hornik, president and publisher of Dial Books for Young Readers and Dutton Children's Books, publisher ofthis season's Incarceron and the upcoming book Matched.
Lauren Barack -- School Library Journal, 2/22/2010
Adults between the ages of 35 and 44 made up 25 percent of all users of these sites—nearly double the 15 percent of all children up to 17 years old who chat away online. But don’t assume that number increases as teens hit college, as only nine percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 spend any time on social networking sites. And the age group that connects with friends online the least? Those 65 years old and up, just three percent of the user base. At least for now.
"Although we can’t say how this will change over time, at the moment the older generations are for one reason or another (tech savvy, interest, etc.) not using social networking sites to a large extent," say the authors of the study. "It is also noteworthy that social media isn’t dominated by the youngest, often most tech-savvy generations, but rather by what has to be referred to as middle-aged people (although at the youngest end of the spectrum.)"
However, that’s not to say that Mom and Dad are frequenting the same sites as their children—or that a high school junior is likely to bump up against their school librarian on Ning. In fact, 64 percent of Twitter users and 61 percent of Facebook users clock in at 35 years old and up.
So where do teens crop up the most? On Bebo, a relative newcomer to the social networking group, founded in 2005, with 44 percent of its users aged 17 and younger.
Yet, with Pingdom’s study putting Bebo’s average user at 28 years old, it’s likely the days of Bebo being a teen favorite are quickly coming to an end. Where they will congregate online next, Pingdom can’t predict.
Bibliotecas virtuais - Navegando em mares ágeis e eficientes ou Naufragando em um mar de informações?
A abordagem sobre a evolução da natureza das bibliotecas, observando que o impulso para mover menos recursos utilizados para armazenamento no formato livro papel, começa a tornar-se uma realidade mundial, demonstra ser uma transição tão importante quanto da passagem do texto manuscrito para o texto impresso.
Dados apurados junto á universidades apontam para um custo de R$8,00 reais a cada ano para manter um livro em uma prateleira enquanto livros armazenados de forma eletrônica geram um custo de R$1,60 ano.
A teconologia coloca-se como um catalisador importante para as bibliotecas, uma vez que faz emergir novas necessidades e altera paradigmas solidificados através dos séculos. O fator maior dessa transição é a condição de que a informação apresenta-se cada vez mais desprendida do objeto fisico que a contem; fato expresso com sabedoria quando Browning definiu o fenômeno como “Biblioteca sem paredes para livros sem páginas”.
O fato é vivenciado diariamente através da explosão no uso de E-books e Kindles e redefinem o que virá a ser no Terceiro Milênio, a informação e a comunicação.
Um relatório divulgado pela Kaiser Family Foundation sobre o uso de midias pela Geração M,
(Uso de meios de comunicaçõ total), mostrou que alunos na faixa etária entre 8-para-18 anos,
estão consumindo midia digital mais do que nunca e naturalmente forçam a utilização dos mesmos meios por professores.
Em 2004, o tempo gasto na utilização de meios eletrônicos por alunos para acessar informações e completar suas tarefas escolares, era de 6 horas e 21 minutos e ao final de 2009, o numero registrado foi de 7 horas e 38 minutos por dia, enquanto a média impressa caiu de 43 minutos por dia em 2004, para 38 minutos em 2009.
Outro fator prepoderante é a mudança de interpretação dos conceitos de “TEMPO E LUGAR”, visto que com a Biblioteca Virtual, o “LOCAL” onde o documento se encontra deixa de ser importante e a virtualização permite que o acesso ao objeto de necessidade seja de imediato.
As condições citadas alteram e permanecerão alterando através dos anos, o comportamento de alunos e professores, a cada momento, irresistivelmente, mais e mais inseridos no contexto do universo acadêmico informatizado.
Por outro lado, como todo processo de transição entre o sepultamento de uma prática secular e a adaptação completa de um novo paradigma, levantam-se questões como:
A – O acesso á informação On-line não significa que seja de forma gratuita
B – A criação de depósitos digitais, requer uma estrutura que garanta que os registros estarão sempre disponíveis e atualizados
C – A eliminação gradual de livrarias em detrimento ao uso de catálogos disponibilizados na forma de E-books
D – A adaptação conceitual do desaparecimento da palavra “emprestado”, visto que os livros estarão disponiveis á todos, todo o tempo
E – Confiabilidade das informações a serem acessadas, visto que eletrônicamente as informações podem ser alteradas ou manipuladas com relativa facilidade
Em resumo, a transição do paradigma de propriedade da informação para o de acesso irrestrito implica em uma mudança institucional inevitável, no qual professores, que são os maiores direcionadores do uso dessas informações devem ser parte ativa, sob pena de que esses podem vir a tornar-se simples navegantes á assistir á morte do livro, antes que tenham á disposição processos de acesso á informação do qual mantiveram-se á margem de opinar ou efetivamente participar.
It's not a good time to be in the education business, which to some extent most librarians are. The subjects librarians teach may vary, from "information literacy" to "Hulu," but being in the information business also means being in the education business.
The education business is floundering. Public libraries are closing or cutting back hours and services. Public schools are getting rid of their school librarians and whatever remains of art, music, or languages they once had. Outside of rich suburbs, public schools themselves seem in decline. Rich private universities are firing people left and right. Public universities seem doomed, with the best of them, the Michigans and the Berkeleys, becoming more like privates than publics.
The immediate reason is obvious: funding cuts. Because of the recession and the decline in tax revenue, states and communities have less money to spend, and they're cutting back on inessentials like education. For those who follow these things, the latest recessionary cuts are just a harsher example of a long trend.
A lot of librarians like to keep up with trends, but not the painful ones. States have been cutting or freezing education budgets for a long time, and state financing of public education has declined as a percentage of public university budgets almost everywhere. Thus, they have to raise tuition to keep going.
This creates a vicious circle of its own. Universities raise tuition, which means the lower classes are excluded as only middle or upper-middle and above can afford a college education. When universities start getting expensive, parents and students want more for their money than books, classrooms, and computers. Thus we get expensive athletic centers and fancier cafeterias and dormitories. Offering undergraduates a spa experience drives up costs even further.
All this means it's also a bad time to need an education, especially if you can't afford an an extra $20-50,000 a year for college and your community won't fund a decent library.
It's especially ironic because we hear from politicians - sometimes the same politicians who cut education budgets - that America needs a highly educated workforce to compete globally in the next century. I'm not exactly sure what it would mean to "compete globally," but that's the sort of verbiage they use. Right now we're competing globally by enticing engineers and scientists from other countries to settle in the United States and enjoy our rich cultural heritage of reality TV and Wal-Mart.
One can only come to the conclusion that Americans really don't want education, at least not for the majority. Education isn't considered a public good. I guess if roads and bridges aren't public goods, then education isn't likely to be. Infrastructure, apparently, is a dirty word, whether physical or intellectual. The last bridge and the last public library might collapse at the same moment.
Come now, you might say! Of course we consider education a public good. We have public schools and public universities and public libraries! But slapping the name "public" on something without funding it adequately doesn't really count. According to the Supreme Court, money is speech, and states and communities have spoken very clearly about their commitment to education as a public good.
And what can librarians do about it? Probably nothing at all, because those of us in education are the least American of all. We don't sacrifice everything for profits. We help people without expecting tips. We don't hustle people, or at least most of us don't. We don't scourge the poor. We believe there are values beyond the bottom line and actually live by those values. What could be more unAmerican than that?
It seems unlikely that Americans in general will listen to the concerns of people so obviously out of tune with American society, especially when the concerns expressed my so many are so trivial.
The twopointopians and oneohonions who dominate the librarian public sphere rarely address serious issues or branch out beyond the world of shiny new toys to consider the fundamental issue. They want to get people into libraries, but that's not the problem; they just think it's the problem.
People are coming to libraries. More than ever, if you believe the ALA. (I know, I know.) They're coming to look for jobs and get Internet access and books and DVDs and newspapers they can no longer afford. Those services might turn out to be more relevant than shiny toys.
People might also come to the library to use shiny tools as well as the books and DVDs, but shiny tools won't save a library without funding. I'm hoping ALA lobbying will have more success if it looks like they're trying to bolster public libraries rather support Internet porn for children.
The commonwealth requires the education of the people as the safeguard of order and liberty. That's all the people, or at least all of them who can meet the challange. Libraries are a part of the public education system, and their future is tied to the success of that system, not Twitter.
On the bright side, if the public education system collapses, it's not like everyone in America will be worse off. To paraphrase Jesus, the rich we will always have with us. Or maybe none of us will be worse off, and it's just that the meds aren't working or I had too much chocolate on Valentine's Day and I'm feeling gloomy, so I'll end on an American note.
Have a nice day!
Children rarely enjoy listening to smooth jazz, reading the newspaper, and going out for coffee with friends. They aren’t overwhelmed with bill payments, frustrated with politics, or eager to expand their career. Children are different from adults, and marketing children’s books is quite different from marketing any other book genre.
Picture book or young adult?
There are many subgenres in the children’s genre. Generally, these subgenres are split up by age or reading level. Understanding how your book fits within these subgenres will make it easier to reach the children who will enjoy your book most.
•Children ages four to eight are beginning readers or early readers. These books are short and contain only easy-to-read words.
•If your book features many illustrations and pictures, it would be classified as a picture book. Picture books are read by children ages three to eight. These are the books parents read to children at bedtime, until the children learn to read and begin reading the books themselves.
•First chapter books, generally read by children ages six to nine, feature fewer pictures and longer stories than picture books. These chapter books may feature many very short chapters rather than fewer very long chapters.
•Children ages eight to twelve read middle-grade books, which have difficult words, complex structure, and some mature content.
•Young adult novels, with the most mature content and the hardest reading-difficulty in the children’s book genre, are read by teenagers.
What are other authors doing?
The children’s book industry isn’t as gentle as it seems. It takes ambition and dedication to compete with other children’s authors. Spend time online, in a bookstore, or at the library to see what your competitors are doing right. How do other authors interact with children? Do other young adult authors use social media? How do authors of first chapter books use their Web site? In the marketing world, knowledge can give you the power to surpass competition.
Are you award worthy?
Not every book can call itself “award-winning,” which is what makes the title so alluring. Parents are especially attracted to award-winning books, as it ensures that their child will read something of quality. But you won’t have to win the Newbery Award to receive such an honor. In truth, there are many book awards and competitions that self-published authors can enter. Some awards allow entries only from authors who are self-published or independently-published. In most competitions, winners receive stickers that they can put on their book and are allowed to feature the title of the award on their cover or in the book description.
Who can help?
Local contacts can be allies to any author. For children’s book authors, they are especially important. Network with bookstores, libraries, and schools. As many children are excited to meet authors, book readings and signings are an excellent way to have direct contact with your target audience. A local bookstore may host a reading and signing for you and local children. You can also have such an event, along with a workshop or discussion, at a library. Talk with a local school about delivering a speech or seminar. At a school, you can talk with kids about being a writer. Consult with local groups and clubs for children and parents—either church-based, school-based, or otherwise—about giving a talk or signing books. AuthorHouse recently launched new children’s marketing opportunities. Who makes the purchase?
In most cases, it is the parent who ultimately buys the book. Especially for books targeted to younger children, it is important to remember their parents in your marketing plan. Create a strong press release and send it to local media. Coverage by the radio, newspaper, and broadcast news will give you and your book more attention as well as make you more credible. Another good way to market to parents is to create an author Web site. On your site, talk to parents about the benefits of your book, why children love it, and what makes it stand out from other books. Use your site to announce media appearances, book signings, and other events. This will also increase your credibility as a writer.
As a children’s author, you know what makes children such an enjoyable audience. Prove to children and parents alike that your book is something they should be excited to read.
Senti-me erguido no ar, girando no mesmo ritmo que o quarto, até que nuvens escuras começaram a ocupar o lugar de meu raciocínio, apagando todos os pensamentos, anestesiando minha mente e alma até que um único grito, como se fosse uma estrela solitária em busca do brilho perdido, cintilou entre meus dentes:
“O QUE ESTÁ ACONTECENDO?”
A pergunta, tão solitária quanto eu, mais parecendo ser um grito de dor do que um questionamento teve a mesma duração do que um engolir de uma fração de pavor e voltando a tapar a boca para não vomitar, impregnado de pânico irracional, olhando sem acreditar, para as paredes que estampavam horrendas rachaduras, como se estivessem sendo rasgadas em lenta agonia, deixando escorrer a água da chuva respingadas das asas douradas de seres alados que voavam em meio as crenças e misticismos, corri de volta para a cama, tentando escapar da noite que sorrindo malevolamente ameaçava tragar-me.
Contudo a meio caminho de meu ilusório refugio escorreguei e caí no chão encharcado e o vento soprou em meu rosto, cegando-me com páginas de técnicas de tradução para iniciantes. Sem respirar, em agonia extrema, afastei-as com um gesto de mão e tentei levantar, mas minhas pernas tremiam demais, recusando-se a sustentar o peso do corpo.
O novo estrondo, prolongando meus pensamentos de inquietação, como se estivesse revelando a verdadeira natureza da interpretação, soou com tamanha intensidade que me pareceu que o barulho estrondoso estava acontecendo dentro de mim e não lá fora.
Senti o chão começar a rachar aos meus pés e ouvi os azulejos do banheiro se descolando, então o ar se encheu, repentinamente, como se fossem setas incendiárias cintilando em meio á batalha e o som das palavras, soltas, perdidas, forçaram-me a reunir cada partícula ainda restante de esperança e cambalear para cima da cama, mas quando me virei e olhei, com o coração cheio de temor, dentro das sombras negras da noite até então escondidas sob a luz do luar, antes que minha mente pudesse entender o que meus olhos estavam mostrando, deparei-me com dedos imensos e acinzentados, flutuando ao meu redor, ‘coreografando palavras no ar’, corajosamente arriscando formar um contexto ‘lógico com significado coerente’, como se fosse o próprio Beo Wulf digladiando contra a última página, desbotada e ressecada de um antigo livro, tantas e tantas vezes, lido e relido, mas nunca inteiramente traduzido.
Por momentos, que meu cérebro se recusou a dimensionar, o conteúdo do ‘livro’, envolto no mais profundo secretismo, foi ‘narrado’ em minha mente e o conto de que no inicio dos tempos professores, linguistas e estudantes viviam sob a mesma árvore acadêmica e partilhavam o mesmo vazio em seus corações.
Um vazio que nenhuma posse, estudo ou conhecimento podia preencher, criou imagens com tal intensidade que me foi impossível não acompanhá-las.
Sentindo a força de cada palavra, eu ‘escutei’ a lenda de que um dia, o homem sonhou em comunicar-se com todos os seres do planeta com perfeição e entendimento e para que tal vontade se tornasse realidade, da dolorosa neblina que encobria o mundo das letras, numa era negra, povoada de equívocas interpretações, emergiu um ser mágico industrável, capaz de preencher o coração do conflito e igualar a paixão com a tarefa.
Além das montanhas sombrias do desconhecimento, nas calamidades das trevas das traduções contraditórias, sob o mesmo céu, onde as letras achavam-se a superfície do abismo, sem envolver-se em sentimentos de dúvidas ou erros de interpretação, independente de espaço e tempo, acima do destino e acaso, ele fez única as diferentes linguagens existentes até mesmo nos cantos mais remotos do mundo onde os dialetos imperavam.
Por incontáveis gerações...
By Jim Miliot -- Publishers Weekly, 2/4/2010 6:33:00 PM
The Department of Justice dealt a serious blow Thursday evening to the chances that the Google Book Search settlement will gain court approval later this month when it found that the revised agreement still raises class certification, copyright and antitrust issues. The DOJ said that despite “good faith” efforts to modify the agreement, “the amended settlement agreement suffers from the same core problem as the original agreement: it is an attempt to use the class action mechanism to implement forward-looking business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the court in this litigation."
The DOJ said it remains committed to working with all stakeholders to fashion a settlement it could support, but there is no chance that the parties--the AAP, Authors Guild, and Google--have the time or inclination to make changes before the final fairness hearing set for February 18, and there is no expectation that a delay to the hearing date will be asked for. A prepared statement from the AAP, Authors Guild, and Google tried to make the most of the opinion, saying that the filing “recognizes the progress made with the revised settlement, and it once again reinforces the value the agreement can provide in unlocking access to millions of books in the U.S. We look forward to Judge Chin’s review of the statement of interest from the Department and the comments from the many supporters who have filed submissions with the court in the last months.”
While the DOJ said the revised agreement did limit the scope of the settlement, the changes “do not fully resolve the United States’ concerns.” Among those concerns is the DOJ’s belief that the amended agreement “still confers significant and possibly anticompetitive advantages on Google as a single entity, thereby enabling the company to be the only competitor in the digital marketplace with the rights to distribute and otherwise exploit a vast array of works in multiple formats.”
Existem várias formas de lecionar. Não é a mesma coisa, por exemplo, dar aulas ao longo de um semestre, ao longo de um ano, e proferir palestras de duas horas. Uma aula particular é diferente da entrevista concedida diante de um público de 100, 200 pessoas, ou mais. Ministrar uma oficina requer atitudes específicas, que se mostrarão inadequadas em outras circunstâncias; uma aula a distância possui suas próprias características.
Tais gêneros didáticos vão entrar (ou não) em sintonia com o estilo de cada professor. Um professor expansivo terá mais facilidade na palestra multitudinária, e terá de ser mais intimista quando for contratado para dar aulas particulares. Aquele que, mais introspectivo, se sente como peixe fora d’água num estúdio de TV (e precisa aprender a respirar fora d’água), poderá nadar de braçadas na criação de um livro didático.
Palestra de duas horas, para número superior a 400 pessoas, com direito a telão e PowerPoint, progride bem e conclui-se bem se o palestrante mantém o ritmo, passeia “dentro” do tema, combinando conceitos e exemplos, informações e metáforas, pequenas histórias e rápidas indicações de leitura, chistes e recomendações, ironias e “broncas”, perguntas retóricas e apresentação de músicas. Palestrante é um professor no palco.
Já uma aula particular permite o diálogo, a busca ombro a ombro de enfoques novos, quase em clima de confidência. Neste caso, há também subgêneros, dependendo da faixa etária do aluno. O aluno adolescente terá melhor desempenho se a aula trouxer variedade temática. O aluno mais velho provavelmente espera (e cobra) focalização concentrada no assunto previsto, informação madura, objetividade máxima.
O professor no ambiente da internet, em chats, por e-mails, usando a webcam e outros recursos, terá de sintonizar-se com a linguagem da Idade Mídia, teclar com rapidez, plugar-se a qualquer hora do dia ou da noite.
Mesa-redonda também ensina. Mas tem de haver divergências, bate-papo animado e bate-boca. O público necessita ver um certo atrito entre os participantes, ou então o debate se transforma em reunião de comadres, muitas sedas rasgadas, perda de tempo. É redonda essa mesa porque “rolam” opiniões provocadoras.
Oficina, etimologicamente, é opus facere, ou seja, ocasião para fazer uma obra, fazer algo em grupo. O professor trabalha menos para que o trabalho seja melhor. Aprende-se à medida que todos se empenham.
Aulas convencionais não podem ser convencionais. Queixam-se muitos professores da falta de disciplina de suas turmas, da falta de respeito, da baixa motivação, da ínfima participação. Acreditam que o desinteresse dos alunos nada tenha a ver com aulas desinteressantes, entediantes. Não acredito em aulas sem condimento artístico. O argumento de autoridade perdeu autoridade. A velha aula era nova em outras eras. Novos tempos, novas aulas.
Aperfeiçoamento docente implica exercitar-se didaticamente. Que nós, professores, descubramos as possibilidades e limitações que cada um desses gêneros oferece.
Texto de Gabriel Perissé (www.perisse.com.br) publicado originalmente na revista Profissão Mestre de novembro de 2008.
This article originally appeared in PW's Children's Bookshelf.
By Judith Rosen -- Publishers Weekly, 2/4/2010 1:20:00 PM
At the Association of Booksellers for Children's board meetings held earlier this week, the organization took one more step closer to a possible merger with the American Booksellers Association, which was first raised close to a year ago.
Although ABC president Elizabeth Bluemle, co-owner of the Flying Pig Book Store in Shelburne, Vt., cautioned that “the task forces still have a significant amount of work to do before bringing any final proposal to the membership,” ABC approached the ABA on Wednesday with specifics toward creating a proposal to bring to the membership. In making ABC a division of the ABA, the proposal takes into account changes in the publishing and bookselling climate, as well as programmatic, staffing, and oversight details as they would exist under the ABA structure.
Since March, task forces for both organizations have met together and individually with their own boards to explore the feasibility of a merger. At the upcoming BEA in New York City, the ABC annual meeting will include a discussion of the proposal. A detailed plan will be presented for a vote in late summer or early fall prior to the 2011 fiscal year.
Michael Rockliff roots for Tom Nolan's Three Chords for Beauty's Sake
By Michael Rockliff -- Library Journal, 2/4/2010
Welcome to the second installment of our new Book Cheer column, the true story of 12 library marketing directors reviewing one another’s titles. “This,” in the words of creator and inaugural contributor Talia Sherer, “is what happens when marketers stop being polite and start getting real.” AAP committee members submit books to a colleague based on his or her tastes, and that colleague here offers up an unbiased take of a favorite read once a month. It’s prepub notice coupled with readers' advisory, but most of all, it's a book cheer, rah-rahs for deserving printed words.—Heather McCormack
Name: Michael Rockliff. To view a sample of Michael’s monthly e-letter featuring news about upcoming books from the Workman family of imprints, stories about the publishing world, libraries internationally, and whatever happens to stick in his fevered brain at that particular moment, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He won’t sign you up unless you ask.
Title: Director of Library Sales and Marketing, Workman Publishing Company
Favorite Genres: Fiction that’s rich in language, music, theater, and early 20th-century humor
All-Time Favorites: Jorge Amado's Gabriella, Clove & Cinnamon; all the Don Camillo books by Giovanni Guareschi; Christopher Morley’s Parnassus on Wheels (the best novel ever on bookselling); absolutely anything that Robert Benchley, Beverley Nichols, John Cheever, and Oscar Levant ever wrote; Erskine Caldwell's God’s Little Acre. The rest of the list would take up the entire column (and more), so we’ll leave it there.
The Winner: When I was growing up, my father and I argued about everything, absolutely everything, including who had the better jazz chops, Benny Goodman or Artie Shaw. Silly, in retrospect, but we felt the issue passionately. Needless to say, I was primed and ready when my copy of Tom Nolan's Three Chords for Beauty's Sake arrived. Putting on Shaw’s exquisite 1954 chamber jazz recordings, I poured a chardonnay and settled in for the evening.
Particularly with Shaw—who is known almost as much for his multiple marriages to some of the most glamorous women of our time as for his musical accomplishments—it would be all too easy to become distracted by the headlines and his notoriously bad behavior and forget that Shaw was ultimately defined by his art. His art, in turn, was defined by his quest for absolute perfection. This, in fact, could well be considered the theme of Three Chords, as Nolan repeatedly returns to this trope both in interviews with those who knew him (for better or for worse; often both) and in his own assessment of the man and the musician.
Readers learn that Shaw could be immensely charming or extremely cruel, with the shift being shockingly abrupt. Friends of long standing, and even family, would find themselves forever shut out, for having said something at which Shaw took umbrage. "Artie was probably the most egocentric person I’ve ever known…. he didn’t have the ability to sort of shift gears, and get out of himself," said his son, Jonathan…,"and that made him a deeply unhappy man."
As Nolan reveals, the same quality that made Shaw impossible to live with also made for some of the most daring and innovative sounds of the swing era. He wasn’t the only bandleader to experiment with strings or classical influences. His friend Claude Thornhill did so to great effect. Paul Whiteman had done it even earlier. The music that Shaw made was immensely more subtle than Whiteman’s, however, and Thornhill made no pretensions to swinging. Shaw's reputation as the Hamlet of jazz was well earned. Nolan has successfully captured this most elusive of swing-era figures: an immensely complicated, contradictory, and, ultimately, confounding individual.
This article originally appeared in SLJ's Extra Helping.
By Shanti Menon -- School Library Journal, 2/3/2010 2:10:00 PM
Craig Hatkoff’s Winter’s Tail (Scholastic, 2009), the story of a young dolphin with a prosthetic tail, has sparked a Nintendo game, a documentary, and a movie deal with Warner Bros. SLJ caught up with Hatkoff to talk about what it’s like to collaborate with daughters Isabella, 15, and Juliana, 11, and why they create books about animals that overcome tremendous difficulties.
You’re a businessman and a cofounder of the Tribeca Film Festival, as well as a best-selling author. How’d you start writing for kids?
I never intended a career as a children’s book writer, but I’ve always been fascinated by children’s books. I wasn’t a terrific reader; I read slowly. I had a librarian in the fifth grade who really opened my world to books.
My writing career started as a project with my older daughter Juliana when she was getting her tonsils out. We started keeping a notebook to help her through the process, and that became Goodbye, Tonsils (Viking, 2001). And then Isabella, when she was about five, asked me, “Daddy, when are we going to do our book?”
What’s it like working with your daughters?
They’re in charge. They have day jobs, as do I. We have an informal process. Some days they’re wildly interested, other days they have homework, or they want to go out. This is a thing that we do, no more, no less. It’s a family thing. It’s daddy and the girls.
How do you choose your topics?
It has to pass the goosebump test. There has to be a passion about it that they embrace. If they don’t like the story, or the character, then on to the next. There also has to be a job to get done.
What kind of a job?
We started thinking of the series like a toolkit. It provides a way to deal with a difficult subject using a compelling character. They deal with major issues and major traumas, but using animals makes it more accessible to kids. They’re full of teachable moments. The resilience of animals is very inspiring to kids. They can relate to it. And we try not to force a particular point of view, so you can own the story and use it to whatever purpose.
Hatkoff with daughters Isabella (left), 15, and Juliana, 11.
I hear that Winter, who lives at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida, has inspired a lot of people.
Oh, it’s unbelievable. People of all ages and facing all kinds of different challenges. There was a girl who just happened to be at the aquarium. She had hearing aids and was so self-conscious she didn’t want to wear them. But after she saw Winter she said, “If Winter can wear her tail, then I can wear my hearing aids.” So now she’s just blossomed, she wears these bright turquoise hearing aids, they’re almost like jewelry!
There’s even a webcam of Winter.
Not everyone can get to the aquarium, so we’ve got a webcam and we share a lot of these stories on our Web site. We have video clips of people meeting Winter for the first time. This is fundamental to how we think of these books now. These are things you don’t read just once, but over and over and interact with them and get involved. We really try to extend the experience.
How are your books used in the classroom?
We have classroom guides for all our books. There are so many ways to engage. The kids at one school who read Looking for Miza (Scholastic, 2008) held a bake sale and raised $118 to help the mountain gorillas. That’s a lot of cookies. And they decided that they wanted the money to go to the mountain rangers.They were very specific about how it should be used. So another thing that’s come out of these books is kids’ philanthropy, and we’re really trying to encourage that. It’s not just about giving money, but doing good. They can make a drawing, write a poem, turn off the lights when they leave a room.
Tell me about how the Nintendo DS version came about.
We’re interested to see if this can become an educational platform, not just gaming. This is something that’s personally very important to me. Not all kids have an easy time reading. Isabella, my youngest, has trouble decoding. She’s so articulate in every way, you spend five minutes with her and you can’t believe she has any kind of learning disability. She has an amazing memory, she’s incredibly creative. Her right brain dominates, but sequential, linear things are a challenge. But she read part of the audio version for the DS and she just banged it out. And she likes the Winter game.
So the game provides another way for kids to experience the book?
It’ll never replace the book, but we want to encourage kids to experience these characters, these emotions, these stories, in as many ways as we can. It’s an interactive story book with activities and microgames, but it’s really visual and less linear. You listen to the story, you can paint with Winter, assemble her tail. I mean, if a kid is struggling, give them every opportunity to learn in a different way. I did a presentation to a school about Winter and for a brief moment we put up the slide of the DS and the whole gym just started to vibrate. That’s why I get excited about the educational tools that come out of this. I have a child that’s challenged, and I’m personally invested in trying to help in whatever way we can.
What’s the next Hatkoff family project?
We’re coming out with a readers’ series for second graders in 2010, and also our latest big book that will bring us to a new continent—our fourth. I’ll tell you this much—it will be about international cooperation, with a very compelling character and story. We just finished the first draft, and I think it’s going to be great.