The Rock & Roll Librarian

February 22, 2007

Cyberbullying and Libraries

There is often a really fine line between what is funny, what is offensive and to what degree someone is offended. 

Make no mistake, there is some joy to be had in bullying.  It is about empowerment, positioning, status, hierarchy and the pleasure is the solidification of one’s place through the bullying act.  In other words, it is largely about attention and acceptance.

And if someone is looking for attention, then the Internet is a heaven for their needs.

As much as I am a fan for social networks and social technologies I can understand peoples’ concern about its bullying potential.  Text messages, Instant messages, photoshops, podcasts and blogs (forgive me if I left a few tactics out) don’t just make a myriad of methods to bully with, but also encourage the creativity of the bully… and the reward is the hundreds to thousands of hits their post may receive.

Example?  Check out Ghyslain Raza, better known as the Star Wars Kid.  He filmed a solo light saber sequence as part of a school project but when some of his classmates got a hold of the film, Ghyslain became an overnight cyber-celebrity.  When the Canadian news source, National Post, asked him how he felt about all the ‘attention,’ he responsed “I want my life back.”

A hell for Gyshlain but incredible empowerment for the kids who posted it!

Rather than make this post solely about cyberbullying, lets think about what it could mean for libraries.  Certain states have made blanket anti-bullying policies that go as strict as zero-tolerance.  As sites like Myspace gain notoriety more for their negative aspects, and stories about unfortunate cyberbullying and suicide become more popularized, there is a possibility that state and federal legislature may push through DOPA-esque policies.

But before we go down that slippery slope, I’d like to ask some more some questions for us to think about:

-If we market our library as a “Safe Zone,” how safe are our teens within the library’s cyber-walls?  Do we, or should we, take this into account of a Safe Zone policy?

-What will happen when someone can confirm the cyberbullying took place inside of the library?

-What, if any, measures should libraries take in order to prevent cyberbullying?

-What proactive steps can we take against cyberbullying right now?

-If we consider ourselves as a cultural center, does that mean that we consider excessive bullying as part of our culture?   This one if for the Sociologists out there!

As much as I am an advocate for Freedom of Information and Freedom of Speech, I also spent many years working with teens who have been greatly affected by bullying, physically and mentally.  And because I have worked with teens in a counseling setting before I became a librarian, I greatly struggle with where the line is drawn in a library.

To an extent, being bullied is a part of growing up.  For some, they grow up and walk away unscathed; for others, they live an entire life around it’s effects.  So where do we, as libraries, take our stand in the issue?

Sad to say… this is what I think about at 2a.m. when I can’t sleep.

February 12, 2007

Bye bye Napster, hello any other method…

Filed under: music,random,rants,Technology,technology woes — Tyler Rousseau @ 1:51 am

When I got my mp3 player, I decided to go ahead with the free trial of Napster that came with it.  At first, I was pretty happy; unlimited downloads for most music (some was still purchase only), free streams, and an easy but slow audio-to-device transfer software.  So when my free trial was over, the $20 per month fee seemed a good deal and I kept the membership.

Then the updates came.

Actually, the recommended update was meta-data that helped Napster keep track of what was on my mp3 player.  If I did not link my device once a week, my device would give me a message saying I needed to synch the device to Napster and then refused to play the music.  So, if I didn’t pay attention to when I last synched my device, I would find myself on a trip with all the desired music and no way to play it.

 My kingdom for a horse…

But I figured, what the hell, it’s still a good price and I just had to condition myself to make a habit of synching my device. 

Then the transfer device went funky, dinosaur slow too.  It would take 5 minutes to load an album and only one album per logon!  I couldn’t tell if it was a software problem but Napster’s support center didn’t seem to have any more clue than I did.  So, I had to log out after each album if I wanted to download more than one.

But it was still cheaper than buying each individual albuml, so I stuck with it.

And then they installed more meta-programs.  If I wanted to play one of my music files on a different, better sounding, software than Napster’s player, a prompt would pull up asking if I wanted to check for user rights to play the song…  it would pop up after every song!  So, there was no point in trying to play an album on anything other than their player as they took away the convenience.

It was the final straw, I called them up and told them I was finished with their product.  The representative asked me why I wanted to end my contract with them and the answer was long, but simple. 

I paid for the music, it was legal.  However, it seemed that anytime I tried to listen to the music I was being prompted, blocked or checked up on; almost like I was on some sort of parol.  Sure, I could listen to music but it was under their terms as trying to listen with other products, while still being legal, were made to be extremely inconvenient.  The inconvenience that came with the service was not worth the price, no matter how seemingly cheap it was.  Music is about fun and feeling, not user rights, legal obligations or checkups.

And some wonder why people choose to download music illegally.  At least the only time you get hassled is if you get caught.

February 1, 2007

Reasons Why Librarians and Libraries are Important

Filed under: education,Libraries,Technology — Tyler Rousseau @ 5:55 pm

Here we go, someone who get it! As many times as I have heard my friends ask me why I chose a “dying profession,” I

have never worried about my job security. Personally, my reason for this was because of the old saying:

 If people, in general, thought rationally there would never be a need for librarians. Since history has proven this not to be the case, librarians’ job will always be secure.

My friend sent me this article on the Library profession which gives 33 Reasons Why Librarians and Libraries are Important.  Yes, many of the reasons are arguments against the Internet.  For the rationale thinkers out there, who are picky about who and where they get their information from, this is not really a surprise but for the other 46% of Americans who consider Wikipedia a reliable source of information, it might give them something to think about and, who knows… perhaps even get a library card.

December 29, 2006

The Year in Review- The Idiot Tube

Filed under: humor,rants,Reviews,Technology,Teens,TV Time — Tyler Rousseau @ 3:21 pm

Yep, it’s that time of year again; anyone who has the time and effort makes an assessment of the year gone past. With the introduction of my beautiful and awesome daughter, I found myself at home more often and not going out as much; hence TV was probably my biggest pop-culture endeavor of the year. It seemed the logical place to start the “props and drops.”The Best of Them:

Heroes- Yeah, it’s no surprise a comic geek chose this as his favorite, but according to Sci Fi’s poll, 54% of watchers did as well. It just goes to show that there really isn’t a “geekiness” about superheroes or people with superpowers, it is the way in which it is presented. In this case, extraordinarily average people who wake up and find that they are more capable than they ever dreamed, showing their powers to be both a curse and blessing.

24-Jack Bauer, please forgive me… You still remain my favorite character on TV but it was just edged out of top spot this year. When it comes to keeping to keeping viewers on the edge of their seats, no one does a better job. There is only one cast member whose job is secure on the show, Jack’s, anyone else could, and often has, bite the bullet. Someday, Sutherland is going to give up his contract for this show and I just hope they keep it a secret because the day they get rid of Jack Bauer could cause the TV to explode on it’s own.

House- Consistently good, if you like curmudgeons with the ability to heal or kill and a love for Vicodin. I do and can relate to at least one of these defining characteristics. And if I ever meet the actor who plays the cop, I might not be able to restrain myself from punching him in the nose… thank goodness I don’t wander into Princeton too often.

Ben 10- Cartoon about a boy who gets a watch that turns him into several different types of alien beings, all with different powers. Villains try to take the watch from him but don’t succeed… it’s not a spoiler! How else could the show be a series!?

Teen Titans- Another cartoon about teenage mutants who go on various adventures and combat the forces of nature along with their raging hormones…

Eureka- In the small town of Eureka, a government facility is embedded and employs some of the world’s greatest scientists. Overall, this is a good thing, but can wield some seriously bad results as well. What happens when rocket scientists botch experiments in labs next to nano-bees or space/time continuum chambers? Apparently, it takes a normal Joe cop to control it all.

I Shouldn’t Be Alive- Real life stories of people who survive situations that are almost guaranteed death sentences. Each show interviews the actual survivors along with the narration and explanation of events, combining drama and science. Call it the morbid fascination part of me, but I really like this show.

Who Wants to be a Superhero- This was good in a very sad way. Fortunately, most of the contestants were using the show as a platform to promote their acting careers or whatnot. It was the other three who took it seriously that truly made the show. Anyone who actually looked towards Spiderman as their father figure when growing up probably has serious issues; ones that could be ideally captured in a comic book!

The Not-So Best… a.k.a. The Drops List

Lost- You really ticked me off with the 2-4 episodes on and month off format. It made no sense and seemed to prove the show was being made up despite your insistence of everything being well thought out. When you returned in the fall season, you stuck around for multiple episodes but went absolutely nowhere in direction with some serious plot flaws. I watched you in order to have something to talk with my friends about during our Indian buffet luncheon dates. If things don’t improve, I’m not sure any Saag Paneer or Samosa is worth that much.

1 Vs. 100- If the show is going to succeed, then they need to fix the format. No one is ever going to for the million bucks in this, the risk reward ratio is way too steep. That said though, if I had to pick a game show to pick up a cool $50K or so, this would be my choice.

Law & Order (pick whatever spin-off you please)- I just hate the show, alright. The main characters are complete jerks who are unapologetic even when they are wrong, the judicial process is a farce and half the things said would land the lawyers in contempt or cause mistrial. I’ve grown to at least tolerate, and sometimes- enjoy, the D’nofrio version of this show but, I’m sorry, I’m just not can’t suppress the urge to put a shoe through the TV for the others.

Obviously, there are going to be far less reviews for what I think are the crummy stuff. After all, I’m not getting paid to watch them and therefore, why the heck would I waste my time in front of the idiot box for them!?

December 26, 2006

Hooray for Wii, a Game Console Review

Filed under: Gaming,Reviews,Technology,Teens,Uncategorized,Wii — Tyler Rousseau @ 5:20 pm

Lucky, lucky me… I got a Wii for Christmas.  I mean, the actual console was there in my hands and ready to go on the very day of gift-giving!  This holiday season, that is a special thing.

 The set-up:  None of these systems are particularly hard to set up anymore.  The system was ready to play within three minutes of unpacking.  Of course, customizing the homepage could take hours, the system is designed with the idea of entertainment in various aspects in mind, not just the game you could play.  I may try to adjust the sensor bar a little bit though to see if I can get the range a little higher, however, this wont be an issue for most people; I am 6′ 3″ and pretty much nothing is designed with me as the main user in mind.

The Controllers:  What can I say, they are every bit as fun as they look on the commercials.  Okay, true, you don’t actually have to give a full baseball or tennis swing to get the characters to respond but you will probably find yourself doing so anyway.  The controllers are very easy to use but incredibly sensitive as well, far more than I expected they would be.  They will pick up on slight wrist changes and send things flying if you are not careful.  And yes, I can totally see how people have inadvertantly sent their controllers through the TV screens.

The Console:  I love the Homepage, it can be personalized to show just about whatever you want (weather, headlines, music, etc.).  Loading a game into the system does not change the interface, you still have to select it from your options.  Along with the customization of the interface, you can create your own avatars to use in the system as well.  These characters can then be saved into the controller so that you can take them to your friends house and use them for there (mobility customization… how socially awesome is that!?)

One of the truly great things about this system is the ability to shop for old games on-line.  Many games from the NES onwards are available to purchase and download onto the Wii system although they may require to purchase a different controller.  The retro games are reasonably priced as well, so thank you Nintendo for introducing an even larger level of impulse buying into the gaming industry.

The Library-Okay, the library of games is lacking right now.  There wont be any cheap, used ones for awhile.  Blockbuster and Hollywood Videos are starting to get some of these games in to test out before you buy them so that’s good.  However, that said, we all know this is a temporary problem.  I definitely look at the Wii as a version 1.0 system of this style.  Game designers will be testing out what works and what doesn’t and how the controls can best be exploited.  The system itself though, will be worked on to continually be improved.  I can definitely see the idea of someone creating controllers for the feet and creating an even larger interactive experience.  Guitar Hero and DDR are going to have their hands full in coming up with the next great thing.

The Reaction:  Simply put, Awesome!  Less simply put- Nintendo has taken on the seemingly insurmountable task of revolutionizing the gaming world and may well succeed in breaking the age/gender barriers Sony and Xbox have struggled with.  I have only gone over basics here, there is a lot more offered in this small little package.  The system’s primary is definitely about gaming, but there is a large social aspect going into it as well.  My wife, who begrudgingly accepts my gaming obsession, has been playing with me… not only that, she has been trash talking and beating me in bowling.  Our New Years plan changed from the annual visit to our Uncle’s house to a small party at our own so that friends could eat, drink and play erm… carefully.

The possibilities that come with this system and its following generation could be mind boggling.  The way the controllers could be used now could become far more intricate than anything we expected in the hands of the right designer.  Sony and Xbox are certainly in no danger of any Techno-Darwinistic extinction from the Wii, but they will face some serious competition as the console finds its place. 

Techno-Darwinistic…. aw yea, now there is a neat turn of phrase!

Nintendo has long been known for having a long standing legion of dedicated and passionate fans.  They anxiously await the new systems and games (Mario still remains one of the most recognized worldwide icons).  With this system, they may have a convert… I am incredibly excited to see what comes out of this system.

December 13, 2006

An Open Letter to the Guy I Caught Looking at Naughty Stuff on the Internet…

Filed under: humor,Libraries,New Jersey,random,rants,research,Technology,technology woes — Tyler Rousseau @ 8:59 pm

Here is the helpful tip I would like to write to my most memorable customer today… 

If you are going to use a computer that has only yourself to block the view, there is a good chance that others will see what you are looking at anyway.  Not that you care what anybody else thinks but you may want to reconsider watching porn in public places.  But if the urge is too much to ignore, perhaps it would be a good idea to try and play some angle to your porn watching… say a site that you could claim you are researching different positions of the Kama Sutra, maybe some racey artwork where you could put up the argument that even a naked person holding a gun and snake is making some kind of statement.

Notice the use of tact and slyness?

However, once you completely cross the line of decency and start watching people playing with pigs, as I caught you doing so today, it is hard to find any sort of defense for yourself.  The research excuse is out the window, artful/political statement won’t fly anymore… and neither will those poor, pigs.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going home to throw out every piece of pork product found in my house… you’ve taken me one step closer to becoming a vegetarian. 

Sincerely,  

Your friendly Librarian

December 12, 2006

Rethinking the Catalog

Filed under: Libraries,research,Technology,technology woes — Tyler Rousseau @ 3:49 pm

For the general user, the library catalog can be a complete pain.  They are not set up for general users, at least users who don’t know exactly what they are looking for.  Today’s catalogs, although improved, still require a certain understanding of the cataloging system and a large amount of creativity in order to the full amount of information from them.

If you wanted to search the Socialism movement in Poland during the 1920′s, there are several search strategies to try.  You could start with a title or keyword search and hope there is a specific book on the subject.  If no results come up, then move to lesser specific terms and find books with either Socialism or Poland in the title, then go to the shelves and hope there is a section in the index on your desired subject. 

My personal preference would be to browse the subject headings under Poland and see if Socialism is a subheading.  If that doesn’t work, switch the terms and see what happens.  If there still aren’t any results, then it’s time to start thinking of alternative subject terms that this research might be found under like “Political Parties,” “Communism,” or general Polish history done by decades. 

It’s all good and fun for me, but how would our patron feel if they were looking for this and having to try all these different search strategies?

How can we wonder why our patrons turn to the Internet for their information?

It’s not even a matter of whether or not they trust what they read, it is a matter of convenience.  There is far less hassle for them to type into terms and come up with results… usually in the first couple tries.

Whether librarians (guardians and keepers of information and bibliographic control) like it or not, our patrons are moving along without us; they have found another way.  It is up to us to bring them back and make our catalogs easier to use.  We need to find ways in which they can find the information they want in ways they are used to searching now; ways like relevancy results, tagging & folksonomy, recommended/alternative/similar reads options.  Perhaps our catalog could even link to a couple trustworthy Internet sites.  If you are feeling really daring, let your patrons have the option to add their own tags to a specific title (obviously, put an administration hold on submissions for approval).

There are libraries that have taken notice and made steps to improve the usability on the patron of their catalogs but many of us are still way behind.  We can contain bibliographic control for our sake and use but we have to start looking at things from our patrons end.  After all, what good is all this information and entertainment if they are unable to find it in the first place?

Blog is cross posted here.

August 29, 2006

Flammable laptop batteries and airplanes…

Filed under: humor,Technology,technology woes — Tyler Rousseau @ 4:03 pm

I flew out to Colorado this weekend for a wedding and there was a tremendous hassle about liquids aboard the plane.  The checkpoints were even more meticulous about checking luggage and carry-ons than ever before.

But on all flights my wife and I took, there was always a person who had a Dell laptop on the plane.  I had to wonder how many of them contained the recalled burning batteries. 

Seemed to me that 4.1 million potentially flammable batteries should deserve at least as much attention as a half filled bottle of water.

I saw it on television…

Filed under: random,rants,Technology,technology woes,TV Time — Tyler Rousseau @ 3:51 pm

A friend of mine made a good point about television and its so-called negative influence.

We always hear stories about kids who hurt themselves or commmit bad acts because they “saw someone one TV do it.”  Usually, this is followed by the parents blaming everyone but themselves for for the lack of forethought from their child.

However, we never hear of children doing good deeds because “they saw someone do it on TV.” 

Is it because there are no good acts to be seen on TV or, perhaps, the parents are quicker to blame themselves for their child’s new-found virtue?

August 22, 2006

Neat Honda Commercial

Filed under: random,Technology — Tyler Rousseau @ 1:32 pm

I’ve seen this commercial before but always thought that it was computer generated.  However, after checking into it, the Honda corporation, as well as the producers, insist that this commercial has no special effects whatsoever.  According to the producers, two Hondas were completely disassembled in order to make the commercial, which took 606 attempts to perfect. 

I’m hoping they spend as much time and money on safety.

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