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LIS 950: Libraries and community

The purpose of this seminar is to explore an important topic in library and information studies in depth — in all its intertwined historical, cultural, philosophical, and political aspects — through a graduate reading/discussion seminar. The topic varies each time the course is taught; this time around, we will focus on "libraries and community"

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Disintermediation and more

Blaire, thank you for your thoughtful questions. I just finished reading Civic Space
Cyberspace and typing up a grumpy essay about how this book even though recent is already historical. It seems so hopeful -- even naively so -- about the role of libraries in the electronic era but not really dealing with what I see as vast changes in the role of libraries and librarians. I do think the idea of disintermediation is a crucial one, which has many continuing implications for all kinds of libraries. I haven't read The Social Life of Information but will try to get it and read it (right after I finish "The Myth of the Paperless Office"). Have others read The Social Life of Information? If so, how do you think it relates to the issues of what it is to be a library/librarian as we move further into the computer age?

One thing I did like about Civic Space/Cyberspace was the discussion of the impact of government policies and funding on the development of libraries in the dawn of the computer era (and before the issues raised by the Patriot Act). Government policies and funding is an aspect that I think has had a considerable and continuing impact on many aspects of libraries but we have not talked about it much. Hopefully this will open some further discussion about this aspect.

And, can those who know about the issues in Wisconsin about Google instead of librarians talk about them a little bit more? This is so interesting! Reminds me so much of the visit from the delegation of state legislators we had back in Minnesota a few years ago, after which it was announced that there would be no funding available for any kind of library building or shelving, since there were not going to be any more books being published! How do librarians deal with the myths of the computer era effectively?


On Cyberspace

This book provides a list of many useful facts, and more on what lies ahead in the future of the librarian. From the book, I can see how to structure and link the contents of the book to existent issues on LIS, users, and the librarian. As Bundy says, “is this too much, or too little”, I very much agree since there might be no ultimate or final answers to the questions of our future, but at least there might be a degree of balance or appropriateness of us and factors in the construction of the “information age” environment. I think the idea of Memex, in the history, is a good start that leads to consideration of how information could be treated; and I think it brings to me the idea of a “one-stop service” in the library.

I am very interested in Technological changes and their influences. I think technological changes have impacts on librarians, users, information, environment, lifestyles, and many other things. “Cyberspace”, as one of the results by technological changes, expands the territory of the library from its physical setting to an online setting. I am wondering if all librarians need to acquire knowledge, skills, and understanding of this dynamic and technology-oriented information environment, or if the technological changes branch our fields broader and further to more alternatives of interests for the librarian and researchers. I am thinking about factors interplay in this arena – (1) technological changes, (2) communication channels, (3) containers of information, (4) the circulation and/or flow of information (5) users’ (or people’s) activities, needs, and capabilities, (6) the librarian, and, might include, (7) public involvement and library outreaches. Moreover, if technological changes affect people and create a new community, does this circumstance need standards to frame activities people do? I am thinking about the law or a policy for online activities. Do we need them, and if so, how much? How can the librarian help motivate users to participate in a virtual community while promoting values of appropriate online use among users? I am thinking that the promotion of a sense of community and of public involvement to the community in a real setting has already been a difficult task, and it can be much harder in the cyberspace.

Civic space/Cyberspace

I thought that maybe the book was just getting warmed up, setting the stage, but I'm almost finished and it still has that feel to it. It's sort of like a long list of facts. I'm looking for more connections between the facts and concepts.

It is interesting how differently the authors perceive the Marketing/Customer issue compared to Buschmann.

The questions posted earlier are great questions, but I feel like the text is so distant from actual libraries -- with so much talk about legislation etc. that it didn't bring up those same "what is the future of librarianship" questions for me. So I don't have any answers yet. Maybe the last chapter and a half will be illuminating.

The Future Role of Librarians?

In Civic Space / Cyberspace, the authors wrestle with the role(s) of librarians in the (as put below) "new universe of global digital information:"

as Marilyn Gell Mason, director of the Cleveland Public Library, expresses it. A century ago, in another time of profound economic and industrial transformation, librarians collected and organized the products of mass publishing spawned by industrialized economies and brought these publications to a newly educated populace and expanding scholarly community. At the end of the twentieth century, librarians could, the argument went, act similarly in a new universe of global, evanescent, unmonitored digital information. Although the situation is fluid and not without problems, libraries are working at fulfilling this prophecy. "Disintermediation"— that is, the elimination of a helper or intermediary between information source and user— has no doubt occurred as people learned to find what they wanted by themselves (as some always did), but it has not occurred to the point of spelling the end of library service, as alternative scenarios projected. In fact, there is a growing demand for librarians to manage information systems, and in nontraditional (read nonlibrary) as well as traditional settings.

This idea of Disintermediation comes out of the work of John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid at Xerox PARC and UC-Berkeley and is discussed in detail in The Social Life of Information. The Special Libraries Association did an interview with John Seely Brown and asked several questions specific to this idea of Disintermediation and the new role of the librarian.


Here is an excerpt from that interview:

IO: You've touched on this point already, but I was struck by a particular phrase and I'd like you to comment on it. You wrote, "it is becoming increasingly clear that libraries are less collections than useful selections that gain their usefulness as much by what they exclude as what they hold." I read that and I thought it sounded very much like the definition of a special library. What do you think?

JSB: I think as we move forward, the role of the librarian is going to have to be re-thought, and I think it can be re-thought in a way that the librarian--special collection or otherwise—takes on a more central role as a "knowledge intermediary," by working to create knowledge in the right form, at the right time, for the right purpose, and by eliminating what is not critical. A knowledge intermediary is also the one who has integrated enough fragments of knowledge into something that provides the root for making the selections, and knowing how to render that selection in its most meaningful way.

As PhD students in this field, how do the above statements fit with your vision of the future practice of librarians?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Discussion Questions for Civic Space / Cyberspace

In Civic Space / Cyberspace the authors make various claims supporting the (past, present and future) roles played by public libraries and librarians in the “Information Age.” This is not limited to but includes:

• Digitization
• Preservation
• Free unrestricted access from censorship
• Guidance to “best” sources
• Selection, authenticity and quality control
• Rare or out of mainstream collections
• Privacy and confidentiality
• Neutral physical location
• Multilingual services
• Children’s services

Is this too much, or too little? Are all of these simply at the core of public librarianship? Should public libraries try cut some services and focus on only some of these aspects in the future? Should the library being trying to offer more services? Are there other services that the library should focus on (add to the above list)?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Some thoughts from Building, Books, and Bytes:

I think the BBB article is interesting because it demonstrates ethnographic writing that I find very comfortable to read through. Many issues discussed in the article were basically based upon a particular interviewee’s point of view. For example, (1) leaders were developed by the library field to “step up to the plate”, and these leaders can define and assert the role of the library in the digital future. However, I think it is a very good point of entry of more discussion on how the field blends itself into a dynamic cycle of a community and what libraries finally become, and whether it is far to the idea of innovators and facilitators instead of just leaders. However, at that time, the situation might lend itself to a need for “leaders” more than collaborative interactions among social actors. (2) Also, an aspect of niche marketing involve in libraries as discussed in this paper, while nowadays it is not only this “niche” we are talking about but the issues from the whole “corporate” aspects. So, I am wondering about the changing trend from niche to mass marketing. Aren’t we trying to do either niche or mass marketing or to do both?

As Bridget points out interestingly about youngsters at that time, I am wondering how they are doing now. Do they see themselves as immigrants to technology or natives to technology? I might be interesting to find out how this particular group reacts to and perceives differently comparing those days and today.

Also, I think there are two ideas that come confronting each other in this cycle related to libraries are (1) the concept of business corporate and competition with bookstores and (2) the concerns on digital information and communication technology. I think the article sounds too much worrisome about how libraries can survive, and it might be because of the article was written in 1997 when future was not so obvious. I am impressed with the fact in our field that “the library” remains not replaceable. I see newer and more attractive terms such as “media centers” and so on, but these cannot represent the whole idea or bring the complete feelings as “library”. I think we have had interesting discussions about the library far more than in a spatial sense, but the nature and interpretation of library as a social institution for social activities. I think users of digital technology weave their ways to make use of library information and facilities electronically while creating values about virtual community and network that are becoming more powerful these days. However, diversity among users bring several different preferences, and so we cannot put away printed materials –not now and in the near future.

So, the point is that I am wondering if the library is a source for producing human and cultural capitals to a community, and if it finally turns itself into one of the capitals that give power and strength to the community.

However, the D'Elia's article is something more formal, and I am trying to understand :)

General reactions to Buildings . .. Bytes

In a lot of ways I find this is the most disturbing article yet. Some of the comments from those interviewed seemed hopeful, however most of the hopeful comments came from directors / visionaries who had thought long (sympathetically) about the issues facing libraries. Similar to Bridget's response, what was most disturbing was the attitude of the younger respondents. What I found most disturbing: “Yet they just as easily sanctioned the notion that trained library professionals could be replaced with community volunteers, such as retirees.” (182) This is similar to the recent budget reductions proposals in Wisconsin which raised the issue of non-renewal of library positions based on the lack of need because of Google. I am all for bringing in retirees to the library but not to replace librarians (which they can’t) rather to supplement. We could use some more caring folks to help out in the library. I spend a lot of time with 3 - 9 year olds and they all love grandparents. I’m sure this is happening already . ..

Some of the suggestions for strengthening the library in the digital age seemed like reasonable/doable approaches for example: “Some of the librarians described the potential for partnerships between local public libraries and university libraries to expand collections and provide cost sharing for expensive digital collections.” (191) I think that cost/resource sharing is critical to strengthening libraries. What other resources could benefit from the interlibrary-loan model?

Another topic that I thought would be interesting to discuss is the idea that: “The digital age merely extends the traditional notion of the library as “the people’s university” (187) This label “the people’s university” is a nice idea but I wonder how prevalent this is? It’s not the first time I’ve heard it . . . but the first I’ve seen it this semester.


Something that I found interesting about Buildings, Books, and Bytes was that it was written in 1997 and I was in the 18-24 age range at that time. I found some of the things that this age group were saying outrageous. I hadn't paid taxes yet at that age and I wonder how many of the other people in that age range really knew ANYTHING about what they were talking about. They weren't income producing taxing paying people yet and I don't know how accurate their poll responses could possibly be.

One thing that I don't understand at all -- how can librarians be freaking out about bookstores taking over while at the same time lamenting the death of the book? I really don't see how you can have it both ways. Is this the crisis culture that Buschman was talking about?

A few discussion questions

I have to say that reading Buildings, Books, and Bytes makes me sober and The Impact of the Internet makes me drowsy. There are some issues that I am aware while reading.

About BBB
1. The Youth issue & Bowling alone
Issues concerning the younger generation is really sounding the warning bell because they are soon to be our main patrons! The young people are the least supportive group - they would rather spend $20 on their own computer than contribute to the libraries. Are they the selfish generation or they just like to "bowling alone"? However, we also read about that they are most willing to pay charges for the library services. How do we reconcile the two points? In addition, the study kindly suggests that when they grow up and have children, they may become more supportive. However, it's also noted that people with computers tend to be less supportive. Obviously more and more people own computers and youth are growing up, what will happen?

2. Public culture and Public Sphere
Another issue that can be related to "Bowling Alone", as well as "Dismantling", is that the author broadens the issue to the notion of public culture. The suggestion of community-based alliances among all public institutions is very attractive. The alliance seems to be able to work to revive the community and public sphere. Are there such alliances? And what's the library's role in the alliances?

3. Library roles and public opinions
I think the greatest contribution of this study is that it provides us with the public's view about the future of the library. They are equivocal toward libraries' future because even librarians are not totally sure about the future or they failed to convey their images and messages to the patrons clearly. This study was conducted almost 10 years ago. And the ten years sees a lot of changes. How are things going now? Is the "navigator" image accepted by the public? What kind of roles are libraries playing in their communities?

4. Concerns about being marginalized & being relevant
Some library leaders feared that libraries would be marginalized and lose political support if they primarily serve the underserved people. However, the study shows that libraries get a lot of support from the disadvantage groups. What do you think of this issue? Do libraries have to gain support from middle-class taxpayer to be relevant? What's more, from the data shown in the article, I don't see that the patrons are really enthusiastic toward the libraries' role in the community. For example, providing meeting rooms for the community groups is almost the least important service for the survey participants. Do libraries have a place at the table?

5. Does anyone have any information about the public policy issues discussed in the article? Maybe we can also discuss about them.

The Impact of the Internet

1. How do you feel about the terms "market", "consumers", "products"…? Under the influence of the "Dismantling", these terms are really annoying to me. In addition, the way that they see public libraries and the Internet completely opposing to each other seems to be oversimplifying this issue. To me, the Internet is a medium, and the library is a public institution, how can they simply be compared with two competing products?

2. I believe that the study has a lot of value because the "competition" between libraries and Internet is a big concern, and it is useful to see the numbers which show that what is happening to our users and nonusers on a national level. However, does the analysis of the numbers tell us anything new? The authors claim that "evolving relationship between the Internet and the library" suggest the need for changes. Well, the librarians have been well aware of this and discussing and making efforts to change for a long time, haven't they?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What Do We Do Now?

Ok, so now I've read these articles and looked at all of these numbers, stats, etc. What am I suppose to do with them? Or, what should a librarian so with them?

How much should we focus on individual community groups/issues and how much should we focus on nation-wide trends?

And what are we going to do about that oh-so-important (well, at least as far as polls and ratings go) group of young men who aren't as excited about the idea of the library? Do we care if they aren't interested?


Monday, November 14, 2005


"Libraries are civic integrators. They are community nerve centers." ~Buildings, Books, and Bytes

Are they? Are they really?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Presentations and Final Exams


I checked and we don't have an assigned exam date/time. Could we perhaps just extend classtime that last Friday? Would that work out?

And, as far as the whole 'spread the library history love' idea goes, can we discuss that this coming Friday? It would be a great way to 1) possibly get more feedback, and 2) demonstrate the variety of ways to approach ideas about libraries, communities, and history.


Problem with Figure 32

Figure 32 presents trends in Protestant, Catholic, and United Way Giving. All show a decline in the amount of giving over time (125). There are two major problems with the three graphs presented. First, each of the graphs uses a different scale on the vertical access (Protestant 0.0% to 4.0%, Catholic 0.0% to 2.5%, and United Way 0.00% to 0.16%). The scale of the vertical axes could be attributed to poor layout work done by Putnam or the publisher instead of negligence or an attempt to fool the reader. I can maybe overlook this shortcoming. Second, what the vertical axes measure are different. For Protestants it is “Giving per Member for 11 Major Protestant Denominations As a Fraction of Personal Disposal Income [emphasis added],” for Catholics it is “Giving per Catholic As Fraction of Household Income [emphasis added],” for the United Way it is “Giving to the United Way as Fraction of Total Personal Income [emphasis added]” (125). Fraction of Personal Disposal Income, Household Income, and Total Personal Income are not comparable units of analysis and this makes comparison between the three groups impossible. I cannot just ignore this problem and find that in this case Putnam is an untrustworthy and incompetent.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Campus religion revives

An article from the Star Tribune points to today's college students being more religious than their parents (and showing increased participation in religious activities on campus). Quite ironic to read right after Bowling Alone! Especially interesting was the following: "Just as an earlier generation turned away from the 1950s conservatism of their parents, the millennial generation -- those currently in college -- may see a strong faith in God as a rebellion against their parents' religious apathy." Full article at http://www.startribune.com/stories/614/5721773.html

more on causes

Awa is totally right. His causes are weak. That's been bothering me all week -- what is he missing? I wonder if a more thorough look at the causes might weaken his argument. For example, looking at how people turned away from conformity and mindless following might be a huge cause of civic disengagement -- but do we really want to go back to a time when powerful groups convinced people to do terrible things (segregation etc.)?


OMG! it actually exists!! can u believe it!



One more thing

I keep thinking, that what Putnum really wants is Leave It To Beaver or Father Knows Best.

He wants groups of what Artistotle would refer to as "the good man, speaking well."

I'm not against this at all, but in his study, his focus is very much concentrated on middle-class suburban/small town white value structures. Perhaps he is looking in the wrong places. Perhaps he is looking at the wrong populations, or the wrong data.

Even with all of those graphs, tables, and charts (which were, by the way, very drab and boring), he didn't convince me. I felt that something was missing.

Maybe I'm wrong - tell me if I've missed something here.

the causes

It seems to me that analysis of the causes of civic disengagement should be the most powerful part of this book, however, I find it very insufficient and unsatisfactory. Putman does analyze a lot of candidate factors, from TV to race, from money to marriage; however, the factors that are counted as causal factors, especially the weight of each factors seem more like guesses than valid conclusions. For example, of course the generation change is a powerful factor, but why is there such dramatic change between generations? The change itself does not reveal the underlying reasons to the question of civil disengagement.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Granted, I Have The Attention Span of a Gnat...

...and I am cynical, to boot, but I don't feel as if Putnum has given me a reason to care. He longs for this idea of 'involvement,' but he hasn't engaged me. Part of me wants to say that things change - the world changes - why is that such a bad thing?

And why spend time longing for the type(s) of communities that once were when we can focus on the commuity/ies we have?

See, I really am an optimist at heart.



In response to the textbook issue -- he is extremely well organized to the point that each chapter follows the same pattern of set up, examples, and conclusion. I appreciate that it was really easy to read because I knew what was coming but at the same time, it did make it sort of text book like. The graphs also added to that.

Bowling Alone

Not another doom and gloom book! Now, it's not just the library profession that's doomed, it's all of American society!

I picture the author muttering something along the lines of "Those damned Baby Boomers; it's because of those post-civic cohorts that we're all going to hell in a handbasket now!"

I somehow also wonder if Putnam is thinking along the lines of "What this country needs is another Good War, or Depression!" to strengthen community and galvanize civic engagement. (Should we call this much-needed civic revitalization the Saguaro Cactus approach? See p. 509).

Excuse my sarcasm, but I just finished the book, and I'm very tired.


Text/Style and Putnum

I guess I wouldn't be me if I didn't have something whiny or cranky to say about the reading.

Does anyone else feel like they are reading a textbook? After each section and chapter, I half-expect to see workbook questions.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Followup to Bowling Alone

In response to Bridget's question here is a followup: THE STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE OF CIVIC AMERICA builds on Putnam's earlier articles, "Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital," Journal of Democracy (January 1995) and "The Prosperous Community," TAP (Spring 1993).


Bowling alone, how more or less comfortable?

In the arena where forces, individuals, institutions, and other factors interplay, in what ways do you see libraries fit in the interplay among dynamic factors, according to Putnam, social changes, civic engagement, social capital, and social bonds. Thanks to Kate, I will check to see what thoughts Jean Preer offers in "Where Are Libraries in Bowling Alone?" Also, I think that we have our roles in strengthening the bonds in both social world and virtual world since we, librarians and information professions, exist in both physical and electronic information environment. I am wondering how can we make use of the advantages we have including library outreach programs in order to turn the declining situation into another direction? There are lots of potentials that our professions can uphold the declines of civic engagement as well as social capital.

Another thought is on “capital”, since Putnam mentioned “social capital” many times throughout this book. I think that we, librarians, are involved in social capital in both economic and cultural aspects. To me, cultural capital is challenging to our professions as well as others, and I think it involves everyone in the arena. How can it be so true that we gained more power by more capitals we possess? This leads to recognition of so-called elites in the society, or a particular arena so to speak. I think theories we learned in class inter-related to each other. I think “gatekeeping” also comes into play. Why? I think those elites in both micro and macro levels have power to push and pull individuals. Bill Gates, for example, and his technology has so much impact on social world and its development. It is true, to me, that online technology makes people more and more physically isolated . Younger generations are those who become “natives” to technology, and they might be more and more comfortable to be in a virtual community. Also, it is related to the comfort to express and communicate in a setting where identity is not important. How does technology have to do with "communication apprehension"? Also, regarding values such as lies, do people do more lies or is it only the fact that they are “protective” in the virtual world? This is just my thoughts, and it scares me – an immigrant to technology!

supplemental read to Bowling Alone?

I came across a relevant article not too long ago when I first heard we would be reading Bowling Alone, though I have not been able to read it yet. It is "Where Are Libraries in Bowling Alone?" by Jean Preer in Amerian Libraries, September 2001 (p. 60-62).

Another "sponsored" event for building/strengthening community

Somebody should go and ask Dave where/how he envisions the library fitting into this?

Cookies and Milk with Mayor Dave Cieslewicz
1195 Grainger Hall
November 9, 2005
7 p.m.

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz will speak to students on
Wednesday, November 9 at 7 p.m. at 1195 Grainger Hall.
Among the topics he is going to discuss are public service
how to get more involved in the community, what opportunities are
available, etc. Mayor Cieslewicz will also answer any questions that
the students may have.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

interesting distractions, The Quiet and Studious Library

I logged in to ask you-all how it is going for you with Bowling Alone? I am finding myself with lots of questions about some of its basic assumptions, though his thesis is certainly interesting.

But then, I got interested in all the other threads that have come up in the last couple of days.
One observation: the library as a place of Quiet and Studious Behavior. I work in the "research" library and my office borders a public space. One thing I notice is that the people who use the public space seem to want it to be quiet. I and my coworkers sometimes get shushed by library users when we carry on necessary work-related conversations in or near our offices.

The reason we are located where we are is so that we can be available to the public, and I myself don't think the space we are in looks like a quiet study area but like an office area, but people seem to assume that because it is the "research"library, quiet has to reign everywhere.
So I wonder, if it is not only the librarians who carried out the studies of Vancouver and Toronto's central libraries, but also the library's users, who expect it to be a place of Quiet and Studious Behavior. The Toronto Central Library, especially, is a non-circulating "research"(Reference) library.

There's a lot of baggage connected with the notion of "research", I think. Especially in a big impressive building that is meant to Look Like a Library.
I wonder if user expectations are different in a smaller or branch library. We sort of got away from the library as "place"after we finished the Van Slyke book, but this does bring it back again.

I too work best in situations which are not too quiet and enjoy collaborative work, but I think many people do like quiet and a chance for solitary thinking. If the library wants to accomodate everyone, I think it needs a variety of welcoming spaces and some cues as to which are Quiet and which are not.

OK, and now on to JSTOR to see if there are some reviews of Bowling
Alone in the Sociology journals. more later..Barbara


What would y'all think of opening our project presentations to a wider audience - perhaps arranging a colloquium of Library-History-Community Love for the rest of SLIS???

I should probably first ask our instructor, though...




Blogging is a kinesthetic activity. It involves movement (although, I find that writing 'longhand' is more so) and it involves engagement with others - not as direct though, as, say, an IM session.

One thing that I commonly do, though, is work/read/use several web browsers or applications at a time. I am constantly flipping between them, working/reading/etc., radically different things. I imagine that this would drive a lot of people batty, but it works for me.

K8 and studious activities

K8, you mentioned that you don't learn well in quiet read only environments -- have you found that blogging is more like conversing and useful or do you think that it fits into the quiet "studious" category because it's not verbal?


Does anyone know the follow up to Bowling Alone? I wonder if anything has changed since it was published in 2000. A lot has happened since then---


Monday, November 07, 2005

Back to Habermas

One of the things that bother me with Buschman's approach is that he doesn't read Habermas critically. As the Habermas summary we read notes, "the public sphere is not a given for every type of society; nor does it possess a fixed status." I don't see Buschman addressing this issue/problem. Why should this notion of the public sphere, coming out of the development of the german salons (a fairly elite enterprise), actually work for public libraries in the US in the 21st century? And why should we fall back into (what I consider) the over-glorification on Enlightenment Ideals?


Leckie/Hopkins - a question of methodology

I have two questions.

1. On page 336, the authors note that interviewees were picked by chance, alternating genders. If there is a gender discrepancy regarding who uses a library, could this approach skew their results?

2. On page 346, they mention percentages of patrons engaging in 'studious behavior.' They never really define what 'studious behavior' is. Is simply reading a book 'studious'? Is 'writing' or 'computer use'? How are they defining this??? I feel as if this is a really fuzzy category and I'm not sure if I trust this part of their study - even though they have all of those great tables!

Did this bother anyone else? Or am I just being crabby?

Irene's comment about our class dynamic

I totally agree! And it also brings up issues such as learning behaviors, learning styles, personality traits, educational background, etc. - all of those things we bring to a class as individuals (and the same goes for the public space/use of libraries - everyone brings something different).

And this leads to issues of what is considered acceptable in particular spaces/circumstances. How do people perceive what should and should not be done in a library? Why do some view the 'quiet' library as a place of study and the 'noisy' library as a place of recreation or debate? Why isn't the noisy library a place of study? What does this say about our notions of learning and education?

Part of the reason this is, for me, an important issue is that my learning style is very interactive, kinesthetic, and verbal/spoken. This is largely a consequence of my ADD - even medicated, I need active interaction. The traditionally quiet library and/or classroom hasn't been a particularly welcoming space. It doesn't serve my needs, but then, the type(s) of spaces and practices that work for me induce others with a lot of tension!

So my question becomes: Is there really a space for everyone? Is this possible?

Right there with ya!

To further build on this, I've been wondering if this isn't rooted in the debate about whether the library is a public forum or an educational institution.

Heterogencity of Open Democracy

Irene posted: In the Lepkie and Hopkins article, p. 352, there is talk about, "Libraries have traditionally been idealized as a spatially unrestricted communal meeting ground for all members of a pluralistic society, a shared site where people of various classes, ethnicities, religions, and cutlures, mingle to create the 'heterogencity of open democracy.'"

This is a topic that I have wrestled with for years. . . and would hope that the facilitator for this week will allow some time to discuss. I'm sure that it will surface as this would appear to be one of the main themes in for this week's reading as well. If this space ( as a unrestricted communal meeting ground for all members of a pluralistic society) isn't provided via the public library, then where in our culture does this exist? Some might argue that the meeting ground exists in public institutions like say, "UW-Madison." Others might argue this happens in the home. Others might argue this happens in the op-ed section of the newspapers. . . . and still others might say that this meeting ground now exists on the Internet amoungst various user communities.

I think that following up on the Buschman book, in order to make the argument for the "need" for libraries . . . it would be helpful to discuss library alternatives. My opinion is that the library IS the ideal place for this common ground. When I read Irene's post where she discusses what she sees in the library (folks of similar characteristics) not intermingling I realize she makes a very valid statement. . . rarely see all these different kinds of people interacting, or engaging in public discourse and debate at the library (unless there is a class in the library). Just because many different kinds of people are together in a space (a space with enforced quiet, where many are trying to study or read, an individual activity), does NOT mean people are debating with each other. Often what I see are people who are alike (be it by physical appearance, age, etc.) sometimes talking to each other; I rarely see different kinds of people hanging out together and engaging in discourse.

However, the library does offer a venue for folks to engage one another if they wanted to. That is not necessarily true of other "spaces" in our culture. It's sort of like democracy in this country. American citizens all have the right to vote . . . and yet so many don't. Does that mean it is a failure? On some level, yes. Does the library fail . . . not in terms of providing a forum -- whether people choose to act on that is another question.

Thanks for posting these thoughts, Irene!!!

Follow up to Jacob's post on book scanning

Jacob's earlier post left off with a question, essentially: How do these book scanning projects impact the role of the library in terms of the "Public Sphere." This has been an ongoing debate for some time now. Much of the writing on this topic has been speculation and prediction. It would appear that we are no longer talking about this in terms of the future when you have these big players partnering and aggressively competing in this "market." Google, Amazon and now Microsoft teaming up with Yahoo.

Microsoft has said it will participate in a recently announced
book-scanning project led by Yahoo and the Internet Archive. Unlike
Google's much-maligned project, the Yahoo initiative, called the Open
Content Alliance, will only scan books that are in the public domain or
for which explicit permission has been granted by the copyright holder.
In contrast, Google will scan copyrighted books unless copyright
holders specifically request that their books be excluded, though only
small portions of copyrighted books will be available online. For its
part, Microsoft will finance the scanning of about 150,000 books, while
Yahoo will pay for about 18,000 books to be digitized. The Open Content
Alliance also differs from Google's project in that all of the content
from the alliance will be available from a database to any search
engine; Google will be the only means to access the content of its
project. Microsoft will create an MSN Book Search service next year,
though the business model for particular services and fees has not been
set, according to Danielle Tiedt, general manager of search content
acquisition at MSN.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

More thoughts

In the Lepkie and Hopkins article, p. 352, there is talk about, "Libraries have traditionally been idealized as a spatially unrestricted communal meeting ground for all members of a pluralistic society, a shared site where people of various classes, ethnicities, religions, and cutlures, mingle to create the 'heterogencity of open democracy.'" There has been much written about this concept in our readings. Yet, I keep wondering, "Do all these different kinds of people really mingle? I enjoy observing people in libraries. I rarely see all these different kinds of people interacting, or engaging in public discourse and debate at the library (unless there is a class in the library). Just because many different kinds of people are together in a space (a space with enforced quiet, where many are trying to study or read, an individual activity), does NOT mean people are debating with each other. Often what I see are people who are alike (be it by physical appearance, age, etc.) sometimes talking to each other; I rarely see different kinds of people hanging out together and engaging in discourse. The same thing happens in the undergraduate college, but that is another story.....

Also, Jom brought up an illuminating concept of technology providing a comfortable space for those who may not feel comfortable speaking up in an oral situation (due to language, culture, physical disability, etc.), in effect creating a marginalized group. Yes, we see it in our own class; the native English-speaking people speak up quickly and rapidly, and the international students, although extremely intelligent and articulate, can feel more relaxed and comfortable on the weblog, where there is more time to think, collect one's thoughts, and write them down. Technology as an avenue of expression for a marginalized group (though I am not fond of that term; it has some negative connotations for me). Even I have said to some friends, "You speak faster than I think!" and I am a native English-speaker!

It is fascinating to think how technology may indeed provide a public space for the expression of so many people who have important things to say, but may not have said them in a face-to-face situation.


Saturday, November 05, 2005

Follow up on Dismantling the Public Sphere

Since our discussion about Buchanan's book “Dismantling the Public Sphere,” there have been some news reports about further commodification leading to charges for materials typically available in a public library. The first report is from The New York Times yesterday, about efforts by Amazon and Google to provide a pay by the page service for portions of books. The second article is about Amazon’s efforts in particular and follows as a separate posting. Do efforts like these pose a further deterioration of the role of the public library? If so, does this potentially reduce the ability of the library to function as a public sphere?

Want 'War and Peace' Online? How About 20 Pages at a Time?

By Edward Wyatt
Correspondent for The New York Times
November 4, 2005

In a race to become the iTunes of the publishing world, Amazon.com and Google are both developing systems to allow consumers to purchase online access to any page, section or chapter of a book. These programs would combine their already available systems of searching books online with a commercial component that could revolutionize the way that people read books.

The idea is to do for books what Apple has done for music, allowing readers to buy and download parts of individual books for their own use through their computers rather than trek to a store or receive them by mail. Consumers could purchase a single recipe from a cookbook, for example, or a chapter on rebuilding a car engine from a repair manual.

The initiatives are already setting off a tug of war among publishers and the potential vendors over who will do business with whom and how to split the proceeds. Random House, the biggest American publisher, proposed a micropayment model yesterday in which readers would be charged about 5 cents a page, with 4 cents of that going to the publisher to be shared with the author. The fact that Random House has already developed such a model indicates that it supports the concept, and that other publishers are likely to follow.

The proposals could also become bargaining chips in current lawsuits against Google by trade groups representing publishers and authors. These groups have charged that Google is violating copyrights by making digital copies of books from libraries for use in its book-related search engine. But if those copies of older books on library shelves that have long been absent from bookstores started to produce revenue for publishers and authors, the trade groups might drop some of their objections.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, which filed a federal copyright infringement lawsuit against Google in September over its Google Print program, called the Amazon announcement "a positive development."

"This is the way it's supposed to work: to give consumers access to books and have revenues flow back to publishers and authors," Mr. Aiken said. "Conceptually, something similar might be possible for the Google program."

Amazon said yesterday that it was developing two programs that would begin some time next year. The first, Amazon Pages, is intended to work with the company's "search inside the book" feature to allow users to search its universe of books and then buy and read online whatever pages they need of a given book. The second program, Amazon Upgrade, will allow customers to add online access to their purchase of a physical copy of a book.

Jeffrey P. Bezos, chief executive of Amazon, said in an interview that he believed that, for a vast majority of books, consumers would be able to download, copy and print out whatever portions of the book they buy. But, he added, that decision would ultimately be up to the publisher or the author.

Google is working to develop a similar system, said executives at three publishing companies who were briefed by Google on its efforts. Using the Google Print site, readers would be able to search Google's digitized library of books, then buy either an entire book or the relevant parts.

A spokesman for Google, Nate Tyler, declined to comment yesterday on its plans, saying only that the company was "exploring other economic models, but we don't have anything to announce yet."

Mr. Tyler said Google welcomed the Amazon program. "Amazon is a valuable partner," he said, "and we link to Amazon so people can buy books they've found with Google Print. We're glad our users will have additional ways to access the books they've found using Google Print."

Google and Amazon would each seem to have some advantages over the other in the development of their programs. Amazon already has the credit card numbers of a large population of potential users of the service and is familiar to people looking to buy books and other goods.

Google is the first stop for most people searching electronically for anything. And Google has the potential to have a far greater collection of materials, given its program to copy digitally much of the collections of five major research libraries and make that content searchable on its site.

Currently, the Google Print program provides free online access to the full content of books no longer under copyright, but only limited viewing of parts of books that are still protected. Under the plans being developed by Google, publishers say, those older, copyrighted books could be bought in whole or in part.

"We've had conversations with both Google and Amazon over the past few months" about their search and purchase systems, said Richard Sarnoff, president of Random House's corporate development group. By creating a financial model under which the Amazon and Google programs could work, Mr. Sarnoff said Random House was "planting a flag, trying to establish some ground rules that we are comfortable with to create this new kind of commerce around book content."

The Random House model calls for consumers to be able to buy access to a book for, say, 5 cents a page for most books and higher amounts, like 25 cents a page, for cookbooks and other specialty publications. It calls for users to gain online access, though not to be able to copy or print the page. But "if consumers absolutely demand certain kinds of access," like the ability to print, Mr. Sarnoff said, "it would be important to provide that."

David Steinberger, chief executive of the Perseus Books Group, said he welcomed the new initiatives and believed it would be better for consumers if several companies developed these services, giving readers more choices and types of material available.

"This is a much more significant development than we saw during the Internet boom," when scores of companies were rushing to develop e-books - complete books that could be downloaded onto an electronic reader. Those plans were largely shelved as consumers found the electronic readers unwieldy, and the Internet boom collapsed. "This time," Mr. Steinberger said, "it looks like this really might happen."

Follow up on Dismantling the Public Sphere Part 2

Here is the second report from Sydney Morning Herald today, specifically about Amazon's plans for its page selling service.

Amazon takes page out of iTunes book with online text sales

Reprinted for the Los Angeles Times
November 5, 2005

Amazon.com has previewed a service to sell just a few pages or
chapters of a book - allowing one of the world's oldest media to be
chopped up and customised like an album on iTunes.

Although he offered few details, the company's chief executive,
Jeff Bezos, said Amazon customers would soon be able to buy
snippets of books for as little as a few cents a page. That might
come in handy for tourists planning a trip or students assigned one
chapter in a textbook.

The service could help the internet retailer emerge as a more
publisher-friendly digital library than Google, which on Thursday
introduced free database of online books. Unlike Google, Amazon
plans to seek the blessings of the books' publishers.

Analysts said Amazon's approach, which builds on a current
feature that offers a peek into some books, expands the online
experience and prepares for a day when people are more accustomed
to reading long passages of text on the computer.

"It makes it more like browsing in a bookstore," said Edward
Weller, an analyst at Think Equity Partners, "and you don't even
have to put your clothes on."

John Sargent, the chief executive of Holtzbrinck Publishers,
said the success of Apple's iTunes Music Store gives him hope that
book publishers and authors can find an online business model that
gives them a fair share of the proceeds. "This is a brave new
world," he said.

Amazon said it would sell a digital "upgrade" to some books for
an additional fee. For example, a computer programmer who buys a
software manual would receive the book in the mail, but could also
read through the digital version from any web browser.

In contrast, Google is scanning vast numbers of books to add to
its Google Print search engine - many without permission from the
publishers. Its partners include Stanford, Harvard, the New York
Public Library and Oxford. On Thursday it opened its digital
library with thousands of books that are out of print or no longer
under copyright. Users can search for particular keywords or read
the books from start to finish. It displays only snippets of
copyrighted books.

Groups representing publishers and authors have sued Google for
copyright infringement.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Leckie & Hopkins VS. Buschman

Bridge's questions are also on my mind. When reading Leckie & Hopkins' article, I was comparing it with Buschman's Dismantling book, and it's very interesting to see their common points and discrepancies. Both talking about public place (though "public sphere" has much more implications than "public space"), and criticizing "new economy", some of Leckie & Hopkins ideas seem to be in line with the "new public philosophy" and much less critical, for example, their comments on the modernist buildings and their accounting of "foot traffic", and that "public monies spent on the … central libraries are a sound investment."

Back to "public sphere" and "public space", I think Leckie & Hopkins explain "library as a public space" much more clearly than Buschman does with "library as a public sphere". I wonder whether it is due to the complexity of the concept of "public sphere" itself or because Buschman confound "public sphere" and "new public philosophy" as we discussed in class.

And a small issue about Leckie & Hopkins: they emphasize the diversity of the clientele of the central libraries. However, almost of all these people are "well-educated". To me, this greatly weakens their argument of diversity.

Leckie and Hopkins

One thing that came to mind as I read the Leckie and Hopkins article is that it seems to be following the "crisis culture" thinking that Buschman is so critical of in Dismantling. They choose a specific path -- fear of private interests and exclude the fear of technology, but fear seems to motivate their research.

Another thing that these readings made me think about is the evolution of how public space works. Buschman emphasises the public sphere as a place of discourse. Early public spaces were places of primarily oral discourse, but it seems like things have changed as libraries have evolved to reading being primary. The Leckie and Hopkins article shows that reading was the number one thing to do at the libraries studied. There's no back and forth here as there is when the public space is being used for oral exchanges of information. On the other hand, the CI article talks about the social connectedness of digital CI systems. There is a back and forth flow, even if it isn't verbal. It seems like a step in a more vibrant direction, where discourse is active and alive.



Leckie’s and Hopkin’s article reminded me of what has been going on in Minneapolis concerning the building of a new central library. Earlier this week, library officials said the $15 million private fundraising goal had been reached, supplementing the $110 million voters had approved in 2000. The new library plans on an art gallery and adding a planetarium at a later time. The notion of a central library still appears to be at work here, although I don’t know what that means in terms of public sphere since it will be a new meeting place perhaps drawing in one-time visitors or frequent library users.

Pettigrew, Durrance, and Unruh provided a sort of ah-ha moment for me as I realized how immersed I’ve become in the digital CI systems - from listservs, blogging, reading the online newspaper, searching WebMD to understand a family member’s health issues, and finding out about local governmental offices. One thought I had was what happens when individuals at a library terminal are faced with barriers to information (i.e. poor retrieval, nonanticipatory systems, etc.) whether they seek librarians’ assistance or if they plow through on their own? When people appeared lost in the stacks, many librarians would ask if the patron needed assistance. This is not the case when a patron is on the internet...?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

public sphere in a "real"place and in cyberspace

I found the two articles, the one about two major central libraries, and the other about major online projects, to be interesting illustrations of the notion of a public sphere, one in a large physical setting and the other in cyberspace. I noticed that the survey of the public libraries tended to show that the library's users came mainly from fairly nearby geographic locations, but the cyberspace project has the ability to bridge the geographic distance. But still there are barriers, as Jom observes.
I've used the Vancouver central public library and I really enjoyed its setting in a large shopping area in a donwtown area that used to be blighted but now is really vibrant and is anchored by the library. I think it is really successful in that respect. But I don't think it feels like a place where all people might want to come-- it is kind of a middle-class, educated people's place. The online project seems to really be reaching out to all people, but the gaps and barriers have to do with having access to technology and being able to use technology. Also with just knowing that the online project is there, since it isn't like a big building that you can see from the street. You have to know it is there, somehow.


Pettigrew et al.

  1. I think this is different from that of Leckie and Hopkins where researchers approached their subjects in a setting, a library. Pettigrew et al. did something that led me to think about how did they gain entry to the human subjects and conduct their data collection such as a telephone interview. I look to see, in the article, if there is a reflection of who holds the keys? How did the researchers gain entry to their subjects and what were supports from gate-keepers to them? Also, did they break through a chain of gate-keeping process of a certain community to get the data?
  2. Is a major public sphere, in this case, the CI Web sites? Or are these Web sites serve as a public space for members of the community who share the same goals and have something in common? Does this mean that those who do not share the same goals and/or do not have the “something” in common cannot participate? I think the first thing they have to have is the share interest in exploring the Web sites and some computer literacy. With this “techy” requirements, I think it yields different perspectives if the study is focused on the down – the poor or those with lower incomes. To them, no matter how or in what formats the CI comes, what really matter is they can make use of the information and the information can help them fulfilling their needs. The issue is an uneven access and literacy among social classes.
  3. Thanks to Irene, I wonder if it fits with our “public sphere” topic since the sense-making is something to do with helps, functions, and consequences, impacts, and effects that each unit in a community has to interplay to each other as a mechanism. I am wondering if it is similar to how individuals or institutions in a community become gate-keepers that can strongly influence others and can serve as a mechanism that filters good and bad for the public.
  4. Then, if library is one mechanism that helps, functions, and impacts the members of a community, in what way we, in the profession, see ourselves fit in the process of public outreaches helping them bridge their thoughts to achieve or to realize shared goals according to Dervin’s sense-making metaphor? To me, this article is a good example on how to link a study to particular theory.
  5. In this article, it is interesting to see how information is more accessible across geographical and time barriers. However, I am wondering if the good of online information networks like these work so well for those who “feel comfortable” with technology and virtual setting where personal identity does not do anything with opportunity to communicate and express ideas. For example, I can express ideas and ask questions about the readings on this blog more than in a real class setting when it is hard for me to break in a round of discussion.
  6. Another concern is that in the very near future, do you think people will participate more and more in online communities since there are more of those native to information technology in the world?

So, can anyone help let me know if I am on the right track or if I am off the track here? Reading is always hard, and it is harder to work on sense-making especially on what the readings try to say and how I can make use of the readings.


Jom, you ask very thought-provoking questions!

Before you post questions to the Pettigrew, Durrance, and Unrugh article (2002), I want to mention that I was struck with the authors' mapping of their findings according to Dervin's sense-mking metaphor. There is the situation/need, the barriers, and the results/outcomes, with is an interesting way to think about online information seeking behavior. However, it would be fascinating also to look at the steps between the barriers and the outcomes/results. I would guess it includes translating those informaiton enabling characteristics into something "techy" but I really have no idea what is involved in this process.


Sirianni’s and Friedland’s “Civil Society”

  1. How can a gigantic multicultural society as in the USA where there are many subgroups make something out of the concept of public sphere and civil society?
  2. Since “civil society” is voluntary and is meant to seek common ground and public goods, how can citizens in world where there lies senses of government and corporate orientations understand their roles in civil society? Is civil society something in the middle bridging individuals to the state and to the private sector, as it is described as the “third sector”?
  3. How can library fit its nature in the concept and goals of “civil society” or can library serve as a bridge, or civil society, itself?

To me, this week readings bring me some thoughts. In addition to the questions I came up regarding the readings we read, I am wondering

  1. Can we name some of the existent public sphere we see or know? Can anyone help find a metaphor of this concept?
  2. How do we see ourselves and our positions as a librarian, a researcher, and a citizen fit in the "public sphere", and how can we make something or do something by being active in the sphere?

For Leckie's and Hopkins’

  1. How and how much do you think users’ participation in library design and intent should be accounted? For example, at Toronto Ref. Library, “Openness” is the fundamental. The library is viewed as a cup with emptiness inside, and the emptiness enhances creativity, freedom of thought, and spiritual enlightenment (p.337).
  2. What is your concerns on “from followed function” and “less was more”? (p.337)
  3. In what ways does this kind of study illuminate and represent the underlying concepts and inter-relationship of libraries, users, public space, public good, public culture, civic society, public library as a principle institution of the public sphere, and public communication?
  4. At both libraries, does the fact that male respondents are higher in proportion than female respondents represent something about the libraries, the communities they serve, the populations, or the culture?
  5. According to Table 6, p.351, as reference and information is rated the most important service at both libraries and the provision of information resources is the top primary purpose of central library, what does this finding tell us about the role of library in a community and what are users’ perceptions of library’s identity and symbol. How does this identity of library reflect and impact users as a part of their lives? In what ways does the dynamic and changing environment and technology impact library’s identity? How do pressures from factors such as budget, technology, diversity of users, and other changes maximize or minimize the symbolic, cultural, and socioeconomic roles of libraries?

For Habermas' "Public Sphere"

  1. According to the definition of the “pubic sphere” in the second paragraph, are there any internal forces or pressures within a public sphere? Can certain interaction between individuals or subgroups in a public sphere create internal pressures? Does this form internal pressures? How can interaction among individuals or subgroups alter or constrain others?
  2. How can we differentiate “dialog” from “communication” or “interaction”, or are they the same?
  3. How might individuals’ dialog be influenced by or have influences on the ongoing and stimulating dialogs of others?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

more on Dismantling

I'm not usually posting after class, so it has been really interesting to read all the comments this time. This was a quirky book. Some of it I thought was arrogant and nitpicking.. But the part that really struck me as right on the mark is the part that Greg has highlighted too. It has to do with the commodification of information, the economic, business model taking over everything including expectations of libraries and librarians. And not just in the public library. The economic, corporate business model permeates the academic library as well. Although there is something to be said for treating library users as "customers'-- ie. as if their needs and values are important-- when you follow this model to its logical outcome what you have can be a commodified edutainment commercial venture rather than a library which is an important part of the public good. And the commodification of information and publishing is having vast impacts on what kind of information is available, at what cost, to whom and in what form. That is a subject I could go on and on about, but it is time to start this week's reading.

Like Blaire, I thought some aspects of the arguments presented were one-sided. Libraries are working on creating their own resources, cooperating and encouraging creation of open-access resources, and doing other things to fight the corporatization and commodification of information. They are not just passively accepting the economic status quo. But it is difficult to do this. Libraries are stretched thin by multiple demands and insufficient funds. It does involve funding, even if the model is not corporate.

Well, I'm sorry I missed class. I found this book thought-provoking and in some ways pretty profound. I wish the author had developed his theoretical argument more. It seemed to me that he had his ideas already and then just draped a convenient theoretical framework over them without much attention to what thinkers such as Habermas might really be saying. But there are some good citations in the notes so I can try to follow up and read more of this philosophy-- it seems quite relevant to me.

It was interesting to spend some time at the ALA Archives reading the ALA Executive Board minutes for 1923,1924, 1925. I did not find much I can use for my paper, but my goodness, what a cozy group of old boys this group seems to have been. There was an interesting paper given at the conference about the formation of the ALA Social Responsibilities Round table in the 1970''s and some other issues that Buschman mentions in a later context as well. These issues do seem to be part of the longer term in thinking about what the role of libraries and librarians should be.