to be less gullible

5 01 2009

83454811That is my New Year’s resolution: to stop believing everything I read, to question authority more often, to consider the source, to check more than one source for verification, etc.

As a librarian, you’d think I’d already do a pretty good job at this, wouldn’t you?  Oh, but no.  Someone once told me that Jimmy Carter was the only U.S. President to not be a Freemason and I believed it (perhaps my love for Mr. Carter clouded my discernment?).  For the record, this is at best impossible to verify due t0 the secrecy of Freemasonry.  At worst, it’s totally wrong.

Yes, I am probably less gullible than your average person.  But I want to stop reading something and automatically assuming it’s the truth.  How can I add an extra step to this process?  How can I get my brain to slow down for a second and mull it over?  Does the immediacy of the interwebs agitate this problem?

Want proof that you have this problem too (because I’m SURE you do)?  It’s simple.  Read an article from a reputable source on a topic about something you really truly know almost everything about.  It could be someone you personally know quite well, a topic that speaks intimately to your profession, an attribute of your lifestyle.  Anything like that.  And then listen to yourself gasp as you read error after error, half-truth after half-truth, incorrect term after incorrect term.  Yes, the author gets the general point across and some do better than others but not without lots of painful errors.

It’s great press and I’m so glad the article was written, but this is exactly what happened to me when I read this article about our department director.  I could barely continue reading past the first line, where Helene is referred to as the Digital Initiatives Librarian.  Unless they’ve changed something around here, this is not her job title.  She is the Director of Digital Strategy.  Contrary to popular belief, working at a library does not make you a librarian.

Sometimes it’s a matter of old habits dying hard.  For example, we’ve called ourselves Columbus Metropolitan Library for almost 20 years.  Yet, the so-called reputable local media still to this day calls us the Columbus Public Library!  I don’t think that’s ever been our official name.  WTF.

So, if every article you read on a topic you’re intimately familiar with is full of mistakes, doesn’t that mean that every article you consider to be accurate and informative about something new to you is actually lying to you?  Beware of what you read!  It could be misleading you.

(Old School Librarians may want to skip this paragraph).  Perhaps this is why I almost always find Wikipedia to be the most accurate source.  Rather than a journalist or commentator on a soapbox getting a little carried away and failing to check the facts, it’s a consortia of lots of people correcting each other’s little errors over time.

Something my husband often says:  “Always trust the historian, never trust the journalist.”   Yes, he’s a biased social studies teacher…but don’t you think he’s on to something here?  You may think this is about bashing journalists.  It’s not.  My point is: the onus is on us, as learners and consumers of information, to pause and consider: Is this really true?  We live in a culture of the short view.  We are too impatient to wait for the long view, the view that often comes with more accuracy.

I hope I can keep my resolution to integrate the long view and the pause button into my information consumption habits.  Wish me luck!  Also, I hope there is an ever-growing pool of good public service librarians out there who are modeling this behavior to their customers and encouraging them to do the same.


thing #23: this is the end

17 11 2008

778181021This is my last Learn & Play post, my last thing.  I can’t believe it!  It seems like it went by much too quickly.  I am so happy for the process, because it has brought me out of the depths of blurkerdom and into the heights of participation.  For me, it was the perfect amount of accountability.  Not to mention the virtual camaraderie that this journey has cooked up at CML — thanks to Twitter, etc. I now know my colleagues better.  Like the first Care Bears movie, it’s kind of adorable.

Now, the challenge is to keep it up: to maintain my professional presence on the interwebs. (Should “professional” and “interwebs” be used in the same sentence?).  Can I do that?  Egotistically assuming I have been already, can I be terribly witty and impressive in the long haul?  Only time will tell….

thing #19: power tools page

27 10 2008

Long ago and far away, the lovely Joy and I created the Power Tools page.  It was a fun little project!  The best thing that’s happened to it so far, imo, is the catalog search plugin.   I also like the freedom that comes with knowing the page is a work in progress.  We can try different things, add to the page, take away from it, etc.  It’s almost like a refreshing little vacation; an opportunity to get away from the large, unwieldy, and bureaucratic projects we often take part in.  That’s definitely one of the drawbacks, and something worthy of an entirely separate post, of working for a large library system. 😉

thing #12: twitter-dee, twitter-dum

19 09 2008

I talk too much.*  I write too much.  I am verbose.  That’s why I love Twitter.  It forces me to keep it short and sweet.  Find me on Twitter!

I think I might love TwitterFox, one of my favorite Firefox extensions, even more than Twitter itself.

Do you know how badly our library needed Twitter this week?  SO BADLY.  I have been wanting to embed a Twitter-feed on our homepage for a while now and this week would have been perfect.  The windstorm/hurricane Ike remnants of the Midwest left us with over half of our locations closed and the public eager to know which ones were open so they could come in to use wireless.  Or charge their cell phone.  Or charge their electric razor.

Instead of a simple Twitter post, we were left to deal with posting red text at the top of our homepage via our homegrown content management system.  The red worked great.  But cool and sleek it was not.

How does Twitter typically get used?  Well, in my circles these days, most tweets involve either the presidential campaign and or International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  Ahoy!

Meanwhile, I enjoyed some Scrabble by candlelight and I learned that a tree in my backyard split at the base of the trunk.  I’ll probably have to cut it down so that it doesn’t fall on my house.  SUCKO.

*And yet I HATE talking on the phone, so much so that I don’t even have a cell phone.  I am one big bundle of paradoxical surprises.

drupal: the elusive solution

5 09 2008

At CML, we are beginning the long, arduous process of transitioning our sites to Drupal.  Long-term, am I happy about this?  Yes.  Short-term?  OMG Drupal is going to drive me to drink!!!  I don’t even really know what to ask nor what to look for.  Development of a skeleton of our site is coming along quite well, but I’m still in the dark.

Here’s the problem:  I’m not a developer/programmer/web designer.  But, as my non-techie husband fondly calls it, I’m certainly no World W Internets dummy either.  I am stuck in the tragic middle.  And where is the peer group for that?  I’m having trouble finding one.  Forget about finding a group like this that also has a library bend. (I almost typed “liberal” instead of “library” there…politics on the brain much?)  Grrrrr.

I think part of the problem is that because I work for a large, urban public library, my job is so specialized.  Consequently, I haven’t had as many happy accident opportunities as I would like.  Never out of necessity have I had to learn programming, web design, etc.  I am like the doctorate person who knows “everything about nothing” but I don’t have the cool letters at the end of my name.  And as far as I know, there aren’t any other large, urban public libraries using Drupal.  Again, where’s my peer group?

I’m hoping that help will come from my own backyard.  Along with one of my colleagues who actually does do programming, we are going to pick the brains of the IT team at one of our partner libraries.  They’re small, but they’re local!  Their soon-to-be new site is built in Drupal.

Maybe by the time I’ve crested the huge learning curve, I will be able to pioneer the creation of a peer group that focuses on Drupal for non-developers/non-programmers/non-librarians/yet not a stranger to technology by any means in library settings.  First, I’ll need to work on a better name for such a group.

no more bench warming

21 08 2008

Now that Learn & Play kicked-off at my library, I suppose it’s time to have more of a public presence on the interwebs. I have wanted to do it for a while, so I welcome the nudge, especially since the lovely Joy, one of my dearest colleagues, is one of the leaders for the project. Here we go!