of kitchens and card catalogs

April 30, 2007

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the Carnegie-built former Dallas Public Library

While we wait for Anne Simmons’ next dispatch from ARLIS-NA, take the next available chance (I suggest the Whole Foods checkout line) to browse the May issue of Saveur , where the regular “Kitchenwise” feature offers C.M. Reinhardt’s storybook-like account of life/space transition: giving up a fast-paced life as a New York television producer to work freelance and live in rural Burwell, Nebraska, there remodeling an abandoned, outdated Carnegie Library building into a sleek, modern living space. (And no, the story’s not online, but you can get a detailed account of the remodel from Burwell’s Independent. Registration required, but I was able to read it from the Google cache.) Reinhardt even went so far as to purchase a card catalog cabinet at a prop auction, which she notes is an excellent kitchen amenity, for storing matches and her bottle-cap opener collection.

Although the limitations of Carnegie buildings became unavoidable to the last generation of public library administrators, their endearing qualities are obviously not lost to the world. The canonical building style thus gave us expectations for the form and function of a library, and many systems, including NYPL, still operate out of theirs. Indeed, many other Carnegie buildings are living on in various reincarnations: Mud Bay Granary, an organic pet food operation, houses their offices in the former Carnegie in Olympia, WA. As demonstrated with Reinhardt’s renovation, people feel ownership and intimacy with library buildings that often isn’t a part of blah residential architecture. (As a child, I told my mother I wanted to go live in our neighborhood public library, but ours was a more high-modern affair.)

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ARLIS Dispatch–Day 1

April 28, 2007

The pre-conference excitement officially began when I saw the movie Beauty Shop a couple of weeks ago. The movie stars Queen Latifah and many other big names. Not only was I inspired to adopt a revised moral code based on kindness and loyalty, but the film also got me really excited about going to Atlanta.

The goal for day one was Settle In. This involved going to a session, Art Libraries: New and Improved, which showcased various art library renovations and building projects. Laura Schwatz, Head Librarian from UT Austin’s Fine Arts Library spoke about the organizing and implementation of the recent renovations there. Evidently they’ve revamped the main reading area of the library and it looks pretty great. I haven’t seen the space post-renovation, but it looked like they got rid of the orange tubular metal chairs that I found so charming as a student at UT. Maybe someone can comment about this…

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Also presenting was Carol Terry, Director of Library Services at RISD. They’ve got a super-designed multi-purpose space in an old bank building, which not only houses the library but serves as student housing as well. The library seems to have a lot of the quirks you’d expect from a fancy design school (stadium seating in the reading room, a giant light box above the slide cabinets, etc.) without seeming too over-conceptualized ala Seattle Public.

After the session, my roommate and I headed to the exhibitions hall to grab the obligatory Worldwide Books tote. This year they’ve moved away from the traditional canvas to a neon green vinyl-ish number. Very controversial.

The Settle In heavily involved familiarizing myself with the various hotel amenities at the Sheraton Colony Square Midtown Atlanta. There is a pool on the fifth floor, but the sun in Atlanta moves fast, and if one goes any time after 2pm one quickly finds oneself in the shade of the actual hotel building. A serious design flaw. My roommate pointed out that are five pillows on each bed, four standard and one accent. ARLIS fed us lunch, clearly catered by the Sheraton, and my roommate raved that the cookie was the best she had ever had.


Back to work, ladies!

April 27, 2007

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I was seriously disturbed to read this April 25th op-ed piece in the New York Times by Linda Hirshman entitled, “Off to Work She Should Go.” Ms. Hirshman is the author of “Get To Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World,” in which she asserts that “choice feminism” has put the freedom to choose whether or not to work above making strides in equality for women. She contends that when educated, wealthy (and most likely, white) women choose to stay home to raise their children, they are effectively creating their own glass ceiling, and greatly decreasing the power of women to effect societal changes.

Of course I think it’s important that women make up a percentage of powerful employers and the workforce in general. If there aren’t enough women at your place of work, there will most likely be less leverage when it comes to getting flexible work hours, salaries might be lower and sexual harassment higher. However, why is that Ms. Hirshman only seems to be concerned with wealthy white women returning to work? I hate to break it to her, but many librarians are highly educated and intelligent women. Guess what? Their earning potential is ridiculously low and their chances for advancement ain’t that great either. And what of the women who contribute to society in other ways who are forced to go back to work immediately after having a child, because they can’t afford not to? Perhaps these wealthy women can return to work for them and subsidize their incomes? But then, who would take out these power chicks’ trash and serve them lunch during their business meetings?

I understand it’s difficult to understand why the women who would have the easiest time returning to work after childbirth decide against it. But really, what women WANTS to hand over her infant to a stranger to care for 9 hours of the day? And don’t even get me started on breastfeeding. Even if you’re lucky enough to have the autonomy at work required to close your door and pump several times during the day, who wouldn’t love to have that time to bond with their child, instead of having someone else shove a bottle in her mouth?

The reality is, today’s woman has stopped buying into the myth of “having it all.” Corporate America, as well as libraries, is notoriously inflexible. It’s entirely too difficult to balance your work life and home life. Besides, studies have proven that the longer a woman waits to have a child, the higher her earning potential. Companies don’t value working mothers!

Instead of a call to mothers to change their views, how about demanding that employers stand up and lead the change? Working mothers need flexible hours, affordable, on-site daycare, the option to telecommute, etc. And these “luxuries” shouldn’t be just for the most wealthy and educated women in society. Until we as a society and a country start valuing our working mothers more, they will stay at home in droves.


Ask a Male Librarian, Deux

April 27, 2007

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So, okay, male librarians are the smartest, most tactful, most socially savvy, trustworthy and generally special-est people around. And in the spirit of Sassy’s “Dear Boy“column, we get one of them to answer your questions every so often. This installment features our archivist pal Mark Matienzo, who holds it down at archivesblogs, thesecretmirror, and most recently, the food blog, Feeding the Hungry Ghost. Topics include pantyhose, bad breath, and cultivating your blog persona… Read the rest of this entry »


knockoff ethics and other perils

April 26, 2007

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If you’re in the midst of trying to sell your colleagues on Creative Commons, or are up to your neck in reworking licensing agreements, take a break and browse Counterfeit Chic,  a blog by law professor Susan Scafdi.  Refocus your analysis of copyright and intellectual property to fake designer handbags and Forever 21’s DVF ripoffs. Scafdi, who wrote the excellent Who Owns Culture:Appropriation And Authenticity In American Law takes obvious delight in her subject matter, and presents fake Chanel as the relevant social issue it really is.


awwww, dude…

April 24, 2007

The LoC launched a blog today to celebrate its big 207th birthday.


mobile tools, form, and rewriting the web

April 24, 2007

One of many who was remotely following the Computers in Libraries conference last week, I was intrigued by the notes I’d seen on Megan Fox’s presentations on mobile tools. Everyone says that mobile devices are going to change the way we use the internet, either by presenting the web in smaller scale or bringing the browsing capabilities of a laptop to an affordable tiny device. It’s totally exciting to see this- Frontline’s piece on Kiva.org briefly discussed how the organization is working to facilitate micro-loans with mobile tools.

These past few weeks, my local hip-hop station has started using Meebo as their default line of communication with listeners. “Be the ninth Meebo message and win tickets to see Pretty Ricky!”

It’s exciting to witness rapid changes, but I’m so ambivalent. I worry that the digital divide isn’t going to go away, just permutate into something we have even less of an idea of how to fix. I worry about a version of the Web on mobile devices that exists mainly to sell things and exploit poor people. So I think it’s important to address information delivery across platforms, but I worry about hasty experiments, new glosses on old, bad tools. Why make a mobile adaptation of your library Web site when no one really knows how to use the old one? I also wonder about who we’re really serving- the advantage, and the duty that non-commercial enterprises have is that they can be thoughtful-and thus reflect the social ramifications of shifts in technology.

At a party last weekend, I met Tristan Perich, who had just performed at the Media Archeology festival. He carried with him his Portable Telephone, a working cell phone housed in a classic push-button phone. It’s a clever yet unobnoxious experiment in form and technological function. People peer at someone carrying around a bulky plastic telephone, but Tristan is happy to demonstrate its functionality. “These telephones are really well designed,” he said, “it makes people really happy to see that it works. “