or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Web 2.0 Companies and Libraries

   March 11th, 2008 Brian Herzog

LinkedIn officeA little while ago, grow-a-brain linked to a list of photographs of what some Web 2.0 companies' offices looked like.

I found this interesting, so I thought I'd share. The photo shown here is in the offices of LinkedIn, a social networking website. When I saw it, I thought it could pass for a children's room in a library.

Which got me thinking about what library "offices" look like. Public desks are one thing, but a lot of work also happens beyond the public areas, behind those doors marked "staff-only."

This reminded me there is a Librarians' Desks flickr pool, which has both public and staff desks. Really, they don't look all that different from the Web 2.0 companies.

By the way, here are my public and private library desks.


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Found on Flickr for Fun and Profit

   February 12th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Flickr Loves YouI've had a flickr account for less than a year. Last week, a group contacted me, asking if they could use one of my photographs in their upcoming publication.

This is the second time that this has happened to me (in less than a year!), so I'm guessing it is a common occurrence on flickr.

Weird Massachusetts book coverThe first time it happened, I was almost awestruck: the editors of the Weird U.S. books and television show found me on flickr and wrote asking permission to use some of my photographs in their upcoming Weird Massachusetts book. The photographs they wanted were of Hammond Castle in Gloucester, MA. After exchanging a few emails, I think they're also going to use some I took around Westford, MA, of the Westford Knight and an Edgar Allan Poe memorial.

In exchange, they've agreed to send a couple copies of the book for me and my library, and also come to my library during their book tour.

Schmap LogoThe more recent flickr contact from last week was from Schmap, publisher of, I think, electronic travel guides and maps. They specifically asked about some pictures I took in Omaha, of where I stayed and a couple local businesses.

I didn't get anything in exchange for agreeing to that use, but that's fine. Most of my pictures go up under a Creative Commons license, so I don't really expect anything; just that other people aren't blatantly and secretly using them for commercial use.

If you're interested, I have a screenshot of the Schumap photo release webpage. Also, the text of their license agreement is below - very uncharacteristically of me, I actually read it. I found it interesting how tailored it was to pictures found on flickr - perhaps this is just another sign of how companies and legalese is shifting towards the Web 2.0 environment. It's cheaper to use other peoples' photographs than to hire your own photographers, and people who post publicly are likely willing to share for free.



The term "Photos" refers to one or more photographs and/or images licensed by You to Schmap pursuant to the Terms.

Subject to the terms and conditions herein, You hereby grant Schmap a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual license to include the Photos in the current and/or subsequent releases of Schmap's destination/local guides.

Nothing in these Terms is intended to reduce, limit, or restrict any rights arising from fair use, first sale or other limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner under copyright law or other applicable laws.

The license granted in Section 2 above is made subject to and limited by the following express limitations:

(a) Schmap may only distribute, publicly display, publicly perform, and/or publicly perform the Photos pursuant to the Terms.

(b) Schmap shall be required to keep intact all copyright notices for the Photos and provide, reasonable to the medium or means of utilization, the name of the original author (or pseudonym, if applicable) if supplied, for attribution in Licensor's copyright notice, terms of service or by other reasonable means, and a credit (implemented in any reasonable manner) identifying the use of the Photos in any derivative Photos created by Schmap.

(c) Schmap shall, to the extent reasonably practicable, provide Internet link(s) to your Photos.

(d) Schmap shall not sublicense the Photos.

(e) Schmap shall indicate to the public that the Photos are licensable to others under the Creative Commons license that you have assigned to the Photos prior to Schmap's initial short-listing of your Photos, and provide a link to this license, where reasonably practical.

(f) Schmap shall continue to make its destination/local guides available at no cost to end users.

You confirm that You own or otherwise control all of the rights to the Photos and that use of the Photos by Schmap will not infringe or violate the rights of any third parties.

Schmap shall have no obligation whatsoever to reproduce, distribute, broadcast, or otherwise make use of the Photos licensed by You to Schmap hereunder.

While the Flickr website and/or Flickr API have been used to short-list your Photos, Schmap claims no affiliation or partnership with Flickr.

If any provision of the Terms is ruled unenforceable, such provision shall be enforced to the extent permissible, and the remainder of the Terms shall remain in effect. The Terms constitute the entire agreement between the parties with respect to the Photos licensed hereunder. There are no understandings, agreements or representations with respect to the Photos not specified hereunder. If there is any dispute about or involving the Terms or the license granted hereunder, You agree that such dispute shall be governed by the laws of the State of California without regard to its conflict-of-law provisions. You agree to personal jurisdiction by and venue in the state and federal courts of the State of California, City of San Francisco. The license granted in the Terms may not be modified without the mutual written agreement of You and Schmap.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Veropedia = Wikipedia 2.0?

   October 30th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Veropedia.com logoVeropedia, a new website based on the articles in Wikipedia, is Web 2.0 with a twist - it's all verified, approved, and non-editable (which means it is no longer "2.0").

It's a for-profit site using cleaned-up and locked-down Wikipedia articles. They do this to try to lend more credibility to online reference (more description on their faq).

Is that necessary? Do they automatically lose credibility themselves because it's an "experts control the information" profit deal? Or are they moving from 2.0 to $2.0? Time will tell. But with only 3700+ "verofied" articles, they've got a long way to go to become useful.

via slashdot

reference 2.0, veropedia, web 2.0, wikipedia, $2.0.0, reference 2.0, veropedia, web 2.0, wikipedia.0.0, reference 2.0, veropedia, web 2.0, wikipedia

Tags: , , , , ,

New “Wikipedia Bad!” Propaganda, from Britannica

   June 22nd, 2007 Brian Herzog

I (and I imagine a lot of other people) received a mass-marketing email from an Encyclopedia Britannica sales rep this week. It continues to fan the flames Michael Gorman lit last week.

I was surprised to get this email, considering my library doesn't subscribe to Britannica online. I generally automatically delete unsolicited sales pitches like this, but since Britannica is embroiled in this Web 2.0 flap, I thought I'd read it - and it certainly turned out to be interesting:

Subject: Don't contribute to the "hive mind"
To: McIntosh, Robert ([email protected])
From: McIntosh, Robert ([email protected])
Date: 6/20/07

Michael Gorman (2005-2006 president of the American Library Association) writes that the Internet's "solid and reputable sources," many of them fee-based, are lost in the glut of link-rich free sources that search engines generally return. Until such reputable and reliable information becomes accessible, he writes, "we may well be raising a generation of screen potatoes who, blinded by speed and made lazy by convenience, are ignorant of the knowledge they will never acquire and the rich world of learning that search engines cannot currently deliver to them." Gorman fears that we are moving away from an encyclopedia model of knowledge, which he describes as "the product of many minds," to a Wikipedia one, the product of a "hive mind."

Google has actually attempted to help with this by introducing a new feature called "Subscribed Links". See this recent announcement:

Hello All:

Google has a new feature called "Subscribed Links" that allows users to customize Google search results by automatically positioning results from trusted sites, such as Britannica, at the top of their search results page.

Because it is very new feature, not many people are aware of it and there are still a relatively small number of sites that are participating at this point. Google provides a directory of sites users can choose to add links from, and Google ranks the sites in this directory based on their popularity. We feel Britannica's broad topic coverage and reputation uniquely position us to be one of the top ranked sites in this directory.

I encourage all of you to sign up for Britannica's customized search on Google to help us successfully launch this initiative.

You can follow the link below to sign up with Google now.


Of coarse this solution only helps when you do subscribe to a "trusted site". For those libraries that do, you'll be amazed by the use of this feature. For those libraries that don't, you truly need to do better for your patron's and not contribute to the "hive mind". Call or write to find out just how affordable it can be, and so that you too can be part of the solution.

Thank You,

Bob McIntosh
Account Executive
Encyclopædia Britannica
[email protected]
800-621-3900 ext 7099

I must say, I do agree with the part that says "...we may well be raising a generation...who, blinded by speed and made lazy by convenience, are ignorant of the knowledge they will never acquire..." This is something that is a threat to libraries in general, and something I work every day to counter - showing patrons how to find information in books and our subscription databases, rather than just the first websites that pop up using Google.

But I do take issue with the rest of this fear-based aggressive sales tactic.

First of all is the "hive mind" comment. The whole message seems to be saying "don't work together, or think for yourself. Just do what we say. We're the experts." I disagree with this on many levels.

Second, while this particular subscribed links program of Google's is new, the idea of highlighting "preferred" links is not. Up until now, though, those listings with special status were always paid for, or "sponsored," which often made them much less helpful.

But this new program apparently lets the user decide which trusted websites they want showing up first in their search results. That's a great idea - unless, of course, the user is "blind," "lazy," and "ignorant of knowledge," and choose a site like Wikipedia instead of Britannica (as, um, Google chose to do on their example screen).

And if Google is letting users choose which websites they want showing up first, how does this address the "ignorant of the knowledge they will never acquire and the rich world of learning that search engines cannot currently deliver" problem? If I limit myself to what I already know and use, then the power of a search engine that looks at everything is kind of stunted.

Also, the way this email reads kind of implies that this is a choice that libraries can make. But it doesn't seem to be - it seems like a single user needs to go in, set up an account, and then choose their trusted websites. For public computers in a library, we'd either have to never delete the Google cookie, which means eliminating patron privacy, or log into Google every time we restarted the computers. Neither of which I'm willing to do.

So while this is a cool little end-user tool, and one we could explain to patrons and encourage them to use, it is still up to them to choose to use it.

With that in mind, I thirdly take issue with the last paragraph of the email - the one that implies that I am a bad librarian and not doing my job if I don't force patrons to use the Britannica website. If this is a user-activated tool, it doesn't matter how "affordable" (free?) it is, because this isn't a tool I can push on them. I haven't seen this tool in action, but it seems that Britannica's concept of it is different that what is presented by Google.

And, really, I hate to be petty, especially about something like a spelling error, but it find it bad form to tout yourself as a reliable and authoritative resource when you mistakenly use "of coarse" instead of "of course." Now I know I make little mistakes like this, but I also do not fancy myself a comprehensive, infallible authority. I understand that some resources are good for some things, while others are good for other things. Trying to force a one-resource-answers-all solution is, well, rather "coarse."

britannica, encyclopedia britannica, google, libraries, library, michael gorman, subscribed links, trusted sites, web 2.0

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

How Others See Us

   June 14th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Michael GormanYesterday, a few major libraryland blogs talked about Michael Gorman's outlook on the state of Web 2.0, as posted on Encyclopedia Britannica's blog. Since I agree with most of what they said, I won't post my own comments here. But what I do want to say is this:

I wasn't really surprised to see this much activity by library-related bloggers. This is what we do for a living, so when the former President of the American Library Association makes some narrow-minded comments that are counter to the direction of the field, it make sense that we'd whip up our own little tempest.

However, when someone outside our teapot, in a forum as large as Boing Boing, also takes note of him, I start to feel ashamed. To offend a bunch of librarians is one thing; to make librarianship look bad (by poo-pooing the very tools we and our patrons are using to organize and access information) to the rest of the world is entirely different.

gorman, librarianship, libraries, library, library 2.0, library2.0, michael gorman, web 2.0, web2.0

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Slowly Building Towards 2.0ness

   May 8th, 2007 Brian Herzog

flickr logoMy library is slowly adopting web 2.0 tools. We've done a bit up so far, but now we've finally started a flickr account.

We always take pictures at our many programs, but then those photos just end up sitting on our staff network. They usually don't even make it our website. This seemed to me a sad waste, so I've been talking up using flickr as a storage and sharing tool for the last few months.

People were pretty tepid to the entire idea, and couldn't see why I cared. So, as a micro-project, I started using flickr just for some historic photos from our archive (and then integrated them into the website). Once people saw how flickr worked, and how it could be used, then they started thinking about what ways they could use it, too.

Painting the mural in the Childrens RoomThe first to dive in was our Children's Room librarians. The Children's Room is being repainted with a mural, and they saw that flickr would be a great way to share the progression of the painting - and by using a flickr "badge", they could also put these pictures right on a Children's Room webpage.

The biggest sticking point now is concern that patrons will be outraged if we post their photograph on the internet without first getting their permission. And this is legitimate, because although photos taken in public places are fair game, I wouldn't want to rely on a legal technicality. But I also think that it's not that big a deal - once people get used to it, there should be no problem (I hope).

So it's still slow going (slower than I'd like, anyway), but I am getting people on board. Perhaps soon we'll even find the $25/year to pay for a pro account, and really invest in this as a permanent tool.
flickr, libraries, library, library 2.0, patron photos, patron pictures, photos, pictures, public libraries, public library, publishing, web 2.0

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,