Posts filed under ‘Libraries’

Access denied

by April Bunn

Most of us have no control over it.
It gets people really upset when they run up against it.

The Internet Filter

access deniedHopefully you aren’t trying to read this at a school computer because you’d probably have  your “access denied” with most of my links below.

As a School Library Media Specialist, I am all too familiar with a great teaching moment being ruined by a blocked website. Linda Underwood’s School Library Monthly article “21st-Century Learning Blocked: What is a School Librarian to Do?” (September’s issue-not available online yet) inspired me to think more about this topic. This past week one of my colleagues was blocked from using National Geographic and another was blocked from downloading her Promethean Board software, so I knew it was time to get this done.  The technology teacher and I just convinced many of these teachers to branch out and use new technology and this filter is discouraging them rapidly.  Just to give you an idea of what it’s like with these filters:

  • We can’t use any image or video sites at all (so long to those Google Images on our web pages and for student projects and no-can-do on that great video you found on Abraham Lincoln on YouTube).
  • Also, no access to sites that have a shopping cart feature, like Barnes and Noble, making it a serious challenge to place orders when we are registering for conferences, ordering books and supplies.
  • No technical or business forums (see below)

Ironically, as I try to finalize this post, sitting at my desk after school dismisses, I am blocked from previewing the post on WordPress with the response screen below:

_______________________________________________________

filter blockedblocked

You cannot access the following Web address:
http://librarygarden.net/?p=2399&preview=true
The site you requested is blocked under the following categories: Technical/Business Forums
You can:
Temporarily override filtering on this computer if you have an override name and password. (Note that your administrator may be notified that you’ve bypassed filtering.)
Use your browser’s Back button or enter a different Web address to continue.

__________________________________________________________

Surveying other Libraries

After suffering from blocks preventing her from using pieces of Web 2.0 in her teaching, National Board Certified Teacher and Instructional Technology Integrator  Sharon Elin used her blog at edutwist.com, to conduct a survey about which popular sites were blocked and find out what other schools were allowing. Her results, displayed in colorful graphs, represent the more controversial of sites, but even simple sites that include questionable images are blocked from most students.

As Media Specialists, we are responsible, along with our Technology colleagues, for teaching about safe internet searching and strategies for effective information retrieval. As one of Elin’s responders wrote, “Teaching students about internet safety in a highly filtered environment is like teaching kids to swim in a pool without water.”

edutwist quote

So why do we have to have them?

In 2000, Congress enacted the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). As a result of that Act, many schools and libraries got grants for technology or joined the E-Rate program, a discounted pricing system set up by the FCC for telecommunication services, Internet access, and internal connections. One requirement of these programs was to certify that you are using computer filtering software programs to prevent the “on-screen depiction of obscenity, child pornography or material that is harmful to minors”.  Nobody is really arguing that schools against schools being a safe place, away from highly offensive material. As librarians, our collection development is monitored by administration and the purchasing has to be supported with some curricular connection.  What we as educators are saying is that the filters that are in place in schools are blocking educational information that could be inspiring to a child. Parents must understand that their children are losing out on dynamic learning communities created by Web 2.0 developments.

We’re being forced to bypass the filter

In most cases, educators are waiting for technical administrators to release the block after explaining how they are going to be using it in they teaching. By the way, these tech administrators are NOT teachers or librarians; they are IT people and network security experts that are now responsible for evaluating things like 5th grade students’ research on endangered species. Are we even speaking the same language? I don’t think so. In my school, those requests are only read once a week.

As a result, we’ve (older students and teachers) resorted to bypassing and unblocking the filter on our own. My Google search returned over 1 million hits when using the search terms “how to bypass school internet filters” and the responses included videos and instructions galore. A large portion of these requests could be from students as well.

A few examples are:

eHoweHow (www.ehow.com)

is just one of the many sites giving step by step directions how to bypass the filter. They call it a “circumvention” of the block and don’t make any attempt to discuss the issue: “Whether or not these blocks are justified or a waste of time, whether they are a form of censorship or a method of managing resources, are topics that can be debated another time.”  They give 3 sets of directions depending on what you’d like to use: a translation service, URL redirection service, or web proxy.

Quick tips graphic Quick Online Tips (www.quickonlinetips.com) has a page called “Top 10 Ways to Unblock Websites”

We know about it but won’t widely risk it

Most of the school librarians that I spoke to knew that these methods existed, but many had only used it once or twice, or were scared to be caught. The law specifically states, “An administrator, supervisor, or person authorized by the responsible authority [i.e. school, school board, local educational agency, or other authority with responsibility for administration of such school] may disable the technology protection measure concerned to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purposes.”

Can’t we just block the students’ computers?

No. The FCC’s E-Rate program is specific that every computer have the filter engaged, “The FCC is imposing the requirements on ALL Internet-accessible computers used by the schools and libraries, including public, student, staff and administrative workstations on the Internet because the law made no distinction between school and library computers that are used only by adult staff, and those used by children or the public.” If we’re hoping schools will allow us to have more access than our students, it looks like we’ll be waiting awhile. If you refer to Elin’s survey, the communication service Skype is almost the only site that was allowed on more teacher computers than student ones. That wasn’t true in my school this month when a teacher was blocked from Skype or Google Video Chat to demonstrate communication across the world with her son who is teaching English in Korea.

SKype Chart

Skype Chart

What can we hope for in the future?

I’m trying to be optimistic in how I think filters will be used in schools of the future. Otherwise I’d feel like my degree in Library and Information Science may not be best suited for a school library career. My dreams are for:

  • Trust from our Administration that we are professionals and will use the internet wisely in our teaching
  • Filtering programs that are created by educators and parents
  • Websites designing “school-safe” versions for filter approval
  • Open access to dynamic information online without lurking viruses and predators
  • Faith from the parents whose children we inspire on a daily basis that we are working to create better global citizens

by April Bunn, School Library Media Specialist in a PreK-6th Grade School

September 28, 2009 at 2:23 pm 15 comments

Libraries Are Rocks

Library Garden is participating in the BLOGATHON for the Lexington (KY) Free Public Library. The purpose of the blogathon is to raise awareness about the flood that caused so much damage to the library and the need for donations. For more information, please see the wiki. To make a donation, please click on the banner below.

 

 

This post is a personal essay and does not speak for everyone here at Library Garden (unless they want it to!) The theme for the blogathon is “Why Libraries Rock” (or see another version here or here), but I submit that libraries don’t just rock, they ARE rocks.

I give you definition number 5 from The Free Dictionary by Fairfax

rock 1

Noun


5. a person or thing on which one can always depend: your loyalty is a rock

-retrieved http://www.thefreedictionary.com/rock, 08/31/09, 3:46pm

Libraries are things on which one can always depend (or they should be anyway). Libraries are there for you whether you are rich or poor, privileged or underprivileged, old or young, law-abiding or not law-abiding, educated or uneducated, beautiful or ugly. My personal library work background is in public libraries and I can tell you from first-hand experience, that many people consider the library a first (or last) resort in many cases.

 

When I worked in the Clifton Public Library, I met a man who moved his family from Poland and literally his first stop was the library. He came for job information, school information for his daughters, and found out about the Conversation Club. He began attending the club and made friends and connections at the library. I came to know many other people who came to the Conversation Club and who frequented the library regularly for information, entertainment, conversation, connection. They would have come to Conversation Club every day if we had been able to hold it that often.

They came to use the free Internet stations to communicate with friends and family back home, and to look for work and apartments. They came to our computer classes and created resumes and learned how to search in our databases and in our catalog for books, dvds, cds. Their children used the library after school to play games on the computers and to do homework and socialize with other students.

At the Paterson Free Public Library, I knew many regulars for whom the library was a safe and dependable place to come. These library users read entire newspapers cover-to-cover, looked at magazines and yes, used the free Internet stations. They attended the free cultural and entertainment programs and took part in events at the library. They relied on us to open every day, and be there every day.

 

Home-schooling groups, the Girl Scouts, small business owners, Toastmasters, and others all reserved and used the community space at these libraries to hold meetings and events. Seniors attended the free movies on weekday afternoons and book clubs met monthly. I don’t even have enough room to mention all of the children’s programming….

 

As a child, it was a weekly event for my mom to take my brother and sister and me to the library where we would literally stock up on piles and piles of books to bring home. I remember participating in the “reading olympics” and the summer reading programs every summer. And when I was looking around for a career, where did I head? To the library. Not originally to find a career in librarianship, but to find out information about careers, and to check out a sign for office help. Ultimately, that trip to the library resulted in me realizing that an actual LIBRARY career might be for me (true story)! Today, I have the most rewarding career I could ever have imagined.

 

Whether people realize it or not, whether they actively use their library on a regular basis or not, I think people think of the library as a rock. As something that will always be there and should always be there. Does this mean they take it for granted? Does this mean it will always be there?

 

Perhaps. Perhaps not. But those who love libraries, those who KNOW libraries ARE rocks, are such passionate people about their libraries. This blogathon is just one example of the types of passionate people working in, using, and surrounding libraries. Rocks seem permanent, but we know that events that are catastrophic enough can damage or demolish them. And, events that are minor, but happen over and over again for a long time (such as erosion) can also wear away a rock. Sometimes those who most depend on the library cannot be the ones to stand up and fight for, or protect the libraries. We who can do that need to remain vocal about libraries, our rocks, so that they never disappear.

Rock Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aeu04117/581816877/

August 31, 2009 at 4:14 am

Run Brett, Run

This is awesome on so many levels that I just had to share:

I found out about this video from Sophie Brookover via Facebook. Sophie reports that she is planning to run the race — and perhaps even throw the race all for the cause.

I love it when a clever fundraising idea is promoted so brilliantly and I hope that this will be a huge success for Brett Bonfield and the teens who need a space to hang out at the Collingswood Library.

Click here for more info on the 5K Race and Collingswood Book Festival.

July 28, 2009 at 11:15 pm 8 comments

Speaking of Nominating

There have been dozens of posts made over the last few months reminding everyone to nominate their favorite Mover and Shaker from libraryland for the annual Library Journal supplement. I myself am in the midst of polishing my M&S nomination for submission before the deadline on Monday November 10th, so I thought while everyone was in nominating mode I would post a reminder that nominating season need not end on Monday!

There are lots of ALA professional recognition awards that you can nominate your colleagues and institution to win — and many of the awards given by ALA have a December 1st deadline, giving you three weeks to put together your nomination!

I spent the last two years serving on the ALA Awards Committee and this year I was appointed the chair of the jury for the ALA/Information Today Library of the Future Award. This is not only a really prestigious award but a really cool one too — as is evident by the list of past winners. Look over the requirements, then think about what your library is doing and how you might possibly qualify:

… to honor an individual library, library consortium, group of librarians, or support organization for innovative planning for, applications of, or development of patron training programs about information technology in a library setting.

Criteria should include the benefit to clients served; benefit to the technology information community; impact on library operations; public relations value; and the impact on the perception of the library or librarian in the work setting and to the specialized and/or general public.

I know, for a fact, that there are many libraries with innovative, forward-thinking and amazing technology-focussed programs that are deserving of this award, so step forward and nominate yourselves or your colleagues.

November 6, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Library Jobs: Single People Need Not Apply?

As some of you already know, I am a career changer—after ten years as a financial analyst, I returned to school (Rutgers) to pursue my MLIS. It was time to follow my childhood dream to become a Librarian. I continued to work at Dow Jones at first, then left in the fall of 2007 for library work. I now juggle two part-time adult services positions at Princeton Public Library and Mary Jacobs Library (part of the Somerset County Library System). I love my jobs–love working with the public, love hunting down information, love teaching people to use library resources, and love providing reader’s advisory help. From the very first moment I began my public library internship, I knew that I had made the right choice!

Last week I did a quick review of the job posting lists on-line (NJLA, Rutgers SCILS, Somerset County, Mercer County, Ocean County, and Middlesex County). There was exactly one full-time Adult Services position in New Jersey public libraries posted. This has been the case for months now–a job here, a job there, but never more than three at a time, usually less. Many folks tell me you have to put your time in working part-time. No problem! As I noted above, I love my part-time jobs. However, there is one very difficult issue—health insurance.

To put this in perspective, the cost of my health insurance each month is:
$60 more than my car payment.
Over 25% of my take-home pay.
64% of my mortgage payment (not including property taxes, after all, I live in NJ!)

When I lament my lack of health insurance and the bleak outlook for any full-time employment in NJ public libraries, I get a very disturbing response: Can’t you get insurance from your husband’s job? This has been the response of both co-workers and classmates. This is generally the first response. Has the library profession become one available only to married people? Why does everyone expect some other employer to insure me? Why do so many people in the library field think this concept of not getting benefits from your employer is perfectly ok? Am I the only person who finds this attitude disturbing?

I am about to graduate in May. This means I have to start thinking more about full-time work. I am not actively looking at the moment–I hope to have my part-time work turn into full-time work. However, I do keep my eyes open for interesting posts just in case. What I have noticed is that I am now looking at postings for jobs in the corporate area again. I don’t want this, but I know it may be my only chance to have affordable health insurance. At some point, that will become critical. Now, each time I look at online postings, I hit the old finance lists after I finish the library ones.

I will leave you with one last thought–When all the semi-retired, part-time, adult services librarians retire, will there be anyone left to take their posts? Or will they have left for full-time positions outside the library field?

March 25, 2008 at 3:01 pm

New Pew Report Looks at How America Solves Everyday Life Problems Using Libraries, the Internet, and Government Agencies


With interesting timing to those of us who are into holiday parties, hanging out with friends and family, and looking forward to the New Year, on December 30th, 2007, Pew Internet & American Life Project (PIAL) released their latest major report. Information Searches that Solve Problems: How People Use the Internet, Libraries, and Government Agencies when They Need Help studies the problem solving strategies of American adults who are 18 years old and older as they deal with 10 everyday issues. These issues included addressing health concerns, investigating school finance or enrollment, improving their work skills or changing jobs, and wrestling with problems involving government related programs such as Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and tax issues.

PIAL has become a leading source of research for up-to-date and reliable information on how Americans are using the internet and libraries. Once again, this latest report does not disappoint. Leigh Estabrook of the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign, Evans Witt of the New Jersey based Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI), and Lee Rainie, Director of PIAL have crafted a well-written and highly readable report. From June to September 2007, PSRAI conducted 2796 phone calls yielding 2063 usable interviews with a deliberate over-sampling from African-American, Latino, and 733 households with “low access” to computers and the internet.

The full 42 page report Internet Searches that Solve Problems that chronicles the results of these interviews is well-worth reading, but if you want to just hit the high points, check out the first 6 pages of executive summary.

Some findings I’d like to highlight:

  • Public libraries and government agencies got high marks from the respondents when among the choices for their information seeking when faced with everyday life problems, but (of course!) the star was again the internet. 58% of respondents said they used the web when they recently (within the past 2 years) encountered everyday life problems.

  • When faced with the above problems, the age group that reported visiting the pubic library the most was Gen Y (18-30 years old) with 62%. Trailing Boomers (43-52 years old) were second with 57% and Leading Boomers (53-61 years old) had an even lower percentage of 46%. This finding surprised me since I think of the Gen Y group as being more oriented to online resources and less likely to visit “brick” libraries.

  • The most frequently encountered problem reported (45%) was a serious illness (either themselves, or someone close to them). This finding confirms other studies that find health concerns to be among the top reasons people use the web when addressing personal matters as opposed to school or work-related searching.

  • Regarding privacy issues, Pew found that only 20% of the respondents “were concerned about privacy disclosures as they hunted for information” and “they were somewhat more pronounced for the low-access group” (p. viii). Since some of these issues were very personal in nature, I would have expected this number to be much higher.

There are many more intriguing findings from this report, take a look – perhaps when you recover from New Year’s celebrations! Happy Hols to all!

December 31, 2007 at 12:46 pm 2 comments

Free Comic Book Day–Highlighting "Super Librarian" Comic in NJ!


The third phase of the Super Librarian campaign begins today, May 5, 2007, in conjunction with North America’s 6th Free Comic Book Day, a single day when participating comic book stores (find one near you) give away comic books for free to anyone who comes into their stores. It usually coincides with the release of a well-known superhero movie–and this year, it is Spider-Man 3 (can’t wait to see it myself later today–and yes, I got my tickets earlier this week!).

Well, as much as I am interested in seeing Spider-Man 3, I am just as interested to visit my local library as the brand-new Super Librarian comic book will be proudly given out at over 200 New Jersey libraries. Why is this important? Nancy Dowd from the NJ State Library explains the history behind it at her blog–here’s an excerpt:

“…the target audience from the general population to the tweens and teens. We had run a contest having teens write a backstory and from there two very talented librarians (David Lisa and Manny Rosca- Miracle) stepped forward to write the comic itself.The comic was drawn by a professional graphic designer. Appealing to the YA librarians just made sense. The next big step was finding a way to launch. Partnering with Diamond Comics for their Free Comic Book Day gave us a national event to join AND gave our libraries an added incentive to join up. Sure enough the new strategies worked… we have over 200 libraries signed up. Those libraries close to a comic book store are partnering with them and will hopefully create some great synergies. Those that don’t have a comic book store nearby will be getting free comics from Diamond. Everyone gets the Super Librarian comics.”

So, come on into your local library today and see what’s happening–that’s what I am going to do in an hour. Check out the graphic novel section and if you are in NJ, get a free Super Librarian comic book. Invite a tween, teen, or an interested adult to go with you. Then you have my permission to go see Spider-Man 3!

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May 5, 2007 at 7:50 am

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