Posts filed under ‘Media’

On Andy Woodworth and the Old Spice Guy discussing libraries

Let's eat peanut butter

Let's eat peanut butter

Andy Woodworth, popular NJ Librarian and friend, suggested that I illustrate the response to his tweet from the recently retired Old Spice Guy (OSG). The response, if you’ve not seen it, is a video in which OSG talked up some of the benefits of libraries, which in turn started some larger conversations and discussions about the interactions of commercial ventures and libraries and what that means. Andy details the exchange here.

The video stated, in typical genius, free-thought OSG style:

“I’m handsome. You’re pretty. Let’s eat peanut butter. Stop throwing pigeons. Jump onto that giraffe.”

Nice work, Andy, for keeping the discussion on libraries public and active, and we’ll miss you, OSG.

July 22, 2010 at 9:08 pm 4 comments

Librarian Stereotypes, Alive & Well, Alas

If any of us ever did doubt that the traditional stereotype of the librarian is alive and well, here in 2010, right here in New Jersey, doubt it no more. Convincing evidence to confirm this is easily found. I’ve been reflecting on this since I read an article by Brad Parks from the April 11, 2010 Newark Sunday Star-Ledger. His headline was compelling “Budget Imperils New Jersey’s Libraries.” I was eager to read this story, as I am everything written in the NJ press about the impact of and reactions to Governor Christie’s proposed 74% budget reduction to NJ library funding. Parks’ editorial supports the library communities’ struggle for funding restoration, but even though he touts the value of libraries in promoting literacy and democratic access to information, he chose to open his article by evoking traditional librarian stereotypical images.

Reading the first words of his story made my heart sink: “In both stereotype and practice, New Jersey’s librarians are a fairly unexcitable bunch, more prone to shushing than they are to hyperbole. So take this into consideration was you read this from Edison Public Library director Judith Mansbach. ‘If this goes through, it’s going to be devastating.’” The three column article decries the proposed cuts and mentions the May 6th librarian rally in Trenton that many of us, myself included, later attended. (Some of us even got quite excited – imagine that.) Parks returns to the library stereotype by ending on this note: “Needless to say they could use your help. So if you value your local library – or literacy in general- please make your view known to your legislators. It’ll be one time your librarian won’t shush you for raising your voice.” I sincerely appreciate Mr. Parks’ support and thank him for asking readers to complain to NJ legislators about the ghastly cuts, but ask why could he not resist the cutesy and clichéd reference to librarians’ shushing that devalues our profession?

Post rally, Karen Sudol picked up the theme in her article: “Librarians Demand Christie Not Close Book on Services” in the May 7th Star-Ledger (p. 22). She begins: “Librarians accustomed to saying “Shush” and “Quiet, please,” spoke up at a Trenton rally yesterday in protest of a proposed 74 percent cut in state funding. ‘I think we’re going to dispel all of the shushing rumors that librarians are just quiet little people,’ said Patricia Tumulty executive director of the New Jersey Library Association which organized the two-hour event. ‘We’re strong advocates for the people of New Jersey to have good library services.” Pat’s advocacy and leadership continue to be strong, although I’m sad to say the “shushing rumors” are firmly ensconced in the press and popular culture, much to the detriment of our professional image.

This example is one of countless newspaper articles, blogs, cartoons, television shows, commercials, novels, advertisements, motion pictures, etc. in a broad range of mediated discourse, that continue to evoke the librarian stereotype. Librarians, usually female, are consistently portrayed as bespectacled, mousy, unassuming, sexually repressed introverts who primarily engage in three behaviors – shushing (as we see above), stamping and shelving books. The male librarian stereotype, although less prominent, is also unflattering to the profession. Usually portrayed as prissy with the ubiquitous horn rimmed glasses and bow tie, he is distinctly feminine and also therefore accorded the low status of the female librarian, deserving little respect.

This stereotype has persisted as remarkably intact since the early 1900s, despite the information age that has transformed the profession as one now immersed in sophisticated digitized systems and online services, Some, even within our field, may dismiss stereotypical texts and images as harmless, cute, or funny, and chide others to get a sense of humor. As one who has studied the librarian stereotype in depth, and published several journal articles on the topic in Library Quarterly, I have come to view these media representations as far from harmless, with serious, anti-intellectual, and anti-feminist messages. In these hideous budget times in NJ, and across the nation,  it is appalling to me to see how frequently the stereotypical librarian image appears.  In another recent example, on May 11th,  Library Journal reported on “Jay Leno’s Bad Library Joke” . If you click on this link you can see a video of Leno saying:  “People here in Los Angeles are upset [at] their mayor’s proposed plan to cut the budget of libraries…this could affect as many as nine people.”  The LJ link includes the letter from city librarian Martin Gomez who points out that over 17 million people use the LA libraries every year and that the budget cuts are no laughing matter.

Perhaps I should not be so appalled at these stereotypical images and low blows to libraries. After all, thinking of libraries as dusty, unused places (instead of vital community centers) and librarians as unproductive, fussy old biddies who shuffle around the library shushing, stamping, and shelving is useful to the powerful elite who use this ill-informed view as justification to cut already low salaries and benefits for public librarians, fire librarians, reduce hours and close libraries (including the library for the blind and handicapped).  This 74% cut is sadly going to occur at a time when NJ citizens’ need is greatest for what libraries have to offer: equal access to information to all, free to all.

By Marie L. Radford

May 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm 34 comments

Using Inkscape to make a text based portrait

Hi, all. I got an email recently from an attendee of my GIMP and Inkscape workshop (which I’ve had the pleasure to give on behalf of a few of New Jersey’s finest Library Consortiums). This attendee  asked how I had performed a particular effect in Inkscape during the workshop in which I use a bit of text as a brush in order to render a portrait. An example follows:

text based portrait

Text based portrait

Instead of writing out the answer in text (I myself am a visio-audio/experiential learner, and tend towards those kinds of solutions), I decided to use the question as a starting point for an entry in a daily project I’ve been working on at http://365sketches.wordpress.com, in which I’m trying to make a quick sketch a day in 2010 using free software to demonstrate the power of those tools.

You may want to check it out from time to time (or subscribe to the feed, if you’re into that kind of thing) to get ideas for how you can use free software like Inkscape to create interesting designs for your library’s fliers, posters, and other advertising materials and platforms.

If you’ve seen me talk on the topic of Best Practices in Design, you also know that I feel strongly that design, and tools like Inkscape, can change your life, your attitude, and your view of the world.

At any rate, I made the following screencast to demonstrate how I make images like the one above. Enjoy, and if you have questions, I’m happy to answer them in the comments!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]Author: John LeMasney

February 4, 2010 at 10:15 am 4 comments

The Truth Is Out There–We Are Not Alone!

In today’s New York Times, Michelle Slatalla writes about turning to the Internet for advice for dealing with ‘life’s little insoluble conundrums’–in her case, a smoke detector going off in the night. In the article, she talks about services like Wiki.Answers, Amazon’s Askville, Funadvice.com, Askmehelpdesk.com, Help.com, and Yahoo Answers to ease the helplessness we all feel when life throws us a bizarre curveball.

I immediately thought of the new NJLA and New Jersey State Library new marketing campaign called Solving Life’s Little Problems. This is exactly what Ms. Slatalla was talking about–I have tried everything I know, now what? Hers was not a huge problem, but it was annoying and a big deal to her. Yet despite noting that at times the answers on these sites is often wrong and noting ‘the answers don’t go through fact checkers’, the article never mentions professional library services such as QandANJ.org.

I wanted to scream! Why are we being ignored? Why aren’t you writing about us? How can you know the information can be bad, but still extol the virtues of such services? People have questions. Libraries have answers–even 24 hour Internet Access to answers!

We need a new marketing campaign. These services are getting the word out better. The article states that Help.com has had a 73% year-over-year increase in traffic to 316,000 visitors per month! That is huge. Compare it to the very successful QandANJ.org service that gets around 4,500 users a month (keeping in mind it is live and it is branded in one state vs. Help.com being a worldwide post and wait service so it is not an apples to apples comparison, but still…). I am in the process of writing Ms. Slatalla (slatalla@nytimes.com) to let her know The Truth Is Out There! We are ready and able to ‘Solve Life’s Little Problems’, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Still, the article serves as a wake-up call for me–We Are Not Alone! I think we need to understand what these competing services offer users and learn from them. For example, lurking–you can sit and read volumes of previous posts on a topic without the need to ‘come out’ to a live librarian. I know of no similar service offered by Libraries. We provide pathfinders to resources, but what about answers FAQs?

Likewise, some of the questions asked are real stumpers that I am not sure how well they would be answered by librarians. For example, in the article, one question listed is ‘When you make out with a boy or girl, what do you do with your tongue?’ Honestly, I have no idea how I would answer that (but you can bet I will go out and look at what was posted and hope to learn something new in the process!). How would you answer this?

This isn’t the first time library services have been ignored by Ms. Slatalla. In January she wrote about Tutor.com (here is the article). Again, she never mentions that this service and many other homework help services are available, for free, from many public libraries. In fact, there are many times when her Cyberfamilias column talks up services we provide without mentioning us as a reliable on-line service provider. She is not alone. There are many other examples of the media reporting about on-line information sources that never mention libraries.

This needs to change. I call on Librarians and Information Professionals to write to Ms. Slatalla (slatalla@nytimes.com) as I am. Let her know about what your library can do for her and her readers. Then don’t stop there–tell everyone you know about on-line services that are available 24/7 and then tell everyone you do not know. Tell every in library patron what they can use when the library is closed. Let people know–The Truth Is Out There! It can be found at your library!

August 28, 2008 at 9:02 am 3 comments

NYT online hotlilnks—WTF??

Lately I have been noticing that the NYT online edition makes some very, um, interesting choices when deciding which words in an article need to be hyperlinked to additional information. I guess my question to whatever unpaid intern they’ve assigned to the job is: “What are you smoking, and haven’t you read the latest research on what that does to you???”

When used sparingly and caringly, hyperlinks, the modern day equivalent of what my pappy called “footnotes”, can be our friends. (for more information on footnotes, see footnotes)

Take for instance today’s Science Times article, A Giant Takes on Physics Biggest Questions. My first thought was, “Oh boy, an article about giants! I KNEW they really existed, I just KNEW IT!!”

Guess what? The article’s not even about giants (I know, I was pissed too. I bet the same stupid intern who does the linking also writes the misleading headlines.)

OK, after I get over my disappointment that the article is actually about a bunch of fizzisists 300 feet below the ground trying to re-create the beginning of the universe by smashing tiny little particles into each other, I sit back and say, “hey, cool, I’ve been meaning to brush up on my particle physics. But I’m a little rusty on some of the basic concepts and lingo of advanced theoretical phenomenology. It sure would be helpful if the NYT would footnote — oops, I mean hyperlink — some of the hardcore scientific stuff to definitions, background information, biography, or further material that might enhance my ability to understand any of this.”

The NYT chose to go another route.

In their six page article on theoretical particle physics, this is what they thought was really important to hyperlink:

Page 1: On a page containing such terms as “European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN)”, “Large Hadron Collider”, “electron volts of energy”, “dark matter” and “dimensions of spacetime”, the only word they thought was important to hyperlink out to more information was…wait for it… Earth. Earth? EARTH???? I guess they chose to hyperlink it for those few souls who read the New York Times online that don’t know that Earth, ” is the third planet from the Sun and the only one in the solar system known to harbor life.”

Page 2: Unlinked go search terms as, “trillion-electron volt Tevatron”, “antimatter opposites”, “antiprotons”, “Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory”. And the hotlink goes to… Nobel Prize. And not even to a definition of Nobel Prize, just a link to random articles in the New York Times that mention “Nobel Prize.” Super! (a good a time as any to note that ALL hyperlinks, save perhaps paid ads, on the New York Times website only link back to—you got it— the New York Times website. Super!)

Page 3: Unlinked terms: “Cocktail party physics” (I’m guessing, not so much with the fun), “God particle”, “Higgs Boson”, electroweak force”, “Planck energy”. And the hotlink goes to… Nada. No hotlinks. Skippy the unpaid intern must have been checking his MySpace page for messages.

Page 4: Unlinked terms: “Quantum weirdness”, “supersymmetry”, “photons”, “glunino”. And the hotlink goes to… I guess Skippy’s busy twittering.

Page 5: Unlinked: “primordial fluid”, “quark-gluon plasma”, “Compact Muon Solenoid”. And the link goes to, “radiation.” Which I could actually let slide if it didn’t lead back to a bunch of random NYT articles, mostly about cancer, that mention the word radiation somewhere.

Page 6: Unlinked: “Fermilab Tevatron”, “CDF”, “UA1 and UA2″, “LHCb”. And the link goes to… Uh, nothing.

But wait! I now notice at the bottom of every page a little link that says, “Sphere: Related Blogs & Articles“. Yes! I knew the New York Times was just screwing with me! Now I’m going to click on “Sphere”* and get all sorts of related theoretical particle physics goodness. Here I go… I’m gonna do it… < CLICK! >

The good news: Sphere actually links to material outside of the NYT universe. The bad news: This is what it links to:

I’m speechless. I am without speech.

*Sphere: “Connecting Blogs and News”

May 15, 2007 at 5:27 am 10 comments

"Femme fatales," "Supermoms," "Sex kittens," & "Nasty corporate climbers": Women, Media, & Stereotypes

I was viewing the latest addition of new sites added to Librarians’ Internet Index, and as the official library liasion to the education and communication departments at Rider University and a little brother to seven older sisters, I was thrilled to find the MNet site listed and evaluated, highlighting its “Media Portrayals of Girls and Women” section. And being that today is the official beginning of Women’s History Month, I thought I would blog about it.

MNet is the Media Awareness Network, and it houses a fairly comprehensive various resources intended to educate the young and older folks about media promotion and very related topics. They state that they provide “information and tools to help young people to understand how the media work, how the media may affect their lifestyle choices and the extent to which they, as consumers and citizens, are being well informed,” as well as easily leading us to “reference materials for use by adults and youth alike in examining media issues from a variety of perspectives.” After spending quite a bit of time on their site this morning, and especially regarding this section on media and females, I was impressed.

For instance, when viewing the Media Portrayal of Girls and Women main section, if you choose the subcategory of “Beauty and Body Image in the Media,” you can read some short discussions under the subheadings of unattainable beauty, the culture of thinness, and self-improvement vs. self-destruction. However, what I really liked about each of the subcategories under the Girls and Women main section was that, on the right-hand side of the page, it also listed related MNet resources and recommended readings, for instance, from university studies (i.e., Purdue U.), scholarly journals (Sex Roles), mainstream magazines (Ms.) and/or online newspapers and websites (CBSNews.com). Certainly, librarians can help any interested researcher in finding more up-to-date information within our databases and other research resources, but I think this site is a worthwhile one to explore.


By the way, if you are interested in another collection of resources regarding women, check out Gary Price’s ResourceShelf posting from this morning, “Resources for Women’s History Month,” providing links to excellent resources from the U.S. Census and the Infoplease sites, among others–how can you not like what Gary Price does for all of us, and so early in the morning (and I thought I was posting early)!


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March 1, 2007 at 6:48 am

A tempest has been brewing… AKA, yet even more on the scrotum story

One Troublesome Word , Article, Editorial

A tempest has been brewing over a children’s book…” begins today’s New York Times editorial. Ahhhh, the passive voice… last refuge of scoundrels.

Perhaps it is too much to expect the Old Gray Lady to acknowledge that, prior to it’s own troublesome reporting, there was nothing brewing but a fairly respectful professional discussion on librarians’ discussion lists (or as the Lady quaintly refers to them, “message boards”.)

Perhaps it is too much to ask that, having started this hooha (if that’s the right word–gulp), the Lady restrain from invoking comparison’s with Marian the librarian. Surely this is writing at it’s absolute laziest! Hey Lady, while you were at it, couldn’t you have thrown in a comment or two mentioning that librarians’ commitment to intellectual freedom is generally, oh I don’t know, as tall as an oak? As deep as the sea?

(Note to the NY Times editorial board: The next time you want to disabuse your readership of the “Marian the Librarian” stereotype, it might be more effective to point out that REAL librarians don’t fit the stereotype, rather than pointing out that Marian herself was actually quite a bawdy gal, judging from her reading habits.

Check this out: It wouldn’t be fair to characterize Arthur Sulzberger’s comment that “I really don’t know whether we’ll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don’t care either” by saying that he’s kind of like Nero, fiddling while the MSM burns. You know why? Because Nero really played the LYRE. See how that works?)

But I get it, Lady. mentioning Marian, was really just an easy transition to mentioning her love of Balzac, which sounds kind of like “ball sack” which is another way of saying scrotum (giggle, snigger), so we can all see how wonderfully witty, cultured, well-read, AND terribly bawdy the Times editorial board is. Look out Dorothy Parker, you’ve got competition! Oh wait, you’ve been dead for 40 years. My bad.

Well anyway Lady, thanks for throwing in that last bit about helping children on their journey from ignorance to knowledge, blahdiddy, blah, blah, and for not using the word “shhhh” anywhere in the (final draft) of the editorial.

February 21, 2007 at 2:54 am 5 comments


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