alternative chicago, four years later

Update: here’s the Google maps version of the guide.

Four years ago, the last time that ALA Annual was in Chicago, I was a baby librarian and blogger living in the ‘burbs and thrilled to be going to my very first library conference. Four years later, I can’t quite believe all the things that have happened to me, and how many of them have their roots in that first conference, where I went to the first ever blog salon, met Jenna and Jessamyn for the first time at a Radical Reference meeting, shared a cab with Walt Crawford . . . the list goes on. I missed my four-year blog anniversary back in May, but it’s really hitting me now that I’m reading tweets about #ala2009 how much has happened since then, both in the world of technology and in my life.

I’m sad that I can’t be at the conference this year, as I have many dear friends and colleagues attending, but I’m so, so grateful to the internet, which is what introduced me to most of those friends and colleagues in the first place.

I was the only local in Radical Reference in Chicago in 2005, and one of the projects I took on, with a lot of help from my good friends at Third Coast Press, was to make a guide to alternative Chicago. I’m not sure how many of these places are still around, but I thought I’d share them again. I might even make you all a Google map of them tomorrow!

Librarians’ Guide to Some of Alternative Chicago

Maps for Librarians’ Guide to Alternative Chicago

[NB I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if I should move the apostrophe, since the guides were really only the work of one librarian, namely me — but they’re intended for many librarians, and so I’m going to go with my original, if grammatically quirky, punctuation.]

In any case, those of you who are there, enjoy the conference and the city — and those who are not, I’ll see you online.

election time

Update: Some more information from current ALA Councilors–Heidi Dolamore notes in the comments that you can, in fact, log in and out again multiple times, and Michael McGrorty points us to a PDF of candidate statements. Thanks to both!

I am frequently glad that it is not my job to organize the ALA election each year, since it always seems plagued by difficulties. Instead, I settle for organizing candidate information.

I’ve tagged (using all the blog posts and e-mails (thanks, pasta!) I’ve run across giving recommendations and endorsements for the ALA elections this year. You can find them at If you know of some I’ve missed, please send them my way by commenting here, sending an e-mail to newrambler at gmail dot com, or tagging them ALAelection07.

Official candidate information is also online, according to ALA, but you have to log in with your election password, which I just received this morning. I’m not sure if you can log in to look at the candidate information and then log back out and log in again later to vote, so I haven’t tried it out yet.

deleting online information @

This morning Don Wood sent a message to Publib saying that DOPA has been reintroduced in the House by Mark Kirk of Illinois.  As you’ve probably read Ted “the internet is a series of tubes” Stevens has also introduced a bill called the “Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act,” which is a sort of son of DOPA. 

Anyway, being the good citizen that I am, I decided to go see what the ALA website had on the subject.  Answer: not much.  Or, more accurately, not much that’s easy to find.  Of course, not being able to find something on the ALA website hardly qualifies as news.  Next I decided to try the Legislative Action Center, which I wrote about back in May, but lo–it has disappeared!  I think that it has been replaced by this site, which seems to do most of the same stuff–but again, I’m not sure.

To be fair, I don’t think ALA is actually deleting online information–but (and again, this is hardly news) it does seem to be making it difficult to find.

more things that suck

Update–links should work now–Performancing was being weird.

If you’re looking to feel vindicated, or merely amused, you might take a glance at the Usability Assessment Report [pdf] for the ALA website, which is one of many fascinating tidbits to be found at the ALA Web Planning Wiki. (You may remember that the biblioblogosphere’s own Wandering Eyre was part of the web planning retreat in December.)

My favorite bit of the report is this quotation from the section on URLs, which begins on p. 15:

“/Section=long-urls&suck=yes” (Yes, this is an exact quote.)

Yes, yes they do. And I, at least, got a chuckle out of it.

the phoenix in the gulf

Last night I went to the Bloggers Bash/Reception for Gulf Coast librarians hosted by Leslie Burger. Over the past year, blogger gatherings have been among the most vibrant and memorable (and fun) parts of conferences. Blogger gatherings are where you get to meet your imaginary friends, talk shop with people who speak your language, eat and drink courtesy of people with more money than you have, and get stars in your eyes when one of the people you most admire recognizes the name of your blog

Last night had all of those features, but it had something else, too, and that something else, of course, was the librarians from the Gulf Coast. They were there, from New Orleans, from Louisiana bayou, from Mississippi. We heard some of their stories of loss and of renewal. We heard about what they need (money) and what they don’t (1980s encyclopedias, old books). We saw them, face to face.

On Friday, thanks to the great generosity of Beth Oliver, a librarian at Delgado Community College, Heidi Dolamore and I had the opportunity to see face to face some areas of New Orleans and Slidell that were hit by hurricane and flood. I haven’t begun to digest the experience yet, but you can see some pictures (more captions to come) on Flickr under the tag damage. I had a hard time deciding how to tag the photos of the effects of the hurricane: I need a word that describes both damage and the possibility of renewal, a word that shows an embroynic phoenix, rising from the ashes.

library education discussions @ ALA

I’m still toying around with my schedule for ALA (if you want to see some of what I’m considering, head on over to my calendar), but there are a few places I’ll be for sure, including, of course, the bloggers shindig on Saturday night. If you see me drooping, please poke me–that’s way past my bedtime.

I’ll also be participating in the Library Education Discussions that Radical Reference is sponsoring. They’ll take place at the SRRT Booth (#3450) in the Exhibit Hall and will be lead by current students and recent grads. There’s a full schedule, with leaders and topics, at the RR events page. These discussions grew out of the Library Education Forum that took place back in March, just as I was getting started at my job here. I wasn’t able to make that forum, but I will be moderating a discussion from 4-5 pm on Monday, June 26th. The announced topic is “Practical Skills,” so please come with your laundry lists of Things I Wish I’d Learned in Library School–and with anything else library-related you’d like to discuss. If you’re not able to attend but have things you’d like to hear discussed, drop me a line or leave a comment here, and I’ll do my best to do your points justice.

keep your laws off MySpace

Once in awhile, ALA does something well, and it is largely because of that (well, that and that I’m still a student and so my dues are cheap) that I am still a member. One thing they’ve done nicely is the new Legislative Action Center. Okay, so it’s not all 2.0. It doesn’t have RSS feeds. It doesn’t have permalinks to its different pages. It’s got a very long and funny looking url to its FAQ sitting there and running off the edge of the site. And it doesn’t validate (or doesn’t validate well?–I must admit that, although I know valid code is important, I have only a very dim idea of what it means).

So why do I like it? It’s got good information. The information is fairly easy to find (unlike, say, any given information on the main ALA website). Like most political action websites nowadays, you can set up a nice little account for yourself that will remind you who your elected officials are and a little bit about them. It even includes state legislators. It has a fairly comprehensive list of media outlets for your region (though I’d like to see a few more of the smaller papers listed–where are the Powell Tribune and Northern Wyoming Daily News?) Most importantly, however, it deals with timely and important issues and gives you good, solid talking points for phone calls to Congress and letters to the editor.

The hottest topic there right now is H.R. 5319, the Deleting Online Predators Act, or DOPA (summary and analysis from Andy Carvin and LibraryLaw Blog), which is an attempt to withold e-rate funding from any school or library that doesn’t block social networking sites–you know, those things the kids are all so crazy about–MySpace, Facebook–could Flickr be next?

A couple weeks ago, the Powell School District here in Wyoming decided to block MySpace on all school computers. I wrote a letter to the editor, which was published in last Thursday’s Powell Tribune. It’s not available online, and I am reprinting it here in full, with some hyperlinks added for online consumption. If anyone from the Tribune has objections, please feel free to contact me. Thanks to Aaron for championing MySpace in librarians and for looking the letter over.

To the Editor:

I was sorry to read of the Powell School District’s decision to ban on school computers.

It is true that there is a lot of dross on (just as there is on the rest of the Web) and that it can be dangerous to get into detailed conversations with people you meet on MySpace (just as it can be dangerous to talk to strange people in the physical world). But there is also a lot of good to be found. Many young adult authors, including Sarah Dessen, Brent Hartinger, Lauren Myracle, and John Green (who won the 2005 Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature,
given each year by the American Library Association), have MySpace accounts. Even some libraries have MySpace accounts–check out the one for the Denver Public Library,

Today’s teenagers, often referred to as “digital natives” are often as at home in the virtual world as they are in the real one. Sites like MySpace give them a place to socialize virtually, to try out new ideas and to make something of their own–to decorate their virtual space in the same way they might their room or locker. As school officials acknowledge, new sites like MySpace pop up almost every day, and schools cannot expect to keep ahead and ban them all.

Instead of banning MySpace, schools should embrace the possibilities of this new medium. Instead of trying to protect young people by sheltering them from the world, we should encourage them to explore it and educate them about how to do so safely. Whenever I hear of attempts to keep teens and kids away from online content, I’m reminded of the old rhyme, “Mother dear, may I go for a swim?/Why, yes my darling daughter/Hang your clothes on a hickory limb/But don’t go near the water.” You wouldn’t try to keep a child safe from drowning by not teaching her to swim. You cannot keep kids safe online by trying to keep them off certain sites.


Laura Crossett

Now get out there and say the same to the powers that be.

keeping up with the ala election and conference coverage

The presidential election of 2004 was the first time in my life that I voted for a major party presidential candidate, and, given how things turned out, it may well be the last. (If you’re really curious about my voting patterns and reasons, you can read a little bit about them.)

That said, I still love voting. I have not made up my mind fully about whom to vote for in the ALA election, and I probably won’t post a list when I do, but I have been following and saving other people’s recommendations under the clever tag alaelection06. I’m not necessarily endorsing any of these platforms, but I thought, in my civic-minded, public service-oriented kind of way, that I’d share the tag. I’m sure I’ve missed many people’s lists; if you know of one and you’re a user of, please do tag it.

On a final, more or less unrelated note: I’ve enjoyed (when not feeling envious) following the coverage of Computers in Libraries and the Public Library Association conference. I was going to go to PLA this year, but since I started a new job three weeks ago, it just wasn’t feasible. It certainly sounds like a good time, though. I don’t know that there is any award given out for conference blogging, but if there is, I’d like to give on to Sarah Houghton. Her coverage of PLA sessions, both on the PLA blog and on Librarian in Black was stellar: informative, interesting, well-written, and inspiring. I want to go out and serve some teenagers now!

Read Roger!

Did you know that Roger Sutton (editor of The Horn Book) has a blog?

We children’s lit people are not so far behind the times after all. (And if you like children’s literature–as I hope you do–and are a reader of blogs–as I assume you are if you are reading this–I hope you’re reading Your Fairy Bookmother. Thanks to Rochelle for pointing that one out to me.)

Sutton (I just don’t quite feel right calling him Roger, even if he does use it in his blog’s name) points out a nifty little article in the most recent issue, complete with a very cool demonstration of what a digital picture book could be. And he points to a little bit of flawed logic coming out of ALA (you’re shocked, I’m sure):

ALA has inserted itself into’s “Don’t Read” ad campaign. For the wrong reasons, I think: “trademark violation,” which is a bit obnoxious given that the ad is a parody and the ALA is allegedly in the business of protecting intellectual freedom.

Good stuff, and worth reading, if you’re so inclined.

Grokster round-up and another ALA tidbit

Just in case you can’t get enough grokkin’:

Finally: I was late (the usual McCormick Place is really far away from everywhere else thing) to “The Googlization of Everything: A Threat to the Information Commons?” and thus only caught the last 10 or 15 minutes of Siva Vaidhyanathan’s presentation, but you can read some coverage from Aaron Dobbs (thanks, ALA Wiki!). Also, if, like me, you arrived late (or if you attended a different event at the Intercontinental and didn’t hear about the boycott), Rory has helpfully provided some coverage of the boycott, including a letter of protest you can download, in the latest Library Juice.