CLIS Student Chapter of the American Library Association

Sharing Online Stuff January 16, 2008

Filed under: ALA Midwinter Meeting — edesmond @ 9:01 pm

Session: Digital Library Technologies Interest Group (DLTIG) Meeting – Sun. Jan. 13, 10:30-1:00

At the DLTIG meeting on Sunday, as part of a program called “Share Online Stuff,” several presenters shared projects that their institutions have recently been working on. First Holley Long, Digital Initiatives Librarian at the University of Colorado-Boulder, talked about the University of Colorado Digital Library, which will launch in two weeks. Ms. Long described some ways in which this project was challenging–particularly because previously metadata had been stored in many different places. Some of the keys to overcoming these challenges were collaboration between many departments, the adoption of a common software platform, and the creation of flexible policies and best practices. The digital library will contain four collections and about 35,000 objects, and will also have shared collections with other institutions.

Richard Smith of the Wolfner Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in Missouri described the BARD program (Braille and Audio Reading Download). This is a program of the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. The “Talking Books” program began in the 1930s, recording books onto vinyl records to distribute to people who could not read standard printed materials. Starting in 2008, recordings will be put online, and be downloadable to a “digital talking book player” device. People who register with the service will be able to log into the BARD website and search for books by author, title, subject or keyword, and search for magazines by title or date. Mr. Smith also showed attendees two new sections of the Wolfner Library’s website. You Say It How? is a pronunciation guide where you can hear the names of thousands of public figures pronounced correctly. Recommended Reads is a compilation of bibliographies in different categories, which can be read or listened to.

Next Kerri Willette of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago talked about the Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection. She explained that an artists’ book may be thought of as “an art object in book form,” though she noted that “book form” can sometimes be interpreted very loosely. This is both a physical collection and is currently being digitized. Ms. Willette described some of the difficulties they have had in determining how to share and repurpose metadata in different formats. Particularly, they have had to deal with the question of conforming to other libraries’ cataloging standards versus creating more in-depth records. They also hoped to find “a visual way for users to browse the catalog.” To this end, much of the collection of nearly 5000 objects has been photographed and is now online.


Saving Yiddish Literature January 15, 2008

Filed under: ALA Midwinter Meeting — edesmond @ 8:07 pm

Session: “A Morning with Aaron Lansky” – Sun. Jan. 13, 8:00-9:00 a.m.

As part of the Midwinter Meeting Sunrise Speakers series, Aaron Lansky, founder of the National Yiddish Book Center, addressed attendees Sunday morning. As a graduate student studying Yiddish literature in the 1980s, he came up against a problem: it was very hard to find books in Yiddish. Very few were still in print, and most Yiddish books that did exist were in basements, attics, and libraries of people’s homes. So Mr. Lansky decided to do something about this: he took what he expected to be a two-year leave of absence from school in order to seek out and assemble a collection of Yiddish literature. Almost 30 years later, he’s still doing this.

Mr. Lansky tells the stories of this experience in his 2004 book, Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books. In his speech, Mr. Lansky told some of these stories–hilarious ones and poignant ones–which exemplified that his mission is about more than just preserving pages and words. “Yiddish was the major language through which Jews encountered the modern world,” he said, and by rescuing these books from the garbage heap (in some cases quite literally) he is now able to pass on the wisdom, perspectives, and unique experiences of this culture.

Mr. Lansky believes making these books accessible is very important. To that end, the National Yiddish Book Center partnered with film director Steven Spielberg to digitize the center’s entire collection of more than 21,000 discrete titles. These will soon be made available through the Open Content Alliance. Mr. Lansky proudly noted that what was once one of the most endangered bodies of literature in the world will now be the most universally accessible.

The center, located in Amherst, Massachusetts, houses not only the collection but also a learning center with popular summer education and internship programs. There are plans to begin an expansion next Spring which will add a climate-controlled repository and space for a “Yiddish University” where, Mr. Lansky says, “students can learn about not only Yiddish but the whole spectrum of Jewish culture.” This focus on education, as well as action, is an important part of the center’s mission. Mr. Lansky ended his speech with this summary of his message: “Books matter. And working together we can change the world.”


Broadband and Digital Television, Coming to a Library Near You January 14, 2008

Filed under: ALA Midwinter Meeting — edesmond @ 9:20 am

Session: “All (Telecom) Politics is Local: What the FCC is up to and what it has to do with your library” – Sat. Jan. 12, 10:30-12:00

Part I: An Overview of U.S. Broadband Deployment and Policy

After the Washington Office Update Saturday morning, I attended a break-out session about telecommunications issues. The first speaker was John Windhausen, president of Telepoly Consultings, a company that works with small local telecom companies. He spoke about U.S. broadband policy (or lack thereof). He stated that in terms of the percentage of citizens with broadband internet access, the U.S. has been falling in the rankings every year, and is currently fifteenth. The U.S. also has a lower average connection speed in comparison to some other countries. This affects libraries, because 99% of U.S. libraries offer free internet access to their patrons. However, 52% cannot always accommodate the demand for this service. Mr. Windhausen talked about several factors contributing to this problem, including a lack of investment in broadband for small business and consumers, and the market structure, which he called “a duopoly between DSL and cable.” He had several suggestions about what librarians can do to help improve access to broadband and their ability to accommodate demand for high-speed internet access. Most importantly, librarians should educate state and local governments about their needs and make sure that they are included in discussions about this topic. Libraries should also form consortia when possible, in order to aggregate their demand and have more power to negotiate with telecom companies for better service. He also added that whenever possible, libraries should use fiber cables for their internet access. This is not currently widely available in the U.S. However, because of its much higher speed, Mr. Windhausen believes fiber is the only technology that will be able to easily accommodate the public’s quickly burgeoning demand.

Part II: The Digital Television Transition

In the second half of the session, speakers Bill Weber of public television station WHYY, and Joe McPeak of the Philadelphia Free Library, gave an overview of the nation’s upcoming transition from analog to digital television signals and described how the city of Philadelphia is preparing for this. Beginning at midnight on February 17, 2009, analog broadcasts will be turned off throughout the country. This will not affect people who subscribe to cable or satellite television. However, those people who currently get their television over the air (for example, using an antenna) will no longer be able to do this, unless they have a TV equipped to receive digital signals, or get a digital converter box for their old TVs.

This transition has been planned for a long time (digital signals began to be broadcast ten years ago) and has several benefits: it will allow for better use of the broadcast spectrum, increased signal quality, and more over-the-air channels. However, because television is an important source of information, it is necessary to make the public aware of this transition and how they can prepare for it. In order to help defray the cost of the converter boxes, the government will be issuing $40 coupons, which can be used toward their purchase. Every U.S. household can request up to two coupons, either online, by phone or fax, or through a mail-in application. The converter boxes will be available for sale beginning in February 2008, and are expected to cost between $40 and $100.

The speakers noted that many people may come to their public libraries for information about digital television and the coupon program, and that librarians should especially focus on raising awareness about it among vulnerable groups such as the elderly, non-English speakers, and low-income households, who are more likely to be affected by the transition.

For more information about the transition to digital television and the coupon program:


Washington Office Update: Bassem Youssef Speaks Out (When He Can) January 13, 2008

Filed under: ALA Midwinter Meeting — edesmond @ 12:34 am

Session: “Inside the FBI: A Whistleblower Speaks Out” – Sat. Jan. 12, 8:00-10:00 a.m.

At the ALA Washington Office update session yesterday, attendees had expected to hear a presentation by Bassem Youssef, who is the Unit Chief of the FBI Counterterrorism Division’s Communications Analysis Unit and the highest ranking Arab-American agent. Mr. Youssef’s unit is in charge of the National Security Letter program. In 2002 he brought to light abuses of these letters, particularly the “exigent circumstances” exception, which states that in cases of emergency warrantless searches could be performed without going through the NSL authorization process. Mr. Youssef found that this exception was being systematically applied to situations which were clearly not emergencies. He was expected to speak about this, as well as ways in which the FBI does not adequately use expertise in Middle East cultures and languages.

However, just last weekend, Mr. Youssef received a 12-page directive from his superiors instructing him that he could not give any prepared presentation or speech. However, he was still allowed to give “spontaneous answers” to questions, as long as he stayed within the directive’s guidelines.

Mr. Youssef’s lawyer, Stephen Kohn, was also at the update session in order assist him in this, as well as add his own experiences and expertise. Mr. Kohn is the president of the National Whistleblower Center, and has written several books about whistleblowing.

Mr. Youssef took questions from the audience, making clear that he was answering as “Bassem Youssef, U.S. citizen” and not representing the FBI. For several of the questions, he listened to whispered advice from Mr. Kohn before answering. Topics included a very brief overview of the process for authorizing National Security Letters, discussion about his work as a liasion to the Saudi Arabian government, and his investigation into the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, for which he won the Director of Central Intelligence Award. Regarding some topics, such as the investigations resulting from his whistleblowing, he was unable to say much at all. In these cases, Mr. Kohn often filled in some of the gaps by relating the experiences from his own perspective. Mr. Kohn’s frustration with some of the actions (and inaction) of the FBI was clear. As the moderator of the session said at one point, “Mr. Youssef’s courage is equaled by Mr. Kohn’s passion.” Mr. Kohn expressed his belief that ignorance and arrogance within FBI administration and policies is endangering the country, as well citizens’ civil liberties. He gave many examples of this ignorance, such as an FBI statement asserting that knowledge of the Middle East, its culture and languages, and expertise in counterrorism are not necessary qualifications for leading a Counterrorism Unit.

Mr. Youssef told the audience that it is important for the public to be aware of these problems and to speak out against them. This, he said, is why he came to speak to us (the first time he has spoken in a public forum) even though he was warned by his superiors that he may be disciplined, depending on what he says.

Mr. Youssef emphasized that the FBI is made up of many good agents who care deeply about protecting America. However, bureaucracy and lack of expertise are getting in the way of that goal. He did, however, express his belief that by continually doing the right thing, it is possible for people to eventually change any situation.

In closing remarks, the moderator stated that the Washington Office plans to file a Freedom of Information Act request for the FBI’s speaking guidelines for agents. He also exhorted librarians to remain active advocates and speak out about these issues.


ALA Midwinter Meeting this weekend January 12, 2008

Filed under: ALA Midwinter Meeting — edesmond @ 2:40 pm

This weekend (Jan. 11-16) ALA is holding its annual Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia. While the Annual Conference in the Summer is focused on programs, presentations, and speakers, the main focus for the Midwinter Meeting is business–many committees, divisions, and other groups hold meetings and planning sessions. However, even for those attendees who (like me) are not members of an ALA committee, there are still plenty of interesting discussion groups, meetings, and speeches to attend. Over the next few days I’ll be posting summaries of the the sessions I attend, including this morning’s fascinating discussion with FBI Agent Bassem Youssef and informative forum on telecommunications issues. Stay tuned for more about these and other topics!


Student to Staff: ALA 2008 in Anaheim, CA January 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — simmons5 @ 5:40 pm


Interested in attending ALA’s annual meeting in Anaheim this summer?

Our student chapter gets to select one member to participate in the 2008 Student to Staff program.

ALA will provide free conference registration, housing and a per diem in
exchange for a total of 20 hours of work (typically four hours per day)
during the conference. Transportation costs are NOT covered.

The student should be available to work on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, June 27-July 1, 2008. Students will receive a short questionnaire to help us match them with appropriate ALA staff. Based on their assignment, students may be expected to perform a range of duties from clerical, to sales, to use of computers.

To qualify, the student must be a personal member of ALA.

I worked with ALA’s Washington office over the summer as part of the Student to Staff program and really enjoyed the experience. My work involved attending the Washington Office legislative update session, helping to guide a tour of Capitol Hill and directing Library Day on the Hill participants to their representatives’ offices.

If you are interested in participating e-mail clisala.exec at by Friday January 18th. We may have to come up with some sort of contest to pick our representative; once I know how many of you are interested we’ll go from there.

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with me.



ALA Scholarships December 6, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — simmons5 @ 4:48 pm

The American Library Association (ALA) is currently accepting applications for its scholarships via one convenient online application. Find complete information on ALA’s scholarship opportunities, and the link to the online application, at Applicants are encouraged to review the ALA scholarship information pages thoroughly, and identify all scholarships for which they are eligible before beginning their online application. Applications are being accepted for scholarships for the Fall 2008 Semester, the deadline to apply is March 1, 2008. Scholarship winners will be notified in June 2008 and announced at the ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim, CA.

ALA is committed to promoting and advancing the librarian profession. To demonstrate this commitment, the ALA and its units provide more than $300,000 annually for study in a master’s degree in library and information studies from an ALA accredited program, or for a master’s degree in school library media program that meets the ALA curriculum guidelines for a National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) accredited unit.

See the ALA Office of Accreditation’s website for a list of ALA-Accredited programs:

See the American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) website for the list of Nationally Recognized NCATE-AASL Reviewed & Approved School Library Media Education Programs:

For more information, contact Kimberly Sanders,, or 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4279