The Transformation of Libraries

Wilcox Public Library, Wilcox AZ

Wilcox Public Library, Wilcox AZ

For centuries private and institutional libraries have been about the storage and retrieval of information on paper. They were hushed spaces where stern librarians guarded the paper and maintained the decorum. Even public libraries bent towards this model. But, today, public libraries throughout the US, in fact around the world, have transformed themselves in the span of fifteen to twenty years. They embraced the internet, have become a key access point, and expanded into a place for engagement, learning, and creation. This transformation occurred based on the values held by libraries and their users, direct input from users, and the library staff’s guidance and experimentation.

(download a PDF version of this essay here)

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Book Review – The Rise and Fall of American Growth

Rise and Fall of American Growth-bookcoverThe Rise and Fall of American Growth: the US standard of living since the Civil War by Robert J. Gordon1 is a weighty book in every regard. At 762 pages it is a heavy lift – not beach reading or even bed-time either. But I found it almost a page turner. It is very well structured and written. None of the fussiness or obscurantist language one often finds in academic works. The central point of the book is that during the period from 1870 to 1970 the US economy grew at an extraordinary and we will not see a return to that rate for some pretty fundamental reasons. Continue reading

  1. Princeton U. Press. 2016 []

Money in US Politics and Supporting Bernie Sanders

DollarSignNow that the quadrennial Presidential election circus has officially passed the first pole, we can take a look at the field. None of the Republicans would even be allowed into my outhouse let alone past the front door. They are all counter-factual, racist, homophobic, religious, free market fundamentalist zealots (excepting of course Trump who is most of that but also a made for TV grinning orange monkey). So, enough with them.

So, what to make of the Hillary – Bernie contest. Here I think there is a compelling argument to support Bernie Sanders. There are obvious and substantial policy differences on tax policy, reforms to healthcare, education, family support and how to change the course of the US Imperium. But, the difference that is symbolically and practically most important is their connections to the super-rich and corporations. Hillary Clinton has been and continues to be beholden to these folks.

Hillary Clinton’s fundraising profile for this campaign:

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Small Individual Contributions are $200 or less.


Bernie Sander’s fundraising profile for this campaign:

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Small Individual Contributions are $200 or less.1

 

 

 

 

Bernie Sanders has famously raised most of his money from small donors. He takes no money from SuperPacs and other corporate, super rich money funnels.

Hillary Clinton on the other hand has a long track record of receiving large contributions from the rich and corporations. In addition, she has had her hand out for speaking fees from Wall St. and corporate groups that are so egregiously large that they bring the word payola to mind. “Hillary Clinton delivered 51 speeches in 2014 and the first three months of 2015, earning more than $11 million. Her fees varied, but she earned as much as $315,000 for speaking to eBay in San Jose on March 11; she also collected $325,000 for speaking to the technology company Cisco in Las Vegas in August.”2  

It is simply not possible for a person to raise huge sums of money from the rich and corporations without one’s frame of reference,  language, rhetoric, even policy choices (including what not to talk about) being pleasing to the ears of these donors. It defies common sense and one’s day-to-day experiences with people to think otherwise. This makes it no surprise that one does not see the right-wing libertarian Koch brothers on Hillary Clinton’s donor list.

As Lawrence Lessig so cleverly demonstrated in his 2013 talk “We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim“, the rich and corporations hold their own Presidential primary that selects who may appear in the public primary and what may be spoken of. That has been true for all elections (including for Congress and the Senate) in recent times until Bernie Sanders engaged lots of us regular citizens. This is the most important reason to support his candidacy. He is the only candidate not in the pocket of the rich and corporations. To even begin to think about how to work our way out of our many problems and to capitalize on the opportunities, we need to retrieve our politics from the tsunami of money that now controls it. Bernie Sanders is a step in that direction.

  1. Graphics and other data above from The Center for Responsive Politics: https://www.opensecrets.org accessed 2/3/2016 []
  2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/clintons-earn-more-than-25-million-in-speaking-fees-since-january-2014/2015/05/15/52605fbe-fb4d-11e4-9ef4-1bb7ce3b3fb7_story.html accessed 2/3/2016 []

“The True Size of Africa” – immappancy revisited

For years I have been disturbed by my lack of knowledge of Africa. This lead me years ago, stimulated by Michael Crichton’s pulp novel Congo, to investigate Mercator maps and the true size of Africa. You can find  some of that in an earlier twice revised post,  “Michael Crichton’s Congo and the Transformation of the Western Mind“.

Now comes a more compelling graphic from Kai Krause, “The True Size of Africa“.12

The True Size of Africa by Kai Krause

click on map to get larger image.

 

  1. I found the graphic and reference in the 10/10/2010 Economist []
  2. I am not the first to discover this map – Google “true size of africa” []

Accessibility in New Linear Park in Hudson

Ever since the completion earlier this year of the linear park between Warren and State streets (beginning across the street from the Hudson Opera House)  I have mostly marvelled at the ungainly sight of the access ramps. Finally last night I walked from State to Warren along this park. What struck me was the walkway which is composed of raised squares roughly 4 inches on a side spaced approximately 3/4 inch apart with loose gravel between. It is hard to imagine a wheelchair making its way along this surface.

Is This ADA Accessible?image

image

US quarter for scale – 1 inch diameter.

A quick search for ADA guidelines brought up this picture with the notes: “Cobblestones and other rough surfaces make wheelchair travel difficult and uncomfortable….. Avoid materials or construction methods that create bumpy and uneven surfaces in areas and along routes required to be accessible.”1image

  1. http://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/buildings-and-sites/about-the-ada-standards/guide-to-the-ada-standards/chapter-3-floor-and-ground-surfaces []

Hillary Clinton, Big Money, and Corruption

The trail of money around Hillary and Bill Clinton and their foundation continues to attract lots of comment and not a few efforts to prove that money changed hands in return for specific acts by Hilary as Secretary of State. Peter Schweizer’s book Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich (NY: Harper 2015) is just one example of a tsunami of comment, pro and con, of course.1

borrowed from http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/08/why-hillary-doesnt-really-have-a-romney-problem.html

borrowed from http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/08/why-hillary-doesnt-really-have-a-romney-problem.html

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  1. read a review in the New York Review of Books by Michael Tomasky http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/jun/25/hillary-our-future/ []

Hidden History of Columbia County – lecture at HAL

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book cover

The Hudson Area Library History Room sponsored a lecture April 2, 2015 by Allison Guertin Marchese based on her book “Hidden History of Columbia County New York” (The History Press, 2014. Available locally at The Spotty Dog Books & Ale 440 Warren St).

Ms. Marchese touched on many topics: healing waters in New Lebanon that supported a 300 room hotel, sulfur springs in Stottville, the Shakers, Electric Park, interesting people in the area, a fairly extensive comment on Edna St. Vincent Millay, the poet and finally the library’s current home at 400 State St.

(The audio is captured on an iPhone. Serviceable, but at times a bit noisy with rustles and comments)

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Allison Marchese at Hudson Area Library 04/02/2015

 

Hudson Going Dark on the Web

Hudson, Business and Government, Will Be Demoted in Web Search Results

The trend of people accessing the web predominantly on their mobile devices is so strong that Google has announced that as of April 21, 2015 websites that are not mobile ready will be downgraded in their search findings. Google offers a guide and mobile responsiveness test site so that you can test you own site. Google is taking this step because an ever increasing portion of all visits to websites are being done on smart phones (iPhones and Android predominantly). They do not want to provide search results that lead to websites that are unusable on these devices.

Businesses and other institutions in and around Hudson are not well prepared for this. Most websites are virtually unusable on smart phones like iPhones and Androids. The text is tiny and finding anything requires much pinching and scrolling.

Here are some local websites that are mobile phone ready:

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Here is a sampling of websites that will be downgraded.

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What to Do?? A Few Suggestions

If you have a WordPress site there are fairly simple steps to make most mobile responsive. You can contact me for more about that. Check out the WPTouchPro plugin.

For others, go to your web developer and ask them to fix the site.

If you are thinking about redesigning or creating a new website start your design work on the scale of mobile devices. Think about the information your customers most need to know (e.g. location, hours of operation, reservations, telephone number, etc.) and make sure that is either on the home page or very easily accessed at the top of a menu. Make telephone numbers active so that customers can just click on the number to call you.

Don’t be taken in by fancy visual design.Make sure your developer optimizes every image. Any image over 100KB is too big. Most should be 30-40KB. Otherwise your customers are staring at their phone wondering why it takes so long to load your site.

Think of your website as an extension of the sign in front of your business. Customers don’t expect the sign to tell the whole story, but they do want to know how to find the front door.

 

 

Internet Access in Hudson- another revisit

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Using the library’s internet wi-fi Sunday morning.

I attended a meeting at CGCC Thursday 3/19 where the head of the NY State Broadband Program talked about the $1 billion initiative to bring true broadband to the whole state. 100 MBS everywhere excepting 25 in some really remote rural areas by 2019. The program will try to leverage private investment on a 1:1 basis.

Mention was also made of the $2 billion Smart School Initiative that includes access for libraries and other public uses.

A positive move by state government.

Perfect Ten Goes to Washington

Our local program, Perfect Ten for teen girls held a fundraiser (Saturday 3/21/15 at Hudson Opera House) for their trip to Washington DC coming up in April.

The girls of Perfect Ten have been dreaming and working for peaceful resolutions.  They believe that if you work hard enough on the things you believe in, dreams become reality.  They want to see an end to bullying, hurtful arguing and unnecessary conflicts. As they practice peaceful resolutions they are folding 1,000 cranes for peace to bring to Washington DC.

More information and  an opportunity to donate is on their site:

03222015-PerfectTen-logo

click for more info and to donate

Photos from the event