Sunday, October 31, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) No 44: Library demands, 30 Day Novels, D.H. Lawrence, Education, Internet Archiving

The demand on libraries grows and grows (The Economist):
The weak economy is forcing libraries to redefine their role. Close to 70% of America’s public libraries now say their staff help patrons complete job applications online, and the same number offer help with résumés. “Workforce Solutions”—as the state of New Mexico calls the dole—requires a weekly check-in. For many people, long queues or long journeys means it is only practical to do this online. Lynne Fothergill, a head librarian at Erna Fergusson, says she noticed an increasing number of online check-ins in early 2009; they are now a primary function of the library’s two 15-minute computer terminals.

Nationally, the number of libraries reporting that they help patrons with e-government services has risen by almost half. As with private employers, when state and local governments save money by moving services online, they actually shift some of those costs to the point of access: for many of those most likely to need jobs and benefits, this is the local library.

Perversely, computers are often more expensive for public libraries than for individuals, and harder to buy. In Albuquerque, any city purchase over $500 requires approval by a technical review committee. A single library desktop, with all of the officially necessary licences and security and session-management programmes, costs the city a whopping $1,800.

Write a novel in a month? (Independent):

And although there are plenty of tales of great novelists spending years crafting their masterpieces – Joseph Heller took eight years to write Catch-22 – many of the literary world's most popular works were knocked out in a few weeks, such as Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Lindsey Grant, who helps run NaNoWriMo, said that 55 novels written under the scheme have gone on to publication. These include Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, which spent 12 weeks in The New York Times best-sellers list in 2006. "The idea is to get the rough drafts of the novels down," Ms Grant said. "But so many people then go on to rewrite."Two years ago, Birdsong author Sebastian Faulks wrote a James Bond thriller, Devil May Care, in only six weeks – following the work pattern of Bond's creator, Ian Fleming."I enjoyed the rush," he said. "There was a way in which my own race to the finish line mirrored the chase of the plot. Novels that have been written quickly can retain a slightly torn-off, uneven quality – like life. This is certainly one of the miraculous things about Jean Brodie, where the story zooms back and forth through time. There is a careering, out-of-control feeling, which is exhilarating. The main danger is that the writer hasn't worked out his/her theme. They don't really know what the novel's about."

Behind The trail of Lady Chatterley's Lover (Independent):
Some were eager, and duly stepped into the witness box. E M Forster, for instance, wrote to Mr Rubenstein, calling the book "a literary work of importance", adding, "the law tells me that obscenity may deprave and corrupt, but as far as I know it offers no definition of depravity or corruption." With some willing to testify, there were complications. Aldous Huxley, for instance, wrote: "Lady Chatterley's Lover is an essentially wholesome book." But the long journey from his American home, and his request for $1,000 expenses meant he was kept in reserve, as were Iris Murdoch and T S Eliot. Eliot had, in the early Thirties, dismissed book and author, but now thought better of both and was prepared to appear. During the trial, he was on the defence team's substitutes' bench, and legend has it that, for several days, he sat outside the court in a taxi, the meter ticking all the while.Among prominent refuseniks were Evelyn Waugh and Robert Graves. Waugh's letter to Mr Rubenstein described the book as dull and pretentious, one whose publication would serve no private or public good. He ended with the verdict: "Lawrence had very meagre literary gifts." Graves's letter said of Lawrence: "I won't have a book of his on my shelves."

Even Field and Stream got into it:

The review read in part: "This fictional account of the day-to-day life of an English gamekeeper is still of interest to outdoor-minded readers, as it contains many passages on pheasant-raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways to control vermin, and other chores and duties of the occasional gamekeeper. "Unfortunately, one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material in order to discover and savour these sidelights on the management of a Midlands shooting estate, and in this reviewer's opinion the book cannot take the place of J R Miller's Practical Gamekeeper."

How to Fix our Schools a Manifesto (WaPo):

Just as we must give teachers and schools the capability and flexibility to meet the needs of students, we must give parents a better portfolio of school choices. That starts with having the courage to replace or substantially restructure persistently low-performing schools that continuously fail our students. Closing a neighborhood school -- whether it's in Southeast D.C., Harlem, Denver or Chicago -- is a difficult decision that can be very emotional for a community. But no one ever said leadership is easy. We also must make charter schools a truly viable option. If all of our neighborhood schools were great, we wouldn't be facing this crisis. But our children need great schools now -- whether district-run public schools or public charter schools serving all students -- and we shouldn't limit the numbers of one form at the expense of the other. Excellence must be our only criteria for evaluating our schools. For the wealthiest among us, the crisis in public education may still seem like someone else's problem, because those families can afford to choose something better for their kids. But it's a problem for all of us -- until we fix our schools, we will never fix the nation's broader economic problems. Until we fix our schools, the gap between the haves and the have-nots will only grow wider and the United States will fall further behind the rest of the industrialized world in education, rendering the American dream a distant, elusive memory.

Two e-Learning companies to begin selling online remedial courses to community colleges (Inside HE):

K12 has made only a few inroads in higher education; last summer one of its subsidiaries was rebuffed by an accrediting agency when it tried to take over operations at Rochester College, a four-year liberal arts college in Michigan. (K12’s collaboration with Middlebury College to deliver language instruction as part of a summer program has been more successful.) Davis said he will be pleased this time to have, in Blackboard, a co-pilot with a huge network of existing higher-ed clients.For Blackboard — which has sold online learning platforms and other services for years, but never courses — the deal also represents a new sort of business. Both sides say K12 will do most of the heavy lifting on course design and provide the labor from its stable of 2,700 instructors, while Blackboard will focus mainly on the technology. But the two companies say they will work together on all aspects of the product. Small, the chief business officer, said Blackboard does not currently sell courses past the remedial level. “Outside of this very targeted effort, we have no plans to move into the general areas of curriculum and instruction,” he said.

The Economist looks at efforts to archive the web (The Economist):

The biggest problem, for now, is money. The British Library estimates that it costs half as much to store a digital document as it does a physical one. But there are a lot more digital ones. America’s Library of Congress enjoys a specific mandate, and budget, to save the web. The British Library is still seeking one.

So national libraries have decided to split the task. Each has taken responsibility for the digital works in its national top-level domain (web-address suffixes such as “.uk” or “.fr”). In countries with larger domains, such as Britain and America, curators cannot hope to save everything. They are concentrating on material of national interest, such as elections, news sites and citizen journalism or innovative uses of the web.

The daily death of countless websites has brought a new sense of urgency—and forced libraries to adapt culturally as well. Past practice was to tag every new document as it arrived. Now precision must be sacrificed to scale and speed. The task started before standards, goals or budgets are set. And they may yet change. Just like many websites, libraries will be stuck in what is known as “permanent beta”.

From The Twitter this week - follow me @Personanondata:

Conrad Black fails in attempt to clear his name

DOI To Become Backbone of New Entertainment Content Registry

Amazing Kindle book sales stats from

Cornwell: "The tyranny of the Epos [computerized book tracking] can make it very difficult for the beginner."

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