Monday, January 30, 2012

The apprentice librarian shows off to her technology class

This was one of my contributions to a discussion of our favorite information technology hardware:
I couldn’t resist posting a picture of a computer hardware project I did back in 1996 that I was terrifically proud of. This is a working computer on the outside of a trash can. After painting the trash can a beautiful sparkly shade of motherboard green, I mounted the motherboard, adaptor boards, hard drive and floppy drive, and power supply on the outside of the can. The monitor, keyboard, and printer were free-standing, but were plugged into the motherboard.

This system was a PC-XT clone with a 8088 processor operating at 4.77 megahertz. It had 640k of random access memory, and most likely a Seagate ST225 20 megabyte hard drive, along with a 360 KB floppy drive that used 5 ¼ inch disks. There was also a 2400 b.p.s. “internal” modem. All or most of this hardware was about 10 years old and quite obsolete when I got my hands on it. However, back in Eugene, Oregon, where I put this contraption together as an entry in the Mayor’s Art Show, a system with this configuration could be connected to the Internet via Eugene Freenet. This system was fully operational, and at one time or another I powered it up and used it to check my e-mail. At the time I took the picture, some friends were keeping it at their house for me, and they took advantage of the fact that it was also a fully operational trash can.

Sadly, I had to recycle this hardware before I left Oregon for Oklahoma. But the picture still serves as a reminder that one day in the near future, your bright, shiny, new cutting-edge piece of IT hardware will be trash.

Working computer on the outside of a trash can

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The apprentice librarian struggles with her management class

Some parts of library school are going to be a struggle for me. My required class in "management of knowledge organizations" (or something like that) is a good example. The self-introduction I wrote for this online class explains why:
Hello, everyone. I’m hoping we have a great semester together, and I’m looking forward to what I know will be an interesting class. I think it will be a tough class for me (I’ll explain why in a little bit), but I know it will be interesting.

About me: I was born in Philadelphia, and have lived in Idaho, Oregon, and for the past 10 years, Oklahoma. I got my bachelor’s degree in philosophy at the University of Idaho in 1979. People often want to know what a person can do with a philosophy degree. I’ve done lots of things. I’ve fought forest fires, worked in a bookstore, and been a busperson in a public market. For eleven years I was a custodian for the City of Eugene in Oregon. (About half of that time I worked at the Eugene Public Library.) Since moving to Oklahoma City, I’ve worked as a stock clerk at PetSmart and as a production worker and custormer service associate at FedEx Office. Most recently, I’m a public computer specialist at the Midwest City Public Library.

You will notice that I’ve never been a manager, but I think I’ve learned a few practical lessons about management in the course of working these and other jobs. Management, planning. organization, and leadership are activities that are done by ordinary people all the time, every day. The success of any organization depends not only on the hard work of its ordinary workers, but also on their intelligence and their own ability to plan and organize their work. If ordinary workers did nothing beyond what their managers directly tell them to do, everything would fall apart. In other words, every worker is a knowledge worker.

When I worked for PetSmart and for FedEx, I experienced a great deal of mismanagement perpetrated by people on upper corporate levels who seemed to have read a lot of management textbooks, but who had no clue about the conditions that ordinary workers actually faced. Either that, or corporate management was deliberately manipulative, dishonest, and oppressive. The goal seemed to be to suck every last drop of blood out of the workers, while paying us as little as possible. “Customer service” wasn’t about helping people, it was about sucking up to customers to manipulate them into spending money they couldn’t afford for things they didn’t need.

I apologize for ranting, but I wanted to explain why I approach the subject matter of this course with a great deal of caution. I have worked for large and small businesses, and I have worked for several levels of government. Over the past twenty years or so, it has become a fad to say that we should run government more like a business. This is the approach that seems to be taken by the authors of the textbooks for this class. My experience tells me this is a very bad idea, and even in its most humane and enlightened forms, it’s downright undemocratic. I think there is something obscene about reducing citizens to “customers” and “marketing” our services to them. That is not what libraries are all about. Libraries are about recognizing that ordinary people possess extraordinary capabilities, including the capability of being fully informed citizens who are the ultimate bosses of every public enterprise. That is why I want to be a librarian.

So, I think I’m going to struggle a lot with this course, but as you can see I am very interested in it. I appreciate all the hard work and good planning that Dr. Kim has put into this class, and I look forward to our discussions and projects.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Robin Morgan on feminists occupying Occupy

Hat tip to Elaine Barton for the link to this fascinating post by Robin Morgan on the Women's Media Center blog. Here's just a sampling of Morgan's analysis:
Having caught the world’s imagination with an admirable energy, seemingly spontaneous and seemingly grassroots, the Occupy movement is now poised at a crossroads. It has enormous potential—but lasting change will require consciousness that doesn’t ignore the majority of humanity. It needs to break free of being “a guy thing” or risk drowning in its own rhetorical generalities.

It’s not as if certain models aren’t there. The women of England’s Greenham Common “occupied” turf decades before OWS—they endured, and won. Irish women barred doors to keep men from storming out of Northern Ireland peace talks. Women in Liberia sat singing for months in a soccer field to birth a revolution. Market women in Ghana brought down a government. Gandhi acknowledged copying the concept of satyagraha—nonviolent resistance—from India’s 19th century women’s suffrage movement. These are different—and long-lasting—techniques of protest, by which at first it seemed the Occupy movement was influenced. (At the risk of offending anarchists, I’ll paraphrase two of the Women’s Media Center slogans: “You have to name it to change it,” and “You have to see it to be it.” As a woman who once agreed “Level everything, then we’ll talk politics,” I recommend examples and clearly articulated demands as pretty good stuff.)
What Morgan is calling for is necessary, but not sufficient. Making the movement less of a guy thing--and less of a white thing--is a very good starting place, however. Do yourself a favor and read her entire post.