Sunday, June 10, 2007

Hail, Information People! | Git Yer New Silverfish Edition, Congrats Grads & Good-bye Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Congrats, Grads!

Hello summer, and adios grads! We've just posted the last Silverfish of the ’06-’07 school year over on our 'fish website, and you can read the stories and such here as well. Where to start? Browse or read in a highly controlled (vocabulary) manner, it’s all bueno. A few ideas: the featured interview with iSchool grad Jessamyn West who writes the blog, which gets about 7,000 visitors a day; stories about gambling online (apparently it’s illegal—who knew?), Cambodian libraries, public libraries in India, a couple of essays from alums, book and music reviews, summer book reads, web site suggestions (see the next graph for starters) and all sorts of other writey stuff. Also in this edition, meet Jack, Nancy, Jamie & Michelle, the new ‘fish staff for the 2007-2008 school year with tell-all bios and pics (Many, many thanks to Nancy for the generous volunteerism in pulling this edition together. It wouldn't have happened without her).

Over at the information blog When Cars Run on Information, creators, contributors and 2007 iSchool MLIS grads Tim King and Kathleen Walsh post on “innovation, community and libraries.” Add it to your blog roll.

man readingThanks to the past year’s contributors and the crack 'fish staff, marketing maven Sheri Boggs and webmaster Amy Vecchione. It was a productive year for the ‘fish. We created a new tradition last December at the iSchool, sponsoring the DAWN (Domestic Abuse Women's Network) Adopt-a-Family program, which provides holiday gifts for women and children living in emergency shelter due to domestic violence. Among other things, in 2006 DAWN answered more than 12,000 crisis calls, provided more than 20,000 meals and sheltered more than 370 women and childrenWe also launched The Silverfish blog, slashing the wait time between you and your iNews to practically nil. (Well, maybe a wee bit more than nil, but we don’t pussyfoot around when it comes to your need for instant gratification.) What can I say? Being the editor's been a hoot.

While this is the end of the line for this year’s staff, the new kids are already collecting and posting stories here on the ‘fish blog, including such details as the swank factor at IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) conference and trotting librarians for justice at the Law Librarianship Panel, and we’ve added those to this web site edition. (Email them with ideas/stories for the ‘fish--web site or blog:

While we’re at it, we also say good-bye to Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., who died April 11 from brain injuries related to a fall. He most famously wrote Breakfast of Champions (1973) andKurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse Five (1969; movie version 1972). From “Common themes in Vonnegut's work include the dehumanization wrought by technology, as well as by bureaucracy and media indoctrination.” When he died, I had recently started reading God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and the book

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. 1922-2007

was my late night reprieve from the daily slog through research journal articles. In his stories, his take on humanity—dusted with black humor, politics, science fiction, surrealism and a universal ‘be kind’ philosophy—often emerges in characters who are regular schmucks just trying to get by. From God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater:

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ”

With that, I bid you adieu, cheers and many thanks,

Joyce Hansen
Editor Silverfish,'06-'07
The Silverfish Blog, Feed & eNewsletter

The ‘Fish Interview | Jessamyn West: Nothing Hushed or Placid about the Blogger & UW iSchool, ahem!, Library School Alum

Jessamyn West writes, a weblog that receives close to 7,000 hits a day. She graduated from the UW Library School in 1996, and during that time was, at one point, the Library School Graduate Students President and also served as the editor for The Sojourner, now The Silverfish. Her first job out of library school was at the Shoreline Community College library reference desk, which she liked a lot. What West does: speaker, teacher, librarian, writer, blog moderator on MetaFilter and sometimes technology instructor/consultant. If offered, she says, she'd absolutely consider a stint teaching at the iSchool.

In school, she was candid and vocal. Nothing seems to have changed much. In protest against the USA PATRIOT ACT, West created a number of notices that libraries can post (and have been sanctioned for use in Vermont libraries). One of them, for example, reads: "The FBI has not been here" and then in smaller font, "Watch very closely for the removal of this sign." (See image below.) In 2002 Library Journal identified her as a "mover and shaker," and she was profiled by Wired magazine in 2004. That same year she was invited to blog at the Democratic National Convention, the first year that such an event gave bloggers credentials. In 2003, she co-edited, Revolting Librarians Redux, a follow up to the 1972 original, Revolting Librarians.’s motto is putting the rarin’ back in librarian since 1999. She has been a member of the American Library Association Council. For more Jessamyn dope, check out her Wikipedia entry; tool around on or; or catch her at the ALA annual event this June, where she has a speaking gig. She now lives in Vermont.

What follows are two phone interviews compiled from 3/15/07 and 3/26/07. The context has not been jerked around. –JH

JOYCE: What was the best thing about being at the iSchool?

JESSAMYN: Well, when I was there, it was called library school.

JOYCE: Okay, the library school.

JESSAMYN: For me, the best thing about being at the University of Washington at the library school was that we were in the library. We were in the Suzzallo Library. Definitely, you felt a connection to the stuff. I fully accept that computers are a part of libraries, but it was really neat to be in the library with the books and the computers, the stained glass, and everything else—it helps to kind of remember what you were doing and why you were doing it. The second thing is the UW is just sort of an amazing place to go to school. It’s really well funded, it seems to me. The UW is a really well set-up institution.

I went to a tiny liberal arts school for undergrad, and just being in a big university with big computer labs and big libraries and lots and lots of people that work there, cheap bus passes, all the stuff—it was great. So it wasn’t just the resources in the program. We had a little computer lab in Kane Hall, and we had a little computer with a dial-up modem in the student study room, but being able to use all the big computer labs and have the shell accounts and getting web space back in 95, that’s a big deal.

That helped propel me into somebody who really cared about technology because I had access to it, and I could mess around with it. They really let us do whatever, and they try hard to give you good access to resources, and that was great.

JOYCE: Where was it that had the 24-hour computer lab?

JESSAMYN: Oh, gosh, I don’t remember. They don’t have it anymore, but it was down toward the waterfront. It was a hike, but it was a 24-hour computer lab. You go mess around with computers at two o’clock in the morning. They used to tell stories about it, how it had all these big main frames in it and then when they took all the mainframes out, they actually had to heat the building. The mainframes were putting out so much heat they kept the place warm, and I don’t really know if that’s true; everybody says that.

JOYCE: That’d be some big mainframes.

JESSAMYN: Yeah, well in the mid-1990s they were still kind of big.

JOYCE: So. On the other side of it, what was the worst thing for you?

JESSAMYN: We were in between deans, sort of. Dr. (Phyllis) Van Orden was there when I was there, and I was there at kind of a weird time. It was a two year program. I went three years and I took a year off, and then I came back. I think I was there for an extra semester or something like that. I did a special project and stayed late, but we were sort of between deans. Dr. Van Orden was kind of new, and then she announced that she wasn’t staying so the whole time there was a lack of direction.

I think people felt like they weren’t sure what was going on. Everybody knew sort of the web and computing stuff was really changing the face of librarianship, but there wasn’t a lot of leadership to kind of push the school in that direction early. They did a search for a while, but we had sort of an interim director. Betty Bengtson was there for a year, and I don’t even remember who was there right when I was leaving. There was kind of an interim after Dr. Van Orden before Mike Eisenberg came in. It just seemed like there was a lot of stuff up in the air. There were a lot of faculty (positions) open that weren’t getting filled and so everybody there was working a lot. And they were moving to the new building, and that was taking forever, and it was just kind of a messy time to be in school. Everybody was doing a good job, but in a two-year program you got a dean who’s leaving. The whole time you’re there, everything’s all messed up.

JOYCE: And there weren’t as many professors there as there are now.

JESSAMYN: Seven faculty, eight, nine. It was teeny, and it was fun. Like I really got along with pretty much all the faculty, which was very nice. We had one faculty member who came in and left—Dr. Oh, Sam Oh. He was wonderful! Everybody loved him, but then he left. It was unclear what the problem was, but things were having a hard time getting off the ground.

JOYCE: What would you consider one of the most important issues that library science is facing or will have to face?

JESSAMYN: Well, I think there’s a set of them. One: librarianship is historically been almost like a social work type profession, and now that we’re in the information age and dealing with people that have to have a much, much wider skill set, being able to attract people with that wide range of skills is hard. A lot of libraries are ready for it. I work in the public library world here in Vermont, and the public librarians don’t get paid anything. As a result they don’t wind up attracting people who have experience working in libraries. It’s mostly like people from town, and that’s fine. I mean, people from town is really helpful for other things working in a library, but I feel like those libraries aren’t really keeping up with technology. Those libraries aren’t joining the information age at some level.

I feel like academic libraries don’t have this problem as much, and bigger public libraries have a different problem. They just have budget problems so the pay is lousy. The public library is known historically for hiring a lot of people right out of library school so it’s great: you get your feet wet, you get a real professional job, whatever, but the pay is like—you can’t live in Manhattan. It’s terrible, and that’s embarrassing. As a profession, it’s embarrassing that we expect people to have advanced degrees and we don’t pay them anything. You look at other people who have advanced degrees who do sort of similar professional level work, and they’re getting paid a lot more. You know, geologists. There’s a job where you need a master’s degree and a certain amount of training, and your average, entry-level geologist gets paid a lot more.

JOYCE: Do you think that librarians would have more of an advantage financially if they were working in a larger market?

JESSAMYN: You mean like moving to the big city?

JOYCE: Yeah.

JESSAMYN: I think it’s hit or miss. The best trained library jobs that I had were in a big city, for Vermont standards, but it’s 20,000 to 30,000 people. I got paid more there as an entry-level librarian with a degree than I would have gotten paid if I was at New York Public or Boston Public. So I don’t really know. Part of it’s also weighing benefits and how much rent costs and a whole bunch of other stuff. I can live here more cheaply than I could live in Boston or New York, and so that affords me different stuff. But as far as issues, money’s one of them, but I feel like just figuring out the technology stuff—for kind of a broad-based way of explaining it—I feel like computers and technology are changing really fast, and they’re changing how we access information and the profession isn’t getting up to speed as fast as the technology is changing.

In protest against the USA PATRIOT ACT, a sign designed for library use by West.

And people don’t retire because why would they? The jobs are good, but you wind up with—I mean they’re good, you know what I mean. They don’t pay well; they’re good jobs in many other ways. You wind up with this problem where you have a bunch of—you know it’s not necessarily an age-related thing, but it can be—where you have lots of older staff who aren’t either familiar or comfortable with or even like the new technologies. Libraries are starting to use it anyhow.

Consortiums are saying, here’s your new OPAC, and if you don’t have people that have kind of ‘I’m game for that’ attitude, they wind up passing them on to their patrons. We see libraries all the time where library staff pass on to patrons (the idea that) ‘computers are hard’ and ‘computers—you can’t really understand what they’re doing’ and ‘they make my job hard’ and ‘they make me unhappy,’ and I think that spawns a whole generation of people who believe that that’s an appropriate way to think about technology. But you never think, ‘Oh, cars are hard,’ ‘I can’t understand my car.’ You know what I mean?

JOYCE: They’re passing on this story.

JESSAMYN: Right, right. If you say that can’t understand your car, people are like, well, you’re kind of an idiot or get a mechanic or maybe you should learn—it’s a manageable thing to learn. And yet we hear people say it about computers all the time. I hear myself say it sometimes about learning to use my new cell phone like, I don’t understand this! But I’m not an idiot so I’m gonna figure it out and keep my mouth shut until I figure it out. I think we hear a lot of people—and it’s not just libraries—but I feel like librarians are the people who people go to to have a lot of stuff explained to them. It’s different if your accountant doesn’t understand the technology or doctor because they can hire people to solve those problems, but in libraries, you go to your librarian and you’re like, what’s up with MySpace? My kid’s on MySpace all the time. And if you have librarians being like, ‘I don’t’ know. It’s totally ugly, stupid web site—what?’ That doesn’t help people.

JOYCE: Also, you have these people who look up to librarians.

JESSAMYN: Yes, they totally believe you’re authoritative. So you’re talking to someone with a master’s degree and look something up on the internet—(phone’s dying) I think that’s my phone thing out of its little battery, but I can hop upstairs, jump onto the other phone because I understand technology! (Both laugh.) See, I could’ve just sat there and been like, what? it’s beeping; I don’t know why it’s doing that, what’s going on?

That’s the thing. Everything in our lives is technology based in some weird way or the other, but I think we single out computers because they make us feel bad about ourselves or whatever. I’m sure a lot of people can’t get beyond that for whatever reason, which is a leadership problem in the same way pay is a leadership problem.

JOYCE: Do you ever think you might come back out west? I see on your site you speak, but it seems to be more on the east coast.

JESSAMYN: I speak pretty much everywhere. I go where I’m invited basically. I was going to speak in Seattle at the end of March, but it didn’t work out. In the general sense, yeah, I would love to be back on the west coast. More specifically, I have no plans. I haven’t been back since I moved here.

JOYCE: And that’s been how long?

JESSAMYN: I was going back and forth between Vermont and Seattle for about three years, four years. And then I fell in love with a guy who eventually ended up going to law school so I moved out here for good when he was in law school, but then we split up. I just haven’t gotten back in the groove of going back and forth, and I have a local job here that I really like.

JOYCE: Three years is a lot of time. There have been a lot of changes in Seattle.

JESSAMYN: That’s what I’ve heard. I have a lot of friends that live there, but basically I left before they’d opened the new downtown library. They were building it. I’d seen it, I’d touched it, but I haven’t been inside.

JOYCE: It’s kind of like a cross between a theme park, an art gallery and a library.

JESSAMYN: Well, people seem to like it.

JOYCE: It’s not cozy, but I like it. I couldn’t believe Seattle did it. It’s like something you’d see in New York. You should come see it.

JESSAMYN: Hopefully, I can come out and speak again. I spoke in Oregon last year which was fun, but I was running off some place after so I couldn’t make it up to Seattle. I still feel a kinship with the west coast. I feel like I belong here. I grew up here and it feels normal to me, but I enjoy the west coast a lot.

JOYCE: Maybe we can get you out to the iSchool.

JESSAMYN: That would be fun. One of the first talks I ever gave, like three or four years ago, was there on collaborative information systems. It was kind of talking about blogs, but it was just talking about people working together to build content on the web. It wasn’t that high tech. It was more of a fun talk. Oh, my book had just come out, Revolting Librarians, and it was just really fun. I was wandering around like oh, my gosh, I went here 10 years ago. It’s totally different.

JOYCE: Are you going to write another book?

JESSAMYN: You know, people keep asking me, and I don’t feel like right now I really have a book in me. I love to write, but writing a book for somebody else is an awful lot of work for basically no return, if you’re not looking for tenure. I don’t really feel like right now there’s one topic where I really have a bunch to say, and I want to write it all down in a formal way, with footnotes. I can just write about it on my blog.

JOYCE: Would O’Reilly be something you’d consider or do they just do technical stuff?

JESSAMYN: I’m not sure if I’m geeky or techy enough to write for O’Reilly, but they’re a publisher I respect. Those books like nice. I learned HTML from reading their books.

JOYCE: Well, if you do, I’d love to know.

JESSAMYN: I’ll let you post it!

JOYCE: Thank you for doing this. I didn’t think it would happen after seeing that you were in Australia.

JESSAMYN: I hide from the school a little bit to be honest. Not on purpose. I didn’t join the alumni group. I asked not to be on their mailing list. I don’t want to get a bunch of junk mail from the University of Washington. I don’t mind hearing what’s going on in the school. I read the website sometimes.

JOYCE: That’s probably a pretty smart move. I’ll have to keep that in mind when I graduate. Thanks, again. It was great talking to you.

JESSAMYN: Yeah, likewise.

Joyce Hansen
Editor Silverfish,'06-'07
The Silverfish Blog, Feed & eNewsletter

Introducing the 2007/2008 Silverfish Staff!

After their decisive victories in the iSchool officer elections (with all candidates running unopposed), we are pleased to present the Guardians of the Silverfish for the 2007-2008 school year!

Michelle Wong – Editor-in-Chief: Michelle is one of the four Whitman College graduates who infiltrated the 2006 UW MLIS cohort. She once started a temporary (day-long) sorority just for an excuse to eat wine and cheese. She hopes to work as a children's librarian because kids make her laugh, and laughter is one of her favorite things about life. Also, working with children gives her an excuse to invest her money in picture books, toys, art supplies and games.

Jamie Hancock – Other-Editor-in-Chief: Jamie Hancock is one of two University of Oregon graduates on the new Silverfish staff. He traveled all the way to Spokane to watch his Ducks play in the NCAA Basketball Tournament this March. His second favorite team is the San Diego Padres. When Jamie is not watching or playing sports (i.e. iTeam volleyball), he likes to go to concerts at Neumo's or imbibe refreshments at other smoke-free environments in Capitol Hill. Jamie's permanent home page on his computer is From now on, he will run unopposed in all elections.

Jack Baur – Publicity Manager and Yet-Another-Editor: Jack Baur actually hates doing anything that could be considered "advertising," though he does like the idea being involved in a great student publication and convincing everyone around him to read it. He has secret designs on turning Silverfish into little more than a mouthpiece to advance his pro-comic book agenda. He may be the other U of O graduate on the staff, but he'll never tell… unless you ask him.

Nancy Lou – Web-Mistress and Editor-When-She-Wants-to-Be: Contrary to popular belief, Nancy Lou is not a hick. She is a somewhat recent migrant from suburban Maryland, where she attended the University of Maryland, and was spoiled by free Smithsonian museums and underage concerts in DC as a teenager. While a former member of the iSchool volleyball team, Nancy completely lacks hand-eye coordination, but, for the most part, manages to get around without injuring herself on a daily basis. Upon graduation, she hopes to work in a special library, while operating a cat sanctuary in her backyard.

So that's the team for the coming school year. They've already had one beer-fueled meeting and are developing all sorts of plans of how to make the Silverfish a true mouthpiece for the iSchool student body. They are busily working to draft a mission statement, outlining goals and plans, which will be made available for public comment by the end of this school year. In the coming year, expect community events (read: Happy Hours), regular articles such as "Absurd LC Subject Heading of the Week," a calendar collecting all the information about all the stuff that happens at the iSchool that you don't have time to go to, and much more. They also hope to widen the use of the Silverfish Blog, making it a forum for discussion within the iSchool community. As a team, the new Silverfish staff has got big enthusiasm and bigger plans for the coming year, and hopes to have you along for the ride!

Putting the Public Back in “Public” Libraries in Southern India | Making Libraries Accessible To All

Schoolchildren in Goa

By Elizabeth Gould, 2007 MLIS graduate

A trip to southern India last year gave me the chance to visit libraries of varying sizes and see how they were used by members of diverse communities. Initially I hoped to unearth how various communities accessed information, but when I observed the public libraries, I found they were only accessible to an elite few. I switched gears and focused, instead, on what “public” meant in this context. My vision of public means “access to all,” which is an American viewpoint, but in India, it is quite different.

At one end of the spectrum the country can boast of a highly specialized information retrieval system, but at the other end stands the common man who has no access even to basic reading material or advice because of the lack of a public library network spread throughout the length and breadth of this vast country. While there is an “information flood” in some places, there is an “information drought” in many others (Banarjee, 1996).

Elizabeth with kids in Trivandrum

My research evolved into not only visiting libraries and questioning librarians, but also delving into such questions as who uses the library, membership requirements, collection decisions, staffing, computer access and cataloging, literacy rates, and served populations. Further, I questioned each of our 10 local guides about education, literacy, and library usage in each of the seven states that we visited. What I learned is that the Indian government supports both access to education and provides local and regional libraries (Rao, 2001). However, widespread usage of the public libraries was lacking, due in part to restrictive membership requirements. In addition, production of literate library users is inhibited by a tiered education system that is complicated by the multifaceted social/caste system in India.

In 1994 the UNESCO Public Library Manifesto defined a public library as:

the local gateway to knowledge, [and] provides a basic condition for lifelong learning, independent decision-making and cultural development of the individual and social groups.” In this vision of public libraries, they are seen as people-oriented institutions which should service the widest population possible (Ghosh, 2005).

I observed public libraries at multiple levels: a small local library in Kerala, two district central libraries in Madurai and Thanjavur, a state central library in Goa, and national libraries in Chennai and Kolkata, to see how they are serving the public in southern India. My study sites included small coastal villages, large cities, and several libraries in between. I also questioned our local guides in each village or city that we visited, to determine local library use, as well as library membership requirements.

India’s population is over one billion, and it is anticipated to become the most populated country in the world overtaking China, by the year 2050 (BBC News, 2004). A multifaceted social and religious caste system creates a complex hierarchy within the society. Estimates range from hundreds to over 1500 different languages, 14 of them official dialects; and at least seven important religions. Although modernization has reached India with the introduction of computer technology, producing a new economic resource through outsourcing, things have not changed for many in the population, particularly within a social context.

Technology is expanding in India. As outsourcing increases, it affects the Indian economy (Singh, 2005). How is this influx of technology changing information access? Apparently, this growth is increasing class divisions as wealthy individuals further educate themselves and obtain better jobs, which enable them to increase their wealth (Parvathamma, 2003). Meanwhile, is technology helping the lower classes obtain information, or is it out of their reach, further separating them from the more affluent?

India is divided into 28 states and four territories; each one is divided into smaller districts. Although the literacy rate for each state is different, all of my guides were proud of the increased literacy rate in each state. We visited the states of Maharashtra (Mumbai), Goa, Karnataka (Mangalore), Kerala (Kochi/Cochin), Tamil Nadu (Chennai, Thanjavur, Madurai), Andhra Pradesh (Visakhapatnam/Vizag), and West Bengal (Kolkata). The government has instituted various policies to educate all students in order to increase the literacy rate. But literacy statistics are highly variable. Southern India has some of the highest literacy rates in the country – 60-70% in Tamil Nadu, to almost 100% in Kerala, the lowest rate being Bihar, in northern India, at just over 40%. (CIA World Factbook, 2007). Digging deeper, I found that my guides defined literacy as the ability to write one’s name (in any language). This is a shocking contrast to the definition in the 2007 CIA World Factbook: those aged 15 and over who can read and write. A literate person as partially defined by UNESCO is:

one who has acquired all the essential knowledge and skills which enable him to engage in all those activities in which literacy is required for effective functioning in his group and community and whose attaining in reading, writing and numeracy make it possible to use these skills towards his own and his community's development (Wikipedia, 2007).

In some areas “literacy” also includes the ability to do simple addition and subtraction. This devalues the term literacy. Other caveats for reporting literacy statistics are the rapidly expanding population, infrequent censusing, and vast numbers of homeless or transient who are often neither censused nor literate. For instance, 25% of the population live below the poverty line (2002 estimate, CIA Factbook, 2007), and 30% of urban populations live in shanty towns (Kim Saunders, 2007).

The government of India has taken great strides in the past few years to increase the literacy rate by introducing incentives such as offering free lunches for all students. In some states such as Goa, the literacy rate of females is significantly lower than males. To encourage girls to attend school the state offers girls bicycles upon their graduation from the 8th grade; it is hoped they will use them to commute to school for higher education. Unfortunately, education is still subjugated by a strong cultural influence that girls need to learn how to cook and do domestic chores well, so that they are prepared to become good wives. 95% of Indian marriages are still arranged by parents or families (Kim Saunders, 2007). Only 48.3% of females are literate, compared to 70.2% of the males (CIA World Factbook, 2007).

These figures prompted me to ask if libraries in India help promote education and access to information. Have libraries realized that information must to be accessible to all classes and castes? Is the government supporting this goal?. “…We the information professionals need to come forward and study the present system of operation and find a better solution to transform straightforward reading rooms into an information/knowledge centre where people, weighed down by illiteracy or limited education, find value” (Ghosh, 2005)

I was interested to see how libraries supported the lower income communities, and if innovations such as computers and information kiosks were available. In the regions that I visited, schools and libraries utilize computers on a very limited basis. Computer classes are taught only in private schools. The largest national libraries use computers, but the public has extremely limited access to the computerized catalog, which is available only in the large national libraries.

Reading room in Madurai

Without direct access to computer resources, where are people getting information? When asked, my guides said that “everyone” had TVs in India and most people got their information (and recreation) from the television rather than reading books. Smaller district libraries showed very little usage of their collections aside from the free Reading Rooms, where newspapers were popular (and, I observed, read only by men). Although the libraries can be commended for having free access to newspapers, a discouraging aspect of all Indian “public” libraries is a membership fee. One is not allowed to check out books, and in most cases the public can not access the stacks, without becoming a member. Although annual membership fees are minimal, there is an added burden; to become a member one has to fill out forms and be “recommended” by another member or the state government. In addition, many libraries charge fees (deposits) in order to check out books.

Where does this lead us in terms of the “public” and educating them to use computers with access for all? “As a consequence of making education a fundamental right, free, unhindered, easy access to books and libraries also becomes essential and should be ensured” (Ghosh, 2005). Clearly this is not a priority for the government of India, although a commendable base has been established with universal access to education (although not compulsory), strides towards increased literacy, and a system of regional and district libraries. Resources and trained library professionals were insufficient. Books do not get processed. Membership charges exclude potential users and do not generate significant income for individual libraries. Only the major state libraries have computerized catalogs. Only some of the largest repository libraries offer computer access to the internet, and it's for a fee.

Goa Library

Where is the computer training to come from once a student steps out of school, if they get it at all? After visiting a variety of schools, it was clear the government does not support computer training in its schools; only private schools can afford this luxury. This creates a further divide as
illiteracy exacerbates poverty (Nikam et al, 2004). Only people who can afford private education learn to use computers, and as computer usage becomes more prevalent worldwide, the poor become poorer and less informed, while the wealthier are trained and often leave their impoverished countries to find technology jobs in more affluent and technologically advanced countries (Parishwad, 2002).

We are fooled into believing that technology has penetrated into Indian society by the large access we have to outsourced information. Clearly the poor remain so, and the middle class is divided by lack of access to information. It is encouraging to note that the Indian government is supporting schooling and teaching children to learn to write their names (in hopes that they will eventually have access to libraries?), but the social stratification that is required by membership referrals discourages access to libraries, where information resources are abundant. Much progress can be seen in available resources for the academic and research communities, but progress needs to be made “from technology that supports the library staff to technology that empowers the library user” (Rao, 2001).

In a more equitable world, resources could be directed towards more uniform access to information by making libraries more inviting and accessible, and developing local content in a language that the poor can understand (Nikam et al, 2004). This ambition is inhibited by a firmly ingrained social class system, thus the government needs to lead the way by truly making the libraries accessible to all.

These goals could be achieved by changing the mindset at the policy-making level and focusing on education. In the twenty-first century, India should look upon education as a key infrastructure for economic development… What remains to be seen is how establishing these facilities will benefit and improve the socio-economic conditions of India’s citizens, allowing the nation to emerge as an economic
superpower in the next century (Rao, 2001).

The public library in India is considered to be a living force for education, culture, and information and seen as an essential agent for the fostering of peace and spiritual welfare through the minds of men and women… The library movement in India is now eighty-five years
old; yet in spite of that duration, except for ten states, library is not in operation to provide “free book service for all (Banarjee, 1996).


Banarjee, Dwarika N. (1996). The story of libraries in India. Daedalus, 125, 4, 353-362.

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Parvathamma, N. (2003). Digital divide in India: Need for correcting urban bias. Information Technology and Libraries, 22, 1, 35-39,

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Saunders, Kim Jane. (2007). Author and Research Associate, University of North London. Personal communication, February 2007.

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Your Action-Packed, Double-Feature Review of "Grindhouse!"

(Boring editorial note: In case you're not a film geek and don't already know this, "Grindhouse is the new double-feature of gore, sleaze, and shock from Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. In honor of this monumental event, Silverfish co-editors in training Jamie Hancock and Jack Baur split reviewing duties to give you the full picture of this face-meltingly awesome motion picture.)

Rose McGowan's career is death-proof. By my count, she's starred in two movies with Pauly Shore and two movies with Brendan Fraser. As if that wasn't enough wreck her credibility, McGowan played contemporary witch Paige Matthews on the WB's "Charmed" for five seasons. So how does a movie called "Grindhouse" catapult her back to movie stardom? It plays on her strengths. When she cut her teeth on "Bio-Dome" and "Monkeybone," McGowan was preparing for a role of a lifetime…much the same way Freddy Rodriguez and Josh Brolin earned their stripes in "Lady in the Water" and "Hollow Man."

In "Planet Terror" (the first feature of "Grindhouse"), Robert Rodriguez gathered an ensemble of actors and actresses who had proven talent in cheesy movies (including Bruce Willis). Since the movie is so sensational and over-the-top, the director recognized that it required a certain type of performance. After all, a film that marries zombies, martial arts, sexploitation, and splatter in B-movie fashion demands B-list celebrities. Casting Rose McGowan instead of Scarlett Johansen as stripper Cherry Darling may seem like a minor decision, but it is integral to the feel of the movie.

In allegiance to exploitation films of the 1970s, Rodriguez delivers fast-paced action with a series of predictable and unexpected turns. He masterfully layers tired stereotypes and storylines that don't always connect, much to the glee of moviegoers. The absurd notion that the death of Osama bin Laden somehow contributed to the proliferation of zombies in Texas is explained in a matter of seconds, and then the movie rolls right along to the next scene…where Darling blows ketchup-splattering holes into a mutant army with her recently-attached machine gun leg. While Darling is fighting zombies, she is also renewing ties with her ex-boyfriend and former rogue assassin El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez). This relationship culminates in one of the film's most memorable scenes. As the couple begins to "make love" in The Bone Shack, one of the film reels is apparently misplaced and, after a friendly apology, the movie continues in the absence of several plot twists- the building is now on fire and being attacked by zombies and the sheriff has been critically injured!

To sum up "Planet Terror": surprises on top of clich├ęs with skin, violence, and gore! Rodriguez skillfully mixes genres, makes fun of them, and makes fun of his own movie at the same time. Upon viewing this film, you will be convinced that this is not a bad movie – it's one of the baddest mutha-fuckin' movies ever made! Sort of like throwing a Xena: Warrior Princess stunt double on top of a speeding Dodge Challenger…

(With that said, we interrupt this review for a word about our new hero, Zoe Bell, the aforementioned Dodge Challenger surfin' Xena double herself. That word is "Sigh…" Alright: onward)

Hot on the heels of "Planet Terror" (with some outrageous fake previews and an ad for the cheap-looking Mexican restaurant across the street) comes Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof," a much different beast than Rodriguez's zombie gore-fest. It starts with a blast of Tarantino's trademark dialogue, as a group of four hip young women get together and get ready to go out for an evening in Austin, TX. At the bar that night, and amidst a backdrop of '70s music and references to cult films, the women get drunk, stoned, and never stop talking. They also meet a man named Stuntman Mike (a, and it pains me to say this, really good Kurt Russell), who flirts with the women, gets one of them into his car, and… but that, of course, would be telling.

Tarantino's playing several levels of games here: indulging his love of cool dialogue, plastering his myriad fetishes on the screen, directly and indirectly referencing decades of film history (I really need to see "Vanishing Point" now), and, most importantly, severely messing with our expectations. Plot structure goes out the window as Tarantino pulls the rug our from under us three or four times in his film's ninety or so minutes. It's all about rhythm, a game of lull, shock, lull, shock - a game that Tarantino proves himself skilled at in a way that we have never seen from him before.

He even had me fooled for awhile. There was a moment or two where I questioned whether or not I was still having fun, whether Tarantino hadn't crossed a line into sadism that he couldn't pull himself back from. Ultimately though, I'm happy to say that save it he does, and what I experienced in the theater as almost uncomfortably intense and terrifying, I now remember fondly as nearly twenty minutes of some of the most amazing car stunt work you have ever seen. Kiwi stuntwoman and our new hero Zoe Bell (who, in addition to Xena, was also the double for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill) plays herself and absolutely steals the end of this film in a final, breathtaking turnaround that had our whole row of iSchoolers cheering.

Final assessment: If you don't like fast cars, melting zombies, hot chicks flying through the air mowing down said zombies with machine gun legs, bad language, cheesy homages, or villains who collect the testicles of their foes in a jar of glowing green goo, stay the hell away from this movie! Everyone else: this may be the most perfect film ever.

Letters to the Editor | Portfolio 'Fakest Fake Faker' Talk & A Question About The 'Fish Blog

Back in January, the ‘fish staff launched the official Silverfish blog. We received this email a few days later.

Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2007 12:53:58 -0800
From: Tom Dobrowolsky
Subject: New Silverfish on Feb. 6....

I think the blog idea is a neat trial. My one concern is that you are relying on an outside party, Blogspot. Why not set up a blog within the iSchool domain on iSchool machinery? WordPress, for example, is a fantastic platform and is trivially easy to set up and administer...and it has neat plug-ins should you want them. I believe the iSchool ASIST group is using it as their homepage.

Tom, iAlum and Silverfish alum

Our webmaster responds:

I have no desire to code that page and code the RSS and then train the next person on how to code RSS. They would say, "Why not just use an automated web page like Blogspot?"

It's an eternal Catch-22 and you can't satisfy everyone.

Best, Amy

Thanks for asking Tom. We’ve been meaning to discuss how we came about using Blogspot. As the ASIS&T secretary, I can tell you that ASIS&T switched from WordPress because it was cantankerous and difficult to operate. --The Editor


We received this open letter recently.

To everyone, but particularly to those working on their portfolios and any staff involved in the portfolio process:

“The fakest fake faker” a paraphrased statement made by one of the least assuming MLIS students that I know, referring to how she feels when she “even thinks about her portfolio.”

With a nod to “continuous improvement,” I thought it might be beneficial to possibly begin a discussion of why the portfolio requirements limit graduates from truly reflecting on their accomplishments as students at the Information School. The quoted above named the areas that she would have chosen for herself had she been able to actually represent what has been significant to her. Her list was impressive and, to my mind, much more representative of this person, her skills and her accomplishments than the current portfolio requirements.

I have been re-writing the first draft of my portfolio. Trying to eliminate the “fakest fake faker” portions and be left with only the essence of what I think is most important and transformative about this experience. But this is too much effort. I just want to graduate. I will turn in a portfolio that will get me out of here; something that does not really represent me, but that satisfices.

I don’t want to be completely negative. I like that the portfolio is a self-reflective experience coming at the end of my time here. I probably wouldn’t have debriefed this much on my own time.

To offer some ideas for betterment: allow students to develop the areas they will cover in their portfolios, increase professional viability of portfolios, consistent advisor participation. I know other people out there have even better ideas about this too (I heard you grumbling...).

Will things change? They could, but whatever happens...

I won’t be here to know about it!

Hopeful Graduation to all and to all a good night.


Portfolio Student


Want to know more? Submissions? Questions?? Email us at

Zombies in Aisle 9 | Cell Chatting & Shopping

By Robert Felthousen, MLIS Alum, Class of 2006

A fact of life since the invention of the marketplace (Nineveh, 8000 BC) is that you can’t go shopping without running into other shoppers. A modern corollary to this is that you can’t go shopping without running into shoppers who are talking on their cell phones. Aisle after aisle it’s the same thing: listless carts half-filled with jumbled crap; half-pushed by sluggish, staggering zombie shoppers; gazing at without seeing the shelves; occasionally clutching at jars of baby food or motor oil with unfeeling, blocky hands; moaning as the damned into their cell phones. “Uhhh,” they intone. “Well did she eat the macaroni? Well did she eat any of the ham? Uhhh… Well give her the worm medicine anyway. I think it’s in pantry somewhere… Uhhh… Uhhh… Uhhh…” And so on in dead monotone, endlessly and pointlessly.

A lifetime of watching zombie movies through my fingers (early childhood experiences imply that it is rude to watch through other people’s fingers) has confirmed one deadly fact, a fact that is as true in Night of the Living Dead as it is in the Albertsons near my apartment: zombies appear as swarms, not solitaires. Somewhere behind one cell-phone-zombie-shopper there’s sure to be another cell-phone-zombie-shopper, and another and another, and so on forever, good night and amen.

The cell-phone-zombie-shopper phenomenon is a subject of considerable sociological research. Early findings indicate that, no matter where one starts listening in a supermarket, subsequent zombie-cell-phone-talkers engage in slightly more stupid cell phone conversations than the previous zombie-cell-phone-talkers encountered. For example, immediately following the “macaroni-ham-and-worm-medicine” zombie, one might expect to overhear a conversation like this one: “Uhhh… What are you eating? Oh yeah, ice cream? What kind? Double-chocolate-fudge? Has it got sprinkles on it? Oh yeah, and a chocolate waffle cone? Is it good?

Now, I am neither a brave nor particularly not-cowardly man. But the urge is strong in me to shake such a zombie by the shoulders, to find some shred of life or humanity lingering in the dead, clouded eyes; the urge to shriek is even stronger: Is it good? It’s double-chocolate-fudge ice cream with sprinkles and a chocolate waffle cone! How could it be anything but good? Which leads to the second component of current sociological research: not only is each subsequent conversation slightly more stupid than the last, I personally find it more irritating. At this point, I suppose I should point out that all current sociological research on the topic of cell-phone-zombie-shopping is conducted by me, and has yet to be peer reviewed. But research is research, and if the Journal of Abnormal Psychology can’t bother to call me back, that’s their problem.

And so the end draws near. In any worthwhile zombie invasion, the early days are marked only by a sense of unease, perceptible to only a few; meanwhile, the horde grows. Indeed, three or four years ago, one might only encounter three or four zombies on a single shopping trip. But the swarm grows by incorporating the unwary into its body. One year you’re mildly irritated at the rudeness of shoppers who lurch among the aisles, cell phone plastered to the side of their head… and the next year it’s you, motionless in front of the pasta section, hands limp on a diagonally-oriented cart that blocks both sides of the aisle… it’s you, mindless and gaping, explaining how to use the defrost feature of a microwave oven in dead, monotonous syllables… it’s you, while I stand there behind you, waiting for you to finish your stupid conversation, to take notice that people are actually shopping while you stand there blocking the rotini that’s on sale for a dollar. Not three yards away, a soccer mom in faded Levis and a navy blue baseball cap watches, infected by your cellular zombie-bite. Her eyes gloss over as she realizes there’s no reason she can’t call her sister and talk about what should have happened on last week’s episode of Lost… and so it happens. Another hapless soul is lost, drawn into the ravening zombie horde.

What is one to do? I am no hero, people. I am no Ken Foree at the Monroeville mall. At best, I can hope to be the shabby eccentric, lurching through the streets and rambling incoherently about the impending zombie massacre. That’s not much of prize: I mean, we all know what happens to that guy in the zombie movie. After warning (and being laughed at by!) the sheriff, that guy ends up as zombie food, only to be found in the second act by the same sheriff, who mournfully states, “I guess that guy was right after all.” Well, fate is fate, I suppose, so here goes:

Cell phones do not belong in supermarkets. There, I said it. Supermarkets are supposed to be bastions of silence and personal space, a place where I can compare bathroom tissue prices for hours, or handle every yellow bell pepper at least twice before deciding I want broccoli instead, or linger at the newsstand and read Mad Magazine from cover to cover – without having someone’s stupid conversation shoved into my ear like so many moldy carrots down a garbage disposal; without having to wait for someone to move their cart so I can get around them because they’re too busy arguing about their deceased grandmother’s birth date to notice they’re in a public place; and without being traumatized by someone else’s intimate details, casually strewn about the supermarket aisles like so much dirty underwear. (An actual conversation – not reprinted in consideration of the squeamish – involved sex, reproductive organs in pain afterwards, and the unexplained-but-certainly-ominous-sounding mushroom treatment… which apparently “didn’t work.”)

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m not “up with the times.” I doubt it; you might as well say that the survivors of a zombie holocaust are “not with it” for their disinterest in devouring living brains or general lack of moaning and staggering skills. I say rudeness is rudeness, no matter the circumstances: one shouldn’t talk on a cell phone in the supermarket, because doing so is rude. So there, I’ve warned the sheriff. Don’t get caught up in the zombie horde. I’ve become that guy, and my part in this twisted tale of the living dead and the annoyed living is almost complete. Now I do hope you’ll excuse me. It’s time for me to go shopping. I’ve got to pop in my earbuds, crank up my iPod, and sing/talk my favorite 80s classics in a dreadfully off-key monotone. Cell phone zombies do their thing, I do mine. They may be hungry for living brains, but I’m just hungry…like the wolf!