Information Literacy


I’ve been mentally marinating on this whole “Gaming and Libraries” movement (or whatever you want to call it) for awhile now, and when I saw the “Inside Higher Ed” article “When ‘Digital Natives’ Go to the Library” posted on Techmeme this evening, I decided that, even though I don’t feel as if I’ve fully sorted everything out yet, it’s an important topic, and one that seems to be popping up everywhere. Also, as this blog is as much an iterative conversation with myself (which generally leads to this kind of rambling) as it is with whoever comes across it, I figured I’d roll with it and see where it took me.

First of all, full disclosure, every guy I’ve ever dated has been a moderate to hard-core PC gamer: Wolfenstein, Diablo, Diablo II, CounterStrike, WarCraft, World of Warcraft….you name it, if it was an RPG/MMORPG, they played it. So, when I first heard that librarians were going gung-ho for gaming (say that three times fast), I was a little puzzled. I didn’t see the connection between what my geeked out boyfriends were (and still are) doing and what I viewed as the standard “library mission,” (assist/provide environment in which patrons can seek wanted/needed information). And in a lot of ways, I’m still pretty skeptical.

The points on which the “Gaming in Libraries” proponents and I do see eye to eye on are as follows:

  • You shouldn’t have to “RTFM” to use the system. Or, in slightly less blunt terms, systems should have “lowered consequences of failure,” as James Paul Gee puts it.
  • Reward exploration. Games do. Wikipedia does. Library systems should.
  • Make it fun! See: Wikipedia.  When was the last time you went to your library’s OPAC and thought, “YAY! I get to look for literary criticism of A Moveable Feast!” Granted, Wikipedia is intended to serve as a jumping-off point, but still…get my point? FUN.
  • Patrons want to self-serve, for many reasons. I have a library degree, and I still get a little intimidated going to the reference desk. Part of that is my innate pig-headedness in not wanting to ask for help, but a lot of that is my instinctual response of not wanting to admit that I don’t know…whatever it is that I don’t know, and I know I’m not alone in that. Additionally, I’m very rarely in the physical library when I have a reference question. I’m not saying IM reference is a silver bullet, but it helps create another avenue for patrons to request assistance, and is one that gamers and just straight-up “digital natives” (like myself) are very familiar with.

I know that I’m not saying anything here that many, many other library bloggers haven’t also said many, many times about library systems. And I do agree with the “Gaming in Libraries” proponents that, for some people, until you have a visceral, physical, kinesthetic (thanks, SLIM, for that word) experience with some forms of technology (gaming being one of those), you’ll probably not ever fully understand the mentality of a lot of those moderate-to-hardcore gamer patrons. That being said, I think that it’s very possible to glean a lot of these “why people like games better than OPACs” points without actually becoming fully proficient at Halo 2.

My two cents. For an interesting look at the geek perspective on this article, take a look at some of these (surprisingly library-positive, given Slashdot’s usual tone) comments on this article.

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Prometeus – The Media Revolution

In the grand tradition of EPIC 2014 and 2015, meet Prometeus, which I discovered courtesy the ACRLog.

It’s an interesting video, although the implication that Lessig is completely against copyright is a bit much.

Other than that, though, I’m still mulling.

Tech dilettante in full effect here. Be forewarned that this is my interpretation of the goings-on below, and that I’m just a Google account holder who is trying to navigate this particular minefield as I go. That being said…

 Privacy International recently unrolled its “Privacy Ranking of Internet Service Companies,” and Google was the only one to receive their worst rating, “Comprehensive customer surveillance and entrenched hostility to privacy.”

This has generated a bunch of talk/chatter in the general blogosphere (see this snapshot of Techmeme at 4PM yesterday) and the biblioblogosphere (Library Stuff, Librarian in Black).

Google has responded to many of the concerns voiced in the (according to Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land, not-well-thought-out) report. They’ve indicated that they will:

  • Anonymize their server log data (this doesn’t include the information of  those of us who have voluntarily signed up for a personalized Google service) 
  • Consider cookie expiration (which, even though I have an idea of what that actually means…still sounds like rotten baked goods to me).

I had a mini-debate about this with one of my library school buddies about this, and he and Google have a similar argument: retaining and tracking information (in this particular case, server logs) about users adds value by allowing Google to refine their search quality. I don’t dispute this. What concerns me is that Google is that, beyond server logs, they are storing data and building intricate, individualized profiles without an easy way for the customer to find and have control over the data that has been stored about him/her.

To this end, Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land brings up a John Battelle suggestion from 2006 that seems to be an excellent potential solution to all this hoo-ha: a Privacy Control Panel/Dashboard, so that users could see what data has been stored, where, and for how long.

As someone who was entranced by the potential shiny, happy utility of the services that Google offers and who likely didn’t read the EULA as carefully as I should have, this would defnitely ease some of my concerns.

First, please forgive me for badly mangling the well-known quote: “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Though the post concerns statistics, it’s basically:

1) an excuse for me to complain about shoddy Associated Press fact checking…and sports writing

2) a chance to use my complaint as an (admittedly pretty self-serving)  illustration of why information literacy (not to mention critical thinking skills and a healthy distrust of the media) are so important.

 No, I’m not saying that people live and die because of the reporting of the Big 12 regular season championship. It just happens to be an example of, at best, shoddy reporting and fact checking, and at worst, blatant revisionst history, that got me pretty fired up.

Full disclosure: in case you couldn’t tell, I’m a pretty big Jayhawk fan, and I was at the game (and it was an amazing game). But I digress… 

 This is my recap of the game, which I’ve checked against the (hopefully accurate) play-by-play stats listed on espn.com’s website:

 This Saturday, the University of Kansas Jayhawks’ mens basketball team went up against the Texas Longhorns for the Big 12 regular season championship. The Longhorns’ much-vaunted freshman class, with standouts D.J. Augustin and likely Big 12 Player of the Year Kevin Durant, had just come off of a double overtime victory over Texas A&M and looked hungry to get a piece of the Big 12 regular season championship.  The Longhorns played an amazing first half, scoring 11-14 of their three pointers, had a 57% field goal percentage, and led at one point by 16 points (51-35). Durant had 20 points in the first 10 minutes alone.  KU stayed in the game, playing decently, but were down by 12 points at halftime.

 At the beginning of the second half, KU turned things around, and the Longhorns’ shooting cooled down. At the 16:08 mark in the 2nd half, a two point jumper by Julian Wright pulled KU ahead, 58-59. With KU ahead, 65-69, with approximately 11 minutes left in the 2nd half, Durant turned an ankle and left the game, reappearing four minutes later, still hobbling a bit and scoring only 5 more points. KU won the game, after a few more close calls (and some horrible free-throw shooting) 90-86.

 Why am I giving you so much narrative, you ask? It’s because the AP story reporting on the game (which both espn.com and si.com have posted as a game recap) would lead you to believe that the 24-7 run that put KU in the lead did not occur until after Durant left the game.

The story implies that KU’s win was due primarily to Durant’s injury, even though the lead change and 24-7 run came while Durant was still in the game… a full 5 minutes before his injury.

Basically, it makes it sound like the Jayhawks didn’t win this game fair and square, and it doesn’t give them credit for taking on Durant and the Longhorns and coming out victorious.

Obviously, my opinion is completely biased, and I don’t want to put too fine a point on this; it’s not as though the world hinges on college basketball wins and losses.  I do, however, think it’s a fantastic example of the axiom “Don’t believe everything you read.”

Added at5:03 CDT:

Since I posted, espn.com has updated the offending line quoted above to read: “Kansas put together a 24-7 run to win the game, taking a 59-58 lead on Wright’s basket.”

Si.com’s story, however, remains the same.

 Added at 8:45 CDT: The Associated Press has issued a correction. Hallelujah. Si.com, however, is still incorrect.

In case you haven’t been keeping up to date on library goings-on in Lawrence, KS, there’s a bit of a brouhaha about updates (and funding for the updates) to the local public library. On October 2nd, I’m guessing as a result of the brouhaha, the Lawrence Journal-World published an op-ed piece entitled “Libraries are limited, obsolete.”

There have been several responses to this incredibly narrow-minded and ill-informed (which, really, was the nicest phrase I could think of to describe it) opinion piece by: readers of the Journal-World , and the bloggers Michael Stephens and The Librarian in Black that sum up the majority of my views on this subject very nicely, and in a much more diplomatic fashion than I’m capable of, so I’ll leave that to them.

I do have to say that my favorite response was the much-deserved “dumbass” tag that the article received when it was listed in Fark on October 4th. Thumbs up.

And the stream of fantastic PR about the state of Kansas continues….

Edited to add: Since my post, Library Journal published an article about this debate, and listed John Blyberg’s blyberg.net response. After reading his blog post, I decided that, though I agree with the sentiments of the previously listed bloggers, his response gets more to the heart of the issue. Information professionals need to admit to and address the weaknesses of our profession if we can hope to respond effectively to (and, hopefully, be proactive about) public perception of who we are, what we do, and why the public should care.