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Good News, Bad News
May 26, 2011 - 9:45pm

I seem unable to develop a sustained argument about anything right now, so - oh, look, a butterfly! Instead here are some random thoughts. This is more or less my brain on RSS feeds.

First, the bad news:

The Queens Borough Public Library system, recognized as the best library in the country by Library Journal in 2009, stopped buying books this fiscal year, thanks to New York City budget cuts. The New York Daily News just noticed (with an annoying lede about oh noes, you can’t get the latest James Patterson unless you go to another borough. This is insulting to a library system that has possibly the richest collection of contemporary works in South Asian languages in the country.) Faced with either closing branches or not adding new materials, they made what seems to me a responsible choice. This is the most-visited public library system in the country and serves a diverse population with an equally diverse collection. But if you can’t get into the library to check out new books, they’re not much use to anyone. Sadly, in spite of taking a huge hit to keep the library's doors open, next year’s even stingier budget is likely to lead to closing 14 branches.

Bummer. One of my favorite directories of high-quality websites is being decommissioned unless a savior comes along. Intute, I will miss you.

In a surprise move, Google changed its mission. It will now aim to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful - except newspapers.” This was particularly startling to the founder of the company Google bought so it could add digitized newspaper archives to its empire. However, archives of newspapers didn’t generate enough traffic, measured in eyeballs. (That always creeps me out.) If the new dual-boot Google Books portal is any indication, we should stand by for another slight tweak to the mission statement any day now, changing “universally accessible” to “available for sale; regional restrictions may apply.”

Eli Pariser has a further riff on the trouble our eyeballs are getting us into, showing how we are having our search results shaped by where we have been. Soon you won’t encounter anything that interferes with your personal beliefs. Won't that be soothing.

Now, some good news:

As if we needed proof, here’s yet more evidence that Iris Jastram is amazing. It’s pretty neat that she can not only get students to think about why citation styles are different, she can illuminate that documenting sources has a purpose other than self-defense. Kids, I'm going to have to try this at home.

This day in the life of San Francisco Public Library is nifty – and has an inspiring conclusion.I'm such a sucker for the idea of a public library.

MPublishing has released four new books in their spiffy Digital Culture imprint! Note to Queens: here are four books you can afford in spite of budget cuts. Like all of the books in this line, you can read them online for free - or buy a print copy if you prefer.

Ratko Mladic finally got arrested. Stuff happened in Wisconsin. And as I write this it's very nearly Friday. Have a good weekend, everyone.


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