why we can have nice things

I was super excited to speak at a symposium at Metro, the Metropolitan New York Library Council, which organizes some wonderful programs for librarians and other cultural workers in the city. The theme was Libraries in the Context of Capitalism and it drew participants from all over and from different lines of work. Two days…

the black box problem

Reposted from Inside Higher Ed;  image courtesy of Dan Lingard. There’s another fascinating study out from the Stanford History Education Group, the folks who studied high school and college students’ capacity to figure out what news is fake, finding that they don’t really know how to do that. Turns out – surprise! – trained historians don’t really know…

how libraries became public II

Reposted from Inside Higher Ed; photo courtesy of Toshiyuki IMAI Here’s another interesting thing about the origins of American public libraries. We have women to thank for most of them. Oh, sure, Andrew Carnegie had something to do with it. Unlike his fellow mega-rich philanthropists who built libraries, he didn’t want to build palaces. He…

how libraries became public

Reposted from Inside Higher Ed; photo courtesy of ktbuffy. Of all of our cultural institutions, the public library is remarkable. There are few tax-supported services that are used by people of all ages, classes, races, and religions. I can’t think of any public institutions (except perhaps parks) that are as well-loved and widely used as…

How Information Is Organized

I like to point out, whenever possible, how library systems encode bias just as newer algorithmic search systems literally encode it while seeming blissfully, mechanically, inhumanly incapable of being anything but neutral. I’m reminded of something one of our faculty members said when discussing what critical concepts about information our students should grasp. Information has…

practicing freedom for the post-truth era

This is the text of a talk I gave at the University of New Mexico last week sponsored by the Marjorie Whetstone Ashton endowment and the university library instruction team. Thanks, team! A PDF version can be downloaded from my library’s institutional repository or from Humanities Commons. Abstract: Why do we encourage students to read…

matter of facts

Reposted from Inside Higher Ed; image courtesy of Martin Sommer Remember “truthiness”? Stephen Cobert, in his parodic role of a brash conservative talk show personality, coined it in 2005 and it seemed to nail a fact of political life: politicians often said things that seemed true, that felt true, that appealed to an audience as…

burning Issues for Operation 451

Reposted from Inside Higher Ed. A lot of people were disgusted when they heard Simon & Schuster will publish a book by Milo Yiannopoulos, a notorious right-wing troll who makes a career of offending people and hounding his chosen enemies through mass intimidation. He has even been banned from Twitter, which is incredibly difficult to…

British libraries under threat

Reposted from Inside Higher Ed ; photo courtesy of @5thNovDemo There’s something pretty amazing about the idea of a public library. It’s the one place where everyone in the community is welcomed – all ages, all races, all religions, all political persuasions. It’s a place where you can borrow things for free and nobody sneers…