Computers in Libraries Day 1

For No Reason, Here’s Weezy!

General Note  

This year it was all virtual. While it’s not the same as in person, it offered one major improvement; the closed captioning. It wasn’t perfect but live captions never are. It was soooo useful. I always sit up front when these are in person but due to accents, volume, background noise, and 112 other things, I always miss a goodly portion of what the presenters say.

That said, it highlights the need to stop using slides with too much text. I can’t read two places at once. And for those times when the slides are read verbatim, without any further explanation, I wonder why I need the presenter at all. I think this wall-of-text habit is why slides so often get a bad rap. A new skill set, how to best use a slideshow, totally needs to be encouraged. 

Now, onto the sessions.

Tuesday Keynote The New Normal 

Presenter- R. David Lankes

The New Normal is so often laden with a negative connotation. It’s true some of the time but why does that have to be the case all the time? The Old Normal isn’t so great when you think about it:

  • Wealth, health, education gap in communities of color
  • Digitally disconnected communities in rural and urban settings
  • Increasing partisanship and xenophobia
  • Rise in disinformation and social anxiety
  • Attacks on science and sustainability

Normals, be they old or new, are established in large part thanks to knowledge. But the current pillars of Knowledge Infrastructure has problems:

  • Sources- Information and data storehouses
  • People- Citizens, students, experts, neighbors that seek to make meaning
  • Technologies- (Digital) tools used to produce, remix, access, distribute, and hold information and data.
  • Policies- The rules that define what is allowed from what is possible.

Since the onset of Web 2.0, aka when everyday people could contribute to the massive data storehouse that is the internet, we are the biggest data producers. Not just us but also our devices. There is so much data generated automatically thanks to the Internet of Things. For a reason known only to the Q Continuum, we trust the data we produced over the experts. This has led to “The Death of Expertise”. So much data is online but how much is valid? How much is right but not the best way of doing it? Even those sources that ARE reliable aren’t always trusted, thanks to filter bubbles aka confirmation biases. Think Anti-vaxers, flat earthers.

This intentional ignorance of well-establish scientific fact leads many to stop trying to understand people. Yet, compassion for people unlike us, not empathy, is so important. Compassion is the understanding of the struggle, empathy too often results in paralysis where compassion is understanding. To take things away from the Fake News crowd, how many people have always been, essentially, in lockdown because of mobility issues, chronic illnesses? Our locked down butts should now have a little more compassion for them.

Mr. Lankes ended with steps to get to the New Normal. This time the list below is not directly taken from a slide.

  • We should be thinking about being asked for access to our data not giving it up so that we can use technology. Think putting pressure on App designers to change the EULAs.
  • It is time for universal broadband. Huzzah!  
  • Copyright reform! Storytimes were one of the first things to come back…which was illegal because of public broadcast laws.  
  • Default to Open Access for all scholarly works
  • Libraries SHOULD be political because as mentioned earlier, people defer to their filter bubbles when confronted with something new rather than to the experts on the subject. And because they are so wrapped up in their bias, they, as Mr. Lankes said, “don’t trust things that are neutral.”
  • We should have strategic plans that involve the whole community.
  • Here’s a great article on what, specifically, librarians can do:  

Web Redesign

Presenter- Candice Zhu

She is the Manager of Web Applications at Enoch Pratt Free,, and she shared the library’s journey to a shiny new website. Since we’re currently doing the same, albeit on a much smaller scale, I wanted to see if we were overlooking anything. We were, and are, doing pretty well! Here’s list of my takeaways:

  • They used Google Analytics data to evaluate the usefulness of pages. This resulted in the removal of over 1,000 pages to make things easier to find as well as make it more user friendly.
    • This made me refocus on our site’s Google Analytics.
  • They split the roles of coding, photos, and content writing.
    •   We’re much smaller so I tend to do the coding, via a GUI, and content writing. The Marketing Librarian usually does the photo thing.
  • They used Craft for CMS, we’d have to host it though and I’d have to learn TWIG. It’s a clean product, it doesn’t add additional code like WP or Drupal ~$299/year (+ hardware to host) 
  • They just separated landing pages by age.
    • We’ve been doing this for years. (#humblebrag) 
  • Book recommendations should be a thing. 
    • We have Wowbrary sliders and should leverage them more
    • We should also re-introduce Staff Picks 
  • They have a really clean mobile experience
    • I need to work on ours. It’s ok but can stand to be better
  • They created a requirement for alt tags before its allowed to be saved for ADA compliance 
  • Evaluating pages on a regular basis and removing them if not needed is just as (if not more) important as adding new pages.  

Search in a Divided World 

Presenter- Greg Notess

After retiring from Montana State University, and moving to a conservative community he started to see more conservative info when he was online. For example, gun rights ads and SPAM. This led me to wonder, how do the spammers associated email address with geo-location on ISP? Location Services turned on and tied to email address? This seemed to spark his interest in how conversations interact online. The first thing he covered were alternative social media platforms. They often espouse Freedom of Speech, privacy and no ads. Among the ones he covered where:

All but Rumble is hidden from Google/Bing. You must be a member for more info. If you’re not hearing the conservative talk on your current social media accounts, and are interested in seeing what the other half is talking about, create an acctount on the ones above to see what they’re saying.  

Then he covered conservative search engines. They did not always have conservative biased results. They don’t want to give liberal companies like Google business, yet a lot of them are using the Bing or Google custom search tool, not building their own index. Some examples are:

If you’re interested in learning more about the other side, he gave a couple of search techniques: 

  • Know the movement catch phrases 
  • Use Google/Bing with the Site limits operator. Ex wolves 


Presenter- Amy Affelt

The WHO actually uses the word Infodemic. It means too much info is out there and so its tough to see what’s true. The untrue usually fall into two categories; misinformation, which is an innocent mistake and disinformation which is a malicious act.  And not all the disinformation is done by people. A Carnegie Mellon study found that 45-60% twitter accounts discussing Coronavirus are bots. They often link to a limited number of sites promoting the fake news. So it’s not THAT widespread…I guess? But Fake News can kill. For example info from fake news led to people drinking bleach or OD’ing on vitamins. Making it more difficult to suss out fake from news, the blue checkmark of twitter verified accounts can be copy and pasted.

So what can we do? Well, here are 8 Facts to Debunk Fake News on COVID-19 

  • Masks Work  
  • There is no cure for COVID-19  
  • Hospitals are not inflating their coronavirus case numbers in order to gain financially  
  • Coronavirus is more deadly than influenza  
  • The Coronavirus vaccine does not alter DNA  
  • Public health measures such as staying home, using hand sanitizer, and washing hands does not lead to compromised immunity  
  • Current scientific consensus is that Coronavirus originated in animals  
  • A “let ‘er rip” herd immunity strategy would overwhelm the health care system 

She mentioned people are starting to not believe fact checking sites., So we should just point people to hard science or other authoritative sites. This backs up what I heard from the keynote about the New Normal. She also recommended a couple of chrome extensions to get an appointment at a “jab site” (this pandemic has coined so many great words and phrases!): 

Futurizing Facts 

Presenters- Amy Affelt, Marydee Ojala, Kathy Zuczek, and Matthew Donahue

Marydee was the moderator and I think most of my notes came from Amy. Kathy and Matthew work for Factiva and just did a demo on how to dig into who owns a company and if the company’s site is satire, like The Onion, or is serious. Though I did not take notes on their part of the presentation (Alas! it was the last session), the service looks pretty damn useful in this Age of Disinformation.

Since this was the last session of the day for me, my notes devolved to bullets that are tougher to present in a coherent paragraph. so I’m just gonna let ‘er rip:

  • “Does technology help us determine facts?” 
  • “Facts are squiggly” Think maps, scientific discoveries  
  • Between 2004-2018 1800 newspapers go bye-bye. That meant 20% of Americans lost ALL local news coverage.
  • Where to go for Local news now?
    • Twitter is actually a good source of local news
    • Some cities only have their university newspapers for news and stuff like vaccine info 
    • Patch Media, too, is good.
    • Of course, NRP affiliates  
  • Fake News has outlets that sound like papers. Names like Minnesota Star, that aren’t actually newspapers. So vet that info!

Wanna here more of my blathering on? (hmmm, blathering is more of a speech thing, I wonder what the typing equivalent would be. Run-on-sentencing?)

Day 2 Recap!

Day 3 Recap!

2 thoughts on “Computers in Libraries Day 1

  1. Pingback: Computers in Libraries Day 2 – Brad McKenna

  2. Pingback: Computers in Libraries Day 3 – Brad McKenna

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