Alchemical Thoughts

Archive for May 2010

Once again, I have enough clippings to make another list of books I want to read in the not so distant future.

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Welcome to another edition in our semi-regular (read when I feel like it and have time) series Signs that the economy is bad. Since Blogger for some reason is refusing to publish the post (as in some technical glitch b.s.), we have moved our feature this week here to Alchemical Thoughts (I will put this link over there since deity knows what the fuck is the problem with Blogger. It published my other post just fine. Who knows?) Anyhow, this week we have a couple of education related items. So, without out further ado, see the stories below:

  • Even those wanting to teach are having a hard time finding a job. Teaching was often the fallback job; if you could not get a job doing what you really wanted to do, you could always go teach was the saying. It's something I personally resent because teaching is not just something you pick up. I know; I was a public school teacher, and I actually got a degree to prove it. No cheap and quickie certification program for me. However, the conventional wisdom was that teaching in schools, as opposed to teaching college, was recession-proof. Things are so bad now that schools are cutting jobs left and right, thanks to funding cuts (at a time when we should be investing in education, but that is another story). Thus, it seems there is no teacher shortage, and this in a profession that has a very high turnover rate. "Teacher drop out rate: After 3 years, 1/3 of new teachers leave the field; after 5 years, almost half of those new teachers have left" (source. This is just one example. The issue of teacher attrition in the first years of teaching is pretty well known).
  • Part of the reason schools have a hard time getting funding is the issue of using property taxes to fund them. For one, the tax is dependent on property values, which have taken major hits in this economy. Two, a lot of people do whine and complain about paying those taxes under the "I don't have kids, so why should I pay for someone else's kid" attitude. I will tell you why you should pay? Besides education being an investment in our futures, maybe it will keep little Johnny next door from becoming a career criminal and breaking into your house to feed his drug habit. So schools and communities have to find creative ways to supplement their funding. In Long Island, NY, strippers are actually rallying for a pole tax. You heard that right. These ladies are asking to be taxed so they can help fund their schools. How many people out there do you actually hear saying, "hey, I am willing to be taxed just a bit more so we can get a service that benefits us all?" Let me know when the crickets stop chirping. And if I was in Long Island, I'd consider dropping by.
  • Employees are being asked to return money, a decade or so after the fact. This has to qualify as a low someplace. Read the details of what seems a clerical error, but is more like the county in question made the choice to "roll with the error," and are now having regrets. This is kind of cold to be honest, but hey, at least they give you options on how to pay it back.
  • And you know things have to be bad when career placement agencies suggest to females that they should look for work in adult entertainment. The job centers in Great Britain in this story even provided job ads for at least one site. I have nothing personally against adult entertainment, but somehow advertising in a government run job agency does not seem right. Just has enough desperation feel to qualify as a sign that the economy is bad.

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I wrote a draft previously on this topic here, but as Zuckerberg (Facebook's head honcho) keeps baiting and switching his users, I find there is more to say and consider. This is mostly a small list of items I have been reading recently on the topic that I found interesting and/or relevant. I know this is something that, as a librarian, I need to be concerned about and that I should write about more if for not other reason than to clarify my thoughts and help educated my students. As before, I am not sure what direction to take for more substantial writing. There are a couple of angles or perspectives I want to explore that may be too big for one blog post, but I don't necessarily feel like doing a series. In the meantime, here is the list:

I have a few more clips saved, and I may add some of them here, but this certainly provides a good start.

And the updates start:

  • (Update note: Same day): T. Scott reminds us of the old adage that you don't put something online you do not want to see in the front page of the NYT.  Certainly some good, rational thinking here, but I still think along with a few others that FB is pulling a bait and switch. And while for many people, the option to disconnect is there, I would look back at boyd's piece on FB as utility, meaning it may not be as easy to leave. This is specially so for libraries and other institutions who have made their presences in FB and other social services. Yes, we can have the discussion of "well, maybe they should have not done that," but that train left the station long ago, helped along by a lot of librarians advocating libraries do just that. Still, T. Scott's post is a must-read for the discussion. 
  • (Update note: Same day): And the Krafty Librarian replies to T.Scott above. It may be early to predict, but it is looking like my professional brethren are going with the "it's convenient, so you have to give up your privacy" line of reasoning coupled with the "it's your responsibility in the end." Some of which is true, but then makes it easy to let the big corporate honchos who are abusing our sense of privacy and security off the hook.

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Tim Brown, of IDEO, TED Talk

The above video is part of the TED series of talks. I took some time this morning to finally listen to it; I had it clipped in my feed reader for a while. I found a couple of his ideas intriguing, and I found myself wondering how some of this is applicable to librarianship. Now, I am sure a lot of the twopointopians (to borrow the terms from The Annoyed Librarian) would be all over this, so to speak. But I am not talking about just playing for the sake of playing which seems what they often embrace (at times at the detriment of other important library services, but that is a whole other conversation). However, play and creativity should have a role in the work that we do. In fact, it is something I have pondered at some point.

So, these are some of the points Mr. Brown made I found interesting:

  • The idea of starting a company where the employees are friends. This is not an easy thing to do. Even in a small library environment, i.e. one with few workers, it is not always the case that they are friends. Heck, they are barely colleagues in some cases. Now, Brown says that you would want a company where the employees are friends because friendship is a short cut to play. This is because an environment where there is friendship can be one that provides a sense of safety and trust, and with those, then there is security to play and take risks.
  • Playfulness helps us get to better solutions.
  • Brown made a remark about first graders being able to do construction play (build things in class with blocks, etc.). I am not sure how accurate that is anymore given the awful testing climate schools have these days. It seems like play keeps getting removed from schools at earlier stages. And don't even get me started on the schools that minimize or eliminate recess. As the kids get older, the schools take away the things that are useful for constructing and creative play. Librarians barely keep a sense of play, and it seems that when they do, it is not exactly the most effective or constructive.
  • Building quick prototypes gets material faster to clients/patrons. Role play comes into play as well, say for dealing with services.
  • Play is not anarchy; it is that idea where I have issue then with some of my professional brethren, who think that pretty much anything goes for the sake of play. And yes, you should be able to play and experiment. But play does have some rules; watch kids playing: they often follow certain scripts even at their most creative. This is specially applicable in group play. The negotiation of the play rules is what leads to productive play in a group context. 
  • There are also rules of when to play. We transition (or need to learn to do so) in and out of play.
  • "You can be a serious, professional adult, and, at times, be playful." Cool quote. And I like that he used the word professional given how the latest trend in librarianship seems to be questioning or putting down the idea that librarians are professionals (like this guy; but again, that is another conversation). 

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May 2010
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