Open community access to wireless is no longer optional for quality library service

I had a peculiar experience today. A community patron called, asking if they could come to the Roane State Community College library to use our wireless to buy books for her 9 year old granddaughter’s Nook. She bought the Nook for her granddaughter because she loves to read, but the grandmother lacks the home internet access required to download eBooks.

She contacted a local public library and was informed that current policies do not allow community guests to access their wireless network with personally owned devices.

The grandmother contacted us to ask if we had freely available wireless access for guests. We do. I told her we would be glad to help her connect and purchase eBooks for her Nook. However, if she just needed free wireless access, she might consider McDonald’s as another convenient option.

She’s coming to visit us, and I am glad. It was a peculiar feeling to suggest that the local McDonald’s might be more conducive place to obtain eBooks than her local public library.

This is not a criticism of our local public libraries. They are doing the best they can with the resources at hand. Just a bit disorienting to ponder this one as a hint of what 21st century librarianship has become.

Open access to wireless internet is no longer an optional add-on for quality library service. Easy, reliable wireless access has become the backbone of everything we do.


Note: This entry is cross-posted at TBR Mobile Libraries, a new blogging project I am sharing with other Tennessee Board of Regents librarians. That blog is focused primarily on TBR efforts to establish mobile-friendly library collections and services. Occassionally, posts there intersect with concerns of  Ubiquitous. Quotidian., which remains my own personal blog-child.

Would the Buddha use an iPad?

Interesting fact about me: I follow dozens of blogs about iPad, iOS and other Apple accouterments and yet remain relatively uninformed about the actual workplace conditions of the factory workers in China who assemble these miracle devices. There have been many recent stories, of varying credibility, about the work conditions in Apple’s Chinese manufacturing units.

I hear stories about dust explosions, blindness and suicide nets. And yet, somehow, I never can find my way to read the entire story. I hear a whisper of something ill afoot and my mind grays out.

I don’t have this problem when reading about the latest iOS upgrade features, the comparison points of new iPad vs. iPad2 or keeping track of the best new free apps.

This is called practiced avoidance. Some call it compassion fatigue. It is, undoubtedly, a kind of moral disconnect.

And yet, I feel oddly relieved to read that the recent “This American Life” story about the deplorable conditions at FoxConn were made up. As if, somehow, I can simultaneously credit myself for being more informed about the working conditions of the people who make iStuff and yet also feel absolved of some of my own complicity in the horror since this one story wasn’t properly fact-checked.

I think Erik Sherman has this one right:

Too many people will use This American’s retraction to smooth over their momentary discomfort at using products that require harsh working conditions to maintain cheaper prices and corporate margins. But the problems remain — not just for iPads and iPhones, but also for all those Android devices, many TV sets, radios, GPS units, just about every other electronic wonder of modern life. Daisey’s reporting may be phony, but when you look at the bigger picture of most consumer electronics manufacturing, he was right. The biggest shame will be if people use this episode as an excuse to go happily back to dreamland.

He’s right. I’m not throwing away my iStuff, but I’ve got to sit with this one for a while. Everything and everyone is interconnected. That’s a Noble Truth. Suffering is inescapable and happens to everyone. That’s another Noble Truth. Attachments (like to iStuff) create suffering. Yet another Noble Truth.

I’m going to continue using my iStuff knowing that the creation process harms others and probably harms the environment. Where’s the mindfulness in that?

Would the Buddha use an iPad? I don’t know. Probably not. But if he did, he wouldn’t let himself pretend that his iPad appeared magically on a lotus petal one morning. That iPhone came from somewhere. Somebody made it. Making it might have cost them something. It might have cost them a lot. It almost certainly cost them more to make it than it does for me to use it.

Sit with that. That’s mindfulness for you.


First World Problems?

While I’ve been busy blogging about my frustrations with upgrading to iOS5, Sarah Houghton (Librarian in Black) has been busy telling the world how librarians got screwed by the recent deal between Overdrive and Amazon. Basically, Amazon has agreed to make Overdrive eBooks super simple for registered library patrons. In exchange, library patrons’ reading histories and other personal data will become property of Amazon. Amazon users should already be familiar with this practice as it is a standard aspect of the Amazon EULA (you do read those, right?).

Library patrons will also have the chance to purchase the borrowed books they especially enjoy.

Nothing sinister on the surface, perhaps. I like getting book recommendations from Amazon based on what I bought that others bought.

But LiB is correct in her righteous fuming to chastise us librarians for being so willing to turn a blind eye to the privacy concerns so quickly in order to catch the eContent we need to satisfy demand. We need to have a conversation about this, even if, at the end of the day, we sign on to the deal anyway.

Watch the video and let me know what you think of her arguments. BTW, parts of her rant are NSFW.

More than a few comments suggest that privacy is such a 20th century idea. At least one person calls Sarah’s privacy concerns a “First World problem”. Having to get more memory so I can upgrade to iOS5 is the very definition of a First World Problem. Not wanting to easily surrender the idea that “free people read freely” and privately may be a First World problem of sorts. If so, it is the underpinnings of our First World way of life.

The trouble with iStuff

A few days ago, I wrote about my quite quotidian problem with iOS5. “My iOS5 Dilemna” was my most read to date, but I feel little embarrassed by it. I was already feeling embarrassed while I was writing it.

The word dilemna sounds like I can’t figure out how to solve this fairly mundane problem. I am grateful to my several friends who helpfully pointed out that I might resolve this entire situation with a second, bigger external hard drive. This is good, practical advice and I am grateful for their product recommendations.

As usual, my friend Daryl knew what I was writing about even before I did. Daryl pointed out that the trouble with iStuff is the need to sync them to a “real computer”. That’s what it comes down to. I love my iStuff: iPod, iPhone, iPad. I don’t mind playing around with iTunes and shoving files around from device to device.

I just don’t like having to maintain my laptop. Upgrading software, backing things up. There’s the weak link with iStuff. My iPod, iPhone and iPad are only as useful as my ability to keep my “real computer” up-to-date and performing well.

Writing and syncing my iStuff are pretty much the only two things I do with my laptop these days. Still, when my laptop runs up against a performance wall, my iStuff suffers.

That’s annoying.


My iOS5 dilemna

People are asking me what I think about all the great new features loaded into iOS5. It is sweet of them to ask. By asking, they are implying that they think of me as one of those people who is always at the leading edge of things. I like to be thought of that way. Unfortunately, it isn’t true. Here’s the blog post to burst that bubble.

I haven’t upgraded to iOS5 yet. I tried to but I don’t have enough free memory on my laptop. More precisely, I no longer have enough free memory on my laptop to fully backup my iPad and iPhone, which is, in my mind, a requirement before installing a new operating system.

Not enough memory? How is that possible, you ask? Isn’t memory pretty much free these days. Yes and no. Here’s my situation:

I use an HP Pavilion with a 105 GB hard drive. I have only 2.25GB free. Most of the used space is occupied by music. All of the music on my laptop is currently also backed up on a 60 GB book. The rest of my music is on a 120GB external hard drive which I currently have no way to back up.

In order to free enough space to back up my iPad and iPhone, I will need to offload some or all of my music files onto the external hard drive. Since I have no way to backup that off-loaded data once it is moved, this option makes me very nervous.

Still, I’m planning to move it all over to the external hard drive and free up lots of space on my laptop so I can do backups, update operating systems and resume podcast downloads as well.

First, I’ve got to find time to move the files and then have iTunes map the files out again. Not much for me to actually do while this is happening, but I want to keep an eye on it in case there are problems.

Then the actual updates for iTunes, iPhone and iPad. That’s probably an hour or so of patiently waiting.

Simplest solution: get a new laptop with more memory. I’m eager to move from Vista to Windows 7 anyway. That, however, costs money, which is, by the way, in short supply these days.

So there you have it. The simple, sad but true reason why I haven’t upgraded yet. I expect to upgrade this weekend so I can once again be the kind of person people ask for an opinion on the swank new features hidden in the new OS.

And yes, I am fully aware that there is nothing in this post of sufficient import to set the world on fire. To my social activist friends, yes, I do realize that these are fake, First World problems. I say with all humility, “The First World is where I live.”


The Great Netflix/Qwikster Debacle: My bottom line

A few months ago, Netflix announced that it was going to split subscription plans for DVD-by-mail and video streaming, effectively charging more for customers wanting both services. The Twitterverse, Blogosphere, Facebook Nation and other nonexistent places convulsed.

I didn’t care. I never felt like I was really paying enough for the services, and $17/month seemed pretty reasonable.

Yesterday, we learned that Netflix is splitting itself into two companies. Netflix will continue to handle the video streaming service. A new company, Qwikster, will handle DVD-by-mail. Apparently, the new Qwikster company, will operate from a separate website with a separate account.

I get why they are doing this.

I don’t like it. Here’s why:

Netflix has been a great company. They provide excellent customer service, operate a clean, easy-to-navigate website, and experience very little down time. When the site crashes, even for a moment, they send an apologetic email.

When DVDs get damaged in the mail, you can report the problem and order a replacement disc with no hassle.

They ship your next disc as soon as they receive your returned disc.

They offer good inventory with a list that is easy to plan your viewing by priortizing DVD-by-mail alongside streaming on demand.

The best thing about Netflix is the recommendation engine, the ratings and the ability to plan your viewing with a mix of streaming and non-streaming.

I’m a sucker for making lists and rating things. That’s a separate post. For now, let’s just say that Netflix is a fun website to browse and play with.

I will stay with Netflix/Qwikster if they keep my list together and allow me to manage all of my viewing from one location. If I have to maintain two lists and can only rate movies that I watched in streaming on one and by DVD on the other, and those two lists can’t blend, I’m dropping Qwikster and going streaming only.

I can shell out the $1/day for my RedBox must see new releases.

More personal than underwear

A few days ago, my wife asked to borrow my iPhone. She was going on a short roadtrip and wasn’t exactly sure of the directions. We had printed out her MapQuest directions, but she thought the iPhone GPS would come in handy if she got in a pinch.

I balked.

Now, understand, I was pretty much planning on staying home and doing nothing particularly interesting. I can’t really offer any especially brilliant thing I was planning to actually do with my phone for the few hours she would be gone.

Still, I balked.

This is a person with whom I share bites of food, bed space and the occasional head cold. We are pretty close.

Still, I couldn’t quite hand the iPhone over.

There’s something especially personal for me about my phone. I’m not sure I totally understand the nature of the relationship.

Am I sick? Am I a bad husband? Or is lending my iPhone somewhat akin to lending someone my underwear?

Your comments welcome.