Friday, January 16, 2009

And the Nominees Are...

Link to the Mystery Writers of America news release.

Schools Feel the Pain This Time Around

Link to January 15 post, "Economics sore subject for public schools".

Two years ago, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) vowed that 2008 would be the “year of education.” He laid the groundwork by establishing a high-profile commission that urged an overhaul of the state public school system — and $10.5 billion in additional spending.

But that was before the nation dove headlong into economic crisis, and before California policymakers realized their state would be deep in the red. In late 2008, Schwarzenegger met with educators and dropped this bombshell: Schools needed to brace for cuts of more than $2 billion.

The story is the same throughout the country. States and school districts have begun pinching pennies wherever they can. Economy measures include changing school bus routes, forcing children to walk farther; buying fewer new library books and assigning librarians to multiple schools; and asking parents to help supply such basics as toilet paper. For the first time in a generation, New York’s Schuylerville Central School District was forced to boost its school lunch price — to $1.50 from $1.25.

I think it's disingenuous to include the two "bolded" items above, as the choking-off-the-life-of -school-libraries trend was well underway before this most recent economic downturn.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

From the Land of the Palmettos

South Carolina State Senator Robert Ford (D-Charleston) has introduced a bill that would make it a felony to use profanity, oral or written, in a public forum. You can learn the status of this bill and 76 other bills and resolutions that he has sponsored here.

Based on a sampling of his colleagues' websites, I'd say that Sen. Ford's bill sponsorship is on the high side. And I'll also say, with no fear of argument, that nobody has a worse legislative record than he does. In the 2007-2008 session, he was the primary sponsor of 66 bills, none of which passed. In the 2005-2006 session, he was 0-for-40. 2003-2004? 0-for-38.

My guess is that this bill's goin' nowhere.

Most interesting item in his biography: arrested 73 times during civil rights movement.

Thanks to the heads up from techdirt.

Simon and Schuster Introduces a Redesigned Website

PW announcement here. Go directly to Simon & Schuster here.

As I clicked my way through the A-Z author lists, I had to ask myself. "Is this a Manhattan phone directory? What kind of list do they have in good economic times?"

But then Simon & huster is the world's largest publishers of books in the English language.

You'll Want to Subscribe to This

Congratulations to Gerard Saylor, Director of the L. D. Fargo Library (Lake Mills), winner of the 2008 Wisconsin Library Webbies "best of the Best" award.

And hats off to Jeff Dawson, Director of the Lester Public Library (Two Rivers) for broadcasting Gerard's creativity via Tame the Web.

Front-Pager on the Wall Street Journal

Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries

Link to "Folks Are Flocking to the Library, a Cozy Place to Look for a Job".

With this sub-headline: "Books, Computers and Wi-Fi Are Free, But Staffs Are Stressed by Crowds, Cutbacks".

Love the opener: The financial crisis has caused a lot of withdrawals at the public library.

Survey says

"Social Networks Grow: Friending Mom and Dad"

Link to January 14 Pew Internet & American Life Project report.

The share of adult internet users who have a profile on a social networking site has more than quadrupled in the past four years -- from 8% in 2005 to 35% now, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project's December 2008 tracking survey.

Still, younger online adults are much more likely than their older counterparts to use social networks, with 75% of adults 18-24 using these networks, compared with just 7% of adults ages 65 and older. At its core, use of social networks is still a phenomenon of the young.

Retiring Guy lives in a divided household. Older son Andy has "friended" me on Facebook; younger son Eddie has not. Make that will not.

Assembly Democrats to ban fundraising during budget

Link to January 14 Capital Times article.

Democrats in control of the state Assembly intend to pass a rule banning campaign contributions while the state budget is being debated.

The ban on donations to individual lawmakers will be in effect from when the governor introduces his budget until it is passed, Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan said Wednesday.

And what of the Senate?

A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Schofield, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Pay-to-play archives, reports, and news releases.

Wisconsin Assembly speaker aims for bipartisanship with budget

Link to January 15 Oshkosh Northwestern article.

The newly elected Democratic leader of the state Assembly says he wants to include Republicans in solving the state’s $5.4 billion budget problem, but until Wednesday he hadn’t reached out to them and now his motives are being questioned.

Speaker Mike Sheridan of Janesville said that he plans to meet with Minority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, later this month to talk about the budget. That meeting is planned even though there is no obligation for the party in control to consult with the minority, in this case Republicans.

Fitzgerald's view: [He] said he hasn’t been approached by Doyle or any Democrats working on the budget and he doesn’t expect to be."It’s just not going to happen," he said. "They’re going to have bigger problems among themselves. I don’t expect them to invite us to the table."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wikipedia Bulks Up

Link to January 13 Network World post, "Wikipedia gears up for explosion in digital media".

Wikipedia is gearing up for an explosion in digital content with new servers and storage designed to handle larger photo and video uploads.

Video file sizes are quickly reaching the dozens and hundreds of megabytes, and the proliferation of high-megapixel cameras means even small photos can take up a few megabytes, says Brion Vibber, CTO at the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia. Until early 2008, the user-generated encyclopedia's primary media file server had just 2TB of total space, Vibber says.

"For a long time, we just did not have the capacity [to handle very large media files]," he says.

Wikipedia has since scaled up from 2TB to 24TB and now 48TB of storage for its primary medial file server, and recently raised file upload limits from 20MB to 100MB. The amount of storage actually being used is about 5TB but that will grow quickly, Vibber says.

Follow-ups to the Internet Safey Technical Task Force

New York Times: "Report Calls Online Threats to Children Overblown", wherein we learn that Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal is the one Attorney General who refused to sign on.

Cory Doctorow's boingboing post, "Internet is full of bullies, not pedophiles".

Summary/commentary from the Technology Liberation Front.

A Remarkable Publishing Success Story

Link to Doug Moe's January 12 Wisconsin State Journal column, "Against odds, lit journal finds success".

The conversation 15 years ago went something like this.

"I want to do a magazine," John Lehman said, "that will publish short stories and poetry. And I want to sell it coast to coast."

His friend Rod Clark said, "Do you have half a million dollars?"

Lehman had considerably less than that, but he invested what he had in a literary journal that he called Rosebud, and a funny thing happened. It succeeded.

Over the years, Rosebud -- which celebrates its 15th anniversary with its new issue -- has published a short story by Ray Bradbury, a poem by Stephen King, and cover art by Paul McCartney, but for Lehman there may have never been a sweeter moment than one near the beginning.

Collection development alert: Only 4 LINK libraries subscribe. (11 Wisconsin locations found in WorldCat.)

Assembly Majority Leader Tom Nelson says school funding overhaul unlikely

Link to January 14 Appleton Post-Crescent article.

Educators who think the state's funding formula for public schools has a better chance of an overhaul under Democratic control should not hold their breath.

"The timing could not be worse," said Assembly Majority Leader Tom Nelson, D-Kaukauna, whose party will have to deal with a state budget deficit that could swell to a record $5.4 billion by 2011.

The bleak scenario has left school districts like Kaukauna with little choice but to talk about teacher layoffs in excess of more than 10 percent if it receives state aid in 2009-10 at a lower rate than the current year.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

1,000,000 First Printing!!

It's the 1st publishing phenomenon of 2009.

And Retiring Guy wants to know what all the fuss is about. (I'm #290 on the LINKcat hold list.)

PW review here.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid blog.

And, apparently, there's a movie in the works.

Net threat to minors less than feared

Link to January 13 "Larry Magid at Large" cnet news post.

A long awaited report from the Internet Safety Technical Task Force concludes that children and teens are less vulnerable to sexual predation than many have feared. The report also questions the efficacy and necessity of some commonly prescribed remedies designed to protect young people.

The task force was formed as a result of a joint agreement between MySpace and 49 state attorneys general.

Would You Ruin Your Life for This?

He did.

Must Be a Different Set of Rules

The book (and author) under fire

Summary from the front page of today's New York Times:
Book Fuels Autism Debate
A pediatrician who wrote a book criticizing the belief that vaccines cause autism has received death threats.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Grim story of survival in the library

View Larger Map

Buffalo & Erie County Library (Central)
(A sunny day in Buffalo. Google got lucky.)

Link to January 12 column by Charity Vogel in the Buffalo News.

The cold has brought them in again. It happens every year. Like swallows to Capistrano, in reverse, they come not to escape the heat but to find it. Bedraggled and grim-faced, weighed down by tattered duffels and beat-up thermoses, they trickle in as temperatures drop.

The Latest Tempest in a Teapot

Revealed: the Environmental Impact of Google Searches.

Not Quite the Full Story on the Environmental Impact of Google Searches.

"Don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars."

Link to David Carr's January 12 "The Media Equation" column on the front business page of the New York Times, "Let's Invent an iTunes for News".

Summary on "Inside the Times" page.

You Owe $1.99 for This Summary
David Carr is hoping that someone invents an iTunes for the news and convinces the millions of readers who get their news every day free on newspaper sites that it's time for pay up. Maybe then a hemorrhaging newspaper industry would survive.

David, the horses are already out of the barn, enjoying the starlight.

Fiction Reading Increases for Adults

Link to January 11 New York Times article.

After years of bemoaning the decline of a literary culture in the United States , the National Endowment for the Arts says in a report that it now believes a quarter-century of precipitous decline in fiction reading has reversed.

The report, “Reading on the Rise: A New Chapter in American Literacy,” being released Monday, is based on data from “The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts” conducted by the United States Census Bureau in 2008. Among its chief findings is that for the first time since 1982, when the bureau began collecting such data, the proportion of adults 18 and older who said they had read at least one novel, short story, poem or play in the previous 12 months has risen. (A poem?)

Precipitous? As in falling off a precipice?

I'd say more like a steady decline.

And in the actual number of people (very roughly calculated, I'll confess), it's an increase.
92,400,000 in 1982
94,200,000 in 2008

But not a result to point to with pride. (I wonder what the percentage would be if the survey was limited to novels?)

Milwaukee city, county populations in decline, forecasters say

Link to January 11 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.


From his 10th-floor office near Capitol Square in Madison, state demographer David Egan-Robertson can see the future of Milwaukee.

And it's shrinking.

Between the 2000 census and the year 2035, Egan-Robertson calculates that Milwaukee County's population will decline by some 77,000 residents. That projected loss will knock down the county's population from 940,164 in 2000 to 863,000 in 2035.

Egan-Robertson, of the state's Demographic Services Center, also calculates that the city of Milwaukee's population will decline from 596,974 residents in 2000 to 544,000 in 2030.

"The experience of Milwaukee is not terribly different from other large cities," Egan-Robertson said. "If you look at the metropolitan area beyond the borders of the city, it's a fairly common experience. I don't know if Milwaukee likes to be compared to places like Detroit, but compared to Detroit it's doing OK."

Population estimates are the demographic version of gazing into a crystal ball. They point to the future, but that future is by no means guaranteed.

Wisconsin 2035 report found here.

Of note.

Table 5: Wisconsin population projections by 5-year groups, all persons. (p. 11)

Figure 6: Wisconsin county growth rates. (p.14)

Figure 7: Proportion of county population age 65 and older. (p. 18)

Microsoft Excel files detailing state, county, and municipal projections are found at

(See also page 24 of report.)

Interesting projections in Retiring Guy's neck of the woods.

City (2005 estimated pop.) (2030 projected pop.)

(Currently unlibraried) Fitchburg (22,677) (34,488)

Middleton (16,803) (22,308)

Sun Prairie (24,458) (40,948)

Verona (9,289) (17,488)

(The only) Waunakee (in the world) (10,460) (17,996)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Number of women in state Legislature declining

Link to January 10 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.

Freshman Rep. Kelda Helen Roys (D-Madison) had a unique challenge when running for a seat in the Legislature: She had to defeat five male opponents in the primary to win.

"Most women who run for office don't have to beat so many guys," said Roys, who was unopposed in the general election

She is one of just 29 women serving in this session of the Legislature - about 22% of the 132 members. It's the smallest group of female lawmakers in 20 years and a sharp decline from the 37 women elected to the 2003-'04 and 1989-'90 Legislatures.

There are seven women in the 33-member Senate [4 Democrats and 3 Republicans] and 22 [16 Democrats and 6 Republicans] in the 99-member Assembly.

Saving Money at the Library

Link to Stacy Vogel "Cover to Cover" blog at the Janesville Gazette (from January 8).

Interesting, mostly positive, group of comments.