Why Public Libraries Matter: And How They Can Do More

Forbes • 16 January 2013

Preserving the ecosystem. Branding and social media expert David Vinjamuri presents a passionate defense of public libraries, noting that, "Like the humble starfish that preserves entire marine ecosystems by eating mussels, the American public library is the keystone species in the ecosystem of reading." Read on for Vinjamuri's suggestions on strategies for strengthening libraries' negotiations with publishers and outreach to communities.

What was interesting to me in this article was the way someone (marketing guy and author—read his interview) from outside our domain parsed the challenges. None of this is new to those of us who think about libraries all the time but he suggests ways in which libraries can fill a merchandising role that ought to propel community judgments about value and importance. (Michalko)

Barnes & Noble, the Last Big Bookseller Standing: But for How Long?

Knowledge@Wharton • 16 January 2013

Competing with a crazy man. Wharton marketing professor Stephen Hoch says big-box stores like Barnes & Noble and Best Buy spend a lot of capital functioning as showrooms for online shoppers: "These retailers are competing with a crazy man—Jeff Bezos." But Wharton management prof Daniel Raff says even if B&N can't compete on price and margin, it's possible that adding more passionate bibliophiles to its staff could help it survive as a "destination" like Starbucks and Whole Foods: "The more the retailer can provide service with a face on it and provide amenities, the better chance it has of surviving. You can create a destination for merchandise and prices, but service and a response to your desires will get you ambiance."

Speaking of merchandising the commentators in this article stress the physical stores as assets that are not being used to create an experience that customers want to repeat. Some of them observe, correctly I would maintain, that the repeat experience is a product of knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff. And even though they've lost the type of battle that B&N is still fighting, I've bought all my electronics for the last three years from Best Buy. I found that one really terrific Geek Squad guy. Unfortunately they let the geekdreams domain lapse but the fabulous promo lives on. (Michalko)

Rage Against the Machine

The Smart Set (Drexel University) • 16 January 2013

Putting the Ludd in Luddite. Check out this history of the Luddite movement, which has morphed from simple knitting mill vandalism to a wider backlash against the Industrial and Technology Revolutions. Even if you're familiar with the background story, the transformation of Ned Ludd into a mythological "King Ludd" demonstrates the power of an idea to spark the human imagination and revolt.

Geeks have gone mainstream (witness Geek the Library) so are there any Luddites left? Real ones. I know we toss around this label but usually to indicate someone who is uncomfortable with current computing technology. I don't know that I've heard it used in its proper sense to label somebody who loathes technology because it threatens existing jobs. (To see some lovely old knitting machines still producing clothing in the English Midlands watch this short video from my favorite knitwear supplier.) (Michalko)

Google Declares War on the Password

Wired • 18 January 2013

Password liberation. Google is launching a pilot project to substitute a USB-based cryptographic device for lengthy alphanumeric keys. This latest experiment is aimed at beefing up security while easing the burden on password-overloaded users, but like any physical key—what happens if you lose it?

At OCLC we've been carrying around RSA SecurID fobs for a long time. You get used to it as just one more thing to haul around. I experimented with the two-step authentication process mentioned in the article. You need to be motivated and if you have many devices there will be a lot of application-specific passwords to enter. (Michalko)

The Science of Why Comment Trolls Suck

Mother Jones • 10 January 2013

If you can't say anything nice . . . Flaming posts have seared online comment boards since blogging's inception, but a recent survey of 1,183 respondents shows nasty language can instantly derail all hope of civil dialogue. Read on to find out how the theory of motivated reasoning results in polarized thinking and closed minds.

In case you needed one this article presents the rationale for not reading the comments string (I can almost never resist). If you click through to the "motivated reasoning" article that is referenced you will be treated to a good summary of one of the seminal real world psychological case studies, When Prophecy Fails. What do you say when the anticipated flying saucer doesn't arrive? (Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, what do we need to understand better in order to prepare for systemic changes?

Get the answer.