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In the Library, With the Lead Pipe: Librarian as Poet / Poet as Librarian

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-02-12 14:00

In brief: Through interviews with three poets who also work in libraries, this article explores the benefits and challenges of these overlapping roles, reflecting on commonalities in the two communities.

Magnetic Cliche 1 cc by kfergos


I am a librarian and a poet who has tried to keep those two roles separate. As a library school student and in the early years of my career as an academic librarian, I felt that I had to keep my creative writing under wraps—that it could undermine my professionalism. However, as I become more confident and skilled in both arenas, I have begun to realize that my writing has always influenced my experience as a librarian, and that my librarian training has impacted my life as a poet. As I learn how to embrace these intersections, I have grown curious about how others are combining (or keeping separate) their multiple literary lives. This Lead Pipe article will explore some of the benefits and challenges of these overlapping roles through interviews with three poets who also work in libraries, reflecting on commonalities in the two communities.

For the purposes of this article, I define a librarian as anyone who has worked in a library in some capacity (including LIS students and individuals who do not hold master’s degrees). The definition of poet is even looser—if you think you might be one, you are.

Poet Librarians

Poets as librarians are not a new phenomenon. Audre Lorde was a librarian at the Mount Vernon Public Library from 1961 to 1963 and at New York City’s Town School Library from 1966 to 1968. Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges frequently included libraries in his writing, echoing his experience of working as a municipal librarian at the Miguel Cane Branch Library in Buenos Aires from 1937 to 1946. Another well-known poet librarian of the past is Philip Larkin. Larkin worked at the Wellington Public Library in England from 1943 to 1946, then switching to a career in academic libraries (University College Library; Queen’s University Library in Belfast; and University of Hull).

Ever since I worked with librarian Erinn Batykefer on editing the Library as Incubator Lead Pipe article I knew that she was a poet. Batykefer’s first poetry collection, Allegheny, Monongahela (Red Hen Press 2009), won the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Prize. I’ve seen librarian Colleen Harris’s name pop up many times on the Women’s Poetry Listserv (WOM-PO, one of the few remaining listservs to which I still subscribe). As my worlds began to collide more frequently, I started a Twitter list of librarians who also do creative writing. Additional lists of both dead and living poet librarians exist at Leaves of Bark.

Are there an equal number of painter librarians as there are poet librarians? Photographer librarians? Why are the roles of artist/creator and librarian frequently embodied by the same person? My “lofty” answer to this is that being surrounded by an array of ideas and other peoples’ creations makes one want to create in turn. Almost every item in our libraries was written by someone who did whatever he or she had to do in order to get that item published and then convince someone to spend actual money on it. That boost alone, seeing tangible evidence day in and day out that creating is valuable, would be enough of a correlation between the two roles for me. Some poet librarians are able to mesh their two worlds even more closely, such as Jessica Smith’s erasure series Exact Resemblance, recently published in La Vague Journal. The poems were created by whiting out words from Animal Camouflage, a book that was weeded from Smith’s own Indian Springs School library collection. Below are just three accounts of poets working simultaneously on library careers and poetry projects, with their thoughts on the cross-pollination of these roles.

Patrick Williams Associate Librarian, Subject Specialist for English, Communication & Rhetorical Studies, & Linguistics at Syracuse University Libraries. BA, University of North Carolina at Greensboro;  MSIS & PhD, The University of Texas at Austin.

Williams has been writing poetry longer than he has been working as a librarian, even though creative writing temporarily moved to the margins while he delved into academia. “…I’m fairly certain it’s the same set of impulses that drew me to both,” he said in our interview. Research for his doctoral project on the online social lives of poets and fiction writers revived him as an active writer and in January of 2014 Williams launched Really System, a journal of poetry and extensible poetics. “I started it for a number of reasons, the foremost of which being a hope that it would help me to find a community of other poets with similar ideas, questions, and aesthetic interests,” he said. Through Really System, Williams is interested in remixing, recombining, and remaking the text of published poems into new things. Some of his experiments can be seen at, evoking a digital poetry/digital humanities sandbox. Williams’ poem “New Telegraphy” which appeared in Word Riot last summer, will likely resonate with anyone who’s been to library school. Regarding the balance and interaction between being a librarian and being a poet, Williams had this to say:

“I feel very fortunate to have found myself in a library position where poetry is very relevant to my work every day. Syracuse University has very strong English and Writing programs, and it is a delight to support the faculty and students in those programs in my reference and instruction activities. Many of my most productive talks and connections with people happen at readings and other literary events. The writing community around here has been quite welcoming to me.

My interest in poetry also impacts my work in the projects I choose to work on— I’m so pleased to be involved in making videos of SU’s Raymond Carver Reading Series available via SURFACE, our online repository; I am excited to support small presses and independent poetry publishers in my collection development work; I make an effort to promote poetry as a visible part of our library community by making poetry books and journals (as well as our incredible poetry-related special collections) a part of any class, event, or interaction I can. This year I’m organizing a reading series for undergraduates in April and working with Sound Beat (our audio archive’s radio program) to commemorate National Poetry Month.

Writing-wise, I’m inspired by things I see, read, and experience every day at work in the library. We encounter so much interesting description and compression in our work, I can’t help but be influenced but the sound of library language. I feel like I’m editing the word “index” out of just about every poem I write. I also think the history of LIS has some terribly poetic stories and characters. Paul Otlet, for example. I’ll write about him someday.”

Really System will be published quarterly online, with a print edition each year. “I am fascinated by the tension between print and digital and have been feeling a strong unresolved pull toward doing DIY publishing projects this millennium. Maybe that’s just straight-up 90s nostalgia, but I’m also really inspired by contemporary things like P-QUEUE out of the Poetics Program at SUNY Buffalo, and Ugly Duckling Presse’s 6×6 magazine, and want to explore what forms a print version of Really System can take,” he said.

Anne Haines Web Content Specialist, Discovery & Research Services Department at Indiana University Bloomington Libraries. BA & MLS, IU Bloomington.

When I inquired about the intersectionality between Haines’ work as a poet and as a professional library staff member, her initial reaction was that they have nothing to do with one another. Digging deeper, the influence each role plays on the other became more apparent.

“A few years ago I applied for (and was awarded) an Individual Artist Grant through the Indiana Arts Commission. I had the opportunity to sit in on the panel and listen to the comments about each application, which was incredibly interesting; by comparison with a lot of the other applications, I realized that I’d done a really good job of including an assessment piece that talked about how I would measure the success (or lack thereof) of the various activities funded by my grant. This seemed like a no-brainer to me as I completed the application, but afterwards I realized that was because of what I’d learned about project management at work. Librarians think about assessment a lot; poets don’t necessarily!

Also, it occurs to me that the biggest thing poets and librarians have in common is curiosity. As a poet, I try to be awake and aware and to pick up on small details, and then dive deeper; the image of a gecko might occur to me as being somehow evocative, and then I would want to explore and learn about geckos – what kinds are there, what do they eat, do they appear in any mythology, is there a specialized vocabulary that applies to the study of geckos? You always want to gather more information than you actually use in the poem; if all geckos are green, you probably don’t want to say “the gecko was green” in your poem but if some geckos are orange, the greenness might be a detail of interest…

Related to that, it occurs to me that the good old-fashioned reference interview is a lot like revision, or maybe more accurately, like workshopping a poem. In both cases, you have to look at what you have in front of you (the poem, the reference question) and interrogate it, make it give up some deeper levels; you can’t assume that the question being asked is really the question that needs an answer. What is this poem really about – the rainbow that you saw on your way home, or the fact that you were on your way home after hearing some terrible news and you were desperate for some sign of hope and were lucky enough to look up and spot the rainbow? What is the reference question really about – does the patron need “a book about African history” which is what they asked for, or can you ask them a few questions and find out that they really needed biographical information about Nelson Mandela but couldn’t remember his name?”

Haines, who has been writing poetry since she was ten years old, sees differences between her two roles as well. “Library work is, I think, inherently collaborative (or should be),” she said, while many poets are “inherently fairly solitary beasts… I like being able to embrace both ways of working, so the duality works for me. Also, working in a library pays a heck of a lot better than being a poet. (Sad, I know!).”

Melissa Eleftherion Carr Digital Archivist & Project Manager, Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange at San Francisco State University. MLIS, San Jose State University; MFA, Mills College.

Carr, who recently completed her MLIS, just launched The Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange, a project which grew from a seed in her brain as a library student. The project is an open-access community-curated repository developed for writers to convene, correspond, and collaborate using the poets calling card or “currency” of the chapbook. Chapbooks are small books, often 25 pages or less, published by small presses or by writers themselves in a DIY fashion (Poets & Writers). “The model for the chapbook exchange was catalyzed by the need to invigorate poetry collections in public libraries and was expanded to include extant poetry communities,” she said, adding that the site is a “prototype of what we hope will be a lively and vital cooperative space for poets to practice the continuum of reading and writing in the creative process.”

Carr’s own writing, particularly her 2013 chapbook huminsect (dancing girl press), bears the mark of libraries. “The concept for huminsect originated with the construction of my MFA thesis while at Mills where I also spent a lot of time writing at the FW Olin Library. My thesis was titled from granite to the oyster and sought to examine morphological and sociological relationships between myriad genera including humans, insects, plants, and sea creatures as well as the interstellar. I can also see it as an early pre-librarian attempt at taxonomic classification,” she said.

On the topic of balancing her many roles, Carr (like many writers) feels like she’s not writing enough. “To further complicate things, I am not a paid library worker; the PC Chapbook Exchange is a labor of love. While applying for librarian positions, I also have a f/t office job, and am a mother (as well as a wife, a room parent, etc),” she said. However, Carr has embraced the idea of fragments as a legitimate form: “I tend to write in short bursts that I may later piece together. I’m also particularly fond of postcard poems. There seems to be a continuous need to compartmentalize in order to feel on top of things. So, fragments.” Any librarian familiar with the constant email and juggling of multiple “hats” in our profession can surely relate.


Through interviewing these poet librarians and reflecting on my own experiences, the relationship between the two roles has become clearer. Both the poet and the librarian rely on curiosity—on questioning, exploring, and learning to make sense of the world around them. In both there is an inherent tension between print and digital, with poets moving beyond the page to test the boundaries of literature (see John Mortara’s Small Creatures / Wide Field, Dan Waber’s a kiss, and anything on Internet Poetry) while librarians fight their way through ebook lending issues, big five publishers, and serving a range of users who expect wifi and the latest print edition of the New York Times’ best sellers.

Another commonality between poets and librarians is the necessity of working in solitude and in collaboration with others. Librarians work individually in order to ensure that the library as a whole functions properly, meeting user needs while building a sustainable organization. Although poets often write alone, the process of collaboration emerges through workshopping with other writers, making decisions with editors about chapbooks or full length collections, and even identifying and networking with potential publishers. In a recent anthology call, poet librarians Sommer Browning (Head of Electronic Access & Discovery Services at Auraria Library) and Christina Davis (Curator of the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard University) seek to illuminate this hybrid career, asking for:

“…experimental essays, creative meditations, non-fiction accounts, and lyrical explorations that challenge, redefine, and/or widen our perspective on subjects related to libraries and librarianship: from abstractions such as silence, knowledge, questioning, solitude, information, access, truth, organization, preservation, alphabetical order, digitization, and memory to such concretenesses as bookshelves, archives, mildew, the Patriot Act, scholars, pencils, catalogs…”

The anthology also welcomes pieces that celebrate or elaborate upon poet-librarians of the past. “So often poets strive to be teachers, but some of us don’t. Some of us are drawn to librarianship to be close to the book, the word, the silence, the self-directed study,” said Browning. “I think there is a lot of room for poetry in librarianship and I know some of my fellow poet librarians think this too,” she added.

Upon reflection I have realized that my work as a librarian not only intersects with, but strengthens my work as a poet and vice versa. About six months ago I co-founded an organization called The Triangle, which hosts and promotes literary events in southcentral Pennsylvania. This project is not connected to my work as a librarian in any official capacity, but I find myself borrowing many of the skills I have learned (and honed) through librarianship to improve the organization, including graphic design, event planning, data organization and management, web design, and research. The librarian community I have built up over the years provides a solid network of individuals who support literacy and an appreciation for the arts at the grassroots level.

My poetry strengths seep out at work as well. I know how to think creatively—how to push myself outside the box of negativity in the same way I use writing exercises to move beyond writers block. I consider problems from multiple perspectives. I want to explore a whole bunch of wild ideas out in order to find the one that works—the one that resonates and has a lasting impact. This is what writers do in the pages of their notebook and their hundreds of Google Docs. This is the type of creative problem solving, outside-the-box thinking that will help libraries remain vibrant and sustainable.

It is my hope that the networks between poet librarians will grow, helping us to collaborate while supporting each other through the (equally stressful?) process of writing and librarianship. For the librarians reading this article who do not engage in creative writing, kudos for making it this far. I have this to say to you: try it. You never know what voices will emerge—what kinds of answers you will find.

Many thanks to Anne Haines, Patrick Williams, Melissa Eleftherion Carr, Jessica Smith, and Sommer Browning for allowing me to interview them. Thanks to Christophe Casamassima and Lead Pipers Hugh Rundle and Emily Ford for edits, comments, and thought provoking questions regarding this article.

References and Further Readings

“Audre Lorde” The Poetry Foundation,

Carr, Melissa Eleftherion. “Crowdsourcing Content to Promote Community and Collection Development in Public Libraries” Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, Vol. 25, Iss. 4, 2013.

“Jorge Luis Borges” The Poetry Foundation,

Library as Incubator posts tagged with “Creative Writing”

“Philip Larkin” The Poetry Foundation,

“Publishing Your Book” Poets & Writers,

Rosenstein, Alan H. “Physicians under stress” American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons/American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, April 2010

Smith, Jessica. “Erasures in La Vague” looktouchblog, February 9, 2014

Smith, Jessica. “Poetry and Libraries: A Report on Contemporary Collection Methods” Boog City, Iss. 80, 2013.

Williams, James Patrick. “Social presence, interaction, and participation in asynchronous creative writing workshops” Dissertation, University of Texas, 2011

State Library of Denmark: Thøgersen

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-02-12 10:15

The last couple of months we have been improving and porting our library search interface frontend to AngularJS. However great Angular’s two-way bindings are they can greatly impact performance and lately I have been looking into how we use them in the beta version of our search front end which is our first big AngularJS web app.

In this process I used the Batarang debug tool in Chrome to see what was going on in terms of registered watchers and performance and it quickly pointed out two potential problems.

1. Our translation plugin generates tons of watchers
First of it was noticeable that a large chunk of the registered watchers where attached to our translation plugin Angular-translate. Every time we use the translate directive a watcher is attached and with hundreds of bits of translated text on a page the watcher count quickly climbs. This behavior is per design as it is possible to change the language run-time. In our case we do a page refresh when the language is toggled and very few labels are toggled run-time so this seemed like a good place to optimize.

As the current version of Angular-translate does not have native support for unregistering watchers I looked at solutions like Bindonce.

Bindonce provides a set of attributes that allows the initial binding and after that your variable is “dead” and will not update on model change. Initial testing in Batarang with the Bindonce approach of course showed a significant decrease of watchers and thereby an increase in performance and best of all the app visually behaved exactly the same as before. Only drawback with the Bindonce plugin is that the templates need to be rewritten and the new code is not as clean is the old.
An example of the current approach (translate used as directive):

<div translate=’TRANSLATION.KEY’></div>

New Bindonce approach (translate used as filter):

<div bindonce bo-text=” ’TRANSLATION.KEY’ | translate ”></div>

Although this solves the performance issues we have with the translate module I would rather see a ‘stop watching’ functionality built into the plugin. Fortunately a lot of work is currently being put into this issue and it seems that the next release of angular-translate (1.2.0) will address this.

2. Unnecessary use of Angular watchers
Next performance issue related to watchers was our use of databindings in templates. Every Time you write {{foo}} you create a two-way binding in AngularJS and ‘foo’ is therefore watched. This is of course one of the core functionalities of the framework but you need to be aware that the watchers come with a performance penalty especially when the number of watchers grow. Every time $apply is called directly or implicitly it will force a $digest cycle and the watch-expressions are evaluated.

In our app the Batarang tool revealed that besides the translation issues a lot of watchers were registered to links in our faceting functionality. Every facet contains a link where the href is generated in the following way in the template:

<a href=’{{searchURL}}?query={{query}}{{currentFilter}}&filter={{facet.facetname}}:{{}}’>{{foo}}</a>

Each link has several data-bindings through {{}} and we have a lot of these links on the page. That is a lot of watchers. As these links do not change unless the template is run again they do not need to be watched and there would be a performance gain by creating these links without the watcher overhead. One way to do it would be to use a directive instead to generate the href:
In template:

<a href=”” facet>{{foo}}</a>


.directive(‘facet’, [ function() {
return {
link: function(scope, elem, attr) {
var  href = /**Do your magic here**/
attr.$set('href', href);
} }

This significantly cuts down the amount of watcher expressions.

Another way around it would be to utilise the Bindonce plugin and do something like this:

<a bindonce bo-href=”searchURL + ‘?query=’ + query + currentFilter + ‘&filter=’ + facet.facetname + ‘:’ +“>{{foo}}</a>

This will give you zero watchers attached to the link. Not a particularly clean solution but a very nice and “free” performance enhancement as the watchers aren’t needed in this case. We could even optimize further by getting rid of the {{foo}} watcher by converting it to a Bindonce text attribute:

<a bindonce bo-href=”searchURL + ‘?query=’ + query + currentFilter + ‘&filter=’ + facet.facetname + ‘:’ +“ bo-text=”foo”></a>

As we dig deeper in the app I’m sure that even more unused watchers will turn up and be dealt with.

I know that there will be other even smarter approaches to the above examples, other plugins you can use to deal with watchers or you could even brew your own directives to handle it but the main point remains intact. Watch the watches and this also means investigating what your plugins are up to. Batarang is a good tool for this. Especially as a novice in AngularJS you have to consider how and when to use the powerful two-way binding options. Don’t be afraid of them just use with care. Don’t let them pile up and only use them when required. If used excessively it can ruin performance and render your Angular app very sluggish on less powerful clients. Here we are certainly learning this the hard way as we build our first large Angular app.

Denton, William: Standards uniting AR apps

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-02-12 05:00

Christine Perey sent some good news around to the AR Standards mailing lists a couple of days ago: First mobile AR browser interoperability demonstration to take place Feb 25:

It’s official!

The results of a collaborative effort involving metaio, Layar and Wikitude based on a jointly-defined architecture, a Common AR Interchange Format (CARIF) based on candidate OGC standard ARML 2.0 and an AR Launch URL scheme, will be publicly demonstrated on February 25.

The AR Community’s browser interoperability engineering group’s proof of concept “custom browser” implementations will be demonstrated as part of the OGC “Location Standards for a Mobile World” seminar and reception at the ICC in Barcelona.

When using one of these custom AR browsers, content that was originally authored to work using one of the other AR browsers based on geospatial coordinates will load and support pre-defined functions.

For more information about the architecture:

The announcement was also picked up by Bruce Sterling and posted on his blog:

Congratulations to metaio, Layar and Wikitude!

Congratulations, indeed. This is really good news and a great step towards easier and wider adoption of augmented reality.

The Open Geospatial Consortium has an announcement too: OGC, Layar, Metaio and Wikitude invite Mobile World Congress attendees to AR Interoperability Demo, which says in part:

The common AR interchange format that enables this AR interoperability is based on the candidate OGC ARML 2.0 Encoding Standard that Martin Lechner of Wikitude introduced into the OGC, with the goal to provide an interchange format for Augmented Reality. After it has been successfully tested in the interoperability experiment, ARML 2.0 will be reviewed by the OGC membership to become an adopted OGC standard within the next couple of months. The companies demonstrating AR interoperability believe tomorrow’s AR market will be much more open, and thus much larger, than today’s AR market. Today, a user equipped with an AR-ready device, including sensors and appropriate output/display support, must download a proprietary application to experience content published using an AR experience authoring platform. A subset of these applications are referred to as “AR browsers.” AR browser interoperability benefits at least these four stakeholder groups:

  • Content Publishers will be able to offer AR experiences with their content to larger potential audiences (e.g., all users of AR browsers that support interoperability) with equal or lower effort (costs) of preparing/producing AR browser-based experiences with their digital assets,
  • Developers of AR experiences will be able to choose the AR experience authoring environment they prefer or is best suited to a project without sacrificing the “basic” experience they can offer their clients' target audiences and also be able to invest in innovation (specialize) in preparation of highly engaging and interactive experiences,
  • Attracted by larger total audience size and lower barrier to entry, there will be more content publishers willing to invest in AR and greater number of developers learning/perfecting AR experience design, generating higher revenues for AR authoring and content management system providers, and
  • End users will be able to discover and select AR experiences from a larger catalog while also choosing the AR browser they prefer.

Key sentence there: “After it has been successfully tested in the interoperability experiment, ARML 2.0 will be reviewed by the OGC membership to become an adopted OGC standard within the next couple of months.”

As the ARML 2.0 Standards Working Group puts it:

The ultimate goal of ARML 2.0 is to provide an extensible standard and framework for AR applications to serve the AR use cases currently used or developed. With AR, many different standards and computational areas developed in different working groups come together. ARML 2.0 needs to be flexible enough to tie into other standards without actually having to adopt them, thus creating an AR-specific standard with connecting points to other widely used and AR-relevant standards.

It will be a major advance when this is settled and adopted.

I wrote a point of interest provider, Avoirdupois, that right now only works with Layar. It uses the Layar API to answer the correct Layar way when Layar asks, “Do you know know of any points of interest within 1500 meters of location (x, y)?” If you’re using Layar—in fact a particular layer (or channel) in Layar—and want to know what’s around you that you can see in an AR view, that’s great. It works just like it was supposed to.

But what if you’re using Wikitude? The Wikitude ARchitect specification defines a completely different way of doing things. I was going to look at Retrieving POI Data from a Web Service to see how Avoirdupois could support that.

And then Junaio does things still differently, so I was going to have to look at the developer documentation about location-based channels to see how Avoirdupois could handle that too.

Layar, Wikitude, Junaio … all have different ways of asking, “Is there anything of interest near location (x,y) that the user should see?” And all expect different answers. ARML 2.0 will mean there’s just one kind of answer, and all of the AR applications can use it.

Here’s Christine Perey’s tweet showing the test in action:

When ARML 2.0 is defined then I’ll work to have Avoirdupois use it.

And when there’s an easy way for awe.js to ingest it, and you can easily see standards-based AR in your mobile browser, everything will get much easier and even more exciting.

OCLC Dev Network: Announcing Release of OCLC Auth PHP Library

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-02-11 17:34

We are happy to announce the v1.0 release of the OCLC Auth PHP library via Github. This code library is the third implementation that the OCLC Developer Network is releasing to assist developers working with our web services protected by our API key system.

Implementations of this functionality currently exist in three different languages:

read more

Rochkind, Jonathan: &#8216;hamburger&#8217; button usability

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-02-11 17:07

There’s a UI element that seems to have really caught on, which I’m skeptical of.

A button in a navbar that looks like three horizontal lines, sometimes called the ‘hamburger’ button.  (thanks @dbs).

It often  opens a sidebar of additional options and was possibly first used to open a sidebar,  so is sometimes also referred to simply as ‘side navigation’ pattern.

As used prominently on

Or the new (and generally awesome) redesign of

Or the facebook mobile app (but, as far as I can tell, not the facebook website)

However, bootstrap uses this same icon  for something other than sliding out a sidebar of options. It’s still in the navbar — on small screens only and typically on the right side rather than left side as in previous examples — and it still makes some additional options appear, but by default not really in a sidebar style. Make your browser window narrow on to see and play with:

Whether used for a sidebar pullout or not, I am a bit skeptical of the usability here. Do users really know what this means, do they click on it?

Of course, users might come to recognize the ‘hamburger’ as more and more sites use it — certainly expert users like most of my readers are already quite familiar with it, but I suspect that many less sophisticated users haven’t caught on yet.

I haven’t been able to find any actual user-testing of the usability of these devices — I wonder why Nielsen hasn’t tackled it yet. But there are some other surveys of use and personal musings on it (made hard to find by lack of consensus term for the ‘hamburger’), here’s one good one from smashingmagazine, with some variations too, from over a year ago.

It may or may not be a problem for achieving recognition that the ‘hamburger’ is sometimes on the left and sometimes on the right. (Or that apparently Android has standardized on three-dots-with-swipe instead of three horizontal lines?)

Today I noticed the was providing popup hints on first page load (until a cookie says you’ve seen it), suggesting that nytimes has some reasons to believe users don’t notice the link or know what to do with it on their fairly new page design:

A popup prompt like that seems at best a workaround to unclear UX, not a good solution. (I am also amused by “O.K.” rather than the more usual “OK” — following the nytimes style book, I’d guess?)

If you are scrolled all the way up on, the navbar changes in several ways, one of which is including a label on the ‘hamburger’ button:

I wonder why they thought they didn’t have room for labelling it “Sections” ordinarily, but did when you are scrolled all the way up?

It might make sense to always include the label — if the screen is wide enough.

Of course, on narrow screens down to the several hundred pixels you get on a smartphone, you’ve got to do some things to compress your navbars as much as possible, which is perhaps the origin of the hamburger, and why bootstrap uses it.

I am particularly not fond of the bootstrap pattern, as far as what happens after you click on it, the weird expansion of  buttons in the navbar, rather than an actual sliding out sidebar. This is a different issue than “will the users know to click on the button”, I think what happens when you click on the button is just aesthetically displeasing — in some bootstrap-using apps, where the designers haven’t done enough to make sure it’s clean, I think it can be so aesthetically displeasing that it reaches the point of confusing, although I’m not finding a good example.

I’m not sure what the alternatives are. In some cases, there may be very application-specific solutions that can serve as alternatives to the hamburger — maybe you don’t need so many options accessible from the navbar at all, or can use completely different devices to get them?

Otherwise, I’d say try to always label your ‘hamburger’ if possible nytimes style — it seems that even the smallest screen should have room for a one-word label, no? But if you need to remove it tiny screens, it seems safer and clearer to still include it on larger screens, for designs where the ‘hamburger’ is present even on larger screens.

And as far as what happens when you click it, I much prefer an actual sidebar slide-out to bootstrap’s navbar-expand-slidedown, but you don’t get a sidebar-slide-out for free with bootstrap; it may be tricky to implement reliably in CSS/JS at all?  Anyone know of any good open source reusable implementations of actual sidebar slideout?

Filed under: General

Bisson, Casey: On “do what you love”

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-02-11 02:04

A friend forwarded Miya Tokumitsu’s essay “In the Name of Love” pointing out the Steve Jobs quote and summarizing that it “challenges the notion of work at what you love.” I read it with some frustration, then decided I had to ask my friend what he saw in it. I was already into my reply when I tried to look up other works by the author and discovered the piece has been positively covered by a lot of sites I respect.

What follows is a slightly edited version of my email reply, but I’m publishing here because I’d like to hear from others about what I’m missing.

Does it really challenge the notion of “do what you love?” Or does it just reflect the author’s failure to imagine the real challenges of the jobs she calls “repetitive, unintellectual, undistinguished”? Wasn’t it Michael Pollan who wrote about the huge cultural mistake we’ve made in dismissing the work of farmers, in “allowing the stupidest people to grow our food?”

The personal care aides named in the story probably face the same dilemma. If all the author imagines these people doing is changing diapers on the aged and infirm, then the job likely is as repetitive, unintellectual, undistinguished as she says. The people who need the care, however, are real humans, and their care necessarily demands more engagement — including intellectual engagement — than the author admits. I’m not suggesting nurses and personal care aides are the same group, but I know the stories I’ve heard from nurses themselves suggest they’re far more challenged and engaged in their work than Tokumitsu would allow.

Huge aside: isn’t the more amazing story here one about how we’ve constructed a world which forces all members of the family into wage-earning work, and has left our homes and lives so vacant that we have to outsource the care of our elders?

Back to the point: If we remain culturally dismissive of these jobs, then it’s likely the people doing them will be dismissive of the work as well. Pay is part of this, but teachers seem to have always been poorly paid and yet we still honor them culturally.

I hated the book, but Jane McGonigal’s Reality Is Broken has some place here. The people receiving the benefit of the work, the people who organize the work, and the people who do the work are all participating in a game. The wages earned or paid are just one aspect of that challenge/reward mix.

Perhaps the author didn’t want to do another “death of the middle class” piece, but if there is a point in it, that’s where it is. Whether the ten dollar an hour personal care aide loves his or her job is irrelevant, no? That person can’t make a living at it any more than the unpaid interns who are presumed to be doing what they love. If the struggles for work-life balance, fair compensation, and finding time for family and avocational pursuits affects both people who love and hate their jobs, then what does “DWYL” have to do with any of it?

Maybe I’m just in a mood. I see this essay as angrily thrashing about, but not finding a point. I am scared by the socioeconomic changes I see — by the erosion of wealth and income opportunity among large portions of the population — but the hollow sound of “do what you love” is a symptom of that, not a sinister cause of it.

The opening set-piece of Tokumitsu’s essay: Jessica Walsh’s living room.

ALA Equitable Access to Electronic Content: Connecting the developing world

planet code4lib - Mon, 2014-02-10 19:10

Photo by Library For All

Alan S. Inouye, Director of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), is the newest member of the Advisory Board of Library For All, an organization based on New York City that is developing and deploying a digital library platform for the developing world. Library For All focuses on providing access to digital content using low-cost tablets and cell phones via available mobile networks. In the latter part of 2013, Library For All successfully concluded its first pilot in Haiti.

The Advisory Board draws from a diverse range of expertise and experience, and includes senior officials from major publishing houses. Alan looks forward to working with the Library For All team and fostering cooperation within the American Library Association and the library community at large.

The post Connecting the developing world appeared first on District Dispatch.

Tennant, Roy: Today We Are Poorer

planet code4lib - Mon, 2014-02-10 15:39

A “friendly” debate.

Last night I heard about the untimely and sudden death of a professional colleague and personal friend for whom I had only the utmost respect. Tragically, Rich Wiggins is with us no more. And we are so much the poorer for it.

There will be others who will write a better biography. There are others who will write a better remembrance. From me you will get my personal perspective — the story of someone who saw him not frequently, but enough to have formed a lasting opinion.

Rich and I were contemporaries on the professional stage when the Internet was just breaking into the consciousness of most people. While I was at UC Berkeley, Rich was at Michigan State. We each made our contributions to the early days of people learning what about the Internet. I co-authored Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook in 1993, while Rich published The Internet for Everyone: A Guide for Users and Providers shortly thereafter.

Each of us went on to make our professional mark — Rich more in information technology but also bleeding over into librarianship, and me in librarianship exclusively. But we also intersected at various points, and perhaps none more directly than a debate that first happened virtually at Internet Librarian in 2001, then in person at the 2002 Computers in Libraries Conference. It was a keynote session advertised as: Digitizing Legacy Collections: Potential or Waste?

I love the fact that we were described as “friendly, but feisty” as that was always our relationship. See a description by Rich about it (sorry about the broken links, I wish they were still there). We didn’t always agree, but we always respected each other and we could debate a topic with a friendly disagreement that invited more actual reflection than dissent. We didn’t really disagree about the desirability of digitizing everything, only about the practicality. Thanks to the good folks at Information Today (thank you Bill Spence!), here are my slides and Rich’s.

In this debate I was completely wrong and Rich was completely right. I felt like the job was simply too expensive with not enough actual will and money to make it happen. Meanwhile, Rich was more the visionary, and he saw the possibilities that I had not imagined were possible. Google, in the end, made him right.

And then recently (last year), Rich posted on Web4Lib this gem:

Why have library cards at all?  Why not just use the driver license as the library card?

Why, indeed.

And I suppose that is what I will hold onto in my grief. First, I can’t imagine that he is gone. But knowing that I must face up to that fact, I want to take a piece of him with me into whatever future I have left. And the piece I will take is his good-hearted vision that saw human possibilities that I could not. He knew more of our potential than I could admit. And he debated me about it, and won. And I don’t mean winning in a “more points”, “convinced the audience” kind of way. He really won the day. 

So today, I crouch here, not wanting to admit what I cannot deny. Rich is gone. And we are so much the poorer for it. Perhaps one day I can come to terms with that. But not today.

Bisson, Casey: Magic Lantern for EOS M

planet code4lib - Mon, 2014-02-10 04:15

The EOS M is named as a “beta” supported camera, but you won’t find a download for it in the normal place. Instead, you’ll have to use a “Tragic Lantern” build at This forum thread is about the development, while this forum thread includes more how-to and documentation.

Canon EOS M running Magic Lantern. From


unalog - Sun, 2014-02-09 19:42


unalog - Sun, 2014-02-09 19:42

Welcome — Theano 0.6 documentation

unalog - Sun, 2014-02-09 19:42
"Theano is a Python library that allows you to define, optimize, and evaluate mathematical expressions involving multi-dimensional arrays efficiently."

Welcome — Theano 0.6 documentation

unalog - Sun, 2014-02-09 19:42
"Theano is a Python library that allows you to define, optimize, and evaluate mathematical expressions involving multi-dimensional arrays efficiently."

What is Black Pearl? | Learning Management Ecosystem Initiative

unalog - Sun, 2014-02-09 19:42
Interesting, raman, thanks! The github repo is kind of vaporous...
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