Sunday, April 27, 2008

When Election Fur Flies, Try FactCheck!

I don't need to tell you that 2008 is an election year. Election years mean campaign ads in large quantities and they'll usually be some errors in some ads. Whether those errors are intentional is something I'll leave to the judgment of the reader.

But if these ads have you or your patrons scratching your heads in puzzlement, there is relief at the national level. There is a site called that is run out of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. It is non-partisan and in my judgment seems to go after Republicans and Democrats with equal vigor. Here's how they explain their mission:

We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit, "consumer advocate" for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.

Some of their recent articles on misspeaking and misleading have included:

Reprehensible Misrepresentation"

A conservative adman striving to regain his Willie Horton notoriety produces a death-penalty dud aimed at Obama.

Misleading Pennsylvania Voters

Clinton and Obama trade bogus charges about health care.

Oily Words

Clinton and Obama shade the truth as each claims to be tougher on oil companies than the other.

McCain Ads Attack Romney

New Web and radio ads by the Arizona senator lack context.

In addition to correcting facts in speeches and debates, FactCheck also answers reader questions when they have wide interest. A few answers out of their mail bag include:

Is it true that even though John McCain calls himself a Republican, he has sided more with the Dems than with the Repubs?

Not true at all. He voted in support of President Bush 95 percent of the time last year, for example.

Did Obama say the National Anthem conveys a "war-like message" and should be swapped for something such as "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing"?
No. That's false. The quote was one conservative writer's idea of a joke, which has been picked up and repeated as though it were true in a chain e-mail.

What percentage of the U.S. population makes more than $250,000 per year?
Roughly one in 50 households will take in more than $250,000 next year.

Each article is well documented. You see exactly where FactCheck pulls their corrections from. Occasionally they will make a mistake themselves and will run a correction.

If your library has a web page and you are listing election resources, this would be an excellent addition to it. FactCheck would also be a good post to consult whenever someone comes to you with the latest rumor about a Presidential candidate. If you can't find an answer, then Ask FactCheck. They just might post an answer to your question.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

What Treats do You Offer?

Have some pizza!
Originally uploaded by Lester Public Library
This picture is from the Lester Public Library in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. It's from a shelf-straightening party and I'm posting this Outside photo here because I've been to similar library functions in Juneau.

I imagine a lot of us draw upon our communities once in awhile for shelfreading or other library tasks that sometimes get lost in the shuffle of serving our patrons. When you have such occasions, what do you serve your volunteers? Or does the sight of fingerfoods in the library under any circumstances fill you with dread?

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Friday, April 18, 2008

One Stop AK Database Shopping

Do you know where to go to verify a contractor license? Find child care facilities? See if there are toxic sites in your neighborhood? Find out where your schools are? How about finding about the water quality in your area. All of these questions and more can be answered using a database produced by an Alaska state agency.

The ALA Government Documents Roundtable has compiled a list of Alaska state agency databases at as part of their larger State Agency Databases Across the Fifty States project.

Full Disclosure: I coordinate this project outside work, but would recommend it to you anyway.

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Wiki options

AkLA's Continuing Education committee is looking at Web 2.0 tools for use with next year's conference. As part of this, we're researching wiki options, and decided to post the results here, so that anyone else who is interested in implementing a wiki can take advantage of our efforts.

Robyn Russell, of Rasmuson Library at UAF, suggested starting our comparison with WikiMatrix. Using their wizard, I came up with 13 wikis, to which I added MediaWiki, which AkLA already is planning on implementing for other uses. I narrowed this down by removing those which lacked features important to me, like the ability to export to PDF, to use CSS, and more, and ended up with.


Of these, my top two are PBwiki, because I'm the most familiar with it and I know it's easy, and MediaWiki, because AkLA has access already and because I'm somewhat familiar with it and know that it's fairly easy and has some really useful features.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Copyright for classes

In the Copyright Q&A session at conference, one topic that we discussed was that of using materials for classes, over a period of time. This might involve multiple copies for classroom use or course reserves (paper or electronic). We discussed how the traditional interpretation of this practice was that it was fine for a single class, but not allowable over time, that is, each semester or even each year. Now, I've just read a discussion on the Copyright Advisory Network (CAN) forum which seems to imply that our interpretation may have been too restrictive. It might be valuable for academic and school librarians to take a look at this discussion. And, if you have something more to add or ask, I encourage anyone who's interested to register (it's quick and easy - more to discourage spam than anything else) and comment. While you're at it, check out some of the other resources at the site, and please let me know if you have any suggestions for improvement (either email me or mention it in the comments to this post).

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Wild new collection from the Alaska Library Commission

****For Immediate Release: April 1, 2008****
********Alaska Library Commission*******

This one's not digitized! In order to foster a better understanding of Alaska's unique wildlife, the Alaska State Library is adding a new lending collection. Available to those with local or statewide cards, or through interlibrary loan, you can now borrow a bit of Alaska's natural history: live birds and animals! Borrowers are responsible for the care and feeding of their creature while checked out. There are no charges for this service, but I'm sure you can all understand that loss and damage fees are quite high. Loans do not come with trainers and the State Library cannot be held responsible for any damage by the collections, so patrons with young children or small animals are encouraged to seriously consider whether or not this service is appropriate for them.

For more information about this service, see the finding aid.