More on lousy digital library design

Thanks for all of the kind comments on the previous post. They really helped balance the freaking out I had to do when a kind well-meaning soul posted this link as an example of a REALLY GOOD children’s website.

Ok. Let’s go through this again. Slowly. This time I’m going to spell it out.

Anyone can make a website. The web is the most democratic publishing forum ever conceived. But, unfortunately, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you are the best person to do it. It is an unpleasant fact that most library websites, most digital libraries, most catalogs and electronic collections are badly designed.

And by badly designed, I mean this. Ugly. Ill-conceived. Verbose. Inaccessible. Acronym rich. Confusing. Lofty. Unnecessarily complex. Deprecated. Self-absorbed. Low-quality. Pointless. Patronizing.

Are you still with me? Remember, I’m being a bitch so that you don’t have to.

There is a tendency in the library community to blow sunshine up each other’s asses, as though our intent to do good were enough. As though our good works shouldn’t be held to the same standards as commercial products because we are Nice. People don’t seem to criticize each other’s work in this profession. Which makes for a perfectly lovely working environment where you can find yourself producing piles of junk because all you have heard is happytalk from supportive colleagues. And that’s not Nice. Nope. Not at all. That’s painful and embarrassing and rather cruel.

You would tell a friend if she had toilet paper on her shoe, right? Gentle criticism (not my specialty, obviously) has a place in any relationship, especially when the stakes are high. When your TP-shoed friend is about to go up on stage in front of a bunch of elementary school kids, they probably aren’t going to listen to her charming and educational speech. They are going to see the toilet paper and turn into a pack of hyenas.

And it’s a shame, because the Internet Children’s Digital Library (and the gajillion sites like it with smaller budgets) have the potential to become popular resources if they will only make the connection between quality of content and quality of interface. Like so many digital collections, they have great ideas, like sorting books by color, but they don’t have the skill or the perspective to realize these ideas. And they don’t have the humility to hire someone who does. So up they go in front of the auditorium with a big wad of TP dragging behind them.

Graduation Bucket List

I found this list from a year and a half ago. I was half-drunk and coding a webforum for my PHP class. I made a list, oh so long ago. Here it is…

List of things I want to do after graduation:

  • Learn Yiddish
  • Finish reading Sophie’s World (Done!)
  • Make the webforum decent and secure (
  • Overhaul Librarian Avengers (Half-assed overhaul complete)
  • Start looking into Art schools and Computer Science departments. (maybe in a few years…)
  • Re-dye blue streak in front of hair for Librarian Job Interview Shock Value (Done!)
  • Start doing 5k runs again (or 3k…3k is good…)
  • Write old friends
  • Move to warm place
  • Develop a drinking habit
  • Read!! Read!! Real books! Things I care about!
  • Start buying music again
  • Start ballroom/swing dancing again (Done!)
  • Visit Erin in San Francisco and Jenny in St. Paul (Too broke. Thanks homeownership.)
  • Stay with Jessamyn West for awhile and help with chores
  • Plan the next Librarian Avengers ALA party. Book Klezmer band.
  • Re-pot my plants
  • Build a hive for the honeybee and live alone in the bee-loud glade (Done! Thanks Yeats!)
  • Romance my boyfriend (ongoing)
  • Buy impractical shoes (Done! ow!)
  • Think impractical thoughts
  • Raise a dog (soon)
  • Rescue an old cat (soon)


Hooray Hooray the ALA

Oh that wacky American Library Association convention. Imagine, if you will, 50 billion librarians wandering around downtown Toronto. Yes, it looked like that.

I did a bit of shopping on Sunday afternoon, and had the honor of being informed by a salesgirl that a librarian had appeared on TLC’s A Makeover Story and had been brought to that very store. “See” she implied, “it’s not too late for you!”

On a similar “weird public image of librarianship” line, I had more trouble with the ALA vendors than usual. Since I’m no longer a student, I had to contend with eager sales representatives trying to sell me their wares. I found myself regularly explaining that SOME librarians don’t actually work with books, deal with the public, or care much about the latest installment in the Harry Potter series. Once I made the mistake of mentioning the words “digital preservation research” and was treated to a sales pitch for a music journal.

I did get a chance to see a copy of Revolting Librarians Redux this weekend, and I would like to encourage everyone to buy the heck out of it. Among other things, the book contains a poem that I hadn’t read since I submitted it. I was pleased to see that it didn’t suck quite as badly as I had feared.

News Flash: A woman just walked by my library office window practicing sign language to herself. People often walk by my office and don’t realize they are being observed. Unfortunately, this works both ways, and I’ve often been caught chewing my fingernails by a casual passerby.

Holi and Hanging Chads

I am covered from fur to fingernails in colored dye-powder because it is the Hindu festival of Holi. My friend Clay & I partook of the cultural wackiness this afternoon on the Ivy League University (TM) campus. Colored dye-powder, I have discovered, does wonders for fine, bodiless hair. I looked rather styled-up by the time we were all done tossing the stuff at each other. Must remember this for my next formal occasion. Girls! Got limp lifeless hair? Get a nice South Asian gentleman to bean you with a handful of Yellow #5!

The nice thing about no longer being in school, by the way, is I’ve occasionally been having moments where I DON’T think about libraries or Library Issues.

Hm. Speaking of Library Issues, I’m taking issue with the fact that it takes about fifteen times longer to vote for the ALA council than it did to vote in the last Presidential election. Wouldn’t you think the ALA might consider alphabetizing their lengthy list of candidates? Alphabetization is what we’re known for, after all. But hey, what problems could a confusing and awkward ballot cause?