Thursday, May 31, 2007


Reference librarians are only human, and some of us are not above becoming defensive and snappish when someone asks a question we can't answer. I don't know how many times I've barked "what a stupid question!" at an innocent callers who asks, "if I was standing on the corner of x and y in New York city, and turned 360 degrees, what would it look like?" No longer. Now one can direct such callers to the new streetview feature at Google maps. Select the "Streetview" button at the top of the map, zoom in on NYC (or Las Vegas, Miami, Denver or San Francisco if you prefer) select your corner and presto, you're right there on the street, enjoying the scenery. Turn 360 degrees for a panorama view. Amazing, but scary! More on this feature in Google's press release.

More regrets about the USIA - State merger

Following up on the April 23 post analyzing the merger of USIA into the State Department, here is an extract from an op-ed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram by Price Floyd, former director of media affairs at the State Department:

"We must do the real work of public diplomacy, not public relations. We need to greatly increase the number of people-to-people exchanges. We need to bring more officials from foreign governments and nongovernmental organizations to the United States -- not just to Washington but to Middle America, small-town America, even the inner cities of America.
We must re-create the American Libraries that we used to run and support in countries around the world. These centers gave thousands of people round the globe access to information that in most cases was not available in their countries."

The full text is at:

A story based on this op-ed written by Fred Kaplan and featuring an interview with Floyd appeared in Slate online magazine on May 30. It can be accessed at:

2 useful Firefox Add-Ons

This addon allows saving of web pages to a local subdirectory. Provides a bookmark-like interface to retrieve them - fantastic for informational pages you feel you should keep but might also want when offline. By default data is saved into your profile directory but the location can be changed.

Firefox Tweaks
These are from Computerworld online and describe some tweaks to about:config in Firefox. Some of these are implemented by the Fasterfox addon and I would caution people not to use the highest (fastest) tweaks as some firewall and filtering software may interpret such rapid data-fetching as an attack. In other words: if you ever see the words "Not RFC-compliant" then my advice would be NOT to enable that setting unless you know what you are doing and understand the risks to yourself and to the target server!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Google translate

This new Google feature translates search terms into another language, searches pages in that language, and translates the results back into the original search language. Useful for identifying sources of information that a)would be missed altogether in a default langauge search adn b)are in languages that, to many people, are completely incomprehensible (e.g.,Arabic, Chinese, Russian) but the quality of machine translation is still pretty laughable. More about this feature in the Google press announcement.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Make the most of Google

This post at Lifehackers provides an overview of all the things you can do with Google! Thanks to Oli for the heads up!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Staffers fear library's too pop-fixated

Excerpt from a Sacramento Bee article: "The idea of the library as a cloistered hall where everyone whispers is giving way to a place where people go read books, have conversations and increasingly want audio-visual materials," Dickinson said. "I think this is all part and parcel of what the public wants."
Personally, I can't imagine anything more soothing than a "cloistered hall where everyone whispers" - where can I find one?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


This is a truly impressive resource for comparative national statistics across a broad range of topics. Here's what developer Luke Metcalfe says about the site:

The idea for NationMaster arose as I was surfing around the CIA World Factbook. It's a great read but I felt the individual figures (like number of TV's, or kilometres of coastline) didn't mean much on their own. They'd be more illuminating if they were placed alongside other countries and shown relative to population.
So I decided to put together a website that allowed users to generate graphs based on numerical data extracted from the Factbook. The next (rather obvious) realization was that there's no reason I couldn't take in data from other sources. Why shouldn't the net have a central location that allows you to compare countries on any statistic you like?
But why did I do it? To promote education and understanding about the world. To make it easy to engage with the indicators that shape global commerce, health, politics and ecology. To make the facts easily accessible and meaningful. To bring the works of academics, public agencies and private researchers to a wider audience.
One intended use for this site is, during debates in discussion groups, people link to comparisons of specific countries. I hope students, educators and librarians will find the site a useful teaching aide. More generally, I hope the figures will spark people's interest and they'll want to read more.

Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream

Pew has just published the report Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream

From the summary:
"The first-ever, nationwide, random sample survey of Muslim Americans finds them to be largely assimilated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world.

The Pew Research Center conducted more than 55,000 interviews to obtain a national sample of 1,050 Muslims living in the United States. Interviews were conducted in English, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu. The resulting study, which draws on Pew's survey research among Muslims around the world, finds that Muslim Americans are a highly diverse population, one largely composed of immigrants. Nonetheless, they are decidedly American in their outlook, values and attitudes. This belief is reflected in Muslim American income and education levels, which generally mirror those of the public.

Key findings include:

  • Overall, Muslim Americans have a generally positive view of the larger society. Most say their communities are excellent or good places to live.

  • A large majority of Muslim Americans believe that hard work pays off in this society. Fully 71% agree that most people who want to get ahead in the U.S. can make it if they are willing to work hard.

  • The survey shows that although many Muslims are relative newcomers to the U.S., they are highly assimilated into American society. On balance, they believe that Muslims coming to the U.S. should try and adopt American customs, rather than trying to remain distinct from the larger society. And by nearly two-to-one (63%-32%) Muslim Americans do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.

  • Roughly two-thirds (65%) of adult Muslims in the U.S. were born elsewhere. A relatively large proportion of Muslim immigrants are from Arab countries, but many also come from Pakistan and other South Asian countries. Among native-born Muslims, roughly half are African American (20% of U.S. Muslims overall), many of whom are converts to Islam.
  • Based on data from this survey, along with available Census Bureau data on immigrants' nativity and nationality, the Pew Research Center estimates the total population of Muslims in the United States at 2.35 million.

  • Muslim Americans reject Islamic extremism by larger margins than do Muslim minorities in Western European countries. However, there is somewhat more acceptance of Islamic extremism in some segments of the U.S. Muslim public than others. Fewer native-born African American Muslims than others completely condemn al Qaeda. In addition, younger Muslims in the U.S. are much more likely than older Muslim Americans to say that suicide bombing in the defense of Islam can be at least sometimes justified. Nonetheless, absolute levels of support for Islamic extremism among Muslim Americans are quite low, especially when compared with Muslims around the world.

  • A majority of Muslim Americans (53%) say it has become more difficult to be a Muslim in the U.S. since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Most also believe that the government "singles out" Muslims for increased surveillance and monitoring.

  • Relatively few Muslim Americans believe the U.S.-led war on terror is a sincere effort to reduce terrorism, and many doubt that Arabs were responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Just 40% of Muslim Americans say groups of Arabs carried out those attacks."

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Favicon generator

Here's a handy little utility to help you draw your own favicon, or develop one from an image.

Google analytics

Google's new & improved analytics package is a good option for anyone who wants free traffic analysis for their website(s). All you need is a Google account - Google generates a snippet of code for you to paste into the pages you want to monitor. The package analyzes site usage, visitors, traffic sources, geographic origin of visitors, most popular content, etc., with the ultimate goal - for those who want more than to boast about numbers of hits - of "creating targeted ROI-driven marketing campaigns and improving your site design and content." For a quick and impressive overview, take the product tour.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

New CIA website

CIA has a new website. The press release informs of the following key changes:
  • Updated look and feel
  • Consistent navigation throughout the site
  • A movie on the homepage that easily(?) and quickly details who we are and what we do
  • Virtual tours of CIA Headquarters and the CIA Museum
  • Additional interactive presentations, including a piece on the enigmatic Kryptos sculpture and pieces on the Careers page
  • A Quick Links section on the homepage to ensure visitors easy access to the most popular areas of
Also includes sections for kids K-5th, 6-12th, parents and teachers, and games (code breaking etc.) and a Kids Page Privacy Statement! The library section contains lots of interesting reports, articles, and declassified documents.

23 Web 2.0 Things

If you're curious about Library 2.0, these 23 exercises will give you an idea of what it's all about.(thanks to Librarian in Black)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Everything is miscellaneous

At last, a book named after my very own filing system. As a paean to disorder, this book challenges what library science is all about. Should arouse the morbid fascination of any orderly librarian!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Which search engine to use

Phil Bradley regularly updates this nice table that matches search engines to search needs. A handy cheat-sheet, and a nice handout if you're doing internet training.

Thursday, May 3, 2007


This is potentially an interesting blog, by Craig Hayden of the USC Public Diplomacy center. "up-to-date" (below) seems a stretch considering the site has been updated only twice so far in 2007 but, encouragingly, both posts are dated today, May 3! Stay tuned! Argument-tracking, and questions about why we believe what we believe, constitute an interesting PD exercise. This site traces arguments in the Arab media, but it would be equally interesting to examine the U.S. and W.European media in this manner...
Here's what Hayden writes about the site: "The International Media Argument Project (INTERMAP) is based out of the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy. The purpose of the project is to track arguments in Arab media related to United States policies, actions, and events in the region. The project looks at these arguments through the lens of argument and rhetorical analysis based in communication studies. This website - - provides an up-to-date review of newsworthy events and their coverage in the Arab press."

LC Blog

The Library of Congress has a new blog - the blogger is LC's communications director Matt Raymond.