Libraries Can be Bad for Your Health

Libraries are not necessarily pleasant places to work. I spent the first four years on the service desk scared witless.  I kept thinking, “Are they kidding, does stuff like this really go on in a library.” YES! From the mentally ill, to the homeless, to the smelly, to the rude and socially inept, the answer is yes.

Of course, the majority of patrons are very nice. But, librarians do get killed,—a past library directory of my library was murdered in the library!—and patrons do go postal. Take the 2010 University of Texas incident in which a student opened fire in a the library with an AK-47 and then killed himself. You might want to make sure your library has a good emergency plan.

Askholes and the Reference Interview

Incredibly enough, I have been working as a librarian for ten years now and there are two thing that I have learned. Here they are:


When patrons ask a question, you must extract the real question. Patrons almost always have the wrong title, wrong author, wrong spelling, or do not know anything about what they are searching for or what they want.


Lots of time is wasted answering questions that were never asked. Following up on the first point, before you waste your time trying to answer the question asked, make sure it is the question that should have been asked.

Term: Askhole

–noun Vulgar.
1. Slang.

  1. Someone who asks many stupid, pointless, obnoxious questions.
  2. An annoying individual who asks random questions with no substance or asks stupid questions without thinking.
  3. A university student who wastes class time by asking for answers to questions that only he/she doesn’t understand; thus annoying the crap out of his/her classmates.


There is a patron out at the service desk who is a real askhole.


Source:  Urban Dictionary

Internet Revolution or Internet Bubble?

The technology that helped usher in an internet revolution and democratic change in Tunisia and Egypt may be just as damaging to democracy as it is helpful. In March of this year (2011), Eli Pariser made this argument in his TED talk (watch below).  Based upon his book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, he describes an Internet that reflects back to the user exactly what he wants to see.

Within 24 hour of this being sent out by, (of which the author is affiliated) the four copies within my library system went from available to checked out. Right now, I am waiting on a waiting list to read the full argument. See if your local library has a copy here: WorldCat


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Ted’s District Contest Speech: Dismissed to Victory

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This is the speech that got me through three levels of the Toastmasters International Speech Contest. I was one win short of going to the international contest.


O’Fallon Progess News Coverage of Me

O’Fallon Progress
Friday, May. 13, 2011
Confident President Leads Club’s Golden Anniversary Celebration
By Mark Raeber – Progress Staff Writer

Ted Gayford said he was once a timid man, who felt uneasy in the spotlight. But through his membership in Toastmasters International he has been able to shed that self-effacing demeanor.

Participation in the organization has even given him the confidence to step forward and lead the O’Fallon Toastmasters club as president while it celebrates its golden anniversary.

The local club observed its 50th anniversary on April 24. To recognize the milestone, Mayor Gary Graham and the O’Fallon City Council proclaimed April 16 as Toastmasters International Day in the city.

As club president, Gayford has been responsible for overseeing the anniversary celebration, which included a gala dinner in mid-April that, naturally, featured a series of speakers.

Gayford said the O’Fallon club has about 22 members who meet at 7 p.m. every Thursday in a conference room at the Community Financial Center on the corner of Lincoln Ave. and Highway 50.

A native of Chicago, Gayford earned his undergraduate degree in history at Western Illinois University in Macomb and his master’s degree in library science at Dominican University in Chicago.

He has been library director at the East St. Louis Community College Center for about a year. There he oversees a collection of more than 5,000 volumes available for use by the college’s 1,000 students.

Before moving to the metro-east Gayford worked for a publisher in New Jersey that specializes in printing reference materials.

Describing his path to becoming a librarian, he said, “I had an internship during my senior year at Macomb that made me decide to go to graduate school. So I just went from there.”

Discussing his membership in Toastmasters, Gayford said he first became involved with the organization while in college in Chicago. He joined the O’Fallon club when he accepted his post as librarian at the East St. Louis college.

“I became a Toastmaster because I have to do public speaking for work — I do training sessions several times a month — as well as the fact that I was kind of a timid and self-effacing person,” he said. “And Toastmasters has helped me become more outgoing and to be a better public speaker.”

He then went on to explain, “Toastmasters is an organization that is dedicated to speech. It is dedicated to making people confident speakers and it is dedicated to making people leaders. That is what it does at its core.”

And, he said, the organization’s formula works.

“Public speaking is like cooking food,” Gayford noted. “We all enjoy eating food but that does not make us great cooks. And just because we speak on a regular basis everyday, we are not all great speakers.

“Toastmasters allows us to constantly practice, week in and week out,” he said. “It allows us to see where our weaknesses are and where are strengths are. And it allows us to build upon those strengths.

“By having consistent meetings, where we are always able to come back to improve ourselves, makes us better speakers,” Gayford said.

And he may be living proof of the club’s adage that practice makes perfect. He excelled this year in the organization’s spring international competition, which focused on inspirational speeches. He won at the club level, area level and district level. But he came up short at the division competition, where he pitted his oratorical skills against those of Toastmasters from throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Gayford, who lives in Edwardsville with his wife Katy and daughter Sadie, 2, said that, while he now enjoys speaking in public, whenever he steps up to a rostrum deep inside his chest cavity a slight twinge of fear is still there. But by using breathing techniques and other keys he has learned through Toastmasters he is able to control those butterflies.

“At this point I know nothing bad can happen,” he said. “I am not going to die so I know I can carry on with it.”

Click here to view a PDF version of the article.

Collection Development Policy Example

I am making available a generic version of the collection development policy I wrote for my library. It draws from many sources, and is not 100% unique or original. The deselection part is to be used in conjunction with Crew: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries. See below to download my example policy in Word format.

Example Collection Development Policy

There are Memoirs and Then There is the Truth

Last fall I worked with a class on how to be information literate when it comes to biographical sources. Autobiographies, biographies, and memories are often filled with half-truths, altered-truths, or none-truths (lies). It is a matter of getting students to figure out the author’s bias and when to be critical of what they are reading.

Information literacy is about making savvy information consumers. In the literature there are lots of examples of hoax websites that get cited over and over again. While they can make for a fun day in the classroom, most online examples are laughably obvious. Websites like: Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus or RYT Hospital. The truly dangerous and hard to identify stuff comes from professionals in the field, academics, and popularized researchers: Those who publish “real” books through “real” publishers.  Examples of this nature make students stop laughing and sit up.

The example that I use in my classes is that of Stephen Ambrose; the popular historian that every American has heard of, if not read. In the April 26, 2010 New Yorker, the article Channelling Ike lays out a detailed case for made up interviews and facts in Ambrose’s biographical books on the life of Dwight D. Eisenhower. In the Slate, the article The Plagiarist: Why Stephen Ambrose is a Vampire explores his long history of plagiarism.

National Public Radio (NPR)  aired a piece last week on memoirs and their “murkey” nature. Entitled ‘Tea’ Debacle Reflects The Murky Waters Of Memoirs,1 this piece explores a broad range of current authors who’s memories are faulty. NPR followed this up with a piece that explores the responsibility of the publisher when it comes to the facts.2 (See below to hear both.)  Some authors are much more interested in a good story than the facts, that is something we all need to keep in mind.


‘Tea’ Debacle Reflects The Murky Waters Of Memoirs


Vetting Memoirs A Tricky Problem For Publishers:NPR

  1. Neda Ulaby. (2011, April 19). ‘Tea’ Debacle Reflects The Murky Waters Of Memoirs : NPR. National Public Radio. Retrieved April 26, 2011, from
  2. Talk of the Nation. (2011, April 25). Vetting Memoirs A Tricky Problem For Publishers : NPR. National Public Radio. Retrieved April 26, 2011, from

Help Kill IE 6

Every time I have to think about, or work with, Internet Explorer 6 (IE 6) I have  a bout of the blurts. It is mostly four letter words that I blurt out. You know, words like f@$!, s@$!, and d@$!. But I may be getting ahead of you. Let me backup. If you do not know the difference between IE 6, 7, 8 or 9, there is not much. From a web developers perspective (mine) each release of IE has only gotten better at not entirely screwing up web standards.

Microsoft’s long domination of the browser came to its pinnacle with a combined IE 5 and IE 6 market share of 85% in 2003.1 Thankfully, the second browser wars freed us form Microsoft’s monopoly. Un-thankfully, many people do not know about the wars and that there are choices when it comes to their browser.

IE 6 was launched in 2001 and for five glacial years Microsoft did not update it. Another five years have come and gone, and in 2011 IE 6 is still supported by Microsoft (depending upon if your OS and service pack are still supported by Microsoft).2 If the overextended support of a ten year old piece of software is not mind-blowing, try this. Microsoft does not force users to upgrade from IE 6 to the latest release of IE.

If you are wondering how the use of IE 6 might affect you, there are all kinds of concerns with a ten year old browser including–but not limited to: security threats, speed related issues, and privacy concerns.  If you have a website,  there are  added web development costs.  IE 6 is notorious for not properly implementing web standards,  this adds hours—if not days—of additional work when a website template is created or a website is updated.

Thankfully, there are companies that have common sense. In March of 2010, Google stopped supporting IE 6.3 With 3% of the browser market, as of March 2011, it is time for IE6 to die. As it was nicely put by Microsoft’s own general manager for Internet Explorer, “Friends don’t let friends use IE6”.4 So how do we help our friends? If you are a library with a website ask your web developer to add anyone of these pieces of code to your website:


​1) Use the Internet Explorer 6 Countdown’s banner code to target IE 6  specific users with a banner informing them of the need to upgrade.

​2) Use the ie6-upgrade-warning hosted at Google Code. If your website runs on Joomla, there is a extension for this.

3) Use this code from ie6 no more to target IE 6 specific users with a box centered on the page informing them of the need to upgrade.


Please help make sure your friends and patrons are safe on the internet highway by sending them the IE 9 download link.

P.S. If you missed IE 6’s funeral, check out

  1. Internet Explorer Browser. (n.d.). W3School. Retrieved April 18, 2011, from
  2. Support for Internet Explorer 6 Continues Following the Release of Internet Explorer 7. (n.d.). Microsoft Support. Retrieved April 18, 2011, from
  3. Tom Krazit. (2010, January 29). Google Phasing Out Support for Ie6. Cnet News. Retrieved April 18, 2011, from
  4. Gregg Keizer. (2009, August 17). Microsoft: “Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Ie6’. Computerworld. Retrieved April 18, 2011, from

Study Like a Scholar, Scholar

Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library has new spiced old spice.  Check it out.


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Here is the behind the scenes video.


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Source: New Spice