Monthly Archives: October 2014

Late Night Library Welcomes Nocturnal Bibliophiles

Somehow long chilly evenings elicit the yearn for a good read– or then again it could be a good listen – in the wee hours.  Think Late Night Library, the ever-expanding virtual library of podcasts and more, treasures to nourish the nocturnal need to know.

As always, there’s an audio treat to suit every taste – from discussions of literature to writer interviews, chats with award recipients, debut authors and more. And if you miss a favorite – or doze off mid-podcast – there’s always the posted link to recapture the moment.

Last week I happened to catch Angela Bole, Executive Director of the Independent Book Publishers Association – a breath of air in a best seller saturated world.  She got me with this:

I think a multitude of voices is really what’s going to make society strong. And literature is the thing that really connects you, and makes you feel like someone who is not quite so alone, perhaps.  In order to do that you need all kinds of different voices because people are so unique, and you need to enable all of these different voices to be found….Essentially, I think it’s so important that we have – and protect – these multiple ways that people are able to tell their stories and the multiple channels that people can tell them in. (Interview 10-21-14)

Bole picked up exactly where Leo J. Harris (see previous post) had left me thinking about his creative adventure with open access publishing.

This is the sort of serendipitous mind-opener you can find any night on Late Night Library.   LNL offers an endless audio flow of ideas to ponder and introductions to emerging writers and like-minded folk who share their thoughts freely and fluently.

It’s folly to try to categorize or describe the many facets of LNL. As with any good library, it all depends on what you’re looking for. You want “gossip?” That’s Dog Eared and Dispatched where you can get the latest scoop on Amazon or what’s happening in the publishing game. Famous First Words offers the back-story on breakthrough books.   The Rookie Report shines a spotlight on the newly published – or there’s WebComic – you can probably figure that one out

Though LNL emanates from the Portland, Oregon book scene, they somehow manage to catch the spirit – and the live feed – from hot spots such as this month’s Brooklyn Book Festival.

Next time the wind howls and the sun goes down about the time the kids get out of school, check out LNL to see what the LNL team is up to now.

Understand, of course, LNL is not just for night owls – they just have unique insights into the psyche of insomniacs. Others can click and enjoy 24/7. (http://latenightlibrary.org/about/)

 

 

 

 

Before the Museums Came – A Virtual Tour of the TC’s Arts Heritage

Open Access Week (October 20-26) just wasn’t long enough to explore all the permutations on the theme. And so we saved the best for last with celebration of a most wonderful open access book. Before the Museums Came: A Social History of the Fine Arts in the Twin Cities, is the brilliant and beautiful creation of publisher, social historian and attorney Leo John Harris. The book and the creator deserve a bonus day of celebration.

Before the Museums Came offers a virtual walk through Minnesota’s fine arts history – actually through the private fine arts collections of some of the state’s most renowned titans of business and politics.   Harris, creator of the open access book, is perhaps best known as the founder of Pogo Press, publisher of arts, history and popular culture. Harris has ventured into open access publishing with his usual commitment to produce a work of significance and beauty.

Focus of this social history of the area’s arts community is on the era spanning the years 1835 till establishment of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 1915. Among the noted collectors whose names and stories are known to 21st Century Twin Citians are T.B. Walker and J.J. Hill, both of whom established massive private collections of art from around the globe, collections that established the roots of today’s museums.

Capitalizing on the potential of open access publishing Harris leads a tour through the private collections as well as the institutions and organizations that were created in support of the fine arts. He guides the reader through the early art exhibits and events, the collectors, dealers and artists whose efforts breathed life into the thriving arts community that locals and visitors from around the world enjoy today.

John Lindley, director of the Ramsey County Historical Society, writes that “Harris adroitly explains how art dealers, critics, architects, academics, public libraries, and artists all contributed to the vibrant community interest in the fine arts. As a social history of the fine arts, this book succeeds in documenting the Twin Cities art community prior to 1915 with depth and detail that is unavailable elsewhere. “

The thoroughly researched text is enriched and supplemented by reproductions of artworks, photographs of key players, exhibition sites, studios, art galleries, catalogs and ephemera.  The result is both a scholarly work and a unique reading/viewing experience.

Don’t look for a coffee table book at your favorite indie! This is a virtual tome, downloadable at the click of the key. It’s published by DeGruyter Open (formerly Versita), one of the world’s leading publishers of open access content.   Though the emphasis of Open Access Week is on scholarly and research works, Harris’ unique exploration of the Twin Cities arts heritage is a breakthrough adventure that will not just inform but delight anyone with an eye for the visual arts and a love for the storied roots of our robust arts community

Click here http://www.degruyter.com/view/product/207417 to explore the heritage and to wonder at the possibilities when creativity and technology share a mission and a vision.

 

 

Peace Activist Paul K. Chappell Visits Minnesota on Speaking Tour

Sometimes it seems that turmoil in youth breeds a thirst for peace, a compassion to wage peace on the political as well as personal front. Such appears to be the case with author and activist Paul K. Chappell. Chappell will be waging peace during a whirlwind visit to Minnesota during a mid-November speaking tour.

Growing up in Alabama Chappell experienced early life in a violent household. As a youth he graduated from West Point, deployed to Iraq and left active duty in November 2009 as a Captain.

Since that time he has committed his life to the cause of peace. He is the author of the Road to Peace series, a seven-volume series about “waging peace, ending war, the art of living and what it means to be human.”

Chappell serves as the Peace Leadership Director for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. In that role he will be in the Minnesota November 14-20. Included on his itinerary are the following engagements:

  • November 15, 9:00-5:00 – workshop on “Waging Peace in Difficult Times,” First Unitarian Society, 900 Mount Curve Avenue in Minneapolis. $40 suggested donation.
  • November 16, 9:00 am – “Why Peace is Possible” Sunday forum at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Avenue South, Minneapolis
  • November 17, 6:00 pm – Keynote on “Is World Peace Possible?”, Minneapolis Alliance of Peacemakers annual celebration, 6:00 p.m. at Landmark Center in St. Paul. Suggested $10 donation – Contact Mary Faulkner, 612 823 5524 or rfofmplsmn@aol.com.
  • November 18, 11:30-1:00 – Veterans Ministry Foundation Roundtable, “Creating Your Own Inner Peace as a Veteran.” Our Saviors Lutheran Church, 2315 Chicago Avenue South, Minneapolis. Free lunch. Pre-register at buddy@listentovets.org or 6122 8711-2967.

Chappell’s days in the TC’s will be followed by time in Duluth where he will speak at multiple events. Contact John Pegg 218 349 1786 or jpeggduluth@yahoo.com.

Questions? Contact Larry Johnson, Veterans for Peace Education Coordinator, 612 747 3904 or larryjvfp@gmail.com

Smarten up – politically and fiscally – with State Smart!

 A little learning is a dangerous thing.
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring;
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again. Alexander Pope

Election season does foster serious data ennui – numbers too astronomical, too fuzzy, too manipulated for mere mortals to get a grip.

One does at times seek refuge in ignorance

Still, a handy tool for navigating the data tsunami has just been launched by the National Priorities Project. It offers the rudderless voter a way to navigate the flow; it even comes complete with simple – but highly informative – graphics.

It’s State Smart (https://www.nationalpriorities.org/smart), billed as “your comprehensive source for tracking how federal funds impact all fifty states and the District of Columbia.”

From the comfort of your favorite coffee shop you can track the flow of federal funds from the Beltway to the banks of the Mississippi – spending on government personnel, contracts, aid to individuals through federal programs, e.g. Medicare – and more. And the flow goes both ways, you can also track how much Minnesota individuals and businesses are paying in federal taxes.

Best of all, you can put things in perspective by comparing this – or any state’s – data with any other state – how much, on average, do Minnesotans received in federal benefits? What percentage of the state’s budget comes from the feds?

Amaze your friends with stunning insights such as the fact that, in 2013 the average taxpayer in Minnesota paid $11,002 in federal income taxes in 2013. That’s $713 less than the national average….

Or spend endless hours comparing, contrasting, boasting or bemoaning the state’s relative standing in terms of anything from federal contracts to school expenditures.

Or, dig deeper into the enormous depths of data that the system designers have gathered and rendered not just available, but accessible.

Whatever your interest, amuse and amaze yourself between campaign commercials with this simple but powerful resource!

 

 

 

 

Celebrating the Northeastern Minnesota Community of the Book

For nearly three decades the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards (NEMBA) has recognized the area’s writers, bringing to the attention of the state’s and nation’s readers the wealth of literature created by established and emerging writers from the region. For purposes of the NEMBA the definition of a Northeastern Minnesota book is one that is “substantially representative of northeastern Minnesota in the areas of history, culture, heritage lifestyle.   Northeastern Minnesota is defined to include Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Kanabec, Koochiching, Lake, Pine and St. Louis Counties.

Sponsors of NEMBA, the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Kathryn A. Martin Library and the Friends of the Duluth Public Library, are now accepting nominations for the 2014 award.

Books, including e-books, may be nominated in one of six categories: General Nonfiction; Fiction; Art, Photography; Children’s literature; Poetry; Memoir and Creative Nonfiction.

Nominated books must have been originally released in 2014. A non-refundable $25 entry fee is required for each nominated title.

For details on how to nominate a book, visit the NEMBA website at www.d.umn.edu/lib/nemba. Questions? Call 218 726 6843 or email libnemba@dumn.edu.

Nominations must be postmarked or delivered to the Kathryn A. Martin Library, University of Minnesota Duluth, by January 16, 2015.

An awards reception honoring all nominated authors will be held on Thursday, May 21, 2015, in the Kirby Ballroom on the UMD Campus. The reception is free and open to the public.

Remember Jerry Blue

Jerry Blue didn’t fit the mold. He was African American, he was huge, he thought that libraries were about ideas and learning and opening doors for people of whatever age or color or mindset. His stories will live in the minds of countless children who listened with rapt attention as he shared the wisdom of the stories.

In recent times he was my neighborhood librarian. We talked at length of his plans to work with the community, to carry the message to those on the fringe – to seniors, kids, immigrant people, those who think they don’t deserve to know. He was a passionate believer in the role of the public library as an active player in the community.

Jerry’s friends and especially patrons of St. Anthony, Sumner and St. Anthony are mourning his sudden death last week.

Jerry Blue was a good man who made a difference in this world and in his community. Though he will be missed, his spirit is with us.

 

Some non-partisan notes on 2014 votes

Have you ever found yourself alone and clueless in the voting booth, suddenly aware that there are whole columns of unknown candidates vying for positions you never knew existed? There’s an app for that!

My Ballot is now up and running for the November 4th election. The site provides the voter with a sample ballot complete with links to popular sites that provide information about each candidate. It covers any election in the state of Minnesota.

Find My Ballot at www.myballot.info – Enter your zip code and you’ll find the exact replica of the ballot you’ll face in the voting booth – with a digital crib sheet. You can’t vote online, but you can prepare yourself to make the best decisions when your turn comes.

Still, for some Minnesotans, getting to the polls this season will present a mighty challenge. The October 10 issue of Access Press, now on the newsstands, shines light on a harsh reality — voters with disabilities can’t depend on a lift to the polls this year. Since 2008 the Rides to the Polls Coalition, made up of several disability service providers and organized through Courage Kenny, has been funded by the Frey Foundation to provide rides to persons with disabilities. Those funds are no more, and no other provider has been able to continue the service.

The Secretary of State’s office encourages voters who need transportation to the polling place to contact family, friends or neighbors. It would seem appropriate to reverse the message to encourage mobile Minnesotans to consider family members, friends and neighbors who might need a ride.

Though Metro Transit in the Twin Cities must offer regular fixed-route transit service free of charge on Election Days the rule does not apply in non-urban areas. In some communities political parties provide rides.  In any event, this patchwork approach falls far short of the need, particularly since people with disabilities have long depended on the Rides to the Polls Coalition.

One option is for voters with disabilities to vote absentee by mail or by going to an elections office prior to Election Day. This means people need to know the rules of absentee voting in advance. For the rules on absentee voting and everything else you ever wanted to know about Minnesota election law and were afraid to ask, check Ballotpedia where the Secretary of State posts all the rules: http://ballotpedia.org/Minnesota_elections,_2014#Voting_absentee

 

 

 

Girls Explore Creative Coding at Katie DoJo

Since my return from the Code for America 2014 Summit I have replayed – virtually and literally – the images of the presenters. [One image keeps recurring – the image of creative young women working with users to craft techie tools that solve real-life human needs. For so many of these young women the story was not so much about the tool but about the ways in which the app improved someone’s life. That implicit purpose seemed uniquely explicit in the presentations of dozens of young female coders.

To wit: In Detroit one young woman delved into the water shut-off mess and created an app that group sourced rapid recovery assistance from around the world. A young woman from Chicago developed an app that eased the way for young felons to expunge their criminal record, freeing them to get a job, to find an apartment, to vote. In Somerville, Massachusetts it was a team of young women who created an ethnic festival that engaged all of that diverse community. [ The videos of these and all of the scores of coder presentations are posted online for easy viewing.]

So it’s not surprising that Katie CoderDojo, in spite of the inscrutable title, caught my eye during a recent visit to the campus of St. Catherine University..

The idea behind Katie CoderDojo is that girls and young women ages 8-16 will spread their creative coding wings in a special supportive environment.

Katie CoderDojo is a joint project of the National Center for STEM Elementary Education and the Master of Library and Information Science programs at St. Catherine’s. The CSU project is a partner program of Code Savvy, a Minnesota nonprofit.

The next Katie CoderDojo is set for Sunday, October 19, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Room 19 in the Coeur de Catherine building on the CSU Campus, 2004 Randolph at Cleveland in St. Paul. Future sessions are set for November 16 and December 14. These first sessions will include introductions to Scratch and Appinventor. There is no free for participants. For girls under 13 parents are asked to remain on site.

For more information or to register click here: http://www.codesavvy.org/p/katie-coderdojo.html

 

 

It’s National Newspaper Week — Read On!

Half of the American people never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President  One hopes it is the same half. Gore Vidal

 If you’re a tweeter, texter, app-addicted news junkie you may be blissfully unaware that this very week, October 5-11, 2014, is the 74th Annual National Newspaper Week.   Moreover Tuesday, October 7, is the first ever National News Engagement Day.

 Clearly the two commemorations relate and promote a common message. Still, they differ in focus. National Newspaper Week celebrates the nation’s democratic tradition of a free press that doesn’t just report the news but that holds both the nation’s leaders and the newspaper’s readers accountable for a robust democracy. The day of engagement, sponsored by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, focuses on promoting Americans’ engagement with the news as a national priority.

So where do newspapers fit in and why do we need a week, or even a day, to stem the rising tide of disengagement.   Robert Williams, President of the National Newspaper Association, observes that “newspapers sound the alarm with swift, accurate and thorough coverage when sensitive issues arise. We provide not just facts but clearly labeled editorials to help everyone weigh matters with sufficient information. We pay attention. We laugh. We cry. We hurt. We rejoice. We care. We share the pain and shed tears along with our readers. That is what well-run newspapers do.”

To be sure legacy newspapers – the ones that used to roll off the presses – are in distress.   Competition from formats that require less cost to produce and less time to “consume”, coupled with dramatic loss of advertising income have led to massive layoffs of investigative reporters, shifts in ownership, and plummeting reader confidence. The most recent Pew Research Center biennial news consumption survey identified 29% of young adults as “newsless”…..which ironically does rhyme with “clueless”.

What’s more, a recent Gallup poll reveals that Americans’ confidence in news media is at a record low. Far more troubling is a study conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. More troubling by far, the same study found that more than one-third of Americans are opposed to freedom of the press when it comes to stories concerning national security.

One appropriate way to observe Newspaper Week is to reflect on the role and tradition of this nation’s free press. What immediately comes to mind is the diversity. Just as the communities they reflect and inform are unique, each newspaper has its own special character, each news person reflects his or her own take on the task.

Consider the unique role of rural press: A recent study of rural Oklahomans 42.2% of respondents turned to their local newspaper as their primary source of information. Researchers concluded that “even in this age of endless Facebook feeds and dizzying arrays of other social media options, the good ol’ newspaper still has a beloved place in many rural residents’ hearts.”   One might suggest that the newspaper retains a beloved place in rural residents’ minds, as well — recent political decisions by Minnesota’s rural voters were no doubt influenced by the editorial positions of this state’s strong rural press.

Community presses also play a unique role as community builders, helping to define a community and carve out a market in mobile world in which geography is not the determinant of community. Keith Anderson, director of news at ECM Publishers in Coon Rapids, MN, looks at community newspapers with a his own lens: “Community journalism isn’t about paper and ink or websites and unique visitors….Community journalism is a living, breathing, shared connection of people that propels us to take chances, to realize that life is not always safe, clean and tidy, but that, through our connection, there is plenty to celebrate and adventures to explore.”

In the digital age we tend to forget the person who hatched the idea, ferreted out the facts, selected the words to tell the story – and fit the available column space. American Newspaper Association President Williams gives pause for thought when he observes that “newspapering is a job in the same sense that being a father or mother is a ‘job.’ Parents are responsible for the well-being of their family. Good newspapers take on that role with the communities we serve.”

Finally, lest you think that National Newspaper Week and National News Engagement Day are pedantic, even quaint, occasions of note, check out the lighter touch offered by the Poynter Institute: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/272995/happy-newspaper-week-pssst-its-not-just-about-newspapers/

The fun facts and stories there will remind you just how human – and humorous – the newspaper industry is.

 

 

 

Timely Data Reduces Risk for American Workers

This is a belated Labor Day good news post. It’s the story of how one federal agency is putting critical data into the hands of workers who can use digital tools to hold employers immediately and effectively accountable for workplace safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency responsible for the workplace safety of millions of Americans, has stepped to the plate to give employees a better tool to watchdog their own work environment.

Observing that workplace injuries – and fatalities – are often preventable, Thomas Perez, who heads the Department of Labor, home of OSHA, is certain that the new rule will “help OSHA focus its resources and hold employers accountable for preventing them.”

The new rule takes a double-barreled approach:

First, the rule requires that employers notify OSHA within 24 hours when someone is injured – loses an eye, or a limb or is admitted to the hospital with a work related injury. Currently employers are required to report only incidents that result in “catastrophes,” i.e. incidents that result in three or more hospitalizations.

Second, the reports of injuries will be made public on OSHA’s website. In 2013 that would have meant prompt reporting of 3,929 workers who died in private industry workplace accidents.

The idea behind the immediate reporting and posting of the data is to expand access to the dangers on the part of employers and employees alike – to “embarrass” employers and to offer workers current and accessible data on workplace safety.

Though worker safety is the priority, there are economic benefits as well to what is being called the “name and shame” approach. Armed with data, workers themselves can spot problems and demand action. Writing in Bloomberg Businessweek Josh Eidelson notes the critical need for more eyes on the front lines: “Since 1981, OSHA has shed health and safety inspectors to cut costs while the number of U.S. employers has doubled, according to the Center for Effective Government. A report from the group estimated that at current staffing levels, it would take federal OSHA inspectors 131 years to visit every U.S workplace.”

This led me to the CEG website where I found an analysis of a complementary resource issued by the Department of Labor in conjunction with Workers’ Memorial Day last April 28th. Sofia Plagakis of CEG has plumbed the depths of the Department of Labor’s Online Enforcement database. (http://www.foreffectivegov.org/e-gov-spotlight-dept-of-labor-enforcement-data-tool-provides-access-worker-safety-information)

Don’t judge a database by its less than compelling title. In fact, the Online Enforcement database is a treasure trove of DOL data, including OSHA data on 100,000 inspections conducted annually, violations, citations, penalties and accident investigation data.

Other agency programs included in the merged database include reports from four agency divisions:

  • Wage and Hour Division – violations, back-wage amounts, number of employees due back wages, civil penalties assessed;
  • Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program – evaluations and compliant investigations;
  • Employee Benefits and Security Administration – data about enforcement efforts related to funding and investments of 800,000 retirement and welfare benefits plans; and
  • Mine Safety and Health Administration – data about mines, mine operators, inspections, violations and accidents.

Though the wheels of federal government may grind slowly, they do grind exceeding small. And it does behoove us to capitalize on the efforts, particularly when we think about the thousands of Americans who are directly affected by the data that the Department of Labor has put at our fingertips.