Librarians Take a Stand

July 12, 2019

At the recent American Library Association’s annual conference in D.C., the CIA had a booth set up to entice librarians into a new role as intelligence analysts. Pretty smart, I’ll admit, but many ALA members were very unhappy with the agency’s presence. Raw Story reports, “Citing CIA’s Dark History, Librarians Protest Agency’s Recruiting at their Conference.” Protestors cited the CIA’s history of foreign-government overthrows, support of dictators, reliance on torture, and tendency to spy on everyone else while maintaining opacity for itself. They maintain that supporting the agency in any way runs counter to the American Library Association’s stated values.

This is not the first time librarians have made an issue of this particular conference exhibitor. Writer Common Dreams notes:

“That language builds on and mirrors a call from an open letter released last year. Authored by [Alison] Macrina and Dustin Fife and entitled ‘No Legitimization Through Association: The CIA Should Not Be Exhibiting at ALA,’ the letter was published right after the ALA’s 2018 annual conference, when the CIA was also an exhibitor.

We noted:

“‘We refuse to lend credence to the CIA through association and we ask our fellow library workers to join us,’ it said. ‘We should not allow them space to recruit library workers to become intelligence analysts, which was the focus of their booth.’

And this:

“‘Library workers are powerful,’ the statement added. ‘We have a strong reputation in our local communities and across the world as being steadfast stewards of democracy, intellectual freedom, equity, and social justice. We attempt to honor these values through our collections, programs, and services and we recognize that our libraries need continuous examination in a systemically unjust society. Those values should extend to all that we do. A more democratic world is possible, and we believe that library workers can be at the forefront of this charge.’”

At this year’s conference, it was proposed that CIA be banned from recruiting at future events, but the resolution failed. It was reasoned that such a ban would violate the CIA’s freedom of speech. Without noting the irony, Library Freedom Project founder Alison Macrina insists this is not a first amendment issue, predicting the ALA would deny, for example, the KKK should that organization wish to recruit at the conference. Certainly, she is correct there. Right?

Cynthia Murrell, July 12, 2019

New Yorkers: Go to the Library for Declassified Documents

May 31, 2019

The New York Public Library published “US Declassified Documents Online.” According to the write up:

This archive allows researchers to access more than 700,000 pages of selected previously classified government documents online. The archive includes declassified documents from agencies and organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the White House, United Nations, and the Atomic Energy Commission. Content from this archive includes: diary entries, FBI surveillance and intelligence correspondence and memoranda, CIA intelligence studies and reports, Joint Chiefs papers, and technical studies.

Like most collections of this type, allow time for searching and browsing. DarkCyber poked around, and our team will restrain from making any further comment.

Stephen E Arnold, May 31, 2019

Books and Learning: Go Mobile, Stay Clueless

May 27, 2019

I read “The Books of College Libraries Are Turning into Wallpaper.” The main idea is that today’s students are not using libraries to locate books which are then read, thought about, and analyzed in order to:

  1. Learn
  2. Find useful facts
  3. Exploit serendipity
  4. Figure out which source or sources is relevant to a particular issue or topic.

The Atlantic states about Yale University:

There has been a 64 percent decline in the number of books checked out by undergraduates from Bass Library over the past decade.

News flash.

Once online information systems found their way into libraries in the 1980s, the shift from books to online information access was underway. How do I know? I worked at the database unit of the Courier Journal & Louisville Times. Greg Payne and Dennis Auld acquired the Abstracted Business Information product and converted it to an online research source for those interested in the major journal articles about commercial enterprises. The Courier Journal acquired the database product and marketed ABI/INFORM to university libraries with some success. Many people rowed the boat that raced to become one of the most widely accessed business information databases in the world in the period from 1980 to 1986 when other online products nibbled into ABI/INFORM’s position.

The point is that 1980 to 2019 is the period in which the shift from journals and books to online for certain types of research has been chugging along.

Net net: The decline in the use of books has been underway for more than 39 years. The consequence is less informed people who routinely tell me, “I am an expert researcher.” What these individuals lost in a cloud of unknowing do not comprehend is that someone is deciding for them what is relevant and important. You may call atrophied thinking an oddity. I call it “deep stupid.” In a well stocked library one can become deeply informed.

Stephen E Arnold, May 27, 2019

The Library: A Survival Tool

May 23, 2018

Hundreds of movies and books depict what will happen during and after the zombie apocalypse, a mass technology failure, the next mass extinction, a virus pandemic, environmental collapse, and/or a nuclear fallout. Here is a spoiler: most of the population dies.

The survivors are left in a barely recognizable world and despite all of humanity’s knowledge, what use is it if it is only digital?

Survivor Library or How To Survive When Technology Doesn’t is a knowledge repository for when the world becomes dystopian. The information in the Survivor Library includes information on building a telegraph system, farming, engineering, wagon building, medicine, and even Christmas. I bet the people in Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead wish they had this library, except it does not include information on killing zombies.

There will probably come a time when everyone is going to be reading digital books over the paper copies. That does not mean that paper copies are useless. This type of knowledge still has practical applications and needs to be taught…at least more practical skills need to be taught in schools. All of the information in the Survivor Library is in the public domain and comes from knowledge circa the early 1900s and earlier.

“As the library has grown over time we’ve tried to cover both the simplest, more basic self sufficiency skills such as growing food and raising livestock through the most advanced and sophisticated technology of the time such as aeroplanes and communications systems like telephone and telegraph.

Where there books on Industrial processes, methods, formulas, techniques we included those as well. Even the more advanced technologies of the periods are within the reach of people starting from scratch. Steam engines may seem primitive to most modern people but they powered the industrial revolution in much of the world well into the 1900s. Basic knowledge of chemical formulas and processes are recorded in books from these periods ranging from the most basic industrial chemical needs through household materials in common use.”

It will probably be more useful than the stuff Ash used in the Evil Dead movie.

Here is how the Survivor Library archives: PDFs that can be easily stored and printed. I love PDFs, the only problem with using them when society has collapsed is finding a machine and/or printer to read them.

Whitney Grace, May 23, 2018

How to Become a More Informed Research Scientist: Cancel Subscriptions to Peer Reviewed Journals

April 4, 2018

France wants to be a world leader in artificial intelligence. The country is confident that it can access the technical and scientific information to achieve this goal. As a result of this confidence, the information in “French Universities Cancel Subscriptions to Springer Journals” is a reminder that certain old school content gems are second hand goods. With the power of Qwant at their fingertips, French research scientists can keep pace with other countries’ research. Perhaps a Chinese solution may be in the works for French universities?

Stephen E Arnold, April 4, 2018

Internet Archive: The Bono Books

October 16, 2017

I read “Books from 1923 to 1941 Now Liberated!” The collection is based on books which libraries can scan. The write up explains the provision of the US copyright law which makes these books eligible for inclusion in the Internet Archive. Hopefully libraries will find the resources to contribute books. I did some spot checks. One gap is history books. There are others. This is an excellent effort. The interface to the Bono books retains the Internet Archive’s unique approach to interfaces; for example, clicking on a book displays the scanned pages. Clicking on a page turns the page. The outside edge of the scanned image allows one to “jump” to a particular page. Getting back to a book’s table of contents takes a bit of effort, however. Those looking for anthologies can find a collection of 20th century poetry by hunting. The search system is just good enough. Worth checking out. Libraries, scan those history books. Who doesn’t love Theodor Mommsen’s early work?

Stephen E Arnold, October 16, 2017

Dark Web Notebook Now Available

June 5, 2017

Arnold Information Technology has published Dark Web Notebook: Investigative Tools and Tactics for Law Enforcement, Security, and Intelligence Organizations. The 250-page book provides an investigator with instructions and tips for the safe use of the Dark Web. The book, delivered as a PDF file, costs $49.

Orders and requests for more information be directed to Purchasers must verify that they work for a law enforcement, security, or intelligence organization. Dark Web Notebook is not intended for general distribution due to the sensitive information it contains.

The author is Stephen E Arnold, whose previous books include CyberOSINT: Next Generation Information Access and Google Version 2.0: The Calculating Predator, among others. Arnold, a former Booz, Allen & Hamilton executive, worked on the US government-wide index and the Threat Open Source Intelligence Gateway.

The Dark Web Notebook was suggested by attendees at Arnold’s Dark Web training sessions, lectures, and webinars. The Notebook provides specific information an investigator or intelligence professional can use to integrate Dark Web information into an operation.

Stephen E Arnold, author of the Dark Web Notebook, said:

“The information in the Dark Web Notebook has been selected and presented to allow an investigator to access the Dark Web quickly and in a way that protects his or her actual identity. In addition to practical information, the book explains how to gather information from the Dark Web. Also included are lists of vendors who provide Dark Web services to government agencies along with descriptions of open source and commercial software tools for gathering and analyzing Dark Web data. Much of the information has never been collected in a single volume written specifically for those engaged in active investigations or operations.”

The book includes a comprehensive table of contents, a glossary of terms and their definitions, and a detailed index.

The book is divided into 13 chapters. These are:

  1. Why write about the Dark Web?
  2. An Introduction to the Dark Web
  3. A Dark Web Tour with profiles of more than a dozen Dark Web sites, their products, and services
  4. Dark Web Questions and Answers
  5. Basic Security
  6. Enhanced Security
  7. Surface Web Resources
  8. Dark Web Search Systems
  9. Hacking the Dark Web
  10. Commercial Solutions
  11. Bitcoin and Variants
  12. Privacy
  13. Outlook

In addition to the Glossary, the annexes include a list of DARPA Memex open source software written to perform specific Dark Web functions, a list of spoofed Dark Web sites operated by law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and a list of training resources.

Kenny Toth, June 5, 2017

Google Search Versus Academic Library Search

February 21, 2017

Well, Dartmouth’s library search does a killer job on topics like employee compensation, regression analysis, and the intricacies of duacetylmorphine. Google does a better job with Lady Gaga, where to buy pizza in Toledo, and learning about Google services.

I know this because I read and believed “Google Search engine vs Dartmouth Library Search.” The write up is a clarion call to the way things were. I can hear echoes of free Dialog training, the blandishments of the LexisNexis and Westlaw sales professionals, and the explanations of silver, gold, titanium, platinum, and diamond versions of Ebsco’s databases.

The write up points out:

Dartmouth Library access to thousands of articles, journals, abstracts, papers and theses from Dartmouth College, the other Ivy leagues, the other top universities, even out of the United States. So, to answer to the question, what is the difference between Google and Dartmouth Library, I would say Google is more public and is open to everybody. But, it doesn’t give us all of the actual research papers and publications.

Lousy writing aside, research libraries offer more reliable and slightly less crazed information than one finds in the Google index.

What’s frightening me is that this type of comparison is necessary.

Stephen E Arnold, February 21, 2017

Microsofts Researcher Feature Offers Shortcut to Finding Sources

January 23, 2017

The article titled Microsoft Launches Researcher and Editor in Word, Zoom in PowerPoint on VentureBeat discusses the pros and cons of the new features coming to Office products. Editor is basically a new and improved version of spellcheck that goes beyond typos to report back on wordiness, passive voice, and cliché usage. This is an exciting tool that might put a few proofreaders out of work, but it is hard to see any issues beyond that. The more controversial introduction by Microsoft is Researcher, and the article explains why,

Researcher… will give users a way to find and incorporate additional information from outside sources. This makes it easy to add a quote and even generate proper academic citations for use in papers. Explicit content won’t appear in search results, so you won’t accidentally import it into your work. And you won’t find yourself in some random Wikipedia rabbit hole, because the search for additional information happens in a panel on the right side of your Word document.

Researcher pulls information from the Bing Knowledge Graph to provide writers with relevant connections to their topics. The question is, will users rely on Researcher to fact-check for them, or will they make sure that the suggested source material is appropriate and substantiated? In spite of the lessons of the Republic National Convention, plagiarism can get you into big trouble (in a college classroom, anyway.) It is easy to see student users failing to properly cite or quote the suggested information, unless Researcher also offers help in those activities as well. Is this a good thing, or is it another way to make our children dumber by enabling shortcuts?

Chelsea Kerwin, January 23, 2017

Shorter Content Means Death for Scientific Articles

December 26, 2016

The digital age is a culture that subsists on digesting quick bits of information before moving onto the next.  Scientific journals are hardly the herald of popular trends, but in order to maintain relevancy with audiences the journals are pushing for shorter articles.  The shorter articles, however, presents a problem for the authors says Ars Technica in the, “Scientific Publishers Are Killing Research Papers.”

Shorter articles are also pushed because scientific journals have limited pages to print.  The journals are also pressured to include results and conclusions over methods to keep the articles short.  The methods, in fact, are usually published in another publication labeled supplementary information:

Supplementary information doesn’t come in the print version of journals, so good luck understanding a paper if you like reading the hard copy. Neither is it attached to the paper if you download it for reading later—supplementary information is typically a separate download, sometimes much larger than the paper itself, and often paywalled. So if you want to download a study’s methods, you have to be on a campus with access to the journal, use your institutional proxy, or jump through whatever hoops are required.

The lack of methodical information can hurt researchers who rely on the extra facts to see if it is relevant to their own work.  The shortened articles also reference the supplementary materials and without them it can be hard to understand the published results.  The shorter scientific articles may be better for general interest, but if they lack significant information than how can general audiences understand them?

In short, the supplementary material should be included online and should be easily accessed.

Whitney Grace, December 26, 2016

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