an open source search engine?

Back in May, Google announced that it would be adding a “credibility” factor to the algorithm that ranks its Google News results. “Credibility” would be measured by various factors, including the size of the news outlet’s staff and how long it had existed. As Brian Dominick reported on The NewStandard staff blog, such a system would be devastating for independent and alternative news sources. That got a some people thinking that what the world needed now was an open source alternative to Google. They’ve now officially launched the project, dubbed Openzuka.

If you care about alternative and independent voices having a fair shot in this world (and as a librarian, you certainly should), check this out. And if you’re at all technologically inclined, consider lending a hand–and if you know anyone else who would be interested, please pass it on!


Are you afraid of the world’s major internet search resources under a single gatekeeper, or by a small number of gatekeepers?

Are you nonetheless fascinated by the speed, power, and accuracy of current search engines?

Are you intrigued by the prospects of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people around the world contributing their expertise to build a distributed, open-source search engine, without a single gatekeeper, with the speed, power and accuracy of current search engines?

Then get involved in the Openzuka project.

Openzuka is an effort to build an open-source internet search engine–distributed architecture, fully transparent, open source, on a widespread scale with the speed and effectiveness of current commercial search engines like Google and Yahoo.

And we need your help to help us design and build it.

We imagine that the effort will require software developers, hardware specialists, theoreticians, information science experts, and anyone interested in knowledge exchange more generally. But we’ll need lots of contributions from a host of different fields.

If you wish to learn more about the project, and can contribute your expertise, ideas, suggestions, please join our online discussions:


–The Openzuka Team

I win!

My post “The Medium is Not the Message” over on my other blog won “Best Overall” in the EFF Blog-a-thon. You can read the many other fine posts here or here. I’m deeply honored–and humbled–by this. There are so many people out there working at the ground level to bridge the digital divide, rescue and preserve knowledge, fight restrictive DRM, and on and on. I am but a midget amongst giants.

If you’re not familiar with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, go check them out. Along with ALA, they are responsible for the victory over the broadcast flag back in May. They do a lot of good work and a lot of good for libraries, and even if you’re a bricks and mortar fanatic, you have to admit that the world is becoming increasingly digitized. As with any new frontier, many people have an interesting in staking out a claim for themselves. If you care about keeping the digital commons common, you should care about EFF.

Thanks to them again, and thanks to for the coverage (and, for that matter, for covering digital rights and libraries in general).

blog-a-thon! (more shameless promotion)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been having a blog-a-thon for the past couple weeks to celebrate their 15th anniversary and their work on behalf of bloggers.

What does all this have to do with libraries? Well, a few months back, the American Library Association and EFF (among others) successfully challenged the FCC’s broadcast flag mandate. (Essentially, the broadcast flag was a form of digital rights management (DRM) that would have meant that you could only play broadcast-flag- equipped media on approved players [sounds to me a bit like a Coca-Cola licensing agreement, wherein beverages can only be dispensed in approved cups]. For some idea of what it’s like to deal with DRM, check out The Shifted Librarian’s travails.)

EFF has been at the forefront of most, if not all, of the battles for free speech online and for civil liberties in general in the digital world. If you read at all in the biblioblogosphere (aka library blogland), you’ll see them again.

In any case, I wrote up an entry of my own for the Blog-a-thon. If you’re interested, you can read it over at my other blog.

books they don’t want on display in Hillsborough County, FL

If you haven’t been following the news, here’s the latest on the gay-themed books brouhaha in Florida. And here, courtesy of Martin Sicard, is a list of those extremely dangerous “teen-friendly books that were on display at the West Gate Library that spurred the Hillsborough County Commission to bar county agencies from acknowledging, promoting, and participating in Gay Pride recognition and events.” Protests against the county’s action have included a Read-In and something more like a Read-Out, featuring a librarian with a bullhorn. [Stories via]

  • My Father’s Scar by Michael Cart
  • Hello, I Lied by M.E. Kerr
  • Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block
  • Girl Goddess, #9 by Francesca Lia Block
  • Talk To Me: Stories and a Novella by Carol Dines
  • Tomorrow Wendy: A Love Story by Shelley Stoehr
  • Breaking Boxes by A.M. Jenkins
  • My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr
  • Empress of the World by Sara Ryan
  • Ironman by Chris Crutcher
  • Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  • The Shell House by Linda Newberry
  • A Face in Every Window by Han Nolan
  • Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence by Marion Diane Bauer
  • Alice on the Outside by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • True Believer by Virginia Euewer Wolff
  • The Car by Gary Paulsen
  • Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aiden Chambers
  • Razzle by Ellen Wittlinger
  • Box Girl by Sarah Withrow
  • Eight Seconds by Jean Ferris

The County keeps saying that they are not banning books, they are banning the endorsement of books, or, as one Tampa resident put it in the Tampa Tribune a few weeks ago

It’s not the job of librarians to highlight collections of books, argued Patrick McDowell, a Tampa resident who frequents the West Gate library branch, where one pride display was removed. “I would defend their right to have the books in the library, but it’s not their job to promote books.” [full article]

Next thing you know they’ll be telling us we’re not supposed to promote literacy.

Finally, if you’re looking for more gay-friendly teen lit to add to your collection, Martin also recommends Geography Club by Brent Hartinger, Luna by Julie Ann Peters, and Misfits by James Howe. I’d remind you not to forget the wonderful and frequently challenged Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden. Don’t forget to check out the Lambda Literary Awards for books for all ages, and ALA’s GLBT Round Table for some further resources.

library services in extreme temperatures

This morning on Chicago Public Radio there was a pretty good story on the 1995 heat wave [Real Audio file] that killed over 700 people, the majority of them poor and elderly people who had no access to air-conditioning. I haven’t yet read Eric Klinenberg’s Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of the Disaster in Chicago, but it’s worth noting, as did Micaela di Leonardo, reviewing the book for The Nation in 2002, that

first we need to come to terms with the epidemiological realities of heat crises. Extreme heat, Klinenberg explains, tends not to be taken as seriously as other weather and human disasters–hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, blizzards, plane crashes. But “more people die in heat waves than in all other extreme events combined,” and the ’95 crisis has “no equal in the record of US heat disasters.”
[Micaela di Leonardo, “Murder by Public Policy,” The Nation (September 2, 2002) Available online to subscribers and via various databases]

The City of Chicago’s Hot Weather Safety page (which is sort of buried, I might add) provides tips for keeping yourself and your pets cool, and a list of related links, including Chicago Public Library locations and the Department of Human Services Weather Relief page, which explains when extreme heat and cold warnings are issued, and what the DHS does about them:

The Chicago Department of Human Services coordinates the operation of Cooling and Warming Centers. Beginning with its own Human Services Centers, CDHS works with the Chicago Department on Aging, Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Public Libraries to make public buildings available. In times of excessive need, the City enlists the help of community organizations that can open their facilities to the public for respite from the weather. [emphasis added]

In addition to coordinating the Cooling and Warming Centers, the department also works to

  • Provide transportation to Warming and Cooling Centers.
  • Conduct well-being checks on those at risk.
  • Expand outreach to homeless people on the street during times of extreme cold.

As summer continues, you might want to think about the people in your library and what kinds of services you are providing to those who may need the library as a place to stay cool. We can’t all provide this kind of service. [link via Ruminations] But we can make sure that we provide all library users the same courteous service, whether they’re looking for a copy of Heat Wave or just looking for a place to stay out of the heat.

Grokster round-up and another ALA tidbit

Just in case you can’t get enough grokkin’:

Finally: I was late (the usual McCormick Place is really far away from everywhere else thing) to “The Googlization of Everything: A Threat to the Information Commons?” and thus only caught the last 10 or 15 minutes of Siva Vaidhyanathan’s presentation, but you can read some coverage from Aaron Dobbs (thanks, ALA Wiki!). Also, if, like me, you arrived late (or if you attended a different event at the Intercontinental and didn’t hear about the boycott), Rory has helpfully provided some coverage of the boycott, including a letter of protest you can download, in the latest Library Juice.