My Lifelong Love Affair with Libraries

From childhood to motherhood, Julie Bogart has remained true to the love of her life: the library.

Love Affair with Libraries

My first car accident occurred in the parking lot of a library. I had barely earned my driver’s license a few hours earlier. I hopped in my Mazda GLC that evening for a joyride—straight to the public library. So excited to visit the stacks inside, I hurriedly parked, misjudging the space and clipped the fender of the neighboring car. I got a tongue lashing from the owner, naturally—though the damage was insignificant.

But what stays with me more than that humiliation on what should have been a day of driving triumph is that my first choice destination when exercising my new-born 16 year old freedom, was to drive to a library. Libraries were a haven and a place of intellectual adventure in my childhood.

I remember the delicious sense of “shopping” that libraries provided. My mother took us weekly to pick books—and we were allowed to check out as many as we liked! I would examine the spines for provocative words like: “Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack” and colorful book covers like Garth Williams’ illustrations for the Little House books.

In the 1970s, we still used card catalogues made of paper. It was a point of pride with me that I could navigate that system at a young age (by 10) and locate a book by its digits with decimal points. Perhaps that introduction to the secret society of proficient library users contributed to my love of research-based writing. The first time a librarian showed me how to use microfiche (slides that keep copies of newspapers, academic journals, and books from decades gone by), I felt the thrill of membership to a society of scholars.

Fast forward a few decades and it’s no wonder that I gathered my five small children, bundled them in boots and coats against the cold Ohio winters, and invaded our local library every single week. Not content to check out one or two titles per child, we brought two laundry baskets with us to cart our book hauls home. Yes, there was the time when a stack of 20 CDs went missing in our rambling house to the tune of a fine over $100.00 (one hundred dollars I didn’t have). Still, we rejoiced in spring when the CDs reappeared like tulip bulbs, having been hidden under a sectional and blanket. We were refunded our fine and the librarians, forgiving as always, reassured us that they were glad we were back.

My two oldest kids got to participate in a poetry club for junior high kids. Each week, on Wednesday nights, the library turned their meeting room into a low-lights, coffee shop atmosphere with candles and colored table cloths. A microphone stood on a platform and kids between the ages of 11 and 15 took turns reciting original poetry (a poetry slam!). After the first meeting, my kids were highly motivated to write their own poetry. Until that night, their themes had consisted of skateboarding and ballet. This time, their poetry took a dark turn. One wrote from the viewpoint of a child in a wheelchair and the other discussed the pain of losing someone to suicide. I was startled! They each told me in their own way, “I didn’t know poetry could be about hard real life things!”

And that’s just it. Libraries are this incredible gift to our communities—a place where children discover more of the world as it is, aided by research tools, friendly staff, and a wide selection of books there for the borrowing. Libraries offer read aloud storybook times for toddlers, sometimes poetry slams for teens, and book club meet ups for adults. In our increasingly digital world, it’s so nice to know that down the street, there’s a collection of people dedicated to creating a space for research and reading, for community and collaboration.

As a home educator for seventeen years, I can’t think of a place that offered us more. The library stood as a weekly highlight—a day in the week where my children felt the thrill of independent learning. They’d peruse the stacks, sample a book in their hands, lean back in a beanbag chair to start the next book in a series, and check out a pile of them, confident that they had made good intellectually stimulating decisions for themselves. Three cheers for the library! (Just be careful when you park.)

BY JULIE BOGART, March 17, 2019, first appearing on Read It Forward

 

LIBRARIES AS COMMUNITY SPACES: AN ACADEMIC AND A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE

Public libraries are not just places where you can borrow books for free. Nor are they merely places where you can access the internet or use a printer. They offer those services, of course. But more than that, public libraries are community spaces; spaces designed to serve a local constituency and promote a sense of sociality. They offer classes, workshops, events, story times—plentiful opportunities for strangers to meet and social interactions to occur, as well as opportunities to learn and grow. (And for babies to learn how to properly shelve books; see below).

Baby

This is one way of understanding libraries as a community space. It is perhaps the most common way, and in professional library discourse and popular media this is how the library as a community space is presented—as a kind of social hub or ‘third space’, one of those valuable and increasingly rare spaces that belong to the community where anyone can hang out for free. The books are a bonus.

There is another way of understanding libraries as a community space, however. This other way has a more academic bent to it, and draws on ideas from social history, sociology, and cultural research, and sees the library as one part of a wider form of liberal governmentality. Simply, the liberal governmentality refers to a governing authority shaping citizens so that they could be self-regulating individuals; you don’t need a government watching and telling people what to do if the people themselves knew what to do and would watch out for each other. There are various instruments and agencies that can be used for this kind of rule, organisations and people involved in this regulation of behaviour and conduct in everyday life. These include churches, lawyers, doctors, schools, and public leisure facilities like municipal swimming pools. And, of course, libraries.  ‘Community’, seen through this lens, can be understood as something that a governing authority may try to use to develop social cohesiveness and a self-regulating group of citizens.

Through the liberal governmentality lens, the library can be understood as an instrument of the local municipality, particularly in its role in the community. The workshops, classes, and story times that are offered by libraries act as tools to guide and influence a population. These events allow for social interactions and potential relationships forming between neighbours, provide ways for the governing authority to connect with its constituency in a positive way, and contribute to the lifelong learning of the populace. The library is a way to gently guide a population and create a community of free, educated, self-regulating individuals.

These musings of the library as community space occupied my mind for the better part of four years as I completed my PhD. I entered libraries as a researcher, attended events and walked around the space with the critical eye of an academic. I questioned why things were the way they were, and blended what I was seeing and hearing with what I was reading in academic texts. Now it has been five years since completing the fieldwork component of my research, two years since I submitted the thesis, and one year since I graduated. I still go to the library a lot, and I will always look at a new library with the eyes of a researcher, but in my everyday life I have a new experience of the library as a community space.

In my new life as a stay-at-home mum, the library is where I go a few times a week with my baby daughter. We go there for baby story time, to borrow books, to enjoy the air conditioning, and to play with their toys and crawl around the relatively safe space. Once a week, baby story time means that someone else is entertaining my baby for half an hour. The toys they have are safe and fun and, most importantly, different to the toys that we have at home and so are therefore that much better. The children’s area is a much bigger space than our living room, so there is more room for my baby to crawl around (and thereby wear herself out).

I have also met other mums and caregivers at the library, both at story time and when we go just to hang out and play in the children’s area. It is refreshing to meet other people who can form complete sentences and have adult conversations, and sometimes if all you do is look after a baby all day, real conversations can be sorely lacking. Social interaction and being around other people is healthy and wonderful, and the library is a place where this can happen freely and openly.

The idea of ‘library as a community space’ has taken on a much more personal meaning. While I still appreciate the professional and academic perspectives of libraries as community spaces, this new way of seeing and using the library has been the most powerful. My twice-weekly trips to the library reveal to me not simply the role of the library as a community hub or a governmental instrument. This is the library as a saviour.

By , September 

Learn Your Library Resources (and Services) – Voter Registration

Image result for voter registration

That’s right. The Moline Public Library provides voter registration during most hours of operation. Since our voter registrars are sometimes busy with other library duties it isn’t a bad idea to call ahead at 524-2450 to inquire whether a registrar will be available.

What Do You Need to Register?
You may register to vote at the Moline Public Library under the following guidelines:

  1. You must live in Rock Island County
  2. You must be able to show 2 (two) forms of identification, 1 (one) indicating your current address
  3. You must be a resident at your current address at least 28 days before any election

Not sure if you’re registered?  You can find out by performing a Registration Lookup through the Illinois State Board of Elections web site.

When You Can Register?
Voter registration closes 28 days before an election and opens 3 days after an election.

And now, new residents/citizens/legal adults and the friends and family members of said individuals, you know where to go (or where to send them) if you (they) would like to register to vote in the next round of elections!

On a related note, the library is also a frequent location for early voting, so once you’re registered be on the lookout for an opportunity to beat the lines on election day by coming to the library to vote early!

 

 

How Much of the Internet Is Fake? Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually.

Photo: Artwork by Ayatgali Tuleubek

In late November, the Justice Department unsealed indictments against eight people accused of fleecing advertisers of $36 million in two of the largest digital ad-fraud operations ever uncovered. Digital advertisers tend to want two things: people to look at their ads and “premium” websites — i.e., established and legitimate publications — on which to host them.

The two schemes at issue in the case, dubbed Methbot and 3ve by the security researchers who found them, faked both. Hucksters infected 1.7 million computers with malware that remotely directed traffic to “spoofed” websites — “empty websites designed for bot traffic” that served up a video ad purchased from one of the internet’s vast programmatic ad-exchanges, but that were designed, according to the indictments, “to fool advertisers into thinking that an impression of their ad was served on a premium publisher site,” like that of Vogue or The Economist. Views, meanwhile, were faked by malware-infected computers with marvelously sophisticated techniques to imitate humans: bots “faked clicks, mouse movements, and social network login information to masquerade as engaged human consumers.” Some were sent to browse the internet to gather tracking cookies from other websites, just as a human visitor would have done through regular behavior. Fake people with fake cookies and fake social-media accounts, fake-moving their fake cursors, fake-clicking on fake websites — the fraudsters had essentially created a simulacrum of the internet, where the only real things were the ads.

How much of the internet is fake? Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot. For a period of time in 2013, the Times reported this year, a full half of YouTube traffic was “bots masquerading as people,” a portion so high that employees feared an inflection point after which YouTube’s systems for detecting fraudulent traffic would begin to regard bot traffic as real and human traffic as fake. They called this hypothetical event “the Inversion.”

In the future, when I look back from the high-tech gamer jail in which President PewDiePie will have imprisoned me, I will remember 2018 as the year the internet passed the Inversion, not in some strict numerical sense, since bots already outnumber humans online more years than not, but in the perceptual sense. The internet has always played host in its dark corners to schools of catfish and embassies of Nigerian princes, but that darkness now pervades its every aspect: Everything that once seemed definitively and unquestionably real now seems slightly fake; everything that once seemed slightly fake now has the power and presence of the real. The “fakeness” of the post-Inversion internet is less a calculable falsehood and more a particular quality of experience — the uncanny sense that what you encounter online is not “real” but is also undeniably not “fake,” and indeed may be both at once, or in succession, as you turn it over in your head.

The metrics are fake.

Take something as seemingly simple as how we measure web traffic. Metrics should be the most real thing on the internet: They are countable, trackable, and verifiable, and their existence undergirds the advertising business that drives our biggest social and search platforms. Yet not even Facebook, the world’s greatest data–gathering organization, seems able to produce genuine figures. In October, small advertisers filed suit against the social-media giant, accusing it of covering up, for a year, its significant overstatements of the time users spent watching videos on the platform (by 60 to 80 percent, Facebook says; by 150 to 900 percent, the plaintiffs say). According to an exhaustive list at MarketingLand, over the past two years Facebook has admitted to misreporting the reach of posts on Facebook Pages (in two different ways), the rate at which viewers complete ad videos, the average time spent reading its “Instant Articles,” the amount of referral traffic from Facebook to external websites, the number of views that videos received via Facebook’s mobile site, and the number of video views in Instant Articles.

Can we still trust the metrics? After the Inversion, what’s the point? Even when we put our faith in their accuracy, there’s something not quite real about them: My favorite statistic this year was Facebook’s claim that 75 million people watched at least a minute of Facebook Watch videos every day — though, as Facebook admitted, the 60 seconds in that one minute didn’t need to be watched consecutively. Real videos, real people, fake minutes.

The people are fake.

And maybe we shouldn’t even assume that the people are real. Over at YouTube, the business of buying and selling video views is “flourishing,” as the Times reminded readers with a lengthy investigation in August. The company says only “a tiny fraction” of its traffic is fake, but fake subscribers are enough of a problem that the site undertook a purge of “spam accounts” in mid-December. These days, the Times found, you can buy 5,000 YouTube views — 30 seconds of a video counts as a view — for as low as $15; oftentimes, customers are led to believe that the views they purchase come from real people. More likely, they come from bots. On some platforms, video views and app downloads can be forged in lucrative industrial counterfeiting operations. If you want a picture of what the Inversion looks like, find a video of a “click farm”: hundreds of individual smartphones, arranged in rows on shelves or racks in professional-looking offices, each watching the same video or downloading the same app.This is obviously not real human traffic. But what would real human traffic look like? The Inversion gives rise to some odd philosophical quandaries: If a Russian troll using a Brazilian man’s photograph to masquerade as an American Trump supporter watches a video on Facebook, is that view “real”? Not only do we have bots masquerading as humans and humans masquerading as other humans, but also sometimes humans masquerading as bots, pretending to be “artificial-intelligence personal assistants,” like Facebook’s “M,” in order to help tech companies appear to possess cutting-edge AI. We even have whatever CGI Instagram influencer Lil Miquela is: a fake human with a real body, a fake face, and real influence. Even humans who aren’t masquerading can contort themselves through layers of diminishing reality: The Atlantic reports that non-CGI human influencers are posting fake sponsored content — that is, content meant to look like content that is meant to look authentic, for free — to attract attention from brand reps, who, they hope, will pay them real money.

click farm

The businesses are fake.

The money is usually real. Not always — ask someone who enthusiastically got into cryptocurrency this time last year — but often enough to be an engine of the Inversion. If the money is real, why does anything else need to be? Earlier this year, the writer and artist Jenny Odell began to look into an Amazon reseller that had bought goods from other Amazon resellers and resold them, again on Amazon, at higher prices. Odell discovered an elaborate network of fake price-gouging and copyright-stealing businesses connected to the cultlike Evangelical church whose followers resurrected Newsweek in 2013 as a zombie search-engine-optimized spam farm. She visited a strange bookstore operated by the resellers in San Francisco and found a stunted concrete reproduction of the dazzlingly phony storefronts she’d encountered on Amazon, arranged haphazardly with best-selling books, plastic tchotchkes, and beauty products apparently bought from wholesalers. “At some point I began to feel like I was in a dream,” she wrote. “Or that I was half-awake, unable to distinguish the virtual from the real, the local from the global, a product from a Photoshop image, the sincere from the insincere.”

The content is fake.

The only site that gives me that dizzying sensation of unreality as often as Amazon does is YouTube, which plays host to weeks’ worth of inverted, inhuman content. TV episodes that have been mirror-flipped to avoid copyright takedowns air next to huckster vloggers flogging merch who air next to anonymously produced videos that are ostensibly for children. An animated video of Spider-Man and Elsa from Frozen riding tractors is not, you know, not real: Some poor soul animated it and gave voice to its actors, and I have no doubt that some number (dozens? Hundreds? Millions? Sure, why not?) of kids have sat and watched it and found some mystifying, occult enjoyment in it. But it’s certainly not “official,” and it’s hard, watching it onscreen as an adult, to understand where it came from and what it means that the view count beneath it is continually ticking up.

These, at least, are mostly bootleg videos of popular fictional characters, i.e., counterfeit unreality. Counterfeit reality is still more difficult to find—for now. In January 2018, an anonymous Redditor created a relatively easy-to-use desktop-app implementation of “deepfakes,” the now-infamous technology that uses artificial-intelligence image processing to replace one face in a video with another — putting, say, a politician’s over a porn star’s. A recent academic paper from researchers at the graphics-card company Nvidia demonstrates a similar technique used to create images of computer-generated “human” faces that look shockingly like photographs of real people. (Next time Russians want to puppeteer a group of invented Americans on Facebook, they won’t even need to steal photos of real people.) Contrary to what you might expect, a world suffused with deepfakes and other artificially generated photographic images won’t be one in which “fake” images are routinely believed to be real, but one in which “real” images are routinely believed to be fake — simply because, in the wake of the Inversion, who’ll be able to tell the difference?

Our politics are fake.

Such a loss of any anchoring “reality” only makes us pine for it more. Our politics have been inverted along with everything else, suffused with a Gnostic sense that we’re being scammed and defrauded and lied to but that a “real truth” still lurks somewhere. Adolescents are deeply engaged by YouTube videos that promise to show the hard reality beneath the “scams” of feminism and diversity — a process they call “red-pilling” after the scene in The Matrix when the computer simulation falls away and reality appears. Political arguments now involve trading accusations of “virtue signaling” — the idea that liberals are faking their politics for social reward — against charges of being Russian bots. The only thing anyone can agree on is that everyone online is lying and fake.

We ourselves are fake.

Which, well. Everywhere I went online this year, I was asked to prove I’m a human. Can you retype this distorted word? Can you transcribe this house number? Can you select the images that contain a motorcycle? I found myself prostrate daily at the feet of robot bouncers, frantically showing off my highly developed pattern-matching skills — does a Vespa count as a motorcycle, even? — so I could get into nightclubs I’m not even sure I want to enter. Once inside, I was directed by dopamine-feedback loops to scroll well past any healthy point, manipulated by emotionally charged headlines and posts to click on things I didn’t care about, and harried and hectored and sweet-talked into arguments and purchases and relationships so algorithmically determined it was hard to describe them as real.

Where does that leave us? I’m not sure the solution is to seek out some pre-Inversion authenticity — to red-pill ourselves back to “reality.” What’s gone from the internet, after all, isn’t “truth,” but trust: the sense that the people and things we encounter are what they represent themselves to be. Years of metrics-driven growth, lucrative manipulative systems, and unregulated platform marketplaces, have created an environment where it makes more sense to be fake online — to be disingenuous and cynical, to lie and cheat, to misrepresent and distort — than it does to be real. Fixing that would require cultural and political reform in Silicon Valley and around the world, but it’s our only choice. Otherwise we’ll all end up on the bot internet of fake people, fake clicks, fake sites, and fake computers, where the only real thing is the ads.

 

By , December 26, 2018, first appearing on New York Magazine: Intelligencer

MPL DITTOS: Dunkirk

Dunkirk Shelf End Ditto NU

For those that need a break from holiday merriment… in favor of grim, WWII drama.