Prohibitive Library Signs

In the library world, few issues are more divisive than the use of prohibitive signs.

On the one hand, there are those librarians who see prohibitive signs in libraries as a very bad thing. This post by Michael Stephens is a good example:

Ten Signs I Hope I Never See in Libraries Again (posted on Tame the Web on July 7, 2006)

And of course, there are the obligatory “Passive Aggressive Library Signs” boards on Pinterest:

On the other side of this debate, librarians point out the necessity of having rules—we need to maintain a safe and clean environment for all our patrons and for the maintenance of our collections.

I agree that rules are necessary—but I don’t believe that explicitly prohibitive signs are a useful or healthy way to communicate those rules to our patrons.

Even worse, such unilateral prohibitions punish patrons who don’t deserve it.

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A Third Way for Net Neutrality?

Given what’s at stake in the current debate over net neutrality, it’s easy to approach the issue as either/or. The idea that there might be a third way to address the issue, one that’s less polarized and more plausible, is something to be seriously considered by parties on both sides.

AT&T’s fascinating third-way proposal on net neutrality by Brian Fung (posted by The Washington Post on September 15, 2014)

I like that this creates a case for compromise. It worries me, though, that no one seems able to envision how this would actually work. I’m very interested to see how this proposal develops or if other people present alternative “third-way” options.

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Thoughts On Automated Recommendation Services for Libraries

Librarians talk off and on about the need for us to offer Netflix / Amazon-style automated recommendations for our patrons. It seems almost self-evident that this is something patrons have come to expect. But there’s a self-evident question about this that we must ask:

Have patrons actually told us that they want this type of service from a library?

Or do we just assume that they want this?

A library doesn’t fulfill the same role in people’s lives that Netflix does, or that Amazon does. Our patrons don’t necessarily expect the same service models from us. We may be holding ourselves accountable to a false comparison here. This is a prime example of the need for us to base decisions on verifiable user data.
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