Thursday, October 16, 2014


Massachusetts is struggling with a problem that keeps popping up in the news. And people keep being stunned and amazed.

Women in this state make 70 cents for every dollar that men make.

And that is in this bastion of education, liberalism, and progressivism. Massachusetts had the first law in the country about equal pay, in 1945, according to several of these articles and posts. Here is a little blurb about the activity that may well have led to that law - concern about the women who stepped into industrial jobs for the WWII effort. At that time, (and still in many minds), jobs were classified as male and female. Some employers cut the pay for welding or other "male" jobs when women took those jobs during the war. The AFL-CIO was concerned that returning veterans would find their pay remained cut after they took back their pre-war positions. When vets came back from the war, Massachusetts passed what has become known as the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA), M.G.L. Chapter 149, §105A.

Here are a series of articles and blog posts through the years, starting with the most recent, where the press alert the public to this startling piece of news and call for action:

Wage Gap For Women Persists Despite Some Progress (Boston Globe 9/28/14)

Massachusetts Women and the Wage Gap (Fact sheet 4/2013 from National Partnership for Women and Families)

Mind the Gap (Boston Magazine 2/2013)

The Importance of Fair Pay for Massachusetts Women (Fact Sheet 4/2012 from National Women's Law Center)

It's striking that the 2012 fact sheet mentions the gap as 81 cents to the dollar. The 2013 fact sheet says 77 cents to the dollar. And the 2014 article says 70 cents to the dollar. Women seem to be losing ground, even as these articles, fact sheets and conferences are flailing away at the problem! Just in 2 years, we've dropped from 81 cents to 70 cents, or lost 11 cents to the average man's dollar! Hmmph.

There are a number of federal and state laws in place that are supposed to prevent discrimination or unequal pay on the basis of sex (or race, for that matter). A handy, publicly available pamphlet from the law firm Foley Hoag is one of the links on this state web page about Massachusetts Laws About Wages. (scroll down on the page to "Other Web Sources" to find "Massachusetts Wage and Hour Laws: What Every Employer Needs to Know, Foley Hoag.") According to the pamphlet, employers can justify differences in wages based on

* a merit system
* a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production
* a seniority system
* differences in training, education, experience
* any factor other than gender or race

It all sounds so benign. And yet it works like this. A woman may take time off when she has a baby. She may even stay out of the workforce a few years, while her children are little. During those years, the cadre of men or childless women who entered her profession at the same time she did, move along, gaining experience, and moving up the professional ladder. This can work just the same for a woman who takes time off to care for aging parents or in-laws, too, of course. The individual who dropped out to take care of child or parents is falling behind their cohort.

The mother, later, comes back to the workforce, as if she had been in stasis, professionally. She may not have been able to keep up with new developments, and new technology. The mother has been quite busy doing other things that are very important, not just to her and her family, actually, but also to society as a whole. We should value and recognize the importance of parenting and care-taking, no matter which gender is taking time to focus on this task. Perhaps as more men become stay-at-home fathers, this might start to change.

But the return to work, unless the individual can buff up skills with some courses, is tough at best. The worker has fallen behind on developments and skill sets. Even if she/he can make up through training courses, those years of wage growth and professional networking, ladder-climbing have been missed. While the entry cohort has advanced 5 years, the mother has remained at the professional level where she stepped out of the workforce to parent. One more way in which women, on average, fall behind in pay levels.

There are lots of others ways. Just a week ago, the CEO of Microsoft explained how women should allow karma to help them get pay raises, rather than being so bitchy as to actually ask!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Can you be a librarian without a library?

So, I have been teaching and nothing else for a while, and working on identity issues.

Am I still a librarian?

Hell, yeah.

Always and forever, baby.

I can't stop. I can't drop it.

My students are my patrons now, I guess.

Don't get me wrong. I am enjoying very much being able to focus on my teaching. I am also liking the lower stress -- I don't have to worry about budget or cutting materials that I love, or telling a faculty member NO, or disciplinary matters, or problem patrons....

Plus there are the perks of being a faculty member. What's not to like?

Well, how do I fit my librarian suit under my law professor uniform? Can I still wear a bun in class?

Maybe I need to get a librarian tattoo.

The image decorating this blog post is the cover of an intriguing-sounding book, from the SLA, You Don't Look Like a Librarian.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

FCC says Conference Centers & Hotels May Not Block Visitors' Wi-Fi Hotspots

The FCC has reached an agreement with Marriott to pay a $60,000 penalty to resolve their investigation into a complaint that employees of a Marriott-managed conference center were sending de-authentication packets to prevent exhibitors and attendees from using their personal Wi-Fi hotspots. Marriott was then charging them $250 - $1,000 per device to connect to the conference center's Internet!

“Consumers who purchase cellular data plans should be able to use them without fear that their personal Internet connection will be blocked by their hotel or conference center,” said Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc. “It is unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hotspots while also charging consumers and small businesses high fees to use the hotel’s own Wi-Fi network. This practice puts consumers in the untenable position of either paying twice for the same service or forgoing Internet access altogether,” he added.
(from the FCC press release dated Oct. 3, 2014.) The press release has a handy link directly to the Consent Decree, but I am including it here, in case the press release vanishes.

Remember this next time a hotel or conference center blocks your Wi-Fi hotspot. Now you know what to do.
Superman image credited to Flickr.

Networking Flops and How to Fix Them

One of my fabulous Suffolk colleagues passed along the link to this helpful Mashable post, The 5 Worst Networking Flops and How to Recover from Them. We tell our students constantly that networking is the way to find jobs now... but we don't tell them enough about HOW to network, or how to avoid networking mistakes.

Maybe that's because WE don't know, ourselves! I read this list sort of quivering inside. But not to worry, the author, Jenny Foss, who seems to know my darkest fears and secrets, also offers ways to make it all better!

Great list for any job seekers or anybody who has to n. e. t. w. o. r. k.

The image for this post is from The Littlest Pet Shop Fan Board Tip of the OOTJ hat to Prof. David Yamada for passing this Mashable link along, and for always keeping students' interests in the forefront!

Free booklet from Stephen Pinker & Chronicle on Academic Writing

The Chronicle of Higher Education had a very popular article in their Review of Sept. 26, 2014 from Stephen Pinker, "Why Academics Stink at Writing." Following on this, they put together a free pamphlet on improving academic writing, Why Academics Stink at Writing -- and How to Fix it," that can be downloaded here. I do not think you need a subscription to the Chronicle to get the pamphlet. As far as I can tell, all anybody needs to do to get a copy is enter name, title, institution, and they get a PDF download.

Thank you! The image decorating this post is a mock-up of the cover of the pamphlet from the Chronicle.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

New Ways to Think about Library Statistics

The Chronicle of Higher Education blog has a really interesting post proposing that libraries begin to make their user data (in anonymized form) available to researchers. In a post titled, "A Good, Dumb Way to Learn from Libraries" (really?! geez!), David Weinberger proposes that libraries

1. Create Stackscores for their materials
These get around the current issues of

A. Privacy/Patron Security by offering an annual computation and perhaps blurring that numbers if it looks as though even that might be hackable down to individual patron.

B. Interoperability - that is making the numbers from various libraries comparable regardless of what automated systems the libraries use, or even how they calculate their stackscores.

He offers an example of what the Harvard Library Innovation Hub created as StackLife. Weinberger, who used to develop the Innovation Hub and thus (I presume) helped develop the StackLife app, explains that the darker blue a title bar appears, the more heavily used it has been. He cautions that depending too much on this can create a feedback loop where the more popular items just get more popular, and lesser known but excellent materials remain overlooked. (Librarians know all about this)

Interesting thoughts. I don't know if he really addresses all librarian issues, but it's a thought-provoking post!

The thinking cap decoration is from another thought-provoking blog page, How would we think without language? Interesting to consider how to build search engines!

Monday, September 29, 2014

I'll Just Google It

Everybody knows how to use Google to find information--right?  Wrong, according to Motoko Rich's article, "Academic Skills on Web Are Tied to Income Level," New York Times, Sept. 24, 2014, at A23.  A new study done by Donald J. Leu that appears in the current issue of Reading Research Quarterly (subscription required) showed "a general lack of online literacy among all students..."  Students may be adept at certain tasks (texting, posting photographs, using social media), but they are far less adept at tasks that require them to find and evaluate information.  This finding cuts across all income groups, but is most apparent in low-income students. 

Despite the higher rates of academic Internet use among the more affluent students in the study, a little more than a quarter of them performed well on tasks where they were required to discern the reliability of facts on a particular web page.  Only 16 percent of the lower-income students performed well on those tasks.
Many grade and high schools are not addressing digital literacy.  Perhaps this is because digital literacy is not a subject that is tested by standardized tests.  It could also be the result of teachers mistaking students' comfort with technology for actual ability to use the Internet for educational purposes. 
I was discussing this issue with one of the reference librarians this morning.  We have noted the poor quality of results that students get when they Google, how they rely on questionable sources rather than go to reliable sites maintained by educational institutions and organizations.  Her conclusion was that the librarians don't need to teach students how to Google; we need to teach them how to think.      

Sunday, September 28, 2014

New ABA Law School Accreditation Standards

The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has released their most recent modifications to the standards for accrediting law schools. Here is a link to their handy Explanations PDF. I found it easier to read and more useful for understanding the changes than their Overview document. You can get the full text of the Redline version (66 pages) which shows the original and changed text, as well as the Clean copy (42 pages), and all of these other documents and more, from this convenient page.

From the point of view of folks who have been involved in the discussions and sending in comments, the changes to the library standards are not a big surprise. Below are the revised standards affecting law school libraries.

Chapter 6, Library and Information Services
Std. 601, General Provisions There are four basic requirements for the library:
* provide support adequate to enable a law school to carry out its program of legal education,
* develop a responsive relationship with users,
* engage in planning and assessment, and
* implement technology when appropriate

and one requirement for the law school:
* provide sufficient financial resources for the library to fulfill its responsibilities

Std. 603, Library Director...
Std. 603(a) adds “providing information resources in appropriate formats to faculty and students” as one of the overall management responsibilities of the law library director.

Standard 603(c), the requirement that the law library director must have specific degrees for the position has been replaced with a requirement that the director must have “appropriate academic qualifications.” As in other provisions in the revised Standards, the Committee added the requirement that the director’s knowledge and experience must be “sufficient to support the program of legal education and to enable the law school to operate in compliance with the Standards."

Revised Interpretation 603-1 provides guidance for the Accreditation Committee by elaborating on how a law school could meet the Standard.The Standards Review Committee had recommended that the language of current Standard603(d), which states that “a law library director shall hold a law faculty appointment with security of faculty position,” be replaced in revised Standard 603(d) with the requirement that the law library director “shall hold appointment as a member of the law faculty with the rights and protections accorded to other members of the full-time faculty under Standard 405.” Based on the Council’s decision to make no change to current Standard 405,this revised change was also not approved.

Note from Betsy: Std. 405, mentioned above, is referring to the Committee's decision not to require tenure for full time teaching faculty. The Standard itself is titled Professional Environment, and includes many other details such as academic freedom, governance and due process. But in the context of the statement above, the reference is certainly to the Committee's decision about "security of position," or tenure. If the doctrinal faculty can't have a standard requiring tenure, the library directors shouldn't get a standard requiring it for them, was the decision, apparently. SIGH...

Revised Standard 604. PERSONNEL
The current Standard has been changed slightly to require a staff with expertise that will support the goals of the library and law school.

Revised Standard 605. SERVICES
No changes are recommended to the current Standard. The current Interpretation has been rewritten to better state how those services can be provided.

Revised Standard 606. COLLECTION
The revisions to current Standard 606 reflect the change from an emphasis on ownership of materials to providing reliable access to legal information. The revised Standard also links the choices of format and means of access to the needs of the institution. Revised Interpretation 606-2 elaborates on the definition of “reliable access” by providing ways to meet the Standard through ongoing access to databases or participation in a formal resource-sharing arrangement with other libraries.

The decoration for this post is rapper Lil Wayne's Law Library "Statutory Rape" which turned up when I looked for images of law libraries. Apparently Lil Wayne has spent some time in prison libraries and knows something about legal research, from a few posts I stumbled across, so the cover may be earned in more ways than one. I just wanted something other than the classic law school library, since that seems to be fading away... but I guess this is not the look most schools will be aiming for. For one thing, look at all those reporters on those shelves!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Blog Action Day Coming Right up

Woo Hoo! Blog Action Day is coming up in October. This year the theme is inequality.

I guess everybody has something to say about that.

I'll be brooding upon the theme but e-mail me if you have brilliant insights to contribute:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Two interesting articles on reading showed up yesterday. I couldn't resist. The New York Times ran an article by Alexandra Alter, "Line by Line, E-Books Turn Poet-Friendly." Readers (or writers) of poetry know that poems have a structure that matters. Line breaks, spacing and placement of words matter intensely to how the poem will be read and perceived.

So when the first e-books of poetry appeared a few years ago, the poet authors were taken aback to see that all formatting had been removed! According to Alter, at least one leading poet, John Ashbery requested his publisher withdraw the digital editions of his poetry books.

But now, e-books have managed to deliver digital versions of poetry that retain all the original formatting. The digital versions now are equivalent to print poetry editions. Some poets remain skeptical, according to Alter's article. But Ashbery just signed an agreement to release digital editions with Open Road for $15 each.

The second article yesterday was in the Wall Street Journal, by Jeanne Whalen, "Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress." Whalen reports on book clubs that are forming, not to discuss books, but to simply sit together silently and read. The article is actually a mish-mash of a bunch of different pieces of information about reading, some reported very briefly. It is possible that Whalen was severely edited. The article is frustrating because it mentions briefly a number of important points, but never fully explains them. The online article at WSJ does offer an entertaining "Test How Fast You Read" feature.

The reading club Whalen first reports on, from New Zealand, calls itself the Slow Reading Club. Slow reading is a major movement that has been growing for some years world wide. There is no particular leader, but there have been several books and a number of more in-depth popular and semi-popular articles about the process. I would recommend reading "Reading Fast, Reading Slow" by Jessica Love, from The American Scholar, Spring, 2012 for a much better explanation of the movement, and the science behind it. Love is a cognitive scientist who has done some of the investigations of reading and is a science writer and blogger.

For instance, when we read, our eyes don't smoothly sweep across the lines of text. We skip across the text, stopping periodically in what scholars of reading call "fixations." At each fixation, our eyes can take in about 4 letters to the left, and 15 to the right of the fixation point, on average. The letters at the edge of that perception range are fuzzy and may simply be guessed at in terms of general shape or lower/upper case. That information will speed up the reading at the next fixation, where those peripheral letters from the right will be more central. Meanwhile, we decode about 8 of the letters in the center of the fixation. Then we hop again, which the scholars call a "saccade." Love reports that reading scholars find that readers typically spend about 10% of reading time in those hops, "saccades," during which no reading is happening. There is a lot more detail in the article about how the reader quickly (or slowly, in the case of surprises) decodes words.

The article goes on to cover studies of speed-reading (mostly badly done), but a few of which are reliable to show that the faster you go, the less you recall. Slowing your reading, even because the text is illegible or missing some letters, increases retention of the content, apparently. Yoo-hoo, textbook editors! Here's an idea! Actually, can you imagine trying to read for class and have missing l_tt_rs? It w_uld dr_ve you cr_zy!

One thing the Whalen article on WSJ covers that is not mentioned in the older article from Dr. Love, is the research about what happens when people read online. Love mentions that most research on reading has been done online. But she does not say anything about the patterns discovered. Whalen mentions the F pattern. When readers in English (and I think other Western languages that read left to right) read web pages, researchers have found that the readers' eye movements follow an F pattern. The eyes scan completely across the page for the first few lines, then sweep down the left side of the screen. Web developers tend to know this fact and use it when they create those left hand panels and top tabs or menu bars. Or ads.

The decoration for this page is courtesy of (I am not sure you want to go there; I think it's not safe, but it had this nice image).