Reading, again? This is more fun than I remembered

I almost wrote here last night, then thought better of it. There is just a lot going on that is fairly personal, and at this stage in my life, I’m appreciating what privacy I have taken the effort to preserve. What I will say is that having applied to a Librarian job — where, you know, I’ve actually trained for it — opens a field that I had closed off to myself. I’ve started reading again, that is, though I find some advantage in not precisely disclosing just what.

There is a basic right in American libraries that applies to privacy of reading history…and I can say, at this point, I know why that rule is in place. Not only as a Librarian, but as a reader as well. Of course, this was eroded in some form by the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act, as referenced in this notice by the San Francisco Public Library. I’m not certain just how frequently libraries tell their patrons the latter, however. Granted, there are still a large number of patrons who do wish for us to keep records of their reading, for their convenience. In my experience, in order to protect our patrons from surveillance, American libraries just don’t do this any more than we have to.

With the expansion of electronic texts, particularly as I’ve read that there are supply-chain difficulties worldwide right now as regards printed books (among other things)…it’s very obvious, to me at least, that there may arise an issue here with the attempt to track usage of digital texts. This would not be to the long-term benefit of established publishing houses, however, who are already facing a high degree of competition from the Internet. It may not even be to the benefit of booksellers like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, both of whom have their own proprietary eReaders. Surveillance is known (or at least assumed or suspected) to induce a, “chilling effect,” where people do not seek the information they need, because of the threat of potential repercussions.

Less reading means fewer buyers, and fewer buyers means there is even less money in books, than there is now. Publishers don’t want that. I might venture to say that Publishing in general; also, Libraries in specific; thrive on differing opinion and argument and perspective, from all the books I’ve read over the years. Censorship is not something we really want; however, currently, I’m reading about tolerance of intolerance leading to the elimination of tolerance by the intolerant (this is a Karl Popper theory known as the “Paradox of Tolerance” — look it up; I’m not going to link to Wikipedia here).

I haven’t made up my mind as to whether I accept this idea, yet. I have, however, been reading about how sometimes individuals attempt to dismantle democracy by working from inside the system. It is, then, not of use — and maybe outright dangerous — to pretend that democracy is flawless or correct, or in its correctness, everlasting. There are vulnerabilities, and by making decisions that enabled and assisted authoritarian rulers-to-be, many democratic societies have become authoritarian.

The chilling effect particularly applies where it comes to readers who read things that people who vie for power do not want them to read; where knowledge and free thought threaten them. And, of course, those things happen to be some of the most relevant and applicable (and sometimes, engaging) books with regard to current events. There are things that have been highly relevant that I’ve gone through with the rest of the U.S., that I haven’t written about, due to the current political climate. Well, that, and the taboo of expressing anything political at all. Legitimate politics: the actual working out of compromise among multiple parties who intend to coexist, that does seem like it can happen. Then, there are those who just want power to control others, or subjugate others, for whatever reason.

Tensions have basically been getting worse — in my view — over at least the last 20 years. Even prior to then, we had hatemongerers on television, which influenced the children I was around; which meant I had to deal with hate from them in school, as it was politically — and socially — supported. In my high school, there were only two teachers who would speak out in support of students who were being sexually harassed for their supposed sexual orientation.

If I were to think back, my earliest memories of this pattern relate to the San Francisco Bay Area gay mens’ community being decimated by HIV/AIDS, and the government refusing to do anything about it or help in any way, via appeal to religion. I was very young at the time. There was a lot of shame back then; but that, for me, set the stage for anti-gay sentiment within society as I was growing up. That, in turn, was exacerbated by televangelists when I was in high school.

The anti-gay sentiment didn’t just affect gay people. It affected anyone who was thought to be gay, or who was said to be gay, which led to an attitude of compulsory heterosexuality among my peers, and paranoia over whose same-sex friendships were too close. There have been calmer periods, but when it seems politicians endorse hate and violence, the hate and violence come out, along with feelings of entitlement, impunity, and righteousness.

Hate speech is one step up from basic biased thought, as relates to the Anti-Defamation League’s “Pyramid of Hate.” Unfortunately, it appears we have escalated to the point where, on this model, we are currently at “Bias-Motivated Violence,” one step down from “Genocide” — which is as high as the model can go.

There is a question as to whether to engage and to live your life fully, here, or to allow yourself to be made into something for the benefit of someone else.

A side note:

As regards digital privacy, I haven’t wanted to get into Chrome 94’s new feature which automatically opts one in to giving out information which indicates one is or is not paying attention to their computer (but I’m doing it anyway). This is called Idle Detection. Ironically, you can Google “chrome 94 idle detection” (no quotes) and figure it out from there, including how to disable it by using a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) which is fairly difficult to find on one’s own (it’s given at the above link).

Of course, there is currently a zero-day exploit as regards Chrome, which you’re apparently safe from if you’ve updated to Chrome version 94.0.4606.61 or above (there is no, “above,” as of this writing). Unfortunately, Idle Detection comes with this very version. My advice? If you’re using Chrome, update immediately and also immediately (if you wish), turn off Idle Detection. From what I can tell, you may also likely need to go to the Google Play Store if on Android and update Chrome from there; but to the best of my knowledge, a version 94 release for Android is not yet live. I’m going to try and avoid opening Chrome on mobile until I can get an update…

Anyhow…I am finding that I may not have been as ill-placed as I thought I was, when I specialized in Digital Services for my Master’s. It’s just the messiness of dealing with those few people who are hostile and threatening, that is an issue for me. I heard recently that we’re watching the collapse of Western civilization: people don’t know how to treat each other. This was also stated in one of the books I’m reading: social norms (such as not considering one’s fellow citizens as enemies) have been lost. I broached the topic with family, and they were in agreement.

Particularly over the last 18 months…although I do find that I prefer paper books (they don’t run out of battery, and I know they aren’t looking back at me), digital ones are a lifesaver. Probably not literally, but it’s fairly apparent that I don’t have to worry about other peoples’ germs on a tablet (unless, of course, I get the tablet dirty). This is something I was thinking of, even before I went through Library School.

If I do become a Librarian within the next year, I know I’m going to have to be able to help people using digital devices that I have never used before. It’s going to be tough, but maybe I’ll have the skills to navigate that, when I come to it. Usually, patrons are fairly forgiving when they know you’re earnestly trying to help them. Libraries. All types, eh?

P.S. I also meant to update and mention that I realized the other night that, “Anglo-American Cataloging Rules,” likely was meant to include the U.K. and Canada in addition to the United States. There is an alternate translation of “Anglo-American” to mean an American of English descent. I had never been certain of which definition was meant, but I do see from various readings centered around Publishing, that “Anglo-American” is an accepted term to include North America and Britain in the same phrase. I’m not sure about Australia, New Zealand, India, etc., but this realization did put my heart at ease, a bit.

Published by Haruna

Haruna is a Librarian by training, currently pivoting from Public Services into Technical Services. Their undergraduate major was English -- Creative Writing, and they hold an additional small degree in Art (i.e. Visual Arts). They are now pondering whether a career in Academia is viable or desirable, given the current situation.

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