Immigration and the Valley

OK! I’m finally back from the MER Conference in Chicago (which was a lot of fun) after a canceled flight and unexpected night at O’Hare. I’ll write about Electronic Records later- I learned some great things at the conference. For now, I mentioned the subject of this post in an earlier message when I was at the Region One Technology Conference at South Padre Island.

All right, here’s an ususual subject for this blog, related to my hometown. Although I’ve been in Austin for about a decade, I’m originally from Edinburg, TX in the Rio Grande Valley, close to the border between Texas and Mexico. We have immigrants. Lots and lots of immigrants, and lots and lots of people crossing the border both ways every day. You can’t really tell if someone is an immigrant (legal or illegal), Mexican, or other. Some American citizens don’t speak English. Some people in the Valley don’t speak Spanish (including, terribly enough, me). We were about 95% Hispanic, I’d guess, although I’m not certain about the percentages. Some of the discussions I’ve seen in the news talk about migrant workers. One thing that I don’t see mentioned a lot in news articles is that many of these migrant workers aren’t illegal immigrants, and there are many that aren’t immigrants at all- they’re American citizens, many native-born, and several from the Valley. Of course, the news often describes the Valley in pretty rotten terms. While at Syracuse, I recall writing a paper on media depictions of the Rio Grande Valley, and those descriptions were neither pretty nor terribly accurate. I think things have improved somewhat since the mid-90s, but I still see the occasional depiction that I don’t really recognize.

Heading out of the Valley on any road, you have a border patrol checkpoint about an hour north of the border. Going through the checkpoint has always disturbed me. I know of people stopped and searched for no particular discernable reason. The stop everyone and ask where you’re from, and/or where you’re going, and other questions. They’ll search your vehicle. It only occurred to me very recently that you might have the right to not answer or refuse the search, but I never have and I don’t know anyone else who has refused the search. I’m often nervous for no reason going through the Falfurias checkpoint. I remember thinking in high school that there’s nothing similar to this checkpoint an hour south of our Canadian border. That seemed unfair to me. (As far as I know from my time in New York, that’s true.) And I understand that the checkpoint does some good- it does catch drugs going north, for example. But it a) feels like the US doesn’t really care all that much about the Valley- it’s like they’re protecting the rest of the country from us or not really caring about drugs coming into the Valley from Mexico, and b) really brings questions about privacy, dignity, and so on. At any rate, it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t really have anything against the border patrol- they’re for the most part good people doing an important job, and I have family members who are in the border patrol. The checkpoint, though… I don’t know. It seems to be an isolating mechanism.

So, I was down in the Valley while some of the ongoing immigration debate was going on. Most people I spoke to don’t particularly like many of the proposals. The fence: “Do we have a fence between the U.S. and Canada? They’re just stopping the brown people.” (I’m reminded of the Daily Show sketch with the Canadian Minuteman.) “Seems like a waste of money, since people are going to get across anyway.” The National Guard: “Do we really need the military on the border? What are they going to be doing?” There was a lot of uncertaintly about the National Guard, but I did hear at least one positive statement. “It’s better than the Minutemen.” The Minutemen were really not trusted by the people I spoke to. The National Guard, at least, was legitimate authority. There seems to be the perception that there was too much potential for racism with the group, and people- ordinary citizens of the US who might be indistinguishable from immigrants- are worried about it. Because there has been, and there is racism. The older generations have blatantly experienced it. For one quick example, I had a brilliant math teacher who was told she wouldn’t get an A in her college mathematics course because even though she deserved one, A’s were wasted on Hispanics. Some of the younger folk have also experienced racism. I have. I know it exists. I understand why people are nervous.

And Pearl Jam rocks

Writing from the Managing Electronic Records conference in Chicago. Just saw this when catching up from Slashdot: Pearl Jam releases video using the Creative Commons license! Very cool.

At the conference, looking at some new features of Office 2007 involving records management. Alas, for them to be very useful you probably have to be an MS shop…

Fair Use strengthened

Fair use is strengthened, according to Ars Technica, which provides a nice summary of Bill Graham Archives v. Dorling Kindersley, in which a book had reproductions of Grateful Dead concert posters, ultimately deemed fair.

My copyright discussions at the Region One Technology Conference seemed to go well, and I’ve been invited to a couple of other districts here in Texas. I’m leaving for Chicago in the morning for the Managing Electronic Records conference, so I”ll write more later!

Gormon’s a n00b.

At any rate, you can read about the latest Gorman speech at fellow GSLIS alum Steve Lawson’s blog, See Also. Steve’s also got several links to responses to Gorman’s statement, in which he discusses the current state of LIS education, which he perceives as in crisis. He decries the opinions of “the millenniarist librarians and pseudo-librarians who, intoxicated with self-indulgence and technology, will dismiss you as a ‘Luddite’ or worse. They and their yips and yawps can safely be left to their acronymic backwaters and the dubious delights of clicking and surfing.” There might be a point in the statement, which can be read in full using the dubious technologies of the Interweb and PDF, but it’s easy to lose his point with such divisive and dismissive language. He may have “rattled some cages,” as he puts it, but he’s really drawing attention away from the areas that he wants to focus on. That’s a pity, because the subject itself is an important one. What does it mean to be an ALA accredited institution? What are the core values of librarianship that every librarian should learn before they graduate from such a program? What are the best ways to teach these values? What are the practices and skills that people need? There are all sorts of discussions that we could be having. There are differences in values among different types of librarians, and other information professionals as well. How do we reconcile the professional values to the different types of jobs that people who graduate from our program are going out and getting?

As I commented on Steve’s blog, I’m starting to hear “traditional” librarians, presumably the main focus of Gorman’s statements, completely dismiss his statements. I suppose the pseudo-librarians and millenniarist librarians already do. I wonder what I am? I’m not a librarian at all, but I’ve got The Degree. I’m certainly not technology-phobic, working on IT at an ALA-accredited program. I also value “traditional” librarian values and practices. Come on, Gorman.

Ah, well. At South Padre Island near the town where I was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley on the border between Texas and Mexico. I’ll be talking to educators and librarians about copyright, education, and technology. The recent national immigration focus has certainly been interesting here… I’ll write about it a bit later.

What’s up? and Harry Potter Left Behind

So, I’ve been wrapping up my first class in years (what a strange experience to be graded again!) and getting ready for the two conferences I’m going to this month. (Talking about librarians and copyright at one, attending one on electronic records). I’ll be posting more regularly once again soon.

So, here’s a story to warm the cockles of your heart. In “Parent putting Harry to the test” from LISNews, a parent who hasn’t read any of the Harry Potter books (too long) wants to remove it from the shelves because of all the evil magic and replace it with the Left Behind series. Wow. How do you even begin talking to a person with those views? Again, I’ll say- if a parent doens’t want their children to read the book, tell their children not to read the book. Don’t tell other people’s children what they can and can’t read.

Barenaked Guide to Copyright Reform

Steven Page of the Barenaked Ladies joins with a group of musicians including Avril Lavigne and Sarah McLachlan to form the Canadian Music Creators Coalition. They are looking at copyright music reform, and look for policies “that priorize musicians, not outdated business and the corporate bottom line.” They question suing fans, the use of technology for restriction, and the goals of some international treaties. Very interesting. I remember back around 1999/2000, they planted messages against infringement in their songs and released them on P2P networks. While I’m sure they desire for people to purchase their music rather than download it, this is an interesting joining of the beliefs of creators and some public rights groups.