Codan The Librarian

Archive for January 2007

While it is understandable that Microsoft and Internet Explorer bear the brunt of hacker attacks, this report about how bad 2006 was for IE is unacceptable for the world’s most used browser.

Criminals specializing in Internet fraud continued to ply much of their trade with the aid of security flaws in the Microsoft browser last year. In 2006, the company issued patches to fix a total of four “zero-day” flaws in IE. Zero-day (or 0day) attacks are so named because software vendors have no time to develop a fix for the flaws before they are exploited by cyber crooks for financial or personal gain.

The first major flaw in a Windows program last year involved one that could be easily exploited via Internet Explorer. In late December 2005, experts tracked organized criminals hacking into sites and seeding them with code that installed password-stealing spyware on machines used by anyone who merely visited the sites with IE. Microsoft initially downplayed the severity of the attacks, until it became clear that the threat was fairly widespread and that thousands of customers had already been attacked in the span of a few days. The threat was seen as so severe that a large number of security experts urged users to download and install a patch produced by a third party until Microsoft developed an official fix.

How easy could it be for a pornographic site to install some special adware that enters someone’s PC and suddenly pop up crude pictures on a person’s screen. A friend of mine relayed that she spent some time on Toyota’s site, looking at a video of one of their trucks, when suddenly pornographic images popped on her screen. Certainly Toyota is not a company to hide pornography on their website. She was using Internet Explorer, though.

As the electronic resource librarian at LCCC, I spend most of my day on the internet. Using Firefox, I’ve never once had a problem on my computer, no adware concerns, and no sudden porn flying on my screen. I’m sure with more use, even Firefox will be attacked, but their code and their support seems far stronger than Microsoft’s. Microsoft is what it is due to its success at copying others. Who came up with a window version of an operating system? Certainly not Microsoft, and Microsoft’s first Windows attempt was horrendous, (though I guess the same can be said for most of their OS’s until XP, which is pretty decent).

In any case, I hope more and more PC users get educated on the Internet, and what is the better product. Not only does IE have a lot of security flaws, but it also tends to lag far behind on Internet and web design standards. How many times does a web designer have to add a special code in CSS to cover for IE’s lag?

You get lazy when you’re on top, Mr. Gates. Have you not learned this from history?


Two articles recently on some issues libraries are dealing with, mostly public libraries.

Lock the Library!

Many public libraries are experiencing a huge influx of middle school students who really have no place else to go after school. I saw this at Queens Public Library in New York City. The Central Library would be overrun with students just hanging out, some acting pretty childish, while some were actually using the library. Queens Library had strong security presence, which I think did a good job at keeping the rowdiness down. Over in Maplewood, New Jersey, though, they are apparently having a really tough time with these kids:

Others, library officials say, fight, urinate on the bathroom floor, scrawl graffiti on the walls, talk back to librarians or refuse to leave when asked. One recently threatened to burn down the branch library. Librarians call the police, sometimes twice a day.

As a result, starting on Jan. 16, the Maplewood Memorial Library will be closing its two buildings on weekdays from 2:45 to 5 p.m., until further notice.

An institution that, like many nationwide, strives to attract young people, even offering beading and cartooning classes, will soon be shutting them out, along with the rest of the public, at one of the busiest parts of its day.

Library employees will still be on the job, working at tasks like paperwork, filing, and answering calls and online questions.

“They almost knocked me down, and they run in and out,” said Lila Silverman, a Maplewood resident who takes her grandchildren to the library’s children’s room but called the front of the library “a disaster area” after school. “I do try to avoid those hours.”

I wonder where these kids are going to go now though. I’d be curious to see the results of this action.

And on another front….

Hello Grisham – So Long, Hemingway?

You can’t find “Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings” at the Pohick Regional Library anymore. Or “The Education of Henry Adams” at Sherwood Regional. Want Emily Dickinson’s “Final Harvest”? Don’t look to the Kingstowne branch.

It’s not that the books are checked out. They’re just gone. No one was reading them, so librarians took them off the shelves and dumped them.

Along with those classics, thousands of novels and nonfiction works have been eliminated from the Fairfax County collection after a new computer software program showed that no one had checked them out in at least 24 months.

Public libraries have always weeded out old or unpopular books to make way for newer titles. But the region’s largest library system is taking turnover to a new level.

Like Borders and Barnes & Noble, Fairfax is responding aggressively to market preferences, calculating the system’s return on its investment by each foot of space on the library shelves — and figuring out which products will generate the biggest buzz. So books that people actually want are easy to find, but many books that no one is reading are gone — even if they are classics.

“We’re being very ruthless,” said Sam Clay, director of the 21-branch system since 1982. “A book is not forever. If you have 40 feet of shelf space taken up by books on tulips and you find that only one is checked out, that’s a cost.”

This is a challenge for all libraries. The irony of our modern world is that some thought the rise of computers would push books out of the picture, but instead, we’ve probably published more books in these past ten years than in the previous ten years. Libraries have limited space, because they have limited budgets. Libraries are not a profitable institution. But the way they can get more money from public financing is if they prove a higher readership. How can you have a higher readership with books no one reads in a two year period?

I wonder if libraries should go for-profit….