Vengeful Librarians

Stereotypical librarian

Don’t mess with librarians, ok?  Behind our messy buns, glasses on a chain and supernatural “shushing” abilities, we have real skillz. Mad skillz. We are so skilled, in fact, that the CIA has a team jokingly called “Vengeful Librarians” whose purpose is to scour  the Internet, Facebook posts, blogs, Tweets,  news sites, etc. in order to take the pulse of a region and build profiles used by the White House.  Important stuff.

While I was in library school, I often was asked what I learned.  How to shelve books? The Dewey Decimal System? Frumpy Dressing 101? Seminars in perfecting the librarian glare? I assumed the real question was more along the lines of wondering what was so hard about working in a library that it required a Master’s degree.  I’m cynical like that.

The article beautifully illustrates what librarians know how to do: find information.  Analyze it.  Disseminate it.  We are drowning in information, and we need librarians more than ever to cut through the noise and help us make sense of it all.

The article also notes that this team is analyzing mood and making predictions based on what they discover.  This is huge.  Professionally I’m very interested in text analytics and what it can reveal. Sentiment analysis is becoming a must-have part of text analytics for organizations monitoring and analyzing comments about their brand in social media.  It’s great that people are talking about you, but are they talking positively or negatively?  Overtly positive or negative comments are easy to interpret,  but overall, sentiment analysis is difficult.  I remember that when SAS’s social media monitoring suite came out a few years ago, it was a big deal because it included sentiment analysis.  I’m sure it also had a big price.

Predictive analytics is hot right now and is also something in which I am interested and researched in, yes, library school.  Much of data analysis is backwards-looking in order to answer “what happened?” You see this often in social media when a major event happens and tweets and posts are mined to put together a timeline of events as in this article on the genesis of the #OccupyWallStreet hashtag.   While that type of analysis is useful, imagine how much more powerful it would be to be able to figure out what’s going to happen next and be able to put together an action plan.   While such abilities may conjure up images of crystal balls and tarot cards, some companies have figured out how to do it.

My point is that what this group is doing is cutting edge.  Instead of being an obsolete profession, this group is demonstrating what modern librarianship is all about.  And all it requires is a Library Science degree and a smile.  Ok, ok, and knowledge of a few foreign languages. You get my point.

So give your librarian a hug today.  You never know how s/he might be saving the world.


How Facebook Can Raise Awareness of Just How Thoughtless and Ignorant You Are

You’ve probably heard about the latest Facebook game to raise awareness of breast cancer, asking women to post how many weeks they are and what they are craving. Last year’s game was about the color of your bra and where you left your purse. Somehow, these cryptic status updates are supposed to raise awareness of breast cancer. This year’s weeks/craving meme has the unintended effect of making all of your friends and family wonder if you are pregnant and questioning the status of their relationship with you if they were out of the loop on such monumental news and had to learn it from your Facebook status. It has also caused quite a stir in the infertility blogosphere.

I know it is tempting to write off all of us who disagree with this meme as curmudgeons, but guess what – even those suffering from breast cancer aren’t fans of these types of memes.

Normally I would just roll my eyes at the lemmings participating without giving a moment’s thought to what they are doing and whether it even makes sense, but this particular meme impacts me in two ways: as an infertile, it dredges up those feelings that Mel wrote about in her post as well as someone who is much more acquainted with cancer than she would like to be.

A year ago yesterday, my coworker died of prostate cancer only one year after his diagnosis. He tried to work as long as possible, so we saw the deterioration, the brutal effects of his chemotherapy. There was a month in which he couldn’t sit down the entire day because of intense pain. We shared the highs and lows as he received a bit of good news and then bad news and then really, really bad news.

Last December, my mother was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous tumor in her breast. Thankfully, it turned out not to be cancer, but it is something she will need to have removed, and having watched her mother die of breast cancer, it weighed heavily on her mind.

Last January, my father-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 gastrointestinal cancer and died one month later before being able to start treatment.

And most recently, my grandmother-in-law is recovering from pancreatic cancer at age 88. This strong woman has endured 12 weeks of chemo and surgery.

And a dear friend is reeling as her father is beginning his battle after his recent diagnosis of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. If you want to help raise awareness, please consider participating in her fundraiser via the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

So you know what? Cancer isn’t funny. It’s serious, and if you really want to raise awareness, donate money to the American Cancer Society or participate in a Komen walk (I did). If you really think that posting a Facebook status is going to make one bit of difference in the fight against cancer, then I urge you to read this excellent book about the history of cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies. It will spell out starkly just how far we are from having a cure for almost any type of cancer.