An introduction to bias in algorithms

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Abstract illustration of search results showing some as favored by algorithms

Marcella Fredriksson writes: “If we know algorithms are biased and sometimes even untrustworthy, we can work toward a solution. We must recognize the limitations of algorithms and learn how to approach results with skepticism. And we must share this knowledge with our patrons and users. It’s not just a matter of improving diversity in Silicon Valley. As Safiya Umoja Noble says in Algorithms of Oppression, ‘We have automated human decision making and then disavowed our responsibility for it.’”...

Choice 360 LibTech Insights, Aug. 28

Lettering on the side of the school identifying Ellen Ochoa Elementary

Libraries in Oklahoma, Illinois, and California have faced recent bomb threats—all false alarms. At least targeted Union Public Schools’ Ochoa Elementary School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The district believes the threats responded to a by the school librarian, who said that her “radical liberal agenda is teaching kids to love books and be kind.” Illinois Library Association issued a condemning threats to five libraries. Additionally, at least at Mary L. Stephens—Davis Branch of Yolo County (Calif.) Library are believed to be a response to the shutdown of a forum on transgender athletes organized by the local Moms for Liberty chapter, after a participant repeatedly misgendered women in violation of the library’s code of conduct....

KOTV-TV (Tulsa), Aug. 25; TikTok, Aug. 18; Illinois Library Association, Aug. 22; Davis (Calif.) Enterprise, Aug. 28

Screencap from the webcast of a Granbury Independent School District board meeting.

Michael Williams writes: “The Granbury (Tex.) Independent School District board voted to censure trustee Karen Lowery after an investigation determined she accessed a high school library without authorization during a charity event and was untruthful when confronted by a school administrator. Once inside the library, [she and another woman] went behind the librarian’s desk, using a phone’s flashlight to look through books. They were in the library for nearly an hour and a half.” Lowery ran for the board last November on a platform of removing “inappropriate books” from the library....

Dallas Morning News, Aug. 24

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Website for the Veterans Health Library

Alex Cousins writes: “The , coordinated by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, is a comprehensive online health resource provided to assist veterans, their families, and caregivers understand and maintain their best health no matter where they receive care. It features timely health topics and provides a list of veteran resources based on the most-frequently searched topics. Health information on the website is regularly reviewed to ensure it remains evidence-based, up-to-date, and relevant to the needs of veterans.”...

Public Libraries Online, Aug. 24

Staff from Gabriel García Márquez Library receiving the IFLA/Systematic Public Library of the Year Award at IFLA's 2023 World Library and Information Congress

“Biblioteca Gabriel García Márquez in Barcelona, Spain was named International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)/Systematic Public Library of the Year 2023 at the 88th IFLA World Library and Information Conference, which took place in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, August 21–25. The library stands out for its exceptional features and the contribution it has made to the local community. Named after the renowned Nobel Prize laureate in literature, Gabriel García Márquez, the library embodies the spirit of interaction with its surroundings and local culture.”...

IFLA, Aug. 21

The Great Hall of the Library of Congress's Jefferson Building

Mark Hartsell writes: “First-time visitors to the Library of Congress campus often ask the same question: Where do I even begin? ‘At LC, we want you to make a make a personal connection, to find yourself here and explore your own history, so you can tell your own stories,’ Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said. ‘We want to transform the visitor experience for the people who visit LC in person and online.’ Over the next few years, the Library will deliver a new experience, ‘A Library for You,’ to bring that vision to life.”...

Library of Congress: Timeless, Aug. 22

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Woman's finger activating a smartphone

Meera Navlakha writes: “Twenty-first century novels are increasingly grappling with the ever-evolving nature of tech developments and their human impact. But this isn't only the stuff of sci-fi. Not all storylines feature monstrous, otherworldly forms of technology, nor do they include a ‘tech bro supervillain.’ Much of contemporary, tech-centric fiction is set in a more grounded reality, where tech isn't portrayed in an ambiguous, hypothetical manner. Presented as literary realism, these books look into niche phenomena of our time like ‘Instagram Face,’ content moderation, and trial by social media.”...

Mashable, Aug. 25

Smartphone displaying the TikTok logo

Jim Milliot writes: “Adult fiction has been publishing’s steadiest-selling category for the past 18 months. In the first six months of 2023, adult fiction was the only category to register an increase, with sales up 4.2%. The biggest driver of those gains, of course, has been books that have the backing of BookTok. But a new analysis by BookScan shows that BookTok’s effect on sales is diminishing. The most notable sign of that softening came in July, when, for the first time, sales from the roughly 180 BookTok authors BookScan follows fell compared to the prior year.”...

Publishers Weekly, Aug. 18

Google search page

David Nield writes: “Getting Google to search the web for you is all well and good, but there’s a ton of functionality available through the simple-looking box on the world’s most-visited website. You could call these bonus features, or Easter eggs, or hidden tricks—but they’re all useful in your own way, and can be launched by heading to google.com.”...

Gizmodo, Aug. 20

ALA news and press releases

The character Conan the Librarian from the movie UHF

Ashlie Swicker writes: “It’s hard to condense the best librarians from TV and film into one list. What criteria are we using? Librarians who are good at their job? Librarians who embody the stereotypes most precisely? Or do we applaud the librarians who shatter the stereotypes in bombastic ways? Maybe it’s the librarians who make us laugh the hardest, regardless of their commitment to the profession. When I decided to rank 10 of the best librarians from shows and movies, I realized pop culture offers very few competent, well-rounded librarians.”...

Book Riot, Aug. 29

Kindle e-reader with a cup of coffee

Sovan Mandal writes: “A Kindle, like any other electronic device out there, is prone to freezing. It might be a recent update, a book that you have downloaded, or even rough handling. A sudden fall can also lead to the internal hardware getting damaged. The good thing is that most of the time the problem is reversible, so you can have the Kindle up and running again in no time.”...

Good e-Reader, Aug. 27

Tropical island surrounded by blue water

Lisa Mejia writes: “There's nothing more romantic than an island vacation. A peaceful piece of paradise where you can lay on the beach, bask in the sun, and read novels full of mystery and horror. There are many novels that take place on islands, and sometimes those novels have darker plot elements that show isolation. The island itself can become a character, driving forth a narrative through the use of weather, plant life, and animal life.”...

San Jose (Calif.) Public Library, Aug. 3

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