Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cell Phony: When Technology Betrays Us by Dale Boyd, Summer Intern at CPL

A Commentary on the book, Cell by Stephen King:

What if cell phones destroyed our minds and turned us all into brain-dead zombies? Leave it to Stephen King to write a book based on this idea. His 2006 book “Cell”, which is now being made into a televised movie, is the story of how one afternoon, everyone who answered his or her ringing cell phone instantly became a mindless, savage version of a human being. Ironically, many of those who saw this crazed behavior going on in the streets turned to their cell phones to call 911, thus turning themselves into brain-dead savages. These “phoners” would go on to form insect-like colonies with unusual psychic powers, leaving only the lucky few who either did not own cell phones or did not answer cell phones to try and survive the collective hives that now ruled the Earth. What an apocalyptic take on how we have come to rely on our electronic devices for information, and how the predictability of our reliance on these devices can leave us open to threats.

I send about five to ten text messages a day and almost never am without my cell phone, and as I was reading the book, the idea of my cell phone turning me into a mindless zombie made me want to take the battery out of it and lock all my doors and windows against King’s imaginary impending zombie doom. However, even as a cell phone user, I get annoyed when people put their cell phones ahead of what is physically going on around them. This is part of the dark appeal of this book, in that those stereotypical cell phone users who clog up supermarket checkout lines and swerve absent-mindedly in and out of their lane when they are texting seem to get punished by a divine act of vengeance. This is the sentiment that I perceived from the author, who specifically includes in the preface to “Cell” that he does not own a cell phone.

But why the dark appeal, Mr. King, for such a cellular social upheaval, and why is it also so terrifying? Technology has rapidly changed the way in which people communicate and socialize. It has expanded far beyond cell phones, into social networking sites like Facebook accessible by computer, and smart phones which now blur the line between phone and computer. A change in social communication also leads to changes in society. Words like “wall”, “profile”, “text”, “friend”, “tagged” and “like” now have different meanings than even a few years ago when the book was written. If King had written the book in 2010, he would have had a whole new slew of ways in which to terrify us with technology gone wrong.

Part of what makes “Cell” scary is the prominent role of electronic communication in our lives. I felt fine in the days before I had a cell phone, but once I got one, I felt almost naked without it. My phone conjoined with my wallet and keys to form a sort of Holy Trinity of my pants pockets; things I would never dream of leaving the house without. I was also fine before I got a Facebook, now that I have one, I feel uncomfortable going one day without checking it to see what messages friends and family have left for me. Things in our pockets and in our homes with screens, keys, and buttons open up many doors for us, but as soon as we become complacent and adjusted to them we can only feel deprived when we are left without them. The fact that so many people including myself rely on them for maintaining professional, personal and familial relationships makes it very disconcerting that they would ever betray us, leaving ourselves and those on our contact lists vulnerable.

Of course, it is possible and actually quite common for such betrayal to happen. While we don’t have to worry about our iPhones turning us into iZombies (I hope), human beings can get inside our cell phones and computers and try to sell us things that we do not want, pretend to be people who they aren’t, hack in to our devices and profiles to get our personal information, and even hijack our names to send viruses to our friends and families.

This happened to me once when I clicked on a Facebook message that looked like a YouTube forward from an old friend. After I that, I got an ingeniously evil virus that was designed to look like an antivirus program, and only got worse when you tried to remove it. I ended up spending $85 dollars to get it repaired, and I was left wondering if the cost of the Internet was worth the benefits.

Of course, I still use my computer, Facebook, and cell phone all the time, perhaps more than before. When I’m home from school, my computer and my phone are where my friends and family “live”. When we go without our computers and phones, we don’t miss them because we enjoy them as possessions, we miss them because we miss our social connections. Most of us do lead lives where all of our friends and family are under the same roof or in the same town. Rather, we have loved ones and professional contacts all over the nation and sometimes all over the globe. By far the most convenient way to reach them is electronically. The best thing that we can do is to be cautious and aware that other people and programs may be listening in on our electronic conversations.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Today's Guest Blogger for the library is Dale Boyd.  Dale, a student from Keuka College will be with us at the library for six weeks this summer!!!

As the month of June progresses, many college students caught halfway between the world of education and the real world find themselves in summer stupors. Lying listless on couches in front of televisions and air conditioners, they count the days until the next semester begins. Still others find themselves working in fast-food restaurants and supermarkets, driven by the desire for a few extra bucks and also to assuage their parents nagging them to “Get a job!” However, Keuka College students such as I often have a much different summer experience than others. Keuka’s focus on “Experiential Learning” demands that students go the extra mile over their breaks to get real world learning experience. I have chosen the Canastota Public Library as my learning site for the next five weeks, and I am very happy that I did.

Keuka College requires all of its students to complete four of what they refer to as “Field Periods”. This consists of four to five weeks spent out in the real world to attain a valuable learning experience. Students can go to foreign countries to do volunteer work, work in Fortune 500 companies, or do something right in their own hometowns. The idea is to gain skills and develop work ethic that lasts for a lifetime. I chose the Canastota Public Library because of my proximity of my home in Oneida to their location, my appreciation of the value of volunteer work, my appreciation of the value of education and my desire to help them develop more effective communication with the public.

As a communications major, I hope that I can learn a lot from the people working at the library. I look forward to witnessing how the library as an organization communicates with patrons, other libraries, and how individuals within the library communicate with one another. I also hope that I can help them to achieve their social media goals this summer. The library currently has its own Facebook and MySpace pages, and I hope to increase the number of people that visit these sites as well as to submit interesting content to enrich the viewing experience of those who visit the sites.

I am only in my third week, and yet I have been afforded the opportunity to contribute to the library in many different ways. So far, I have had to opportunity to redesign the library’s bookmark. The updated version includes a picture of the front of the building facing Center Street. The information concerning the services provided by the library as well as the library’s policies have also been updated. I have also had the opportunity to create the aquatic-themed children’s display on the second floor, following the suggestions of Liz Metzger, who is the director of the library and also my supervisor. Each kid gets their own cutout fish that he or she can color in according to his or her own creative vision, and each shape will be unique.

I was also entrusted with the task of hosting the library’s annual “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” game at the Roberts Street School Carnival. This year, we were lucky enough to dodge the downpours and we got a big turnout from the kids. They ranged from 4th to 8th grade, but it turns out that pretty much everyone was smarter than a fifth grader. I’ll admit, there were actually a few questions that I myself wouldn’t have known without the answer key. I have also created fliers that have been put up around the library to advertise the various events hosted by the library. This has familiarized me with the program Microsoft Publisher, as it is very useful for creating attention grabbing fliers in a short amount of time.

I look forward to the second half of my time here at the library and I hope that by the end of my experience here I will have helped them as much as they have helped me.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Canastota Author Book Talk At Library

On Thursday, June 24th at 6:30pm, Canastota resident Margaret Ann LeBlanc will be at the Canastota Public Library to talk about her book, “The Mexico Adventure, Book Three of the Ms. Maddy Series.” This presentation is for parents and children!

All of the Ms. Maddy books tell stories involving Ms. Maddy, her dog, Gertie, and their friends, Chloe, Kate and Pete. In the Mexico Adventure, Ms. Maddy, Gertie and the children take a surprising trip with the aid of a magical purse and handkerchief!

LeBlanc, who is originally from Canastota, NY, has worked in the restaurant business for all of her life. She enjoys meeting new people and traveling to faraway places. She has also been a personal chef, doggie biscuit maker, and recipe collector. For several years, LeBlanc lived in the small village of Canaan, Maine. She and her husband moved back to Canastota within the last year to be closer to family.

Following the presentation, LeBlanc will be available to autograph books for those in attendance. The cost of the book, “The Mexico Adventure” is $16.95. Light refreshments will follow. The event will be held in the library’s Lawson Community Room on the lower level of the library.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


     When Nat King Cole sings “roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer”, it sure gets me thinking about all the summer days when I would curl up on the chaise lounge on our front porch. That was my favorite place to go to read a book! The porch was shaded and even on the warmest day; I could feel a slight breeze.

     If you are having a lazy day this summer, or thinking about going on vacation, you could probably use a good book to read. I hope you will remember that the Canastota Friends of the Library has an on-going book sale! The books and other materials for sale are set up in the computer area and the adjacent space at the library. Stop by any day that we are opened to check out the selection of paperbacks (Just 5 for $1) or hardcover books (either $1 or $3). We also have a selection of cds, dvds and videos that you can peruse. These are great for taking on vacation to the beach or just for some light reading after dinner.

     Some of us seem too crazy busy to stop and read a book. It that is you, you’ll want to check out MYaudio2go from the Mid-York Library System and the public libraries of Oneida, Madison and Herkimer Counties. MYaudio2go allows you to access hundreds of audio books from your home computer, twenty-four hours a day, seven days each week! MYaudio2go allows you the freedom to enjoy audio books, anytime, anywhere. It allows you to borrow audio books even when your library is closed and there is no need to worry about fines because the file becomes unplayable on the computer when the loan period ends. The service gives you access to bestsellers and classic literature and is jointly funded by the Mid-York Library System and its forty-three member libraries.

     To try out the service, go to midyork.org and click on the link for digital audio. Go to the web site and install the free software. Browse for a book or search for a favorite author. Check the audio book out using your library card. Download the file and enjoy listening to the book on your PC or transfer the file to a compatible device to enjoy on the go.

     With all of us so busy these days, even during lazy, hazy and the crazy days of summer, the Canastota Library is here to meet our needs. Whether you are like me, and enjoy having the book physically in your hand; like my husband who enjoys audio tapes or like the kids who are really interested in using the MYaudio2go, the library is a great resource in the community! I’ll see you there. And, if I’m not working, you’ll find me on the porch at home, reading.