Monday, October 25, 2010

WSJ: Are "Robo-Libraries" Part of the Future?

Across the country, vendor machines are appearing where people can borrow DVDs and books at their own convenience. They order them online and pick them up at local vendor machines and kiosks (similar to Netflix and Libraries save money on labor and expand their reach to communities, especially during off-hours.

However, some librarians worry that these new technologies may fade public libraries out of existence:
Some library directors worry that such machines are the first step toward a future in which the physical library—along with its reference staffs and children's programs—fades from existence. James Lund, director of the Red Wing Public Library in Red Wing, Minn., recently wrote skeptically about the "vending library" in Library Journal, a trade publication.

"The basis of the vending machine is to reduce the library to a public-book locker," Mr. Lund said in an interview. "Our real mission is public education and public education can't be done from a vending machine. It takes educators, it takes people, it takes interaction."

Despite their growing popularity, do you think these "robo-libraries" will replace brick-and-mortar public libraries?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Social Work and Loan Forgiveness Struggles

In the Fall 2010 edition of The New Social Worker, there's an article where social work graduates are struggling to repay their high student loan debt. As tuition continues to rise faster than inflation, graduates are finding themselves in positions where they owe more in loans than what they earn in entry-level salaries.

...“While the amount of educational debt is not confined to a particular segment of the student population, the implications are vastly different for those who choose careers, like social work, in which salaries tend to be lowered....” Further, the report says, “Educational debt has also been blamed for deterring students from public service careers, thus increasing pressures on a workforce already facing shortages.”

This statistic affects graduates from vulnerable populations:
Furthermore, nearly a quarter (21%) described their debt load as “unmanageable.” Those with such debt are more likely to be younger, female, single, and African American (more than Caucasians). Sixty-seven percent of those with unmanageable debt earned less than $49,999 a year, compared with 54% of those with manageable debt.

Meanwhile, doctoral student, Karen Zgoda, posted a list of excellent online social work resources by area of practice.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Generation Homeless: Young Adults in the Recession

A new generation of homelessness -- adults between the ages of 18 and 25 -- are facing their worst job prospects since the Great Depression. Poverty rates are rising in the United States. At least two million young adults will face homelessness in the United States. Furthermore, more homeless young adults are coming out of the foster care system.
Unemployment rates are higher among young adults than other age groups. In July, the youth unemployment rate edged over 19 percent, the highest July rate on record since 1948. In 2009, 80 percent of college graduates moved home after finishing school, according to job listing website, up from 77 percent in 2008 and 67 percent in 2006. Those without the training and family support of college graduates are hurting even more.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of specialized shelters and services for this demographic. Most people assume 18-24 year old adults go straight to college or postsecondary training. The psychological and development issues can be also be traumatic because this is a period of emerging adulthood.

You can watch the video documentary below:

Generation Homeless: Voices from the Street from Mike Kane on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court's Recent Actions Worries Me

The U.S. Supreme Court has officially opened it session, and the future of human and civil rights policy has me very worried. Melinda Lewis of Classroom to Capitol summarizes my concerns nicely:
# The U.S. Supreme Court is accepting more business-related cases than in previous terms, and siding more with corporate interests, giving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce its greatest winning percentage in decades.

# Several decisions have restricted the reach of environmental legislation, undoing some legislative attempts to address the most concerning aspects of environmental degradation.

# In another pro-corporate set of decisions, the Court opened the door for renewed age and sex discrimination in the workplace, which obviously stands in stark contrast to social work’s fervent opposition to discriminatory practices.

# In the case that bothers me the most, both because of what it suggests about the vulnerability of some of our most vaunted judicial victories and because of the sheer tragedy of it, in 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court essentially overturned Brown v. Board of Education, ruling that separate could, in fact, be equal, and that voluntary school desegregation plans, on the other hand, were not.

This is very bad news! All the hard gains in the past 50 years are slowly being reversed by a more conservative judiciary. People need to keep a watchful eye over the Court's rulings this year, especially social workers and information professionals. I fear something major will happen, and it may be too late to rectify it.