Monday, May 19, 2014

Remembering Violence Before an Election in Schuylkill County

The primary this week is a good reminder of how far we have come in this county. 80 years ago, things were not so civilized.

The Kelayres Massacre took place on November 5, 1934 when one party, the Democrats, decided to have a parade celebrating the coming general election. The leader of the Republican party in town took exception to that, and members of his family opened fire on the unarmed parade marchers. Five people died as a result of the gunfire, and the next day the Republicans were defeated in elections across the state. 

You can find more information about this violent event from newspaper articles written at the time. The Pottsville Library has collected some of the articles from the Pottsville Republican newspaper and put them into our Vertical File collection for easier access.

There are also two books coming out this year that will discuss the topic. Keystone Tombstones is a series that looks at famous graves in Pennsylvania, and volume three (read the newspaper article about it here) will include photos of some of the graves of those involved.

A quick search of the Internet revealed that another book coming out this fall will focus on the massacre and the political environment at the time. The Kelayres Massacre: Politics and Murder in Pennsylvania's Coal Country, by Stephanie Hoover, is expected to be released in September. We'll be looking to add the title to our collection when it comes out.

Curious about who else is buried in Pennsylvania? We have the first two volumes of Keystone Tombstones in the Reference Collection of the library. Some of the people you'll find in Volume One include Harry Kalas, Jayne Mansfield, The Molly Maguires, and Jim Thorpe. Volume Two continues with people like Richie Ashburn, Jim Croce, Milton Hershey, and Fred Rogers. We've also ordered a copy of Keystone Tombstones Civil War, which will be added to the Reference Collection as soon as it comes in.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Who Controls Your Information?

Two observances this week are trying to raise awareness of who knows what about you and who controls your information.

Choose Privacy Week is an annual observance running May 1-7. Sponsored by the American Library Association, the intent is to draw library users (and everyone else) into a conversation about privacy rights in the digital age. Just about all public libraries have privacy policies in place to protect those who borrow books and everything else from our collections. We don't tell other people what you check out, what you were looking at on the computer, or what you asked at the Reference Desk. But libraries can only protect so much, it's up to the library users to further protect themselves outside of the library building. Things like using the privacy controls in Facebook, or using a search service like or to search the Internet more privately. Have you noticed that once you look online for, say, a new pair of shoes, you start seeing ads from businesses selling those kinds of shoes? That's because businesses track your searching and shopping habits while you are using the Internet. Some browsers have an option in their "Privacy" tools that theoretically tell web sites not to track what you are doing, but that is not a guaranteed way to avoid being tracked. The site can still choose to ignore the request and you won't always know if the site tracks you or not. Some internet security programs have additional Do Not Track (DNT) methods, and you can read about them here. It is a problem, and will remain a problem for a while because so many companies are making so much money off of your data: who you are, how much money you spend on what kinds of items, where you live, etc.

May 6th is also International Day Against DRM. What is DRM? DRM determines what kind of software you need (or what kind of device) in order to read the ebook you wanted to purchase. DRM controls how many devices can hold that ebook, and prevents you from loaning that ebook to a friend to read. DRM also helps publishers control how many times a book can be read: some publishers license ebooks to public libraries, but limit those books to 26 uses and then the file is automatically deleted. Some might argue that DRM is a method to protect copyright, but it's really a method to control what you can do with the item you just paid for. It can also create a problem by denying you access to your own equipment: some people might remember when Sony used DRM on music CDs that ended up crashing listeners' computers. There is a list of Frequently Asked Questions about DRM that you can read for more examples. DRM isn't just on ebooks, however: it's also on the DVDs you purchase, the files you stream from video companies, the iPad you use.  Want to find DRM free materials? This list is a good place to start.

Have more questions about your privacy? You can find out more on sites like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and's "Protect Your Privacy Online" page. Or contact the Pottsville Library Reference Department, and we'll help you find answers to your questions.