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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

E-Mail and Urban Legends

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, March 29, 2009

 

All Ohio public library directors have an e-mail account with the Ohio Public Library Information Network.

 

The Network runs on the State Telecommunication system, linking all of Ohio's libraries.

 

Despite the best of spam software in both Columbus and in my work computer, can you imagine the amount of junk e-mail that one receives on a public system?

 

Technology has helped, as the number of junk e-mails has greatly declined from earlier days, but who has enough time in their day to initiate all of this stuff?

 

For a librarian whose job is to sort out information, the process does come naturally to me.

 

I have been told by nearly every country of the world that someone is holding millions of dollars for me, and they will send it if I provide my bank account number.

 

I can purchase drugs of all sorts from anywhere in the world.

 

The IRS is awaiting my bank account number to release money that is being held for me.

 

Then there are the Urban Legends that people keep forwarding across the Internet.

 

Some think they are just cute, others don't realize that they are Urban Legends.

 

Urban Legends are modern folklore that passes through our society, enhanced by the Internet and E-mail.

 

They are like the stories in school that we whispered around a circle to see what emerged from the other end.

 

An Urban Legend may be based on something factual, but are exaggerated and distorted along the communications pathway.

 

Others have no truth at all, and are posted to start a rumor that becomes retold over and over until it seems to be true.

 

The term "urban legend" was coined in 1968 by Professor Brunvand at the University of Utah, in a series of books he wrote about our culture.

 

The information in an Urban Legend is vague, and usually lacks details and specifics; but makes an exciting story that is a great tale.

 

The "Urban Legend Reference Pages" was established in 1995 by Barbara and David Mikkelson to research Urban Legends and provide information to their background.

 

The web site www.snopes.com is one of the most popular locations on the Internet as people took to see if something is true or not.

 

The term "snopes" is taken from the family of characters appearing in the works of American author William Faulkner.

 

Librarians, whose E-mail addresses are public, are also now receiving a never-ending barrage of E-mails from "authors" promoting their new books.

 

With publish-on-demand, and computer printing, the marketplace is absolutely flooded with non-traditional books.

 

Combine that with the fact that everyone is now a poet and feels the need to place every little poem in a printed format, it is a wonder my computer doesn't explode from these promotions.

 

With a declining budget, and more things to review for purchase; I hearken back to the days when everything was reviewed on 3 x 5 cards, and printed and promoted by established publishers in New York.