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If you paid for it, you should be able to read it. For publicly financed science research, the Obama administration agrees.
I’m aware that this decision wasn’t just because of this We The People petition (which I signed) but it’s nice to think that the petition has an effect. Read the entire memorandum here (pdf) and here is the short post on the White House blog about it. The Association for American Publishers is in favor of this move, in contrast to their strongly worded opposition to the FASTR Act, a bill endorsed by many library associations. Read more about the Open Access to Research movement.
This is yet another “big deal” open access move in what is starting to look like The Year of Open Access.
I am aware that I am dreadfully behind the times, but the Kindle I wanted finally hit a price point that I felt was worth it and I got one: a Kindle Keyboard 3G/Wifi model. It’s nice. I’ve been tinkering with it. Here are some initial impressions.
1. Now that the Kindle Fire and other fancier ebook readers are out, the older ones are relatively inexpensive. While you can still buy this model new for low three figures, I got it refurbished from ebay for $50 delivered and was happy about it. Didn’t come in an Amazon box. Just showed up in some bubble wrap with a cable. Fine by me and super cheap for worldwide low-end 3G and an “experimental” browser.
2. I am mostly interested in using this when I travel for the free worldwide-ish internet access as well as being able to carry a lot of books with me on a long trip. I still prefer paper books but am at the point where I need to have more working knowledge of ebook readers than I have. We lend them out at the library that I occasionally work at, but that isn’t enough. I am not interested in buying a lot of new books. I am not interested in creating any more of a relationship with Amazon than I already have. I have a loose relationship with copyright laws but that doesn’t mean that you should, necessarily.
3. First step: hacking it so I can do what I want with it. I do not want their default screen savers. I do not want to pay them to convert things to PDF for me. I do not want to only buy things from the store, I don’t really care about the store. I don’t like the blinky page turning effect. A quick google brings me to this page. I follow a few instructions and I have my own screensavers and a jailbroken Kindle. I also read more about the blinky page flashing effect and why it exists (and that the alternative is often ghosting which would drive me crazy) and I’ve decided to stick with the blinky and learn to live with it, even though it’s nice to have options. I am not messing with the default fonts, for now. I am not installing KIF the Kindle interactive fiction interpreter, for now. I am okay that I will miss out on Amazon-only releases, for now.
4. Second step: get some books. As I said, I wanted to see how much I could do with this without involving Amazon. I’m not anti-Amazon so much as I’m just Amazon-agnostic and don’t want to have my device talking to them about me. There are basically three main ways to get books on to the thing: buy them, steal/borrow them, create them.
As much as I love the DIY Scanner idea, it’s a ways off for me. So I’m going to focus on the middle option.
First option: I went to Listen Up Vermont and gritted my teeth through the terrible interface (which I hear is changing), found a book I wanted to read, went to check it out, tried three different library cards until I got one that worked. Then got to the Amazon page and had to log in there as well. Did not want to register my Kindle. My only option at that point was to read the book in the “cloud reader” [i.e. on their website]. Okay. No way to download a book without becoming an Amazon customer. I’m sure this is not news to anyone who has a Kindle, but I hadn’t really tried this all out yet. This whole process took far too long.
Second option: Open Library. Found a book I wanted to read. “Checked it out” via Open Library’s nifty checkout options. Not even sure which library card I used, maybe it was just me being in the state of Vermont. Checked out the PDF of the book. Downloaded it to my desktop via Adobe Digital Editions which did not require me to register for an account but did have less functionality if I didn’t register which seemed okay to me. Could read it on my desktop. Was prohibited because of DRM from reading it on my Kindle. In the interests of science I tried to figure out how to get this to work anyhow. Spent a lot of time on this website reading about Calibre and the DRM and ebooks generally. Don’t let the post dates fool you, this is a fairly up to date blog. Calibre is a great ebook management tool that follows in the steps of some other open source tools in that it doesn’t break DRM itself, but you can obtain plug-ins that will do the DRM-breaking if you want. It also does a lot of other great things like allowing you to edit ebook metadata and group and organize your ebook collection. You can also use Calibre to format-shift your ebooks to and from various formats. I took the DRM off this ebook and then moved it to my Kindle. It’s not so great to read there because it’s in PDF format but it was good for proof of concept. 500 page PDFs are just not awesome for reading.
Third option: piracy. Most of the time if you search for a reasonably popular book using the title and other words like “mobi” or “epub” you can find forums where people upload pirated copies of these books to filesharing sites like divshare or mediafire. It’s worth noting that the Apprentice Alf website that helps you break DRM explicitly says that breaking DRM to upload books to piracy sites is an explicitly uncool use of DRM end-running which is the position I agree with for the most part. I tried the pirate download options with a book I already had in hard copy and found not just that book but a bundle of five other books by the same author. Downloaded, unrar-ed drag-and-dropped to my Kindle. Started reading. No passwords. No failures.
And as far as the reading experience, I’ve taken to it much more quickly than I thought I would. This is, of course, what everyone but me thought would happen. The Kindle is light, the back-forth buttons are simple and not accidentally clicked. I like being able to look up words in a dictionary without moving more than a few fingers. I like that it knows where I left off. I like getting to toss a book out when I am done with it. All in all my conclusions are much like the ones I was nodding my head with at the In Re: Books conference. Ebooks readers are great and improving all the time. It’s the ebooks themselves–the DRM, the bad user experience, the complicated and wonky checkout procedures, the lack of privacy, the changing restrictions we deal with as libraries, the terrible websites our vendors create–that are not just suboptimal but at the center of a bad user experience that we’re in the awkward position of promoting as if it were our own.
So, mixed feelings of course. I’ve gone to bed and read my Kindle most nights this week and enjoy it. I still can’t look a patron in the eye and explain that they need to go through a bunch of bad websites, log in at least twice and create relationships with multiple vendors who are not the library in order to check out a book from us. Here’s hoping the landscape will change for the better. Here’s suggesting we do what we can to help that happen.
Behavioral problems among teenagers and preteens can be blamed on the violence, sex and gore portrayed in the media marketed to them – that was the topic of televised public hearings held by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency in 1954 to address the scourge of comic books. The hearings, which resulted in the decimation of what was an enormous comic book industry, had been inspired in large part by the book “Seduction of the Innocent,” by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, based on his own case studies.
Wertham’s personal archives, however, show that the doctor revised children’s ages, distorted their quotes, omitted other causal factors and in general “played fast and loose with the data he gathered on comics,” according to an article by Carol Tilley, published in a recent issue of Information and Culture: A Journal of History.
Here’s a nice interview with Carol Tilley, an assistant professor at the iSchool of Illinois who also presented a talk at the recent ALA Midwinter conference. Her article Seducing the Innocent: Fredric Wertham and the Falsifications that Helped Condemn Comics is available to people with access to that sort of thing. More about Wertham from the Library of Congress and some more information from the library’s in-house newsletter. Here’s the text of the book, online but with different images (some images still NSFW).
Learned about this story two days ago and by the time I could put something together it has zipped around the internet already. Long story short: blogging academic librarian (and librarian.net favorite Dale Askey) makes negative probably-factual statements about a publisher. Publisher sues librarian and his current employer (who was not his employer at the time of the blog post) for millions of dollars for libel. Not okay, right? While the suit will probably prove groundless, it’s a waste of people’s time and money and an assault on the idea of academic and intellectual freedom. Please inform yourself and spread the word about Edwin Mellen Press’ wrongheaded decision to sue a librarian for writing about his negative impressions of their products.
- I first read about this here. Additional links including the “notice of action” are here.
- Specifics at Inside Higher Ed here
- Read the deleted-but-archives blog post in question here.
- McMaster’s public statement is here.
- A very nice “What can be done” assessment. In short: consider removing any automatic purchases from Mellen Press
- Dale’s blog and his twitter feed
- BoingBoing and Gawker have taken notice.
- If you are the petition signing type, please sign this petition.
Thomas Lannon occasionally posts on NYPLs blog. He is the assistant curator of their manuscripts and archives department. He also figures into this Fast Company story about a time capsule created by a group called the Modern Historic Records Association. The time capsule was never found, not exactly, but this story, an early example of the LOCKSS (lots of copies keeps stuff safe) phenomenon does have a happy ending, thanks to some sleuthing and some librarians.
White campaign tab with “WIN” in bold, red letters accompanied by a small red fish.
I had read with interest the articles that came out recently about the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library getting a Wikipedian in Residence. For more info, see this a short article about the library’s exhibits coordinator Bettina Cousineau talking about the library’s participation in the GLAM-Wiki Initiative (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums with Wikipedia), and a little more about the Wikipedian in Residence program.
I think this program is nifty and I was excited this time because the WiR is a Master’s student at the University of Michigan’s iSchool. I dropped him a line and asked if he wouldn’t mind answering a few questions. Here is a small Q&A (done over email) with Michael Barera about his new internship.
JW: The Ann Arbor Journal says you’ve been a Wikipedian since 2001. Is that a typo or have you been an editor there for over ten years? In any case, what first brought you to Wikipedia or the Wikimedia school of websites? What is your favorite thing about working on Wikipedia?
MB: 2001 isn’t exactly the true year that I started on Wikipedia: I found the site first in 2005, and made my first edit in 2006. 2001 is the year of the oldest photograph that I have uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, so in a way my contributions go back to 2001, although I didn’t edit Wikipedia or Commons until 2006. I was actually introduced to Wikipedia by my high school Western Civilization teacher in 2005, which is interesting because most people don’t have such an academic entry into the site: perhaps he was part of the reason why I’ve always taken it seriously.
For the first year or so, before I made my first edit, I used Wikipedia essentially as an extension of my social studies textbook: I’ve always loved how much more inclusive it is than the mainstream social studies curriculum in this country. My favorite thing about working on Wikipedia is sharing everything I’ve created or contributed with everyone in the world. We all chip in a little, and because of the CC-BY-SA and GFDL licenses, everyone gets to share and enjoy in the totality, all without ads or paywalls or subscriptions. I love the fact that it really is “the free encyclopedia”, both in the “gratis” and “libre” senses of the word.
JW: You went to UMich for your undergrad work and now you’re pursuing your Masters at the School of Information. Is this internship a natural outgrowth of what you planned to do at the iSchool or is it more of a side hobby that turned into a big deal? What are your interest areas at the iSchool?
MB: The beautiful thing is that it is both part of my career plan at SI and an outgrowth of a multi-year hobby. That’s why it is so perfect for me, because it allows me to use both my U of M bachelor’s degree (which has a concentration in History) and my knowledge and experience with Wikipedia, all in one package. In terms of my areas of interest at SI, I am specializing in Archives and Records Management (and maybe dual-specializing in Preservation of Information as well), but I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve taken so far, from human interaction in information retrieval to Python programming to dead media. SI really is a perfect fit for me!
JW: Sort of a silly question but are you literally “in residence” meaning that you get to go work at the library? Or is it more of a virtual residency?
MB: I’m literally “in residence” at the Library four hours per week, but as you know Wikipedia can’t be confined to just one place at a certain time, so there is plenty of spill-over above and beyond these four hours. It is rather interesting to have an internship that literally bleeds into my free time, but I love editing Wikipedia, so I can’t complain!
JW: This project seems like it’s sort of a trial partnership experiment for both Wikipedia and a US cultural institution. What are you hoping will come out of this partnership in addition to the stated goals of making more of the library’s public domain holdings available via Wikipedia?
MB: Well, to be fair, a number of US cultural institutions have already had Wikipedians in Residence: the National Archives and Records Administration, the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis, Consumer Reports, and the Smithsonian Institution have all beaten the Ford Presidential Library and Museum to the punch. For me, the biggest goals of my internship (in addition to the obvious desire to improve content on Wikipedia) are to foster and maintain a relationship between the Wikimedia movement and the Ford as well as to encourage content experts, like the people I work with at the Ford, to create Wikipedia accounts and to become Wikipedians themselves. I know it can be daunting at first, but there are lots of long-time users who are happy to give their help and guidance, myself included. We won’t bite the newcomers!
JW. Do you feel a little odd about being in a fishbowl with all of your Wikipedia edits and actions being visible or is this par for the course for you? What do you think is people’s largest misunderstanding about Wikipedia?
MB: Well, all of my Wikipedia edits and actions have always been visible (that’s the nature of the MediaWiki software), and while there is certainly an upsurge in media attention and awareness about the internship or me specifically, I don’t think that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people paging through my edits or watching my talkpage. On Wikipedia, I still feel like a private citizen: I think most of the media attention has been at a very basic level, and I think some of it struggles to grasp the nuances of what I am doing or even the structure of Wikipedia itself, which brings me to your last question. In terms of people’s largest misunderstanding about Wikipedia, I think it is the simple fact that we are an encyclopedia: a tertiary source without original research. We are not a blog or a forum for anyone to post whatever he or she wants to post, but rather a dedicated and thoughtful group of “collectors” trying to assemble the world’s best encyclopedia piece by piece, bit by bit.
I think we sometimes get lumped in with other social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, and while there are a few commonalities (like the fact each is made up of user-generated content), Wikipedia really is a lot more like Britannica than it is like a blog, at least in terms of the content itself and the work that goes on behind the scenes.
[these are follow-up questions from a few days after our initial exchange]
MB: I’ve always loved how much more inclusive it is than the mainstream social studies curriculum in this country.
JW: I’m with you there. Are there any particular examples that stand out to you?
MB: During my elementary, middle, and high school careers, I discovered that my history/social studies education was essentially a history of Western Europe and North America. While the curriculum has improved dramatically in terms of coverage of Native Americans, African Americans, and Asian Americans in the last few decades, there is very little Latin American, Eastern European, African, Asian, or Oceanian history taught at the primary or secondary levels in this country (and just about all of it directly impacts the United States, typically in negative ways, such as Vietnam’s one cameo appearance in American history during the Vietnam War). I think the heart of this issue is the old belief that history is “national myth-making” is still alive and well in this country, at least below the post-secondary level.
On the other hand, I absolutely loved how different history is at the college level: as an undergrad at the University of Michigan, it was refreshing to take history courses covering nearly every corner of the world that both attempted to show that country’s perspective and then critique it at the same time. My modern French history (1871-present) and Soviet/Russian history classes were the best examples, and I would highly recommend my professors, Joshua Cole and Ronald Grigor Suny, to anyone: they do it the right way, and I for one wish I had more exposure to that kind of “real history” when I was younger. Long story short, Wikipedia is much more like this post-secondary, “real history” than “national myth-making”, so I always enjoyed how much more objective Wikipedia is (although not perfectly objective, of course).
JW: One of the things that has been challenging for me in Wikipedia outreach is trying to convince people that they don’t need to get someone to do the editing, that they can be bold and dive in. Do you have any particular approach to trying to get people to get comfortable making their own edits?
MB: My advice for getting people to start contributing is simple. The next time our hypothetical potential editor is on Wikipedia, I would encourage him or her to create an account and then just stay logged in while reading articles. Anytime he or she spots a small error, such as a typo or punctuation issue, he or she should just go ahead and change it. Actually, an account isn’t even needed: readers can (on most articles) make such minor corrections without an account, too. Still, this notion of starting small is the real key, in my opinion: just start with the little things and become comfortable with the editing interface (and the notion of editing a wiki itself), and eventually that new editor will feel comfortable making larger and more substantial edits. That’s how it was for me many years ago.
JW: Are there other online reference sources (crowdsourced or not) online that are your “go to” sites when you are trying to do research either for Wikipedia or your other projects?
MB: The resources I use for referencing Wikipedia articles are broad and diverse, and they range widely from topic to topic, as is to be expected. One commonality, though, is that I use a lot of newspaper and journal articles: in most cases, they are reliable secondary sources that are very good at establishing the core facts that lie at the heart of the Wikipedia article. One hint for maintaining NPOV is to try to recognize the different sources and balance them with each other. For example, on the article on the 2001 Michigan vs. Michigan State football game, I made sure to use both the U of M and MSU athletic departments’ press releases and game notes.
And, in an even better example from my work on the article Queens of Noise (The Runaways’ sophomore album from 1977), I tried to effectively balance multiple perspectives on the content, including the recollections of Jackie Fox and direct quotes about specific songs and events from Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, and Kim Fowley. Most interestingly, that article includes two separate (and contradictory) accounts of why Jett sang lead vocals instead of Currie on one of the songs, one given by Fox and the other by Currie. The key is to make it clear who is saying what where, and so like the “real history” taught in colleges and universities across the nation (and the world), the article has become an effort to show the different perspectives in conversation with each other instead of just giving one point of view (as is the case with “national myth-making”).
JW: Cheers and thanks for doing this for me.
MB: My pleasure! Thanks for the interview, and take care!
There has been a lot of great writing about copyright and access to our cultural and intellectual history in the weeks since Aaron Swartz’s death. I have been retreading some of my old favorite haunts to see if there was stuff I didn’t know about the status of access to online information especially in the public domain (pre-1923 in the US) era.
I talk like a broken record about how I think the best thing that libraries can do, academic libraries in particular, is to make sure that their public domain content is as freely accessible as possible. This is an affirmative decision that Cornell University made in 2009 and I think it was the right decision at the right time and that more libraries should do this. Some backstory on this.
So, if I wanted to share an image from a book that Cornell has made available, I have to check the guidelines link above and then I can link to the image, you can go see it and then you can link to the image and do whatever you want with it, including sell it. This is public domain. The time and money that went into making a digital copy of this image have been borne by the Internet Archive and Cornell University. The rights page on the item itself (which I can download in a variety of formats) is clear and easy to understand.
Compare and contrast JSTOR. Now let me be clear, I am aware that JSTOR is a (non-profit) business and Cornell is a university and I am not saying that JSTOR should just make all of their public domain things free for everyone (though that would be nice), I am just outlining the differences as I see them in accessing content there. I had heard that there were a lot of journals on JSTOR that were freely available even to unaffiliated people like myself. I decided to go looking for them. I found two different programs, the Register and Read program (where registered users can access a certain number of JSTOR documents for free) and the Early Journal Content program. There’s no front door, that I saw, to the EJC program you have to search JSTOR first and then limit your search to “only content I can access” Not super-intuitive, but okay. And I’m not trying to be a pill, but doing a search on the about.jstor.org site for “public domain” gets you zero results though the same is true when searching for “early journal content” and also for “librarian.” Actually, I get the same results when I search their site for JSTOR. Something is broken, I have written them an email.
So I go to JSTOR and do a similar search, looking for only “content I can access” and pick up the first thing that’s pre-1923 which is an article about Aboriginal fire making from American Anthropologist in 1890. I click through and agree to the Terms of Service which is almost 9000 words long. Only the last 260 words really apply to EJC. Basically I’ve agreed to use it non-commercially (librarian.net accepts no advertising, I an in the clear) and not scrape their content with bots or other devices. I’ve also seemingly acquiesced to credit them and to use the stable URL, though that doesn’t let me deep-link to the page with the image on it, so I’ve crossed my fingers and deep-linked anyhow. I’m still not sure what I would do, contact JSTOR I guess, if I wanted to use this document in a for-profit project. Being curious, I poked around to see if I could find this public domain document elsewhere and sure enough, I could.
At that point, I quit looking. I found a copy that was free to use. This, however, meant that I had to be good at searching, quite persistent and not willing to take “Maybe” as an answer to “Can I use this content?” I know that when I was writing my book my publishers would not have taken maybe for an answer, they were not even that thrilled to take Wikimedia Commons’ public domain assertions.
As librarians, I feel we have to be prepared to find content that is freely usable for our patrons, not just content that is mostly freely usable or content where people are unlikely to come after you. As much as I’m personally okay being a test case for some sort of “Yeah I didn’t read all 9000 words on the JSTOR terms and conditions, please feel free to take me to jail” case, realistically that will not happen. Realistically the real threat of jail is scary and terrible and expensive. Realistically people bend and decide it’s not so bad because they think it’s the best they can do. I think we can probably do better than that.
By: Jessamyn West,
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Most people have heard the news that on Saturday, the two-year anniversary of his arrest, 26 year old Aaron Swartz killed himself. I didn’t know Aaron well though I was lucky to have crossed paths with him a few times, we were on the same team during the MIT Mystery Hunt and we were both involved, him much more than me, in some of the early days of Open Library one of my favorite websites on the internet. Thanks to Aaron, and a short list of other people, that site exists and continues to grow.
Though not an ALA Think Tanker, Aaron had more of a Make It Happen ethos than anyone I knew. This was true even if what had to happen went against the current legal zeitgeist and/or conventional wisdom. I don’t think he was a lonely rebel type, but I think he was often willing to go further than others were comfortable with and we as a culture, and we as a library culture, have gained a lot of good things from that. We need to continue to step up, as many have always been stepping up, to ensure our citizens’ rights to access to the information that they need and want in an environment that is increasingly becoming monetized, silo-ized and just generally commoditized.
It’s a problem; we are now and have always been the solution. Please go liberate a public domain document and leave a wish or a thought in Aaron’s memory. And then let’s get back to work. Here’s a quote from Bibliographic Wilderness’ post about Aaron, linked below.
Librarians and libraries have professional knowledge that portraying Swartz’s activity as a million-dollar-plus profit-movitated larceny, and prosecuting it as such, is ridiculous. And librarians and libraries know that the inequity in access to scholarly content that offended Swartz is a real problem. However misguided his approach to addressing the issue, Swartz was on our side — or at least, we should have been on Swartz’s side, writing the prosecutor and court with our professional expertise that this was not the sort of crime it was being portrayed as.
Articles, tributes and links to other things you might want to read about Aaron.
- MIT Tech news: What did Aaron actually get in trouble for doing anyhow?
- Alex Stamos, to be Aaron’s expert witness: The truth about Aaron’s “crime”
- Library Journal Article: Did Aaron have anything to do with JSTORs decision to make some of their public domain documents available?
- Bibliographic wilderness: We should be taking more steps to ensure access the way Aaron did.
- Lawrence Lessig: Aaron was bullied by the legal system.
- Memorial website including a statement from his family and girlfriend.
By: Jessamyn West,
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My year-end 2012 was pretty mellow. I’ve been doing the same technology instruction and teaching at the vocational high school and the occasional local library fill-in shift. I’ve gotten more active in VLA and in the new Rural Librarians Unite group. I had a very busy April-June speaking season which I enjoyed and didn’t do any solo talks after June. I’m upping my rates for 2013 which may seem counterintuitive. I’d like to continue to do public speaking but do fewer events (or more local events that I do for free or cheap) for the same general income. The end of the year was a quiet time to reflect on the value of the work that I do and the work that others do in getting the word out about library technology and technology culture. And there were many people having discussions about the value of libraries, and whether we (or the media) are even asking the right questions. I read these posts with interest.
A lot of questions at the end of 2012 and we’re working towards answers. I have a more hopeful feeling at this year end than I’ve had in a while. One of the things I’ve been doing a lot of these past few months is online research types of things. I was elected a local Justice of the Peace and started a “What is a Justice of the Peace” type of blog called For Great Justice and I posted daily from the time I got elected until January first. Turns out that this JP business isn’t that fascinating and so I had to dig deep into archives and/or special collections to find stuff that was notable and would interest me as well as modern-day Tumblr readers. And it was difficult, really difficult.
It sounds funny, but if there was ever a time that I was wishing for a Digital Public Library of America, these past few months have been it. Not so much because of all the other good reasons but because I would love some standardization of query languages, results formatting, rights statements and just general user experience when I am trying to find something in an online archive. I am aware that asking people to just do things differently does not work and is a crazy thing to request. I am not asking for that. But I am aware, more than usual, that leadership is needed if we want to make the United States’ cultural content accessible in some sort of aggregated fashion.
I am also aware that these archives have evolved organically and most of the time the people involved made mindful decisions about how they wanted things to work. Other times it’s clear that the archives had purchased off-the-shelf archiving software and made the barest of adjustments. People and libraries don’t have a lot of money or time and I get that. At the same time, trying to do a basic set of things
- search for the bound phrase “justice of the peace” (the individual words return too many non-relevant results)
- return results in a way that allow me to sort by relevance or other options
- at a speed where I could browse results and easily check out 10-15 results in 10-15 minutes (or more quickly, optimally)
- in a way that let me know the format of the items in my search results (jpg, pdf, text) and optimally limit by those formats
- in a way that I could know if the item I had searched for was available to be viewed or not
- with sufficient help files that if these things were possible, I could determine it on my own
These things were things I could almost never do. I wound up doing more searching in places like Google Books and Flickr Commons than in library archives even though the library archives often had more relevant content simply because I had limited time and a limited frustration level and I had to make some choice. I am a power searcher. If this is what I am doing, knowing it’s sub-optimal, what are our less power-searcher users doing?
So I’m back to wood shedding, reading and learning more about the digital divide and about how people learn technology and bringing forward my experiences with searching and not-finding to see if I can make something out of the experience that is helpful to other people. I wish everyone peace and joy in this bright new year.
By: Jessamyn West,
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“Knowledge of the wormhole record will allow biologists to trace the recent biogeographic history of species, including invasives of economic importance, and historians to evaluate the place of origin and movement of a woodblock, book, document or art print.”
Read more about the wormhole record over at Quigley’s Cabinet (some images on that page may be NSFW)
By: Jessamyn West,
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I tracked the libraries that I visited this year. I have also done this in 2011, 2010 and 2009.
I went to thirty-five different libraries in eleven states for fifty-four visits total. I’m sure I have forgotten some. Here’s the short annotated list of what I was doing in libraries last year. Foursquare really helped me keep this list up to date. Top three libraries are the same as last year.
- Kimball Library, Randolph VT – this is the library where I work as an on-call part timer since I live up the street, and also where I check out books
- Hartness Library, VTC, Randolph VT – this is the good college library nearby me where anyone in the state can get a library card. I’ve got renewed interest in it since I started watching TV series on my ipad when at the gym.
- Westport, MA – the library in the town where my father lived and where I still spend a good amount of time. Great booksale.
- Lawrenceburg, IN – was here for a conference, stopped at the library twice, lovely place
- Kilton Library, Lebanon NH – saying hi to Virgil again
- Cranston, RI – hung out with Ed Garcia and got to see his cool library
- Keene State, Keene NH – got a tour from the library director after a talk there
- Carthage, MO – stopped by on my way cross-country
- Nashville TN – stopped in en route to the TN Library association conference, really nice place, amazing renovations
- Knoxville Public, TN – a library in need of some serious renovations, stark contrast to Nashville
- NYPL/SIBL, NY – always a favorite, sorry it’s going away
- Worcester PL, MA – checked the place out after a conference, a really well designed place
- Ellis (Mizzou), Columbia MO – one of those wacky places with an old and a new part that don’t quite line up. Enjoyed my tour.
- S. Boone County, Columbia MO – a nice newish library
- Cranston, Hall Branch, RI – a fancier cousin to the main Cranston library, neat basement
- AVA South Studio Library, NH – attached to an art gallery, a nice selection of books
- East Providence, RI – waited here before meeting someone at a nearby comedy club when it was raining, nice staff
- Hudson, MA – an old funky building, terrific hang out spot
- Midstate, Berlin VT – we had an unconference here which was a great time
- Watertown, MA – a neat new and old library with huge collection and a lot of neat places to hang out
- Chelmsford, MA – saying hi to Brian
- Mendik/NYLS, NY – chilling out after a busy conference, a neat basement library
- Cambridge, MA – hanging out waiting for Jim to get out from his colonoscopy, thumbs up!
- Pasadena, CA – an odd old building only sort of repurposed for modern uses
- Hartland VT – my friend Mary doesn’t work here anymore!
- Keene Public, NH – scooted by here on my way out of town
- Fall River, MA – lovely old building
- Chelsea, VT – saying hi to my friend Virgil
- Howe/Hanover NH – stopping by en route to meeting some friends in from out of town, playable piano out front
- St Louis – Machacek – this library did not have wifi, I was stunned
- Berlin MA – such a cute small and awesome library
- Blount County/Maryville TN – a neat middle-of noplace branch, super well designed and hoppin’
- Rochester, VT – doing a lot with not very much
- CUNY, NY – in an old department store building, fun tour
- Charlotte, NC – an amazing bustling city library with some weird old empty parts to it
By: Jessamyn West,
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I’ve waited til the new year to write this list up. I’ve spent the first few days of the new year finishing up a few books that were lingering on the nightstand. Here’s the complete list, you’ll notice that I only finished some of the books in this photo which was my “to read” pile on 1/1/12.
Here are previous year end lists: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. My booklist lives over on jessamyn.info/booklist and it has its own RSS feed.
number of books read in 2012: 53
average read per month: 4.42
average read per week: 1.02
number read in worst month: 1 (Feb/Dec)
number read in best month: 11 (July)
percentage by male authors: 75
percentage by female authors: 19
fiction as percentage of total: 51
non-fiction as percentage of total: 49
percentage of total liked: 94
percentage of total ambivalent: 4
percentage of total disliked: 2
My reading is really getting to be consistent. I read about a book a week, split between fiction and non-fiction. I like most of the books that I read. I read a lot in July and not so much in December or February. Still no ebook reader, though I’ve been using my iPad more to watch Downton Abbey while I am on the treadmill. One book took me the better part of a month to get through (Quammen’s book about the Dodo and other extinctions) but it was well worth it. I read all the Hunger Games books in a little over a week and while I think that having read them is good for me as a librarian, I felt pretty “meh” about all but the first one, which surprised me.
By: Jessamyn West,
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Right after I got back from New York, Hurricane Sandy hit and I spent a lot of time in the quickweb spreading links about how people could help libraries affected by Hurricane Sandy (you still can – NJ, NY) and making my own donations. A week after that I also got the news that I’d been elected Justice of the Peace of my small town in Vermont. This is neat news. Similar to my stint on ALA Council a long time ago, I’ve often felt that helping people different from you to solve their problems often involves working from the inside. So in addition to weddings, local JPs help out with elections and tax abatement hearings and it seemed like a good way for me to get involved. Because I didn’t know much about this position, I’ve been doing (surprise!) a lot of research and I’ve been collating that into a post-a-day blog called For Great Justice. Feel free to read if you’d like to.
I have also still been reading a lot of the trade publications and the usual Twitter/Facebook/blog stuff, I’ve just been doing a poorer job of radiating it outward. The latest thing I’ve been reading that has made an impact is this long ALA Think Tank discussion of a blog post by Stephen Abram about managing “hig potential” employees or, as he puts it, The Rock Star Dilemma.
As I may have mentioned in the past, I have this problem. Not like “Oh I am so terrific at work all the time!” but that I have a lot of energy and ideas and have often found that in real-world library jobs this is not only not appreciated (okay, that’s fine) it’s actively discouraged, de-emphasized and occasionally disparaged. This bums me out. So it was interesting to read the long discussion on how not just management but “high potential” employees themselves can better manage these awkward situations to achieve better results for libraries. Stephen has created a lengthy follow up post where he includes a thoughtful list of suggestions and tips that synthesizes a lot of the ideas that came up in the discussion. Worth a read.
My thoughts are with the folks struggling with power outages and Sandy’s destruction. I left NYC on Sunday morning after attending the In Re Books conference given by New York Law School. I was on the Libraries panel. I learned a great deal about the current state of digital content and the legal structure supporting and/or inhibiting it and got to listen to a lot of very bright people speak. I was honored to be on a panel with author Caleb Crain, Doron Weber from the Sloan Foundation, and Jonathan Band who does technology law and policy work, all well-moderated by June Besek. I did what I always dread other people would do: prepared too much information for a twelve-minute slot. Fortunately I went last and managed to make it work okay but decided to put the full essay here. Here is my short piece which was intended as a cautionary side note to the idea of a digital public library, an idea I am generally in favor of. Title, swiped from a Cory Doctorow article on boingboing “You are a mere tenant farmer of your books”
My name is Jessamyn West I live in Randolph VT. I am the director of operations for MetaFilter.com and I work in a rural library and a vocational high school teaching people how to use their computers. Last year I wrote a book called Without a Net, Librarians Bridging the Digital Divide, talking about how public libraries in the US are becoming the de facto social safety net for technology access and instruction at a time when technology skills and access are becoming a necessary part of being an American citizen, an unfunded mandate if you will.
Some of the stuff I’ll be talking about may be known quantities to many of you. I’ll be discussing not just what some of the data is but also why I feel that it matters.
The digital divide is a catchall phrase that people use to roughly refer to the haves and have-nots. It used to refer to who had computers and who didn’t. Then it shifted to refer more to who had online access versus who didn’t, then broadband access, then mobile access. The general gist is that people who lack access don’t just lack a computer, or broadband, or a smart phone, they lack access to a culture that is swiftly beginning to define a large swath of economic and social opportunities (and economic and social power) in a place that is all but invisible to them. And that this lack of options is self-reinforcing, similar to how poverty is not just a lack of money though it is partly that.
When we start talking about significantly ramping up public access to digital content, particularly cultural content and referring to a digital public library (and idea I am in favor of, by the way) we need to understand the challenges in creating and making available digital content for ALL people, not just those who can afford it and not just those who already know how to access it. Twitter could, for example, have terrible tech support because their business model doesn’t depend on it being usable by or even relevant to tech illiterate users, disabled user, easily confused users, etc.
If our digital public library is truly public, it is for everyone even those who are hardest to serve.
Keep in mind that 20-ish% of adults in America have no internet at home at all. Even the demographics with the most smart phone penetration (jerks like me 25-44) are still in the 60-70% range, max. And while people are continuing to increasingly get smartphones (with caveats like: bandwidth caps, lack of net neutrality, expensive plans and the fact that they are NOT computers…) home broadband adoption is plateauing. And this lack of access isn’t evenly distributed: it’s disproportionately full of older people, poor people, people with less education or English-speaking capacity, people with disabilities, often people with some combination of these challenges. And the people who don’t have broadband are often some of the library’s biggest customers.
We know *why* people don’t get/use broadband… the IRS and other big government organizations who stand to save a lot of money as people get online more study the heck out of this. People don’t use the internet because they’re afraid (steal your identity, steal your kids), because they don’t see its value or relevance to them, because they can’t afford it, and because they can’t get it where they live. About one in five say that they do know enough about technology to start using the internet on their own, three out of five of them report that they would need help in order to get online. Most telling, only one in ten said that they were interested in using the internet or email in the future. Ever?
So the divides are multiple: 1. economic 2. usability 3. empowerment. (Jakob Nielsen)
Attempts to serve everyone with digital content must address all three of these divides.
BOOKS vs. EBOOKS
In public libraries we can address some of these issues but not all of them. We are the only place to get reliable free internet access AND computer access in America. Historically we’re not selling anything but literacy and intellectual freedom. Things get dicey when we have to pick among platforms and file formats (Kindle? Nook? Ibook? PDF? epub?) even though 73% of libraries in the US offer some type of ebooks as if right now. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in many ways was the best and worst thing to happen to libraries at the end of the last century. Now almost all libraries have public access computers. However, most of them in rural communities did not choose their platform. Important? Maybe.
Things get dicier when the only choices of platforms we have are ones that abridge our patrons’ rights or abilities to interact with their content. As much as it’s a pain buying Large Print copies of books we already have in regular print (a problem technology can solve!just make the cont bigger!), it’s less bad than buying an ebook that has the text to speech option disabled. These sorts of limitations are currently things we push against, said to be a necessary evil aspect of lending ebooks because of how the market operates. However there is no natural law that says this has to be this way. Digital rights management is a market creation.
I have an undergrad degree in linguistics, from before I went to library school. We have a saying that explains a larger principle “The morning star is the evening star” Let me bore you briefly by explaining what this means… Both the morning star and the evening star are Venus (which yes, is a planet) but they’re seen at different times. So the one thing has two names that explain different senses of the thing. So the morning star is the evening star but it also is not.
Ebooks and books are two real world things that refer to one “sense” of a thing. We’ve been living with printed books for so long we have a general social agreement about what they are. At the point at which you are talking about digital content to anyone who is not tech literate, you employ metaphors to explain what is bookish about an ebook and what is not. For people who are digitally divided this is more challenging than for others.
When I’m not working at the small public library in my town (pop. 4500) or teaching computer classes at my local vocational high school I am director of operations for a giant online community called MetaFilter (free accounts for librarians, call me). I work from home. The community I manage is virtual. For the bulk of the people in my town the idea that I could have a real job working “online” is a difficult thing to conceptualize. These people are not ignorant, they just literally have no real world experience with the idea of online being a place. A store, sure, but a hangout? And the library is not, should not be, a store. So starting with that and moving to the idea of (free) books and movies and music being in this place, we have to get a little abstract. What is a book? What is an ebook? What is a digital file? What is digital rights management? And most importantly, why don’t people agree on these things?
Understanding these things is necessary to understanding a digital library. We must decide if it’s appropriate for our understanding to stand in for our patrons’ understanding.
BOOKS & LENDING
But back to books, our stock in trade. Many people who are more plugged into this than me will be outlining the ebook/book divide. In my dream librarian world, a patron could choose from among many digital or non-digital format containers, how they would like their content served and we could deliver it with no loss of service level or quality of content. However we are not there yet.
books vs. ebooks right now
Legally – the right of first sale is under attack and basically doesn’t refer to digital content in the first place. This is a current tug of war between publishers concerned about their business model and libraries/readers concerned about maintaining the values of their institutions in the face of this. The “lending” of digital content is currently not something libraries can do in disintermediated fashion [i.e. there are third party logins and EULAs and privacy policies to contend with] This is suboptimal. It affects not just our quality of service but also our brand and people’s sense of place when they interact with the library.
Socially – social reading-sharing books, annotating books, buying second hand books, seeing when a book was checked out. This is actually a culture that CAN shift very effectively into a digital environment (GoodReads, Library Thing) but we tend to not see that happening with ebooks and lendable ebooks specifically. Why is that?
And there’s the money thing. For the most part, you do not buy an ebook, you license it. The money leaves town and doesn’t come back in the form of second-hand book sales, money to the local book store, heck even employing people in tech services or book repair. These are picky points admittedly, but as someone from a place where Shop/Farm/Buy Local is a rallying cry, we do the math. For every $100 spent locally, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 stays here. Spend it online and nothing comes home at all. All of our libraries’ operating expenses come from grants and taxes of the people who live in the town; it’s fiscally prudent to try to hang on to it.
We need to be mindful about how to make digital content economies valuable to all the people they are by and for.
OUTSIDE THE BOX-ers
There are many people doing innovative thinking along these lines from within the library sphere. I am assuming you know about larger players like Hathi Trust and The Google Books Project and you may even be up to date on the Internet Archive’s work with Open Library. One of the things that all of these ground breaking projects have in common is that, unlike the way most of us operate, they started with an idea and got working and then hammered out the legal issues after the fact. This is a good and bad thing, and deeply concerning to people who are litigation averse. Here are a few other projects pointing in the right direction.
- LibraryBox – Jason Griffey thinks that libraries will do better with digital content distribution if they’re running their own servers on their own networks
- UMich Orphans Project
- BPLs copyright shot over the bow
- Cornell Public Domain
- Flickr Commons
- ORI – owner’s rights initiative – “the fundamental premise that if you bought it, you own it” diverse group including ALA
- Random House “you own it!”
We need to be experimenting with systems that allow us to maximize sharing and minimize hassle for whatever digital content strategies we employ.
One of the things that has always hamstrung libraries’ ability to share content has been our local funding versus the increasingly global accessibility of our content. Two public libraries five miles away from each other may have totally different collections and facilities because of their funding base. One library may have access to a specialized database that’s for patrons only while patrons down the street lack this access. And techies know that the reasoning behind that is largely market-driven, that being able to re-sell the same digital content to people over and over is part of the revenue model of these companies even though it’s usually just a password that allows one group in and keeps another out.
It’s easy to define your userbase as the people who are using your things, this is how a great deal of business operates. Don’t like our movie, don’t watch it. Don’t like our soda, don’t drink it. At the same time, this leads to historically underserved people continuing to be underserved.
The big thing about public libraries, why they are so unsexy and why they are so challenging as well as so well loved, is that they are for, literally, everyone. And serving everyone is difficult both in a technological sense which we may have sorted or at least be able to sort, but also in a social sense which we definitely do NOT. So, circling it back to “what should a digital public library of america look like” my response if that it’s truly public it has to be available to and real-world accessible by everyone, the entire public including all the dial-up using, spam-concerned, marginally literate, technologically timid among us all.
People often look at online communities (newspaper comment sections, Reddit, YouTube) and wonder why discussions go so toxic so quickly. And my response being someone with nearly ten years in the trenches of online community management and twice that doing the offline equivalent in libraries and schools is that there’s no incentive for them NOT to be. The public librarian in my town doesn’t just leave the door unlocked, turn on the computers and go back home. She sticks around, setting the tone and enforcing the rules at the same time as shes purchasing books, running programming and caring for the building. It’s the humans that make a library a library and not a room full of books and computers.
If there is going to be something like a digital public library of America, much less ONE digital public library of America, we’ve got to make sure it’s for the entire public. And if there is going to be ONE digital public library of America, a project of which I am in favor, I think it needs librarians.
We get it. Times are tough. The public sphere is shrinking in the US and elsewhere. Libraries are around and open, doing stuff. Their funding cycle is cyclical and short and up to the whims of various people, sometimes mysterious. The public library system belongs to everyone. There is a lot to talk about; a lot of things happen there. Many people have strong opinions about how public spaces are used and public money is spent and about the library in specific. You have a 24 hour news cycle, with pages or screens to fill. That’s terrific. We’re often happy for the attention.
At the same time, there are a few tropes that do none of us any favors. You look like people who haven’t done your research or who go for the easy cliche and we look like people who can’t take a well-meaning joke (which we’ve heard for the thousandth time). Let’s get to a place where we’re all feeling good about the whole endeavor. Here are some suggestions. Hope this list, patterned off of How Not To Write Comics Criticism, is helpful. It’s called
How Not To Write About Libraries
1. Your library joke is tired, even if it’s new to you
It is almost impossible for you to make a library play on words that has not been done a million times before, even something that sounds contemporary like riffing off of “adult graphic novels”. You’re probably annoyed that you got the job writing about the library funding crisis but don’t take it out on us. Notify the headline writer also, please. We know you’re doing your best but we should never see “turns the page” or “starts a new chapter” when a new building is built or a librarian gets a new job, retires, or dies, or any sort of bun/shush/dewey/cat pun again ever. That “Overdue book returned years late” story? Heard it. Thank you.
2. Quit it with the wardrobe policing
You try working nights and weekends in a landmark building with a heating and cooling system that dates back to Carnegie times. Dressing in wool and layers is practical and smart, as is keeping your hair out of your face when you might have to crawl under a desk to fuss with a computer. Sixty-four percent of Americans wear eyeglasses, that number jumps to 90% after age 49. We’re not absurdly myopic from all that reading, we’re normal. Saying “OMG they can be sexy too!” is not actually a good response to this; as professions go we’ve always been pretty anti-censorship and sex positive.
3. We’re not all women, not even close
In 2008 the gender split among new grads was 80% female, 20% male. Last year it was more like 78% to 22% and the female/male gap is shrinking. We come from many ethnic backgrounds and we speak many languages. We date and marry people of many genders. A good number of us are just out of library school and share the characteristics of other people in our cohort: tattoos, body jewelry, a penchant for cocktails. Many of us are not just out of library school and enjoy the same things. Nothing unusual. Diversity of all kinds is important in any sort of public service position when you work for the entire public; please try to respect and represent the diversity of our population as it exists in the actual world not as it existed in the movies thirty or even fifty years ago.
4. Many different people work in a library building
This frequently comes up when there is a crime or another scandal at a library and someone gets interviewed who is invariably called “a librarian” and is later revealed to be a page, a volunteer, or maybe just an interested and chatty patron. Librarians (usually) work in libraries, but not everyone who works in a library is a librarian. There are many schools of thought on the importance of these distinctions and while we don’t expect you understand the subtle nuances of the differences between a reference librarian and a cataloger, or a circulation clerk and a shelver, it’s simply important to know that there are many different jobs within the library and not all of them are “librarian” and if you are not sure what the job title is of the person you spoke with, you should ask them. Many professional librarians, though not all, have Master’s degrees from accredited institutions. People call this level of graduate education “library school” and graduates have degrees ranging from MLib. (mine) to MSIS to MLS to MLIS.
5. There are some amazing things hidden in special collections
…and your chances of getting to see them diminish if you continually represent library archives as dusty, musty, smelly, unkempt, or populated entirely with hobbits and wizard-beings, strange and unknowable creatures unschooled in human customs. Introduce yourself and spend some time there and you’re likely to see some amazing things and learn some nifty things about your location, your neighbors or your academic institution.
6. No one with any credibility thinks “It’s all on the internet” and there are reasons why it isn’t
This is an untrue straw man argument, so you don’t have to keep bringing it up. There is a strong case to be made that the push for increasing digitization will be a net good for a society that is increasingly looking to satisfy their information needs online. However we are far from that point now, the digital divide is real and formidable. The vendor-based silos of information which are inaccessible without a payment or a password vex us as much as, if not more than, they vex you. We are trying to help people access the information they want and need. We’re sorry that the shift to digital content is causing trouble for some businesses’ bottom line, but we’ve always been publishers’ best customers and that will change only if they force it to. We would prefer that digital rights management were less onerous too. We would be happy to talk with you at length about why it’s easier to buy something from Amazon.com for personal use than it is to borrow it from the library on your Kindle. Blame copyright and capitalism, not the library.
7. The money thing is complicated, take some time to understand it
Libraries are funded differently from state to state and sometimes from county to county. Reporting on a funding “crisis” when it’s just a possible budget adjustment does us all a disservice with the “sky is falling” approach. Giving people real information about what is happening with and to the budget, and why, would be a great service. More information less doomsaying please. And, as always, if you need the numbers we’ll be happy to give them to you. They’re public. Public libraries have regular meetings of the library board that are open to the public and worth attending if this sort of thing piques your interest.
8. Not all libraries are public libraries
I work in a public library and so I fall into this trap myself. The public library system in the US is a sort of amazing decentralized mutual aid sort of creation, but it’s not the only library system in the US. School libraries and academic (college and university) libraries and law libraries and medical/hospital libraries and other special libraries all have their own systems and procedures and governing bylaws and mission statements and professional associations. Make sure that you are not reporting on one and ascribing it the values and traditions of another entirely different type of library.
9. The entire public is welcome in the public library
…including types of people you may dislike or find distasteful. And possibly including people who find you distasteful. With few exceptions people who are spending entire days or weeks in the library or who are looking at things on their computer screen that people might feel they should be viewing in private are doing so because they lack better or more genuine options. This is a larger societal problem and we are trying to help, making the best of a difficult situation within the structure of our mission statement and policies and procedures. The situation is complicated and deserves a better treatment than the usual “Porn in the library!” headline-grabbers.
10. Libraries are full of joyful noise
Not always, but often enough to say goodbye to the tut-tutting and the shushing and the QUIET PLEASE canards. While we try to have spaces that can accommodate quiet reading as well as rambunctious storytimes and group projects, libraries’ approaches to this are as varied as our buildings. Libraries are more popular than ever by most measures of library popularity and are still tremendously well-loved cultural institutions that are available to and for every single person. The reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated, especially on the internet.
However it is true that most of us like cats and mostly do not hate Wikipedia.
Here are some more pointers to places to get good, factual information about libraries in the US.
- ALA’s Library Bill of Rights
- ALA Library Fact Sheets
- ALA’s research and statistics section including the Library ROI bibliography
- IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services) reports
- ALA’s State of American Libraries report
- Library Journal’s Placement and Salaries Survey
All images come from the Library of Congress’s Prints & Photographs Online Catalog and have no known restrictions on publication. Article specifically inspired by this tweet. Thanks to Andy Woodworth for reading the draft.
I am tidying up here because it is just starting to feel like Autumn and I was looking at a friend’s website and realizing that not only was their About page out of date, it had them living in the wrong country. Now, for a lot of people a personal website is basically just that, personal. For me since I sometimes solicit or receive work through librarian.net I figured I’d maybe do a little tidying, look professional, that sort of thing. So I updated my about page, am reading through the FAQ, made sure WordPress was up to date and updated my plugins. I also disabled the theme switcher which was a fun thing when I wanted to have four different looking versions of this site, but I’m not feeling that way any more. Apologies to people who enjoyed the other themes. Next on the to do list is getting my Talks page a little more streamlined. I don’t think it has to be an eight year list of talks I’ve given and it’s not really sending the message I want.
So, just a little inward-facing user experience stuff and a reminder that to many people our web presence is an awful lot of what they know about us. May want to make sure it’s looking okay. Otherwise I’m trying to relax in the spirit of the Virgo Month of Leisure and get ready for my teaching and drop-in time to start which is happening next week. The cooler winds are starting to blow in and I am ready to start hunkering down.
I’ve been trying to have as much summer as is possible with a messed up ankle. I just got through driving a friend’s Mini Cooper across the country (see photos here) and am heading back to the east coast tomorrow. Have been sitting down to catch up, I’m totally unused to checking email only a few times a day and actually taking a real vacation from MetaFilter. Here are the two things that have bubbled to the top of my pile
1. Digital Curation Resource Guide by Charles W. Bailey, Jr. – very thorough look at what people are writing about digital curation. Available as a website or in EPUB format.
2. ALA’s Ebook Business Models for Public Libraries (pdf) outlining what libraries are looking for, or should be looking for, in the world of ebooks, moving forward. Me, I’m just looking forward to the time when we can call them just books because that’s what they’ll be. We’re not there yet.
lost weekend video keepin it real by ellyjonez (cc by)
People interested in art and copyright and piracy and books will enjoy learning about the Piracy Project.
With a series of talks from guest speakers, workshops and an open call for pirated book projects to add to a Piracy Collection we aim to develop a critical and creative platform for issues raised by acts of cultural piracy. After a period of research and production at Byam Shaw Reading Room in London this unique collection of books will travel to international venues in 2011.
Check out their lovely catalog of art/books. They will be coming to New York City next week, here is some advance press for their “discussion and book pirating session”
By: Jessamyn West,
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The interesting thing, to me about being known as an “influential librarian” is that sometimes when life gets busy people still know you as a blogger even if you’re not doing much blogging. I’m in the process of selling my house/barn–not the place where I live, but the “camp” of sorts that I have in northern Vermont–which has meant an awful lot of finicky projects and less leisure internet time. Not complaining, just explaining. Combining this with May/June being one of the busy times for public speaking and I’m becoming one of those can’t-wait-til-summertime people.
I’ve also been doing more work at MetaFilter. You might have read about a particularly weird event on our site in Gizmodo last week. Most of that happened while I was on the road in various places. I know we talk a lot about the “library anywhere” model, but with the funding structure of libraries, that sort of thing is really tough/complicated/impossible though it’s a vision of mine, right up there alongside, ironically, living inside the library. The two trips that I took were short ones. Here’s the description of the trips and talks.
1. I went to Montreal to go to the Mixmedias conference which was all about online community. I was invited to speak to talk about how I do what I do on MetaFilter. It was a small newish conference, but happening alongside a larger web conference and one all about smart televisions, something I know very little about. My talk “Markets are Conversations: creating and managing desirable online communities” was pretty well received and it was neat to be someplace where I got to talk to a lot of other people concerned with and working on online community ideas.
2. I went to one of my perennial favorites, the Maine Library Association conference in Orono Maine. I did a keynote/luncheon speech called Achieving Tech Literacy which was sort of the “Where do we go from here?” talk. It’s all new, not really a digital divide talk per se but more how to we get to the point where we have a rising tech tide that really DOES lift all boats, not just wash some of them entirely downstream, to strain a metaphor. I was very pleased with it and with the conference generally.
Both the drives allowed me to do something else I’m working on which is taking photos of more of Vermont’s 251 towns so that I can complete my “plus” membership in the club. Not that I get anything special from this, but I’m a completionist and this has been a fun project. I’ve been to all the towns but only photographed less than half of them. Upcoming talks include the LACUNY Institute next week, a NELA-ITS event (another perennial fave) and Charlotte/Mecklenburg County. This was all looking like a nice fun schedule a few months ago, now it’s looking a bit hectic. Please say hello if you see me zipping by.
It started simply enough. I gave a talk in Missouri and went out for pizza with library school students afterwards and one of them came up to me and said “Hey you mentioned Mousercise in your talk… I know the guy who made that!” He put me in touch and I got to email a bit with Chris Rippel who now works for the Central Kansas Library System and talk a little bit about Mousercise (originally called Mouserobics until Disney found out) , what I think is one of the best sites on the internet. He agreed to answer a few questions for me.
1. Did you make your original Mouserobics/Mousercise as a thing for work? Is it something you used at your job at the library?
When I taught my first basic computer class in Prairie View, Kansas, I lectured on how a computer worked and how to use a mouse. Eyes glazed over. Soon after I made Mousercise.
2. Do you still work at the library?
I still work for the Central Kansas Library System. CKLS has member libraries, not patrons. I was teaching classes in member libraries, not at CKLS.
3. Did you make any other similar tutorials?
Sort of. Here is one about keyboarding. And I played with Word, etc., but none are as successful as Mousercise.
4. What are your go-to sites for people who are looking to teach people computer basics?
I have no one place. Over the years I have made a number of Web sites with links to online tutorials. My first and biggest was a delicious page called Computer Training Tutorials, or something like that. Now I use blogger Web sites to provide links to more training after specific classes, but they don’t get used. Here is one example. I intended to do a Web page for each software, but I didn’t.
I recently gave one of our computer people, Maribeth Turner, my list of Blogger Web sites and she has incorporated the links into a Web site she is creating.
5. What do you think the biggest challenges are in this day and age for teaching technology skills to novice users?
Lecturing too much to novices. Novices understand little of what you say and, therefore, remember less. So, for me, the main lesson of mousercise is more work, less talk, and be there to show students how to correct their mistakes. Teaching people how to correct mistakes is as important, sometimes more important, than teaching how to do something correctly. So, in my classes, I generally hand out exercises and tell them to type this. When needed, I give them one- to three-minute explanations of what to do, then let them do it. When that part is done, we go to the next part, i.e., short explanations followed by lots of work.
Covering too much in each class. We often pack in so many topics that novice students can’t remember and learn them. Covering less and giving students time to absorb a few basic things works better for me. This has an additional advantage for teaching librarians. Having to cover less allows librarians who may not be experts to also teach classes. Librarians knowing how to type a letter in Word know enough to teach a novice class on it even when they don’t know all the ins and outs of this program. When people ask about something you don’t know how to do. Then you have a topic for the next class.
6. Anything else you’d like to add?
I was going by myself with a mobile computer lab out
By: Jessamyn West,
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File this one under “why I still read press releases even though 95% of them are junk” Got a nice email from John Hiett of Iowa City Public Library letting me know about their local music project which is launching today. Hiett explains: “We’re offering local cardholders free, DRM-less downloads of records by local musicians. We’ve leased the rights for a two year period at $100 per record. We launch this beast June 8 at music.icpl.org. We have over 30 albums locked down, but the list is growing and we expect to top out at around 50. This includes most of the best known Iowa City bands over the last couple decades.”
I thought this was a pretty cool sounding project and one that I’m surprised more libraries haven’t already been doing for years. I emailed John back to ask him a few questions about it.
1. You say in your FAQ that you think this is a replicable model for other libraries. What would you suggest for other libraries who want to try something like this?
You’d need a budget, some web expertise and some authentication software to keep it local, none of which should be too much of a barrier. Feel free to adopt our contract, available at http://music.icpl.org/music_licensing_agreement.pdf
Just get bands signed up, collect W-9 forms for tax purposes, rip the disc, scan the cover, post, and let people know.
2. What was the most challenging part of this project?
Apparently, nobody starts a band to fill out paperwork. While musicians almost unanimously responded enthusiastically to our initial pitch, getting them to actually sign the contract often took quite a bit of follow-up. I tried not to beg, but in a few cases . . .
Having a good team makes a big difference. When I took this idea to our director, Susan Craig, I asked for enough money to lease 20 albums at $50 each. She said to get 50 and offer $100. Our webmaster James Clark’s work recalls that old Arthur C. Clarke quote, ” Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Mara Cole’s artwork moves me in ways that commercial art shouldn’t. Other people have coordinated publicity, kept track of the financial details, and done original cataloging.
The challenging part may be yet to come. If we don’t generate some threshold of downloads, it’s only been a fun experiment. Also, I’m already hearing from musicians who want to be included, tho the money’s gone for now. Letting them down gently might be hard.
3. What inspired you to decide to do the legwork on a project like this instead of going with one of the off-the-shelf music options?
I was watching Dave Zollo play late one night (definitely a Talent Deserving Wider Recognition) and wondered why we sent all our music money out of town, when he was as good as anyone we bought (and he uses our library). I may have had a few at that point, but emailed myself. The more I thought about it, the more I saw how it could work. Plus, it gave me a chance to meet some cool people.
I was in Worcester yesterday at their lovely public library at a NELA-ITS event with the amusing title “Cloudy with a Chance of Connecting to the Future!” I gave a pretty straightforward talk about what libraries need to think about when they think about cloud technologies. And, for a meta aspect, I asked folks on Twitter for suggestions and advice about how to limit the large amount of stuff cloud-related that I wanted to talk about. I skipped my usual “Web page with list of relevant links” format, but you can see my slides and notes via this pdf if you’re interested. More to the point I wanted to link to the sources that I used that I found really helpful.
Image from Radio Telephony, in the public domain
I was interviewed by Steve Thomas for his Circulating ideas podcast a few weeks ago and interviewed by Kayhan B., Erin Anderson and Doug Mirams for their Bibliotech podcast a week earlier. I don’t listen to many professional-type podcasts but both of these conversations were a really good chance to talk over some of the issues facing the profession today in addition to just me going “bla bla…” about myself. Both shows have had a host of other guests and I’ve been digging around in the archives finding other stuff to listen to. If you’re podcast-oriented, these are two shows to put in regular rotation.
By: Jessamyn West,
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Like many library people, I get annoyed when I tell people I can’t find something on their website and they tell me how to search for it. That said, I know there are things I still don’t know about searching and I like learning what they are. Greg Notess’ Search Engine Showdown is always a first stop. I also enjoyed this post–How to Solve Impossible Problems–about Google research scientist Daniel Russell’s presentation to a group of investigative journalists last week. It’s got two great parts
1. The impossible problem which is just a fun sleuthing puzzle about how to identify a randomish photo (though not so random as it turns out, solution explained)
2. Even more tips about Google that I hadn’t known including the public data explorer and using the word “diagram” when looking for schematic type stuff. Makes sense now that you think about it, hadn’t really thought about it much before.
So I like the Olympics. Not like I wait for it all year, but I enjoy the spectacle, fresh-faced athletes, international competition, and an excuse to watch TV with friends. I also enjoy, from a nerd perspective, trivia in the making such as this being the first year that all attending countries have had female athletes on their teams or wondering what Muslim athletes are doing during Ramadan. I’m also fascinated by what I can and can’t see Olympicswise, versus my friends in other countries. Anyone who wants to watch stuff the normal way will have no problem though I do suggest the Easy Read version of the London 2012 site because it’s more straightforward and has less cruft.
So if you’ve been following along, you know that there was a big social media aspect to the opening ceremonies, which had some live tweeting which was already ancient in internet-time by the time the show was broadcast in the US. There was also some controversy concerning some parts of the opening ceremony that were edited out of the US broadcast. I have been sitting at home healing from a sprained ankle so I have been a little more immersed in the meta-story than I might be otherwise.
Anyhow, in my sometimes-role as the internet’s librarian, the question I’ve been seeing a lot is “How do I watch an Olympic thing when I can’t because of $_REASONS?” Now that reason may be because you’re in the US and so you can’t stream the BBC, or because you’re in an African country and don’t have cable, or in the US and allergic to Bob Costas.
It’s not super clear how to do some of these things, and less clear how much end-running these things is problematically extralegal. I will not be addressing the second part, you can consult your own moral compass for that. In any case, I’ve made a little guide which I’ll be updating which help answer some of these questions. The BBC even made two versions of their Opening Ceremonies coverage available, one with the BBC commentary and one without. For people who only saw the goofy NBC version of the ceremony, this English guide to the ceremony (pdf) may be helpful as well as this songlist. Note: I’m linking to MetaFilter, my employer, both because I feel like this sort of international social discussion can be helpful during times like this and because I feel that the information has been the most helpful to me personally. I have no other affiliations with the things I linked to. If there are other things you’ve found, please drop them in the comments.
Also notably: I haven’t said anything about bit torrent because I have not-that-fast broadband and I don’t use it much, but most recorded Olympic events are available for download from the usual places.
Jessamyn’s Guide on How to Watch the Olympics
A few relevant Ask MetaFilter threads
3 Comments on a librarian’s guide to watching the Olympics, last added: 7/31/2012