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1. professional news and thank yous

future - digital divide images

This title sounds fancy but mostly I needed to play catch-up and this seems like the best way to do that. Hi. In the past month I’ve done two public speaking type things that went well and some other stuff. I’ve been remiss in sharing them in a timely fashion. So now I’m sharing them in a list fashion.

  • I went to Mississippi for the MLA Conference which was a great time. I led a facilitated discussion pre=conference which is the first real time I’ve done something like that. You can read the slides here: The Digital Divide and You which includes input from the discussion part of the afternoon. I stuck around for the conference and was very glad I did. I put some photos up here. Thank you MLA, the Mississippi Library Commission and especially MLA President Amanda Clay Powers for showing me a good time.
  • VLA hosted a table at VT’s first annual ComicCon. This was a hugely fun event and terrific for library outreach. We had free stickers and reading lists, a display of banned graphic novels and people could get their photos taken in our “Vermont Comic Reader’s License” booth which netted a ton of delightful photographs (more on facebook). We also sponsored one of the special guests — Dave Newell, Mr. McFeely from Mister Roger’s Neighborhood) and he did storytime at the booth with puppets. I staffed the table one of the days. Such a good time. Huge shout-outs to other planners: Helen Linda, Sam Maskell and Hannah Tracy.
  • Another MLA! This time the Massachusetts Small Libraries Conference (also the “first annual”) and I was the keynote speaker talking about how to Future-proof libraries. A combination of talking about what the challenges and unique positions small and rural libraries are in as well as some ways to nudge people towards getting interested in the online world. Notes and slides here. Big thanks to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners & the Massachusetts Library System.
  • I started writing for The Open Standard, Mozilla’s new online-writing thing. My first article, After Some Victories, the Time Has Come to Legally Define ‘Fair Use’, has been up for a while now. I’d love to know what you think.
  • Also I’m not sure if I was explicit in my “I’m moving on” post about MetaFilter but I’m still at least somewhat looking for work. I love Open Library and my local teaching but I’ve got a few more hours in my schedule and would be happy to do some more speaking, some consulting or some writing. I have a one-pager website that summarizes my skillset. Feel free to pass it along to people.

I gave a really quick “How to do an elevator speech” talk after lunch at MLA (the one in MA, not the one in MS) and it was really fun. All librarians should practice their elevator speeches. Here’s my one slide from that talk. You can probably get the gist of it.

how do to an elevator speech in one slide

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2. talk: how do we get to the future?

How do we get to the future?

I have longtime family friends who live in Ashfield a town in central-west Massachusetts and that is about half the size of the town that I live in. Their library, the Belding Library, is celebrating its centennial with events all summer long and they invited me to talk about the future and .. where it is?

William Gibson’s notable phrase that I repeat often is “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed” which I’ve taken as reflective of the digital divide issues generally. I have neighbors struggling with dial-up. Singapore has 100MB broadband available for $39/month. These differences matter but and wind up, over very short time periods, enhancing divides that may have started out smaller. And for technology’s end users, sometimes it can be confusing why this isn’t all better or easier by now since in many other cases we really are living in the future that we had envisioned when we were younger. So I talked a bit about that, and why we’re not there yet, and ways to make technology attractive to people so that they can possibly dip their toes into a fun project before they get stuck being forced to use it for an unfun project like taxes or health care or filing for unemployment.

You can read my notes and slides here and you might also enjoy this story of how the Belding Library (somewhat controversially) financed their library addition in part by the discovery and sale of an original Emancipation Proclamation copy that they found in their basement.

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3. Another talk: why libraries are the best thing

its a great time to be in libraries

I really never thought that I would turn into someone who gave “pep rally” type talks, but I was asked to come to the Somerville Public Library and give a short, inspirational talk

to their friends group at their annual appreciation day and was told I could talk about whatever I wanted. As you may have realized by now, this makes my little activist heart grow three sizes and inspires good work (in my opinion). This is the talk I gave and I am very happy with it. The library posted this summary of the talk (there’s no audio/video other than some blurry photos) which I think is pretty right on.

1 Comments on Another talk: why libraries are the best thing, last added: 6/30/2014
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4. a separate post – talk about my new job

OpenLibrary front page

I promised to write about this a few days ago and it’s been, quite a week. Short version: starting May 1st I took a job doing user support for Open Library. It’s very part time, very fulfilling and a lot of fun.

Longer story: MetaFilter, my internet home for over a decade and my employer for almost that long, has been going through some challenges. There was a severe financial downturn (the site is nearly 100% advertiser supported, allowing them to have nearly eight full time employees) and staffing was going to have to be reduced. You can read about some of that happened on Search Engine Land or Matt Haughey’s post on Medium because this was basically a weird “I wonder what happened at Google?” situation. We’d been facing decreasing revenue for about eighteen months and things weren’t improving. As the person in charge of running the site but not managing the money aspect of it, the last year and a half had been really bad for morale. Not knowing if your job was going away, getting gloom-and-doom reports from on high, not being able to plan for the future because you don’t know if there will be a future, are just destabilizing and not allowing me to do my job to the best of my ability. I have a longer version of this that I’d be happy to explain over a beer or two, but that was the general gist.

And ultimately, as much as I loved what I’d built–Ask MetaFilter is one of the best Q&A sites around, bar none, the moderation team is the best group of moderators there is, period–my “career goals” such as they are weren’t with website moderation, they were and remain with libraries. So when stuff started getting hairy in late 2012, I decided I needed a non-MetaFilter hobby, one that was library related, and I decided to talk to the Internet Archive about helping out with Open Library. Open Library, if you don’t know, lends ebooks worldwide. Worldwide. It’s a cool project.

I hadn’t known at the time that Open Library was a bit of a ghost ship, being kept alive and online but not really in active development. I put my head down and just started answering emails, reporting bugs, being the change I wanted to see in Open Library. And once the writing was on the wall at MeFi, that I could stay on as the oldest employee but in a work situation that was more “Everyone works all the time” which was no longer something I wanted to do, I talked to the Archive about getting an actual job-job. I made a data-based pitch “Look, I answered 7000 emails last year and rewrote the help pages and FAQ, user support is probably something that either needs more volunteers or a paid staff member” and they agreed to take me on as a part-timer to keep doing what I was doing, and maybe do a little more.

So I still answer emails, but I also attend staff meetings (via Skype) and have the keys to the Twitter and the blog. It’s weird working in a free culture type of place but still working with Adobe’s DRM nearly every day. I made a graceful mod exit from MetaFilter and I still continue to hang out there, because why wouldn’t I?

Long range I’m not sure what my plan is. I’ve got the same adult education job in my small town in Vermont and don’t plan to leave that. I still write a regular column for Computers in Libraries and I’m still on the road doing public speaking stuff about once a month (contact me if you’d like me to come speak at your event) which I may ramp up depending on how this all goes. I still have a lot of Vermont libraries to visit. I’m trying, despite my tendency to overwork, to take the summer at least partly off. And one of the things I want to do, oddly enough, is spend more time on my blog, writing down more of the things I am working on, in a place that’s mine and not MetaFilter’s.

That’s the news. I’m excited to get back to working more with libraries, all kinds of libraries.

1 Comments on a separate post – talk about my new job, last added: 6/14/2014
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5. doing it right when everything is going wrong

Me at the Rural Libraries Conference

Apologies in advance because this isn’t really about libraries as much as about conferencing. Maybe more of an etiquette post than anything.

I skipped April. Not on purpose. I was supposed to go to TXLA and came down with a weird lingering flu. I’m usually a “push through the pain” person but not enough to get on an airplane with a fever and potentially make other people sick. No one needs that. So I missed TXLA which was a huge bummer. They were incredibly understanding about it. And then there was a week of school vacation where I teach so I decided to hunker down in MA and get well and make sure I could make it to the Rural Libraries conference in Michigan. Upstate Michigan. The UP, where it was still frozen enough so that the ferries we were supposed to take to Mackinac Island were possibly not running. So now I was in a situation where I was rarin’ to go but the conference might not happen at all.

My main contact, Shannon White from the Library of Michigan, did an amazing job with a very difficult situation. She gave low-drama email updates (to me but also all attendees) as we got news from the ferry and told me what the timeframe was in case we’d have to cancel. When I arrived in St. Ignace (via Michael Stephens’ place, so great to see him) the weather was terrible and the flight we were supposed to take was cancelled. Many people including us were stuck there overnight when we would have preferred to be at the conference venue, the Grand Hotel. I was put up in a decent hotel and fed dinner and we discussed jockeying for ferry positions the next morning. I had warned everyone in advance of even taking this speaking gig that I was not a morning person and someone graciously got up early and got a timestamped ferry ticket for me for later in the day. This was a huge deal.

The Grand Hotel is one of those places that is fancy but also deeply committed to service. All of their 385 rooms are different. When I finally got to the hotel at about 1 pm on the day I was speaking, I was put in a crazy-looking suite that overlooked the water. Which was terrific except that there was a crew of hotel-opener people (the hotel officially opened the day after the conference closed) that was going over the front of the place with leaf-blowers and lawn tools and who knows what else. I moved my room to an equally quirky suite on the back of the hotel where I rested after a day and a half of on-again-off-again travel.

My talk about the 21st Century Digital Divide was done in an oddly-shaped room without the benefit of slides. I’ve talked about it elsewhere (short form: people who could not see or hear me talked through it) but it was a suboptimal setup which we all tried to make the best of. I got a lot of positive feedback from the state library folks despite some of the shortcomings and they made a special reminder announcement before the next keynote about not carrying on conversations while people were speaking. I heard it was great, I was asleep. My workshop the next day about maintaining conference momentum went really well and, again, I got great support from the organizers as well as the hotel when I decided I needed last-minute handouts.

All in all, despite a situation where there were a lot of things that were out of people’s control, the conference was memorably great for me personally and I think for a lot (most?) of the attendees as well. As much as people made joking “Never again!” comments, there was something about working together in unusual settings through various kinds of adversity that brings people closer together. I felt well-taken care of and appreciated as well as well-compensated. And, personally, I had a great time. The people I talked to all felt the same. Thanks, Library of Michigan.

A few links for people who like that sort of thing

1 Comments on doing it right when everything is going wrong, last added: 5/16/2014
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6. public service announcement: update your plugins and your About/FAQ pages

Charles Ainsworth playing cards inside cabin at 60 Above on Sulphur Creek, Yukon Territory

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.

1 Comments on public service announcement: update your plugins and your About/FAQ pages, last added: 9/11/2012
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7. A few podcasts I’ve been in recently

marconi company radiophone set
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.

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8. an ebook is not a book, discuss?

I had a busy week. It wrapped up in the lovely state of Maine where I got to talk about the digital divide and ebooks to a bunch of Maine librarians. The digital divide talk is probably one you’ve seen various versions of, but the ebooks one is more or less new. My assertion is that the problem of ebooks is the problem of multiple perspectives [readers and authors and publishers and librarians don't even agree on the landscape, much less the trees] as well as the problem of metaphors. At its core, one of the difficulties in teaching people about technology is that it’s teaching people to manage real invisible things [files, websites, social content] through a series of metaphors ["folders" "tagging" "friending"] that are more or less complex depending on people’s level of existing knowledge. While the printed word and language generally is something of a metaphor, you can read a book without really having to think about that level of abstraction. We’re not there yet with ebooks and the metaphors confuse the reality, a reality that is still shifting, hopefully moving towards if not some standards, at least some etiquette.

In any case, both talks are here. I got a lot of good feedback on my general topic from Twitter and other social media interchange arenas. Thanks to those who helped me with this, and thanks to the nice librarians from Maine for coming to listen and talk.

1 Comments on an ebook is not a book, discuss?, last added: 9/26/2011
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9. backlists and frontlists

Hello faithful RSS readers and anyone else who is sort of curious what’s been going on. I’ve been feeling like I’ve been getting my brain back this Summer and I appreciate your patience with what has been a trying set of months. I did go one place, and that was to North Texas during a heat wave where I decided to (mostly) quit smoking and got to hang out with some neat local librarians and some fun folks who I already knew at the Library Tech Network TechNet 2011 Conference. I gave two talks which you may already have read, but in case you’re interested you can click through and check out Tiny Tech/High Tech and On the Fly Tech Support.

This month I’m heading to Cambridge for a DPLA meeting and then to Augusta Maine for a one-day meeting about Ebooks and Libraries which is sure to be interesting and informative. I’m giving a lunchtime talk but also leading a breakout session called “Ebooks are Great! Books are great!” talking about the differences between books and ebooks. Based on some of the feedback I’ve been getting on Twitter and elsewhere, that will be a lively topic.

Next month I’ll really be scooting around a bit and my drop-in time and evening Mac classes are starting up locally which will keep me busy and pretty happy. Anyone attending the NELA conference, the Michigan Library Association conference or the CLIR symposium in Milwaukee, please do say hello. In the meantime I’ll be updating somewhat more here and getting back to my own RSS reading so I hope to be less of a stranger.

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10. Goddard Commencement Speech – text and citations

So I spent a good chunk of the day today at Goddard College which is up the road from me. I was invited to give the commencement speech for their MA in Individualized Studies Program. They graduated ten people and had a terrific ceremony including a singalong to the tune of the Muppets’ Rainbow Connection, a group of drummers during the processional, origami creations given to the graduates, and a lot of schmoopy speeches because when you graduate ten students, everyone gets a chance to be on the microphone. It was wonderful and heartwarming and I was so pleased to be a part of it. I gave a fifteen minute speech that I probably ad-libbed out to twenty minutes. Unlike most of the talks I give, this one was written out word for word for the most part. I was asked by a few people for the text of it so I’m tossing it here, adding some links to things, and people can link to it, copy it, whatever works. Thanks to everyone who hosted me, and congratulations again, graduates.

Hi and thanks for having me here. Congratulations to all of you, I’m honored to get to share this important and transitional moment with you.

Like you, I went to an alternative school, Hampshire, and am similarly interested in personal vision and radical thinking as the brochure says that you are.

By way of introduction, I tell people I’m the most famous librarian in Vermont [not as fancy as you might think], an “internet folk hero” dedicating her life to eradicating the digital divide in the US and helping turn libraries into their democratic ideals free from the influence of bad technology, bad people, and bad laws.

It’s as true as any of the other “who I am” explanations. At some level, realistically, what most people in the world know about you is what they see, what you tell them, maybe combined with what they can corroborate elsewhere. It’s important to have a good story and in the age of limited internet attention spans, it helps if it’s short. Wikipedia calls me an internet folk hero (and no I didn’t write that myself though I suppose I could have) and I like that & I’m sticking to it. It’s not actually so tough to be a folk hero, and I think it’s one of the natural paths from this sort of starting point, where you are now. I’ll talk a little about how I got here.

Part one is framing

I’ve got slightly different answers to the “who are you” question depending exactly on what’s asked.

- what I do for a job

(“um I run a big Internet community”)

- how I spend my time

(“I stare out the window and look at birds in-between answering a lot of email and making Keynote slides and reading books for hours in airports”)

- what I love doing

(“I teach email to old people… no seriously it’s the best thing there is”)

but I’m one of those people with a poor life/work balance, or maybe a great one, depending on whether you think that your small-w work and big-W WORK [your calling, your passion, your raison d'etre, whatever you call it] should be the same or different.

Mine are the same: I love the democratizing power of the library and the internet and share it with as many people as possible. I lucky that I get to do this for a job … but I did some work to get to this place, and also some not-quite-work. And the good news for you guys is that for the most part you now get to spend some time watching yourselves, out in the great wide world, figuring out what your Work actually is. It’s a time

9 Comments on Goddard Commencement Speech – text and citations, last added: 8/11/2011
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11. Oregon Virtual Reference Summit, my talk, on Vimeo

Here’s the video of me talking about Ask MetaFilter and online Q&A stuff that I gave at the Oregon Virtual Reference Summit. I included the slides a few days ago, but here’s the actual video of the talk, as presented. Big thanks to Caleb Tucker-Raymond for making this video up. You might also like Emily Ford’s lightning talk: What Libraries Can Learn From Kanye.

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12. talk: adventures in virtual reference

I went out to Oregon to give a talk to the people who staff L-net, the 24/7 virtual reference service for the state of Oregon. They have a yearly conference which is a lot of fun. Video from the talks will be available at some point, but I figured I’d link to my talk now. I talked about Ask MetaFilter and a little bit about what we do there and how it is and is not like other forms of virtual reference. Lots of stats. Lots of anecdotes and sample questions. The Slideshare version doesn’t seem to have the notes attached and functional, so while I hammer that out from them, you can also go to the talk’s page on librarian.net and download whichever version you want. Thanks to all who attended on Friday.

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13. A few talks, a few links

Talking about the digital divide in Connecticut is a lot different from talking about it in Texas, or even Vermont. Unlike most states I’ve looked at, Connecticut really doesn’t have a large population of people who live in an area where they can’t get broadband. I’m sure it has the same numbers of offline people, generally speaking, but whatever their reasons for being offline are, they’re not for lack of access. I admit, I played this for laughs a bit at my CLA since I know that people aren’t going to confuse broadband access with technological know-how and will still see that there is work to be done.

All my talks went well. Here’s what I’ve been up to recently

  • Last Thursday I was on a panel with some interesting people including the soon-to-be-president of ALA Molly Raphael. We answered some provocative questions about the future of libraries and mostly had a great time.
  • Friday I gave my talk about developing a technology curriculum for libraries. For those of you used to my usual stuff, this was a departure. Not heavily attended–it was in one of the last timeslots of the conference–but I was pleased with it. If you’re considering a technology curriculum, you might be interested in my short set of notes/slides. I got to present with Anna Fahey-Flynn who is Curriculum Development Librarian at Boston Public and it was really interesting to see how their tech instruction program is coming together.
  • Over the weekend I walked around in the sun in Massachusetts and then headed to CT for the CT Library Association conference. Before attending the conference I was interviewed for public acess TV in Manhattan about the Google Books project and copyright and a few other things. No idea when this will go live, but if you think you’ve seen me on tv talking about Google Books, you may have.
  • Tuesday I gave a talk about myths about the digital divide, similar to my Texas talk but with some local examples.

As usual, I also got to attend some great presentations including a talk by BPL and the Internet Archive [at MLA] about how they’re working together to provide digital access to library content via Open Library. This may be a personal thing, but I’m always excited when libraries test boundaries and tell us “We checked with our lawyers and they think this is an acceptable level of risk.” I also saw a CMS smackdown/comparison [Drupal vs. WordPress] by Polly-Alida Farrington and Shanon Clapp which was full of good information and delivered with a friendly “you can do it!” approach. I also saw John Palfrey’s closing keynote talking about the digital divide and some of what Harvard’s Library Lab has been up to, and the DPLA and other things. I’ve mostly seen him in contexts where he was talking to non-librarians so it was fun to see him explaining a lot of these big idea projects on my home turf.

I’m home for a bit, back to teaching my Know Your Mac classes, staffing drop-in time, filling in at the public library and waiting for my book to be in print [this week, here's hoping] and then travelling to Portland at the end of the month for the Oregon Virtual Reference Summit.

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14. Some upcoming travel – please say hi

Speaking at library and library-type conferences seems to mostly keep me busy for March – May and October – November. This week I’ll be headed down to Danvers MA for MLA and then on to Stamford CT for CLA. In both cases I’m speaking but also trying to attend as much of the conferences as I can given my night owl tendencies. Here’s where I’ll be, please say hi if you see me, or come to one of my talks.

    MLA – Thursday the 28th at 1 pm – I’ll be on the Future of Libraries, or, What the Heck are You Thinking? panel along with Scot Colford, Kieth Michael Fiels and Maureen Sullivan which is sure to be interesting and probably fun.
  • MLA – Friday the 29th at 10:30 I’ll be talking about Curriculum Development for Public Libraries along with Anna Fahey-Flynn from BPL. Sort of a new direction and I’m looking forward to it.
  • CLA – Tuesday May 3rd at 2:40 I’ll be talking about the myths we believe about the digital divide and offer some researched based statistics as to what’s really going on.

In june I’ll be doing a talk for NELA-ITS and heading over to Oregon for the Oregon Virtual Reference Summit in The Dalles. This is all a good way to channel fidgets since I’m all “EEeeeeee” waiting for my book to come out. Thanks in advance for saying hello.

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15. What I did at TXLA – the library version

Rally for Texas Libraries

So there are two reports about what I did in Austin, what I ate and what I did at TLA. Sometimes they overlap. That said, this is the what I did at TxLA post. The other one will be over at jessamyn.com. I’ll add a note here when I’ve posted it.

I went to TxLA to give a talk about the digital divide. I had done a talk the previous month for SXSW but really it was mostly me introducing my co-presenters and then letting them go. I have a little page for that here and you can listen to how it went here. I was pleased with it, but it wasn’t the talk I wanted to give for TxLA. Here is the talk that I gave for TxLA (an all new talk, one that I’m very happy with) and here is a blog-report of it. I felt like it went well, though one of the downsides to being at a giant conference is that a lot of the talks, even ones that I thought would be crazy popular, were only about half full. Here is what else I saw

  • The American Warn on Sex – Marty Klein has written a book by the same name. He does a terrific talk about how encroaching fundamentalism is causing people to basically self-censor in order to “be polite” and it’s shifting our ideas of what it means to be American, and how to participate civically. He’s a funny guy with a very professional talk and I think everyone should hire him to speak at their library conference.
  • I saw Aaron Schmidt’s talk on user experience. While I know the things Aaron talks about generally, I haven’t seen him give a talk in a long time and it was neat to get to see him really untangle what we can do to make our websites more usable.
  • I saw John Scalzi and a host of other authors on a Sci-Fi panel–Science Fiction: Beyond Earth’s Boundaries–which was great fun. I know John Scalzi online through MetaFilter and was mostly going to say hi. The panel itself turned out to be wonderful. Six very different authors who spoke briefly and then answered questions for an hour, talking about their craft and the world of epic fantasy and how they got into the business. Enthusiastic audience and a really great moderator made this a fun panel.
  • Library Book Cart Drill Team requires no additional explanation. Was terrific. It’s always terrific. Here’s a video you might like.
  • Did I mention that TXLA had an app and a very well-curated Twitter feed and hash tag? Both of them were great ways to see what was happening at the conference in real time. For people with non-app phones that could still use browsers, there was a really simple mobile site that functioned well. Big props to Chris Jowaisas for the work he did on this as a newish TLA member.
  • Oh I think I forgot to mention the rally! There was a huge Rally for Texas Libraries which happened on Wednesday. That’s what the photo is from. There were more librarians on the statehouse lawn than there ar in the entire state of Vermont. It was impressive, well-organized and well-planned. Short and to the point and they even got a few reps to come out and say a few things. I

    3 Comments on What I did at TXLA – the library version, last added: 4/19/2011
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16. a little thing I wrote

I wrote 5000 words about writing 100,000 words. Here’s my essay on In the Library with the Lead Pipe about thoughts I had on writing for print in an era of digital content.

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17. Dartmouth’s October Conference – my slides, others’ slides

One of my favorite conferences is the October Conference put on by Dartmouth’s Biomedical Libraries. I went once as an attendee several years ago and this time I went as the opening speaker [I said "Please don't call it the keynote, that's pressure!"]. The conference idea is simple: share things that are working for you at your library. It’s a one day affair with ample coffee, snacks and lunch, reasonably priced and wraps up early enough so that you can be home by dinner, no matter where in New England you’re from. Talks are all 30 or 15 minutes and go quickly. None of the topics are “biomedical libraries” in nature, at all. Most of the librarians in attendance are academic, I’m pretty sure.

I did a talk on location awareness which was 100% new [I didn't even repurpose any old crowd-pleaser images] and talked about what’s coming down the pike in terms of mobile stuff — how HTML5 is going to change the idea of “apps” for a lot of people, what some companies and libraries are doing, why people find this fun. It was called The Mayor of Everywhere Using Social Tools to Be More Places at Once and uses my now-old-timey-seeming HTML slides. Scroll to the end and click “printable” to read the talk as I gave it. It was well-received.

You can benefit from this conference even if you weren’t there because everyone’s slides are online in PDF form. Here’s the website for the conference. If you didn’t go this year, you should try to go next year.

0 Comments on Dartmouth’s October Conference – my slides, others’ slides as of 1/1/1900
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18. summertime is when I am not writing a book

I mentioned it on my personal blog, but I’ve finished writing my book and submitted the draft to my editor, Barbara Ittner from ABC-CLIO/Libraries Unlimited. Assuming everything goes well, it will be available at the end of January. This is the first time since April of last year that I have not in some way been writing this book, though most of the actual writing took place in the last six months. I lenjoyed writing and I am enjoying not-writing. Here’s a little bit of reflection on the book writing thing.

1. The book’s title is Without a Net: Librarians Bridging the Digital Divide. The book is already for sale on Amazon. This is sort of weird, watching its sales rank soar and plummet six months before its even available. I set up an author page there, but I’m not sure what to do with it. I’m aware that the book is expensive. I’m aware that I could sell it more cheaply if it were self-published. I know I don’t really need any of the statusing that comes along with publishing with an established publisher. I’ll probably grouse that I could have made a better cover. However, I don’t think I would have written this book without an external deadline, even though I think in many ways this is the book I’ve been “meant to write” for some time now. So, thank you to Barbara for suggesting it and helping make it a reality.

2. I really cocooned while I was writing. I stopped reading my RSS feeds for about the first time ever. I kept my IM client off. I’d peek at Twitter and try to remember to keep adding things to my blog. I sort of checked out from my online and offline communities except for work and occasional Twitter updates. It was an odd thing to do.

3. I woke up every morning determined to write at least 1000 words and would tell myself “I chose this.” but it was still really difficult. Some days the words just flowed. Some days 1000 words would take eight hours. I type about 90 words a minute, when I’m on a roll this would all go fast. I had to keep reminding myself that in many ways I am the expert on this topic and so it was okay to speak from a position of authority and not have to cite statistics all the time.

4. I felt like I was becoming a total dullard. “How’s it going Jessamyn?” “Pretty good, I’m writing a book.” “Still?” This became easy because after a while I just didn’t feel that I had the free time to go out. I’m working on re-entry, it’s going okay.

5. The book has my voice which means I say that some things work and some don’t. I’m sure people will have strong opinions about some of it and I mentally prepared myself for a lot of pushback, more than I will likely get. I make a lot of assertions about how I see the digital divide and what I think is working and not working to mitigate it. I hope people don’t get bogged down in nitpicking. I hope no one that I mention feels that I was uncharitable.

6. I asked for an received a lot of help from people–editing help, requests for pullquotes, some open Twitter requests for information, proofreading–and it’s weird to me that only my name will be on it. I have an extensive “thanks” section. I’m sure I’ve forgotten as many people as I’ve included. It’s odd, in a lot of ways the path I’ve chosen has room for a lot of showboating, doing public presentations, talking on my blog about what I’ve been doing or thinking about, and yet I get timid when there’s actually a situation where it’s useful to be all BUY MY BOOK.

That is the report about the book. You can buy it or not. I think it will be good.

6 Comments on summertime is when I am not writing a book, last added: 7/8/2010
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19. please help me get more library content into SXSW

I have proposed two presentations for the SXSW conference in Austin Texas next March. There is a complicated series of steps to determining which of the proposals will actually get picked. Part of this determination (30%) is a very basic voting thing where you can thumbs-up or thumbs-down a particular presentation. Voting is now open. We are encouraged to use our powers of persuasion to get you to vote for our ideas. I would like you to vote for my ideas. Here is a link to all of the proposals. There are over 2000 of them and 300 or so will get chosen.

My two proposals are linked here

- How The Other 1/2 Lives – Touring The Digital Divide
- Curating Cultural Content – Libraries Save Your Ass & Etchings

Voting involved signing up on the website and then clicking the thumbs up. I’d appreciate it if you’d consider doing this. I’m pretty into both topics but the first one is nearer and dearer to my heart, while the second one seems to fit in more nicely with the SXSW gestalt. A few other library-themed things you shoudl check out

- David Lee King presenting on Designing Your Customers Digital Experience
- Heath Rezabek’s Connected Youth: Austin Public Library Teens Get Mobile
- Cecily Walker’s Can I Reserve This Book With My iPhone?
- Jason Schultz’s Reading ReInvented: Can You Steal this Book?
- Tiffini Travis’s Librarian Glasses or Stripper Heels about information fluency.
- Brian Rowe’s Digital Accessibility on Ebooks and Phones : #$@^ Kindle
- Bill Simmon is also proposing a panel which I may be on: Hyperlocal Focus: Growing A Vibrant Community Media Ecosystem

And a few presentations about books more generally…

- Allen Weiner’s Publishers Look To E-Reading to Reach Digital Consumers (curious about this one)
- Travis Alber’s The Future of Reading: Books and the Web
- Dharmishta Rood’s Networked Reading: Viewing as an Act of Participation
- Aaron Miller’s Books and the Twenty-First Century – The New Realm of Reading
- Bradley Inman’s Too Busy To Read? The Future Of Books
- Two related seeming panels: Kindle 2020 and The Book in 2050

Please vote early and often and for as many ideas as you like. There are a lot of great ideas in there on related topics like gaming and accessibility and web standards. Even if you’re not even considering going to SXSW, please take some time to vote up ideas you think should be getting exposure at a web geeks conference. Thanks.

3 Comments on please help me get more library content into SXSW, last added: 8/22/2009
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20. the beginning of school

I’m adding another microjob to all the microjobs I have. Starting next week I will be the super-part-time IT lady at the vocational high school that I work at. This means that I’ll be the triage lady between the IT troubles at the school and the expensive tech consultants that do the networking and account management and mail server for the school. This is good news for me. I’ll even, sort of, have a classroom because there’s an empty one. I’m going to dial back my adult ed teaching in the evenings for a semester so that I can be around at night. So, for anyone curious or keeping track at home, here is my “what I do for work” list at the moment.

  • I run MetaFilter – I am one of two full-time moderators. In addition to the guy who owns the site and the coder who builts a lot of it, we’re it. Running Ask MetaFilter has taught me a lot about how people look for information and how they do or do not find it.
  • I give talks – as other people have observed, public speaking opportunities seem to be dropping off somewhat. I was turning down offers last year because I was overbooked, now I’m doing maybe one a month? Works out well for me, but it’s hardly a reliable income stream.
  • I am still automating the Tunbridge Library using Koha. It’s slow going. Some of that slowness is me, some is not. I work a few hours a week on it. We’re at the point where everything’s got a sticker and now we’re linking records to items. Exciting.
  • I’m writing a book for Libraries Unlimited about teaching people to use computers over on this side of the digital divide. Due in March and I’m doing my own index. Wish me luck!
  • I’m still doing drop-in time at the local vocational high school which is a different job from the IT job though also just a few hours a week.
  • I got a royalties check from Mcfarland for about $20 so I guess that’s sort of like a job.

I’m sure there are other things I’m forgetting. As usual, librarian.net is just a hobby blog and not something that brings in any money which is AOK by me. This is post #3001 after 10+ years of doing this.

6 Comments on the beginning of school, last added: 9/1/2009
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21. on heroism

People who follow my other online adventures may already know that I quit my library job, the automation project that I was so proud of. I didn’t really quit, I’ll still be helping, but I took myself off the project as “the person in charge of the project.”

It’s a not-entirely-long story but the upshot was that once we finished the obvious To Do list [getting books scanned and item and patron records into the catalog] the remainder of the work was muddy. The librarian and I had different opinions on what needed to happen next [in my mind: flip the switch and work out the bugs; in her mind: get the data clean and do staff training and write documentation and then flip the switch]. I realized that the quick and dirty automation project which I’d been doing for low pay, about 2-4 hours per week, that I was hoping to be finished with by early this year, was likely to go on sort of forever. I didn’t want a forever-job and couldn’t see a way to wrap it up with only my own toolkit.

I’m not entirely comfortable with the way everything worked out, unclearly and with an uncertain “what next” point. I’ve suggested someone who I think can pick up where I left off, but he’s not me and the library really seemed to like me. That said, after a lot of thinking on this, I realized that I was trying too hard to be the hero, the librarian that sweeps in and takes the tiny rural library and automates it in something akin to the rural electrification project. Cracking the whip, keeping the momentum up all the way to the end.

I really wanted to do this job, without thinking hard enough about whether the non-me aspects of this project were amenable to the task. As Alex Payne says in his “Don’t be a Hero” essay (about programming but it applies everywhere)

Heroes are damaging to a team because they become a crutch. As soon as you have someone who’s always willing to work at all hours, the motivation from the rest of the team to produce reliable, trouble-free software drops. The hero is a human patch. Sure, you might sit around talking about how reliability is a priority, but in the back of your mind you know that the hero will be there to fix what doesn’t work.

For whatever reason, I didn’t get the feeling that the library was learning to use the tools themselves, I got the feeling that they were getting used to me being available to solve problems and answer questions. I’m certain this problem is as much my responsibility, if not more, than theirs, but I’d gotten to a point where I literally could not see a way out of it. And I dreaded going to work. And I couldn’t see a solution.

The Koha consortium project in the state is doing well and I have no doubt the library will automate. The librarian wants it to happen, though her timeline is unclear. I vacillate back and forth between thinking that the work I did was uniquely valuable and integral to the library being able to automate at all, ever, and feeling like a bit of a quitter, leaving the project when it started to bog down and get tough. I’m lucky in that I have a lot of real-life and online friends who have been supportive of my decision, but it’s still one of the tougher ones I’ve made in the last few months. [rc3]

15 Comments on on heroism, last added: 1/14/2010
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22. back from boingboing

I had a good time over at BoingBoing. You can read a post on my other blog that sort of lists the 29 posts that I made [I know!] and where I got my ideas from. A few library posts, maybe not enough. I just got back from Niceville Florida where I gave a talk about Content Management Systems. I also got to hear Nicole talk about open source [heard it before but always enjoy it] and met Tim Daniels who works for Georgia Libraries and gave a great talk about open source OPACs.

And I’m still unpacking. I got back late Sunday and spent most of today helping the folks at the high school get settled in with their new mail server. However I did read this post about the status of Haitian libraries that I thought was worth a mention. Things are better than expected, and better than first reported. Of course, as always, there’s still work to be done.

2 Comments on back from boingboing, last added: 2/3/2010
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23. while I was away – sxsw

So, I may have mentioned earlier that this is the month I’m away giving talks and talking to librarians instead of typing on my blogonet. I’m partway done. I’ve been to Florida and Alaska and Austin Texas and I’ll be stopping by Portland Oregon next week and then I’m pretty much done. I’ve done a few talks you’ve maybe heard before but the biggest news is the panel that NYPL’s Jenny Engstrom and I did at SXSW on Tuesday. It was called How The Other Half Lives: Touring The Digital Divide [link goes to our slides] and it was a look at how libraries are dealing with people on the other side of the digital divide.

Some of this is stuff you’ve heard before but some is newish. We were lucky enough to give our presentation after the FCC released the results of their broadband study but before they actually released their Broadband Plan, so there was a lot to talk about but not too much to fight about. The talk was well-attended, well-tweeted and folks asked a lot of questions and stuck around to talk more. I’ve just gotten back from Texas so I’ll save more links and discussions for a little later. Thanks to everyone who showed up and who supported us in our desire to get this talk on the roaster at SXSW. I think we gave people a lot of food for thought.

2 Comments on while I was away – sxsw, last added: 3/21/2010
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24. happy birthday to me, from the writer’s desk

I always skip my blog’s birthday because it’s 4/20 which is on or near Earth Day, the holiday of stoners everywhere, and usually school vacation. So hey, my blog is now eleven! And I write in it much less than I used to. Partly this is because I’ve got a 1000 word/day minimum writing deal with myself getting my book out the door. I just noticed you can pre-order it from Amazon which sort of freaks me out. I set up a page for the book but there’s really nothing there yet. I hope the cover looks okay. Partly I’ve been doing a lot of other things. Though my crazy six weeks of travel is over — with a whimper, not a bang, since I didn’t get to PLA which displeases me — I’ve been doing my tech work in town and started riding my bike around a lot more. Spring is delightful here.

I’m still answering a lot of library-type emails (someone looking for a copy of DDC 20, got one?) and working at MetaFilter which contains more than its share of writing. I seem to be pouring more of my “this is why the digital divide is important” efforts into the book, though I’ve been pulling out little snippets here and there.

And I gave a talk about Open Source and why it’s important to small libraries at a local conference for educators recently. The notes for the talk are here: Solving Problems with FOSS- What works and doesn’t work in Vermont’s Libraries. It was a great talk but I think I aimed it for more of a library-ish audience and teachers and IT folks have different goals. I did get to talk to a lot of people in my region about what sorts of tech things work and don’t work, and saw a great presentation about MYTH-TV, an open source alternative to home DVR stuff. Fascinating stuff. Interesting times.

Photo is from this post at inhabitat about this art exhibit.

3 Comments on happy birthday to me, from the writer’s desk, last added: 4/28/2010
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25. I made the cover of Library Journal for no reason whatsoever

Hiya. I’m preparing for a talk on Social Software that I’m giving in Utica, New York next Friday. I’ve been travelling significantly less and staying home writing much more. It’s been going well. I noticed last night on facebook [thanks Trevor] that I appear to be cartoonified and on the cover of this month’s Library Journal. Of course this is the post-Reed Business LJ, so I can’t find the cover on their new website and Trevor confirms there’s no actual mention of him or me in the actual article, but hey why pick nits? Interested folks can head over to his facebook profile and ID all the other luminaries on the cover including Emily Sheketoff, Nancy Pearl, Toni Morrison, Ginnie Cooper, Jill Nishi, Salman Rushdie, Mario Ascencio, Trevor Dawes, Camila Alire and Keith Michael Fiels floating away holding on to some balloons.

12 Comments on I made the cover of Library Journal for no reason whatsoever, last added: 6/11/2010
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