- When nerds collide – some advice on managing groups of volunteers for one-off library projects
I failed to communicate the “why” of this project to the volunteers. Before turning my volunteers loose, I needed to explain the general workflow of the library. By saying, “here is a list of books to pull” or “adjust the shelves so they look like this” wasn’t enough information for them to grasp the bigger picture. Taking a moment to discuss how the library functions, sans library jargon, would have helped them understand the overall goals for the project.
- Highlights from Ian MacKaye’s Library of Congress lecture (video coming soon)
Every song I ever wrote, I wrote to be heard. So, if I was given a choice that 50 years from now I could either have a dollar or knowing that some kid was listening to my song, I’d go with the kid listening to my song.
- Publisher Threatens Librarian With $1 Billion Lawsuit for publishing this list of predatory publishers.
- Saskatoon Public Libraries have a contract – I was impressed by their silent protest/read-in at the City Council meetings.
- Forecasting Next Generation Libraries A Virtual Course-ference (Jul-Aug 2013, cheep!) – featuring a keynote by one of my favorite educational scholars Bryan Alexander.
I know people are probably pretty up on the general level of change, upheaval and consternation that are happening surrounding NYPLs big changes, most notably the changes at the Central Library but also the closure and sale of the Mid-Manhattan branch. You may not know about the closure and sale of some of the Brooklyn Public Library’s branches in which buildings are being sold and new spaces are being leased/rented to fit the library collections, programs and staff into. I know we’ve been fighting against some of the major downsides involved in leasing versus owning content, I think it’s important to think about the major downsides involved in renting rather than owning real estate. Here is some further reading about the Brooklyn plans.
- For Brooklyn PL, Planned Sale of Branches Promises Opportunity, Provokes Concern
- Saving Schools and Libraries by Giving Up the Land They Sit On
- Brooklyn Public Library plans to sell two dilapidated branches and move them into smaller locations
- BPL’s explanation of the plan
- Brooklyn Public Library to sell off Boerum Hill’s Carnegie branch
- Is the Public Getting Swindled by the City’s Short-Sighted School and Library Sell-Offs?
- Girl Scout troop fights to save Pacific Branch library
Want to get involved?
- Tweet or share this video. Girls speak out to save the historic Brooklyn library they love.
- Keep up with what Urban Libraries Unite are up to.
- Follow the Citizens Defending Libraries blog.
- The Queens Library is facing similar issues and has a petition that you can sign right on their website.
- Brooklyn Public Library has a Speak Up For Your Library page where you can share your voice.
- The People’s Budget NYC is a place you can vote on community suggestions for budgeting, extended library hours is at the top.
- The Pacific Branch has its own Save The Pacific Library page.
- Facebook options: Urban Libraries Unite, Save NYC Libraries
I listen a lot to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast about comedy. He interviews pretty much everyone you’ve ever heard of in the comedy world (and some people you may not have heard of) and one of the things he always asks people are “Who are your guys?” like who did you come up with in the comedy world and who did you identify with or look up to when you got started? I recently got an email from a library school student who is an anarchist librarian wondering a similar thing basically who my guys were and what resources were out there for radical librarians. The people who were my guys when I got started are all doing different things right now, interesting things. I wanted to share an amended version of the resource list and email I sent her. These are just people in the radical librarian niche, there are a lot of other people who have influenced me in many other ways. Who are your guys?
Sandy Berman was one of my original guys. I was lucky enough to get to know him when I was a library student and was active in my local SRRT chapter.
I think the work that Radical Reference is doing is important. It’s sort of distributed often crisis or demonstration-based reference services and they also do some email and other support.
It’s a neat project and the takeaway for me is the idea of “just in time” reference or event-based reference especially at large events like marches and demonstrations but this could be anything really.
There used to be a much more active anarchist librarian community on a mailing list and forum
I’m not sure where that bunch of people gets together, but Chuck Munson who runs that site is worthwhile to talk to.
The big takeaway is that there are a LOT of people doing this sort of work, the profession attracts folks like us.
Rory Litwin and the Library Juice Press put out a lot of worthwhile information about the more radical aspects of the profession as well as professional development opportunities.
The FreeGovInfo people spend a lot of time making sure that government information is available to ALL the people. It’s interesting since, well, it’s very involved with government, but making the current government we have accountable and responsible is a worthwhile goal
Other people who are doing “free the information” activities include
The Prelinger Library
Carl Malamud and Public Resource
are both groups that take a fairly radical approach to what is a library issue and work within big organizations like the ALA to be on the record about things that matter. There’s some pushback to this, but overall I think they are worthwhile. Not everyone is an anarchist, there are varieties of left-wing thinkers (and some libertarians? I don’t know) but worthwhile to get to know and worth seeing if there are people in your area.
More recently the Occupy Libraries put an organized face on the idea of a protest library. Many places to read more, here is a current blog and wiki about the Occupy Wall Street library.
There are also mutual aid type societies of groups of librarians working towards a common cause without the more formalized structure of a state or national organization.
Urban Libraries Unite
Rural Libraries Unite
Some individual librarians are people I met early on and are still continuing to do great stuff. I’m also most hesitant to mention anyone for fear I’ll leave someone out, but here are two folks
Julie Herrada, curator of the Labadie collection
Lincoln Cushing, archival consultant, All Of Us Or None collection (among other things)
But at some level I think the best way to start mutual aid projects from within the library context (in my personal opinion) is to try to work FOR
- fewer limitations on content (against DRM even if you may not be able to eradicate it)
- fewer copyright restrictions and be careful about self-censoring
- access to library materials to more people including historically disadvantaged groups such as language minorities, people in prison/jail, homeless people, people with disabilities
- sharing the community resources that you hold in the widest way possible
And while I think it’s important to be upbeat, it’s also important to understand what the threats are in the community and trying to work AGAINST
- more restrictions on copyright and/or internet freedom
- people meddling in childrens’ rights to read or intellectual freedom generally
- internet filtering
- publisher’s harassment of librarians and others for telling the truth about their practices or business models
- increasing push towards rental/lease of content and away from purchasing it and the rights that first sale gives us
Happy National Library Week. This is the week that encompasses a few more days worth celebrating including National Library Workers Day on Tuesday, National Bookmobile Day on Wednesday and Support Teen Literature Day on Thursday. Oxford University Press is giving away free access to the OED for folks in North and South America through Saturday. That’s sort of neat. I just got back from a very fun time giving a keynote speech at NETSL (more on that later) which was the first talk I’ve given all year. This was after Flavorwire’s “Coolest librarians alive” list which made me go “Who is Flavorwire again?” and then “Oh, neat” But my favorite thing about that accolade was what happened afterwards. A bunch of people instead of being normal crabby internet people in the comments section, actually started naming other librarians who they thought were cool, or great, or excellent, or important. And people talked about it online in the usual places, a lot. The article (more of a listicle really) was so popular they added a second set of librarians a Readers Choice with 10 more cool librarians.
And that, in a nutshell, is why I become a big goofball during National Library week and bug all my friends to get cards and take themselves to the library and why I stopped at the Somerville Library to check out their Awesome Box yesterday when I was nearby. Because I get to work with and around a lot of neat people and in many ways we’re a team. Sure there are some showboats and various rockstars in various areas and niches, but it’s great to see people being not just happy for whoever some website thinks is cool but also to talk about the other cool librarians that they know and why they’re people you should know. It’s a great group of people.
Just a photo that came across my stream, taken for Life magazine but not published there. This is from ALA, in 1971. I saw the photo and wanted to know more about it.
As a former member of SRRT and someone who knew about early GLBT activities within ALA (and in the current political climate) from reading Revolting Librarians, I enjoyed seeing this photo but I had a lot of questions. Who were these people? Who planned this? How was it received? So, like any good librarian, I researched.
Some other folks on facebook filled in some of the blanks about this event. A quote from another librarian, pulled form a relative who commented on his timeline “ALA’s Gay and Lesbian Task Force was the first such professional organization in the country. And with their bibliographies they helped create new areas of research.” A few more photos of the SRRT booth are at NYPL.
The two women are identified as Barbara Gittings and Alma Routsong better known by her pen name Isabel Miller and were well known activists of the time. Israel Fishman the founder of SRRTs Task Force on Gay Liberation (later to be called the Gay Task force and splitting off to what is now its own round table, the GLBTRT) was the one who planned the stunt. Other reports of this booth activity come from unlikely places such as the neighboring booth where RUSA (then known as Reference and Adult Services Division) was located. Their history page reports…
Plans for the division’s booth in the ALA Professional Exhibit area at the 1971 ALA Conference in Dallas included scheduling different board members to be on-hand to meet with visitors. When the “Hug a Homosexual” and other exuberant and high-spirited activities in a neighboring booth proved newsworthy to the extent that television cameras appeared and reports were broadcast nationwide, an on-hand board member from a conservative community shielded his face and moved to the remote side of the booth. At another point, when the RSD booth was staffed by a librarian clad in the habit of her religious order, a young volunteer who was intimidated by the boisterous goings-on in her booth came next door seeking “sanctuary.” According to American Libraries, “Farcical tumult reigned in the exhibit area when the Gay Lib group staged a ‘Hug-A-Homosexual’ stunt that attracted press and television but few hugs.
Library Journal tumblrblogged this last June and noted
For those that are interested, the booth received a (predictably) mostly negative reaction, with little to no people stopping by for a free hug. So the staffers of the booth hugged and kissed each other. Gittings kissed Patience and Sarah author Alma Routsong (aka Isabel Miller) while cameras were rolling and made the nightly news. That same year she appeared with a panel of lesbians on the David Susskind Show to debunk gay stereotypes of the time. She was approached in a supermarket a week after the appearance by a middle-aged couple who claimed “You made me realize that you gay people love each other just the way Arnold and I do.”
The book Before Stonewall has called this event “The first gay kissing booth” and is worth reading for more great stories about what a nifty person Gittings was and what sort of work she did within ALA. Here is a quotation from a blog post after her death in2007 discussing what drew her to librarianship.
One of Gittings’ proudest achievements was what she called “combatting lies in the library.” Gittings had experienced her first attractions to women when she was in high school. She was denied membership in the National Honor Society by an advisor who said she had “homosexual tendencies,” and had been told by her father, with whom she was close, to destroy the book The Well of Loneliness which he found in her bedroom when she was in high school. Determined to understand her own path, she spent most of her freshman year at Northwestern University in the library instead of in class, searching for books and information about being a lesbian. What little she could find was catalogued under “sexual perversion” and “sexual deviance.” She dropped out of Northwestern then to pursue the life of an activist and never returned to get her degree.
There are many more anecdotes and names named in Wayne Wiegand’s Encyclopedia of Library History. I know for people who are more on the inside of this movement a lot of this is just old news, but I hadn’t known a lot of this before. And, at this time in history with some important cases before the Supreme Court and public opinion rapidly shifting, it’s neat to look back and see at least part of the profession taking an early and affirmative stand for equality.
1. Supreme Court KIRTSAENG v WILEY decision came down, supporting first sale doctrine even for copyrighted works made abroad. This is good news for Team Library. Here’s more analysis from ACRL that declares it “a total victory for libraries”
2. Now that we’ve gotten a nice little bump from the We the People petition to increase the public’s access to the results of publicly funded science research, let’s keep pushing for more access to (and funding for) government information.
More explanation over at FreeGovInfo.
Why would a museum give away images of its art? As Michael Govan often says, it’s because our mission is to care for and share those works of art with the broadest possible public. The logical, radical extension of that is to open up our treasure trove of images. When we first launched our early experiment with giving images away online, we heard a resoundingly positive response from many quarters: school teachers, parents, graduate students, journalists and the occasional creative person interested in printing their own Mother’s Day cards. So far, we have yet to hear of a situation where one of our public domain artworks has been misused or abused.
Just having one of those days where I am in favor of a picture-based approach to what I’ve been interested in.
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.