Archive for the 'events' Category

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

In which I get to “do whatever workshop you want”

Screen Shot 2014-05-17 at 13.51.04

One of the other great things about the Rural Libraries Conference is that, in addition to giving a keynote presentation, I was also given a workshop slot to … basically do whatever I wanted. One of the things that I think is frequently missing from conference planning is some way to help people with follow-through on the ideas they get or the things they want to try or even keeping in touch with the people they meet. Conferences are often a lot of fast-paced learning and mingling and fun and weird food and odd schedules and then people come home and sleep it off and it all seems like a distant dream when they get back to work. I’m sure this is triply true if you’re at a conference someplace wacky like The Grand Hotel.

So I did a very short presentation called Maintaining Momentum and talked about some ways to keep the energy up. You can read the (very short) slide deck [pdf, link fixed!] to get an idea of what it was like. I did something I basically never do which was get people split up into pairs and give them a buddy to check in with in two weeks, with little handouts to swap email and ideas. We went around the room and talked about things we’d seen that we liked and might want to implement (in the library and just in life generally). I also got an email list of everyone’s contact info (note for future talks: tell people to print legibly) and learned to use MailChimp myself to send a one-time-only “Hey get in touch with your buddy” reminder which was part of what I’d vowed to learn.

It was a great presentation, people were really into it and seemed to enjoy having space for a bit of a meta-discussion about the conference while at the conference. I’m really happy I went outside my usual comfort zone to put it together, very appreciative of the great folks who showed up and gratified that people didn’t talk all the way through this one (except when they were supposed to).

screenshot from momentum talk

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

METRO-NY Conference – teaching and learning

I kicked off my year of “Back doing talks” with giving the keynote talk at the METRO-NY’s annual conference. I was invited by Jason Kucsma who I know from way back in the day as one of the founders of Clamor Magazine, where I wrote an article about the USA PATRIOT Act in 2004. Jason is now the executive director of METRO-NY and we marveled at how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Clamor’s back issues are hosted at the Internet Archive. They also do Open Library which I’ve been volunteering for over the past year.

My talk was about the past eighteen months of fair use and other similar decisions that we’ve seen in the courts recently and talking about how now, more than ever, it’s a good time to start affirmatively and possibly aggressively sharing our cultural content. You can read the talk online here and see my notes.

One of my favorite things about going to conferences to speak is that I also get to go to listen. I went to three presentations and I had useful takeaways from all of them. This is what I learned.

  • Beyond Digitization: Hacking Structured Data out of Historical Documents – this was a presentation by a few of the folks at NYPL labs discussing how their crowdsourced “help us structure the data in our theater program” project worked. Great demo, interesting talk. Big takeaway: data, raw data, needs to be “first class citizen” in libraries and be available like other materials. We have a lot of content that isn’t just in monograph/serial form, we should get it out there.
  • Open Access is a Lot of Work!: How I Took a Journal Open Access and Lived to Tell About It – Emily Drabinski talked about how she got the Radical Teacher monograph into an open access model and how it was worth it but also a lot of work. Big takeaway: shifting the model to where you do more labor for the project instead of just paying more for it can be useful in not just bottom-line cash ways.
  • Transforming Computer Training Services @ Your Library – Brandy McNeil at NYPL has turned their tech training program into a big, polished, smoothly working system. This is partly because of funding but in many ways it’s because of the buy-in she was able to get and the collaborations that she did with many other people (branch managers, marketers, IT people, etc) and she outlined how that worked and why it was worth it. Big takeaway: centralizing services and having a consistently branded approach can be very useful in a situation where you have 80+ sites and three languages and countless people and spaces to work with.

The annual banned books week roundup for 2013

salinger's 60 years later, banned in the US

For some reason last year I didn’t do my annual roundup of Banned Books Week websites. Here is a link to the source of the image above which is from the New Yorker’s article about the JD Salinger-evocative book 60 Years Later, Coming Through the Rye which is illegal to sell in the US. You can find more news articles about that situation at the author’s small Wikipedia page. You can look at past posts on this topic by checking out the bannedbooksweek tag here or here is a list of the annual posts: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. I skipped 2005 and 2012.

As usual, you get a neat real-time look at what’s going on by following the Twitter hashtag. Do NOT look at the bbw twitter hashtag as I mistakenly did last night. As usual there are two “main” sites the ALA site at ala.org/bbooks and the bannedbooksweek.org site which is really nice looking this year. The BannedBooksWeek Twitter account is still moribund which is a damned shame. The Virtual Read Out doesn’t seem to have any new videos this year… yet?

Please remember if you are a librarian who has a book that is challenged, report it to the ALA so they can keep track of it.

Here is the list of organizations who are co-sponsors. Let’s look at their websites.

The language of the censor is the language of the tyrant, the absolutist, the one with no vision. It is the antithesis of art because it assumes that there is only one perspective, one reality, and that anything that fails to rhyme with it is a sin against nature. But the real sin against nature is to suffocate personal truths and experiences with wobbly doctrine and to disguise it as morally just. Art— particularly literature—exists to show us there are as many worlds as there are people. Each of these worlds come with its own laws. These laws vary from person to person, but if there is one that they have in common it is to share your truth. We owe it to our humanity and our short time among other humans to respect the truths that are shared with us. – Nick Burd

Websites are working and the word is getting out. I was pleased with this year’s collections of content. What I’m concerned about, as per usual, are challenges and censorship that don’t even reach the physical items on the library shelves. What about this Salinger book? Worldcat shows 40 copies of it, a handful of which are in the US, and the reviews of it haven’t been so great anyhow. But the idea that the book wasn’t obtained and removed, it was never obtained in the first place (as we see with so much born-digital content that we can’t even get in lendable format) opens a door to all new ways that libraries can not get books. The old challenges (dirty cowboy? really? do not google that) remain and new ones appear.

National Library Week – you belong @ your library

So National Library Week starts today which is complicated because it’s a Sunday and most libraries are closed on Sunday. It’s also Easter which means some more libraries are closed on Easter. So this is good news if you’re scheming for stuff to do over the week, less good news if you’re a patron wanting to celebrate. This year’s theme is “You belong @ your library” which continues with the @ motif that ALA has been using since 1997. The actual national event has been going since 1958 and the first year’s theme was “Wake up and Read.” ALA has been the sole sponsor since 1974. If you want to get something started today, ALA has made some fairly nifty facebook “cover art” that you might like. Me, I’m waiting for the State of America’s Libraries report that is coming out on Monday because I always use those statistics in my digital divide talks and I’m always curious about trends in connectivity and tech use at libraries. Also who doesn’t like National Bookmobile Day?

This has been a tough year to be a library in many places. A friend sent me the video below where the Troy Library (MI) went all out with a “Okay you want to close the library? Let’s burn the books!” hoax campaign that actually got people thinking about why it’s important to keep the library doors open. While some folks might consider this an epic troll, I also think it does a good job redirecting people’s concerns from the Tea Party message of “money money” to the broader concern of “community community” which I think is a helpful shift and the social media angle is interesting. However not everyone thinks that this sort of stunt is helpful. As much as it was a fun jape, it doesn’t seem like any of the other library workers or supporters were in on the joke which turned into a bit of a PR mess. I’m not sure if the website for the Book Burning Party wasn’t as clear about their goals as it is now.

Temporary autonomous librarian zone – SXSWLAM recap

librarians are the coolest people at SXSW

It’s a pretty standard view of our profession that one of the things that makes a librarian a librarian is that they work in or with a library. That’s changing in weird and new ways, sort of. I just got back from SXSW and was really delighted to see a strong librarian presence in a number of new and useful ways. For people who are already part of the #SXSWLAM movement, you may already know this stuff, but for people curious how to make librarians into a presence, a terrific and “I want to hang out with those people and have what they’re having” presence, read on.

A lot of this stuff got started with a few high-traffic groups on facebook. I’ve been following along with ALA Think Tank for a while. They have managed to do the impossible: making the idea of joining ALA so that you could hang out with these folks seem like a really good idea. Nice work team. After SXSW last year, an event that had a really good turn out for a librarian meetup, a bunch of folks decided to really turn on the librarian energy and make a concerted effort to be Library Everywhere at SXSW. There was a group set up–#sxswLAM = Librar* + Archiv* + Museum*–a lot of scheming happening and some pretty amazing results.

There were a huge roster of presentations by and for librarians to choose from. I managed to go to a few and was happy to see both librarians and non-librarians in the audience. I enjoyed a solo presentation, The Great Library Swindle, by Carson Block and a really lively panel by some folks you know and love (Char Booth, Michael Porter, Nate Hill and Amy Buckland) called Making Stories: Libraries & Community Publishing (note: you can listen to this panel because the MP3 of the presentation is up already, how cool is that?).

There was also activity and liasoning with the library school at UT Austin. Paul Vinelli who has been blogging about the conference for ALA (posts: 1, 2, 3, 4) created a SXSWi primer for rowdy librarians which made the rounds beforehand and was a good guide for conference n00bs. ALA veteran John Chrastka, now doing his own thing at AssociaDirect did a little branding/fundraising and helped the crew get their own temporary tattoos and anyone who ran into one of the posse would get a baggie with some tattoos and other schwag. I wore my zebra stripe wristband the whole week.

There was also a meetup, a drinkup, and a lot of other activities where you could hang out with other librarians and just have a good time. A lot of this was coordinated through phone apps like GroupMe and the standard twittering and facebook. My two favorite parts of the whole thing (and as someone with a few different posses at SXSW, I didn’t participate too much but was cheering from the sidelines) were the upbeat energy and the inclusiveness. Anyone who wanted to be a part of it was welcome and the people involved were friendly, organized and fun. Big props to Andrea Davis, one of this years Library Journal Movers and Shakers, and Lisa Carlucci Thomas, who were two of the driving forces behind this year’s librarian surge.

Big Talk From Small Libraries – free online conference Tuesday Feb 28th

I am doing a new thing this year. Well I’m doing a few new things overall, like learning ukulele, but one big thing professionally. I’ve decided to try to do a few webinars, both attending and presenting, to see how they go. In the past I’ve sort of skipped webinars on principle. I find the software difficult and it’s challenging for me to talk about good technology when using bad technology. I’m also just not that good at presenting to an unseen audience. However last year I was invited to do a lighting talk of a sort and I enjoyed it; it was even pretty low tech, using Skype to connect. There was a lot of back and forth on Twitter and good feedback/questions which was different from the last webinars I did several years ago where I wasn’t even sure people were tuning in at all. I’ve also noticed there have been a few one-day events that have gotten people talking that I might like to attend. So I’ve been exploring. Who knows, next thing you know I may start reading ebooks….

So, this is a long way of saying that I’ll be presenting with a bunch of other great librarians at the Nebraska Library Commission’s Big Talk for Small Libraries conference this Tuesday. You can see the schedule here (be aware it’s all in Central Time) and read the FAQ here. With eight speakers who are all people who work in small libraries, over 300 attendees, and a homegrown back channel, I think it will be an interesting day. Free as in beer. I think it will be a good time.

our relationships with our vendors – selling contact information from conferences

I spoke at a conference recently. I speak at a lot of conferences. Most conferences give me complimentary registration which I enjoy because then I can see other programs and hobnob with people. Only recently has this become a problem. A recent conference that shall remain nameless apparently gave my registration information [well, email address for certain, not sure about anything else] to their vendors. I know this because I have received ten emails from vendors saying “Good to see you at the conference!” Since I barely work in a public library, I am certain that I did not give these vendors my personal information. Getting extra email only ranks as a minor annoyance to me. I politely email companies back and asked to be taken off of their lists and they mostly comply. However, having to do this nearly a dozen times per conference should this sort of thing become the norm, does not scale.

I would like to make a somewhat open appeal to conference organizers to make the distribution of registrants’ personal information something that is only done if people specifically and affirmatively decide that this is okay. Every business best practice says that you can’t sell or give away people’s personal information without their consent. We are a profession that is big on privacy. I’d like to see us do this right as well. Here is the email that I sent to the conference organizers.

Hi — I spoke at the recent XXLA conference. XXLA is one of my favorite events and I’m always happy to support it and this year’s event was particularly enjoyable. I registered [and received free registration] as part of my agreement to speak. I stopped by the exhibits hall while I was there but did not give anyone my contact information. This is now the tenth email I have received from a XXLA vendor saying some variant of “Good to see you at XXLA” While I reply politely to these emails asking to be taken off of their mailing list I’m concerned that I never opted in to receive them in the first place and assume my registration information was given to vendors without my explicit permission.

I would like to politely request that registration for the conference is not seen as a blanket approval to receive marketing contacts from vendors. I understand that XXLA has to make ends meet, but not allowing people to opt in or opt out from these communications is a bad business practice. Additionally, and this is more my problem than yours, as someone who speaks at multiple conferences yearly, this small problem quickly becomes an out of control problem. I’d like XXLA to reconsider their practice of giving out registrants’ email addresses without giving people an option to opt out. Thanks for your time.

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.