is2k7 – some brief impressions

I was a facilitator at a session of the Internet and Society conference put on by the Berkman Center yesterday. I had a great time. It was a little overwhelming. My working group was called, appropriately enough UNIVERSITY and its library and I led the session with David Weinberger and Cathy Norton from the Woods Hole Institute Library. I must admit I felt a little out of my league (library director! author & technologist! um…. Jessamyn!) but I’ve never let that stop me before. I also learned that being the youngest and greenest member of a facilitating team means that you get the full-on “why don’t YOU do the introductions?” offer which I trepidatiously accepted. Of course, since I’m stuck somewhere between the digital native and digital immigrant personas, I also followed the IRC backchannel, my IM buddy list, Twitter, wrote on the chalkboard, took a few pictures, and tried to pay attention to things like the schedule and the pre-set list of tasks. I think it went well, but I felt like I had been river rafting by the end of it. A few people told me they thought it went well. You can see the list of what we came up with, in these Flickr photos (oooh very 1.0!).

The rest of the day was lunch [getting to talk to the head of network security at Harvard and his very very fascinating job] a second session [UNIVERSITY vs. RIAA with Wendy Selzer and Doc Searls and Lewis Hyde which turned into a few hothead professors and one or two industry/network guys and a few Free Culture students really just talking past each other in ways that were interesting but somewhat frustrating to listen to in an unstructured environment] and then dinner with a good friend of mine who works for One Laptop Per Child his friend just in from Oxford and a super interesting guy from Connexions. We ate pizza and messed around with the OLPC laptops and rehashed some of the “knowledge beyond authority” concepts that washed over us during the day.

It was neat to be at an academic conference where the speakers could toss around some fairly high-level vocabulary and jargon and be pretty sure that people in the audience could keep up. It was great to be someplace where all the technology just worked. It was fun to sit next to Dan Gillmor at the wrap-up and realize that he multitasks pretty much just like I do, but his inbox is fuller. I didn’t do a lot of actual blogging at the conference — well none really — but I did write a few things down. A lot of the pithy sayings that stuck with me were things that David Weinberger said. He’s great to be in a room with, very self-effacing, very friendly, very “hey I’m just like you” but also extremely well-spoken on many society and technology topics that I think a lot of us have trouble putting effectively into words. A few random notes from me, sorry they are a little stream-of-consciousness. I didn’t really have time to both attend the conference and blog the conference. In some ways I’m amazed that people can actually do that. I’m typing this up from my Mom’s house, with a cat in my lap and a cup of coffee, really feeling that I need thirty minutes or so of downtime to effectively rehash a day of solid uptime.

The general gist: knowledge beyond authority, truth beyond power, what is university’s responsiblity?

What about university as client?

What about teachers? is their digital identy as “digital immigrants”

DW: “Do libraries succeed by being where people go? Or, do libraries succeed by going where people are?”

DW (about the import of having a PhD): ending a conversation with saying ‘I have a PhD’ never worked well and it REALLY doesn’t work now

From a speaker at the wrap-up: The elephant in the room that limited the conversation was profit, there is an assumption that there is something primary and supreme about business that must be assumed to be given prominence and deference in the discussion about how to effect change (many people mentioned this)

DW from the wrap-up, about community knowledge and mailing lists: “The knowledge is in the list, the knowledge is smarter than every person on the list!”

I also got to shake hands and say hi to a few more people I’ve known sort of just through the Internet including Ethan Zuckerman (go start reading his blog right now please) and Matthew Battles who has written one of my favorite books about libraries.

VLA Wrap-up

I just got back from VLA where I gave two half-talks over two days. It’s fun getting to hang out with local librarians. Most of the time I view conferences as a way to meet up with friends and see new places, but the VLA conference is actually good for old-fashioned networking (with new friends who I will see new places with in the future, I am certain).

My first talk was about CSS and I mostly did the intro while Jessica Allard did the bulk of the talk. My second talk was What’s What With Wireless. I gave an overview and then Carl Zeller from Teconic, who I had worked with when I was at the Rutland Free Library, did the safety and networking aspects of it. It was great to do split talks. I think the audience really gains a lot from multiple perspectives even if, as with the wifi talk, the presenters aren’t even always agreeing with each other.

Last night I went over to UVM and hung out with the Vermont Area Group of Unix Enthusiasts (VAGUE) and had pizza and talked about Ubuntu and yes, my little video which has now passed 27,000 views on YouTube, almost surpassing the population of my county. I talked to them about Koha and LibLime and Evergreen which no one there really knew about. They repeatedly apologized for the dark dank basement as if I was familiar with perhaps being someplace else, but I really like hanging out with nerds and geeks. I plan to go to the developers conference in Boston and let them know what library/librarian users might like to see out of an open source desktop OS. I encourage other librarians to go.

A few other things I learned:

  • The VLA Intellectual Freedom Committee is working on strengthening the library privacy laws in the state of Vermont.
  • The new incoming VLA preseident-elect is the assistant director of the library I used to work at, and I got to meet him at the conference.
  • One of the Department of Libraries’ Regional Consultants uses Ubuntu and has some experience in/interest in using Evergreen as an ILS.
  • The current (as of yesterday) president of VLA has some interesting ideas about new directions. I introduced myself to her and said “hey I’m short on tact, but I’m pretty good at getting technology projects working, consider letting me help out with the back end on your projects” and she seemed to think that was a great idea.

I’m sure there’s more but I’m operating at a sleep deficit and a keyboard overload so I’ll add in more when I remember it. Thanks to everyone who made my trip to Burlington fun and interesting.

MA Library Association Wrap-up Thoughts

I extended my trip to Mass, by a day so that I could go to more MLA. My goal when I speak at library conferences is always to see some programs as well as give mine, but I only sometimes manage that. This conference was fun, accessible and enjoyable both to present at and to attend. Here are a few thoughts, my apologies for lack of thoroughness.

I already mentioned that I thought my talk went pretty well. This was despite the weird room temperature, the last minute “can someone find a longer cable for the projector!” issue and the flaky wifi. Big thanks to Scot and Michael for making this happen as well as the local IT guy. I hung out with Andrea a lot of the first day as she was covering the day for the MLA Conference Blog. We went to the banquet with Tom Ashbrook (the NPR guy) and I was a little underwhelmed. Ashbrook seemd to have a stump speech and didn’t seem to have prepared too seriously. Compared to seeing Pete Hamill last week it was night and day. Good food and company, including getting to talk to a woman who runs the Suicide Prevention Resource Library and has what seemed to me to be a very interesting job. Then Andrea and I went back to the hotel and planned to go to karaoke, but sat upstairs laptopping instead.

The next day I got up and went to a session called Privacy Rights of Minors – A training session for policy and beyond. It was run by Ruth LaFrance, the chair of the MA Intellectual Freedom Committee who attended ALA’s Law for Librarians program. I found the program good, but somewhat frustrating. The upshot was that the Massachusetts law is fairly clear about the privacy status of library user records and does not in any way state that these rights do not extend to minors. So, librarians try hard to help minors’ library records stay private. However, there are many wrinkles in this situation which make this difficult to deal with.

- Parents are financially responsible for their children’s overdue fines and missing books. This is true even though the library will not, if they are properly applying the law, tell the parents what books their child has out. I wonder about this in terms of contract law and whether you can make someone pay for something and not reveal what it is.
- Parents often have to approve of their child getting a card in the first place. A minor cannot legally give consent in a contractual sense which means to the extent that a parent “owns” a child (I am not agreeing with this assessment morally, just saying that the laws tend to support this except in extreme cases) they also own thir debts and obligations. Keeping a teenager’s record private makes one sort of sense in that a teenager can make their wishes known, but with a 3-4 year old it’s really hard to gauge what the intent of the child is.
- Often libraries maintain a child’s privacy only to let someone else reveal it. So if you are a library that sends overdue notices home — this was an example they gave at this session — then it’s between the parent and the child who has access to that notice or letter. I think this is a cop out. I think the whole issue is sticky, but if you think privacy and the law is this important, you don’t just let the post office blow a kid’s privacy when you won’t or can’t.

A lot of the session was about what the session leader called “add-ons” basically codicils in a library’s privacy policy that would make a minor’s records easier for a parent to obtain. It was clear that this wasn’t a direction that Ms. LaFrance agreed with entirely, but it was equally clear that many people in the audience thought the idea of minor privacy was overblown and impossible to enforce. A lively session but ultimately I left with many more questions than answers. I also left with a Star Wars gym bag full of books because I won the raffle. Actually, I won the raffle twice. I bought three tickets (one of my “How to be a gracious presenter” tips is “Always buy the raffle tickets”) and both of them were winners. I passed on the second prize to someone else.

I went out for a walk and ran into Michael and Jenny walking down the street and we went and grabbed sandwiches an ate them on the Sturbridge town common and spent some nice quality time walking around looking at things which included popping into the labyrinth at St Anne’s for some contemplation time. It was nice to see those guys; with all the running around they do, it’s hard to find the time to just goof off for a little bit. We went back and hung out on the porch and talked about public speaking in libraryland and I was encouraged to start a more professional “about me” page (in process still). We went out to dinner at a Thai place called Thai Place and I got a glass of water spilled into my lap which translated into 30% off dinner.

I got back too late to be on a team for the trivia evening, but it was in full swing by the time I got back. I sat with Jenna and Eric in the back of the room and said hi to Keith Michael Fiels and Steve Abram and other folks. Nora Blake, who was my capable and gracious host, was the one running the trivia night and her advice for other trivia-planning librarians is “always cite your sources” since the librarians got ornery with small errors of fact. It was a great idea for a library conference evening because the drinkers could drink, the non-drinkers could socialize, it got people into a room for an auction and a silent auction fundraiser, and it was right in the hotel. I had a great time. Stayed up late drinking with radical librarians.

Got up the next day and went to two sessions, Jenna and Eric’s RadRef session. They are a great librarian/techie tag team [and married couple] she talks about Radical Reference and he talks about open source software for libraries in this matter of fact “hey this is actually pretty simple” way. Their sets of slides are on this page on the Radical Reference site. I caught up on email while other people went to the luncheon and came back in time to see Jenny and Michael and Jessa Crispin of Bookslut fame do their blogging panel discussion. I have to say, it was strange.

If you don’t know Bookslut, it’s another early blog, more book-oriented than library-oriented but it has a lot of librarian readers. Jessa is a well-spoken writer and reader who now does the site full-time (I think) as her job. Michael and Jenny are Michael and Jenny and do their blogs as sort of side projects within their regular jobs. As a result, the two “sides” of this program had vastly different approaches to blogging which sort of made for lively conversation but sort of just made me feel that it would have been nice to have one or the other. Jessa blogs for work, then she turns off her computer and goes outside (her words). Her blog doesn’t have comments. She says she doesn’t read blogs. She tells new bloggers often to not bother. She’s not a techie, and not even tech curious. She says MySpace “scares her” as does the idea of having comments on her blog. She reads books and seemed to have some level of disdain for people who couldn’t find time for reading. I may be misreading this, but I just got a weird vibe off of her, that despite her making a job out of her blog, she maybe felt that bloggers were nerdish and dorky and self-absorbed and … lame.

I think part of this may be the general vibe I get from these conferences where pretty much everyone is approachable and personable and while there are a lot of introverts there are rarely any “too cool for school” people who you couldn’t just walk up to and/or have a drink with. I thought Jenny and Michael did a good job of explaining why blogging could be useful — and not in that “everyone needs a blog” way that I think has mischaracterized their position for a while now — but I felt that they and Jessa were talking across each other. Jessa was discussing blogging as a job and Michael and Jenny were discussing it as a tool. In any case, it was my last session of the conference and then I headed home to think and type and bring some of my free books back to my tiny libraries. Thanks for having me, MLA!

Computers where? Computers IN LIBRARIES!

Hi. This is just to say I’ll be at Computers in Libraries next week. I’ll be giving a little talk called Pimp My Firefox, only the name is slightly different in the program. It’s about making Firefox do your bidding and how to customize it for various types of library staff and users. I think it will be fun. However, I am speaking at the same time as Meredith: 11:15 on Monday, April 16th. So, if you have to make a tough choice, I will not feel bad if you go see her talk. I am just sorry that I can not see her talk.

Also, I am planning my trip to DC. I may drive from Vermont. If there is someone that could benefit from a ride down on Sunday sometime, please let me know. I will be staying in DC for the week, so this is likely a one-way-only offer. Alternately if there is someone in the Northern New England area who is already driving, I would be happy to pay for gas to not have to drive.

One more logistical note: I am staying at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City on Sunday night. The CiL crew is putting me up since I am speaking. However, they are not putting me up the next night and the hotel is totally booked, so I either have to find alternate accomodations or move on and miss some of Tuesday’s activities. I have many options in DC and Maryland and would not be heartbroken to have to move on early. However, if anyone out there has a room with space Monday night, I would chip in a pint of maple syrup (and whatever else you’d like, up to and including cash) and regale you with stories of small town librarianship for a chance to stay through Tuesday. I added my name to the CiL Roomshare page, we’ll see what turns up. I seem to be all set for this part, thanks for the notes everyone.

From DC, I’ll be taking a quick detour to Dodge City, Kansas to be giving a talk about “the whole 2.0 thing” which I am looking forward to a great deal. I’ll be a little distracted at CiL, but if you see me running around, please do say hello.

NELA talk: Web 2.0, Library 2.0, Librarian 2.0

I gave a talk today at the New England Library Association Conference. Web 2.0, Library 2.0, Librarian 2.0 [subtitle: wait.... what? who?] that I think went well. Unlike previous talks, this one doesn’t have as much in the way of secret background notes (when you click the “printable” link you’ll get the slides version of my talk that usually has more talking points and notes to myself in them) but I did make a set of handouts. I think people like handouts. I think I’ll try to make more of them. Thanks to everyone who came and was such a friendly and cheery audience.

how it should work: do’s and don’ts for conference organizers

Rachel started with a good list and people added more in the comments. Are you planning a conference, workshop or program? Here are some tips to help you with the difficult job of speaker-wrangling. Has anyone made a list of tips for speakers yet? I’m on my way to North Dakota today to give a few talks at the North Dakota Library Association annual conference in Fargo. Please stop me and say hello if you see me.

the transparencies of wikis

Wikis are great because you can see how people’s presentations of ideas shift and change. The ground rules page of the ALA wiki is fascinating. Watch the tone change from this version, to this version, to the current version. I swear you can watch learning happening.

ala official conference wiki, yes you heard me

In the credit where credit is due department. Meredith Farkas informs us that ALA is taking some ownership and offering some branding (and I’m not sure what else, clearly not server space) to the ALA Conference wiki which has become a regularly anticipated conference supplement, terrifically helpful to those of us who like informal recommendations about the area we’re visiting. I printed out many pages of restaurant suggestions when I was in San Antonio and they were really helpful. [thanks walt]

what I think is my last word on speaking and presenters and money and power

Karen has a nice long post about the current ALA discussions including presenters getting paid/paying to speak, and ALA’s proposed dues increase. I share her feeling about giving presentations

It’s also a not-too-well-kept secret that there are some speakers who only speak when their presentation costs are fully funded, and in some cases when they receive honoraria. I don’t ask, and I don’t care, if the speaker in the next room got a perk I didn’t get. My assumption is that none of us are getting rich on presenting, and that we all know what we need to make it possible for us to share what we know.

I talk to my colleagues in general terms about reimbursement, honoraria and comped registrations, but I must admit to having a sort of “Aw shucks” response when people offer to put me in a hotel room. The first time I got reimbursed for hotel room expenses, I got all ootchy because the room cost over $150 a night and I was amazed anyone would pay that! I am a bit of a yokel in terms of money and so I try not to speak as if my opinions reflect those of a larger segment of travelling and speaking librarians, but I think I represent the low-budget traveller pretty well. Clearly I live in some alternate universe where staying in someone’s home is preferred over a hotel — one of my favorite speaker overnights was at the home of a library student with beer, wifi and company all night — and where money for speaking doesn’t have to be the deciding factor in whether I give a talk or not (library schools take note, I LOVE speaking to library students).

Since I talk about poverty issues often — financially poor, information poor, technology poor — watching this whole tennis match has been informative since a lot of it is about money and how much you should be grateful for having it as well as ethics regarding sharing it. Of course money can be code for other sorts of priorities as well — your value to the association versus the association’s value to others, tithing to your professional institutions, paying your dues — and I feel that this is where things get trickier. Some people see public speaking as a similar type of encoded message — you must have a big ego, you must think you’re better than other people, you must be some sort of shill for corporate America or evangelical zealot, you must be broke and desperate for attention, you must need tenure — and it’s harder to untangle this one. While we all have experience with money, for good or for bad, we don’t all have “get up in front of a room and say something” experience and even less of us have “get an invitation to get up in front of a room and share your expertise” experience.

I’d love to hear some of the people who have been saying “it’s an honor just to be invited” share their public speaking experiences and impressions, or maybe just tell us a little more about how they assess whether a public speaking engagement is “worth it” for them to attend. I’m sure we all have a line demarcating just how much sacrifice in the public good is too much sacrifice, and I have to admit that I bristle when people say or imply that they can make that judgement for others. Of course, discussing these money and power sorts of questions is thought by some to be tacky, and the cultural taboo against discussing status openly or specifically means that I’m sure this isn’t the last time this issue will come up. I know that the ALA Executive Board was talking about it last week and I think that can only be seen as a good start.

update: Jenny synthesizes some discussion about conferences & registration fees

Jenny posts a follow-up to her earlier post about organization membership and guest speakers and conference registration fees and the weird relationship between them. A few of us were trying to do some damage control on the Council list where it became clear that people were misunderstanding the issues, either accidentally or because of a radically different worldview than some of the rest of us. I’ve been asking friends of mine in other professional organizations and it’s become clear to me that some organizations have similar policies, many do not, and most people who don’t have just a flat-out “it’s an honor to be invited to speak and you should expect nothing in return.” seem to be surprised that exceptions weren’t made for Michael and Jenny not because of who they are but just because of their extentuating circumstances [not attenting the conference, paying all expenses in Michael's case, etc.] and peoples’ ability to be flexible about things like this. update: Meridith makes a very compelling “librarians should not be martyrs” point with plenty of stats to back up her vision of a more just professional association.