elbow grease and geocoding – making a map of Vermont’s public libraries

The really great thing about nearly any computer problem you might have is that it’s very unlikely that you are the first person to have it. So if you have access to the internet and Google (to get you to other online help sources like Stack Exchange and other random app sites) you can find a way to do what you want to do, often.

I am working on a long term project. I am trying to visit all of Vermont’s 183 libraries. One of the things I will need to do to get started on that project is to make a map. The Vermont Department of Libraries makes the location of most of these libraries available in an Excel spreadsheet (thanks!) I just needed to figure out how to make that spreadsheet into a map. I toyed around with the Vermont Center for Geographic information but was having trouble making a CSV file that would satisfy Silverlight’s obscure criteria. And then I found a site that would generate a KML file (for Google Earth/Maps) from a CSV file. And again, I was close, but couldn’t quite get it to work. Googling further I found this impressive site, BatchGeo, which basically says “Hey click here and paste your data and we’ll make our best guess as to how it works and then draw you a map!” I had decently clean data. I clicked and pasted, and this was the result.

View Vermont’s Public Libraries in a full screen map

Oddly, the same data file pasted in to Google winds up looking not quite so clean thanks to quirky handling of ampersands and the non-standard address format of the original data file. But who cares, all I needed was one map. 183 libraries (the most per capita of any state in the US) here I come! You can read more about Vermont’s libraries in this report by the Department of Libraries.

theming it up for 2013

I’ve been doing a lot less public speaking this year, by choice. Just trying to travel less, be more of a homebody, be choosier. I just noticed that I haven’t mentioned any of the talks I have been doing or will be doing, so this is the post that clears that up. I have done three talks this year, all thematically related. You may be able to detect the theme….

1

Basically they summarize what’s been going on in the world of Fair Use the past year (a lot!) and then talk about what libraries are doing and what they can do. I also talk a bit about my work for Open Library where I am volunteering doing email support, helping people freely download and read ebooks through the Internet Archive‘s somewhat quirky interface. It’s challenging and fun. The two are related but maybe not in the way you’d think. People who are curious about Open Library or maybe helping out a little, please drop me an email and I can talk more about it at length.

A few upcoming talks, most on the far horizon. In August I’ll be in Lincoln Nebraska talking to rural librarians about technology use and training. In April of next year I’ll be at both TXLA (my favorite state conference I think, though there are many close seconds) and then at the Michigan Rural Libraries Conference on Mackinac Island. If you’re going to any of these, please let me know.

2012 reading list, a year end summary

I’ve waited til the new year to write this list up. I’ve spent the first few days of the new year finishing up a few books that were lingering on the nightstand. Here’s the complete list, you’ll notice that I only finished some of the books in this photo which was my “to read” pile on 1/1/12.

Here are previous year end lists: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. My booklist lives over on jessamyn.info/booklist and it has its own RSS feed.

number of books read in 2012: 53
2011: 56
2010: 48
2009: 39
2008: 31
2007: 53
2006: 60
2005: 86
2004: 103
2003: 75
2002: 91
2001: 78

average read per month: 4.42
average read per week: 1.02
number read in worst month: 1 (Feb/Dec)
number read in best month: 11 (July)
percentage by male authors: 75
percentage by female authors: 19
fiction as percentage of total: 51
non-fiction as percentage of total: 49
percentage of total liked: 94
percentage of total ambivalent: 4
percentage of total disliked: 2

My reading is really getting to be consistent. I read about a book a week, split between fiction and non-fiction. I like most of the books that I read. I read a lot in July and not so much in December or February. Still no ebook reader, though I’ve been using my iPad more to watch Downton Abbey while I am on the treadmill. One book took me the better part of a month to get through (Quammen’s book about the Dodo and other extinctions) but it was well worth it. I read all the Hunger Games books in a little over a week and while I think that having read them is good for me as a librarian, I felt pretty “meh” about all but the first one, which surprised me.

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.

a few unrelated talks & travel

The interesting thing, to me about being known as an “influential librarian” is that sometimes when life gets busy people still know you as a blogger even if you’re not doing much blogging. I’m in the process of selling my house/barn–not the place where I live, but the “camp” of sorts that I have in northern Vermont–which has meant an awful lot of finicky projects and less leisure internet time. Not complaining, just explaining. Combining this with May/June being one of the busy times for public speaking and I’m becoming one of those can’t-wait-til-summertime people.

I’ve also been doing more work at MetaFilter. You might have read about a particularly weird event on our site in Gizmodo last week. Most of that happened while I was on the road in various places. I know we talk a lot about the “library anywhere” model, but with the funding structure of libraries, that sort of thing is really tough/complicated/impossible though it’s a vision of mine, right up there alongside, ironically, living inside the library. The two trips that I took were short ones. Here’s the description of the trips and talks.

1. I went to Montreal to go to the Mixmedias conference which was all about online community. I was invited to speak to talk about how I do what I do on MetaFilter. It was a small newish conference, but happening alongside a larger web conference and one all about smart televisions, something I know very little about. My talk “Markets are Conversations: creating and managing desirable online communities” was pretty well received and it was neat to be someplace where I got to talk to a lot of other people concerned with and working on online community ideas.

2. I went to one of my perennial favorites, the Maine Library Association conference in Orono Maine. I did a keynote/luncheon speech called Achieving Tech Literacy which was sort of the “Where do we go from here?” talk. It’s all new, not really a digital divide talk per se but more how to we get to the point where we have a rising tech tide that really DOES lift all boats, not just wash some of them entirely downstream, to strain a metaphor. I was very pleased with it and with the conference generally.

Both the drives allowed me to do something else I’m working on which is taking photos of more of Vermont’s 251 towns so that I can complete my “plus” membership in the club. Not that I get anything special from this, but I’m a completionist and this has been a fun project. I’ve been to all the towns but only photographed less than half of them. Upcoming talks include the LACUNY Institute next week, a NELA-ITS event (another perennial fave) and Charlotte/Mecklenburg County. This was all looking like a nice fun schedule a few months ago, now it’s looking a bit hectic. Please say hello if you see me zipping by.

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.

2011 reading list, a year end summary

Books
Image is by shutterhacks

I did a lot of reading-while-traveling this year. I got a lot of travel books from random library booksales. I’ve still been reading in paper-book form, as much as I see the compelling argument for ebook readers, I haven’t made the switch. Here are previous year end lists: 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. My booklist lives over on jessamyn.info/booklist and it has its own RSS feed. Here’s the wrap-up of what I read in 2011.

number of books read in 2011: 56
number of books read in 2010: 48
number of books read in 2009: 39
number of books read in 2008: 31
number of books read in 2007: 53
number of books read in 2006: 60
number of books read in 2005: 86
number of books read in 2004: 103
number of books read in 2003: 75
number of books read in 2002: 91
number of books read in 2001: 78

average read per month: 4.67
average read per week: 1.01
number read in worst month: 2 (Feb/April/Dec)
number read in best month: 10 (July)
percentage by male authors: 72
percentage by female authors: 28
fiction as percentage of total: 54
non-fiction as percentage of total: 46
percentage of total liked: 92
percentage of total ambivalent: 5
percentage of total disliked: 2

I read a lot of books by a few authors that I found and liked the year including Tana French, Geraldine Brooks and Connie Willis. Still not really on the ebook bandwagon. Still enjoying reading paper books in bed. Still finishing a few books I started in 2011, I expect this trend to continue. Wish me luck, and happy reading in 2011! Feel free to link to your own reading lists in the comments.

streamlined digital divide talk – 12 minutes

A few weekends ago I gave a talk at the KU Diversity Summit, an online conference that took place virtually, but also physically at the Kansas University School of Journalism in Lawrence Kansas. As you know, I have a soft spot for Kansas. As you may or may not know, I usually don’t do online conferences because I have a hard time dealing with the technical and social snafus that usually accompany them. I like to give talks, not be told I have to install Windows-only software or register for a site with sketchy privacy policies just to interact with listeners. I know other people can deal with this stuff gracefully and I happily recommend them when I’m saying “Thanks but no thanks” to people. I may be getting a little cranky in my old age, but I’m also just interested in giving higher quality talks less frequently. This is a goal for 2012.

Anyhow, the team from KU charmed me and assured me the tech issues would be minimal; I could do everything over Skype, have slides or not have slides and they’d field questions from the live audience and from Twitter. It went well. They had a tight schedule so asked me if ten minutes was okay. I said “Fifteen?” As it was I managed to do it in about twelve. The full video, all five hours of the conference, is available online here, but I’ve trimmed out the part that I did, short talk, short Q&A session afterwards and links to more information are at librarian.net/talks/ku. It think it’s a pretty concise summary of the major digital divide issues that I think are facing people and libraries.

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.

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. (more…)