This year SXSW got the audio up from the panels very quickly. This panel isn’t mostly me, it’s mostly my two co-panelists Fiona Morgan and Justin Grimes talking about the other non-library issues surrounding how and why people can or can’t get access to broadband internet. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, you might like it. The panel went well, was well attended and started a lot of conversations that I think still need to be happening. I myself was without decent internet here at home for the past week since I got back from SXSW (I switched ISPs and had some in-between time where I “only” had access via my iphone and local wifi including, yes, the library) and it changed my life patterns more than I even thought it would. Interesting times.
I was at an NHLA business meeting talking to people about why they might care about what I had for breakfast. It’s a flip way of talking about the whole “Who cares about Twitter/Facebook/Social?” stuff that I feel I hear softly filtering down from offline populations who mostly know about this sort of technology through print media and TV. So, given an opportunity to talk about what I do all day, I explained how social media permeates and penetrates the things I do.
My employer, MetaFilter, has a strong social component as well as claiming over 200 librarians among its members. While the site itself is fairly restricted to bloggish interaction, we have some super-organized members who like to compile Best Of sorts of lists over on our wiki. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but the Read Me page on the wiki now has links to over 1000 threads worth of book recommendations.
Last week I was down at Simmons where I gave a really short talk about … talking. Basically talking about what public speaking entails and offers in the larger world of librarianship. It’s called “You Do What For A Job?” and you might like it.
So, since I was sticking around town working this month I didn’t go to Internet Librarian or most of NELA, and a few smaller conferences. It was fun to read other people’s summaries, and occasionally real-time reactions, for all the presentations. I’ll be making a sort of “what I learned from not going to conferences” post sometime in the next few days. For now, I’m done with public speaking until March and I’m pretty okay with that. It’s been a fun Fall season.
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.
Tom Bruce from Cornell’s Legal Information Institute talks about technologists being managed by non-technologists, and about the future of academic libraries in this thoughtful and amusing plenary talk.
In my experience, most of us don’t think about professions most of the time. We just get up and drag ass to work, whether we’re law teachers or opera singers or technologists or librarians or plumbers. We like to go to work if that is a place where our expertise is respected. And if we are not respected and we see ourselves as having little control over the very things for which we are held responsible, all of us get very, very unhappy. At the simplest level talk about professional models is nothing more and nothing less — on both sides — than displaced anxiety about where we stand in the workplace. Librarians have, for a long time, been able to draw some comfort and stability from trappings built up around the technology of print. That is going away. Technologists never had such a stable place to stand. And universities and law schools are particularly anxious workplaces now. So maybe we should spend less time debating professional models and concentrate on why it is that we need to talk about them so badly.
I gave a really fun talk in Utica, New York at the MidYork Library System lately. It was an overview of social tools [mainly how libraries are using Twitter and Facebook] with the added “how to make a widget” aspect that I think helps people envision real live things they could do with it. I used feed2js to make a new sidebar on librarian.net for New York Times Best Sellers, all right in front of them. Without doing anything more complicated than copying and pasting. I’m happy that all the “bla bla RSS” talking we’ve been doing is now meeting web tools like My Yahoo and Google reader [and other standalone products] so that people can really quickly and easily set up revolving content on their otherwise static websites.
You can see my notes and slides here. Success with Social Networking. Thanks very much to the nice people at Mid-York for setting up such a fun day.
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.
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.
I was at the Nevada Library Association conference this week. I gave two talks, one was a fairly standard talk about things you can do with very little money and staffing to beef up your library. The other was a topic I’ve been enjoying more lately, about the ethics of Library 2.0. Slides and notes and links are here. Aaron was talking recently about this slightly on Walking Paper… now that libraries have access to what we call “2.0 tools” how can we reign in some of the playtime and help direct people towards the most useful and/or appropriate uses of new stuff?
I showed off a bunch of Nevada libraries that were using interesting tools. By and large the larger libraries had integrated some interesting cloud-based tools to help deliver content on their websites. Other smaller libraries were hit or miss, some had interestingly integrated technology, others had a blog that hadn’t been updated in a year and a half. There is a great article in this month’s Computers in Libraries [note to infotoday staff: put this stuff online!] about what public libraries really are and are not using as far as technology generally [old school and new school tools]. The results are sort of what you’d think. Libraries in bigger population zones are using tech a lot — online catalogs, email contact form and website are standard — whereas small libraries are less likely to be using this. Interestingly, because of the population skew of urban vs. rural environments most people using libraries have access to OPACs and library websites, while only 80-ish% of libraries [by number] actually have these things.
It’s been making me think, this week, about what to do about the trailing 20%. The Nevada Library Association is smaller than the Vermont Library Association, it was great to get to hang around with some fellow traveler librarians.
danah boyd speaks at the Personal Democracy Forum about “The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online”
For decades, we’ve assumed that inequality in relation to technology has everything to do with “access” and that if we fix the access problem, all will be fine. This is the grand narrative of concepts like the “digital divide.” Yet, increasingly, we’re seeing people with similar levels of access engage in fundamentally different ways. And we’re seeing a social media landscape where participation “choice” leads to a digital reproduction of social divisions. This is most salient in the States which is intentionally the focus of my talk here today.
I suggest you read it all, it’s not terribly long, but if you’re part of the tl;dr generation, the salient point for libraries is this
If you are trying to connect with the public, where you go online matters. If you choose to make Facebook your platform for civic activity, you are implicitly suggesting that a specific class of people is more worth your time and attention than others. Of course, splitting your attention can also be costly and doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be reaching everyone anyhow. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The key to developing a social media strategy is to understand who you’re reaching and who you’re not and make certain that your perspective is accounting for said choices. Understand your biases and work to counter them.