December is the wrap-up month around here. I’m still holding out hope that my booklist will gain another item or two, but I know I’m not doing any more public speaking in 2007 so I thought I’d do a wrap up and talk a little bit about behind the scenes stuff at librarian.net inc.
First of all, thanks to all the organizations that hosted me in 2007. This includes state and regional library associations like NELA, VLA, NSLA, NEASIS&T, ACURIL, ILN, LocLib and LARC. It also includes library systems that I came to do talks and workshops for, such as the University of Michigan, Halifax public libraries, Dodge City and Manhattan KS public libraries, a small group of New Hampshire libraries, and the State Library of South Australia. Lastly, I went to a few tech conferences like Computers in Libraries and Access 2007. Please forgive me for not linking to all of them, you can find more details as always on my Past Talks page. Some of these talks were paid gigs, some were gratis and allowed me to travel, some were supporting my local organizations, and some were all about spreading my ideas far and wide. Thanks to all these groups of librarians, technologists, administrators, and students for helping spread the word, whatever the word happens to be. Thanks to my day job for giving me the flexibility to do this much travelling.
One of the things that is challenging about my job teaching technology classes and working with local libraries is that the job pays terribly and it’s very very local. This means that I work with people who rely on me to use my big network to bring new ideas in and also to spread their stories and challenges to the larger world. I’m happy to get a chance to do that, and joyful that I’ve found a niche where I can be both local and global. Doing public speaking helps pay the bills a little but also allows me to do travelling that I could never do on my little local budget.
I also feel incredibly fortunate that for someone as technologically interested as I am I’ve been able to find an additional job really making a lot of my 2.0 interests live and breathe on the web. Being a community moderator at MetaFilter has been a full-time real paying job for me this year. Not only have I gotten to see Ask MetaFilter, our Q and A part of the site, become even more popular than the original linkblog part of the site, but I’ve also seen many librarians join and help people with their questions. I maintain a “last five questions on AskMe” sidebar to the web version of librarian.net, check it out if you’re interested.
With the site owner and two other employees, we’ve been able to use a lot of social tools to help people connect and share interests and get to know each other. This year alone we’ve added twitter, flickr and last.fm feeds to user profile pages, created an “also on” feature so that users can find MeFites on other social sites, and made our tagging system much more robust with the addition of a concerted backtagging effort. We’ve created resources that I’ve mentioned here such as the ReadMe wiki page for reading suggestions, the EatMe wiki page for food and cooking suggestions and a ShopMe section where users buying holiday gifts are encouraged to patronize the online shops of other MeFites.
I’m aware that a lot of this may just seem like frippery. However, I’ve spent a lot of time this year in between trips, in my Vermont fortress of solitude, thinking about what people want out of life and what I want out of life and how libraries do or do not meet those needs. Out here, I go to libraries for work and to get books and movies, but also to see people and have people see me. There’s a sense in which we don’t entirely exist, to me, unless our presence in the world has an impact, however small or however fleeting. Thursday I went to staff my usual drop-in time at the computer lab. My only student that day was a regular attendee who hadn’t been around in a while. She had been in my email class and I had helped her get her first email account. Her son, about my age, committed suicide in November. She had been home with her husband receiving a steady flow of well-wishers and co-grievers and casseroles. She was tired and she was sad but she wanted to leave the house and do something “normal” where people wouldn’t be clutching her arm saying “I’m SO sorry!” I had heard the news but hadn’t known what to say and as a result said nothing.
I’ve been dealing with my own melancholy thoughts lately and I haven’t had a lot of free cycles for other people, to my regret. So she came by, and we turned on the computer, and then just sat and talked in the lab for a few hours while the screen saver blinked at us. I think we both walked out the door feeling marginally better about our lives and the impending Wall of Holidays that I find difficult even in the very best of years.
So, thanks to you for reading this and for doing what you do, whatever you do, as well. Peace to you in the new year.