Greetings Seven Days readers. For folks who are not Seven Days readers, you might enjoy the article that was written about me this week: Jessamyn West Documents Vermont Public Libraries. I’ve had this idea kicking around for a while, to do my own version of the 251 Club where I visit and photograph all the public libraries in Vermont, all 183 of them (stats from Department of Libraries). It’s one of those this is going to take me several years projects which is AOK with me. I’ve gotten some interest from the Vermont Library Association–no surprise there–and just maybe we’ll be able to make a little Vermont Library Passport book with a list and a place you can get a date stamp marking your visit. For now though I’ve just got the big wall map that I made and some highlighter pens and my trusty Gazetteer along with this online map which I can probably improve. Of course holidaytime is not a great time to start any non-holidaytime project so it may be a bit before I get this all consolidated into one place but since the article said to check out this page for more, I thought having a little something here might be a good idea. Thanks for reading.
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.
Image, which I hope is self-explanatory, by Darien Library.
One of the first places I went after the storm was over was the local library. I was supposed to work the day earlier because our librarian literally couldn’t get to work, but then wound up not working because there was no power at the library. My local library suffered no storm damage. Other libraries weren’t as lucky. The Department of Libraries in Vermont has been terrific both in trying to contact every library as well as informing the other librarians statewide about what needs to be done, who is in trouble and how to apply for FEMA grants now that libraries are an essential service (again thanks thanks thanks to all the people who lobbied to have that done). Here are some links to people doing things that may be instructive or useful for you either in figuring out who to help or in managing crises like this in the future.
- Department of Libraries website which has a front page post about the flooding
- Marlboro College’s LibGuide about flooding in their local area with resources and links
- LibraryThing has set up a wiki for tracking libraries that have been damaged and are in need of assistance. Not much there yet, please add informaiton if you have any.
- This Library Journal article also details other libraries that have suffered damage. One of the problems we’re having in Vermont is that due to power failures and transportation issues, some of the most badly affected areas are the ones we’ve heard from the least.
I’ve spent a lot of the past few days checking out the pages on Facebook where a lot of the communication about the recovery efforts are taking place. In case you’re curious, here are some of the pages where a lot of the local recovery work and information dispersal is actually happening
- Vermont Flooding 2011 was where the first news and photos were. People would tag news media organizations in their photos so photos would show up on the news media’s facebook pages and people asked a lot of “is this or that area okay?”
- VT Response and VT Response forum which has a listing of town-specific places to ask questions and offer or receive help
- HELP VERMONT specifically targeted towards relief work efforts
- Vermont 13 – keeping awareness alive about the 13 towns that were literally inaccessible thanks to flooding
- A road specific page about the damage to Route 107 which is a road that goes through the town next to mine.
- Road closures: official state page, collaborative Google map, another page with data visualization about the state
- CommonGood VT has a round up of services for citizens who need help
- VT Emergency Management has updates on Twitter via Facebook
- 802 Rescue is about how to volunteer for relief efforts
I’ll probably talk more about the upsides and downsides to using social media for this sort of thing, but the upside is it worked. People got information and they got help because they had access to things like Facebook and Twitter through their phones when they didn’t have any electricity, telephones or computers. Worth learning about.
The Boston Globe [via Associated Press] has a short article comparing bringing broadband to rural America to the rural electrification program which finally wired up the last of Vermont towns in the early 60s. The story is what you would expect, except that it’s a little maddening that the options offered are 1. wait for broadband and suffer with dial-up, or 2. nothing. The byline of East Burke points to a town with a teeny library that is open 12 hours per week. West Burke has a larger library but it’s still not large enough to have a website. According to the VT Department of Libraries’ statistics it doesn’t have a single public access computer. Lyndon is the closest town with high speed at their library. Not too far, but still several miles.
Doing a quick autofilter on the DoL’s list shows 183 public libraries in the state of Vermont. Ten have dial-up internet access. Thirteen have nothing. Seventy-five libraries have no wireless internet access. It’s possible I’m reading the statistics wrong, but this is fewer libraries with internet than in 2009. I sure hope I am reading the charts wrong.
Dial-up user Val Houde knows this as well as anybody. After moving here four years ago, the 51-year-old mother of four took a correspondence course for medical transcription, hoping to work from home. She plunked down $800, took the course, then found out the software wasn’t compatible with dial-up Internet, the only kind available to her.
Selling items on eBay, watching videos, playing games online? Forget it. The connection from her home computer is so slow, her online life is one of delays, degraded quality, and “buffering’’ warning messages. So she waits until the day a provider extends broadband to her house.
I talk a lot about how availability of free online tools is really helping small organizations get things done. Here is an example in a note that came across the Vermont Libraries listserv this week which I’ve reprinted with permission.
In our rural state, many libraries are staffed by a single staff person, or by a very small staff. This can make it a challenge to accomplish large projects within a short time period, have an extended vacation, or take advantage of a professional development opportunity. Also, those librarians who work part-time sometimes would like to expand their experience, network and income with additional work within their profession.
Here’s how it works:
If you would like the opportunity to sub or temp at a library in your area, or are seeking freelance work or volunteer opportunities, simply fill out the Vermont Library Substitute Pool Form at http://www.vermontlibraries.
be available for one year to libraries looking to fill a need.
We particularly encourage current library staff and volunteers interested in exploring work in other kinds of libraries to sign up for the sub pool. For example, if you are a school librarian interested in finding out what it might be like working with children or teens in a public library setting, the substitute pool could be an excellent opportunity for you.
We anticipate that there will be a mix of paid and unpaid opportunities available.
Libraries looking for a volunteer, project temp, or other such staffing need, will be able to request a single log in to access the data. To do so, please contact our Vermont Library Substitute Pool volunteer, Helen Linda, at email@example.com with the name and email address of your library representative.
The VLA has also provided a space to list ongoing Volunteer Opportunities at libraries, http://www.vermontlibraries.
We currently have 55 people on the list and they represent every county in the state (most of them selecting multiple counties). Below is the breakdown of current availability:
- Chittenden: 27
- Washington: 21
- Addison: 16
- Franklin: 15
- Orange: 18
- Windsor: 16
- Caledonia: 14
- Lamoille: 14
- Windham: 11
- Rutland: 8
- Essex: 8
- Bennington: 7
- Orleans: 6
In the habit I seem to be in of writing posts about topics I deeply care about, here is a late Friday post about Open Source library catalogs. I was at an in-service day at the Howe Library in Hanover on Monday talking about Open Source. I gave a version of a talk I gave in Athens GA at the Evergreen conference, back when my OS project was still looking all shiny and before the LibLime implosion (and Nicole’s departure) and before Karen took a cool job on the West Coast. The talk was fun, well-received and then we had lunch together and talked some.
In the course of talking to various librarians, it became clear that there are a lot of separate OS projects going on in New England. There’s the VOKAL project which I’m loosely involved with — and I get to work with Nicole because Bywater has the support contract! — and the VT state librarian has been talking about a statewide catalog. New Hampshire is looking at a similar thing, though I’m not sure how far along they are. And I’ve been talking back and forth with Brian Herzog about the MA Open Source Project. Looks like they’re hiring a coordinator! I only wish I could go to either one of these presentations but I’m off following my own different drummer to the Iowa Library Conference and then to BitNorth in Montreal the following weekend. If anyone goes, please do let me know how it goes. Exciting times.
“The Vermont Department of Libraries has been publishing Good Ideas irregularly, beginning in 1988. Each edition includes the contributions of many public libraries. This blog was set up to continue the tradition but make it easier for librarians to search, use and print the resources.”
So if you read the papers at all, you know that even though things are tough, people use libraries like crazy. That said, libraries are getting funding cuts, despite, in many cases, increased use. This sucks. One of the things about living in Vermont is that there’s not that much to even trim from our budgets, but the state library (and the newish state librarian whose job I do not envy at all) closed one of Vermont’s very few regional libraries to the public and libraries who want to borrow materials now have to make appointments. This is at a time when library circulation in the state is up almost six percent and local tax support is up five percent. In other state library news
- Ohio’s libraries are looking at a potential 50% funding cut. The Shuttered Library blog has been set up to track this issue.
- The State Library of Michigan (almong with other Michigan state government offices) is implementing unpaid furlough days on Fridays through the summer.
- Pennsylvania will consider themselves lucky if they wind up with level funding after defeating a bill that proposed 50% cuts.
- Nevada State Library is cutting hours, from being open to the public 8-5 to being open 10-2.
So, I gave a short talk at the Library 2.0 Symposium at Yale on Saturday. Put on by the Information Society Project, it was a gathering of people ruminating on the nature of future libraries. Only a few of the participants seemed to know our profession’s definition of Library 2.0 but that didn’t seem to matter much. There are some great summaries of the panel discussions on the Yale ISP blog. Most people there were academic, but I did get to hang out with Josh Greenberg from NYPL and see Brewster Kahle talk about the Internet Archive’s book scanning project. My general angle was that while we talk a lot about the “born digital” generation, there are still places here in the US — hey, I live in one — where the sort of network effect that is necessary for 2.0 sorts of things still eludes us. We each got about ten minutes and I could have used twenty, but you can look at my five slides if you’d like.
The whole day was worthwhile, but it’s somewhat ironic that we were encouraged to use twitter and blog our reactions while the room the panel was in had almost no wifi and no outlets. I don’t know why this sort of thing still surprises me, but I just felt that a high-powered panel would be able to receive high-powered tech support and handle things like this. Not so.
Today we got notification that public library statistics are available for Vermont and got a link to this page. No HTML summary so I’m going to pull out a few things that I thought were notable so maybe other people can link to it or maybe I’ll crosspost on the VLA blog.
- Vermont has 182 public libraries, the largest number of libraries per capita in the US.
- 174 of these libraries have Internet access; 160 of these have high speed access. Do the math, that’s 14 libraries with dial-up and eight with nothing.
- Half of the public librarians in the state have MLSes or the equivalent.
- 73% of Vermont library funding comes from local taxes; 27% comes from other local sources (grants, fundraising)
- Eleven public libraries filter internet access on all terminals (as opposed to some libraries that offer a children’s filtered option)
The library that I work in serves about 1300 people and is open nineteen hours per week. We’re the only library at our population level (serving 1000-2499 people) that loaned more books than we borrowed via ILL. Ninety-six percent of the service population have library cards. I’m still reading for more details, fascinating stuff really.
Librarians at my town library — Kimball Library in Randolph Vermont — win the Paul Howard award for Courage. I wish I could say I had anything to do with any of this, but I was away at ALA while all of this was going down. This award is good news. Just yesterday at town meeting the head of our our library trustees had to defend the decisions that the library made during that difficult time whch included the fact that the library received an apology from the police for their illegal request of the library’s public computers. Meanwhile, the library has to reduce hours due to decreased funding.