Ask A Librarian: VPNs?

image of a tunnel from an old railway magazine from 1905

 

From a Vermont librarian: VPNs are really important and I’d like to remind our patrons about them, but it gets confusing pretty fast. My sense is that patrons (and people in general!) want bullet point answers and specific steps to take when it comes to tech. I don’t have any experience with VPNs other than I just turned it on through my Dashlane password manager today. I see that Wirecutter recommends IVPN and TorGuard for $60-70/year. Do you have a VPN you recommend or, short of a recommendation, use?

It’s super confusing isn’t it! Wirecutter suggestions are good ones. I do not use one. Some of it will really depend what they need.

For people who don’t want to stream content, for example, something like TunnelBear has a free option for low-bandwidth use.

Nerds I trust also suggest PIA and talk about easy setup.

So maybe you want to give people a little chart and show people options (low bandwidth, best rated, loved by nerds) but maybe not too many.

And then you can use this chart if your patron has some HUGE important thing (like privacy is the most important thing, or cost or whatever) that can help you choose one more tailor made. (you can download the chart so you don’t have to page through it ten items at a time).

My CNN editorial, how it all came to be

Screenshot of tweet from ALA quoting the first bit of my article ""Librarians to publishers: Please take our money. Publishers to librarians: Drop dead." — @jessamyn #eBooksForAll"

 

So I wrote an op-ed about the recent Macmillan/ebooks kerfuffle for CNN. Here’s how that all worked…. I got an email from Jane Carr (literary historian, daughter of a librarian, CNN opinion editor) on Monday asking if I’d be interested in writing a thing. I am deep in the throes of Summertime and asked the ever-important question: did it pay? It did (when I wrote a short opinion piece for the NYTimes, it did not) so we went ahead. We talked on the phone for about half an hour while I ranted about ebooks and publishers and copyright. Jane asked some questions about the situation, then we agreed on a timeline (from draft to final in four days so I could have a non-work weekend) and I asked a few questions (links okay? citations needed?) and I got to work.

I had a finished Google Docs draft by the end of Tuesday. Jane looked at it on Wednesday and made a few edits and asked a few questions. Then it got sent to a second editor who asked a few questions and specifically suggested I include more specifics about the Macmillan deal, a detail I presumed librarians knew, but one which really made the article accessible to a larger audience. With these edits done, it went to the managing editor who said “Okay.” It got approved last thing Thursday and went live around lunchtime Friday. They tweeted it and put it on their facebook–which is the only place anyone would leave comments, which was another one of my concerns.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that the response was largely positive, but I always figure when you’re a woman who writes anything on the internet, particularly something that could be seen as “edgy” in some circles, you take your chances. The whole thing involved 30 back-and-forth emails and 30 minutes of phone calls. I was happy with how it all came out.

woodshedding in libraryland II

image of a woodshed from the library of Congress collection

Been thinking about this blog and how a lot of the work I’ve been doing lately doesn’t always lend itself to longform reflection. When I looked up “woodshedding,” a term I use for talking about going back to library-school type activities (i.e. more learning, less doing) and found this post from 2008. It’s been a while since I’ve posted a “What I’m up to.” work report, so here we go.

    • Drop-in Time has become entirely self-funded which is to say I hustle for cash to support it. This mostly works. I got a few mini-grants from a former employer and some random cash infusion from a longtime internet pal. It’s not quite sustainable, but so far it endures.
    • I took a year off from traveling for work (New England only, no getting on an airplane) after realizing I was traveling more and enjoying it less. Mostly an adjustment for me, nothing to do with the lovely people who invited me to their things. And when I started picking it back up again, I realized I really could get back into it pretty easily. I was tweeting with Tara Robertson about that feeling you have, when you slow down on a thing, that you may not be able to start doing that thing again. Saying no more often meant that my yeses were all genuine and not motivated by FOMO.
    • Been writing a column for Computers in Libraries on and off (mostly on) since 2008 and just wrote a feature article about patron privacy this month.
    • I’ve been moving into some “increasing responsibility” areas. I’m now on the board of both the Vermont Humanities Council and the 251 Club of Vermont. I manage the web situation for the Vermont Library Association which is something I could be throwing myself into more. We’re moving to an online payment system which is stretching my talents, it’s good to stretch.
    • Likewise VLA needs an ALA Councilor and it might be time for me to step up and do my time there again. I haven’t been a member of ALA since the last time I was on Council. I’ll be giving it another shot.
    • I hit the 75th issue of my newsletter which is now three years old. 1400 people subscribe, and out of that maybe half read it.
    • Just got my old archives here on the sidebar, something I’d been meaning to do since I got this theme up and running. Enjoy!

And some things stay the same. My little privacy talk (and how to give it) has become a useful staple. I wrote one on SCAMS but it hasn’t caught on the same way. I live in my small town in the school year, and in Massachusetts, in a slightly larger town for the summer. I go to the library a lot. I read a lot. I think a lot about what I’ve seen over the past 25 years of librarianship and what that might mean for the next 25 years. Thanks for coming along with me.

How to make a brag deck for your library conference

slide showing a kid on a library sleepover with text describing the library's program

The conference Brag Deck is one of my favorite community engagement secret weapons. It’s a slide deck with pictures of things libraries want to show off. It runs on repeat somewhere during the conference, preferably someplace high-profile like over lunch or during a meeting. People can watch it, see what other libraries are doing, get ideas. I make a little web page that goes along with it so it’s available online all year. If you can make slides, operate email, and download images, you can do this. Here’s an example from last year (sorry no ALT text version available yet)

People make slides in a number of different ways, so I won’t get too into the technical weeds but here are a few tips.

– Don’t start too early. Ask people on your library mailing list (or other communication method) for a few images and text a few weeks out. “What’s something you’re proud of? Show it off here!”
– Remind people a few times in a non-nagging way. The last email can say “There’s still time!” a few days before the conference. You’ll be surprised how many last minute entries you’ll get. I got two on the day before the conference. The goal is to have a lot of participation.
– Email everyone who sends in images saying thank you and congratulating them on their achievement. We spend so much time recognizing others that we don’t always recognize ourselves. Your positive response helps.
– I do 1-2 slides per library, so that both big and small libraries get a chance to shine. If there are a few good images of one event I try to do a multi-image slide. Don’t get too fancy.
– Include the library’s name and location and a small bit of text about what is on each slide, so people can follow up with a library if they want to know more.

That’s it. Finish it up, bring it to the conference, set it somewhere on repeat. Especially by the end of a conference, people can be tired and want to just chill somewhere. Having something professionally applicable but also passive and relaxing is a great addition to any library conference.

Two new talks

I have mentioned elsewhere that doing less public speaking was an intentional decision. I took some time off and now I’m slowly taking some time back ON. I did a great webinar for the folks at WiLS on how to teach online privacy in the library, my usual talk. Then I made two new talks, one at the request of a local senior residence and one for a local Lifelong Learning Institute. Different and all new topics and both of them I’m really happy with. If you might be interested in me giving one of these talks at your event, do let me know.

First, a talk on my quest to visit all of Vermont’s 183 libraries. You may have read about the guys who are doing this in Boston. I am jealous of their website but also maybe not in total agreement that rating libraries is good for morale. I did a talk with some library history, some library trivia, and a few good jokes about Vermont. You can see my slides and notes here or read the entire talk here.

Second, the talk about scams is more of an outline that I talk over (so no built-in narrative it sort of flows where the conversation takes it. People are concerned about the ways people rip people off and this is especially the case in the online world where a lot of people, particularly older people, can feel out of their depth and not at all sure if they’re doing the right thing. I wanted to give sensible, practical advice that wasn’t just stuff like “Never click on an email attachment!” because, quite frankly, that is dumb advice.

slide showing trivia facts about vermont's libraries readable at the URL given

Next week I get on an airplane to give a keynote talk at the MD/DE Library Conference. I’m pretty excited. If you see me there, please say hello.