Lobbying my rep about the Move to Amend project

On Wednesday I spoke to the assistant to my congressional representative’s assistant encouraging her to be a co-sponsor of the We the People amendment. I prepared remarks because otherwise I tend to go on.

“I’m an elected official in my town, Randolph Vermont, and I work all the local elections. I also work in the public library where we struggle constantly against giant publishers who hold the ebook market under their absolute control, deciding prices and terms while also being the only game in town, not truly subject to market forces.

Nationally, public libraries are struggling under constant book challenges in public and school libraries. These challenges are frequently brought by centralized fake parenting organizations (in that the people who organize them may be parents but they are not usually parents of people in the schools and towns where they bring these challenges, they just find a local parent and tell them what to do) and are forwarding a dangerous white supremacist and anti-LGBTQ agenda while donating incredible amounts of money towards elections from school boards to Congress. It has to stop.

People need a level playing field so that we will truly live in a democracy and one person gets one vote and where corporate non-persons (that never die, that have special interests, that legally exist to accumulate capital, that *shouldn’t* have free speech in all cases) are suitably regulated and only enjoy privileges that are given to them by people and regulated by governments.

We are seeing, nationwide, situations in which a majority, a large majority, of Americans support or believe in a thing (abortion rights, legalized marijuana, the rights of our gay and trans friends and neighbors) but are having their voices drowned out by the “speech” of big money trying, and often succeeding, in influencing legislation via gerrymandering, fake grassroots organizations, and undue influence in elections.

And it’s a Vermont issue. Nearly one fifth of Vermont towns have passed resolutions at town meeting (over a decade ago) affirming that they feel money is not speech and corporations are not people.

Legal privileges for businesses, even non-profits, are subject to the political process already in place. Artificial persons should not have civil rights though the people who make them up absolutely should.

Money is not speech and corporations are not persons and people have rights over corporations which have the privileges we give them.

I work for my town. I believe in democracy. I want to live in a country where every person gets a vote and every non-person gets no votes.”

CIL reprint: Your Digital Life After You

This article was originally published in Computers in Libraries magazine in 2017. Some of the advice may be out of date.

Practical Technology – Your Digital Life After You
by Jessamyn West

More and more, our lives are lived online. When my father died six years ago, we were pleased to find a Google Document with the usernames and passwords to every account he ?owned?. He was an engineer and so this was not terribly surprising. Most of these accounts were things like bank account?s and cable subscriptions, but a few were email accounts and (small) social media profiles. This made a complicated time much simpler.

What if we hadn’t been able to access his information? Jan Zastrow has written a great article on digital estate planning which mentioned some of these ideas. Here are some specific tech tools you can use to help you archive and prepare your legacy on social media sites and content repositories.
Continue reading “CIL reprint: Your Digital Life After You”

How we announced we’re strongly encouraging salary/hourly pay scale in online job postings

I am the lead on the Vermont Library Association website. One of the things we do a LOT of is post jobs. Many of these jobs are in small or rural libraries and don’t always pay well. We made a decision to start strongly encouraging people to post the pay range and here was our explanation for why.

We’ve been talking amongst ourselves on the web team and wanted to put in a friendly encouragement for people to put salary or hourly $$ ranges and description of benefits in their job ads if they’re posting them on the VLA web site.

We’d like this for a few reasons, primarily because of equity and diversity issues. This slightly tongue in cheek blog post has a good enumeration of the reasons that this is a positive move for employers to make.


And here’s a slightly more serious post from NTEN


  • People don’t want to apply for a job if they don’t know the salary and if it will pay what they need a job to pay (i.e you will get more and better applicants if you include this information)
  • Transparency with salaries leads to better equity among staff (i.e. “harder negotiators” don’t necessarily get paid more, people know what to expect)
  • If the salary isn’t on the job ad, ask yourself why it isn’t (I know many of our jobs don’t pay well, but this is a separate issue, not one that should lead to pay being left off of a job ad)

If people would like to discuss this as a group, or email me directly, please feel free. Thank you for considering it.

Ask A Librarian: setting up a WP site accessibly?

image which is itself showing a stock image with the HTML code for alt text and then arrows from it point to three different "use cases" underneath: screen readers, search engines and broken images.
Image by: Seobility – License: CC BY-SA 4.0

I was talking to a woman on Twitter about this but it was worth re-stating st length. Building in website accessibility from the get-go is much better–both in terms of hassle factor and in terms of outcomes–than bolting it on after the fact. If you’re building a small library website using WordPress, here are some resources for you. Here’s a nice starter page that talks about some considerations. Continue reading “Ask A Librarian: setting up a WP site accessibly?”

Ask A Librarian: What is the deal with “free” ebook sites?

screenshot of a page from the bookshowing two girls looking at a computer screen which says WIN PRIZES

It’s been an odd set of months. I got busy with Drop-In Time and then very un-busy. I’ve been keeping up with my newsletter a little, and doing email Drop-in Time, public awareness stuff on various mailing lists, keeping my ear to the ground. Still acting as a Qualifying Authority for the Internet Archive’s print-disabled program which got a LOT more visible thanks to the National Emergency Library. And so it was natural that someone would ask me about this. Got any questions, feel free to drop me a note. This question was a little longer, but a brief summary is a librarian question: “patrons who were asking about “free” ebook sites, ranging from OpenLibrary to ZLibrary. Are they safe? Legal? Should we even mention them to our patrons?” My response, which comes from my very particular place…

Hey there — thanks for asking. I do know a lot of these sites and I used to work for Open Library. My feelings on this topic are kind of complex, so I’ll just outline what I know. Sorry this is long!

So there are outright “We pirate stuff’ sites like Mobilism and ZLibrary. These are places that are basically set up to pirate things and have no veneer of legality to them. I have personally used them on rare occasions but I don’t think I’d point a patron to them. They often point people to sketchy download sites where it it incredibly easy to pick up viruses and etc. Though I must note the sites themselves do not have viruses or malware to the best of my knowledge. Continue reading “Ask A Librarian: What is the deal with “free” ebook sites?”