Amy Goodman from Democracy Now interviews Brian DeShazor the director of the Pacifica Radio Archives. He talks about finding a lost speech of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
So, this recording, this archive is an American treasure, and every citizen in America, I hope, understands that this collection, we want to be able to make it accessible to you, the public. We want it to be in the classrooms. We want it to be in high schools. We want universities to have this for their scholarly research and their scholarly endeavors. And that will make history change. It will be able to have us, the political left, Free photo effectsif you will, the progressive left, the record of the activism available for history in the future. And if we donâ€™t preserve this deteriorating, fragile tape, then that history will be lost, and weâ€™ll lose the connection with our elders, like Dr. King. This very speech, this may have the quote that inspires somebody to take the next step in our fight for racial equality and justice in America.
This title sounds fancy but mostly I needed to play catch-up and this seems like the best way to do that. Hi. In the past month I’ve done two public speaking type things that went well and some other stuff. I’ve been remiss in sharing them in a timely fashion. So now I’m sharing them in a list fashion.
- I went to Mississippi for the MLA Conference which was a great time. I led a facilitated discussion pre=conference which is the first real time I’ve done something like that. You can read the slides here: The Digital Divide and You which includes input from the discussion part of the afternoon. I stuck around for the conference and was very glad I did. I put some photos up here. Thank you MLA, the Mississippi Library Commission and especially MLA President Amanda Clay Powers for showing me a good time.
- VLA hosted a table at VT’s first annual ComicCon. This was a hugely fun event and terrific for library outreach. We had free stickers and reading lists, a display of banned graphic novels and people could get their photos taken in our “Vermont Comic Reader’s License” booth which netted a ton of delightful photographs (more on facebook). We also sponsored one of the special guests — Dave Newell, Mr. McFeely from Mister Roger’s Neighborhood) and he did storytime at the booth with puppets. I staffed the table one of the days. Such a good time. Huge shout-outs to other planners: Helen Linda, rottenSam Maskell and Hannah Tracy.
- Another MLA! This time the Massachusetts Small Libraries Conference (also the “first annual”) and I was the keynote speaker talking about how to Future-proof libraries. A combination of talking about what the challenges and unique positions small and rural libraries are in as well as some ways to nudge people towards getting interested in the online world. Notes and slides here. Big thanks to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners & the Massachusetts Library System.
- I started writing for The Open Standard, Mozilla’s new online-writing thing. My first article, After Some Victories, the Time Has Come to Legally Define â€˜Fair Useâ€™, has been up for a while now. I’d love to know what you think.
- Also I’m not sure if I was explicit in my “I’m moving on” post about MetaFilter but I’m still at least somewhat looking for work. I love Open Library and my local teaching but I’ve got a few more hours in my schedule and would be happy to do some more speaking, some consulting or some writing. I have a one-pager website that summarizes my skillset. Feel free to pass it along to people.
I gave a really quick “How to do an elevator speech” talk after lunch at MLA (the one in MA, not the one in MS) and it was really fun. All librarians should practice their elevator speeches. Here’s my one slide from that talk. You can probably get the gist of it.
One of the other great things about the Rural Libraries Conference is that, in addition to giving a keynote presentation, I was also given a workshop slot to … basically do whatever I wanted. One of the things that I think is frequently missing from conference planning is some way to help people with follow-through on the ideas they get or the things they want to try or even keeping in touch with the people they meet. Conferences are often a lot of fast-paced learning and mingling and fun and weird food and odd schedules and then people come home and sleep it off and it all seems like a distant dream when they get back to work. I’m sure this is triply true if you’re at a conference someplace wacky like The Grand Hotel.
So I did a very short presentation called Maintaining Momentum and talked about some ways to keep the energy up. You can read the (very short) slide deck [pdf, link fixed!] to get an idea of what it was like. I did something I basically never do which was get people split up into pairs and give them a buddy to check in with in two weeks, with little handouts to swap email and ideas. We went around the room and talked about things we’d seen that we liked and might want to implement (in the library and just in life generally). I also got an email list of everyone’s contact info (note for future talks: tell people to print legibly) and learned to use MailChimp myself to send a one-time-only “Hey get in touch with your buddy” reminder which was part of what I’d vowed to learn.
It was a great presentation, people were really into it and seemed to enjoy having space for a bit of a meta-discussion about the conference while at the conference. I’m really happy I went outside my usual comfort zone to put it together, very appreciative of the great folks who showed up and gratified that people didn’t talk all the way through this one (except when they were supposed to).
Apologies in advance because this isn’t really about libraries as much as about conferencing. Maybe more of an etiquette post than anything.
I skipped April. Not on purpose. I was supposed to go to TXLA and came down with a weird lingering flu. I’m usually a “push through the pain” person but not enough to get on an airplane with a fever and potentially make other people sick. No one needs that. So I missed TXLA which was a huge bummer. They were incredibly understanding about it. And then there was a week of school vacation where I teach so I decided to hunker down in MA and get well and make sure I could make it to the Rural Libraries conference in Michigan. Upstate Michigan. The UP, where it was still frozen enough so that the ferries we were supposed to take to Mackinac Island were possibly not running. So now I was in a situation where I was rarin’ to go but the conference might not happen at all.
My main contact, Shannon White from the Library of Michigan, did an amazing job with a very difficult situation. She gave low-drama email updates (to me but also all attendees) as we got news from the ferry and told me what the timeframe was in case we’d have to cancel. When I arrived in St. Ignace (via Michael Stephens’ place, so great to see him) the weather was terrible and the flight we were supposed to take was cancelled. Many people including us were stuck there overnight when we would have preferred to be at the conference venue, the Grand Hotel. I was put up in a decent hotel and fed dinner and we discussed jockeying for ferry positions the next morning. I had warned everyone in advance of even taking this speaking gig that I was not a morning person and someone graciously got up early and got a timestamped ferry ticket for me for later in the day. This was a huge deal.
The Grand Hotel is one of those places that is fancy but also deeply committed to service. All of their 385 rooms are different. When I finally got to the hotel at about 1 pm on the day I was speaking, I was put in a crazy-looking suite that overlooked the water. Which was terrific except that there was a crew of hotel-opener people (the hotel officially opened the day after the conference closed) that was going over the front of the place with leaf-blowers and lawn tools and who knows what else. I moved my room to an equally quirky suite on the back of the hotel where I rested after a day and a half of on-again-off-again travel.
My talk about the 21st Century Digital Divide was done in an oddly-shaped room without the benefit of slides. I’ve talked about it elsewhere (short form: people who could not see or hear me talked through it) but it was a suboptimal setup which we all tried to make the best of. I got a lot of positive feedback from the state library folks despite some of the shortcomings and they made a special reminder announcement before the next keynote about not carrying on conversations while people were speaking. I heard it was great, I was asleep. My workshop the next day about maintaining conference momentum went really well and, again, I got great support from the organizers as well as the hotel when I decided I needed last-minute handouts.
All in all, despite a situation where there were a lot of things that were out of people’s control, the conference was memorably great for me personally and I think for a lot (most?) of the attendees as well. As much as people made joking “Never again!” comments, there was something about working together in unusual settings through various kinds of adversity that brings people closer together. I felt well-taken care of and appreciated as well as well-compensated. And, personally, I had a great time. The people I talked to all felt the same. Thanks, Library of Michigan.
A few links for people who like that sort of thing
I kicked off my year of “Back doing talks” with giving the keynote talk at the METRO-NY’s annual conference. I was invited by Jason Kucsma who I know from way back in the day as one of the founders of Clamor Magazine, where I wrote an article about the USA PATRIOT Act in 2004. Jason is now the executive director of METRO-NY and we marveled at how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Clamor’s back issues are hosted at the Internet Archive. They also do Open Library which I’ve been volunteering for over the past year.
My talk was about the past eighteen months of fair use and other similar decisions that we’ve seen in the courts recently and talking about how now, more than ever, it’s a good time to start affirmatively and possibly aggressively sharing our cultural content. You can read the talk online here and see my notes.
One of my favorite things about going to conferences to speak is that I also get to go to listen. I went to three presentations and I had useful takeaways from all of them. This is what I learned.
- Beyond Digitization: Hacking Structured Data out of Historical Documents – this was a presentation by a few of the folks at NYPL labs discussing how their crowdsourced “help us structure the data in our theater program” project worked. Great demo, interesting talk. Big takeaway: data, raw data, needs to be “first class citizen” in libraries and be available like other materials. We have a lot of content that isn’t just in monograph/serial form, we should get it out there.
- Open Access is a Lot of Work!: How I Took a Journal Open Access and Lived to Tell About It – Emily Drabinski talked about how she got the Radical Teacher monograph into an open access model and how it was worth it but also a lot of work. Big takeaway: shifting the model to where you do more labor for the project instead of just paying more for it can be useful in not just bottom-line cash ways.
- Transforming Computer Training Services @ Your Library – Brandy McNeil at NYPL has turned their tech training program into a big, polished, smoothly working system. This is partly because of funding but in many ways it’s because of the buy-in she was able to get and the collaborations that she did with many other people (branch managers, marketers, IT people, etc) and she outlined how that worked and why it was worth it. Big takeaway: centralizing services and having a consistently branded approach can be very useful in a situation where you have 80+ sites and three languages and countless people and spaces to work with.