It doesn’t matter what we look like, what matters is what we do.
You may have seen the news, my small claims case against Equifax was mostly successful. This delights me. Mostly because the whole campaign was effective at what I set out to do: raise awareness about online privacy, data brokers, your right to access the court system and seek a redress of grievances, and generally help people understand the world of interconnected systems that we exist within whether we want to or not, whether we opt in or not.
And, for various reasons, the fact that I am a librarian always made it into the headlines:
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It’s been a while since I talked about my library visiting in earnest. Vermont has a 251 Club, a pretty informal group who have the aim to visit all of Vermont’s 251 towns. I love the idea (I’ve been to all the towns, now going back to photograph them) and have extended it to libraries. The Passport to Vermont’s Libraries project that VLA did for three years was basically an outgrowth of this. But now it’s just me and my list and map and car.
Yesterday I gave my Practical Privacy talk in Richmond Vermont (pop. 4000-ish) and had the day free beforehand. I figured I’d go for a drive. I started with VLA’s map of all the public libraries in the state, then used a new tool I’d just made, a list of all the public library websites in the state. From there I made a list of which libraries would actually be OPEN (this is more challenging than it might seem in a library where some libraries are only open 14 hours) and charted my course. I managed to see seven libraries in one long day, had two meals with interesting women–Mary the director of Fletcher Free, and Julie a techie powerhouse who does coding and coaching and public speaking–and gave my talk in the big upstairs room of the Richmond library which had previously been both a church and a basketball court. Here’s where I went.
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A funny thing happened on the way to this blog post.
From a local librarian:I get to take over the duties of someone very beloved by patrons who recently left us and this includes computer help. I’m trying to create a repository of ‘self-help’ documents both for staff who often need it and for patrons to take home with them when we do something like set up an email address and they need the steps repeated. I’d rather not reinvent the wheel… it occurred to me that maybe you already have some that you can share? If not, can you provide me some pointers on what to include?
I’m also charged with cleaning up the staff file system on our server and coming up with good practices for file naming, document organization, and teaching our staff how to do it…. I’m hoping you know of some examples of local libraries with excellent file management in place or a set of best practices somewhere so I can give more models of what I’m trying to fix. Where might I find something like this?
Those sound like challenging tasks. I am happy to help as I can. Some of it is really going to be moving people to a “digital readiness” place where they feel deputized to do some of this themselves and that is challenging and needs to be as much an emotional task as a physical one. Lots of positive “you can do it” feedback and lots of “ok let’s try this again….” sorts of stuff, patience, etc. Trying to view improvement as improvement, even if it’s ever-so-slight as opposed to “Man, this is just a MESS.” I know I’m not telling you things you don’t know, but I have found that if I reframe some of the “work” as just being supportive and patient, I can feel better about what I do manage to get done.
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Context: I wrote a column for Computers in Libraries magazine about practical technology tips. Here is an email from a reader.
Your December 2017 column, “Money Matters” doesn’t seem to contain any information that would advise or reassure a person who, like me, avoids online banking because she is, frankly, somewhat paranoid about identity theft. As you yourself point out, I’m not the only one who worries about that. Would you consider writing a column that specifically addressed those concerns?
That is not a column I am likely to be writing. Not because I’m not interested in the topic, but because ultimately my column is a tech column and the solutions to not using online banking often involve offline stuff. Which is good! But at the same time, as much as I respect your own personal choice to not use online banking, I feel that it’s not the weak point in the complex system of electronic transactions that permeate our life nowadays. I feel like those are more like
- debit cards which get stolen with alarming regularity and are used, sold, and traded
- non chip-and-pin credit cards though most banks have done away with those
- social engineering to obtain access to bank accounts through phone banking.
While it’s totally true that not having online banking can limit some of the access points, I sometimes feel that having and securely locking down ones online banking (using something like two-factor authentication, a good long password, and not logging in from anywhere other than a home computer) is actually safer than not having it and risking someone else potentially activating it.
All of this is not to try to sway you from your position which is yours and, as I said, I respect everyone’s agency to make the personal choices that work for them. At the same time, a lot of what I do is to slowly nudge people to make better and more secure choices that allow them to use technology, even as I acknowledge that they may choose, ultimately, not to. runetkix.top
Excerpt from an email from a librarian in the Midwest: One of the goals for the new [library] strategic plan is that “Patrons will find support and expertise in technology instruction.” I’ve never taught classes before but I do like to mess around with technology.
I don’t know if it is my perception or not, but your drop-ins seem like a great community building atmosphere where disparate characters can come together and learn about tech and get help. I’d love to know how you have designed/fostered their growth.
I do drop-in time work within the context of a technical high school not the public library, just as an FYI. I started there ten years ago after my last library job had ended (it was grant funded) and I was like “I am taking some time off and will not take a job unless I open the paper and there is a ‘teach email to old people’ job listed…” and well, there was! The vocational school was hiring a VISTA volunteer to help with community tech work. Basically it’s a regional school so all the “sending towns” send kids and money to the school but don’t get as much back as the town that houses the school. So we thought about how to fix that.
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