Testimony for the Working Group On the Status of Vermont Libraries

an older white man sits at a table behind a pile of books
[image credit: Library of Congress]

I was asked to give testimony about technology for the Working Group On the Status of Vermont Libraries. this is what I wrote.

My name is Jessamyn West. I am a librarian who lives in Orange County Vermont. I have a technology background, an MLIS, and I have worked for and with public libraries since moving to Vermont in 1997. I’ve written a book about technology instruction called Without A Net: Libraries Bridging the Digital Divide and I do public speaking on technology topics nationwide. I run the website and other technology for the Vermont Library Association, a professional association for public librarians in the state. I am the elected Vermont Chapter Councilor for the American Library Association.

My main work has been helping small rural libraries and their patrons learn to use technology to solve problems. I started as an outreach librarian at Rutland Free Library where I taught email classes using a flip chart and began my current work in 2005 when I was hired at the Randolph Technical Career Center as an Americorps worker. This is a regional tech ed facility serving many “sending towns.” RTCC wanted to do some outreach to those sending towns and so my job there was a combination of teaching local technology classes in their adult education program, doing direct outreach to the rural libraries in those towns, and what I called “Drop-In Time” which was an open session where anyone in the community could come ask technology questions on a weekly basis.

Drop-In Time started because we were finding that the people who signed up for our basic technology classes sometimes didn’t have the basic technology skills—vocabulary, mousing skills, keyboarding—to take those classes. We would also sometimes get referrals from the state’s vocation rehabilitation people and the local adult basic education program. Over time that job morphed into what I do now which is a similar Drop-In Time on a weekly basis as a library assistant with Kimball Public Library in Randolph Vermont. Since the beginning of COVID I will also occasionally do tech support email exchanges or Zoom/Skype/Teams/Hangouts technical support which the library employs me for, at library assistant wages.

I’d like to briefly address what I see as the main issues in the areas the Working Group on the Status of Libraries in Vermont has asked about. Continue reading “Testimony for the Working Group On the Status of Vermont Libraries”

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”

Ask A Librarian: Getting Live Transcription Working with Zoom

From a local hearing impaired pal: Can you help the library to get captions on Zoom? They’ve been trying to figure it out for a couple of months now. I asked them to have you help them, but I don’t think they’ve tried that.

Live captions are now a service available to anyone with a Zoom account, paid or free, but its not always obvious how to get it working. I got it sorted for my local library so I figured I’d write down my steps in case it helps others. Turns out this is a thing you have to first turn on in the settings which is confusing. Continue reading “Ask A Librarian: Getting Live Transcription Working with Zoom”

ALA Midwinter Report 2022


Hello from your local Chapter Councilor to the American Library Association. This past week I attended Council Forums and Council meetings virtually and this is my report.

Want to be a Councilor?

Brief note that my Chapter Councilor term is up in May. While I am more than happy to serve a second three-year term, I would also be happy to pass the privilege and responsibility on to someone else. Feel free to contact me directly and I can discuss what is involved. I was lucky to follow in the footsteps of Marti Fiske (with some gap coverage also by Virgil Fuller, thanks Virgil and Happy Birthday!) who did a terrific job for us.

ALA Conferences Overview

The January professional development conference (with speakers and activities and vendors) is becoming known as LibLearnX, and all the committee meetings which happen at ALA in January are… still kind of called Midwinter. It’s a little confusing and I asked specifically if this lack of clarity was intentional and was told by the Conference Committee that they are really trying to spin up LibLearnX as a “whole new thing” and so they don’t use any of the Midwinter verbiage which, to my mind, leaves people to figure it out on their own. LibLearnX does look pretty interesting and now all of the speakers and activities are at “no conflict” times, in case you were thinking about attending in the future. Next LibLearnX is in New Orleans, always a great conference location.
Next big conference for ALA is in Washington DC June 23-28. It is still somewhat up in the air whether this will be in person, virtual or hybrid. I have been advocating for a hybrid conference as I think it allows for better accessibility as well as access for Councilors from far-flung states as well as some serious cost savings for people from smaller chapters but there has been some push back on this, so stay tuned. Report follows….
Continue reading “ALA Midwinter Report 2022”

Ask A Librarian: Sharing links behind a soft paywall?

screenshot from the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine indicating that the page is available live on the web.

From a friend in my trivia community: I’ll post a link to an article or something on FB and/or Twitter, and I hear from Euro folk about how they’re blocked from reading it. I’d like to have a go-to answer for them that would be broadly applicable. Can you give me a generalized technique for this problem when it arises?

Sure! This is also how I get around soft-paywalls like “You have read all your free articles this month” (won’t work with “You have to pay to see this at all”) for news sites like the New York Times and other places I may not have full access too. Here are steps. Continue reading “Ask A Librarian: Sharing links behind a soft paywall?”