goodbye google answers

Google stops accepting questions over at Google Answers. They’ll stop accepting answers by the end of the year. Ten to one they roll out some freebie service a la Yahoo Answers or Askville within the next six months (I have heard through the rumor mill that it may be much sooner than that). Interesting discussion over on MetaFilter about it which briefly compares and contrasts some of the Ask services with library services. I was also interviewed for a short article about Google Answers today on ArsTechnica. It’s a weird sort of power law that if your site comes up high on a Google Search for a topic, and you’re contactable, you wind up talking to more reporters about it.

State Funding for Libraries – It’s Overdue

So today I went to a meeting of the Vermont Library Association’s Advocacy Committee. The Advocacy Committee works closely with the Government Relations Committee of VLA to get stuff done on a legislative level. They act and we promote. We work in tandem.

Big news this year is that the VLA is working with the Dept. of Libraries to try to get a small amount of guaranteed state funding for Vermont’s public libraries. Currently funding is 100% local, with the exception of grant programs like LSTA, Gates Foundation and Freeman Foundation money. For most Vermont towns this means getting the budget approved in town meeting every year. Some towns have the library as part of the town government funding and some have a separate line item. Some of the towns I work with have big fights about library funding every year. Some libraries get small increases every year when they need them. In any case, Vermont is one of only six states that has no state level funding for libraries and we are asking the Governor for $1.6 million [pdf] which will give public libraries in the state the equivalent of 10% of their operating costs, or a minimum of $1500.

A concern among some of the libraries is that towns might see the state money as supplanting money the town would have to pay and libraries would actually see no net increase in funding. And, of course, in a state where people are used to being so independent, there are always concerns when money comes from the government (CIPA anyone?).

In any case I’m new to this lobbying and legislating stuff, though I am pretty good at stringing sentences together. If anyone has advice, feel free to leave it in the comments.

three hours at the library

I spent a few hours at the library yesterday, somewhere between three and four. Almost all of this time was spent doing Windows updates to the three semi-public machines. The library got broadband a few months ago and updates were basically impossible before then. So I came in, unlocked the Centurion Guard (quick aside, can anyone tell me if this is really in any way more secure than a good software firewall like Deep Freeze if you’re just using the machines as PACs?) and did the updates which involved downloading the updater, doing an express install of the most urgent updates, and then doing a more complete install of the 53 updates that had been made available since the last update.

I also installed Firefox on the exec and patron-facing profiles, did some helpful configging of it, taught the librarian how it was different (tabs!), and hid Internet Explorer as much as I could without uninstalling it since I still need it for more Windows Updates! While all these downloads were happening, I ordered a $40 wireless router, replaced the “you can not IM here” sign with one that said “Use Meebo for IM” and explained to the librarian how Meebo worked, and even used it to IM with someone the librarian already knew, who happens to be a local buddy of mine.

Since the downloads were still going on, I gave the librarian and the trustee I was working with a pep talk about the importance of having a website and my firm assessment that once we built a little website, most of the maintenance and updating could be done by them. The library was a little hub of activity the entire evening. 1,300 people live in the town and probably twenty of them came into the library in a three hour period. I got introduced to almost all of them.

Nothing else really to add here except that a lot of this work just fell under the heading of 1) good advice and 2) deferred maintenance. Neither of them always seems like the best way of spending your limited time and money. Yet at the same time, the whole “getting to yes” part of library tecnology may be, at the end of the day, the most important part of a solid technology foundation.

a fable in five ims

my im friend (2:49): so i went to [Vermont public library] .. and was like.. you teach computer classes?
my im friend 2:49 : and theyre like YOU NEED TO COME BACK WHEN THE HEAD LIBRARIAN IS HERE
my im friend 2:49 : and im like no no.. i was just wondering if i could volunteer to help out with them
my im friend 2:49 : and theyre like WE HAVE SOMEONE <repeat DEFAULT LIBRARIAN IS HERE PHRASE>
my im friend 2:50 : so im like.. ooooookay .. and left

You can learn a lot about people by what they take away from this story.