Celeste West’s obituary is up on the SFGate website with a link about who to contact about the memorial, noting “If you cannot donate, no worries, you can creatively agitate for peace and justice, and follow your bliss.”
I was asked to fill out a Predictions Survey by the Pew folks. In it, they describe the modern-day status quo of technology and ask for predictions on where these technologies are going and how society uses them. At the end, they ask if anyone has friends or colleagues whose input might be useful. My input was along the lines of “I don’t even agree with your status quo statements” so I figure it might be useful for them to get other opinions. The link to the survey is http://www.psra.com/experts and you have to use the pin 9000 to log in to it.
I got an email this morning from a student who was investigating sustainability in rural libraries. I sent him to the usual places like the The Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship and ALA’s resources for rural libraries but it got me thinking about sustainability generally. The whole tech boom and the “everything is on the internet” idea, really doesn’t affect most rural libraries that much. Sure, there are some communities that are thinking of ditching their libraries as a cost-cutting measure, but libraries still have a strong place in rural communities, often as the only access point to the internet and reading material for adults, young adults and children. They aren’t going anywhere.
They are, however, having a very hard time keeping up technologically and that’s where groups like MaintainIT come in. I have mentioned them before, I am on their steering committee. They’re a project of TechSoup, funded by the Gates Foundation. There are people from WebJunction on the committee. It’s a little bit of the usual suspects. I came to San Francisco for our once a year meeting where we talked about what the next year of the project is going to be like and what has happened so far. MaintainIT, if you don’t know, created “cookbooks” for libraries that gives them assistance with teachnical issues. You can go download them or look at them, they’re free. They’re even Creative Commons licensed so you can repurpose them and use them however you want to. They’re very well done and very informative.
It’s a neat project and yet has a few immediate problems. One, the idea of repurposing doesn’t really go far when what you have to work with is a PDF and you’re dealing with libraries who have never heard of the Creative Commons. Two, the cute language sometimes gets in the way of the really sound and solid technical advice these cookbooks have. Three, each year of the grant program that created this project focuses on different-sized libraries meaning the project doesn’t cohere around a specific userbase. It also serves 18 states, not fifty. Vermont is not one of the states it serves. Neither is Maine. California is one. So, while I really like the project, it’s gotten me very contemplative about sustainability. You see, the grant ends next year. And, like every single grant-funded project that happens in libraries, the big question at this point is “How do we continue to make an impact when we no longer have any staff or funding for it?” And that’s when you hit the idea of community. And that’s where libraries have something sustainable and grant-funded projects, even the best-meaning ones, don’t.
WebJunction was created to be the community that existed after the Gates Foundation library project was no longer providing support. WebJunction, however, still has staff and funding. WebJunction does not so much provide support as it offers an online community of librarians and others who sort of help each other. WebJunction is free but state libraries often pay to have a “branded” version of it. The amounts they pay are in the tens of thousands of dollars. You can see the VT WebJunction here. You can see the regular WebJunction here. I’ve already talked about WebJunction here before so I don’t need to guide you through the differences here (there are few) or point out the OCLC search box on the VT site that tells me that my nearest copy of Jane Eyre is in New Hampshire. I just want to mention that this “solution” has been less than optimal for my particular library region. I hope it has been better for others.
A community has not coalesced around WebJunction in Vermont. However there are communities in the small Vermont towns I work with that center around the library. The librarians I work with, while they’re cognizant of Google and the Internet generally, aren’t aware that there’s anything not sustainable about their libraries. The libraries are packed with people every day. They’re often the only place to even get high speed internet in the town. It’s definitely a pain that it’s hard for them to keep their computers running. However, it’s a bit of a stretch, to me, that they need to join a new community to do that. As much as I like and enjoy the Tech Soup, WebJunction and MaintainIT communities and the people involved in them specifically, I wonder about the best game plan for getting and keeping libraries tech savvy about their own IT needs and environment. Paying a local tech geek to fix some problem (say, like me) certainly doesn’t scale into something that you can replicate nationwide without replicating the cash that pays them. On the other hand, my job isn’t dependent on grant money and I’ve been doing this for almost three years which is coincidentally the life of this particular grant. The difference is, I’ll be doing this job next year and the grant won’t. Unless we can come up with something….
I got into a funny conversation with a friend of mine at the MIT Puzzle hunt this weekend (my team came in third out of 37!) about finding images of things. There’s a lot of data collection in puzzling and a lot of times when you have to do is, say, look at a photo and figure out what it is or where it’s from. This is great of someone recognizes it, not so great if someone doesn’t. Every puzzler has their own personal sites they use for this. I tend to use Google images because it’s fast and I can move through it quickly. Others use Wikipedia. My friend was saying he uses the Commons site. At first I thought he meant the Creative Commons search which I don’t fiund super-useful and told him so. He actually meant the Wikimedia Commons which is a great place to find freely licensed images.
Now Flickr has launched their Commons site which does a few things.
- Makes LoC images available for anyone to see
- Allows people to tag and interact with these photos
- Creates a new way of licensing or explaining their IP idea called “no known copyright protections” which they go on to explain
These beautiful, historic pictures from the Library represent materials for which the Library is not the intellectual property owner. Flickr is working with the Library of Congress to provide an appropriate statement for these materials. It’s called “no known copyright restrictions.”
Hopefully, this pilot can be used as a model that other cultural institutions would pick up, to share and redistribute the myriad collections held by cultural heritage institutions all over the world.
So, they’re taking a risk, they’re sharing their data, they’re presuming good faith, and they’re going to try this out. Close readers may also note the small text on this page “Any Flickr member is able to add tags or comment on these collections. If you’re a dork about it, shame on you. This is for the good of humanity, dude!!” Which, loosely translated means they’re starting out trusting people and trying to maintain a light tone about it.
So, the original photos are still held by the Library of Congress and Flickr has no “ownership” of them as a result of this partnership. They’re available worldwide [well except Dubai and other places that block Flickr entirely] and they’re in a system that allows for user-generated content additions to the content. I’m pleased that the LoC, or someone at the LoC decided to step up and really demonstrate how trust and openness can help further the mission of culutral institutions. Now if I could only get LoC to friend me….