Ask A Librarian: Prison furniture?

image of a sturdy library tabl that was built by iowa prison industries.

We have discussed whether it is ok to contract with [prisons] — is it possible that it means people who are incarcerated are learning actual useful skills that they can use to get decently paid work when they get out? Or are we kidding ourselves? Do you have any idea? I’m wondering how I might find out if it actually translates like that. I guess I could try and get in touch with someone at the Department of Corrections. What do you think?

The prison furniture thing is really a pickle. I see it as “of a kind” with discussions about library pay rates. Some libraries are just so small that they can’t pay reasonable wages and if it’s between that and being closed more hours, I think it’s important to make the decision that is best for the community. At the same time, the prison labor situation is… a problem and it’s worth trying to not contribute, but I am also cognizant of the fact that yes, building nice furniture is actually a job skill and a real one, as opposed to, say, making license plates.

So I often think, for myself since I am not in a decision-making capacity, how could I still serve my community but also make the world more just? So thinking about ways in which the library could try to balance the situation either by doing something like making a donation to people who are trying to address inequality or incarceration issues (I realize this is not necessarily simple for a library) or maybe finding a way to Zoom with some of the people who made the library’s furniture, either currently incarcerated people or people who have gotten released to let people know how the situation really works. Alternately, working with restorative justice organizations within communities to try to keep people out of prison, or getting a subscription to Prison Legal News for the library. Or working with the prison that makes the furniture to see what their prison library (if any) is like and how you could help. I know Johnny Flood at Vermont Humanities has been doing some of this work.

https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/

Obviously it’s a difficult choice, but I’m not sure it’s entirely practical for libraries to entirely eschew prison labor. But they can assure if they do engage with the prison industrial complex I think there are ways to do it mindfully and acknowledging that any time you engage with the capitalistic system–as we have to!–there are ways to mitigate damage, a little.

Ask A Librarian: Senior-Friendly Devices?

hands of two men using a tablet computer

I’m working with a Council on Aging and they are looking for “senior-friendly” devices to purchase for their participants, ideally tablets that are also budget friendly. Does anyone have any recommendations? Are there any resources that exist to help people compare devices?

My opinion, as someone who works with seniors all the time who struggle with various devices, is that any device can be set up to be “senior friendly” and a lot of this will depend what other technology, if any, exists in their world.

So for someone who had a Mac, even an old Mac, an iPad is the right answer (could be an old iPad, they are remarkably useful still). Someone with a Windows laptop wouldn’t get as many “it just works” effects from one. I feel like the important part is setting up tablets to work for people which involves… Continue reading “Ask A Librarian: Senior-Friendly Devices?”

Ask A Librarian: training for older tech users?

a drawing tablet with a stylus next to it and a very colorful image on the screen
Cytheriachen / CC BY-SA

Email I got from a local non-profit worker, looking to apply for a grant, asked: Do you have input on how older people learn best and how we should set up training program?

Amy may have other suggestions but for me, in drop-in time, what often gets people the most motivated is if they have a problem they want to solve. They often learn well in groups, if this is possible, and it’s useful to have a good idea of what assistive technology is available to them in case they have vision/hearing/motor skill challenges.

Assistive technology can make ALL of these things go more smoothly, but not if people don’t know about them. Continue reading “Ask A Librarian: training for older tech users?”

Ask A Librarian: Graphic Novels for Boomers?

cover of WOman Rebel which features Margaret Sanger tied to a chair

I was wondering if you might give my little women’s (boomers) some guidance as to a beginning graphic novel for us to read.

Hi! It sort of depends what you’re into. The big favorite was the Vermont Reads book for last year which was John Lewis’s March (about civil rights and the struggle for them especially in the south). It’s first person, can get a little violent at times but I found it pretty engaging. There are a lot of graphic novels at the library that are a little kid-oriented but still have storytelling and pacing that works for adults. A few classics include

  • El Deafo – about a child with a hearing impairment learning to manage it as well as just being a kid
  • Ghosts by Raine Telgemeier which is about families and, sort of, the Day of the Dead
  • Pashmina – a story about a “two culture” kid who encounters a magic shawl and uses it to get information on family secrets

One that I liked but it’s a little challenging in terms of material (some graphic stuff) is Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story which is a history of Sanger. Super interesting but obviously she was living in a difficult time and working with people who were living in a more difficult time.

All of these are, I think, available at the Kimball Library and Courtney Bowen there I’m sure would have other suggestions since she manages the collection.

Ask A Librarian: Hard Drive Cleanup for Macs?

screenshot from Disk Inventory X

 

I am looking for someone who can help me find and clear out excess data on one of my internal drives to free up space…

[While I am happy consulting, a lot of times if people know how to download, install and run software, they may not need my help. Someone emailed to ask about cleaning up his Mac’s hard drive. Here is my advice.]

The tool I usually use for identifying “What is taking up all the space?” is a free tool called Disk Inventory X which you can get at this link (click the upper right button to download, where it says  8.3 MB)

http://www.derlien.com/downloads/index.html

You may have to follow these instructions to open an application from an unknown developer. When you install and run it, it can give you an idea of what is taking up the space and where it is. Usually for a lot of people the answer is pretty straightforward like “Music” or “Old movies” or “Photos that you also have in iCloud.” In fact, a lot of times syncing iCloud stuff when you take a lot of photos is the thing filling up people’s hard drives. The #2 thing is old backups that are stored somewhere on the hard drive that they moved there when they got a new computer but never investigated. Continue reading “Ask A Librarian: Hard Drive Cleanup for Macs?”