I’ve had my head down and have been staying home for the most part, no news here. A pleasant surprise is that there’s been work, talks to give, things to write about. Also: a lot of Wikipedia work. I did a presentation for the Vermont Humanities Council, an organization which I love but will also love to be cycling off of the Board of Directors of, about what Vermont libraries have been up to this past… year. I’ve excerpted it for an upcoming Computers in Libraries article, but as I was updating my talks page, I thought I should maybe mention it special here. If you’d like to read it or watch me giving it, you can go to this page here: Public Libraries in the time of COVID.
One of my favorite things about writing for Computers in Libraries is that I now get a subscription to the magazine. All the blogs and RSS feeds and tweets in the world are really no match for being able to read “how to” stories from people working in totally different libraries than me. I feel like I pretty much get the issues involved with running rural, pre-OPAC, barely-online libraries and I hope I do a decent job showcasing them here to at least give people an idea of what’s involved and what’s at stake. However, I have never worked in a library with a self checkout system or a DVD service machine, or even a digital audiobook collection (though we’re working on one!). It’s a bit of a shame that most of CiL’s articles are locked behind a subscriber wall, but here’s a decent article about a library that is almost local to me and their experiences with their first self-checkout system.
My contract with CiL allows me to self-publish after ninety days which is what I intend to do if I remember. My first column/department about web stats came out in January and my most recent one about open source software will be out next month. In the meantime here is a tip I wish I’d known sooner… I recently set up one of my libraries with a tiny website for free. Dreamhost.com offers free webspace to qualifying nonprofits. This is real webspace with one-click installs for things like Mediawiki and WordPress. If you have a 501c3 exemption letter and a little bit of patience, take a look at their wiki to get the rest of the details. A little more information is available on the Drupal site. I know people have had good and bad experiences with Dreamhost, but sometimes selling people on trying something new — and for my library a website was definitely something new — is all about removing as many barriers as possible and letting them see the utility in it themselves. If you’ve been waffling about webspace, or webspace costs, try it out. I have no affiliation to Dreamhost, for what it’s worth.
If you’re at ALA you may have already seen this issue of Computers in Libraries. If not, you may be interested to know that I’m going to be co-editing (well alternating writing) the Tech Tips Column with Rachel Singer Gordon.
It’s hard for wordy old me to give advice in 1300 words but I do my best and even include a screenshot or two. I have the right to post my columns ninety days after they’re published in print so they’ll show up here eventually as well. The January issue has my advice on how to examine your web logs to figure out how, when and where users are accessing your website. The column I put to bed just today (I guess technically it’s a department, Dan Chudnov, now he has a column) due out in March is about Open Source software. I’m a little sad to see my favorite editor, Kathy Dempsey, move on to bigger and better things and I’m a little nervous about getting edited again, but so far it’s been great and just another way to get the word out.
I’m on my way to give my talk in one of the giant ballrooms. For anyone who wants to follow along at home or in the back of the room, here are the links you’ll want.
Update: Talk went great. I spoke to about 200 or so people and almost all my demos worked! I went to go sit down and catch up on email and I ran into Jesse Andrews who is the guy behind userscripts.org (greasemonkey script repository mentioned in my talk) and BookBurro (very cool, check it out). He’s speaking tomorrow late afternoon, if you get a chance to see him, you should.
There is a lot going on this week. I will be participating in some of it so I may not be commenting on the rest of it. Computers in Libraries (wiki) is going on in DC. Blogwithout a library has a good post outlining how to follow along at home. Many people asked me if I was going. I’m not, though I would like to, because I’ll be at PLA in Boston, blogging for PLA. This was an excuse to check out what I’ve heard is a great conference, rendezvous with friends and family, and do a little conference blogging which I haven’t done much of before.
I was going to post this earlier but the entire ALA/PLA set of websites has been up and down for hours. When ALA.org briefly came back up, I noticed a new thing on the ALA website, buttons called “blogs” and “wikis”, right next to the RSS feeds. I don’t know if they have multiple wikis since both links don’t work right now (ALA seems to not have a staging area for their website) and I’m still unclear of the value of having an “official” ALA wiki when the unofficial ones worked so well, but it looks like someone, slowly, is trying to do the right thing and for that I am happy. Update: the ALA Blogs, RSS Feeds, and Wikis page is up. Apparently all three images on the ALA main page link to that page, which I hope will have a short URL soon. I sent them a friendly note suggesting that Firefox be capitalized properly and that they hyperlink the feeds as well as the blog URLs. They claim “New blogs and wikis are being added almost every day!” which I assume is weird marketing speak, but maybe they have big plans for that page which I think would be delightful.
Also new from ALA is their library careers website which helps answer a lot of “How do I become a librarian or library worker?” questions without all the empty hype about the job shortage. It’s nice and easy to navigate and except for the dreadful URL — librarycareers.org redirects to www.ala.org/ala/hrdr/librarycareerssite/. Which URL will people bookmark? The one in their browser window! Why can’t ALA fix this? — and is one more indication that someone there knows how the web works.