summertime is when I am not writing a book

I mentioned it on my personal blog, but I’ve finished writing my book and submitted the draft to my editor, Barbara Ittner from ABC-CLIO/Libraries Unlimited. Assuming everything goes well, it will be available at the end of January. This is the first time since April of last year that I have not in some way been writing this book, though most of the actual writing took place in the last six months. I lenjoyed writing and I am enjoying not-writing. Here’s a little bit of reflection on the book writing thing.

1. The book’s title is Without a Net: Librarians Bridging the Digital Divide. The book is already for sale on Amazon. This is sort of weird, watching its sales rank soar and plummet six months before its even available. I set up an author page there, but I’m not sure what to do with it. I’m aware that the book is expensive. I’m aware that I could sell it more cheaply if it were self-published. I know I don’t really need any of the statusing that comes along with publishing with an established publisher. I’ll probably grouse that I could have made a better cover. However, I don’t think I would have written this book without an external deadline, even though I think in many ways this is the book I’ve been “meant to write” for some time now. So, thank you to Barbara for suggesting it and helping make it a reality.

2. I really cocooned while I was writing. I stopped reading my RSS feeds for about the first time ever. I kept my IM client off. I’d peek at Twitter and try to remember to keep adding things to my blog. I sort of checked out from my online and offline communities except for work and occasional Twitter updates. It was an odd thing to do.

3. I woke up every morning determined to write at least 1000 words and would tell myself “I chose this.” but it was still really difficult. Some days the words just flowed. Some days 1000 words would take eight hours. I type about 90 words a minute, when I’m on a roll this would all go fast. I had to keep reminding myself that in many ways I am the expert on this topic and so it was okay to speak from a position of authority and not have to cite statistics all the time.

4. I felt like I was becoming a total dullard. “How’s it going Jessamyn?” “Pretty good, I’m writing a book.” “Still?” This became easy because after a while I just didn’t feel that I had the free time to go out. I’m working on re-entry, it’s going okay.

5. The book has my voice which means I say that some things work and some don’t. I’m sure people will have strong opinions about some of it and I mentally prepared myself for a lot of pushback, more than I will likely get. I make a lot of assertions about how I see the digital divide and what I think is working and not working to mitigate it. I hope people don’t get bogged down in nitpicking. I hope no one that I mention feels that I was uncharitable.

6. I asked for and received a lot of help from people–editing help, requests for pullquotes, some open Twitter requests for information, proofreading–and it’s weird to me that only my name will be on it. I have an extensive “thanks” section. I’m sure I’ve forgotten as many people as I’ve included. It’s odd, in a lot of ways the path I’ve chosen has room for a lot of showboating, doing public presentations, talking on my blog about what I’ve been doing or thinking about, and yet I get timid when there’s actually a situation where it’s useful to be all BUY MY BOOK.

That is the report about the book. You can buy it or not. I think it will be good.

while I was away – sxsw

So, I may have mentioned earlier that this is the month I’m away giving talks and talking to librarians instead of typing on my blogonet. I’m partway done. I’ve been to Florida and Alaska and Austin Texas and I’ll be stopping by Portland Oregon next week and then I’m pretty much done. I’ve done a few talks you’ve maybe heard before but the biggest news is the panel that NYPL’s Jenny Engstrom and I did at SXSW on Tuesday. It was called How The Other Half Lives: Touring The Digital Divide [link goes to our slides] and it was a look at how libraries are dealing with people on the other side of the digital divide.

Some of this is stuff you’ve heard before but some is newish. We were lucky enough to give our presentation after the FCC released the results of their broadband study but before they actually released their Broadband Plan, so there was a lot to talk about but not too much to fight about. The talk was well-attended, well-tweeted and folks asked a lot of questions and stuck around to talk more. I’ve just gotten back from Texas so I’ll save more links and discussions for a little later. Thanks to everyone who showed up and who supported us in our desire to get this talk on the roaster at SXSW. I think we gave people a lot of food for thought.

please help me get more library content into SXSW

I have proposed two presentations for the SXSW conference in Austin Texas next March. There is a complicated series of steps to determining which of the proposals will actually get picked. Part of this determination (30%) is a very basic voting thing where you can thumbs-up or thumbs-down a particular presentation. Voting is now open. We are encouraged to use our powers of persuasion to get you to vote for our ideas. I would like you to vote for my ideas. Here is a link to all of the proposals. There are over 2000 of them and 300 or so will get chosen.

My two proposals are linked here

How The Other 1/2 Lives – Touring The Digital Divide
Curating Cultural Content – Libraries Save Your Ass & Etchings

Voting involved signing up on the website and then clicking the thumbs up. I’d appreciate it if you’d consider doing this. I’m pretty into both topics but the first one is nearer and dearer to my heart, while the second one seems to fit in more nicely with the SXSW gestalt. A few other library-themed things you shoudl check out

– David Lee King presenting on Designing Your Customers Digital Experience
– Heath Rezabek’s Connected Youth: Austin Public Library Teens Get Mobile
– Cecily Walker’s Can I Reserve This Book With My iPhone?
– Jason Schultz’s Reading ReInvented: Can You Steal this Book?
– Tiffini Travis’s Librarian Glasses or Stripper Heels about information fluency.
– Brian Rowe’s Digital Accessibility on Ebooks and Phones : #$@^ Kindle
– Bill Simmon is also proposing a panel which I may be on: Hyperlocal Focus: Growing A Vibrant Community Media Ecosystem

And a few presentations about books more generally…

– Allen Weiner’s Publishers Look To E-Reading to Reach Digital Consumers (curious about this one)
– Travis Alber’s The Future of Reading: Books and the Web
– Dharmishta Rood’s Networked Reading: Viewing as an Act of Participation
– Aaron Miller’s Books and the Twenty-First Century – The New Realm of Reading
– Bradley Inman’s Too Busy To Read? The Future Of Books
– Two related seeming panels: Kindle 2020 and The Book in 2050

Please vote early and often and for as many ideas as you like. There are a lot of great ideas in there on related topics like gaming and accessibility and web standards. Even if you’re not even considering going to SXSW, please take some time to vote up ideas you think should be getting exposure at a web geeks conference. Thanks.

class concerns with online spaces and content

danah boyd speaks at the Personal Democracy Forum about “The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online”

For decades, we’ve assumed that inequality in relation to technology has everything to do with “access” and that if we fix the access problem, all will be fine. This is the grand narrative of concepts like the “digital divide.” Yet, increasingly, we’re seeing people with similar levels of access engage in fundamentally different ways. And we’re seeing a social media landscape where participation “choice” leads to a digital reproduction of social divisions. This is most salient in the States which is intentionally the focus of my talk here today.

I suggest you read it all, it’s not terribly long, but if you’re part of the tl;dr generation, the salient point for libraries is this

If you are trying to connect with the public, where you go online matters. If you choose to make Facebook your platform for civic activity, you are implicitly suggesting that a specific class of people is more worth your time and attention than others. Of course, splitting your attention can also be costly and doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be reaching everyone anyhow. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The key to developing a social media strategy is to understand who you’re reaching and who you’re not and make certain that your perspective is accounting for said choices. Understand your biases and work to counter them.

Some Vermont library statistics, fyi

So, I gave a short talk at the Library 2.0 Symposium at Yale on Saturday. Put on by the Information Society Project, it was a gathering of people ruminating on the nature of future libraries. Only a few of the participants seemed to know our profession’s definition of Library 2.0 but that didn’t seem to matter much. There are some great summaries of the panel discussions on the Yale ISP blog. Most people there were academic, but I did get to hang out with Josh Greenberg from NYPL and see Brewster Kahle talk about the Internet Archive’s book scanning project. My general angle was that while we talk a lot about the “born digital” generation, there are still places here in the US — hey, I live in one — where the sort of network effect that is necessary for 2.0 sorts of things still eludes us. We each got about ten minutes and I could have used twenty, but you can look at my five slides if you’d like.

The whole day was worthwhile, but it’s somewhat ironic that we were encouraged to use twitter and blog our reactions while the room the panel was in had almost no wifi and no outlets. I don’t know why this sort of thing still surprises me, but I just felt that a high-powered panel would be able to receive high-powered tech support and handle things like this. Not so.

Today we got notification that public library statistics are available for Vermont and got a link to this page. No HTML summary so I’m going to pull out a few things that I thought were notable so maybe other people can link to it or maybe I’ll crosspost on the VLA blog.

  • Vermont has 182 public libraries, the largest number of libraries per capita in the US.
  • 174 of these libraries have Internet access; 160 of these have high speed access. Do the math, that’s 14 libraries with dial-up and eight with nothing.
  • Half of the public librarians in the state have MLSes or the equivalent.
  • 73% of Vermont library funding comes from local taxes; 27% comes from other local sources (grants, fundraising)
  • Eleven public libraries filter internet access on all terminals (as opposed to some libraries that offer a children’s filtered option)

The library that I work in serves about 1300 people and is open nineteen hours per week. We’re the only library at our population level (serving 1000-2499 people) that loaned more books than we borrowed via ILL. Ninety-six percent of the service population have library cards. I’m still reading for more details, fascinating stuff really.