Testimony for the Working Group On the Status of Vermont Libraries

an older white man sits at a table behind a pile of books
[image credit: Library of Congress]

I was asked to give testimony about technology for the Working Group On the Status of Vermont Libraries. this is what I wrote.

My name is Jessamyn West. I am a librarian who lives in Orange County Vermont. I have a technology background, an MLIS, and I have worked for and with public libraries since moving to Vermont in 1997. I’ve written a book about technology instruction called Without A Net: Libraries Bridging the Digital Divide and I do public speaking on technology topics nationwide. I run the website and other technology for the Vermont Library Association, a professional association for public librarians in the state. I am the elected Vermont Chapter Councilor for the American Library Association.

My main work has been helping small rural libraries and their patrons learn to use technology to solve problems. I started as an outreach librarian at Rutland Free Library where I taught email classes using a flip chart and began my current work in 2005 when I was hired at the Randolph Technical Career Center as an Americorps worker. This is a regional tech ed facility serving many “sending towns.” RTCC wanted to do some outreach to those sending towns and so my job there was a combination of teaching local technology classes in their adult education program, doing direct outreach to the rural libraries in those towns, and what I called “Drop-In Time” which was an open session where anyone in the community could come ask technology questions on a weekly basis.

Drop-In Time started because we were finding that the people who signed up for our basic technology classes sometimes didn’t have the basic technology skills—vocabulary, mousing skills, keyboarding—to take those classes. We would also sometimes get referrals from the state’s vocation rehabilitation people and the local adult basic education program. Over time that job morphed into what I do now which is a similar Drop-In Time on a weekly basis as a library assistant with Kimball Public Library in Randolph Vermont. Since the beginning of COVID I will also occasionally do tech support email exchanges or Zoom/Skype/Teams/Hangouts technical support which the library employs me for, at library assistant wages.

I’d like to briefly address what I see as the main issues in the areas the Working Group on the Status of Libraries in Vermont has asked about. Continue reading “Testimony for the Working Group On the Status of Vermont Libraries”

2021 in Libraries

a dim afternoon-into-evening shot of an empty library circ desk with a book drop slot and a small shelf next to it with books on CD

Only my regulars this past year. I picked up shifts at my local library and did a few months at Chelsea Public Library while they searched for a full-time librarian. While I taught some classes virtually for Rochester I only went inside the building once, really just to say hello. Forty-four visits, but only three libraries.

  • Kimball (20) – The library was open to the public for a while. I stopped in an occasionally worked a sub shift or met people here.
  • Chelsea (23) – I was the W/Th librarian for a few months
  • Rochester (1) – stopped by to say hello before teaching some online classes

Previous years: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and some reviews from 2003.

unusual outreach

a black and pink stock car, number 20, with the caption "I've got a need... to read. USE YOUR LIBRARY" over the back tire

I am usually a librarian without a library. This despite the fact that I’m working actually IN a library this month until they hire a permanent librarian, and I’m also paid by my local library to do tech drop-in time work a few hours a week until the library opens up. My main thing besides technology work has always been outreach; if I am not trying to get people into a single library, I can always try to get them into libraries generally. Last October, in response to a local mailing list post, I decided to sponsor a racecar driver, a young woman from my community whose dad also drives. When I mentioned this online, the response was not only positive but also “Take my money!” So I did, and together we pooled our money and came up with some slogans. I wrote a check in February and kind of forgot about it. I just checked back in to the Chambers Racing facebook page and hey hey there’s the finished car and it looks great! The cost of this advertising is less than a quarter-page newspaper spot and probably is seen by more non-library-goers than the newspaper. Pretty tough to determine any real return on investment on this one, but it makes me happy to look at.

2020 in Libraries

a view of the library from the top of the stairs showing a gorgeous circular reference desk with a librarian talking with a patron

Like many people, I had bigger plans this year than I managed to realize. However, I did get to two new libraries which was decent for a year that saw only twenty-seven library visits total, with nineteen of them at the same library. The full list is short but memorable. I really hope to get back to the Goodrich Library in Newport again, it’s got a great collection and incredibly nice staff.

Previous years: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and some reviews from 2003.

  • Kimball – my local, weekly drop-in time and occasionally pinch hitting for shifts
  • Rochester – did some irregular drop-in time here
  • Hartness – did not get to VTC as much as I’d like
  • Pittsfield – had an empty drop-in time but it was cool to see this tiny library with an actual paid staff member now
  • Goodrich/Newport – I did a First Wednesdays talk here and it was really enjoyable
  • Montpelier – Don’t remember why I stopped by, but I always like visiting here
  • VT Law – Hadn’t been here in a while and I stopped by before meeting a pal in SoRo
  • Concord NH – Stopped in here while spending some time bumming around Concord with Jim

Ask A Librarian: What is the deal with “free” ebook sites?

screenshot of a page from the bookshowing two girls looking at a computer screen which says WIN PRIZES

It’s been an odd set of months. I got busy with Drop-In Time and then very un-busy. I’ve been keeping up with my newsletter a little, and doing email Drop-in Time, public awareness stuff on various mailing lists, keeping my ear to the ground. Still acting as a Qualifying Authority for the Internet Archive’s print-disabled program which got a LOT more visible thanks to the National Emergency Library. And so it was natural that someone would ask me about this. Got any questions, feel free to drop me a note. This question was a little longer, but a brief summary is a librarian question: “patrons who were asking about “free” ebook sites, ranging from OpenLibrary to ZLibrary. Are they safe? Legal? Should we even mention them to our patrons?” My response, which comes from my very particular place…

Hey there — thanks for asking. I do know a lot of these sites and I used to work for Open Library. My feelings on this topic are kind of complex, so I’ll just outline what I know. Sorry this is long!

So there are outright “We pirate stuff’ sites like Mobilism and ZLibrary. These are places that are basically set up to pirate things and have no veneer of legality to them. I have personally used them on rare occasions but I don’t think I’d point a patron to them. They often point people to sketchy download sites where it it incredibly easy to pick up viruses and etc. Though I must note the sites themselves do not have viruses or malware to the best of my knowledge. Continue reading “Ask A Librarian: What is the deal with “free” ebook sites?”