Vermont libraries and their money and towns

interior of a small public library in Hancock Vermont
This is a post about rural libraries and money on the occasion of Town Meeting week. Town Meeting happened last week. Most Vermont libraries receive their money through the town and Town Meeting is a time to discuss library funding. I am a sub at the library in my town, enough to go to staff meetings but not enough to work there all the time. I also do drop-in time both at my local library and at one “over the mountain” in the next town. Here are a few anecdotes about how local libraries manage their money situations. Continue reading “Vermont libraries and their money and towns”

Ask A Librarian: Tips for Avoiding Online Banking?

banknotes at eh Ottoman Bank Museum
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Context: I wrote a column for Computers in Libraries magazine about practical technology tips. Here is an email from a reader.

Your December 2017 column, “Money Matters” doesn’t seem to contain any information that would advise or reassure a person who, like me, avoids online banking because she is, frankly, somewhat paranoid about identity theft. As you yourself point out, I’m not the only one who worries about that. Would you consider writing a column that specifically addressed those concerns?
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That is not a column I am likely to be writing. Not because I’m not interested in the topic, but because ultimately my column is a tech column and the solutions to not using online banking often involve offline stuff. Which is good! But at the same time, as much as I respect your own personal choice to not use online banking, I feel that it’s not the weak point in the complex system of electronic transactions that permeate our life nowadays. I feel like those are more like

  • debit cards which get stolen with alarming regularity and are used, sold, and traded
  • non chip-and-pin credit cards though most banks have done away with those
  • social engineering to obtain access to bank accounts through phone banking.

While it’s totally true that not having online banking can limit some of the access points, I sometimes feel that having and securely locking down ones online banking (using something like two-factor authentication, a good long password, and not logging in from anywhere other than a home computer) is actually safer than not having it and risking someone else potentially activating it.

All of this is not to try to sway you from your position which is yours and, as I said, I respect everyone’s agency to make the personal choices that work for them. At the same time, a lot of what I do is to slowly nudge people to make better and more secure choices that allow them to use technology, even as I acknowledge that they may choose, ultimately, not to.

2016 in work and money

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This post leaves me dissatisfied with pie chart makers and is as much a note to myself as anyone else who will read it. Last year was a weird year for work. I picked up a bunch of odd consulting projects, I left my job at Open Library, and I started teaching graduate school on an adjunct basis (and they’re having me back this year!). That big pink chunk is the part I’ll be looking to replace this year. I’m looking for a part-time, mostly telecommute job doing outreach/community work with a library or library organization, or possibly a regular writing job since I liked my last one. I’m interested in doing more teaching. I have a good solid resume which I’ll be sprucing up.

I’ll continue to write for Computers in Libraries, staff drop-in time in Vermont, do public speaking and consulting, and pick up the odd consulting gig. I’ll write my labor of love newsletter which is one of the best things I started doing last year. It’s a little weird to not have One Big Job, but it’s preferable to having One Bad Job. Wish me luck and if I can help you get where you are going on some random way, do let me know.

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my world of work and money 2016 edition

I did a similar post about this on my personal blog in 2010. For someone who says “I am a librarian” I think it’s useful sometimes to discuss how and when I get paid and by whom. I know people are curious, they often ask. The work news in my life is that I’m upping my hours at the Internet Archive so that I’m now officially half-time. I am pleased about this and I hope it lasts. Since my father died I’ve had a buffer of cash available to me (and my sister) as a back-up which means I’ve been able to do a few “riskier” things that weren’t necessarily lucrative but were otherwise fulfilling. Working at the Archive and Open Library was one of these. Doing some consulting was another. My income covers my bills which, through sheer luck, doesn’t include student loans and, through some attention on my end, doesn’t include any consumer debt. Here’s a chart.

pie chart of the amount of $ I've made writing, consulting, librarianing

The interesting thing to me is how many governments I got paid by. The W-2 money is basically three governments (two different checks from my town, for working at the school and the library, one from my state for teaching at the tech college) plus the Internet Archive. The 1099 money is mostly consulting and talks. I got paid by two state library associations, one state library (twice) and one city library system. The consulting was for two town libraries, a high school and one private company. My writing gigs included royalties for both of my books ($128 total), one lucrative article for the Mozilla Foundation, my column for Computers in Libraries and a lot of crazy start-up money from Medium who laid off nearly their entire slate of writers for The Message and replaced us with younger cheaper writers. It was good while it lasted. I made some random money AirBnBing out my house and doing one Justice of the Peace gig.

All in all it was a mid five-figures year that did slightly better than paying for itself which is my nominal goal.

The high cost of everything

This is one post about a few disparate topics that all congeal on one issue: money. See if you can follow it around this thread.

  • Brian talks about the high cost of databases. In all my thinking about what database access costs — a difficult number to really hone in on because of the bundled pricing and difficulty getting concise statistics like the ones in his post — I never thought we were talking about several dollars per session. Now Brian works in a mid-sized public library so maybe there are economies of scale with larger libraries or consortiums but still. When your patrons wonder where the money goes, you can tell them what you’re being charged for databases.
  • Meredith has a crabby post about the costs and expenses associated with giving conferences and speaking at conferences. Again the real interesting part, to me, is in the comments where we find out that the TX library association is billed “$995 for a day for hard-line (internet) access for the presenters.” No that is not a typo. How does something like this happen? A thousand dollars? To plug into a wall? Unless I am missing something, this is unconscionable and library associations should immediately stop paying these extortionate fees. I realize that sometimes are hands are tied when we are purchasing services from vendors and conference service providers, but I think we can all look at that dollar amount and the service provided and say “This is too much.”
  • A little tooting my own horn by association, Dan Chudnov talks about speaker’s fees and I chime in a little. I love public speaking and it helps me get the word out, but this year I’ve also started saying “no” just a little. Steve and Dorothea and Sarah also have fine posts on the topic.

    My take on the speaker thing is more along the lines of Dan’s in that I don’t feel the need to speak anywhere, but I often enjoy it, get to travel a bit on my otherwise low income, and get to talk to people who haven’t heard it all before. I have fees that I consider “hassle expense” which is more compensation for travelling, getting up early, not sleeping in my own bed, and getting someone else to fill my birdfeeders. I like giving talks so much they could pay me in sand and I’d still do it, but getting on a plane to do it, that’s what I like some compensation for. This year I’m doing much more local speaking which is lower-cost from my end and less-compensated from a strictly money angle and it’s just fine with me.

    I realize this doesn’t address the larger issue of people who get invited and are then asked to pay (a bad practice imo) or the weird in-state/out of state divide (also a problematic minefield) or the “we are going to invite you to give two talks in two days for us and will offer two nights hotel but we’re five hours away from your home” almost-right offers because I’m not sure what to think, honestly. It’s a diffcult issue to discuss because for every nitpicky issue I have about having to pay for my own wifi, there is someone else who is saying “hey I’d be happy to come talk and I promise to be lower maintenance and lower cost and just as interesting” and you know what, they probably can be. Until we decide what roles speakers are playing at these conferences — paid high profile talent, experience for newer professionals, skillsharing with experts, honors for esteemed colleagues — we’re going to have a hard time figuring out what people are “worth” to us.