My name is Jessamyn, you may know me from such public service videos as "look there's a girl installing ubuntu" and "how to teach librarians how to use firefox for half a decade"
I've been into open source for a while, and for a few reasons.
- rural because we can sort of do our own thing
- political because I like the self-organizing aspect and because open source is where all the freaks hang out
- cheap because it's easier to feed a free kitten than it is to raise money at a bake sale to pay health insurance premiums
Before we get started, I feel like I need to confess a few things
First, I tried to make this presentation using all open source software. I've got a Thinkpad running Ubuntu, I could make my presentation using OpenOffice Impress, find some free templates (isn't this one nice?) with pictures of trees on them and go to town. I was thwarted by smart quotes, among other things, and did I spell big wrong?
Even the Dalai Lama eats the occasional yak and I am not the Dalai Lama. You'll get keynote and like it. Absolutists are also important to the open source cause, but I am not one of them.
Also, my library that I work at (more on that in a sec) is automating using Koha. I'm a big fan of Evergreen. I like trees generally. A few libraries including my local were getting together to find a substitute for their aging Follet systems.
The library that I installed Ubuntu at, in Washington Vermont... well it had some problems. The librarian who worked about 16 hours a week divorced her husband and had bigger issues than remembering the admin password which she lost (yes I know how to reset it). My travel budget got axed so I couldn't go there anymore [about 52 miles round trip], Ubuntu said they'd give me 300 free burned copies of the software to take to the conference and they flaked. This video which was so popular on YouTube got me smacked with a copyright takedown notice.
It was a popular thing, but out where I live no one was that impressed or interested. I'm not usually terribly modest, but I can't single-handedly change the world
BUT, some things do change the world, slowly or quickly. Or at least our world
Out in Vermont where I live [this is not clip art, this is the view outside my window] we don't have any consortia and we don't have very much money.
This was until very recently my department of libraries home page.
When I was working at a public library I heard the then-head of the DoL talking to some local legislators about how it used to be that librarians would have to clean toilets and now we have to fix computers and while there's a small degree to which I blame the Gates Foundation for this technostress-by-proxy I still felt that this was the wrong attitude. It was clear that small libraries go nowhere by going through channels or waiting for large organizations to get around to remembering us.
I did make small inroads at that library by requesting that Firefox be put on the Gates Foundation PCs (we were still under our support agreement, my systems librarian had to call them to make sure it was okay) and I enjoyed buttonholing the Sirsi people at a conference and asking why their product didn't work with Netscape at all (back when questions like that were not ridiculous) but getting things changed was slow.
This is still how we have to look for books in the ILL system. This is a combination of lack of time/apathy on DoL's part but also not-super-simple-to-mess-with software. When you're underfunded and overstressed, usability goes out the window. Hey, it works!
SO what did we do?
Last year sometime a group of librarians who were tired of waiting for people to retire got together to work on a few projects. Downloadable audiobooks (do not get me started) and a joint but not joined catalog project. We started with three libraries and now we have 29. That's a double digit percentage of VT's public libraries. This is a photo of our first meeting. We're called the Green Mountain Library Consortium
We have one techie who is sufficiently offline that this is the best photo I have of him. People chip in to a group pool so we could send him to Koha camp. We also hired a designer. We have work parties for people to bring their servers and install Debian. Then another party to install Koha etc.
At the time I wasn't even working at a library -- I mostly teach adult education classes and was a roving tech support lady to a set of tiny libraries -- so my main role was to help convince people that this would not be unspeakably hard [you can't say easy but you can say "simple"] and that if it was, they could blame me personally. Not having someone to blame is one of the things that makes people ootchy about open source. This was good for morale.
Already our catalog looks better than any other catalog in the state. We've got a few live versions but most of them are launching this summer. It's still the end of winter at my place. We had a frost this week.
We're at the barcoding stage now, at my library. We've put stickers on maybe 80% of the collection, that's like 6500 books! I like how we've got 99,999,999 possible barcode numbers. Even with all the setbacks [the librarian realized we'd be losing ~20 cents a sticker if we barcoded a book she later weeded so she's been in a weeding frenzy and insists we wait til she's weeded sections before we sticker them] we'll still get it done in less than nine months, pretty sure.
The DoL finally got some new blood and they're looking at our project as an inspiration for finally getting a real union catalog statewide. They're looking at a few options, all of them open source (hint to Equinox folks, call my state librarian, if you haven't already). Meanwhile the DoL's budget has been slashed making this even more of a genuine option for us.
And we're doing things. Moving forward. All of us.
The best thing about all these sorts of projects is that I don't have to feel that by coming here I'm like the Mac person at a Windows Vista rally. Our projects have more in common than they have differences. Both philosophically and practically.
We believe in hiring people who do good work, not marketing agencies who sell you things you don't need. We like to hire people who do good work, not marketing agencies who sell you things you don't need. And we're happy to do the work. It's easier to convince people that this is a project worth doing and paying for when they see that it pays Richard, and me, and Stan, and Stephanie. And you.
We believe in the things we work on, and we can show you why without resorting to rhetoric or handwaving. Back when I was newer to open source, it had a bit of a crusade feeling to it. You used Gimp because it was open source, not because it was easy to use, or good to look at it. Though I admit, there's an appeal to knowing if you didn't like how it looked, you could fix it.
We believe in local, customized and personalized projects that reflect [or can be tailored to reflect] the people who use them. One of my favorite things about following the Evergreen Explosion is seeing how different places - from Georgia, to Vancouver BC to Michigan to Armenia -- have customized their own versions and how it makes every library large and small feel like the tools are theirs. Just being able to highlight your own logo and not the ILS companies logo is a huge deal.
And that combination is just the thing that can convince me and many other people in similar situations of the worthwhileness of doing a project AND this combo will play okay at town meeting with Farmer Bob who ultimately is going to have to use and pay tax moneys for this.
Thanks for helping me help him. Thanks for doing what you do. Have a safe trip home.