Daniel Boone National Forest

Poverty, Libraries, Jobs, Me

A bit earlier today I saw a handful of librarians on Twitter posting a link to a Library Director’s job with what appeared to be an appalling salary of $7.25 an hour.

Each of these tweets have been re-tweeted a dozen or so times as I’m writing this, so people are sharing it. Heck, I clicked through when I saw the salary, curious what sort of place thought they could get someone for that price, and where you could possibly live on that salary.

The answer? Just down the road from where I grew up, that’s where.

Elliot county

So the marker there is the library in question, and the little town north of it that’s circled, that’s my home town of Olive Hill, KY. The library is in the county seat of Elliott County, KY, in a town of just about 600 people called Sandy Hook. Here’s a larger map to give you some additional context about just exactly where this is located.

Elliott County large

 

This part of the world is where I spent the first 22 years of my life, as a kid and teenager in Olive Hill and then as an undergrad at Morehead State University just down the road. If you check the Google Street View of where the Library in question sits,  it is right next to an elementary school where I played basketball as a boy.

So when I say this, I say it with the conviction of someone who knows: there is very, very little likelihood that anyone posting about this on Twitter has ever seen poverty of the sort that they have in Elliott County, KY. Hell, the entire concept of the “War on Poverty” started just down the road from Elliott County, an hour southeast in Inez, KY, where LBJ launched his famous efforts to eliminate poverty in the US.  Elliott County is the 49th Poorest County by Median Household Income in the entire United States of America. For some more reference, the median household income for Sandy Hook in 2010 was $14,313.

If there is anywhere in this country where kids need a library to help them dream, this is that place.

I was curious after seeing this tweet…

…so I decided to take a look. And if this news report is to be believed, it’s true…the poorest postal code in Canada (B1W, the Cape Breton – Eskasoni First Nation) has a median household income of $19,392 Canadian, or $15,401 US. So there is literally not a single place in Canada that is poorer than Sandy Hook, KY.

With that said: should a library director be paid $7.25/hr? No, of course not. But in this part of Kentucky, believe it or not, that is a decent salary. Not because it is objectively an amount of money that someone deserves for doing their job, but only because the area around it has been forgotten. This part of the world has been given up on by the former industries that sustained it, by the clay and the tobacco and the lumber that were the only reasons money ever flowed into the economy of the area in the first place.

This is a place that I love, this Eastern Kentucky. Even now, decades after I left, I can close my eyes and see the soft clay streaking the soil. I can feel the limestone bones that make up the gentle foothills of the Appalachians. I can smell the warmth of a tobacco barn on a Fall evening.

These are people that need help. I hope they find someone for that job that can not only show the children of Elliott County that there is a wider world, but that just maybe one of those kids will find a way to help save my Eastern Kentucky.

LibraryThing vs Bookish

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Tim Spalding of LibraryThing, asking if I was serious about the twitter conversation we had:

He wanted some form of independent analysis of recommendations coming from LibraryThing and from Bookish in Bibliocommons catalogs. After exchanging a few emails, we came to the following agreement:

  • I would solicit and select 4 testers for the recommendation systems
  • The reviewers wouldn’t be told who had arranged for the review, nor who was paying them (reviewers were offered $200 for the effort) until after they had turned in the reviews and they were posted here
  • The reviewers would examine 7 different Bibliocommons catalogs and write up their thoughts, but there was no suggesting of the books they were to search for or anything like that…they had free reign to use the catalogs in questions to look for any books they wished.
  • Tim wouldn’t know who they were during the review, and not afterwards until the reviews were collected and this post went live
  • There would be no editing on his part of the reviews…what they said, they said. No picking and choosing to rose color anything.
  • I would collect and edit the reviews only in as much as needed to anonymize them.
  • Tim would get the names of the reviewers after this is posted in order to pay them, but he would have no way of knowing who wrote what among the reviews.

This was as good a protocol as I could put together quickly for a blinded analysis of the two systems. I can promise that as I write this, Tim has no idea who the reviewers were, nor has he edited the reviews below in any way. They are as independent a look at the two systems as I could arrange.

So what is posted below are 4 comparisons, in the voices of the reviewers, between the recommendations provided by LibraryThing and Bookish.

This was done as a consulting job, so in the interest of full disclosure I am also receiving a small payment for my work in doing this.

Now that these are public, I will be sharing the identities in both directions of this endeavor. Who wrote which review will remain anonymous, but both sides will be alerted in order to settle the accounts in question.

Measure the Future at ALA Midwinter 2015

At ALA Midwinter 2015, the Knight Foundation gathered the winners of the Knight News Challenge for Libraries and gave us a stage in order to let us announce our projects to the world. This is my presentation from that day, complete with full-on me wearing suit. Soak it up, you’re not likely to see me in one all that often. :-)

Measure the Future

Measure the Future logo

I am beyond thrilled to announce that my project Make the Things that Measure the Future: Open Hardware & Libraries has been awarded one of the eight John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight News Challenge grants. The winners of these grants seek to answer the question “How might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgable communities?”

What are we going to be doing? Here’s a quick video that explains the project:

As a result of this, I give you the Measure the Future Project.  That’s the website where we will be reporting on our progress, linking out to the code and hardware that we make, and generally being as transparent as possible as we move towards making the things that measure the future. It also links out to our social media accounts and other places of interest where we’ll be talking about what we’re doing.

This means that I will be working for the next 18 months on a project that I first imagined over 2 years ago, a project that I think has the potential to have incredible impact on how libraries view data about their buildings and what happens inside them. As we move through the next decade, I feel strongly that libraries of all types are going to need to measure and report new and different metrics in order to demonstrate to their funders that they are still vibrant parts of their communities. I’m hoping that I can help define those metrics by producing the hardware and software that collects, measures, and reports them.

I’m honored and privileged to have this opportunity to work to make libraries everywhere better. I would like to thank everyone that helped Measure the Future to this point, but especially my team members Jenica Rogers, Gretchen Caserotti, and Jeff Branson, all of whom were willing to agree to help support this crazy idea I had even before it was fully formed.

At 1pm today there will be an announcement at the ALA Midwinter conference in Chicago, where the winners will have a chance to celebrate a little and explain to the world what they will be doing to make libraries better and communities more engaged. If want to see some of the most interesting work that will be done in libraries over the next few years, I recommend coming by and seeing what the other groups are up to.

Congratulations to all of the winners. Let’s go make libraries amazing. Let’s go make our communities amazing.

If you want to help us Measure the Future, let me know.

Calling all collection development librarians

Or, actually, any librarian that feels comfortable doing evaluation of a couple of recommendation engines. I have an opportunity for four librarians that want to do a few hours worth of work examining book recommendation engines, take notes and write up their findings in a couple of pages, and get paid for the work. The general idea is to see which of two engines provide “better” recommendations based on your expectations and professional knowledge.

I’ve been asked to organize the review so that the process is blinded as well as I can manage: you won’t know who asked for the review, and they won’t know who is doing the review until the process is over (and you need to be paid). I will collect and anonymize the reviews, so that the company paying you for your time won’t know who said what about the products in question. There is no expectation of positive reviews for either product, and I won’t do more than give you some neutral writing prompts to follow so as to keep the process as unbiased as possible.

If you have a few hours to throw at doing some free-form analysis of a couple of recommendation engines, email me at griffey@gmail.com, use the subject “Recommendation Evaluation”, and include your name, current employer, and any information that would make you particularly good at this, and I’ll be in touch with more information.

State of the Union 2015 Tag Cloud

State of the Union 2015 Tag Cloud

This is the ninth in my yearly posting of a word cloud for the President’s State of the Union address to the nation. Every year, the words shift slightly, the rhetoric being used changes subtly. But the last couple of years have been far more hopeful than when I started doing this, when the words were “terrorists” and “fighting” and “security”. I’m much happier with a State of the Union that includes “families” and “jobs”.

Here are links to the previous 8 years worth of tag clouds, if you want to see the changes yourself.

 

CES 2015 MegaPost

One last CES 2015 post, collecting the video coverage I did in one place so that you can watch them all at once if you so please. I don’t recommend consumption of video in parallel, though…generally speaking, it’s best consumed serially.

Here’s all five of my CES2015 videos for your viewing pleasure:

CES2015 Preview

CES 2015 Unveiled

CES 2015 Press Day

CES 2015 3D Printers

CES 2015 Best & Worst Wrap Up

Thanks one last time to Springshare for sponsoring my CES2015 coverage. If your library needs a solution for desk scheduling, research guides, or room booking, check out their LibApp platform

CES 2015 – Best & Worst

Here’s my last video from CES2015, a wrap-up that’s full of the best and worst of the technology that I saw. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed my coverage, and I’ll get a chance to head back next year for another run at the largest technology show in the world.

If you want to catch up on all of my coverage, you can see everything I posted via this link.  And if you have any questions about technology and libraries, want to pick my brain about anything that I saw, or want to ask me about specific technology recommendations for your library, feel free to drop me a line.

CES 2015 coverage sponsored by Springshare. If your library needs a solution for desk scheduling, research guides, or room booking, check out their LibApp platform

Just a quick note that I am producing a CES 2015 wrap up video that has a variety of things that I haven’t talked about or linked to yet, including some of my favorite overall pieces of tech that I had a chance to see and play with at the show. However, going through ALL of the video I took is taking me some time (at a quick glance, I took something like 3 gigabytes of video while I was in Las Vegas). Which means editing it together isn’t a quick affair.

It will be out this week. But later this week. Keep watching this space.