Category Archives: Personal

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

CES Unveiled 2015

After a full day of travel, I attended the first press event for CES 2015, CES Unveiled. This is the event where the eager press gets its first shot at video and interviews with newest and shiniest tech of the year…and some of the silliest. The standout at this particular event seemed to be Belty, a (and I assure you, I am not making this up) automated smart belt. It was so popular that I couldn’t even get close.

It’s pretty easy to make fun of some of the products, whether that’s the bluetooth enabled propane tank sensor (even more frightening? There’s MORE THAN ONE OF THEM ON THE MARKET) or the $180 smart basketball.  On the other hand, there are some really interesting things as well, like the Ozobot robot platform that allows kids to learn programming thru interacting with it via the Blockly programming language. Even better, the company that makes them is working towards open sourcing the hardware to allow the enabling of even more interesting interactions.

All of those, and more cool stuff, in the video below. Thanks for watching!

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

Marriott & other hotels petition to kill non-approved wifi devices

Wifi signal around here
Marriott hotels, along with the American Hotel & Lodging Association and Ryman Hospitality Properties have petitioned the FCC to allow them to kill non-approved wifi signals within their hotels and conference centers. This is of particular interest to me, not only because I’m a Tennessee resident and Ryman is a huge presence here in TN (they own the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, along with the Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium). The main reason that this is of special interest to me is that their attempt to kill “rogue” wifi hotspots will also kill the ability to use a LibraryBox in the same manner.

If you would like to read their petition, the full text is available on the FCC’s website, along with the very long list of opposition comments. Major technology players are lining up to agree this is a terrible idea, from Google to Microsoft and even universities. For a really good summary of the filing and the issues behind it, take a look at Glenn Fleishman’s BoingBoing post.

This isn’t the first time that Marriott has tried something like this, but at least the last time they got smacked by the FCC.

Because of their continued attempts to limit persons abilities to use an unlicensed segment of public bandwidth (something that is clearly and unmistakably against the law of the US and, I would argue, firmly against the public good) I have filed an opposition filing on behalf of the LibraryBox Project. The text of my filing can be read here, and I will link to the appropriate FCC page as soon as it is approved. If you or your library, school, or other organization would like to file a comment in opposition to the attempted hijacking of a public good, you can go here and click “Submit a Filing in RM-11737“.

Photo by nicolasnova – http://flic.kr/p/4Exfo2

Revisiting my medium

I’ve decided to try and change the way I interact online, and have already made a few changes that almost certainly no one has noticed but me. The first is that while I visit and “use” Facebook, I have never actually liked it very much and do so really only because that’s where the people are. On the other hand, I really do enjoy Twitter, and am far more engaged there than I ever was or will be on Facebook. I was piping my Twitter posts into Facebook, just as a simulacrum of interaction…but I don’t think I want to do that anymore. So I’m not.

I have also gone weeks this year without blogging, and after consideration, I don’t like that very much. Why not just use Facebook to write things like this? Because I really do feel very strongly about controlling how my words are displayed, and I want to own my own voice. So I’m going to try to blog more frequently, about things that I find interesting, and share those things out to Facebook and Twitter and elsewhere…but I want to try and make my blog somewhere people can come and learn about what I’m doing and what I think is cool in the world. It used to be that, and I think I need it to be that again.

The TL;DR version is: I’m going to try and blog more, and share more accurately the things that I think are interesting or important. I will use Facebook and Twitter as other channels to talk, but if the medium really is the message, I don’t want my message to be Facebook and Twitter. I want the medium to be my own.