Category Archives: Personal

Packing, Technology, and Covering CES2013

This is my 4th trip to the International CES, and as I packed for the trip, I was amazed at the difference in the technology that I’m taking with me. Each year I’ve tried to bring along any technology that I thought I might need to report something that happened at the conference, whether it be creating text, photos, videos, or some combination of the above. In my estimation, I’m now able to do better content creation with about ¼ of the equipment as 4 years ago.

4 years ago, if I wanted to capture decent photos and videos, I had to have a camera and a video camera. There were cameras that did well at both, but they were largely SLR or other extremely expensive and hard to use pieces of equipment. They were also well and out of my budget. So at that point, I traveled with a Canon point and shoot for still shots, and a Flip camera for video. To edit what both of these captured, I needed to carry a laptop, and at the time I had a 13 inch Apple Macbook. I also carried a Zoom h2 audio recorder, because neither of those were any good for pure audio capture, and my cell phone at that time (the iPhone 3G) didn’t have the best audio either.

Now? My iPhone 4S can capture HD quality video, is an amazing still camera, and is a great audio recorder. I am carrying my laptop, but at this point it’s a 13 inch Apple Macbook Air, at half the weight of my old Macbook. If it really mattered to me, I could edit the audio, video, and photos exclusively on my iPhone and leave the Air at home…or compromise, and trade the Air for my iPad just for the screen size. The “stuff I need to carry to cover an event” is now totally capable of fitting in my pocket, even if I decide to bring along a better microphone for the phone. It’s a bit easier with other gadgets in the workflow, but it’s an amazing change in just the last 4 years.

CES 2013 and Experimenting with Crowdfunding

Time for an experiment! I’m heading to the International CES 2013 in Las Vegas tomorrow, the largest consumer technology show in the world. I’ll be tweeting, photographing, videoing, and otherwise throwing content at Libraryland from CES for the next 5 days. I set up a website and for the very first time decided to experiment with crowdfunding something I’m doing and ask for donations. Or, to put it a different way, I’m becoming a busker for the trip.

I’ll provide tweets, videos, photos, and hopefully some insight into the technology trends for the next 12-18 months. If you think that’s valuable, donate some money to the cause. As a bonus, I’ll be doing a Google Hangout on January 16th at 2pm Eastern time where you can listen to me talk about the trends I saw, cool new products, and things to keep in mind if you are doing technology planning for your library. I’ll also be upping the interactive component, and will be pulling people who are interested into the Hangout with me, where we can talk, you can ask questions, etc.

I think all the info you need is at the Griffey @ CES2013 website, but if not, there is a contact form over there you can use to let me know what I’m missing.

Obviously, I’d love to know what everyone thinks of this…it’s a huge experiment, so any feedback is awesome.

Thinking about Organizations

I haven’t written much recently about MPOW, but we had a really interesting retreat before the holidays about organizational structure that I thought might pique some interest. We’re a growing library at UTC, but we’re growing in ways that seemingly aren’t typical for libraries in the US. Whenever I read about changes in structures for libraries, it tends to be in the direction of fewer professional librarians, more staff, more temporary/part time work…the same deprofessionalization that drives labor practices in the corporate world. I’ve even seen reports of public libraries going the Wal-Mart route, and hiring “part time” people just under the full-time limit in order to not have to pay them benefits…which may keep libraries open, but at a much larger cost to the stability of the workforce, I would think.

So when we started examining our own structure, and the changes that have been happening organically for years now, it was somewhat of a shock to see that our library is doing the exactly opposite of this. We are small, but even at our size the traditional ratio of staff-to-librarians is very different than at every other University that I am familiar with. When I was hired almost 9 years ago, there was a very small majority of staff-to-librarians..something like 18 staff to 14 or so librarians. The numbers at most of the institutions we looked at were much closer to 2-1 or 3-1 staff-to-librarians. The interesting part to me is that over the last almost-decade that number has shifted significantly, but towards the professional positions, the faculty positions. With our newest set of faculty hires, we are going to be something like 18 librarians to 13-14 staff…and in most cases that I can think of, the increase in librarian lines has come through the attrition and combination of staff lines.

We are in a position in librarianship where the “traditional” staff positions are being more and more disintermediated by technologies. When we moved our library ILS to OCLC Worldshare, we knew that it was going to have an impact on our departments. By eliminating the traditional copy cataloging functions, smoothing out acquisitions workflows, and other efficiency gains, we’ve been able to reposition a huge amount of hours towards more professional work. It’s allowed us to begin to expand in ways that we couldn’t without those efficiencies, and every time we’ve asked the question “What do we need to be a better library?” the answer to the question has been “Someone to head up this new thing…a librarian that can handle X”. So in almost every case we’ve had, we’ve chosen to go the route of creating more professional positions, and not less.

CAVEAT: This is not to draw massive distinctions between LIBRARIANS and NON-LIBRARIANS in some insane hierarchical or judgmental way. It’s simply that my library operates under the auspices of the UT system, and for us, hiring staff means a lower payscale, less flexible responsibilities (changing the job responsibilities of a staff member vs a faculty member is more difficult) and we are tied to those things and really can’t change them. These are the rules of the game we play in order to make the best organization we can to serve our patrons.

So with this move to a new library, we have a different set of challenges. We’re reaching a size now where communication and management is becoming more difficult, and we’re struggling to maintain a flat structure when the pressures of hiring seem to be driving us towards more levels of management. We don’t necessarily want that, and prefer a structure that keeps as many of us “on the front lines” as possible, without the reporting/management hierarchies that can bog down operations. But it’s a struggle to see how that can be done given how and where our growth is occurring.

So, libraryland: How do you handle growth of an organization that actively wants to prevent increasing the complexity of structure? Is anyone else seeing the growth of professional positions at the cost of staff or paraprofessional?

Circulating Ideas Ep. 19

I was very pleased to be the guest of Steve Thomas on his podcast series Circulating Ideas this past week. There’s a whole host of great episodes of the podcast, and I highly recommend diving into the back catalog. My conversation with Steve ranged from which sci-fi technology I’d most like to have to how and why I built LibraryBox, and many points in between. There are way worse ways to spend an hour. :-)

Listen in here, or head over to Circulating Ideas itself for a downloadable copy, or subscribe in your favorite podcatcher.

American Libraries Live

For those that missed it, I was the host of the first episode of American Libraries Live, a new monthly show from American Libraries. I had the best panel ever to work with backing me up, Marshall Breeding, Nina McHale, and Rebecca K. Miller. They could not have been more awesome to work with, and I can’t wait to do more with both the show, and these awesome librarians.

Take a look, and I’d love to hear suggestions for how to make it better in the future!

Things that made me think

I’ve been re-reading a number of posts the last few days, and a few of them just truly stand out as things that have changed or are changing my thinking about tech and libraries…just really, really great things. If you haven’t read these yet, go do so:

  • Living our Values by Meredith Farkas – Meredith has been someone in libraries that I’ve looked up to for a long time, and is one of those people that seem to grok librarianship in a way that I’m still stumbling towards. There are others in this group (Jessamyn West, Michael Stephens, Michael Porter, Karen Schneider, and so many more) that I am indebted to for inspiring me to start writing this blog in the first place. If you haven’t obsessively read Meredith’s blog from beginning to end, you’re missing a great resource on how to be a librarian in the 21st century.
  • Walking Away from the American Chemical Society by Jenica Rogers – When searching for words to describe Jenica, I find that the same words describe her writing: Brave, amazing, inspiring, fierce, and honest. To find all of that in a person AND to have that person be in a leadership role AND be public about said role? I’m not sure it’s ever been done this way in libraries. She’s doing leadership right.
  • Hardware is Dead by Jay Goldberg & How Low (Power) Can You Go? by Charlie Stross – I’ve been spending many, many processing cycles thinking about hardware, and the Maker movement, the future of technology and libraries. These two essays sparked whole new pathways, and helped me light new areas to explore. I’ve got a lot to say about this stuff, which I’ll hopefully be doing over the next year or so.
  • How to See the Future by Warren Ellis – I’m just going to quote a section of this, because it’s so good I can’t even use my own paltry words in talking about it:

Understand that our present time is the furthest thing from banality. Reality as we know it is exploding with novelty every day. Not all of it’s good. It’s a strange and not entirely comfortable time to be alive. But I want you to feel the future as present in the room. I want you to understand, before you start the day here, that the invisible thing in the room is the felt presence of living in future time, not in the years behind us.

Go read these. I’ve got nothing to say that even comes close right now.

ALA 2012

ALA Annual 2012 is going to be huge, not only because it’s the first time my lovely daughter Eliza will be accompanying me to the conference (my wife Betsy is also coming, but she attended Chicago as well, so it’s not all new to her) but because it’s the first time I’ve actually scheduled “arrive early, do tourist stuff” for the conference. We’ll all be rolling into Anaheim on Tuesday before ALA, and doing Disney stuffs on Wed and Thurs. On Friday starts the conference proper for me, while they get to hang out and have fun. Below you’ll see my all-too-full schedule, and I’ve just really started to add things…I’m sure it will get even more full as the next week progresses.

You’ll also noticed that at times I’m double or triple booked. I’d love to not do this, but there truly are a ton of programs that I don’t want to miss, and I’m going to do my best to flit in and out and see as many as I can.

If you see me around, say hi!

LibraryBox, Use Cases, and a call for help

One of the things that I’ve been most often asked about the Librarybox project is “What’s it for?”. That’s an honest question, and I’ve had a host of answers: to help serve files to areas without wifi but with devices, to serve files to users in a controlled fashion that doesn’t involve wider Internet access, etc.

But an email I got just a week or so ago put everything into focus for me. Here it is, edited to protect the identity of the person writing and anonymize the location a bit.

I’m a foreigner living in [REDACTED], and volunteer twice a week to help low-income [REDACTED] learn English. English classes are obscenely expensive, so it’s becomes a means for the Haves to keep the Have-not’s out of more lucrative jobs and overseas educational opportunities. Helping really motivated people, who just can’t afford access to this sort of education is quite rewarding and enjoyable.

We get upwards of 100 people showing up in the park to practice every week, so I do quite a bit of running around. One of the issues is that because of the [INFORMATION CONTROLS], often access to very simple, innocuous study material is blocked (of course well-to-do families have VPNs so don’t have these problems). So at first I would print things out, and then when the group got too large, encourages them to bring USB drives- which was a bit time consuming, and I’m concerned might attract the wrong sort of attention. Lately I’ve been using Piratebox, because even the cheapest [REDACTED] phones have wifi. It’s better than the alternatives to date, but as you pointed out it’s not really meant for the purpose and can be quite confusing…

[HARDWARE DISCUSSION REDACTED]…I just barely managed to get Piratebox installed- I’m not very good at command line. Most of the people who would probably get the best use out of this also would have similar problems, anything that could be done to simplify the install procedure would be great. If LibraryBox could simply open to some sort of file structure- read only, with no links or chat like the PirateBox has. Then I could just load the USB drive up directly with relevant study material for them to download to their phones, and at the cost so low I’m sure that the use would become widespread.

This is something I truly believe in, and a little English can make a massive difference in the quality of life here for some. Also for a hungry mind not to have access to books… well you probably feel
about the same way about that as I do or you would not have started this fork. So if any sort of donation would help with the development costs- please let me know.

As a result of this email, I would like to publicly ask for help with the project. I think two things need to be done: the first is moving the LibraryBox fork up to the current version of Piratebox, something which I have the hardware to start testing soon. But once I grok how to make the customizations work, I think the next step in the project is a true fork…producing an IPK that is installable directly to LibraryBox, bypassing Piratebox altogether. I had been holding out against this, hoping to continue to benefit from the code being produced by the Piratebox team. Once LibraryBox starts being a separate install, it becomes more complicated to merge code. But the letter above sold me, and I am asking for help with this.

If you feel as strongly as I do about the free flow of information, the sharing of books, and the education of the disadvantaged, help me. In the next couple of weeks I hope to have the customizations done, and if you have any coding skills, or understand how to build IPK’s for install, help me make this easier for people like the author above. The idea that this project could be something that helps make lives better around the world…well, that has a way of inspiring me. I hope it inspires you to volunteer some time to help out.

If you have questions, ideas, or want to touch base to find out how you can help, use the contact form here.

Contact page

The beauty of Sewanee

Here, in a time-lapse by Steven Alvarez, is 3 minutes of why we live here in Sewanee. Man, is it beautiful.

The Light from Stephen Alvarez on Vimeo.

Client: University of the South

Music by Boy Named Banjo

http://boynamedbanjo.bandcamp.com/

24 hours on the campus of the University of the South.

The original page for the video is

http://give.sewanee.edu/thelight/

There is no video in this video.

I shot 27,000 images in the course of 3 weeks. Around 5,000 appear in the finished video.

Everything was shot as Canon raw, converted in Adobe Lightroom and edited in Apple Final Cut Pro.

Motion control is with a Dynamic Perceptions Stage Zero Dolly.

Cameras were Canon 5D MK II, the MK IIIs didn’t fit into my workflow.

lens are all Canon

16-35mm L 2.8 model 2

24mm L 1.4

34mm L 1.4

50mm L 1.2

70-200mm L IS 2.8

85mm 1.8

300mm L 4