Tag Archives: libraries

Stand, Fight, Resist

The idea that libraries are neutral spaces has been well and disabused over the last few years. From the services we offer to the collections that we curate, the decisions that libraries and librarians make are political ones that reflect values. Sometimes those are the values of the organization, sometimes the values of the individuals, and sometimes they are the values of the communities that the library serves. Those values are illustrated by our technologies, our ontologies, and our descriptors. Those who attempt to hold that “neutrality” of information access is an ideal for which to strive have had a hard time holding to that stance as increasing numbers of librarians question and deconstruct our profession. I would like to suggest something even stronger…that even if it were possible for libraries to be neutral spaces, that to create such a space would be morally questionable, and potentially actively morally wrong.

I say this as someone who firmly believes in the maxim of combating bad speech with more speech. I am not here advocating controls or restrictions on speech. But it is not the responsibility of every library to collect and distribute literature of hate, or falsehoods, or lies. Some libraries do need to collect everything, the good and the bad, for archival and historical study purposes, but those libraries are fairly obviously identified in practice and the vast majority of libraries should and could take a stand with their actions, programs, policies, and collections to be on the side of justice and scientific fact.

Neutrality favors the powerful, and further marginalizes the marginalized. In the face of the current political climate, with the use of opinions as bludgeons and disinformation as the weapon of choice for manipulation and intellectual coercion, it is up to those who value fact and believe in the care of those in need to stand up and positively affirm that to do otherwise is evil.

For libraries and librarians, that means:

  • Making the physical space of the library safe for those that need it by publicly stating your stance on the targeting of marginalized communities and then following up with actions and policies that back up those statements
  • Protecting your patrons from targeting and oppression, even in the face of possible governmental pressures, by resisting calls for information about your patrons at every level
  • Making your digital spaces safe for patrons by limiting the data you collect, eliminating the data that you store, encrypting your communications at all levels and importantly insisting that your vendors do the same
  • Running programs that actively provide support for your at-risk patrons, whatever that looks like in your community
  • By being the voice of reason and compassion when dealing with your city or county government, and by modeling the same by advocating for those at risk

These things are vital and necessary. Especially now.

It has been barely more than a month since Election Night 2016, and the normalization of the President-Elect and his positions have already taken hold. Major media outlets report his actions but don’t follow up to question his statements or refute his words. When one of his key surrogates, Scottie Neil Hughes, says that facts aren’t real anymore, we that live in the real world must not simply accept these types of statements.

This moment in history is not the time for neutrality, it is not the time for libraries to quietly serve their communities. When I say that the next 4 years may be the most important in the history of our country, I am not doing so metaphorically or in an attempt at hyperbole. I sincerely believe that the fate of the republic is potentially at hand, and that the threat of fascism is real and imminent. In the face of such potential, the library is both refuge and target, bastion against disinformation and simultaneously at risk of being trampled under the boot of anti-intellectualism.

Neutrality should be abandoned, and we must stand positively against the threat of the removal of rights of citizens and noncitizens alike. We must eschew presenting false equivalency between two opposing explanations about the world when one is evidence-based and the other is not. We must continue to defend a fact-based world, rooted in the scientific method of understanding, an understanding of reality that is testable, refutable, and falsifiable . We must build collections that reflect the scientific consensus about the world, and not fall prey to the rhetoric of “balance” and “opinion”. Opinion does not hold once it begins impinging upon the personhood of others, nor when it stands in opposition to accepted scientific facts. We must be the defenders of fact and reason.

Maya Angelou said “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Our President-Elect has shown us who he is: a shallow, ignorant man who surrounds himself with those who seek power at the expense of the marginalized and will use every opportunity to demonize in order to dehumanize those they wish to trample. Our government will soon be composed of those who want to actively harm LGBTQ people among us, that wish to hunt down and persecute people for their religion, that have such base misunderstandings of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that they are prepared to roll back hard-won freedoms for the sake of their own comfort and power. If history shows us anything about those that seek this sort of power, it is that it is best for a society when that power is held in check and they are not allowed to be overly comfortable.

The library must be a space for all and everyone, but most importantly those at most risk, both now in the future. It must be a positive force for our understanding of the world and our compassion for the people within it. Neutrality and balance are not the way forward. We must resist the forces that seek to normalize segregation, aggression, and ignorance.

Libraries are powerful forces for good. Now is the time to muster our powers, to stand brave against the people who seek to limit and reduce our rights and our understanding of the world. Let us throw off the false cloak of neutrality and work to embrace and support a world of social justice, equity for all, and scientific understanding. This country, and the people in it, deserve a better world than the one that is currently being forced upon them. Use your power as pillars of your communities, as the guardians of knowledge and the providers of help, use that power now to resist the normalization of fascism and bigotry, of hate and fear and greed. Stand for truth and knowledge, justice and equity for all. Stand for facts, and stand for those who are most at risk. Stand against the horrorshow revealing itself to us, and fight with those who are determined to create equity among people, justice in the face of the unjust, and love out of hate.

Stand. Fight. Resist.


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Tendencias y futuros en bibliotecas

UPDATE: here’s a link to a second post that includes video!

This morning I had the great honor of delivering the opening keynote for Los Profesionales en Gestión de la Información y la Documentación de América Latina and their 3rd Congreso International GID. In beautiful Cali, Colombia, a few hundred librarians and information professionals gathered from all across Latin America to talk about the future of libraries.

Here are the slides and a video of my slides, and there will be a video (I am promised) of the presentation later. I presented for the first time with a live translator, which was an amazing experience and I am in awe of her ability to do that so well. I took questions and answered via the same translator, and overall I think it went very well. Aside from a few technical difficulties, I’m very happy with the way this came together.

Libraries in the Exponential Age

In late summer of 2015, I was invited to take part in a gathering at the Aspen Institute for a discussion that revolved around the general theme of how libraries can be more innovative and can drive innovation in their communities. It was one of the best groups and conversations that I have ever had around the general topic of the future of libraries, and I’m thrilled that the work we did is coming out in the form of some great writing and tools.

First up, on the Knight Foundation blog, is the post that explores the work that I was a part of, including a video I did talking about one of the things I’m most concerned about for the future of libraries.

From this and other gatherings, the Aspen Institute has built out a website and an action guide that:

…leads you through a variety of strategic activities and provides worksheets that evaluate the current level of support for your library and the resources needed to plan and convene your own community dialogue.

I’d recommend that libraries and librarians take a good look at these resources. The reports coming out of this work are among the best that I’ve read about the future of libraries, and I’d highly recommend that you take the time to look at both Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries and Libraries in the Exponential Age. The latter is the one I was a part of, and I have almost no complaints about the way it approaches the future of libraries.

Innovation & Libraries: LLAMA Thought Leader Webinar Series

I was honored today to be a part of the LLAMA Thought Leader Series for Libraries, talking about innovation. I focused on my own career in libraries, and the aspects of things I’ve done that I considered innovative…efforts and projects that I thought were interesting. The conclusion of the presentation was talking through what the commonalities are in those projects, what I think is necessary for innovation in libraries, and how leadership can support said innovation. If you’re interested in downloading the video or slides, you can find those on the LLAMA website, or watch below.

Video

Slides

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.

CES 2015 – 3D printers

I spent the first day of the exhibit hall opening working to see all the 3D printers that I could, and that turned out to be basically an all-day affair. This year CES isolated all of the 3D printers together at the Sands convention center, which turned out to be great…they were all together, and it was easy to compare sizes and capabilities. Check the video for some visuals and commentary on the ones that I paid the most attention to, but here’s the basic rundown for libraries.

There is yet another questionable audio portion in this video where my evil microphone comes back into play. Please forgive me, and know that I will be burning said microphone on the alter of better audio quality as soon as I am able. 

My number one choice for libraries that are looking at buying a 3D printer is the Lulzbot Mini from Aleph Objects. Released officially here at CES2015, the Mini will be shipping this month for $1350, and comes preassembled and can be ready to print just minutes after taking it out of the box.

I have been continually impressed with the quality of work that Lulzbot is doing, and I personally have one of their larger Taz printers (the Taz 2) that I have been running for over a year now with almost zero problems. But most importantly for libraries, Lulzbot is a dedicated Open Hardware company, which means that you will never be locked into proprietary parts or software to run your printer. If you need to repair a part, everything is documented and can be sourced from non-Lulzbot sources if needed.

Perhaps obviously I am biased towards open hardware, but I think that it is keeping with the spirit of the Library to support open information in all its forms. My older recommendations for printers included Makerbot…until they started locking down their devices to the point where now they are having serious issues with their newest printers, and customers have no recourse.

I have two other recommendations for libraries that are looking at buying a 3D printer in the next year. The first I mentioned briefly on one of my earlier reports, Ultimaker and their new range of small, medium, and large printers. Also a champion of Open Hardware design, Ultimaker provides all of the files and schematics for their printers online for free. I don’t think any library would go wrong choosing one of these printers for their Maker Space.

Finally, the third in my recommendations for libraries looking for something more interesting, even at the entry level, for 3D printing is any of the products from SeeMeCNC and their line of Delta printers. A departure from the cartesian printers that nearly everyone else makes, Delta-style printers are really eye catching and would be a great addition to a library Maker Space. And with their newest mini-delta, the Eris, SeeMeCNC has hit a very attractive price point for libraries, only $599.

Lots more type of stereolithographic printers as well…these are the 3D printers that use resin-based printing rather than the typical melted plastic that you find in the printers mentioned above. Take a look at the video for shots of the Form1, the Old World Labs printers, and more.

By far the most interesting new type of printer that I got to see was the Voxel8, a printer that’s designed to print in both plastic and conductive ink simultaneously, enabling the 3D routing of conductive structures and circuitry inside the plastic being printed around it. Watch the video to see more about them.

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

LibraryBox around the ‘net

The LibraryBox project is slowly getting noticed around the ‘net! In the last month or so, there has been two really great writeups of the project.

Hack Education (thanks to Audrey Watters!)

Griffey says the LibraryBox will “take the ‘pirate’ out of PirateBox.” That doesn’t mean exorcising the spirit of the larger PirateBox project, which its creator Darts says was “inspired by the free culture and pirate radio movements” and serves as a “playful remixing of the title of the world’s most resilient bittorrent site, The Pirate Bay.” Rather, replacing “pirate” with “library” makes it more apparent, in Griffey’s case, that this is about open access to information and to books. As he describes some of the inquiries he’s received about the LibraryBox, it’s clear that this device could have enormous potential for boosting literacy and education and for opening access to digital educational materials.

and

Open Book Lab (thanks to John Miedema!)

PirateBox alone is a great idea. LibraryBox, says Griffey, is customized to be friendly to library needs. At first I raised an eyebrow at that. What library needs merit a fork? Then I thought of several:

  • A primary mission of libraries is to increase access to information. LibraryBox could provide access to information resources in conditions where political oppression is preventing it.
  • Sometimes technology is used to block access to information, either through aggressive monitoring, IP blocking, or filtering. LibraryBox is technology that reverses this blocking.
  • One of my current interests is the aggregation of distributed data fragments into a whole, especially as the web grows bigger and more complex. Like libraries, LibraryBox is designed to deliver data in highly localized contexts. It is an instant intranet, a domain of knowledge. Lots to think about here.

Go read both stories, and comment if you’re interested in the project.

In other LibraryBox news, I started a Google Groups listserv for the project, in hopes of getting people who are interested talking to one another about it, and generating ideas about use, as well as sharing implementation issues and challenges.  Come help define where the project heads next!

Heresy and Patron Data

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last several years thinking, writing, and speaking about ebooks. I’m on the Board of Directors of Library Renewal, a group dedicated to finding ways to make the ebook experience a good one for libraries, publishers, and authors. And I’ve spoken all over the US and Internationally about eReaders and how digital content changes libraries. So what I am about to suggest is something that has been rattling around in my head for some time now, and I feel like it’s something that I’d love to hear other thoughts about.

So as the Joker said in The Dark Knight Returns:

When we look at how libraries, pubishers, and authors all interrelate vis a vis electronic content, specifically ebooks, the models that are largely being forwarded are straightforward economic models. The rights-holders have content, we want content, we pay them for content. Most of the disagreement comes down to the details: how much are we paying, and what rights do with have to the content that we are paying for. The majority of “new” models that are being trumpeted in libraryland, like the Douglas County Public ebook model, are just differently-arranged ways of doing exactly the same thing…which, admittedly, gives different outcomes on the two contentious fronts (cost and rights) but isn’t actually new in any significant way.

In an economic system, when one side of an equation (libraries) want something from another side (rights-holders), there is an exchange of value that takes place wherein both sides agree that said value exchange is fair in both directions. Libraries pay money for content…this is, at its base, just a value exchange between libraries and publishers.

Libraries don’t want a free ride as far as ebooks are concerned. Every single librarian that I have spoken with is perfectly willing to continue to pay for content. Unfortunately, the economics of libraries are such that when we want more rights (the ability to check out ebooks to any number of patrons simultaneously, or the right to ILL ebooks, etc) we don’t have the ability to exchange our typical economic instrument (money) for them. Think about Amazon and their ability to put the Harry Potter books into their Lending Library…freely available to anyone with an Amazon Prime membership. Libraries would kill for the right to do this, but Amazon is the one that can write the check. If we had tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to throw at publishers, we could dictate any rights we wished. But we don’t.

So the question that’s been bugging me is: what else do we have, besides cash, that is of value to the rights holders and could be traded for more of what we want. Libraries generate value in enormous numbers of ways, but what do we have that publishers might want that would give us some bartering ability?

Some librarians have started looking at these value-exchanges in a new way. Toby Greenwalt, a librarian at the Skokie Public Library, started asking what the value was to the publishers of the awards that the American Library Association gives out for childrens and young adult titles, and Andromeda Yelton followed up with a look at how those awards related to the ability for libraries to lend those books electronically. Here’s something that the ALA does, which appears to be significant value to publishers, with no visible complimentary exchange of value going the other direction.

Finally we get to what I’ve been thinking of as my heretical idea. Because when I think about what other thing of value that libraries have that could potentially be traded to publishers in order to get an equivalent set of value back from them in the way of ebook rights, I keep coming back to one thing:

Information. Information about our patrons, information about our circulations of individual books, and demographic information about our users and what books they read.

I know. A lot of librarians just stopped reading, or perhaps began clutching the arms of their chairs a bit too tightly. Patron information! The holiest of holies in library land, the Thing Which Must Not Be Shared! One of the core tenets of librarianship is that the borrowing history of the individual is sacrosanct. And for very, very good reasons…it doesn’t take a paranoid person to see the ways in which reading histories should be kept private, from the teenager looking for information about sexuality to the individual checking out a book about chronic illness (you wouldn’t want your insurance company to know that, now would you). As the saying goes, “show me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are”.

But this information is valuable. Publishers would love to know more about their readers, as it helps them to make better decisions about what to publish, how to market, and what sorts of books that a given population is more likely to buy. The amount of data that libraries could have in this realm is enormous, and could be a huge lever with which to move the playing field that we are all currently on regarding ebooks.

I am very aware, there are huge problems with this idea. The data in many cases is actually non-existent (libraries are very good about dumping this data so that it can’t be used by law enforcement or others in negative ways against readers). In order to maintain any sort of patron trust, there would have to be serious thought given to sanitization of the data, stripping of individually identifying information, and more (and yes, I am aware that stripping of individually identifying information has been shown to be basically useless…I retain some hope that there is a way to do it that isn’t). It is also the case that with the rise of cloud-based ILS systems that this information is going to be more available than ever, and centralized on servers that are out of library’s control.

But if we want the next decade to be a good one for us, libraries and librarians need to put some serious thought into what our other value-creation areas are, and how we can begin to identify and trade on those against the rights-holders. Because our money is getting thin, our prices are going up, digital is likely to kill our existing model completely, and we need new ways to think about these things.

What else do we have? What sort of leverage do we have that we aren’t using? What can we bring to the negotiating table that we haven’t yet?