The Damage of One Jack-Ass Blogger

I have said before that one of my favorite bloggers is Kathy Sierra. I am shocked and ashamed to say that I may have seen her last blog post for a while (warning disturbing content).

The basic story is that some very disturbed or judgement-impaired individual has made some very not-funny threats on her, causing her to cancel her ETech conference presentations, and basically find herself holed up in her house for fear of what may be just a sick joke, or a sickly serious non-joke.

As much value as can be gained from the likes of all the blogs I read, one ding-bat can change all that. I think it is imperative that the rest of us stand up for what is right in these cases and I hope anyone who has information about the person responsible for this stands up and submits the evidence to the appropriate authorities.

This takes the sexism complaints I have heard about in the tech world to entirely different level. I can’t help but feel somewhat responsible for it, and I’m feeling fairly helpless about what to do about it.

Although Kathy Sierra is the one taking the hits here this time, this is about freedom of information for all. Online bullies cannot and should not destroy the web experience for the rest of us.


I’m with Robert Scoble and Walt Crawford.   A week of keeping an anti-jackass blog post at the top of everyone’s blog is about as good a response to this as most bloggers can do.   I would like to add that I’d like to extend my anti-jackass wishes beyond this incident and onto any case where such threats occur.   The internet is getting pretty nasty and it is a big shame.

Ok Public (if you are out there) — What do YOU think should be kept in libraries?

I do not know how many non-librarians read my blog (or even how many librarians), but I was thinking recently about more collaborative approaches to weeding books in public libraries.

The current paradigm for weeding items is to do it gingerly and not let the public really know that we do it. There is good reason for this — weeding, if put out in the public without context can end up being blown waaaay out of proportion.

But weeding is necessary and done mostly because of damage, inoperability (a DVD gets scratched up), relevance (people have no use for a World Book from 1982 thank you!) and plain lack of use. Storing books that carry little or no value is expensive, and gets in the way of the stuff that people want.

That said, I do think some things are sacred. Some books should remain on public libraries shelves even if they never circulate.

So, I have a question for the online world and I think all libraries should take the time to ask their communities the same thing:

What books/films/music/whatever do you think should never be weeded off a library’s shelf?

To be more specific, here is what you are saying to librarians everywhere:

  1. If this book gets old or damaged, you should replace it immediately.
  2. If the book goes out of print, you should spend lots of money to keep it in good condition.
  3. If a powerful lobby group thinks this book is offensive, you should go to the guillotine before weeding the item (and I’ll go with you).
  4. I don’t care if the book never gets borrowed.

I’m going to start with comments here. If thing pick up, I will move the list somewhere else where they can be rated etc.. Eventually, I will post the list for the benefit of libraries everywhere.

PS.   This blog is now at over 12,000 views.   My expectation was that 10,000 views would have occurred within a year of its existance (that would be July).   Wow.  Just wow. 

Why You Should Fall to Your Knees and Worship a Five-Weeks Librarian

Hey you! . . . Yeah, you!

I’m going to tell you what I think you should do right now. Then I’m going to tell you why you should do it.

What you should do:

Find the email address of one of the following librarians:

  1. Dorothea Salo
  2. Meredith Farkas
  3. Amanda Etches-Johnson
  4. Elyssa Kroski
  5. Michelle Boule
  6. Karen Coombs
  7. Tom Peters
  8. Heather Yager

and drop an Amazon or other convenient gift certificate their way.

Why Should You Do It?

Especially if you are a techie librarian, they did you a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiig favor at great expense to themselves and for no pay. I’m not going to rah-rah about how important social software is, or how they are leading the charge to a “new” library world (though they are). I am simply interested in the fact that they put their blood, sweat and tears into something that brings amazing value to the library community at large. What did they do precisely?

They started the Five weeks to a Social Library program. Ok. Let’s assume that the course was mediocre for now, and begin with some Mathematics.

Meredith says that she spent 8-14 hours per week of her time during the 5 weeks. Then another 3-5 per week during the planning stages. Let’s go with the small numbers, under the assumption that, as chair, Meredith spent more than the average 5-weeker. 8 * 5 is 40. 24 * 3 is 75 for a grand total of 115 hours per person. Let’s pay them each $20 an hour. $2230 of their time put out into the library community — for your benefit.

Ok ok ok. So you read a previous post of mine that said very specifically, that you should not measure staff time with a straight dollar-for-hour value judgement. Well, I won’t get into why you are wrong even technically, but let’s start costing out the value to the library community that this project has put out there. You can argue with my numbers, but you cannot argue with the overall value.

  1. Value of upgrading the skills of the 30(+) librarians in a geographic scope at 1.5 credit hours (let’s say $400 for a 1/2 credit course). $12,000
  2. Value of 30(+) pre-established service plans and proposals, with wise consultant feedback and support (let’s say $1000 for a month’s consultant fees). $30,000
  3. Value of journal entries, research notes, transcripts, ideas, and whatnot developed within the social software site (let’s say $100 for every person that will read that site in the next year or so). $ [Just about unmeasurable].
  4. Add an extra $50 workshop fee just for the stuff I learned on the site.

Now let’s look at the reality of the course, and understand that by no means was the project “mediocre.” Amanda ended up a “mover and a shaker.” Great feedback abounds. People out there are exposing their senior management to these ideas and tools in ways that are sustainable and exciting. And here are some more numbers then:

  1. The value of one more person in my town to demonstrate how much of a “no brainer” some of these things are: priceless.
  2. The value of a community of people who have joined the theoretical ranks of Librarian 2.0s: priceless.
  3. The value of sharing an infrastructure that can be used for a wide range of learning projects: priceless.
  4. The value of just a handful of library leaders chomping at the bit to organize their own “5 weeks” project: priceless.

This stuff is truely making libraries everywhere better. Making our libraries better means making our work lives better. We are wanted and desired in the community. People want to pay taxes to sustain our salaries. This stuff is money, health, love and happiness going directly into the pockets of librarians everywhere.

Then we can talk about what money, health, love and happiness spin-offs result from having our users experience great libraries.

I think each one of these guys should have their in-boxes spammed with gift certs. It’s the least the library community can do.

How is the Weather Inside You Right Now?

tule fog

Originally uploaded by emdot.

There is a way of taking a break during an open space session. Basically, you get people to sit around in a circle and you ask them to describe the “weather” in their minds right now.

For those who have never participated in an “Open Space” session or other sorts of unconference-ish activities, the process can be a little overwhelming. Saying “how is the weather inside you?” is a good way to get the frustrations, nerves, excitement, desire, or whatever out.  It also helps to keep social boundaries (real or imaginary) in check — like being overly enthusiastic, or conversely, too critical.

It’s just a way of being aware of yourself. It’s good to know you are angry or ticked or overexcited or even to know that you do not know how you feel about something. . ..   And for someone who is highly critical of himself and others, this is a good way to relay feelings in their natural state.

For me, right now, the weather is uncertain. Just like the weather outside the past few days. It doesn’t know if it wants to rain, or snow, or just stay cloudy.    We have fog one minute and sunshine the next.

Or maybe a better analogy is one of those humid summer days where you know if it would just get it over with and rain, everyone would be sooo much more comfortable.   Instead, that moisture just sits up in the air, making you feel like you are swimming through the atmosphere with no real place to come up for air.

I’m at the stage of a few projects where my true colors will begin to show and I’m beginning to doubt myself at all corners. I know this is normal and I will not let it defeat me. But I’m concerned that I’ve stopped learning and I will remedy that.   Twitter and Ning are not going to relieve that anxiety, I think Web 2.0 has gone Roccoco for me right now and I need a bit of the classical era.

But maybe CIL or an good quality unconference might? Anyone interested in a 3-5 person conference, open space style, but over the phone or skype? IM me if you are interested.

This, I swear, is not intended to be melodramatic or otherwise attention-getting.   It is simply an exercise in professional development and a reflexion on feelings.   Even the library world needs some time off the analytical mode .

Ten Uses for a Laptop Lab in Public Libraries

 I know that wireless has pretty much been adopted in libraries.   There are best practices established for their use and a wide range of journal articles on its implementation and so on.   What I’m less sure about is the adoption of laptop labs.    To a degree, laptop labs are an old thing, and — perhaps — libraries are already on this trick.   But if this is the case, I’m curious as to why my recent article in Partnership is the first thing that shows up when I type “laptop labs public libraries” in Google.   Maybe libraries are calling them something else?

Anyway, wireless technology certainly takes the idea of a laptop lab to another level.   Unlike your average computer lab, you can bring the technology out to almost anywhere — in your program room, out in the study tables, or even outside if the weather is nice, your batteries are strong and the signal is good.

At MPOW we have 3 laptop labs in the system and we want more.    We’ve tried a number of things with them — it’s quite funny actually.   I don’t think any two branches use them for quite the same purpose.   Perhaps the coolest thing about these labs is that they are flexible in use too.

How much does it cost?     Of course, it depends on the size of your system and how large the labs are going to be.   Of course, you can get good deals on technology if you buy in bulk.   But I’d say a total cost of $20,000 CDN for a set of ten laptops with lots of bells and whistles, wordprocessing, photo & video editing software, locks, storage cabinet and wireless router is a fair budget.   Cut one laptop out and maybe you can get some great video & sound equipment too.

  • Lend it out to community groups

Make sure you have a policy if a cord or pieces go missing, but community groups will love the ability to offer training using  your laptop lab.   Whether you insist on in-house use or let the lab leave your building, that’s up to the library’s willingness to accept risk, but it’s a great use and those community leaders will thank your city councilors for it.

  • Engage Teens with Technology

Is this a familiar scenario?  —  You have a computer lab where a group of teens are playing runescape together and getting quite excited about leveling up and pwning each other.   Next to them is the poor guy/woman who has a job application due at 4pm and he/she’s trying to concentrate on how he/she will present himself in the resume.   Old model = major fight, with no one happy.    Laptop lab model = engage the teens in the program room after school with the laptop lab, where they can laugh, learn, play and collaborate all they want without disturbing Mr./Ms. Resume.    One time, I have been told, staff even brought a lava lamp in to help the atmosphere a bit.   Laptops facilitate creativity even too!

  • Train Older Adults Basic Computer Skills

I think every system has one of these libraries:  built in the days before computers, stuffed full of books on old shelves, and no room whatsoever for a computer lab.   People wanting computers falling over each other to get them, and if you want to host a computer class, well the only time to do it is on a day when you are closed.    Very limiting for sure.

Well, laptop labs can help bring more flexibility to such a program schedule, so older adults can experience the joys of accessing their family through email for the first time.    Or start a blog.   Or learn if a new computer is really worth their money or time.    We’ve also even experimented with letting people “drop in” for a refresher on the previous course materials.   That’s more possible with laptops than it is with regular computers.

  • Help develop basic literacy and English language skills

It’s expensive, but you should at try Kurzweil at least once for some ubercool experiences.   Basically, you scan print and it reads it back to you.    Just like that, push a button and away it goes!

There are other products you could add to the mix — things like online picture dictionaries and basic math and english.   Such a lab could be a great support for any ESL/Literacy curriculum.

  • Facilitate Exam Proctoring

Exams are happening online.   Wouldn’t a public library be a great place for folks to host an exam?   Sounds like a great partnership opportunity to me — perhaps even with an out-of-town school.

  • Support Income Tax Programs

In Canada, our revenue service provides a program where volunteers are trained to help low-income earners fill out their tax forms.    If they have a lab, they have the ability to file via internet.   Woot!

  • Bring an “open space/unconference” session to the World

There is a dream in my head that public libraries will some day offer annual/bi-annual/quarterly opportunities for their communities to raise their own agenda items on a city’s well-being and address take actions toward achieving those goals.   The “Open Space” process is one great way to do this.   Wouldn’t it be great if there was a scheduled opportunity to do such things?

. . . and wouldn’t it be made all the better if citizens could blog the experience to the rest of the world using those laptops?

  • Show schoolkids that libraries are fun

The Spring Garden Road Library did a little animation program that looked like load of fun to me!   There are a ton of opportunities to bring kids into the library for a fun and educational time.

  • Take the Library to the Road

Kelli Wooshue and I did a conference presentation at the Nova Scotia Library Association (NSLA), talking about Web 2.0.   Basically, we got people to try a few Web 2.0 technologies and asked them to suggest what made them different from the 1.0 stuff.   We used a laptop lab to facilitate this.   What fun.   And there are possibilities for the future of this too!

  • Showcase the library at Trade Shows

A popular thing that we always do on those trade shows if offer people access to laptops to check their email, access the internet, or place a hold on a book.    It always makes us very popular.

That’s that.  Is anyone else out there using laptop labs to engage their customers?   Let me know!  I’d love to hear any story you have to offer.

Atlantic Librarians — If you are from the east coast, come on over!


Following the lead of Bill Drew’s Library 2.0 Ning site, I decided to start a site for Atlantic Canadian librarians to network with each other. I love the Library 2.0 site, but I also feel there is need to develop local networks as well.

In general, I think Ning has alot of potential as a tool for libraries to engage users. One obvious use is as a teen site, but I can see other groups being interested in this sort of thing too.

Anyway, there aren’t any real restrictions for joining the site beyond the usual behavior ones (no spam, obviously), so come on in! If you have an east coast connection, however broad, come on in!