One of the things I do a lot lately is write email to people who ask me librarian-type questions. Sometimes the answers are more widely applicable and I figured I should note them somewhere. This was a reply to a question from a Drop-in Time student who wanted to know about ways to learn “new skills” for older students who might need to learn tech for work or just know what’s out there. How does a librarian know where to point people?
Hey there — yeah the 23 Things stuff is a good place to start exploring. The other things I mentioned that I think you wrote down
– Universal Class through the library
– Khan Academy
– GCFLearnFree for basic skills
The other things that is a bit more on the “fun” end of the spectrum but can get some tech interactive experience AND feel like you are part of a project is looking for crowdsourcing things that people do online to help enhance cultural institutions digital data. So I think of things like this…
Citizen Archivist at the National Archives
Text Correct Cambridge Newspapers at Cambridge Public Library
Smithsonian Digital Volunteers at the Smithsonian Institution
These don’t always help people who need paying work, but can give people more familiarity interacting in an online environment which can translate into better skills which they’ve learned in a more interesting and engaging environment than just “Watch this video, now try this stuff” Because of Vermont’s unusually low tech saturation (for reasons we discussed a little) there are very few, if any, of these tech projects based in VT or centered around Vermont resources. And RSVP doesn’t have as much of a hold here as it does in other places.
You can poke around this list here and see if anything else piques your interest.
I’ve been doing a lot of writing in my newsletter lately. You might like to read it but I do still post here from time to time and I keep my talks list and my booklist updated.
This week I had my most popular tweet ever and it was an interesting experience and I thought I’d spend a few words talking about it since we’re wrapping up National Library Week. Ivanka Trump, the POTUS’s daughter and special assistant, made a fairly banal “Go libraries” tweet. This is to be expected from politicians and celebrities, but maybe not so much ones who are involved in an administration actively working to defund IMLS, one of the major federal organizations that helps libraries nationwide. IMLS gets about $200 million annually, less than the cost of one of those mega-bombs. So, you can imagine how well that went down. It’s actually amusing (to me) to read the top replies. Mostly librarians being like “Are you fucking kidding me?” Top reply tweet was from Margaret Howard who, I am assuming, took the brunt of the haters.
Most of the people replying to or retweeting me were people who agreed and the occasional grump who doesn’t know how to use an Oxford comma. But then someone called me a whore. Which, I have mixed feelings about. I mean, most people don’t like being called a whore. I didn’t take it personally, that person doesn’t know me. I even redacted his personal information before I complained about it, because I didn’t want to turn it into a thing.
However, I did want to see if Twitter’s abuse system was working any better than it has in the past. So before I blocked him, I reported his tweet for abuse. And, unlike in the past, I got an email that said “Hey we received your report and we’ll let you know what happens.” Which, sure, it’s easy to send a “We’re handling this” message. Much easier than it is to handle things. And then today when I woke up, I got a specific email that said his account had been locked and wouldn’t be unlocked until he had agreed to follow twitter’s policies.
Now I’m not fooling myself I know this probably just involves clicking an “I’m sorry” link and getting right back in the game. I also think my verified status may have helped here, though it’s hard to tell just what the verified status thing really means. I’m also a polite middle-aged white lady who doesn’t lose my shit about this sort of thing which shouldn’t matter and yet might. As I mentioned to someone else, I’m not even sure if the insult was directed at me, there’s a slim chance that the guy was trying to insult Ivanka but that’s still actually not okay. As far as Twitter’s abuse handling, I do feel that this may be too little too late, but I do marvel that it’s even working at all. If you’re someone who deals with harassment on Twitter and gave up on their abuse team long ago, consider trying again, or looking into tools like Block Together which can really help keep the noise down. No one deserves your attention. No one deserves online abuse.
I am, like many librarians, sort of a crabby nitpicker about some things. I think there are optimal ways to do things, particularly with technology. I have, over the past 20+ years of helping people, gotten better at working with people to reach their own good place with how they want technology to work for them. I only talk “optimizing” if someone asks. They rarely ask. This is fine. Working on my anxiety levels has also helped with this somewhat.
I visit libraries like it is my job. I always like a nice public place where I can sit and read or work among other people and not have to buy anything. I like getting ideas by looking at hundreds of books or flipping through magazines. Last night I was at the Tiverton Public Library which is just a few miles from my dad’s place in Massachusetts. They were having a speaker talk about Lizzie Borden. Fun! I found it via the Facebook “events near me” feature which I have never tried before since IN Vermont you usually get … nothing.
The author, Rich Little (above), a math teacher at a local community college, had written a book called Cold Case to Case Closed, Lizbeth Borden, My Story. Fall River is right up the road and the place was PACKED with people, many of whom had a lot of knowledge about the case, some of which conflicted with the speaker’s. It was an entertaining 90 minutes learning more about the Bordens and about Fall River at that time.
Mister Little used large blown-up images of the key players and I immediately thought “Uh oh, no slides?” but it turned out it worked pretty well in the packed room and we could all focus more on what he was saying. He was even pretty deft in dealing with the people in the audience who were pretty set against his interpretation of events (which seemed to be the vibe I got from the Lizzie Borden Society members reviews). I was pleased that I’d overcome my initial concerns to enjoy this great library program.
One weird part, however, was RSVPing for the event. They asked you to call and RSVP. Not usually my communication preference but okay. I left my name, spelling it, and phone number with the library. When I arrived that evening the entire list of names and numbers (with mine written JAZMYN WEST) was on a clipboard in the front lobby on an unstaffed table. While I am pretty good at my “this is a thing on which reasonable people disagree” stance, I think this is a library privacy gaffe. At the same time, I don’t want my only feedback on this otherwise superb event to be “I felt weird that you left my phone number out in public.” so I decided to write all of this out.
Never had one of these done for a talk I’ve given before. I did more of a write-up on my experiences giving three talks in a week (every specific thing was great but the overall busyness was a little much for me) over at the place where I store my newsletter. Still unclear what I’ll be using the blog space for now except possible cross-posting or … something. But wanted to say hello and that I’m still doing my librarian thing.
This post leaves me dissatisfied with pie chart makers and is as much a note to myself as anyone else who will read it. Last year was a weird year for work. I picked up a bunch of odd consulting projects, I left my job at Open Library, and I started teaching graduate school on an adjunct basis (and they’re having me back this year!). That big pink chunk is the part I’ll be looking to replace this year. I’m looking for a part-time, mostly telecommute job doing outreach/community work with a library or library organization, or possibly a regular writing job since I liked my last one. I’m interested in doing more teaching. I have a good solid resume which I’ll be sprucing up.
I’ll continue to write for Computers in Libraries, staff drop-in time in Vermont, do public speaking and consulting, and pick up the odd consulting gig. I’ll write my labor of love newsletter which is one of the best things I started doing last year. It’s a little weird to not have One Big Job, but it’s preferable to having One Bad Job. Wish me luck and if I can help you get where you are going on some random way, do let me know.