leaving the league of awesomeness

I just got home from a hugely successful program at the library. Tom Rea, a writer from Casper, came to talk about Ella Watson, also known as “Cattle Kate.” Thirty people packed the library — we ran out of regular chairs and had people sitting on the little kids’ chairs, but no one seemed to mind. I rigged up a screen (there was a miscommunication about what equipment was needed) by securing our aged tiny screen to the ceiling with the aid of a spare computer cord and a double half hitch. I’d show you pictures, but the batteries in my camera were dead. Again. (NB: If anyone ever tries to convince you that a digital camera that takes AA batteries is a good idea because you’ll always be able to buy batteries for it if yours run out, do not take their advice. You will either buy many, many batteries or you will be like me and have many, many pictures that you never take.)

The lack of pictures leads into the title for this post, and its real subject, which is not success but failure. When Michael Porter (also known as Libraryman) sent out an invitation to join the 365 Library Days project, I jumped all over it, because, as they say, it was new and shiny, and because I sure do love Flickr, and because, as Steve Lawson put it, I wanted to be a part of the League of Awesomeness. A few weeks in, though, and I’m realizing that not only am I not going to be able to take all the pictures because of my damn camera batteries, but also that I am not going to be able to take them all simply because I have too much else to do, and while Flickring 365 days in the library will make me look awesome in the world of librarians who Flickr, it won’t mean much of anything to the population I serve.

It’s often quite amazing to me that we have a library at all in a town as small as this one. That we do have such a library, and that it is able to hold 25,000 volumes and be open 44 hours a week and have a monthly book discussion group and a weekly story time and an occasional program like tonight’s is a testament to a lot of things: to the cooperation between the Park County Library System and the Meeteetse School District, to the awesomeness of the Wyoming State Library and the WYLD network, to the Friends of the Library and the Park County Library Foundation, to the Wyoming Humanities Council and other groups, and to my coworkers.

We manage to do a lot of things, but we can’t do everything. It behooves me to remember the things that I am good at but also the things that I’m not. I’m good at giving teenagers the space to do their own thing in peace. I’m not so good at engaging them and getting them to come to organized events. I’m pretty good at ordering a selection of books that is — I hope — both broad and deep in all the right places for this community. I suck at getting those books read. I’m good at taking pictures of silly inanimate things that amuse me. I’m not so good at getting people to participate in pictures meant to go online.

I am — or rather the Meeteetse library is — probably going to be leaving the League of Awesomeness, or at least the 365 Library Days part of it. If I have a moment sometime, I’ll drop by and see how the rest of you are doing. I think it’s a cool project, and it could potentially be a great way to get some news coverage for your library — both for your library’s use of technology but also, and more importantly, for the things you do at your library that you are documenting (hint: start writing press releases)! For now, though, I’m going to go back to ordering books and trying to read more of them, thinking about summer reading, and wondering if it’s really essential for me to convince people that Firefox is so much better than Internet Explorer — another thing I turn out not to be good at.

dear NetLibrary/OCLC

Meredith notes that conference season has started.  I myself am not going to any conferences this year, and thus I will not be able to harass engage in thoughtful discussion with any vendors.

A few months ago I was grappling with some difficulties with NetLibrary’s downloadable audio books.  As usual, their help pages proved not terribly helpful.  Using the Google was somewhat more helpful, and what I was able to find I added to our wiki.  But then I thought, gosh, wouldn’t it be great if NetLibrary provided web forums where people could post and answer questions?  I mentioned the issue in passing in an e-mail to our state systems librarian, who said, “great idea; mention it to them next time you’re at a conference.”

I wasn’t going to any conferences then, either, so I decided at least I’d drop an e-mail into the black hole that is support@oclc.org.  But perhaps you are going to a conference.  Perhaps you also have frustrations with NetLibrary downloadable audio books.  Perhaps you would like to suggest the forums idea to the nice representatives in the exhibits.  In case you do, or in case some NetLibrary person out there is reading this, here’s the full text of my e-mail:

From: Laura Crossett [lcrossett at will dot state dot wy dot us]
Sent: Mon 1/8/2007 1:29 PM
To: support@oclc.org
Subject: forum for NetLibrary/Recorded Books

Dear OCLC:

Just out of curiosity, have you ever considered establishing some kind of an online forum for NetLibrary/Recorded Books?  Even in my tiny branch library, we have a number of patrons who have had difficulties with eAudiobooks that aren’t covered anywhere in the official FAQs.  Sometimes I’m able to find the answer by fiddling around; sometimes I have luck by just searching the Web, since sometimes a blogger or someone else will have written about the problem.

But going to that much work seems inefficient to me, especially since there are probably many other people having the same problem that I am at any given time.  Wouldn’t it be great if there were a central location where we could ask questions and answer questions posed by other users?  I think so.

As you probably know, forums, message boards, and wikis are popular features of support for many kinds of software.  My e-mail program, Fastmail, has them; WordPress, which I use for my blogs, has a great many.  Firefox, Thunderbird, and their extensions have them; even Microsoft has some user forums. 

I think OCLC could do a great service for the library community by providing some kind of a forum for NetLibrary/Recorded Books.  Doing so would allow librarians to do more easily what they already do best–collaborate and share information.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


Laura Crossett
Branch Manager
Meeteetse Branch, Park County Library
2107 Idaho / PO Box 129
Meeteetse, WY 82433
307.868.2248 (phone & fax)
AIM: theblackmolly | Y!M: lcrossett

some heroes

One of the most fascinating things about watching this meme, conceived by Walt and begun by Dorothea, has been seeing not only what blogs people highlight but also reading about what criteria they used to select them. The people below all do something blog-like, and they also all do some good in the world. In some cases, that good is manifest in the content of their RSS feed; in others the blog serves more as a chronicle. In all cases, they are people whose works I admire greatly.

Deb, blogging at REAL PUBLIC LIBRARIAN. I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about Deb, particularly in YA circles (of course, I’m kind of disconnected from YA circles at the moment, so perhaps they are all feasting on her wisdom and I’m just unware of it–all apologies if this is so). John Gehner, who will show up on this list in just a bit, writes frequently about social exclusion and the devastating effects it has on the poor and homeless. Deb works with youth within a similar framework. Check out this classic post on different kinds of youth and different kinds of youth spaces in libraries and this more recent one about the role of libraries in community development.

Michael McGrorty, blogging at Library Dust. If you’ve ever met Michael or gotten some correspondence from him, you know how charming he is. If you read his blog, you also learn that he’s smart and witty. And, in the course of doing some investigative blogging, he wrote one of the best tributes to the labor movement that I have ever read.

Jenna Freedman, blogging, answering questions, rabble-rousing, and inspring awe at Radical Reference. Some day Jenna and I are going to switch lives for a couple of months so that she can experience life in a town without stoplights and I can impersonate a Lower East Side librarian. In the meantime, I just admire her from afar.

Shinjoung Yeo, both people named James Jacobs, and assorted guests blogging at Free Government Information. You’d think everyone would be out to save free government information. These people do their best in a sadly uncrowded field.

David Bigwood, blogging at Catalogablog. Catalogablog is one of my all-time favorite blog names. It’s one of the first blogs I ever subscribed to, I think because Jessamyn linked to it, and though I rarely understand what it’s about, I admire the heck out of David Bigwood for keeping the world so up-to-date on the shadowy world of cataloging. (Cataloging itself isn’t inherently shadowy; there’s just something about the subject that lends itself to the adjective–all those tech services people hidden away in the back room, crouched over their machines.) Also, I’m still honored that he left a comment on my post about OPACs and children’s materials.

John Gehner, posting at the website of the Homelessness, Hunger, and Poverty Task Force. HHPTF is a subset of a subset of ALA. John revived it from the ashes a few years ago pretty much single-handedly. He has put together killer lists of resources and organizations, and he has consistently drawn out the best thinking about libraries, homelessness, and poverty going on today and compiled it for you all in one place, with an RSS feed.

There are many more heroes out there. These are just some of mine.

just a reminder

Awhile ago I answered a question for Radical Reference which brought me back to Peggy McIntosh’s article “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”  A friend of mine in college had the male privilege version of the list pinned to his door.  My college was a good place in that, for the most part, people knew this stuff and did their best to live by it.  That effort was not always successful, but it was there.

I regret to say that my Easter started off this year with a conversation with someone who, upon hearing that I go to the Episcopal church in town, mentioned that he, too, had once been an Episcopalian until–and here he made a homophobic comment that I won’t repeat.  “Excuse me?” I said.  And I tried, with probably limited success, to explain that I did not find his comment–or his views–appropriate, and that, in fact, I found them offensive.

I was thinking, of course, of Dorothea’s post from a week or so ago.  Dorothea is speaking specifically of “geekland culture” and more broadly of culture on the web, but her point is applicable everywhere.  Unfortunate, but true.  It was even applicable at my college; it’s certainly applicable in the wider world–what everyone used to call the “real world,” as though there are worlds one can inhabit that are unreal.

I have to remind myself of that, and I have to remind myeslf, with posts like Dorothea’s, that it’s also my responsibility to do something about it.