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.

wyoming librarians on the web

While it’s true that Chicago still ranks as the center of the library webiverse, we’re not doing too badly out here in the West.  Here are a few Wyoming librarians I know of on the web.  If you are one and aren’t listed here, or if you know of others, please let me know, and I’ll add them. 

Meg Martin and Katie Jones run the Library Law Letter, which contains “summaries for recently decided Wyoming Supreme Court opinions and Wyoming State Law Library Information: announcements, how-to tips, and services.”  I’ve already learned several good things from their tips, and they’ve given me some great law-related collection development advice.

A librarian at the University of Wyoming in Laramie runs a blog called Jag soker job (that o in “soker” should have an umlaut over it, but my keyboard skills are lacking), and she’s got a Flickr account with some gorgeous photos of Wyoming scenery. 

Erin Kinney, the Digital Initiatives Librarian at the Wyoming State Library, has been adding photos all summer to a Flickr set on the state library’s relocation

privacy: another chapter

Update: the first link should actually go to the post in question now–thanks to Mark for noticing the error.

Awhile back I wrote a preface.

I just got back from teaching my final digital photography class of the season at the library. Our summer hours start on Tuesday, and we won’t be open again in the evenings again until after Labor Day. I’m scheduled to do the class up at the main branch in Cody over the summer at least once; we’ll see if they want me back.

I’ve done the class three times, and it’s been a little different each time. The first time, many of the attendees were over 70 and mostly not very comfortable with technology, and we spent a lot of time just learning to take pictures and getting over the fear that film was being wasted (“remember, there is no film!” is the mantra). The next class was pretty down with taking pictures (though it also had some people looking to try out a few cameras before they bought one), so we spent more time playing with Picasa and e-mailing and uploading pictures to various sites. Tonight I just had one student. We spent part of the time getting the student’s camera (a Kodak Easy Share) set up with batteries and a memory card and taking some pictures with it. (We also attempted to put together the fancy base that came with the camera, which apparently lets you charge batteries, transfer pictures to your computer, and look at your pictures on your TV, but it seemed to be missing a piece, so we gave up on that.) Then we took the card out again, stuck it in the multi-card reader I have hooked up to one of the computers, and watched the computer magically import them into Picasa. We played with them there a bit and then took a quick look at Flickr and KodakGallery and loaded a few pictures on to each.

My insanely long handout gives a bunch of different options for online photo-sharing and storage. During class I usually show people Flickr and KodakGallery, as those are the two I’ve used and have accounts with. I say that I use Flickr because I have a lot of friends (plus “imaginary friends,” as Steve Lawson calls them in the first comment on this excellent though unrelated post) who use it, and because, frankly, I mostly take pictures of my cat and stuff around my house and of places I go hiking, and I don’t really don’t much care who sees them. I tell people that if they do care who sees their pictures, a service more like KodakGallery or Shutterfly might be for them. (It is, I know, possible to make photos private or friends or family only in Flickr, but it requires that the people you want to show your pictures to have Flickr accounts, be on your friends and/or family list, etc. etc. That’s often a little more complicated than I want to get into in an introductory class.)

Some students have been very interested in learning about the level of privacy afforded by different sites. Like everyone else, they’ve been bombarded with MySpace hysteria. They’ve heard that social sites on the internet just a haven for pedophiles, and they don’t want their kids serving as fodder. And I can’t blame them.

I don’t have kids, but I’m aware that, quite frequently, you think about a lot of things differently when you do. I suspect that if and when I do have children, I’d follow the same policy with them that I use for other pictures I put on Flickr that have other people in them–unless they’re people I know don’t mind having their picture out on the web, I make them “friends only” pictures. I have lots of people marked “friend” that I don’t know personally but know from their blogs. But for some people, I suspect, knowing someone from online doesn’t seem like enough.

A couple wees ago, This American Life did a show called “How We Talked Back Then” (Elizabeth Meister–you offer so many wonderful things on the site! how about some permalinks?!), which rebroadcast, among other things, some stories about how people were using Internet in 1997. As Ira Glass noted, back then it was kind of odd and scary to think about meeting someone you only knew from online. To many of us now, that’s not a big deal at all. But when I say “us,” I don’t really mean it generically. In this context, “us” means people reading this blog–people who for the most part (I think) already have a fair amount of online life. That’s still not true for everyone. I suspect that for a lot of people, the Internet is kind of the way it was for me back in the mid-1990s–cool but kind of overwhelming.

I realize as I’m writing this that I’m pretty much repeating what I’ve said before: that I don’t have any problem putting my life out there on the web, but I’m reluctant to force that on other people, and that what “we” think of as a normal level of interaction with technology may be pretty extreme for some people–and in that respect, maybe this post has more to do with Luke’s than I originally thought. I’d like to think of myself as Library 2.0 friendly (or, at any rate, generally not L2 hostile), but I’d hate to have to be L2 compliant–it sounds far too much like a test.
For a more lengthy, and thoughtful, consideration of L2 and privacy, go read Rory’s post on the subject, if you haven’t already. I may have more to say on it all in another five months or so.

reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic, and revolution

People have been making alternative READ posters, and I made one too. If you’re in a hurry, you can use this nifty Flickr toy.

I took the somewhat longer route, which I’m detailing just in case it’s useful to anyone (I’m always curious about how people did stuff). I used iPhoto to crop an old picture that I’d scanned from a photo album. I exported it in order to save it as a smaller size file–about 800 by 600 pixels. Then I cut and pasted the exported photo into an Appleworks Paint document, used that to put the text in, saved the whole thing as a .jpg, and uploaded it to Flickr. Not as snazzy as Photoshop, no doubt, but hey, it was free.

You can read the original call for submissions at LISNews.org.

in wyoming

I’m in Wyoming, I finally have my computer back, and, as of yesterday afternoon, I have home internet access! Expect more bloggery in the future about Wyoming librarianship, what it’s like to go from library school student to branch manager, what my job hunt was like, why I’m still a member of ALA, and other such scintillating topics.

In the meantime, if you wish, you can see a few pictures from the trip over at my mom’s new Flickr account, some pictures of the town and my digs (and quite a few of my cat) on mine, and some pictures from my new workplace over on the Flickr account I created for the library this morning. If you’re a library with a Flickr account, do make us a contact, and we’ll do the same for you! (Everyone else is welcome, too, of course–I just want particularly to demonstrate to the folks here what a nifty tool Flickr can be for libraries.)

privacy: a preface

I have a long, thoughtful post that’s still mostly in my head about online presence and privacy, and someday I’ll get it all down in print (or pixels, or what have you)–probably about the same time I catch up on reading Cites & Insights (Walt, it’s not even 2006 yet! Slow down! :-)). In the meantime, though, I offer these prefatory remarks.

I just added some old pictures to Flickr. The quality is not that great–many of them were originally Polaroids, and then I scanned them–but they have a certain sentimental value, and it’s kind of neat to be able to see them out on the web. When I was uploading them, though, it occurred to me that being around and available online is not for everyone. Not everyone wants to put themselves out there, and I feel some responsibility for not forcing them on to a stage they didn’t want to be on.

It’s true that almost no one can avoid being online somewhere–if not through Google, then through ZabaSearch or one of the other online white pages. But there’s a difference between that and having snapshots of yourself with bad hair out in the world. Maybe that will change–but for some of my friends and family, it hasn’t changed yet.

So while I have no problem letting you see one of my poor ’80s fashion choices or letting you know who I voted for in 2000, or explaining how I got arrested, or even telling you about the time they couldn’t find my cervix, I know that’s not for everyone.

All this, really, is by way of explaining why, if you’re one of my Flickr contacts, you’ve been upgraded from “contact” to “friend.” Everyone can see pictures of me; I’ve made the ones with other people in them friend only, which lets my online community see them but keeps them at least a little bit private. If you’re not listed as a friend or contact, it’s not because I don’t like you; it’s just because I haven’t gotten around to it (or I don’t know who you are). But feel free to add me, and I’ll reciprocate–and then you too can see poor-quality photos of my friends and family in front of my tree. Oh, the excitement!

while supplies last. . .

Originally uploaded by newrambler.

(Gosh, this Flickr business is fun. . . .)

I don’t normally keep track of the books I read, although I keep meaning to. I didn’t manage to this summer, either, but in case you did and feel that your summer reading efforts have gone underappreciated, may I offer you this handsome certificate, complete with Latin motto, suitable for thumbtacking to an appropriate surface?

The end of summer reading seemed to coincide with a lot of vacations, and thus a number of kids never showed up to pick up their certificates. If you would like one, please send an e-mail indicating your name as you wish it to appear on the certificate and your snail mail address to lauracrossett [at] hailmail [dot] net. I can also fill in the number of books read, and any number of Book Bucks you want, though I’m afraid that at this point they’re about as useful as Confederate money in 1865.

on and off the bandwagon

  • update 9/5/05 9:55 pm CST: Flickr link at the bottom is now fixed and will actually take you to pictures and not to Wired article

I am late to jump on many bandwagons, and, quite often, just simply late. Last weekend, which now seems impossibly long ago, I took a trip home (though I spend most of my time in Chicagoland these days, I’m still an Iowa resident, and Iowa City is still home) to do a few things and see some friends. It was in the course of hanging out with my friends that I realized that in the last six months or so, I have started to speak another language.

A few examples:

  • “I’m sorry I never read your site, but OpenDiary doesn’t have an RSS feed.”
  • “Oh, you’ve got a blog for your radio show? Send me the url and I’ll add it to my aggregator.”
  • “The camera’s just on loan, but I’ll just upload the pictures to Flickr and then I’ll be able to post them wherever.”

I got a lot of blank looks from my friends, who, as you may surmise, are not technologically oriented. They are very smart people. Most of them graduate students at the University of Iowa; the rest are the over-educated, under-employed types one finds around a college town. I don’t consider any of them hopelessly uninformed. But I now inhabit, at least part of the time, this whole world that most of them are only barely aware of.

Now that I’ve found this world, I’d never want to leave it behind, but my visit home was a little reminder that it is, in many ways, still a small and insular community. I love RSS and think it is one of the greatest things since the resurgence of decent bread, but I’ve been reminded that it’s not part of the picture for a lot of people and that, for the most part, they are getting by just fine without it.

You’ve probably heard about different kinds of learners (visual, oral, etc.) and different kinds of intelligence (emotional, intellectual, practical). There are also different ways of gathering information. I get most of my news from the radio, though when I lived in Iowa City, I also read the Daily Iowan in its hard copy version. I got an iPod for Christmas, and while it’s a nifty little device, at least a third of my music collection is still on LP and cassette. In my car at the moment all I have is radio, and thus when I’m driving around on my dogwalking route, I mostly (shudder) listen to commercial rock stations, since “Fresh Air” loses something when heard in 5 minute chunks with 20 minute gaps in between.. I did listen to a bunch of Greg’s podcasts on my drive home (I don’t have one of those handy gadgets that will play your iPod through your radio, so I did this by listening through one ear bud), and they were pretty great, but I don’t know that I’m going to get hooked on podcasting. My friends are mostly not tapped into the world of feeds and aggregators and social bookmarking, and that’s okay.

I started this blog with the idea that it would be a way to show fellow grad students about the wonderfulness of library-land blogs, which I now realize was kind of a nutty idea. I continued it, though, because I was getting so much out of it, which seems like a fine reason. And now just as I’ve learned that lots of people are considering jumping off the Flickr bandwagon, I’m jumping on. I don’t actually own a digital camera, so posts will be few and far between, but I did borrow my mother’s while I was home for the weekend and put together a little tour of Iowa City (only the parts I like, and only some of them). Take a look if you like (and remember I’ve never used a digital camera before). Enjoy!