#FSUnited

*Disclaimer – all thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own, and do not reflect the views of FSU Libraries, FSU, or anyone I work with.

A year ago today FSU Libraries faced a tragedy. Someone came to our campus with the intent to do harm to others. I was not at the library at the time of the shooting, but it affected me way more than I thought it might have.

In the weeks following, I was working on a draft of an invited talk I was scheduled to give at a conference in New York. Free counseling was available to the FSU community, and for a long time I meant to go and show someone this draft. Of course, life/work got in the way and I never did. This past week, as we prepared to remember the event, I dug up this draft and decided to share it for my own healing. The version of the talk that I actually ended up giving turned out very different, and is available here.

Most importantly, we are all healing. These pictures, and more on my Twitter throughout the day, represent the FSU Libraries family as we are today. We wore FSU colors today as a symbol of our strength and endurance.


 

Draft one:

Two weeks ago, a man was shot and killed in front of my library. A young, black man was shot and killed on the steps I walk every morning at 8am. A kid is now paralyzed from the waist down after being shot, because he was hanging out in front of my library late one Wednesday night. A library staffer, who works the overnight shift and who I nod hello to every morning as he leaves was shot in the leg. I didn’t even know his name until I saw it in the news. This isn’t the talk I intended to give today. But it’s all that I have in my mind and heart, and I couldn’t pretend that open access matters when someone’s life was ended under a banner that says “A great university requires a great library.”

At 630am when a flood of texts came from concerned family and friends that were catching the morning news that day, my first thoughts were “I’m glad I wasn’t there” and “I knew this was going to happen sooner or later.” My Facebook status was a mix of shock, helplessness and confusion. “All my deadlines and projects seem to matter so much less now.” That sentiment has followed me these two weeks. I don’t care that SPARC hosted OpenCon and that a bunch of young people are excited about making real change in academic publishing. The Gates Foundation announced an Open Access Policy that I believe will be a significant turning point in research funders dictating how open access moves forward – but I could care less. The Friday after the shooting, I moved into a new position (Digital Scholarship Coordinator) and got a raise, something I’ve been working toward for months – bittersweet, and mostly bitter.

The talk I wanted to give today would have been a challenge, as I am wont to do in my professional life. A challenge to academic librarians to stop talking about open access and start doing it. To force our own field to change by taking collective action against Big Publishing and refuse to continue to perpetuate a system that continues to prove its blatant disdain for author’s rights, libraries budgets and the good/right of information access to the global knowledge ecosystem. That challenge is still in my heart, but as an echo. The talk that I have to give today is a feeble plea, in light of the sense of smallness that was inflicted on me two weeks ago. My simple response to the prompt “What is the role of the academic librarian in open access?” is this: access for all.

I titled my talk “Scholarly Communication is People” because I believe that is the number one thing that we have lost over the 8 years that Open Access Week has been observed in libraries internationally. In the beginning, we (libraries) made it about money; scholars have made it about their rights to their work; funders have made it about a return on investment; policy makers have made it about civic life. I believe all those things are true; but what we overlook too often is that the academic enterprise, and by extension all this goddammned writing we do, is about making better humans. I submitted a proposal to the Scholarly Communication Institute at Duke, held at the beginning of November. The proposal was rejected, but the core idea behind it has been driving me since early this year: The only real reason open access matters is because of the potential it offers. The possibility that a member of the public will discover academic research is the reason I wake up. And we have done a disservice to the public by making it all about us.

Could open access to publicly-funded scholarship about the historical and social constructs of race relations in America have saved Michael Brown? Might open access to research on mental health have prevented death and tragedy from visiting my library? I don’t know. I don’t think so. But, I do believe that it matters when my dad tells me he is tracing our family genealogy using some weird website called HathiTrust. Or when my sister, a single, working mother of two, is able to complete an MBA relying on Google Scholar as a resource because she doesn’t have time to learn about Ebsco’s Business Resource Complete database. I wont make the claim that open access will save the world, but I believe that it could make it a significantly better place to raise my son.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve thought a lot about what matters. Over the past three years, what has mattered a lot to me has been pushing buttons and asking questions no one seems to want to ask – like why the Journal of Academic Librarianship still exists in its present form? Or, why library schools indoctrinate students with ALA’s Code of Ethics, but those same faculty fail to exercise their rights to place their works in institutional repositories? Or, why we all walk on eggshells when vendors or publishers are around? Or, why librarianship acts to principled but has yet to live up to the edict under which every libraries’ heritage lies – access for all? What I’ve learned in three years as a librarian is that it’s a lot more complicated than a young, idealistic blogger can hope to change. And that, many of my questions are important more in the asking than in the answers. What I’ve been forced to reconcile these past weeks is that the strife and bickering and how ridiculous it is for librarians to sue one another and the conversations we have in and across our literature that seem so huge (PhD’s taking all our jobs! Library school doesn’t prepare you for the workforce! Numbers, metrics, assessment = funding!)– all of this doesn’t matter as much as we hope.

What does matter, and what I think is the most important thing about anything we do, is that you and I are here right now and that I really want to know what you’re excited about. What matters is that across the pond, my former Grad Assistant Chealsye is struggling through a Master’s degree in the History of Science and Technology, while at the same time working on the Open Access Button. What matters is that Erin McKiernan, an early career  neuroscientist, has pledged to only do open access with all her work, for the rest of her career. What matters is that lots of new librarians will be hired in the next 2-5 years never knowing a library-land before DPLA, Open Access Policies, Research Data Management or Digital Humanities. What matters is that the morning of the shooting I was comforted and honored to be part of a profession where emails flowed in all day long – from Molly Keener at Wake Forest, Ellen Duranceau at MIT, Kathryn Pope at CDRS, from Colin Lukens at Harvard, Claudia Holland at George Mason U, and countless others on Twitter.

I do strongly believe that every library needs a scholarly communication initiative, and that every librarian can and should participate in this work. I believe that scholarly communication (and everything connected to it, DH, Data management, GIS) is offering us the chance to exert our principles, “access for all” in the real, practical benefit of global change. I believe the academic librarians role in open access is to just do it, to embody the change we hope to see, to be a catalyst for shifting research patterns at our institutions. I believe the time for timidity and “service” has passed, and that our role now is active, collaborative participation in research, teaching and learning. I believe there is a good chance I am wrong about some of this because I am still a new librarian, and am just learning to be ok with making mistakes.


 

That’s where the draft ended. Some of the threads here have changed the way I live since I wrote this. I started leaving my laptop at work when I went home at the end of the day. I pulled back from a lot of researching/writing and speaking to stay around Tallahassee. I have invested a lot more energy in connecting personally with people I work with (#tacotuesday has been amazing.) I won’t leave you with any grand takeaway, except that I love this library. It’s been a strange, interesting, and delightful year since Nov. 20th, 2014.

*Disclaimer – all thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own, and do not reflect the views of FSU Libraries, FSU, or anyone I work with.

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[Guest] Kindle Review

Through my internship at Brooklyn Public Library I did quite a bit of research on ebooks and the issues surrounding them for libraries. I am an iOS user, and have had mixed experiences getting ebooks onto my iPhone and iPad, so as part of my internship I built this page for BPL about digital media generally, with some ebook tips mixed in. So, this has become sort of a professional interest of mine now – I use Curated.by to grab all tweets, articles, etc related to ebooks for further research.

I was surprised when I got a call from my best friend Josh Mason saying that he was going to purchase a Kindle. He’s always been a book kinda guy, so I never thought he’d go for the ebook. I asked him to write a review from a non-librarian point of view so I could have an idea what the common user experience of this device is like. His thoughts are below. Follow Josh on Tumblr and Twitter for interesting things related to art and sound. NOTE: Josh is an artist and so approaches the world by examining the aesthetics of things. His insights are always eye-opening for me because of that fact.

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Right out of the box the Kindle 3 was ready to go. It came linked to the Amazon account which I purchased it through (with the option to unlink if you bought it as a gift for someone). I can’t remember the last thing I bought that was truly ready to go right out of the box. All that was included with the device was a usb/powercord and a quick start guide. Once the device powered up, the quick start guide seemed a bit useless. For someone who is even a little technologically inclined, this device was no problem to start poking around in. Plus, all the manuals were already loaded onto the device (who’d have thought). It’s no more complicated than a flip phone from 2000 and felt a lot like learning how to play a Gameboy.

One of thing things I liked about the Kindle was its physical presence. It was compact but big enough to still read. I could see how people would be annoyed by the fact that the screen goes black for a split second every time you turn a page. It does this so that the e-ink can reorganize itself for the next page. It might seem slow—but considering when you are done with a page you have to turn it in a real book, it doesn’t seem too bad. It reminds me a lot of reading a novel where you fold the left spread around to the back and hold it with one hand because you’re tired of using two or cramping your fingers. It also fits in the back pocket of my jeans, weirdly enough.

Click for a surprise!

I would say within 15 min., I had done and figured out all there is to do. Surfed the internet, figured out how to convert just about any ebook format to a Kindle friendly format, connected to Twitter and tweeted a passage from an Emerson essay. My device is equipped with only WIFI which seems to work well, although not as strong as my Macbook Pro or my iPhone. People seem up in arms about having 3G on everything—but really, how many books are you downloading? No one these days has enough time on their hands that they need constant contact so they can download something when they need it. I guess if you were getting magazine or newspaper subscriptions it would make sense to pay the extra balloons for 3G. Otherwise, there is a WIFI hotspot like, every 5 min in any direction.

The problems I have with is so far lie in the navigation—which is only exacerbated by the fact that I deal with the graphical organization of information for a living. One thing I have gotten used to in other forms of navigation is the ability to select your way down a list and when you get to the end the cursor or highlight returns to the top of the list and can be endlessly repeated. With the Kindle you make your way down a list and that’s it. You have to start clicking back up a bunch of times to get back to the first of second menu item. In the end, it’s not a huge deal, just something that I might would have expected to be there.

The next issue I have with it is another “I have gotten used to it” thing. If you are reading a book that has a table of contents you can jump around in the book by selecting that chapter—but if the original book you are reading the eBook version of didn’t have a TOC, such as my personal favorite “Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy, you are crap out of luck. I want that to make sense, but it just doesn’t because we take stuff like being able to grab 50 pages at a time and flip to another chapter for granted.

But, one cool thing about the Kindle is that Amazon released the source code for it. This is good because it comes with a stock screen saver of images of everything from literary tools to book covers to famous authors. Bloggers and infonauts tend to agree that the image of Emily Dickinson provided is especially creepy.

So the obvious course of action? Dunna nunna nunna nunna nunna nunna nunna…

All in all I am pretty happy with it. All I wanted was to be able to read books anyway. All the extra stuff is just that. Extra. If you would like to be totally distracted from your book by the rest of the world, get an iPad. If you just want to read a have a solid device that does what it was designed to do and doesn’t fry your eyeballs, you can’t beat the K3.

Too Busy Reading to Write

I’m juggling a lot of different things right now, and unfortunately haven’t been able to keep up with my writing as much as I would like. (The quintessential bloggers dilemma.) However, I have been spending a good amount of time reading, digging myself into “the field” and generally being interested in lots of different things. Jeremy Boggs’ tweet the other day made me sit up and say, “Hey! Me too!” and it just so happened that Bobbi Newman went and posted a “What I’m reading” post just today. So, completely unoriginal, here’s how you can see what I’ve been reading:

I am a huge fan of Reeder on the iPad, and have a ton of RSS feeds that I scan daily. The best part is how easy Reeder/Google Reader makes it to share articles. I prefer not to spam my friends on Facebook with my boring professional life, and RT’s on Twitter can only go so far, so…

My Shared Items over on my Google profile is where most of my handpicked, best of, worth knowing articles end up.

I use Delicious less frequently and for stuff I want to read some other time.

So, just in case you were super curious what I find interesting, take a peek over there. Once I finally finish Library School I may even try reading a novel or culture-study book, who knows? (And, yes, I am already making a list of what I’m going to do when I’m out of school!)

Do You Tumbl? Tweet? Buzz? Press Words? Post Everywhere??

The blogging platform battles seem to have reached some sort of fevered pitch this weekend as two of my Daily reads TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb both posted stories discussing the choices and facts surrounding the top services. RWW made the case (statistically) that Tumblr is far outgrowing and outperforming its “competitor” Posterous. Paul Carr of TechCrunch crowdsourced his decision-making process for moving his blog from WordPress to Tumblr, and based on responses concluded that he might consider Posterous and also “that replacing WordPress is not what Tumblr’s supposed to do.” As a concerned and involved digital citizen, I felt it was my duty to weigh in, and offer my own two cents to the debate.

About 6 months ago (no specific date Posterous? I quit) I really started to consider how to develop my digital profile. What tools available would I use to spread “micahvandegrift” across the web? I was under the impression that it’d be a good idea to grab my name on everything and just kickstart some content across a variety of platforms for the sake of getting a feel for what strengths/weaknesses each may have. I wrote this post on my Posterous account outlining my “strategy.” To summarize:

Tumblr is for sharing randomness. Twitter is for conversations/ideas/mind-casting. WordPress is for my professional writing. Posterous is for other writings (music/tech), thus the title “Etc”, although there is barely any content there. Delicious for articles I want to return to. Google Reader Shared Items to aggregate everything I actually take the time to read. Also, I portioned my online social self across to platforms; LinkedIn solely for professional networking, Facebook solely for friends/family. Google Profile and Flavors.me for an aggregation of these varieties. Last.fm for music-casting.

WordPress posts to Twitter. Twitter posts on a WordPress widget. Twitter posts to LinkedIn. Tumblr posts to Twitter. Posterous posts to Twitter. Flavors.me aggregates my LinkedIn, Twitter and WordPress. Card.ly links to LinkedIn, Twitter, WordPress, Delicious and Google Reader Shared Items.

To be honest, this has worked out really well for me. I find myself spending most of the time on Twitter and WordPress, since right now my professional life requires most of my attention, but I do check in on the other networks periodically, and plan to keep them up. I think that the social aspect of Tumblr, as pointed out in both articles, is one of its highlights. The reblog feature is such a boon for that service, and most times I check in I will reblog one or two posts from friends who have already found something cool or interesting. A lot of the people/things I follow on Tumblr, I would never follow on Twitter. Tumblr for me is an entertainment channel, with some fashion, some art, some music, and some friends thoughts. Twitter is where I learn and am inspired, so I typically only follow folks who broadcast things that fit the criteria. WordPress’ new “Subscribe” feature is interesting, but I am becoming more a fan of RSS than ever before (thanks to the iPad and Reeder), so I don’t check the Subscribed blogs often.

Generally, in my experience the best case is to portion each service to a particular task, and use it as such. Of course that can change over time. I really enjoyed using Flickr for photocasting for a while until the iPhone App kept crashing, so I started emailing them to Posterous. Much easier. Now that the Tumblr App crashes all the time, I only check it/update when I am home and catch something that inspires me or is interesting but not worth a tweet or blog post. I agree with Paul Carr that WordPress is great and very functional for long form writing, and that other sites don’t seem to compare. I think each has its own place, and all can be used to effectively build a varied, useful digital presence. At least, I hope so for all the work I put into planning it and executing it. I should infograph this strategy huh?

BRB

I have a list of blog topics as long as my arm. Why the lack of posts you ask? Well, because Wifey and I decided about halfway through summer to make a major life change and move out of state. You can imagine the amount of planning we had to do quickly.

So, after lots of thought, a hundred emails back and forth, a 18 hour drive, 200 trips up and down 4 flights of stairs and more, I’m proud to say that we are almost settled in our new place in Brooklyn, NY where I will begin an internship at the Brooklyn Public Library this fall!!

I plan to get back on a regular writing schedule next week when our Internet gets turned on. Needless to say I am super excited about the new opportunities that await me here in NYC and especially working in and around the cultural heritage that is so much a part of the fabric of the city.

Be back soon!