#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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Weekender Tip – Google Custom Search for LIS folks

I built something that could be useful for readers/writers in the Library world. Thanks entirely to the web hacking genius of Marshall Kirkpatrick over at ReadWriteWeb where I have been interning, and the generous list Andy Woodworth shared with me, I wrangled ~50 “top Library blogs” and shoved them all into a Google Custom Search.

How does that matter to me, you ask? Well, using this snazzy little tool you can plug in a term and search these top library blogs to see if it shows up.

How might this be useful? For example, I am researching a blog post for this here blog that will be on the topic of censorship. So, I click over to my Top Lib. Blogs CSE and plub in “censorship”, and BAM! I get a pageful of results that I can link to, read, argue with, etc.

Check out the LIS Blog Custom Search HERE.

What blogs am I missing that you read daily, that should be on the list? Here’s what I already have, please add/edit/suggest away (Google Doc). We can all utilize this to write more efficiently and share resources more effectively.

The eBook Problem – Solved?!?

This semester I have been interning at Brooklyn Public Library and the bulk of my work has been researching and figuring out the “eBook Problem” in libraries. More details about that and my internship are upcoming, but I just couldn’t let another day go without sharing this recent discovery.

I’m a Mac user through and through. And it frustrated me to no end that I got this radical iPad to read eBooks and yet I couldn’t check any out from the library because of DRM issues between all the publishers and eReader companies. This is an issue that is being discussed all around the library blogosphere, and will continue to be until a common filetype is agreed upon AND utilized across the board. In the meantime, worry no more. Enter Bluefire Reader.

*Note – Only Adobe EPUB and PDF files work with this App.

1.      Download Adobe Digital editions. This program allows you to open the digital eBook file that you will download from your Public Library’s catalog. You’ll need to set up an Adobe ID in order to use this program.

2.      Download the Bluefire Reader App from iTunes App Store on your device. After opening it, add the same Adobe ID you set up for Adobe Digital Editions.

3.      Go to the digital catalog of your library (hopefully they have one!), search for an EPUB or PDF eBook you’d like to checkout.

4.      Once you have entered your library card number and pin, click “Download” to get the eBook file on your computer.

5.      Open the .ascm file with Adobe Digital Editions.

6.      Connect your Apple device to your computer and open iTunes.

7.      With the device selected in the left, go to “Apps” along the top.

8.      Scroll down until you see the File Sharing panel. Under Documents click “Add” then navigate to where the eBook file was saved (most likely in your-home-directory/Documents/Digital Editions) and select the file(s) to add.

9.      Enjoy an eBook on your Apple device!

The same instructions in different levels of detail from Bluefire Reader are here, and from NYPL here.

I have spent the greater part of 3 months stressing about how complicated eBooks are for libraries, and trying to whip together a How-To guide to help patrons figure it out, when what I should have been doing is developing this App. Kudos team Bluefire.

Analysis from Audrey Watters over at ReadWriteWeb, Matthew Miller from ZDnet and Josh Hadro at Library Journal Insider.

The Job

This is the post I have been waiting to write for some time now. Although I was officially hired about a week ago, I was nervous and unsure about it up until today, when I actually went and worked a whole day. (This is what I did today.) It seems pretty legit at this point.

I am proud to announce that I have been hired as the Project CHART (Cultural Heritage Access Research and Technology) Coordinator at the Brooklyn Public Library effective immediately. Allow me to explain:

Project CHART is a multi-institutional, IMLS-funded grant program focusing on digitizing historic photographs. The grant is sponsored through Pratt Institute’s School of Information and Library Science, and in addition to the Brooklyn Library, the Brooklyn Museum and Brooklyn Historical Society are partners. Our “kickoff” meeting was yesterday, and I am throughly dumb-founded at the planning and foresight that has already gone into this project, and at what is left to do! Fortunately the CHART team is comprised of intelligent, skilled professionals (and me), and I am really looking forward to the next three years. (Did I mention that it is a three year grant? Very nice!)

Top 5 things that are awesome about Project CHART and the fact that they hired me:

  1. I get to work in “the field.” I was starting to think for a while that I would never find a job that would allow me to utilize my education. This has now been proven wrong and I have hope once again.
  2. The ultimate goal of the grant is to “prepare LIS students to become digital managers for cultural heritage institutions.” WHAT? That is the exact reason I went into the MLIS! I was looking for a way to pair my interests and background in American culture studies with digital preservation. So now I am involved in a project that is working toward defining that as a curriculum. No way? Way.
  3. The Institutions – I, Micah L. Vandegrift, will be in a professional position doing important and interesting things with like-minded people who work at the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Historical Society and Brooklyn Public Library. These are like gigantic, established, capital “I” institutions of culture, history and art in freaking NEW YORK CITY. I’m still amazed just walking past the buildings, much less actually doing work inside them.
  4. The People – I was mostly simply amazed at the Kickoff meeting. Just listening to the President of the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Director of Library and Archives at Brooklyn Museum, the Dean of Pratt’s School of ILS, and the Director of Brooklyn Public Library do a item-line budget was overwhelming. Not to mention the archivists/digitization experts who will be supervising team members at the sites. THEN my counterparts (Project Coordinators) at BrookMuse and BHS. Whole lotta awesome in one room.
  5. This seems like the opportunity that perfectly melds my skills with my professional goals. I am alright at web development and production, pretty good at project management, amazing at social/digital media (duh), interested in archives and special collections, captured by ideas like crowdsourcing and curation and fascinated by historic objects. I kept trying to define what sort of job I would want after graduation, and any combination of those elements would make me happy. Serving as a coordinator for Project CHART basically sums all that up.

So my “job” will actually be supervising two interns at BPL as we digitize, metadatatize, and archivize around 6000 photos. Also, the library will be housing the webspace where the shared collections from the three institutions will live, and I hear there’s a Drupal build in the works. No better time to get my hands in some of that too. I will also be planning and executing a variety of symposia, conference papers/presentations, marketing/promo stuffs in collaboration with the other institutions. Find a keynote speaker? Done. Book a trip to a national conference to present a poster on the project? Of course. Strategize, design and maintain a social media presence for the project? Lemmie at it!

In case you hadn’t noticed I’m excited. I am actually still interning at the library 9 hours a week for credit, and will finish my degree in May, but I feel like this is a pretty good step in the right direction. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about it over the coming months. Oh, and it is only 20 hours a week, so I’m still accepting offers for the other 20 hours of my work week. 😉

Project CHART final narrative is here if you’re interested. [PDF]

[Guest Post] – What I’ve Learned in Library School So Far: Me, You, and All Of Us.

And now for another episode of the “What I learned in Library School” series! I am growing ever more fond of this series as it goes on, and reading the variety of perspectives that have been offered has given me another really cool idea that I will be revealing in the coming weeks. Library school students, take note!

Without further ado, welcome Britt Foster to The Infornado. Ms. Foster graduated from San Francisco State University as an English Literature and Creative Writing major, and after an epiphany while sitting on the floor of the children’s section of the main San Francisco Public Library, decided to pursue a Master’s in a field with an equally impressive career outlook– public librarianship.  Britt is currently beginning her second year at UCLA, and would like to visit every LAPL library before graduation.  She hopes to work as a children’s/youth librarian, and includes a comprehensive knowledge of E.L. Konigsburg and mad glitter skills on her resume.  Britt also enjoys writing, knitting, salvaging furniture off the street, and road tripping, making Google maps of yarn stores and libraries before all journeys.

Britt writes about her own experiences in the MLIS at Library Moth, and tweets about all kinds of things here.

Britt Foster

———————–

Me:

At my internship the other day, a librarian mentioned to me that she couldn’t believe she didn’t figure out she wanted to be a librarian sooner, but thank goodness she did.  I think a lot of librarians come to the idea of being a librarian with this same feeling– it’s the X on the treasure map after a long journey along a dotted and meandering line.  There’s something about librarianship that brings together so many disparate elements in a meaningful way that can effect real change in the way a person views their abilities.  In library school, I have found validation and a place for my passions and concerns, from the banal (glue sticks, glitter, and the subtle way shelves of books change a space) to the lofty (community advocacy, continuing education, and non-corporate services).  I had such high expectations for becoming a librarian that I was afraid when I started my MLIS there was no way the reality could live up to my hopes.  Not only way I wrong, I underestimated the experience entirely.  Things have only gotten better, more right, a better fit.  The more I learn about librarianship and the development of my career, the more I view it as continuing phases of awesomeness, from my master’s and being a new librarian, to being an experienced librarian, developing professionally and personally all the way.  Librarianship for life.

You:

Library school has also taught me librarianship is not for egotists– the profession is service-oriented and external.  In a guest lecture for one of my courses, a special librarian described her career as being a meta-profession.  Everyday she compiles bibliographies, searches databases, and delivers content towards the professional goals and betterment of others.  I think this is universal to librarianship, and libraries; there are few institutions that benefit so directly from continually promoting and advocating for the welfare of other institutions and individuals.
UCLA requires a course on ethics and diversity for graduation, and in this course our professor often asked us about the role activism plays in the information professions.  It took me awhile to understand the divide between activism as I have viewed it prior to library school, and what activism means in the library and for information professionals.  I have pretty strong personal and political convictions, but in the library most of these have to be checked at the door.

As a librarian, I won’t be campaigning for myself or my beliefs, but for your beliefs, your politics, your lifestyle, your right to read The Anarchist’s Cookbook or Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets.  To be trusted with that responsibility is an amazing thing.

All of Us:

Prior to library school, I never really thought about information as information.  I remember learning about Sunshine laws and thinking, “That’s an idea worth advocating for,” but I never actually named the concept behind it as access to information.  Librarians, of course, are all about naming things, and while I’m still not sold on the idea of a label for everything, I am for information and ways to get to it.  The library (amongst other information institutions) is this way.  What is the value to society in a place where we can go to find just what we’re looking for?  Or when we don’t know what we’re looking for?  Or if we’re not looking for anything at all other than a place to just be?
The first required course in my program is “Information and Society,” and when we were introduced to the public library as the third place the rightness in this idea made my heart race.  Society needs more spaces where status does not affect access.  No money, no job, can’t read, don’t speak English– all barriers to access in other institutions that won’t be found in the library.  We can enter the library and leave changed– or not.  The way we use it is completely up to us, unfettered by any expectations or conditions other than our own.
Los Angeles Public Library’s recent struggles to remain open and provide services have come to concretize all of these elements to me as a resident of California.  I attended a protest earlier this week to mark the first non-holiday Monday the LAPL has been closed to the public.  Protestors were provided with sheets of chants, one of which read, “What do we want? Libraries open six days a week! When do we want it? Now!” The librarian standing next to me pointed out that we don’t want libraries open six days a week– we want them open seven days a week, 24 hours a day.  This commitment to access points to one word, that in my library school experience, has taught me should describe the library, both literally and symbolically — open.  For me, for you, for all of us.