I had an excellent time at BCLC 2013. A lot of that had to do with hanging out with colleagues and doing the whole “think about library issues” in person thing, rather than reading blog posts. Obviously I love blog posts and keeping up with people online is what I do, but it is nice to hang out (for example) at a table full of library techs with a drink and hear what kinds of things they’re dealing with. Or to sit in the sun on a Friday afternoon and discuss the horrors of capitalism and the challenges of optimism. I mean, this is something I just don’t get to do too often.
On the BCLA Info Policy Committee blog I’ve got a post talking about some of the IPC related things that went on. Even though Tara did a great job on the Hot Topics panel, watching it I really really wished I could have been up there participating (though I did get one question asked if not answered) and I think things might have gone a little bit more along these lines if I had.
Beyond that, I went to a very interesting session about how we advertise our early literacy programs on our websites. One of the things I’m bringing back to work is the idea to stop using stock photos and get real people involved doing real storytimish things (as opposed to the baby einstein motifs that you get a lot of in advertising).
I also went to the session on Fraser Valley Regional Library’s Service Mobile, which is an electronics-packed Nissan Cube thing that goes to homeless shelters to involve more people in the digital conversation. This is something I thought was pretty awesome and I think something we could at least put a proposal for in our library system.
The way I’d like to do it though is actually more like the MakerMobile (which was also at the conference on Saturday). On Thursday I got into Vancouver and instead of trying to catch the conference keynote speaker, I went to a Maker Education Meetup, where I met a whole bunch of people involved with 3D printers, education and MakerFaire. They were awesome (and thanks to Frank for getting a bunch of librarians out to the event). The Makers are less about buying fancy gadgets and more about being a mobile workshop to teach people how to use tools and make things themselves. It was actually kind of funny to see the two vehicles out in the conference parking lot. One all shiny and custom-electronicked up, and the other an old cargo truck with tools and clever benches in the back. I get that flashy is flashy, but man, the maker education folks really have my heart.
Last thing I did at the conference was do a few booktalks at the Ain’t on the Globe and Mail Bestseller List panel. I did that panel last year and had a great time. This year I talked about To Be Or Not To Be: That is the Adventure by Ryan North (& Shakespeare & YOU), and a little bit about Pirate Boxes and Unglued books and a great “craft of RPGs” book called Nightmares of Mine by Ken Hite. All of which was super fun, and I got a bottle of wine as a speaker present! For like four minutes of booktalking! So good.
Anyway, that was my conference. I like BCLA and it’s an organization I’m happy to be a part of. Our strategic plan includes advocacy as one of its first objectives and that sounds about right to me.
Tomorrow begins my first conference as an employed librarian. Sort of. I actually won’t get into the city in time for the opening keynote so I’m going to a Maker Education event as soon as I hit town instead. But a pile of library-folk are going to be there
I’ve been trying to do more to get involved and though the British Columbia Library Association may not be super high prestige, I know and like people who do stuff with it. Since March(ish) I’ve been blogging for the Information Policy Committee, and I’ve been polishing up at least one YA book review for each issue of the Young Adults and Children’s Services section’s quarterly newsletter (YAACING) since I graduated (here’s the most recent issue). I’m doing a couple of short writeups of conference sessions for the BCLA Browser too. I would have been presenting on the Hot Topics panel at the conference this year but my employers expressed a preference for me not to do that, so I was replaced by the awesome Tara Robertson, who will kill it, I am positive.
I’m looking forward to this conference. I’m growing to appreciate hanging out with people and shooting shit about issues I’m interested in. Last weekend I was at a birthday party (in Vancouver) that had a high percentage of information professionals and sitting there talking about what it means if libraries become pointers at info instead of holders of info, or the travesty that there’s no wikipedia/git repository of MARC records, brought home why people live in cities instead of off in the hinterlands. Clustering people with different ways of looking at things does seem to make for better thought, which may be obvious but my distrust of groups of more than like 6 people needs some evidence every once in a while.
Which isn’t to say it’s not fun being the lone voice talking about high concept issues in our library (branch). There’s not a lot of pressure to turn those kinds of ideas into something tangible, because the energy isn’t focused in that direction. It’s possible that if I were in a place where innovation and awesomeness were required I’d fall completely flat. Here, I’m impressive because I can work Excel, and the fact that no one comes to my non-storytime events isn’t a huge deal.
Anyway, going to this conference is the kind of thing I need. It’ll be nice to talk about library issues (beyond stock rotation) with people in person instead of through my keyboard.
Dingers is an anthology of short stories and poems about baseball. It’s also a Canadian anthology which is kind of neat. There were stories about the Expos and a leprechaun-assisted pitcher for the Vancouver Canadians. Dave Bidini had a story in it, and his was the only name I recognized.
The story of the author who had to pitch for a library visit was kind of memorable, as was the aforementioned leprechaun story, but as a whole the book didn’t set me on fire or anything. I think the reason might be because of how much baseball journalism I read, which twisted my notion of what this anthology would try to do.
Our town recently held a writers’ festival. I’d read at least something by most of the writers beforehand, but not JJ Lee. Well, his readings and talking about other people’s books completely sold me on his book The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit.
It’s a story about becoming an apprentice tailor, and about Lee’s childhood, and about his troubled relationship with his father, and about how important the clothes that we wear are, how they are ways we express our identity and the selves we want to be. Reading this book I learned how the lapels are the sexiest part of a suit, and how ticked off old Chinese tailors still are about jeans.
But Lee writes compellingly about his family too. At the festival his performances were incredibly crowd-pleasing and funny, and then he’d read a bit about sinking into the closet filled with the smell of his now-gone father and you’d want to cry. It’s an impressive impressive piece of work about intimacy among men. And now I kind of want to dress a little better.
Dark Inside is Jeyn Roberts’ multi-perspective YA novel about a kind of apocalyptic event that happens after a huge earthquake hits North America’s west coast. Cities are destroyed, yes, but a kind of evil is unleashed, not just at the earthquake site but in everyone’s souls. The book follows a scattered bunch of teenagers as they try to deal with the end of the world.
The book feels like a zombie book, since everyone aside from our protagonists has changed into bloodthirsty terrible murderers, but they haven’t gone brainless, just embraced their inner evil. This evil inside everyone is left pretty nebulous, as is the reason why the characters we’re following are spared it. The people who have turned (so most of the population) are terrible and terrifying, and some of the scenes are pretty intense. It would make for the kind of movie I couldn’t really watch, myself.
The teens are all eventually converging on Vancouver for various reasons (looking for a lost brother, keeping a promise to someone met on the road from Saskatoon, that kind of thing) and there are plenty of good scenes on the way. People feel survivor guilt and show survival skills and all in all it’s pretty good. And props to the book having interesting First Nations characters who didn’t feel like stereotypes. They weren’t the main characters but they were there, doing stuff like the rest of the kids with their own specific problems and issues.
Susin Nielsen’s Word Nerd is about a twelve-year-old kid named Ambrose whose mom is way overprotective. He makes friends with Cosmo, his landlord’s adult (and ex-con) son through Scrabble. It’s set in Vancouver (Kitsilano to be precise), and from the name-dropping of places they go, I feel confident I could find the block Ambrose would have lived on. There’s a peanut-allergy aspect to the character (he almost dies early on from jerks putting a peanut in his sandwich) but it feels like more of a justification for his mom to be overprotective. There’s also some talk of drugs and Ambrose stops Cosmo from slipping back into junkiedom.
Ambrose’s mom was very controlling and the book does try to get at why, but in a kid-focused kind of way. If I met Ambrose and wasn’t inside his head for the book, I’d find him an annoying twerp, much like Cosmo does at first, but he gets some of his obnoxiousness toned down as it goes. He helps Cosmo, Cosmo helps him, and they have to keep it secret from his mom.
It was a good kids book, maybe okay for the younger side of YA.
This week librarians all over the internet are keeping track of what they do in a day and blogging about it for Library Day in the Life. This happens a couple of times a year and I decided to participate even though I’m not working in a library. My job title is Systems Librarian though, so here we are. Following is what my day looked like.
Maybe you’re interested in the kinds of things a first term MLIS student does. This is a follow up post to my first months of school recap.
Assignment 2 for my Information technology course was a website/research paper kind of weird hybrid amalgam thing. I did mine on Transhumanism, and managed not to mention my buddy who wants to be a robot some day. Until now. The last assignment for that course was the Twitterbrary project here on the blog.
In my reference services class (is that what it was called?) we collected a pile of reference resources for use by SIGGRAPH Vancouver (that was a group project so I’ll wait till the writeup is complete and I have group member permission before posting it here). Also did a presentation in class that stuck pretty close to the allotted 10 minutes. Information Organizations sent us off to compare a library and game store (again, group work so I won’t post it without the others’ permission).
And then there was the Subject Headings assignment (PDF) for the classification class. In our final session we spent 45 minutes talking about the assignment and what was required and what wasn’t. It was painful, but my Headings are done and not too far off line from what he wanted so whatever.
So yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing.
Tony Burman from Al Jazeera English was talking at Media Democracy Day down at the Vancouver Public Library this afternoon, but after his keynote address (see my very scrappy notes) I skipped out on listening to a panel discuss the spread of Fox News style media up north and went to a panel on Copyright. After the copyright session I also went to Engaging the Resistant: Achieving Change Through Documentary and Journalism put on by Pacific Cinematheque, but it wasn’t at all what I wanted out of a session so I won’t be talking any more about it (they seemed like a neat group, just ran a session I didn’t really enjoy).
But yes, the copyright session was really interesting, and library related. There was Geof Glass – a communications PhD from SFU who specializes in the online commons, Hart Snider – a video remix artist and Martha Rans – a copyright lawyer who works with artist collectives and Creative Commons Canada.
Glass spoke about the asymmetric access to culture we have when information is owned by monopolistic companies. He talked about StarCraft II player-designed maps which now get transferred to the ownership of Blizzard, which gets to benefit monetarily from what its users are making. He talked about selling the Hockey Night in Canada theme song for millions of dollars and how it wasn’t worth that much money until people had invested parts of themselves in it. His big thing was about participation in culture and how important it is to do and not just witness.
Snider talked about the path he’s taken as a video artist and how illegal his sampling work is. He talked about how bill C-32 says that you can’t damage the integrity of what you’re sampling, but “artists have the right to say what they want.” He sort of struck me as a bit out of touch, or selfish in his concern about only what he was allowed to do, instead of caring about the wider society (or just getting on with doing his own thing). The best story was how the CBC’s lawyers had to spend 8 months trying to figure out how to show one of his videos on Zed. They eventually did by changing the show from an Entertainment show to a News show for one night. Because News shows don’t have to worry about copyright in the same way, as they’re commenting on the things that are happening.
Martha Rans talked about how as a culture we need to value artists, and that our energy would best be spent fighting cuts to the arts from government. She talked about what a lousy law C-32 was in its vagueness and it just screaming for litigation to get things sorted. That gives a big hammer to corporations, yes, but it doesn’t really deal with artists getting enough money for food and rent. She called out the media for its fearmongering about the bill by talking piracy and not separating artists and publishing corporations. She also said that Copyright Criminals was a much better documentary on copyright and culture than Rip! A Remix Manifesto because it didn’t ignore the fact that it was only through the traditional system of copyright and royalty payments that african-american artists could legally fight their way to getting paid instead of being ripped off blind by white artists and corporations. Really interesting stuff.
The easiest way to be able to do what you want to do as an artist and not worry about the law, she said (after prefacing it with saying this was not legal advice), was to not own a home or have anything for anyone to sue you for. I like that as a strategy. She also talked about how librarians have to speak up and fight for arts groups as we’re the people in charge of preserving all this culture and our silence on these issues is terrible. She told us that since our institutions are risk averse, academics need to develop backbones and stand up to commercial interests themselves.
There were a few interesting questions from the audience and a lot of anecdotes about how artists really are at the bottom of the list of who gets paid by the big publishing corporations. One guy asking about why Glass was so down on the Apple iOS store, since didn’t the Android Market provide a competitive market for people who didn’t want to play in authorized Appleland didn’t really get his question answered, which was kind of crappy. The moderator wasn’t very good at handling the crowd, but whatever.
I’m realizing that copyright is something I’m interested in. That’s what this first semester of school has been good for, giving me an idea which of these topics I actually care about and which leave me cold. Copyright gets me fired up. Bizarrely enough, cataloguing does too. Who knew?
Librarians Without Borders’ SLAIS Student Chapter (LWB@UBC) was doing a book drive for the Carnegie library in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side this past month. We collected tubs and tubs of books and today went down to the library to give them away. The idea is that the library sets up a table outside on Fridays at 2:30 and gives books away. The library is on East Hastings street, with an alley that’s full of crazy drug happenings and such, so the idea of giving books to people is something I can get behind.
I got to chat with a couple of guys who picked up some books. One was there telling me about the books he’d bought at other places and how he was a great harmonica player who knows all the old Englebert Humperdinck songs “and not everyone can sing those! Spanish Eyes? It’s really hard!” He had a moderate Indian accent, and spoke with the same intensity my step-father does about politics or science, which was a neat bit of cognitive dissonance.
The other guy was complaining about the security cameras the police have up at that corner that can see all the way up to Cambie (which I’m not sure is possible because of the bend in Hastings; he might have meant Carrall) at such resolution that two blocks away they can read your watch. He was also worried about the chips they’re putting in babies now, and how Big Brother was coming to watch us all and lock us away if we’re crooks. “Good thing I’ll be dead before it all happens,” he said, and I managed not to talk about life-extension technologies.
There was also a guy who came up yelling “This is a stickup!” but he was just trying to be funny. I got told off for not buying a guy pizza. I said “Sorry dude” and he said “Yeah, well god bless ya anyway.” But as he walked away he got more angry and said “Maybe Satan should bless you instead.” He didn’t actually swear at me, which was pretty good.
Before hitting the street we got a tour of the community centre from the acting branch head. The Carnegie branch is a weird little branch serving a very specific community, which affects their policies in many ways. There’s a special Carnegie Library card you can get, which doesn’t require any ID. The fines are fairly flexible and while they only have three full-time staff, the part-timers who work there tend to work there a lot, because you need to develop rapport with the people, and not everyone is all over that.
Also, if I heard correctly, all of the books are non-catalogued (ie they don’t have specific representations in the VPL system and are listed basically as BOOK with a barcode). They do this because their loss-rate is so high, they’d constantly be recataloguing things as missing. This way it’s easier to reprocess books, but means they can’t search the computer to see if a book is actually there. It was interesting stuff.
Also in the building is an education centre, a very popular cafeteria, a gym, a theatre, a seniors’ centre and lots of space for people to hang out and play 象棋, Chinese chess. Because this library is also right in Chinatown. So it serves an interesting community. There are also certain barriers to access. At each of the doors there were signs saying that people must behave in a civil and proper manner inside. Randy also explained that meant they couldn’t be intoxicated or on other drugs. These are rules that come from the building being a community centre, and there’s a lot of interesting interplay between the community centre and the library aspects of the place.
I’m really glad I got the chance to go see this, and get the tour and stuff instead of just showing up one day to look around. Good job, library school.