Category: libraries

A Report on MLA Annual

Sorry for the lack of posts the last few days. I was off at the annual Maine Library Association conference at Sunday River. This year we had a pre-conference as well, so it’s been a very busy weekend. Thankfully, it’s also been relatively stress-free, since we’ve got such a great conference committee running things. If you would have asked me six years ago, when I was just getting involved with MLA, if the time would ever come when running a conference for 185 people over three days wouldn’t have felt like that big of a deal, I would have said you were crazy. It was something entirely out of my realm of experience. And yet here we are, at the end of another very successful conference, and I’m now to the point where I’ve actually been going around volunteering to help organize other conferences.

Maybe there’s something wrong with me.

(Although really, it’s not that big of a deal when you break down what you need to do. Find a venue. Figure out how much it’ll cost to rent the rooms and pay for the food. Divide that cost among the number of people you expect will come. Be pessimistic. Figure out programming and keynotes. Promote it to death. No big deal, right?)

As I’ve done in the past, here’s a brief rundown on some of the things I did at this year’s conference:

  • Presented (to one extent or another) on four different panels. I was on one focused on library technology trends, one discussing the New Commons Project, one for Maine authors (as Bryce Moore), and then helped with one about Maine Academic Libraries. All of them went quite well. Good attendance, good exchange of information.
  • Competed in my first ever Battledecks challenge. If you haven’t heard of this before (I hadn’t), it’s essentially free-style powerpoint, done for humor. Someone makes up powerpoint presentations ahead of time (8 slides each), and then you get up and give a presentation around those slides, sight unseen. It ended up being hilarious and a ton of fun. 6 people competed, and they all did a fantastic job. (And apparently my finely honed ability to talk my way through and out of anything came in handy, as I took first place.)
  • Ate far too much food. Apple smoothies, oreo brownies, gourmet donuts, fancy pizza, french toast, pulled pork sandwiches, fruit, ginger carrot soup. The list goes on. As much as I say the event isn’t stressful, my weight says different. (But I’m going back on a diet for the rest of October. Not kidding!)
  • Saw a slew of friends. I’ve been active in the library community of Maine now for long enough that I forget just how many people I know. I really don’t think of myself as an extrovert, but when I know people already, I’m very comfortable going up and talking to them. And actually, as I thought over how the conference went and what all I did at it, I began to wonder if shoehorning myself into “Introvert” category isn’t really valid anymore. Don’t get me wrong. I still came home and wanted to just be by myself someplace quiet for the whole evening, but I can also excel in social situations, and it’s time I start acknowledging it.
  • Rarely breathed outside air. Conferences can also be pretty stifling. I think I got outside for all of . . . ten minutes over the three days? It was great to have a bit of a walk outside as I came into work today.
  • Heard some great keynotes. The first was on the way the press can navigate today’s “Fake News” minefield, and the second was on just how fast the world is changing these days. (If you’re trying to make long term plans based on how life was five or ten years ago, you’re setting yourself up for failure.)

Of course, when I come home from an event like that, I’ve missed a bunch of work by being away, and I’m also exhausted, so coming back into the grind is doubly difficult. But for this, it’s very much worth it. It’s a conference I’ve begun to look forward to more and more each year, and I’m very happy to see so many people feel the same way. (This year was our best attended since I’ve been involved in them!)

In any case, thanks to all who contributed, participated, and showed up. It was a great time, and I’m already excited for next year.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

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A Report on National Library Legislative Day

I’m sitting at the airport waiting for my now delayed plane to arrive (of course), so why not take a bit of time to tell you lovely people how things went yesterday. As a refresher, I’ve been in DC to meet with Maine’s Senators and Representatives in hopes of getting them to support libraries as strongly as possible. It’s part of the American Library Association’s National Library Legislative Day.

Really, they have it down to an art form. We had a big conference on Monday to go over the main talking points they wanted everyone to push when they met their representatives. Last year it was a laundry list of about 8 or 9 points. This year, they had boiled it down to just three: Reauthorize the Institute of Museum and Library Services, support an open internet with greater reach of broadband, and come out and visit a library the next time they’re back home.

These visits usually only last about fifteen minutes, and some of that is eaten up with introductions, etc, so it was great to be able to keep things focused. Last year, I’d left feeling like we’d had a fine set of meetings, but not necessarily that we’d accomplished anything groundbreaking. This year, it felt different. We met in person with Senators King and Collins and Representatives Poliquin and Pingree. All of them were attentive and eager to support libraries. True, it’s an election year, so the cynic in me says they’d all be more likely to be receptive no matter what, but it didn’t feel like that.

I was particularly impressed with the depth of knowledge Senator Collins had for funding libraries, and how well versed Senator King was with the issues around broadband. Everyone we met with was respectful and gushing about how much they loved libraries, and they all said they’d support our requests.

Representative Poliquin took us over to the House, where we got to go inside and watch the floor debate. (Side note: they did a vote by voice while we were there. It was just like the voice vote for the school budget, right down to each side yelling as loudly as possible to make themselves sound more numerous than the opposition. I found that amusing.)

In any case, it was a good trip. I really do feel like we accomplished something, and I’m very pleased I had the chance to come down. At times it’s too easy to assume laws are passed by people who don’t care and just listen to the loudest lobbyists. This year, meeting with everyone in person, I didn’t feel like that. It felt like they all cared about the issues and wanted to know as much as possible about them. That was encouraging.

We had a great delegation of people down with us from Maine (five in all), and I had a very good time. A special shout out goes to our State Librarian, Jamie Ritter, who coordinated the whole show and did a fantastic job guiding each conversation. I was very impressed with his poise and tact, regardless of whom we were meeting with. A huge chunk of the reason for our success is due to his efforts.

Thanks for reading!

Legislating It Up

I’m back down in DC for the next few days, attending National Library Legislative Day once again. If you forgot from last time, that means I’m down with a contingent from Maine, learning about the issues the American Library Association wants to push on with Congress. That’s on today’s slate: the learning. Tomorrow, I’ll be meeting with Senators King and Collins and Representative Pingree (no word on whether Poliquin is making time for us yet) to do the actual pushing.

On the one hand, it sounds far more Important than it feels like in real life, speaking from some experience now. We’ll sit down with their aides mostly, going over our talking points. And we’ll meet with the Congresspeople themselves for ten minutes or so, most likely. On the other hand, this is how things get done. You meet with people and say what’s important to you, and you remind them that there are a lot of other people who think the same way you do.

It’s pretty cool to see it all play out. To see all those librarians from across the country (each state sends its own delegates) gather together one day to get On Message, and then to see them all scurrying around Capitol Hill the next, spreading that message far and wide. It’s a well oiled machine, and all I have to really do is step in and not screw things up.

So anyway, if I’m less present on social media or whatever until Wednesday, now you know why. Thanks for reading!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Libraries: The New Commons

For the past several months, I’ve been involved with the New Commons Project at the University of Maine at Farmington. It’s a fascinating effort, as they’ve asked people across the state, “What cultural works are of most value to us today?” The answers have ranged all over the place, from pop music to Dr. Seuss, graffiti artists to Jane Austen. Once the finalists are selected (to be announced tomorrow!), we will be looking at each work, one month at a time. 24 works will be selected in total.

Yesterday was the big kick off lecture for the series. Lewis Hyde, a well-known “cultural critic with a particular interest in the public life of the imagination,” came to talk to our campus about the idea of a commons: a body of work that society can draw from collectively. It was a fascinating talk, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the sort of programming that comes out of the final selections. (Being on the selection committee, perhaps I’m biased, but I think we’re in for some really awesome months.)

But as I was listening to his talk, and to the discussion that followed over how copyright influences a commons, and what should be done to make sure things are as accessible as possible, I couldn’t help think about the root idea of a commons. It’s a term for the traditional idea of English common land that could be used by the entire town for any number of reasons. I love the idea of a cultural commons, but the more I thought about it, the more obvious it became that the only reason such a cultural commons could exist is due (today) to two main things: the internet, and libraries.

The internet is obvious. So much of what we do these days relies on our connection to the cloud. Whether we’re streaming movies on Netflix, reading articles on CNN, or checking out the latest social media posts on Facebook, the internet has come to dominate our lives. If this were a few decades ago, I would be arguing public television was the commons of the day. It was ubiquitous, freely available, and connected us in a unique way. Years before that, it was the radio. But culture moves onward, and the audience for television is too splintered these days for me to really feel like it’s that “commons” for now. A friend was asking on Facebook for television show recommendations a few days ago, and I couldn’t just rattle off shows I liked. I wanted to first know what streaming platforms she had access to. What’s the point of recommending something you can’t watch?

Which is where libraries come in, naturally. And actually, libraries also make it possible for the internet to be a real commons. It’s too easy for people with good access to the internet to take it for granted, but speaking as someone who lives in an area of the country where high internet speeds aren’t always easy to come by, I can definitely say that having a library with free, high speed internet is vital to ensuring everyone has access to the internet. And libraries do more than that. They compile works and make them publicly available. They pay for content so you don’t have to.

Professor Hyde wondered aloud at some of the candidates for the New Commons, questioning how copyright might make access to those works really possible. And it’s true that some of them might be very tricky. But speaking as the Library Director here on campus, I can also say we will be right there waiting to make sure people have access to whatever they want to view, read, or listen to, whenever they want to.

It was a day it was easy to be proud to be a librarian.

If you’re local to the state, keep an eye out for the announcement tomorrow of what’s been selected as the first 12 entries. I can’t wait to see what you think.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. Plus, did I mention the sweet perks like exclusive access to unpublished books, works in progress, and Skype visits? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Support Your Library with Your Tax Refund

I get it. Tax refunds are sweet sweet moola. You look forward to using that money to do important things. Buying snow blowers. Taking trips to someplace warmer. And I’m not here to tell you not to do any of that. What you do with your tax refund is between you and that $2,000 of instant chocolate pudding you’re thinking of buying.

However . . .

Did you know that if you live in Maine, you can throw your library a little bit of that tax refund? And you can do it with a single click of a mouse?

It’s a little thing called the Maine Public Library Fund. When you’re filing your state taxes, you’ll get to the part where they ask you if you want to send any money to “Charitable Contributions.” (It’s where you can also buy park passes.) The library fund is the sixth option. You click a box and say you want to donate $5 (or more!), and then put in how much you want to donate ($5, $10, $25, or more) and click ok. That’s it!

Last year, this raised over $30,000 for Maine public libraries. Around 3,000 people contributed money. This year, there’s a goal to get 5,000 people involved and hopefully raise over $50,000.

What does the money go for? All sorts of grants to help libraries do new and exciting things. Create makerspaces for teens, add technology to children’s rooms, start robotics clubs, enhance story times. Libraries are about so much more than just books these days, but it often takes a bit of seed money to get projects off the ground and let them soar. This money lets libraries do just that.

Basically, it’s a way of tossing a tip to libraries. You’ll know your money will be put to good use and directly benefit other people here in Maine. And let’s be honest, $1,975 worth of instant chocolate pudding is pretty much  indistinguishable from $2,000 worth of the stuff. You still get oodles of instant chocolate pudding either way, but my way, you also benefit other people. I think that warm, fuzzy feeling you’ll have inside after doing that will make that chocolate pudding taste all the sweeter.

Just sayin’

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’m looking to get to $10/month to justify the amount of time I spend on this blog. I’m at $8/month so far. Read this post for more information. Or click here to go to Patreon and sign up. It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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