blah, blah, blah: diversity and inclusion, the code4lib edition

Being asked to keynote code4lib was a literal dream come true for me. I shared some of the diversity and inclusion work we’re doing at Mozilla, called out whiteness and racism in libraries and shared some personal stuff.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve cried while giving a talk, but this was the first time the tears weren’t about trauma. I was overwhelmed with the feeling of what is possible when you are loved and supported by friends and community. I had some of my dearest library friends sitting in the front row holding space for me.

In my 20s and 30s my work was often fueled by anger and I was all about burning systems down. Now that I’m in my 40s I’m exploring what it means to be fueled by love and interdependence. I’m exploring what it means to have privilege and responsibility, and the type of work it takes to build the systems that are liberatory. It’s a new kind of vulnerability that is terrifying, yet incredibly freeing.

Here’s my original deck. I deviated a bit from the slides a bit in the actual talk.

Continue reading blah, blah, blah: diversity and inclusion, the code4lib edition

Porn in the library

At the  Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium the program session I was the most excited about was Porn in the library.  There were 3 presentations in this panel exploring this theme.

First,  Joan Beaudoin and Elaine Ménard presented  The P Project: Scope Notes and Literary Warrant Required! Their study looked at 22 websites that are aggregators of free porn clips.  Most of these sites were in English, but a few were in French.  Ménard acknowledged that it is risky and sometimes uncomfortable to study porn in the academy. They looked at the terminology used to describe porn videos, specifically the categories available to access porn  videos. They described their coding manual which outlined    various metadata facets (activity, age, cinematography, company/producers, age, ethnicity, gender, genre, illustration/cartoon, individual/stars, instruction, number of individuals, objects, physical characteristics, role, setting, sexual orientation). I learned that xhamster has scope notes for their various categories (mouseover the lightbulb icon to see).

While I appreciate that Beaudoin and Ménard  are taking a risk to look at porn, I think they made the mistake of using very clinical language to legitimize and sanitize their work. I’m curious why they are so interested in porn, but realize that it might be too risky for them to situate themselves in their research.

It didn’t seem like they understood the difference between production company websites and free aggregator sites. Production company sites  have very robust and high quality metadata and excellent information architecture. Free aggregator sites that have variable quality metadata and likely  have a business model that is based on ads or referring users to the main production company websites. Porn is, after all, a content business, and most porn companies are  invested in making their content findable, and making it easy for the user to find more content with the same performers, same genre, or by the same director.

Beaudoin and Ménard  expressed  disappointment that porn companies didn’t want to participate in their study. As these two researchers don’t seem to understand the porn industry or have relationships with individuals I don’t think it’s surprising at all. For them to successfully build on this line of inquiry I think they need to have some skin in the game and clearly articulate what they offer their research subjects in exchange for building their own academic capital.

It was awesome to have a quick Twitter conversation with Jiz Lee and Chris Lowrance, the web manager  for feminist porn company Pink and White productions,  about how sometimes the terms a consumer might be looking for is prioritized over the  performers’ own gender identity.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 4.40.34 PMUpdate: @FetishMovieBlog responded to Jiz and Chris to say that this was an unintentional error that had been corrected. Jiz’s performer entry doesn’t have a gender listed and I also noticed that their race is listed as hapa, another non-binary category.

Jiz Lee is genderqueer porn performer and uses the pronouns they/them and is sometimes misgendreed by mainstream porn and by feminist porn. I am a huge fan of their work.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 4.36.55 PMI think this is the same issue that Amber Billy, Emily Drabinski and K.R. Roberto raise in their paper What’s gender got to do with it? A critique of RDA rule 9.7. They argue that it is regressive for a cataloguer to assign a binary gender value to an author. In both these cases someone (porn company or consumer, or cataloguer) is assigning gender to someone else (porn performer or content creator). This process can be disrespectful, offensive, inaccurate and highlights a power dynamic where the consumer’s (porn viewer or researcher/student/librarian) desires/politics/needs/worldview is put above someone’s own identity.

Next, Lisa Sloniowski and Bobby Noble. presented Fisting the Library: Feminist Porn and Academic Libraries  (which is the best paper title ever).  I’ve been really excited their SSHRC funded porn archive research. This research project has become more of a conceptional project, rather than building a brick and mortar porn archive. Bobby talked about the challenging process of getting his porn studies class going at York University. Lisa talked they initially hoped to start a porn collection as part of York University Library’s main collection, not as a reading room or a marginal collection. Lisa spoke about the challenges of drafting a collection development policy and some of the labour issues, presumably about staff who were uncomfortable with porn having to order, catalogue, process and circulate porn. They also talked about the Feminist Porn Awards and second  feminist porn conference that took place before the Feminist Porn Awards last year.

Finally,  Emily Lawrence and Richard Fry presented  Pornography, Bomb Building and Good Intentions: What would it take for an internet filter to work?  They presented a philosophical argument against internet filters. They argued that for a filter to not overblock and underblock it would need to be mind reading and fortune telling. A filter would need to be able to read an individual’s mind and note factors like the person viewing, their values, their mood, etc and be fortune telling by knowing exactly what information that the user was seeking   before they looked at it. I’ve been thinking about internet filtering a lot lately, because of Vancouver Public Library’s recent policy change that forbids “sexually explicit images”. I was hoping to get a new or deeper understanding on filtering but was disappointed.

This colloquium was really exciting for me. The conversations  that people on the porn in the library panel were having are discussions I haven’t heard elsewhere in librarianship.  I look forward to talking about porn in the library more.

How to connect the physical collections with web resources

Nerdlepoint by außerirdische sind gesund

I did two short presentations on QR codes at InfoCamp and at an ILS user group meeting. I wanted to do a slick presentation with Prezi, but ran out of time to make it work well, so I just presented with images on slides.

Several people have asked for the slides, which are a bunch of images without any context or other content. Here’s a list of links that might be more useful.

QR codes — General

The Big Wild – an online conservation movement, sponsored by MEC and CPAWS, where people sign online petitions to protect Canadian wilderness. Big Wild recently launched a poster campaign utilizing QR codes.

Ethical Bean – by scanning the QR code on the bag of coffee, consumers can learn more about where their coffee was grown.

Rollout – company that designs and digitally prints custom wallpaper, created QRious Paper.

Code Unique – a hotel that is being built in Dubai where the building itself is a QR code

Lisa Rabey – recent library school grad who wore this delightfully cheeky t-shirt to ALA

QR codes — Libraries

University of Bath Library – QR codes in their catalogue at the item level. Scanning these dynamically generated QR codes brings up the type of information that users generally have to jot down on a piece of paper: call number, shelving location, title and author. Kate Robinson presented on this at the m-Libraries conference last year.

Where, why, and how we’re using QR codes in my library – previous blog post

Contra Costa public library – connecting transit commuters with ebook collections using QR codes.

More examples of how libraries are using QR codes – Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki

QR codes — Creating

I used Kaywa’s QR code generator, but there are many others.

QR codes — Scanning

I have an iPhone and use Neoreader (free). Some Android using folks have recommended Barcode Scanner.

See also

Microsoft tags – apparently have great analytics, but you need to use the proprietary Microsoft reader

stickybits – traditional barcodes + social media

bike pump @ your library

In Yellow by Massics

We started circulating basic bike tools and a bike pump at my library today. It’s an idea that popped into my head in the spring. For the second time in a week, I was pushing my bike to the nearest bike store to get a flat changed. I suppose I should carry my own pump, but there’s usually one around when I need it.

Lots of people bike to my university. The bike racks, many of which are right outside the doors of the library, are usually jammed full.

The staff wellness committee agreed to buy the bike supplies (which came to about $60). I created dummy records, barcoded the items, and added them to the integrated library system. After all, we already have an inventory system, and an existing workflow to check things out to people. It will be easy for me to collect usage statistics to report back to the committee on their investment. The wellness committee will be promoting the tools in the card access bike cage, on the bike racks and by email.

It’s timely that we were able to add these. Alex Steffen, from Worldchanging, kicked off the Speaker’s Series. I’d first heard him on CBC’s Spark last year, talking about product-service systems, or systems of sharing stuff. Steffen argues that people don’t actually need to own a power drill, they need to occasionally make a hole.

Too often, we’ve been sold products we don’t actually really need — or at very least, rarely need — on the presumption that these products will bring us closer to the experiences and relationships we crave. Toolmakers, for instance, advertise power drills as tools for providing for our loved ones’ comfort, and thus showing our love for them, winning their approval or having the glow of a job well done (think: any of a number of ads showing a manly guy doing work around the house to the great satisfaction of his beaming wife). But the reality is that most power tools are used for only minutes a year. And, when it comes right down to it, what most of us really want is not the tool itself but the thing we get by using the tool. As my brother puts it, “You want the hole, not the drill.”

Getting a bike pump is a really small thing, but it’s another small way that we are being responsive to our users, demonstrating that we’re committed to sustainability, and challenging that we are just the place where the books are stored. We also get to add a few more circs to our statistics.

So, if you’re on Granville Island and your bike has a flat, come by and borrow our tools.

beyond the catalogue search – library smart phone apps

The fun and social iPhone app for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival got me thinking if a non-profit film festival can get create a useful and fun iPhone app, why can’t libraries?

Catalogue search

Librarians want patrons to be able to search their library’s catalogue. MJ Suhonos’ open source MyTPL does this really well. Users can search the catalogue, then using their location, can see the closest branch that has the item and use Google Maps to get there. TPL has 100 branches, so this is useful and uses smart phone technology in an elegant and appropriate way. Read Building a Location-aware Mobile Search Application with Z39.50 and HTML5 in the Code4Lib journal.

Social libraries

While searching the catalogue might be the top priority for many librarians, library users might want something that’s fun and social. I love how the Queer Film Festival combined basic information and fun social things like a compatibility test, a treasure hunt, and a pickup line generator.

While a pickup line generator would be inappropriate for libraries the other two ideas could be adapted. Social discovery layers allow users to rate, review, tag, and create their own lists of items in the catalogue. Allowing users to bump to discover new things they might enjoy, based on their respective lists would be a real life social version of Amazon’s “People who liked this also liked…”

A treasure hunt or geocashing type game could be used to encourage patrons to discover and explore   new branches of their library. Something like this could compliment a city-wide book club, like One Book One Vancouver. Participants could visit various locations where parts of the book take place to unlock badges/pins, or collect other digital swag. This could be adapted to a large academic library system for students by department, or to outreach to the larger community. For me this would be more fun than going a in-person tour.

Using iPhone functionality

I like the touch screen interface of the iPhone. I get a bit of enjoyment from the elegant experience of flicking through photos, swiping my finger to delete, pinching to zoom in our out, and shaking the phone to search. Libraries need to get this so we are not creating apps that require users to select things by ticking off tiny boxes, or alternatively where you need to shake your phone each and every time you want to search the catalogue.

At the Access 2009 hackfest, a group used iWebKit to create a cover flow display of new books. In an afternoon they created something that presented the University of Victoria’s new books in a really slick and gorgeous way.

Like Urban Spoon’s app, I can imagine an interface where you could lock various search facets (subject, format, audience, language, or any other information that’s in the MARC record) then shake your phone. I think this would be a good way to get somewhat customised recommendations and reviews.

I’m curious to see the types of library smart phone apps that are being developed. If you know of library apps that are fun, social, or elegant, please let me know.

dancing on the walls of the library

Friday night I went to see a free Aeriosa Dance performance at the Vancouver Public Library. Aeriosa is an aerial dance company that performs in non-traditional spaces. The performers wore climbing harnesses and danced on the walls. Five minutes into the performance my brain had shifted, so that it became normal to see people dancing on vertical walls. They created a sense of awe and magic by using a space I’ve been in hundreds of times in an unexpected way.

The first part of the performance was inside the concourse of the library. It was exciting and a bit nerve wracking to watch one of the dancers climb up 5 storeys on the inside glass walls. They used books, and traditional library stereotypes like glasses, and the sound of shushing, and typewriters to link the piece to the place. While many people recognize those as library stereotypes, I thought they were too obvious and outdated. A graphic designer friend remarked that the shapes their bodies made in the cubes looked like the VPL logo.

The music was interesting, but unsettling and I didn’t like it. Various musicians were located in different parts of the concourse, and at different levels. The music played with the echo of the space. I like that I didn’t like it and spent quite a bit of time pondering why.

The percussionists lead the procession outside to the South Plaza for the next part. Three people dressed in red danced on the government tower. There was a lovely energy — people were excited, curious and I felt a connection with all the people watching the dancers slowly run along the walls, perform elegant slow motion acrobatics, and push off the walls as a group to make formations with their bodies, like skydivers. I enjoyed watching the crowd. Many people were standing with their heads flipped back looking up. Some people were lying on the ground looking up. It was delightful.

The percussionists lead us around the outside of the building to the North Plaza to watch the last piece. Dancers moved like lizards along the molding of the building. They bounced and moved in slow arcs through the air. The shadow of their bodies looked like a kaleidoscope on the buildings across the street. By the end of the performance there were about 1000 people in the library plaza but it didn’t feel crowded in an ugly way. It felt like we were in the living room of the city sharing a wonderful moment with the dancers and each other. I bumped into people I haven’t seen since the Fall. I met up with my friends who I got separated from and we lingered on the South Plaza, wishing that it was a few degrees warmer.

VPL does a great job of programming. There are kids’ storytimes at branches across the city. Almost every night there are talks, readings, and film screenings at the Central branch downtown. As part of the Cultural Olympiad, there is Ron Terada’s The Words Don’t Fit The Picture and Christian Kliegel and Cate Rimmer’s Walk In/Here You Are. Vanessa Kwan’s Vancouver Vancouver Vancouver was also on the North Plaza. In the concourse, Jeremy Turner and Geoffrey Farmer’s Broadsiding hang in the spaces between the pillars inside. From July 2006 to December 2009 VPL organized numerous Library-specific art projects. There’s also the Writer-in-Residence program, Poet Laureate program, and One Book One Vancouver, a city wide book club.

I’m proud to live in a city where so much is going on at the library. I think that it’s important that it’s free and financially accessible to all.

A couple of weeks ago I had an awesome conversation with a faculty member about “activating the library as a place of artistic and research inquiry”. I’m still formulating my thoughts on this, hopefully I’ll be able to articulate some of them soon.

Get your FOSS on: Wellington library geeks

Wellington has a vibrant open source development community. There are some fantastic open source projects happening in libraries in Wellington and the surrounding area. Here’s more about the projects and people doing neat things in libraries, most of which are open source. This is part two of a three part series on the open source and library tech communities in Wellington.

Chris Cormack is the original Koha developer. Koha was the first open source integrated library system (ILS) in the world. An ILS is the system that you use when you search a library’s online catalogue, check out books, and that library staff use to catalogue items, run management reports and often track their book orders. In 2007 he won a New Zealand Open Source Award for his contributions to Koha. Like many of the active community minded geeks in Wellington, Chris also works at Catalyst. He is the current translation manager for Koha. I’ve learned a lot from him about Koha, the open source community here in New Zealand, and the Koha community around the world. We’ve had great conversations about software, community, politics, and how these things are connected.

Kete is an open source project that allows you to “create online areas for collaboration for your community. Write topics and upload images, audio, video, documents. Discuss them all. Link them together”. It was developed by Horowhenua Library Trust and Katipo Communications, the same team that started Koha. I had a great meeting with the core developer, Walter McGinnis, who works for Katipo Communications. I got to see a sneak peak of the next release. Walter is smart and passionate about the work he does. He’s had the most interesting jobs including being a “gas station attendant” and janitor in Antarctica, as well as doing some casual film projection on the side, in trade for coffee. He answered all the questions I had about using Kete as a platform for a community archive project, like

Aotearoa People’s Network is “about providing free access to broadband internet services in public libraries so that all New Zealanders can benefit from creating, accessing and experiencing digital content”. Many of the APN sites have a local Kete where people from that community can upload their stories, images, and other content. My only criticism about this amazing program is their decision to use internet filters on the whole system. Yay APN! Boo filtering!

Horowhenua Library Trust is the little library that could. Jo Ransom, the Deputy Head of Libraries, is an innovative and gutsy leader who is a strong and loud advocate for libraries and their users. HLT is the birthplace of Koha and Kete. In 1999, HLT was forced to find a new ILS that could deal with a change in millenium. Proprietary ILS vendors didn’t have a system that could manage on dial up speeds and cope with the interference from the electric fences on local farms. They worked with Katipo and funded the original Koha development. Recently they funded the development of Kete, a community digital repository. I also admire Jo’s guts in standing up to her council to fight against the introduction of revenue targets (which would mean user fees) for HLT. Jo is one rad librarian, and HLT is one rad library system.

Brenda Chawner is finishing her PhD thesis that looks at factors influencing satisfaction with open source software in libraries. She was also the head of the library school at Victoria University and is organizing free software prophet Richard Stallman’s next visit to New Zealand. Stallman will be one of the keynote speakers at the LIANZA conference. Brenda describes him as “one of the most influential people the audience has never heard of.” I really enjoyed all of our conversations about open source and libraries, and how different projects develop different cultures. She’s a great teacher, and I’ve learned a lot from her.

Part 3 in this series will look at upcoming conferences and companies in Wellington.