Please Help Uphold Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality is under consideration for repeal by the current head of the FCC.  If you don’t know what Net Neutrality is; it is the rule from the FCC that keeps internet providers playing fair and not charging for specific services / or via area / or for specific content…and a lot more.  Without net neutrality internet service providers can at a whim say they are no longer going to supply access to a certain site, or they can decide to charge money to access certain sites.  In other words corporate censorship can occur without this regulation in place. It may not, but I for one don’t want to take the chance.

So please contact your congressmen / congresswomen and urge them to uphold Net Neutrality thus ensuring equal access to the internet for all.

The American Library Association has a wonderful site set up for librarians, or library supporters, to do this (feel free to change the pre-made message if you want) here.

Thank you.

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Free 3D Modeling Resources

With many libraries jumping on the 3D Printer bandwagon I decided to add some free 3D modeling resources to my Free Stuff page.  From software to make your own models to free model downloads available online I tried to cover all the bases.  Something to keep in mind is that not all 3D models are 3D printer compatible so before your start creating check what file formats your (or the libraries) 3D printer accepts.  If you already have some models you’d like to print Blender is a pretty handy software to have even if you only use it for file conversions (which it’s great at).  So go create something and share your artistic talents with the world.

FCC and the speed of “Broadband”

As a resident of a “Rural American” state (Maine) I was spurred into action recently when I read an article from Wired magazine, recently posted on twitter by a fellow librarian Jessamyn West, about the FCC considering reclassifying what internet speed actually constituted broadband. This article highlights a discussion currently going on at the FCC that would change broadband from a minimum of 25 mbps (Megabits Per Second) to 10 mbps.

Since I not to long ago completed a dual masters degree program completely online, I know how much of a bandwidth hog I was (and probably still am when playing video games), and how much a difference that 15 mbps makes to my speed and productivity.

Below is the comment I sent in to the FCC in regards to this, for lack of better words, corporate attempt to not provide equal service to rural areas.

“As a librarian and resident of “Rural America” I can assure you that lowering the speed of broadband will not fix the connectivity problem this country faces, and will more than likely make it much worse in the long run.  This idea is like putting a smaller gas tank in a car to lower exhaust emissions even though the driver still needs to go the same distance to work.

Many Americans…27%*… don’t even have broadband internet at home yet. (*see Pew research at: http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/02/09/digital-divides-feeding-america/ ), and here we are telling them that slower speeds and smaller data capacities are fine.  While in truth digitization is increasing every day. More and more bandwidth is required for modern technologies and this does not even take into consideration what the future holds.  20 years ago, we were overtaxing the phone system with 54k modems now 54k bandwidth will not even load a single modern webpage.  Please stop and think what bandwidth will be required in the next 20 years.  Feel free to read “The Second Machine Age”, by Erik Brynjolfsson, and Andrew McAfee for a good look at what is coming in our future.

As a librarian, I can assure you that we are working hard every day to fill in the digital divide by providing access and education to those 27% of Americans that do not have access anywhere else.  The needs these people face are real and growing as more and more essential services are shifted onto online only access methods.  These citizens of “Rural America” are still American citizens and many will one day have no choice but to get home based internet just to survive daily life.  So, I ask again please stop and consider how this reduction in bandwidth will affect their and all our futures.

Thank you.”

I can only hope they listen to me and the over 1000 other folks who’ve commented on this issue.

Free Educational Resources

I’ve added a Educational Resources section to my free stuff page.  Colleges, universities, MOOC’s (massive open online course), online academies, and more.  Some of the sites I listed have both free and pay sections so be sure to choose the free options.  Of course if you want the pay content that’s always a decision you can make too.  Education is something no one can ever take from you and is always useful so there is no such thing as “over-educated”.  It’s a bit cliche now but I’m going to type it any way….It’s never to late to learn.   Enjoy the free learning resources and have fun!

More free stuff.

I’ve added a couple links today to some other free online resources to my Free Stuff page.

One for free public domain movies appropriately called Public Domain Movies.net.  They have a wonderful collection of free to download or edit movies that are in the public domain.  I know I’ll be busy checking out their cartoon section (cartoon fan that I am).

I also added a link to the Free Music Archive which isn’t quite as free as public domain stuff but many of the songs in their massive collection are free to download and listen to if you would like to use one in more creative endeavors you’ll want to check the usage rights or contact the creator for permission.

I hope to add more to these segments soon, so if you know of some great free (and legal) resources in any category please post a comment and let me know.

Happy viewing and or listening.

New Site Section for Free Stuff

Hello Everyone.

Being a public librarian I get asked for free resources for all kinds of different things all the time.  I’ve decided to share some of my favorites with all of you in a brand new page on this site simply titled Free Stuff. I’m going to have links and short descriptions to all kinds of free online (and maybe Real World) resources there.  You can think of it as an old school web portal from before there was such a thing as Google.  Yes you could Google (verb) any of these sites on Google (noun) but I’m trying to save you a bit of  time by not having you hunt through the millions of results you would get.

So far I’ve started with free E-book and free online libraries…you know being a librarian I just had to start there.  I’ll add more soon and post here as I do so.

So what are you waiting for go check out my Free Stuff page and find a great free E-book to read.

Enjoy.

Fake or Fact

Fake news and fake websites, and the controversy around the debate, are causing Google & Facebook to consider filtering / vetting every post and or sites information.  A herculean task if ever there was one.  As a librarian I can say that no one has ever been 100% successful in doing this.  Libraries have many sources on their shelves that have been proven false over time.  Some are kept on purpose to show the history of a given subject for the “what people used to think” type research, and others are kept because no one has discovered that the facts contained inside are wrong.  So I applaud any company (or individual) that attempts to tackle this problem, but I also think that we consumers of information need to know how to spot the fact from the fake too.  To that end I’m going to link you over to a fellow librarians presentation on that exact topic.  Jessamyn West is a noted advocate for libraries and filling in the digital divide, and her presentation “Is this CRAAP? How to evaluate internet sources” is a great guide and starting place for those unfamiliar with spotting all the signs that the site you are reading is fake and or biased.

That said some of the quick tips from your school days still help.

  1. Is this a trusted news source or not.
  2. Is this a reputable author or an unqualified individuals opinion.
  3. Does this person have any bias (or an ax to grind) toward the topic

If your unsure about any answers to the above three questions you’d  better do a bit of research to answer them before you start believing it…or worse quoting and spreading the information around.

Smokey the bear always said it’s up to you to prevent forest fires…well as a librarian I can say that fake news & fake websites are the forest fire of the internet and we the readers can help put it out.

 

 

 

Using Tech to Learn About Tech.

I know that the title is a bit of an oxymoronic statement, but it’s none the less true.  In this day and age of online education (and in some cases ridiculous amounts of college debt…thankfully not my case) there are tons of options out there for folks to learn just about anything from some amazing sources.  Many educational institutions are offering free online resources to teach people all sorts of interesting things.

In my line of work (librarian) I get asked all the time where some affordable places are to go learn about technology.  In this post, I’m going to list some amazingly affordable options for you to check out, and by amazingly affordable I mean FREE!

Totally Free!

Free…but you’ll want to avoid the ads…(don’t we always want to avoid ads.)

  • Mooc List: Massive Online Open Course: Free online courses (note: skip the ads)

“Mostly Free” options:

  • Edx: Pay & Free online courses (note: Verified courses are free, but certifications & professional education courses cost $).
  • Udacity: Pay & free online courses on many subjects (note: Be sure to click the “free” checkbox).
  • Udemy: Pay & Free online courses. (note: Once you search for a course you can easily sort out the free courses by using the “price” menu and checking the free box).

Now I’m sure you noticed some big-name universities in the list above… Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Yale…that’s not by accident.  Many large universities are working on open course initiatives where they help not just their students and staff but the general public as well by providing free learning resources for everyone.

So go forth and learn something new and exciting, and don’t forget if you need help with getting to this kind of information feel free to ask your friendly neighborhood librarian.

A Bit About Library Websites

I’ve taken this recent (self imposed) quite time in my employment to do a bit of re-education and reading on various subjects related to libraries, usability (uxd), and graphic novels in libraries (planning something).  I’ve recently finished reading “Usability Testing: a practical guide for librarians”, by Rebecca Blakiston.  It is an interesting read, and you can see my review of it on Goodreads (widget over there on the right).  But there was a great paragraph in the book that I thought I’d share with everyone.

“…Historically, institutions have put significant funding into website redesign projects, but haven’t built the infrastructure to then maintain and iterate on those new websites. All too often, especially for libraries that have small if any web design and development staff to join in,redesign efforts are contracted out to web design firms.  These expert design teams can conduct usability testing as part of their process, perhaps inviting library staff to join in,  and can create great websites that provide an excellent user experience.  Yet, once the website is launched, the library staff doesn’t have the tools, people, or workflows in place to keep it going.  Websites being what they are, they eventually become problematic.  Perhaps content becomes outdated and inconsistent, design elements don’t beet the new brand, and the site isn’t accessible on new types of mobile devices.  needless to day , a few years later, library staff and administrators find themselves again talking about the need for a redesign.  So the redesign is then repeated again and again, every few years.  This model of focusing effort on your website just once every few years is clearly unsustainable.  it doesn’t treat websites as the ever-evolving entities that they are, and doesn’t give them the attention that they deserve.” (page 109)

Basically all that says that (some) libraries don’t put nearly enough planning into on going maintenance and updates of their websites.  Having worked in different libraries where this pattern (redesign-wait-broken website-redesign-repeat) was the norm I can say that it doesn’t work in our modern WiFi enabled, mobile downloading, streaming world…at all.  The author goes on to say that usability testing should be involved in every step of the redesign (and in my opinion maintenance) process…and she’s right.

A libraries website, in my opinion, should not be considered a digital duplicate of the library.  It should be its own digital entity that happens to inform users about not only its offerings but the real world libraries offerings too.  Being a digital entity it also needs constant maintenance and updates to keep functioning properly.  I know it will probably never happen but I would love to see libraries have dedicated web designers on staff to keep their digital doors open…and opening properly.  Usability testing staff or user experience design staff would also be nice but maybe I’m a bit biased on that point.

So to any library out there planning a website redesign please have some usability people involved in the process, and please please make a plan (and stick to it) for constant website updating and maintenance.

Blakiston, R. (2015). Usability Testing: A Practical Guide for Librarians. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.

Freelance Librarian(ing)?

(not sure if Librarianing is a word…but with the rules of English it probably can be.)

Either way due to some personal decisions (and a currently tight job market) I’m spreading my wings a bit and becoming a self employed Freelance Librarian.  Now I know what your thinking how can you be a librarian with no library to work at.  Answer = Librarians have a lot of strange, interesting, and marketable skills.

Skills I possess:
Typing, basic web design (HTML5 & CSS – nothing fancy), customer service, research, writing, computer tutor, computer repair (minor), information organization and retrieval, Survey creation & analysis, Statistics gathering and analysis, room layout planning (computer labs), AV equipment usage, readers advisory.

Knowledge I possess:
MS-Office 95 – Office 10, MS-Dos – Windows 10, Dewey Decimal System, Library of Congress System, Open Office, Library Management Systems (III – Millennium & Sierra), 3D modeling software (Bryce 7, Learning tinker-cad), popular fiction, non-fiction, movies, comic books (graphic novels), video games, local history (Maine & Lewiston / Auburn), User experience design, and a half dozen or so (rusty) computer programming languages.

And that is just a small list of my skills and knowledge’s.

I’ve met librarians who are (or were) professional artists, actors, musicians, teachers, editors, authors, news paper columnists, lawyers, EMT’s, nurses, and even a roller derby racer.  As librarians we do a bit of everything and we draw in people from many other professions.  And because we are librarians we talk, trade knowledge, teach each other new skills, and learn to network like no one else (because we need to know how to get information on any topic imaginable).

So the next time you talk to your local librarian maybe you should stop and ask them what they learned about – besides libraries – being a librarian.  I’m willing to be the answer may surprise you.

Wish me luck – I’m off to learn how to make a business plan…because I know whom to ask for help. *smiles*