TILT #91 — I go to libraries because they are the Ocean
Hello Springtime in America! That means finding the occasional small snowdrift in the woods when walking around in 70° weather. For me, it also meant getting my first vaccination shot, of two, and helping a lot of folks locally to get appointments. Every locality has their own strategies (here’s a blog post outlining strategies in Vermont) but it’s been gratifying to see tech people building tools — Vaccine Spotter and Vaccine Fairy are two that have worked for people I know — to help make this process less onerous.
I’ve been working with ALA to help them put together a Code of Conduct for their online spaces. This is challenging in some ways, rewarding in others. It’s a great team, but I remain skeptical of ALA’s ability to be realistic about the limits of real-life people, and ALA’s real-life software. ALA mailing list discussions are moving to ALA Connect which, for example, has no actual “Flag this comment” feature as of now. Someone posted a racist comment, one that happened to occur at a time when relevant staff were on furlough, and… nothing happened for far too long. Coming at a time when online harassment is pervasive, particularly against marginalized groups, figuring out how to not just write, but enforce a Code of Conduct is some of the work here. And it’s equity work.
It drives home something we’ve always known in libraries — if words can help, they can also harm. Now that we’re seeing the last administration in the rear view mirror, it’s time for a frank evaluation of how much the media’s attempts to be “neutral” actually wound up supporting a wannabe-fascist. I liked this analysis about how neutrality is not always honest: Language that pushes the boundaries of traditional neutrality can be used in a responsible news report.
A few other approaches to misinformation analysis.
- LAPL Blog: How to Talk to Friends & Family Who Share Misinformation.
- Twitter launches Birdwatch, a crowdsourced approach to identifying misinformation. I wish them luck with their too-little-too-late plan. I did appreciate this little speedbump I saw on Twitter today.
#ColorOurCollections happened just after my last newsletter. If you’ve got patrons that enjoy coloring, there are a LOT of new pages there. After reading one, I am now in a rabbit hole of learning about the Military Order of the Cootie.
Big news in accessibility is that Zoom added machine-generated automatic closed-captioning to all Zoom accounts. Bad news is that some places are still not enabling it. Turn on your captions! Turns out kids read more when you turn on captions or subtitles. A few more accessibility things I’ve been learning about:
- Two browser plug-ins. One that will replace the “Tweet” button with an “Add Alt Text” button until you’ve added alt text, and a Greasemonkey script (sounds like coding, but it’s all just clicking) where you can view the alt text that others are using. I use this and like it.
- Euan’s Guide gives access reviews about venues and events that are for disabled people and by disabled people. Here’s one case study about improving accessibility at the Edinburgh Book Festival
- Along the same lines, WhoCanGetYourBook.com highlights access and equity issues within book publishing and the so-called digital publishing revolution.
- Speaking of publishers, here is a chart with the big 5 publishers’ terms for libraries in 2021.
- Some ways to make recipe/cooking sites more accessible.
Can we please talk about how joyous rainbow bookshelves can be? I’m not advocating replacing our existing organizational schema with them, just saying, I like that look.
If you want to critique the furniture, let’s take a frank assessment of the library’s furniture (and especially the prison labor that may be building it).
While we’re on the subject of justice.
- IMLS has released their Retrospective on 15 Years of African American History and Culture Grants.
- Harvard Library ends use of subject heading ‘illegal alien’ and the METRO Library Council has given a grant to Brooklyn and New York Public Library systems to do a similar thing.
- An empathy-building booklist about people experiencing homelessness including both fiction and memoir.
- How libraries are helping to connect the unconnected.
- Let’s talk about the alarming surveillance systems built by some library vendors.
Projects I’ve liked and things I am reading:
- #SheSaid — a project on Wikipedia to amplify women’s voices by adding more quotations by them.
- YA fantasy books for people who love libraries.
- How to Stay Home in Los Angeles, a great project by the UCLA Powell Library Community Collections that is as useful as it is lovely.
- I was sad that the underwater library wasn’t actually underwater, but it’s still quite cool and I learned a lot from this article.
A neat thing from library fan and author Robin Sloan:
This visualization takes the current New York Times Best Sellers list for combined print and e-book fiction and scales each title according to the demand for its e-book edition at a collection of U.S. public libraries, selected for their size and geographic diversity.
And a few things that didn’t fit anywhere else.
- How Crying on TikTok Sells Books
- Niche librarian locates books around the globe — about Susan Morris from UGA
- A simple tool that makes bingo cards
- What the American Rescue Plan Act Means for Libraries
- How a Year Without My Library Has Changed Me (where this newsletter’s subject line is from)
My current project is a slow-motion review of all of the historical African American librarians on Wikipedia, looking for ones without pictures, and using Wikipedia’s Fair Use loophole (you can use copyrighted images of deceased people to illustrate their articles if you include a convincing fair use rationale) so that we can see them. It’s important to be seen. I hope to be seeing more of you soon.
Books I’ve been reading. Ambergris (the mushroom cover) was a long tough read, but all the others were exceptional.