My ALA

A discussion (or was it a couple of different discussions?) on Twitter regarding ALA fees and navigating the ALA website led me to declare why I haven’t renewed my ALA membership. For one thing, ALA’s website, well, sucks. Is that really such a big deal? No, not really. ALA has already shown signs of changing with the changing times, and with Jenny Levine working for them, I’m sure their web presence will improve by leaps and bounds in no time. My other reason for not renewing my membership is a bigger problem: the cost of membership dues. As a student, joining ALA was $28, which was quite affordable when I was flush with student loan money. Now that I’m a professional, my first year would cost me $55. This is much less affordable. My second year dues would be $83, which is really not affordable. This is also assuming I don’t join any of the divisions or round tables. Actually getting involved in ALA, outside of paying the basic first year dues, would seriously compromise my ability to support my family. And to be honest, I can’t see what I would get out of being a member.

Is ALA an organization for professional development? I already get loads of professional development assistance from my coworkers and supervisors, my place of employment, and my time spent on the intarweb. Given the choice between the ALA and my blogroll, my blogroll kicks ALA up and down the street, making it cry uncle.

Is ALA a political advocacy group? I love that ALA gets into the political arena and supports causes and issues that I personally support. But so does the ACLU, and I only have to pay $25 a year to be a card-carrying member of that organization.

No, the more I think about it, the less I can find in ALA that I find worth paying my dues for.

This chatting on Twitter led to some remarks about starting our own alternative to ALA. Jokes and snarky comments morphed into somewhat serious questions of “Are you really going to do this?” to conversations of “We should definitely do this!” And so was born the Library Society of the World! It’s free to join and free to participate in. To be honest, this is sort of a lark, and I don’t take it all that seriously. On the other hand, I do take alternatives to ALA seriously. I think we already have an alternative to ALA, and it’s every library person engaging in conversations and collaboration on the internet and in other non-official ways. The Library Society of the World is just a cheeky way of formalizing that (sort of).

I encourage everyone and anyone who reads this blog to join the LSW, because…well, why the heck not? If you want to help with the wiki, email, IM, Skype or Twitter me (or call me on the phone, or talk to me in person) and ask for the password. At this point, I’m not going to post it publicly, but I’ll give it to anyone who asks nicely for it.

Champions of free information! The Library Society of the World wants you!

I’m a Twit

Just before my blog went down, I started giving Twitter a try. While my blog was down, I got to know Twitter a lot better.

And I was wrong.

Before, when I said Twitter wouldn’t appeal to me? Yeah, I was wrong. It turns out, Twitter is a lot of fun to use. Trying to squeeze my thoughts into 140 characters or less is a neat exercise in writing haiku. And I get to throw one- or two-liners back and forth with my friends. All in all, Twitter is pretty cool.

But I missed blogging. Condensing thoughts down into Twitter-sized bites is fine, but there are some thoughts I have that need the longer form of blogging, some thoughts that just can’t be expressed in 140 characters or less.

Does Twitter have real library applications? I’m sure it does. I don’t know exactly what they are, but I feel pretty confident that libraries can take any technology and find a way to use it. In the mean time, I’m going to keep blogging and keep Twittering, for fun if nothing else.

Back From the Abyss

If for the past week you’ve thought there was something wrong with this here blog, give yourself a pat on the back and do a shot. Here’s what happened:

I upgraded to the latest version of WordPress, using the InstantUpgrade plugin. Unfortunately, my post-upgrade blog loaded veeeeerrrry slowly. (Royce Kitts said, “It’s loading slower than Ning!”) Checking the WP support forums, I found I wasn’t the only person experiencing this, but I couldn’t find a satisfactory or useful solution. Frustrated, I decided to rollback my blog to the version of WP I’d been using before.

And in doing so, I toasted my blog.

Somehow, I had messed up the ownership of some of the files, so I couldn’t do anything to them. My blog was stuck. My hosts responded quickly to my plea for help, and Jessamyn West kindly offered to give me any help I might need. (“Kindly” is really an understatement. Jessamyn has never met me in person, we’ve never spoken on the phone, we’ve exchanged a few emails and chatted a couple of times on IM. Listen up, all you people who wonder what this “2.0” jazz is all about. When we say “social software,” we’re not kidding about the social. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: social software and the internet are important.)

I was on the verge of sending Jessamyn an S.O.S., because even doing another reinstall of WordPress wasn’t working. Tonight, I decided to give it one more shot on my own. And discovered I had accidently stuck some of the rather crucial WP files in the wrong folder. After smacking myself in the forehead with everything in my office that isn’t nailed down, and one or two things that were, I deleted everything except the config file, reinstalled everything in the right folders, and…abracafreakindabra! my blog was back.

Oh, and what I ended up installing was the lastest version of WP–and it’s not loading slowly. Go figure.

Kids, I was seriously freaked. I love this blog. I’ve been blogging, in some form or another, for almost 6 years, and I’ve come to really enjoy blogging. I missed it. I would have been facekickingly sad if everything on this blog had been lost, if I’d had to start all over again.

Thunder and tarnation, it’s good to be back!

UPDATE: After publishing this post, the blog is back to loading slowly. This is annoying. But it’s back up, so I’m not going to let it get me down too much.

Tri-Conference ’07

The second two days of Tri-Conference were even better than the first.

I saw Royce Kitts give a really good presentation (which I later found out was, due to a lack of time, an abbreviated version of what he was intending to do) where he pulled a non-blogger out of the audience and walked her through creating her own Blogger blog in about 5 minutes. He also provided one of my favorite moments at the conference: when an older librarian asked, “How can I keep my students from surfing and reading other blogs?”, Royce answered with a straight face, “Turn off the internet.”

The funny thing is, Royce had friended me on the Library 2.0 site last week, but I hadn’t realized he was a local until he was introduced for the presentation. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to actually speak to him face-to-face, as I had to rush over to do my own presentation.

Our Flickr presentation went well…I think. I was a combination of excited, nervous, and heavily caffeinated, so the presentation is something of a blur in my memory. I do remember Mickey doing a great job of showing off how some libraries have used Flickr in imaginative ways.
My Web Content teammate Stuart also presented that day, but I missed his presentation. Later, he told me that the attendance was small enough that it ended up being more of a conversation than a presentation. I’m slightly jealous, because that’s really what I wanted the Flickr presentation to be. It turns out I don’t really like presenting as such. There’s a reason why I became a librarian instead of a teacher. Actually, there are several reasons, but one of them is that I don’t really enjoy being on my own in front of a room of people and babbling at them. I’d rather be a participant in a discussion, or one half of a performing duo at the very least, than be a solo lecturer.

Which is why I really enjoyed the last session of the conference. It was billed as a presentation on technology training, but the presenters (including one of my Johnson County Library cohorts) had everyone rearrange the chairs in a circle and engage in a conversations as equals. It was refreshing, comfortable, and productive.

I got some good ideas for the redesign of MPOW’s children’s website, which I’m overseeing, from some of the sessions. I also got to see some old friends, get better acquainted with some coworkers, and meet new people. I’ll admit, I was pretty skeptical before the conference, expecting it to be too big and too much of a waste of time, but I had a good time and I got a lot out of it. For me, Tri-Conference was a success.

Greetings from Topeka!

I’m attending all three days of Tri-Conference (yesterday, today, tomorrow) in sunny (well, not so much) Topeka, KS. The motel I’m staying at advertises free wifi. It wasn’t working in my room, so I went to the front desk and was told that the wifi probably won’t reach my room. “You’ll need a cable,” the chap at the desk told me. (“Swell,” I thought.) “We have a cable you can use if you didn’t bring your own,” he continued, bringing a cable out from a cabinet. “Just bring it back when you check out,” he said. (“How nice!” I thought, a smile on my face.) I went back to my room, plugged the cable in…and still not intertubes. I could’ve gone back and complained again, but I really don’t want to be That Guy. You know, The Guy Who Cannot Live Without Internet Access For Three Measly Days And Complains To Everyone About It. Since I’m staffing the “cyber cafe” that NEKLS set up in the exhibition space, I’m taking advantage of the free computer time to check my email and update this here blog. (I could bring my own laptop in and pay eight bucks for the free wifi for the day, but…enh.)

The first day of Tri-Conference was good, and I think the next two days will be even better. Though I’m not sure what can top hearing local Youth Services hero Jean Hatfield talking about her year on the Newbery selection committee and saying, “Scrotum! Scrotum! Scrotum! If you don’t want to hear the word ‘scrotum,’ you’d better leave the room now.” Good times.

Alright, I’m In

Despite many people I know and respect giving Twitter reviews that range from “eh, it’s pretty useful” to “this is a fascinating and important new social trend,” I still remain skeptical about how much using Twitter would appeal to me. But it occurred to me this morning that without actually trying it out, I can never really be sure. Since I have nothing to lose, I’m giving it a shot. Feel free to add me to your list of Twittering friends, if you’d like. Who knows? I may eat my earlier words yet.

Mmmmm, Kool-Aid.

Stars Are Stars

Walt Crawford had a foggy notion, Steve Lawson egged him on, and Dorothea Salo kicked it into gear. Now I’m going to ride with it: my five biblioblogger heroes.

Karen G. Schneider — I am very vocal about my undying affection and admiration for Karen. She’s the writer I most frequently have in my head when I’m writing, hoping that someday I can be somewhere close to as witty and wise as she always is. On her own blog, in comments on other blogs, in magazine pieces, and on the email lists I’ve been on with her, I am always laughing out loud and nodding my head when I read what she’s written. I frequently pester other people by quoting Karen. I really can’t say anymore without embarrassing myself, so…cut!

Meredith Farkas — Meredith writes the kinds of long, thoughtful, passionate posts I would like to write. Plus, she’s all kinds of humble and encouraging to others. She also picked up a gauntlet and started Five Weeks to a Social Library, for which I have boundless admiration.

Jessamyn West — Jessamyn’s so old-school, her blog is called simply “Librarian.net.” How cool is that? It’s like starting a rock band and calling it “The Rock & Roll Band.” Or something like that. She’s also wickedly funny and smart. Plus, her work these days is about bridging the technology divide, which is something I think is immensely, world-spinningly important.

Michelle Boule — The Kid. Michelle “Jane Eyre” Boule is hilarious, spunky, and is one of the masterminds behind Five Weeks to a Social Library. What I admire about her is not that she’s passionate about libraries, but that she just doesn’t know when to shut her damn mouth. That is an admirable trait. She’s also an unabashed geek, which is also an admirable trait.

Jessica Langlois — Jessica is a very cool librarian. She is also, as far as I’m concerned, an unsung hero. Not only is she a cool blogger, she looks at all this social software and says, “Hey, we could use this to build a really strong online library network and community!” And then she does what she can to bring that about. I think it’s criminal that she doesn’t get more attention, because she absolutely deserves to be in the spotlight.

Gee, would you look at that? My five choices are all women. Huh. Well, since I’m talking about tuchas-kicking female bloggers, I’ll mention one more blog: my wife’s Livejournal. Because she is also one of my heroes (both in terms of blogging and in life in general). Like Michelle, my wife doesn’t know when to keep her mouth shut (and she doesn’t care) and she’s upfront about her geekiness. (Ask her about the Discworld books or Monty Python.) Like Karen and Jessamyn, my wife has a wicked sense of humor and a witty way of writing. Like Meredith, my wife is very passionate and thoughtful in her writing. And like Jessica, she’s really damn cool. My wife isn’t a library professional (although she really groks libraries), but she’s 57 kinds of awesome all the same.

There you go. My blogging heroes. Now, go forth and write your own posts about this. You are all tagged.