One Year Later – Or – An Attempt at a Brief Goodbye

14/02/2012 § 12 Comments

Dear friends,

The way I see it, there are a few different ways I could write this. I could be super sappy, writing about how much this blog has meant to me, what a joy its been to work with such amazing peers/colleagues, how proud I am to see Hack Library School grow into the productive and active resource that I wished I’d had in school. Or, I could write a nice technical overview of all we’ve accomplished; averaging 750 hits a day, almost 20,000 hits in August, a revolving team of writers mentoring one another as thinkers and professionals, 70,000 retweets since day one, one award, numerous thanks, and steadily rising subscriptions and regular readers. I could throw in some nice pseudo-snarky, blog-voice and offer some witty asides with a :) and a cultural reference or two. I could brag and congratulate and wish well, and all of that would be true and worthwhile.

I haven’t been writing much lately. As I moved into a full time job I sort of lost the drive to spend more time at night reading, writing and engaging. I have been “always on(line)” since I started my MLIS, and I’ll say its really nice to not have to be anymore. I’ve stepped into the background and in doing so have seen that this hack library school idea, which I never claimed or wanted to own, belongs to the community of readers; librarians, students, para-professionals, archivists. I’m happy to have had the opportunity to have a voice that was heard, and I hope to regain that voice in my professional life. Looking back, as one is wont to do in these moments, I learned much more than I shared. I developed ideas, opinions and, dare I say, beliefs about what information means to the (post?)modern world and what my role is therein. And through this medium, the ubiquitous weblog, I wish the same for you all.

I’m not sure how this started, but when I was writing emails to the HLS Editors and Writers, especially when our spirits were particularly down or enviously high, I would conclude my note with the phrase “Go Forth,” stolen unabashedly from Levi’s marketing campaign that makes me want to live another life as a teenager in the midwest. It was a funny sentiment, as if I wasn’t so much leading the charge but commissioning disciples. But it stuck, and I still think it fits. Through this one measly year we have taken on topics from our digital future, to transparency in our educational institutions, to group work, and numerous ‘hacks’ – technological, ideological, practical, professional, and everything in between. We have engaged, provoked, challenged and argued. My only hope is that will continue to be the goal of this blog – to push boundaries and hold each other and especially our administrators, professors, and professional organizations to high standards of work and professionalization. Who knows what will happen to the library? Who knows what will happen to the book? Who knows when and where ‘information’ will overtake humankind? All we know is that these things are important, and that we care to do something about it. So… go forth.

I had the pleasure of having lunch with John Jackson, a budding leader in our profession and a man I respect very much, at ALA Midwinter last month. We talked about our work in academic libraries, life, food, etc. But the thing that stuck with me, and one that I continue to turn over in my mind, was our brief agreement that the ‘Big Tent’ ideal looks very different from the professional side than it did from the student side. I am an optimistic person, and have not a skeptical bone in my body, but I worry about my portraying the unity of all librarians as something we can just speak into existence. I want, very much, to maintain productive working relationships with information professionals of every stripe, and I know that it won’t be an easy thing. Last year, on this day, to kick off what Hack Library School would become, Britt Foster wrote an excellent post extolling students to fight for the big tent while in school, and despite my current difficulty in seeing it, I think it still rings true. I hope you’ll reread it and pull your own conclusions from it.

Now I’ve gone and rambled my way into a philosophical hole. (There’s the spunky wit we were all waiting for, right?). I’ll close simply:

Hack Library School was nothing more than a good idea at the right time and fortunately for all of us the right group of people believed in it enough to dedicate some long nights and many unpaid words to it. My eternal thanks goes out to Kim Leeder for encouraging the idea from a seedling, to Julia, Nicole, Heidi, Britt and Lauren for nuturing it from a Google Doc, to a wiki, to a blog (The OG Hackers should already know that we are destined to be dear friends for life), to Annie for being relentless, excited and so damn interested in everything (Annie hounded me to join the blog when we were barely a week old), to Zack for being bold, brave and willing to disagree, to Turner for his wisdom and deep thinking, to Rebecca for her spunk and willingness to write with great depth, to Rose for reconsidering my offer to join the blog and strongly advocating for the ‘hacker’ mentality, to Teresa, Ashley and Laura for graciously becoming the fresh voices that put us on the library blogosphere’s radar this past Fall, and lastly to Amy, Chris, Celia, Topher, Paul, Joanna, Bri and Kevin for beginning to build on the foundation that was laid.

I’m proud to say, as I step away from the blog, that it will continue under a new editorial team. Julia, the sole remaining original hacker and resident LIS PhD student, will be the Editor in Chief. Annie and Rose will serve as co-managing editors running the daily ins and outs, and becoming the public face of HackLibrarySchool (read: send emails to them now, instead of me ;)). I wish many more years of hackery, many more complicated topics, many more challenging comments, and many more writers to belong to this idea.

Without wax,

Micah V.

PS. I’m also pleased and honored to let you all know I’ll be joining the team of bloggers at In The Library With the Lead Pipe! A dream come true for my future as a professional writer in online spaces.

ALA Midwinter – Quick Preview

19/01/2012 § 7 Comments

In case you haven’t yet had the opportunity to be introduced to the idea of professional networking, here’s a quick intro: librarians near and far, from all varieties of the field, twice a year attend gigantic conferences hosted by our preeminent organization, the American Library Association. There are constant debates about the value of membership in this organization, and we highly encourage all readers to throughly investigate how and where they plan to invest their professional time. That said, I (Micah) think its important to be part of ALA for the very reason this blog exists, to support the idea of “Big Tent Librarianship” and build connections with peers and colleagues in different areas of work.

So, I’ll be attending ALA Midwinter in Dallas this weekend, along with my fellow HackLibSchool writers Teresa and Ashley. Here are a few tips/pointers/suggestions if you’re a student or recent grad heading to the conference:

1. Bring a water bottle

2. Carry your phone charger with you

3. Wear comfortable shoes (but fashionable, of course!)

4. Contact the ALA New Members Round Table (NRMT) – they’re here for you!

5. Get out, be personable and meet people!

6. Contact Micah (micahvandegrift [at] gmail) if you want to be added to the ALAMW GroupMe group chat/text thingie. Smart phone not required! Great way to stay in touch, find out where the good sessions are, organize a lunch or breakfast, and generally make new friends!

7. Use ALA Connect’s Conference Scheduler to get organized and plan out the sessions you’re attending. Seriously. Invaluable.

And to facilitate #5, we are happy to promote several social events that are a great way to connect with new colleagues.

(and selfishly, two events close to our hearts):

Hope to see some of you in Dallas! Don’t be shy, come up and say hello!

Bonus: Check out this series of posts from last year’s ALA Annual Conference to get a sense of how we hack conferences.

2011 in review

03/01/2012 § 2 Comments

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 140,000 times in 2011. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 6 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Open Access Week

24/10/2011 § 3 Comments

We’re going to be taking a week off to finish up some midterm work, but wanted to leave our readers with something to ponder. Feel free to add comments to this post and/or continue the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Open Access is an idea that should be familiar to most folks in library school. Simply, it is the same principle that is affirmed in the ALA Code of Ethics – that it is an essential right that all people should be able to access the information they need and desire, and that it is our professional duty to insure and facilitate that access. This idea gets worked out in a variety of ways, across information institutions, and is growing more and more widely understood as technology allows for new ways to share and get information.

Most often when one hears about Open Access [PDF] it is in response to Academic Libraries and the adaptations in the Scholarly Communications cycle; the ways that professors disseminate their research through journals is being disrupted by rising prices. Introducing Open Access to this model, through archiving in open repositories or publishing in new, open access journals, is a rapidly increasing way of allowing important research to filter outside of the academy and affect society. If you are considering academic librarianship, this is an area you will want to be familiar with for sure. Spend some time reading up on SPARC, Scholarly Communications, Berlin9 and Open Access Policies and Repositories.

It is important to note that the ‘open’ movement reaches much wider than academic librarianship. Archives, museums and special collections are benefiting from sharing their digital assets (digitized copies/photos of their objects) and allowing the public to interact with these things through the internet. The Victoria and Albert Museum is crowdsourcing the collection of digital images of their collection, the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles has adopted an Open Access Policy, and a variety of collections of documents are being digitized and explored in ways that were previously not possible. Information professionals of all stripes are recognizing the value of collecting and preserving cultural heritage, and also sharing it widely for the world to discover.

A fascinating way that open access is proving really productive is in the area of Open Data, especially in the governmental sphere. As a tool to engage the citizenry, countries (including the U.S.) are taking the massive amounts of data they collect and making it publicly available. Once the data is open, finding ways to make sense of it and give it value to the community is vitally important, and federal, data-minded, technically-gifted librarians will be foundational to culling the world’s data and turning it into information. Further, open data offers a new way to enact real change in the world, as evidenced by NYC’s recent data contest and Kenya being the first county in Africa to open their data.

Regardless of your interests and path inside librarianship, it is probable that you will interact with open access in your professional life. As this area develops into the fabric of our linked world, the skills and knowledge that we can offer to help people access and make sense of the exploding wealth of information (and data!) out there has never been more necessary.

How have you interacted with open access already? Is this an idea that you are familiar with? What are some complications you see arising from open access?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 729 other followers

%d bloggers like this: