I attended 4 library/archives sessions at SXSW. They were pretty well attended, and the librarian attendance at SXSW was, as described by one, “rowdy.” Here’s a short list of links pertaining to librarians @ SXSW:
- #sxswLAM = Librar* + Archiv* + Museum* facebook group
- Librarians Swarm Austin! A Handy SXSW Interactive Primer – Naomi House
- Temporary autonomous librarian zone – SXSWLAM recap – Jessamyn West
- Rowdy Librarians at SxSWi Days One Two Three Four – Paul Vinelli
- Photos by Mona T. Brooks Photography (on facebook, sorry if it requires login)
- SXSW: The Fate of Libraries – Article on Carson Block’s presentation at time.com
I am afraid I am not a very good rowdy librarian. Or a rowdy anything, really. But I did really enjoy seeing and talking with fellow librarians, all of whom had fascinating job titles.
In terms of the talks and discussions, there was more of an emphasis on the librarian or archivist than the library or archive at SXSW. Some of the librarians were free agents, freelancing for libraries or corporations. Some of them were the sole tech person at their library. All of them were smart and passionate about technology. I thought of my fellow librarians when listening to Jennifer Pahlka’s keynote “Coding the Next Chapter of American History”. She implored all of us to be good citizens, and I think librarians already do this, and are always eager to do more – either inside or outside a library.
SXSW has a lot of social justice/social good sessions, but I think they can tend to get lost in the constant talk of monetization. The librarian/archivist presence at SXSW helps to remind people that there are other important things besides finding investors.
This wasn’t an actual session that was on the schedule, and I only heard about it on twitter. There was a SXSWLam (librar* + archiv* + museum*) facebook group, but since I am seldom on facebook, I missed it. The meetup was great, and was a fantastic way to kick off the conference. The talk was lead by Lisa Carlucci Thomas, and was mostly about why we were at SXSW, what we hoped to get out of it, and what we could do to make the conference successful.
I’m just going to list some of the responses I found interesting, and sorry I wasn’t great about noting who said what. This session was recorded, though, and will be the basis of a future article by Lisa Carlucci Thomas.
Librarians come to SXSW to:
- Try and branch out.
- To develop a brand strategy, and to learn about best practices for doing so.
- Parts of our brand: content/access, curating information. Not necessarily books.
- To keep up with what we should be doing to support entrepreneurs by talking to them. They are important parts of our communities.
- Some entrepreneurs may rightly ask what we can do, and one of them is to assist in the upward mobility of the community, which will enable more people to buy their product. We are in it for the long game.
- A core message talked about was “We care about your success.” That goes for everyone in the community.
- To ask everyone: How would you like to use your local library?
Nate Hill, Char Booth, Amy Buckland, and Michael Porter
This is a particularly interesting topic for me, since what I am mostly involved in is publishing content. The idea of libraries as publisher seems to be gaining traction, and it will be exciting to see what new directions librarians take it.
Again, some brief notes, because I am not the best note taker:
Nate Hill presented on a fascinating use case of helping local authors find an audience by not only adding their books to the library catalog, but adding them while they are in progress and enabling the community at large to participate in the creation. I love this idea, but wonder if smaller communities would have the critical mass to allow this kind of matchup between content creator/consumer.
He also talked about a concept library lab, which would enable community to publish multimedia works in the library.
MIchael Porter at libraryrenewal.org talked about the need for libraries to create new, practical solutions for their patrons’ increasingly digital lifestyles.
Char Booth talked about how student publications tend to get lost, and remain invisible – leading students to create work they don’t really care about. “Scholarship is public, but student work isn’t.” She laid out efforts to get student work published so that they can point to and be proud of their work.
The first way to do that is to encourage students to deposit their work in an institutional repository, and to help them get their work ready to publish. The goal is to get them to create work good enough that they are excited about sharing it. Another way was to teach them how to write for wikipedia.
Amy Buckland showed some examples of how libraries are taking over the functions newspapers provided in small communities by providing community workshops on writing, photography, and publishing. Ideally, libraries can finish this off by having an espresso book machine to publish community member’s work, but that may be out of reach of some libraries. (One of the questions from the audience addressed this by saying there are businesses that can do printing on a case by case basis, lowering the initial cost to the library.)
Another example Amy gave was libraries helping community members publish histories of their communities, and partnering with local design students to make it look professional.
A presentation on the continuing importance of libraries.
Libraries are in trouble because their old brand – books – isn’t going to work as well anymore. An ebook is not a book, and in the world of the digital, libraries lose the first sale rights that have enabled them to provide this kind of content. They are left to take what content aggregators give them, or to try to negotiate their own deals with publishers.
Meanwhile, the content superstores (amazon, apple) are squeezing us out. They don’t consider the library a worthwhile market.
Brian pointed to what smart people say about libraries:
Brian Cooley from Cnet saying “Libraries are for the very old and the very unemployed.” (I was left wondering, what’s so bad about that? Should these people just get ignored… more than they already are?)
Bill Maher saying “We have the Internet. We don’t need a library at all.”
We obviously have a problem with public perception.
Carson then went over some of the things that are at stake:
- Libraries hold on to information that would be lost otherwise, like beer recipes.
- Public good! This is the big one for me. I don’t mind my taxes paying for food stamps for people who can’t afford food, or the library to meet the information needs of those that can’t afford constant amazon/apple purchases.
- “The public library is the great equalizer.” -Keith Richards
Why are libraries important?
- They care about your confidentiality.
- Librarians are trusted
- Librarians like to help people
- Libraries are a community anchor and a quality of life indicator.
- Librarians care about your success.
What is our brand? (Hint: not books)
- Physical and virtual connection
Preserving the Creative Culture of the Web #digiprsrv
Jason Scott, Kari Kraus, Nick Hasty
Rhizome seeks artists’ permission to include their work. Some artists have said no, citing that impermanence is a part of the work.
Can only preserve things to a point, the medium (in VVEBCAM’s case, youtube) and even the deletion is part of the artwork.
Kari Kraus talked about her work on researching how to preserve virtual worlds.
Kari, like Nick, stressed that everything cannot be preserved. We don’t for instance, have access to the source code in most cases. The purpose of her research is to determine the salient interactions in games and save these.
Check out the Preserving Virtual Worlds Final Report for more.
Jason Scott describes himself as a “rogue archivist” and champions what he calls “Curatorial Activists,” people who archive first and ask questions later. You can find many of them at archiveteam.org
One project was a massive effort to archive Geocities once yahoo announced it was shutting it down. We should save it because it is a 15 year anthropological study. They archived as much as they could and released it as a torrent on the pirate bay.
Jason implored webapp creators to add an export function as soon as you add an import function – if your service is good, it won’t matter. Think about shut down.
As for users, think of where you put your data and what will happen if that company goes away or decides to deny you access. “Facebook is a very sociopathic company.”
? – What about the right to be forgotten?
Answer from panelist – We often think of archivists as saving everything, but part of their job is deaccessioning.
My thoughts on this is that we live in a society, and in so living we create things and converse with others. If you want to keep things totally out of the hands of others, you will have to burn everything you create and not talk to other people. But we are human, and what we say, do, and create becomes part of the whole. You can’t ever fully control what becomes of your past self.