Rural Librarian

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ethics in Rural Libraries: A Cautionary Tale from West Virginia

Please note: The below is the opinion of this writer.

Mission statement of the West Virginia Library Commission:

“The West Virginia Library Commission encourages lifelong learning, individual empowerment, civic engagement and an enriched quality of life by enhancing library and information services for all West Virginians.”

West Virginia libraries are currently ruled by administrators more eager to maintain the status quo than to train or prepare small, rural libraries and librarians for the future. This is a cautionary tale of poor library ethics and the problem with the state library commission model in West Virginia. I hope you will take a few moments to read my story.

Rural Librarian

I started as director of the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, West Virginia in July 2012. This small, rural library has a service population of 2,323 and a budget of about $35,000 per year. I loved this little library and immediately started making preparations to improve upon the amazing work that had been accomplished there since its founding in 1985. I started this blog as a way of reaching out to the local and larger community.

I also realized that I loved library work. I had worked at other libraries decades earlier, and coming back into a library environment reminded me how much I love a life surrounded by books and people. I sought out and applied for an Information Technology for Rural Librarians II grant via the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. In March 2013, I was notified that I was a lucky grant recipient, and I received a full-ride scholarship to pursue my Master of Information Sciences degree.

My Horrible Car Crash

Later that same month while driving to work I was the victim of a reckless driver. I was hit head on at high speed by another driver who had crossed the center line on a mountainous and curvy road. I was flown to Ruby Hospital in Morgantown where I spent two days in ICU, two more days in the general hospital, and four full months at home recovering from my horrible and painful injuries. When I had at last recovered and returned back to work, I was re-energized and passionate about serving my library, my patrons, and my community and completing my degree program. Many of my assignments focused on research statistics about my library and others available via the West Virginia Library Commission (WVLC).

Library Bullying in West Virginia

Now, all libraries in West Virginia that do not have a professional librarian need to have a service center. Our service center is the Upshur County Public Library (UCPL) in Buckhannon, West Virginia. I noticed that our service center was not supportive of me, a (mostly) solo librarian, in rural West Virginia. Instead of providing training or support, the director and business manager at this library started sending me threats of having our Grant In Aid money withheld if I did not supply board meeting minutes, board meeting dates, or board meeting attachments. These are minor infractions, and I was really thrown off by this not-so-subtle bullying and dismayed that I was not offered support, training, or encouragement.

At every library conference (and there are two each year) there were speakers from out of state who talked about the professional librarian shortage in West Virginia. This problem is also highlighted in "Creating a State of Learners,” West Virginia’s Library Services and Technology Act Five-Year Strategic Plan (LSTA), 2013-2017. Here is a quote:

"The key word for West Virginia libraries is education. West Virginia is among the lowest nationally in the number of MLS-degreed librarians employed per capita, with approximately 99 professional librarians in the state. Steps have been taken in recent years to improve the educational level of librarians, but there is still is critical shortage of both trained professional and paraprofessional workers. One reason for this fact is, according to many surveyed, that there are no set training criteria for West Virginia’s library workers. While numerous continuing education opportunities abound for both professional and non-professional staff, many libraries take advantage of no more than what is necessary to meet state regulations concerning grants-in-aid."

School of Information Sciences - UTK

My classes at the University of Tennessee taught me about new library technologies. After years of studying the library system in West Virginia I could see many opportunities for improvement and started making suggestions and offering constructive criticism. I could not get the person in charge of inter-library loans at the West Virginia Library Commission to return my phone calls or emails. The WVLC allegedly has a whole library set up to support librarians who are pursuing a degree, but I ended up buying my own textbooks every time. The one book I received from the WVLC took two phone calls and a couple of emails to receive it...late. I also studied the annual reports of the WVLC. Did you know they have an active library on site? It costs millions to operate but I have information from a reliable former inside source that their circulation numbers are less than that of the Pioneer Library, a rural WV library with about 11,000 items. You will not find the circulation statistics in any of the WVLC reports. (Or, if you do, you are a better researcher than I am...) While the WVLC board members, or commissioners, are state representatives appointed by Governor Tomblin, I could not find their contact information on the WVLC site.

The Northern Library Network (NORLN) holds a crowded meeting in Clarksburg every year where little is heard or accomplished. I suggested that the WVLC could save rural libraries a ton of money by recording the meeting (with a handheld digital camera) and uploading it to the Internet. This suggestion was met with incredulity. Many times when I contacted WVLC Secretary Karen Goff to ask her questions, her response was, "You are the first person to ever ask that." If you look at the NORLN website, it hasn't been updated since 2010 and no one really knows who the officers are unless you ask around. Minutes for these meetings have not circulated since 2012.

Disrespectful Library Colleagues

I knew I was making waves, but I also hoped that I was quietly sowing some seeds of change for the better for West Virginia Libraries. Instead, I believe I was singled out for and bullied by our alleged service center, and that this treatment was sanctioned from the top down. The reason I say this is because I complained to WVLC’s Goff about the attitude and behavior of my service center. I begged for politeness, better customer service, and started tacking a quote from the American Library Association's Professional Code of Ethics as a signature onto the end of my emails: "We treat co-workers and other colleagues with respect, fairness, and good faith." Goff replied by saying the UCPL was doing the best it could and defending it.

While I was at the Pioneer Memorial Public Library I served as the state representative for the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (2015) and the chair of the West Virginia Library Association Director's Round Table, I presented new ideas for creative fundraising at the local and national level, I brought new fundraising ideas to the library, and I enjoyed some of the best library patrons one can imagine, a small but loyal following of library lovers who made my job delightful and challenging. I also received a grant from the Laura Bush Foundation for $5,000 to buy all new Juvenile Biographies for the kids next door at Harman School, one of the few pre-K-12th grade public schools left in the country. The best part of my job will never get a line on my resume: helping people write resumes, find jobs, and file for government services and having awesome conversations about everything and anything.

Library Ethics and Intellectual Freedom

Fast forward to about five weeks ago. My library board president received a phone call at her house from Karen Goff, who complained about me. Goff accused me of being unprofessional and confrontational. She also accused me of "compromising the reputation of the library." This was the part I found most disturbing. As a library that receives state funding through the WVLC, I perceived this as a veiled threat to withhold funding. This was exactly what the UCPL, our alleged service center, was also saying. The Pioneer Library has many rules and reports to abide by to maintain funding, and as former library director I can say that we met all of those requirements regularly. A vague threat of "compromising the reputation" reminded me of excuses that companies might use to squeeze out women, minorities, and other workers formerly perceived as socially undesirable. I felt marginalized and sad that the head of all libraries in West Virginia had been keeping a list of perceived inaccuracies and offenses going back for many months. Karen Goff not only had been keeping track of errors in my blog but had monitored things I wrote on the listserv for the American Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL). When I posted questions on the NORLN listserv, the library director and officer manager at UCPL told me to ask them first so "they don't appear unhelpful."

To protect my library and to protest a West Virginia Library Commission that in my opinion is not serving its rural libraries, I resigned my much-loved position as director and gave the requested four-week notice. My board and my patrons did not want me to resign, but my board asked me to "write a plan" to improve upon my lack of professionalism. I was deeply offended by this request since I didn't agree that I had shown a lack of professionalism, and this is another reason I resigned. But I don't blame my board. The WVLC provides the library with more than $11,000 per year, and the threat of losing this funding—representing one-third of our annual budget—is powerful. While it is not illegal to issue a veiled threat of withholding funding, I suggest that it is deeply unethical, especially in a profession that alleges to value intellectual freedom. This whole sad episode has made it clear to me that the WVLC, the Upshur County Public Library, and others are more interested in maintaining control and appearances and less interested in promoting and supporting West Virginia libraries and rural librarians.

Petty and Defensive Library Commission

My purpose in writing this is to expose a West Virginia Library Commission that seems to willfully embrace remaining in the 20th century and be bent on repressing passionate and professional librarians. Why did it take three years for me to be trained as a Level Two cataloger? Why does the head of all the libraries in West Virginia feel the need to bully and harass a rural librarian who made less than $15,000 per year with no benefits? Why can't the WVLC digitally record and upload training sessions? Why does the WVLC have an entire television studio (an outdated mode of communication for professionals) that only broadcasts in half of West Virginia's counties? Why can't the TV studio record and upload training sessions? (And, for the record, from July 2014 to April 2015 I worked 28 hours per week and was part-time. While this IS a violation of WVLC rules, I don't think my board president revealed this for fear of losing Grant In Aid funding from the state.) It is sad to me that libraries in WV are more worried about losing funding and appearances than in having well-trained and professional staff.

If libraries all over the country were not in trouble financially, none of this would matter. If the Institute of Museum and Library Services is in danger of being eliminated (something proposed by the US House earlier this year), all libraries nationwide are in trouble. But the bottom line is that library funding is a national crisis. As a young librarian with lots of technology and entrepreneurial experience, I wanted to bring corporate funding to West Virginia Libraries. In fact, Karen Goff invited me to present my ideas at a panel discussion last fall at the WVLA conference. I showed a NORLN library card that was co-branded with the Subaru logo and had done extensive research on the energy companies that own much of the state. Wouldn't it be great if WV libraries had substantial corporate sponsorship and didn't have to rely on donations and funding from legislators? Many libraries in the country already do this, so while my ideas are new to West Virginia, they are not new nationally. Without a centralized website that is regularly maintained, West Virginia libraries have little advertising clout.

The Bottom Line

I think I would also not be so upset and disgruntled if I hadn’t had a taste of what it is like to be supported from the top down in West Virginia. The previous Library Development Director, JP Myrick, was my "Cheerleader in Charleston." This dedicated and devoted library professional chastised my service library when it became hostile and unhelpful. Mr. Myrick acknowledged and was supportive of me pursuing my Master of Information Sciences degree. (Sadly, Mr. Myrick is no longer with the WVLC.) Karen Hiser, a previous administrator at the West Virginia Library Commission, visited my library and gave me such quiet and warm support. "How dedicated," she said, when I told her about my accident and how determined I was to return to work. Karen and JP and my wonderful UTK cohort and professors gave me lots of encouragement and advice that I will carry with me into my future library career. Today I filed the paperwork for my impending comps and graduation in the Summer of 2015 from the University of Tennessee.

The bottom line is this: I have come to regard myself as a fairly average human being. If I am having this experience in a small rural library, there must be others all over the country experiencing the same unnecessary drama that comes from lack of funding and leadership. (I'm sure the same politics play out behind the scenes in wealthy library regions as well, but my theory is that when there is less funding to go around there is more competition and less collaboration.) And because a powerful library administrator does not approve of me, I may be blacklisted from working in West Virginia public libraries as long as she remains. While I may not have a lot of recourse, I do have a voice—this blog—and the ability to put together some solid paragraphs driven by a love for libraries, knowledge, information, and intellectual freedom. If you have been the victim of a library system that is more interested in recording perceived infractions than in providing training and leadership, send me an email. I would love to hear from you. And remember, you are not alone. Eventually new ideas and new technology will prevail. But in the meantime, the war of Old Library versus New Library will continue in the sparsely-populated states that have less oversight for these smaller state agencies. While the battle is lost, the war is not over yet. Also, I have realized that even though I don't have a library, I am still a librarian.

A Sad Side Note

Another sad side note: Just before I left my position as director at the Pioneer Memorial Public Library, I learned that I was a grant finalist for the very competitive $35,000 Knight Foundation Grant to have a television whitespaces infrastructure set up in Harman, WV. This is a bandwidth technology that I have blogged about that has huge potential to keep small, rural communities connected in case of natural or man-made disasters. (After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Harman area was without electricity for 12+ days, and libraries are now considered second responders by FEMA.) This grant could have provided free wifi for the entire town of Harman, including Harman School, the Harman Fire Department, and the Harman Senior Center. Because I am no longer library director, I am no longer a contender for this grant.

My final p.s., I promise. I will confess one breach in my professionalism that was completely naive on my part. One day a few months ago, after a volley of emails back and forth with Karen Goff, I felt I could sense her annoyance with me. Her replies to me were becoming more terse. So I signed my final email to her that day with my name and the title The World's Most Annoying Librarian. I think I may have even added a Super Unprofessional smiley-face emoticon. My greatest sin in this whole interaction was assuming a sense of humor on the part of the recipient. This was one of the examples that Goff reported to my board president as an example of my unprofessionalism.

April 20, 2015, An Update: I just heard from a reliable source that my former library board president who fielded the phonecall complaint about me is now director of the same library. I'm sure she had to get special permission from Karen Goff and I am quite sure Ms. Goff gave it to her. That, in my opinion, is a library coup d'etat and makes this cautionary tale even more ironic and poignant.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Library Hero, Administrative Villain: J. Edgar Hoover

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Most people remember J. Edgar Hoover as the first head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who kept extensive information and files on people whom he disliked, distrusted, or who caught his attention in negative way. But did you know that before J. Edgar Hoover became a top law enforcer he was an information sciences professional, a librarian?

J. Edgar, the Movie

As a graduate student in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee, a professor who was introducing themselves and pitching their class talked about the film "J. Edgar." Released in 2011, this movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover showed the evolution of this controversial man from humble librarian to head of the FBI.

J. Edgar the Cataloger

John Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) was born and spent his entire life in Washington, D.C. His first job at age 18 was as a messenger at the Library of Congress (LOC). Hoover also worked in the cataloging department. Later in 1951, Hoover wrote in a letter, “[T]his job …trained me in the value of collating material. It gave me an excellent foundation for my work in the FBI where it has been necessary to collate information and evidence.” In excellent homage to Hoover and the Library of Congress there were some scenes for the film "J. Edgar" shot on location in the LOC.

J. Edgar Hoover, 1940 Census Clues

Just for fun, I looked at the 1940 United States Census to see if there was any information of interest there that would give a snapshot into who he was. According to that document, J. Edgar Hoover lived at 413 Seward Square in Washington D.C., age 45, single, and living alone. Perhaps the most interesting fact on this page is:

"Weeks Worked in 1939: 52"

"Hours Worked Week Prior to Census: 99"

I did a researcher double-take when I saw the number of hours that Hoover says he worked in the previous week. I went and looked at the handwritten document to find that '105' was recorded, crossed out, and replaced with '99.' So J. Edgar didn't take vacations and if he worked seven days a week he worked fourteen hours per day. Hoover was a workaholic. It is also interesting to note that J. Edgar Hoover lived in the same house his entire life.

Empire of Information Evil

If Hoover had remained at the Library of Congress the world might be a very different place. While Hoover excelled at collecting, codifying, and storing data, he used his information skills for evil. Hoover was a petty, malicious, controlling person with an unhealthy dose of paranoia, as many people may be who have dark secrets to hide. The full legacy of J. Edgar Hoover may never fully be known as his faithful secretary, Helen Gandy (pictured below), spent weeks destroying Hoover's personal files that he is said to have used to blackmail politicians, police, players, and Presidents.

Note: All photographs courtesy the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Famous Librarian Writers

The famous folks below were at one time librarians but became famous for other reasons. While Beverly Cleary and Andre Norton were professional librarians, others, (such as Proust) dabbled in the library sciences.

Ben Franklin (1706-1790)

Author, printer, inventor, diplomat, postmaster, scientist, and activist, it's hard to pigeon-hole Franklin into one category.In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and at the age of 21, Franklin started a subscription-based library where members pooled cash to buy and read books.

Photo: Portrait of Benjamin Franklin by Joseph-Siffrein Duplessis (1725-1802), c. 1785, oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Madeline L'Engle (1918-2007)

American writer Madeline L'Engle is best known for writing the classic young adult novel "A Wrinkle in Time" (1962), she also served as a volunteer librarian at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City in 1965.

Photo: Courtesy of Square Fish Books.

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)

In 1913, painter, writer, and artist Marcel Duchamp took a position as librarian at the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in Paris, France, where he also studied physics and math.

Photo: Marcel Duchamp playing chess (photo by Kay Bell Reynal, 1952)

Beverly Cleary (1916-)

Children's book writer Beverly Cleary graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle with a library degree in 1939. Some of Cleary's books include "Beezus and Ramona"(1955), "Ribsy" (1964), and "The Mouse and the Motorcycle" (1965).

Photo: Photo of Beverly Cleary, State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov

Hypatia (b. circa 350-370 - 415)

"There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, daughter of the philosopher Theon, who made such attainments in literature and science, as to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time. Having succeeded to the school of Plato and Plotinus, she explained the principles of philosophy to her auditors, many of whom came from a distance to receive her instructions. On account of the self-possession and ease of manner which she had acquired in consequence of the cultivation of her mind, she not infrequently appeared in public in the presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in going to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more." ~ Socrates Scholasticus, from his Ecclesiastical History

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. An actress, possibly Mary Anderson, in the title role of the play Hypatia, circa 1900.

Lao Tsu (b. circa 571 BCE - Zhou Dynasty)

This philosopher and poet of ancient China, Lao Tsu is said to have held a position as scholar in the Imperial Archives. The most famous work most often attributed to Lao Tsu is the Tao Te Ching.

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. A painting of the Daode Tianzun ('the Heavenly Lord of Dao and its Virtue'), the deified Laozi, one of the supreme divinities of Daoism.

Andre Norton (1912-2005)

Born Alice Mary Norton in Cleveland, Ohio, she went on to become a highly successful science fiction writer. But before she became a famous, award-winning author, she worked in the Cleveland Library System for 18 years. During World War II and from 1940-41, Norton worked as a special librarian in the cataloging department of the Library of Congress.

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Cover of Voodoo Planet by Andrew North, artist Ed Valigursky; half of Ace Double #D-345 (1959)

Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

While many consider French writer Marcel Proust to be one of the greatest authors in the history of literature, he was a terrible librarian. An asthma sufferer who appears to have been coddled by wealthy parents, Proust secured a volunteer position at the Bibliotheque Mazarine in 1896 and then went on sick leave without ever having worked a day. Oh, Proust. How adorable, frustrating, and funny.

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Marcel Proust in 1900.

It is interesting and strange to me that there are not more famous writers who were once librarians as librarians may have access to the best books and resources. Great readers make great writers, but not all librarians, it seems, are great writers. Alas.

Monday, March 2, 2015

How is the Pioneer Memorial Public Library Funded?

The Pioneer Memorial Public Library has been an official public library since 1985 when it was started by a few local residents passionate about books, reading, and literacy. This year we celebrate 30 years of providing high-quality library services in Harman, West Virginia. Since the partial closing of Harman School many local residents have expressed concern over the future and funding of the Pioneer Library. So, how is the Pioneer Library funded? Where does the money come from? As a public library, our funding and budget should be provided as part of the public record. After all, part of our funding comes from taxpayers therefore everyone should know about where the Pioneer Library money comes from and where it goes.

Public Funds

The Pioneer Library receives $7,500 per year from the Randolph County Commission as part of their commitment to libraries and literacy in our county. All five libraries in Randolph County receive the same amount from the County Commission every year. For the last several years, the Pioneer Library has received $10,000 from the Randolph County Board of Education. This is levy money that runs out in a year or two. We do not expect a levy to be reinstated at the end of this special funding.

The Pioneer Library receives approximately $11,834 per year from the West Virginia Library Commission in Charleston, WV. This is money that we receive from the WVLC that makes sure the Pioneer Library (and all state libraries that receive federal funding) are compliant with certain rules and regulations. For example, did you know that the library goes through an independent audit every year? This helps to keep the library fiscally responsible and honest. It is also law that we have an audit every year and the WVLC confirms that audit by receiving a copy of it every year. The money we receive annually from the WVLC is based on the US Census that is carried out every ten years. At last census count our service population is 2,323 people and we receive a certain amount of funding per capita based on that number. (That's about $5.09 per person.)

We also receive funding from fundraising. The Pioneer Library has its largest fundraiser annually at the Run For It in Tucker County. Every year, Team Pioneer brings home enough money to feel secure for another year. We also co-sponsor a chicken roast that same day at the Leaf Peepers Festival (with Tucker County Rotary) and also get funds from that event. We also receive donations from private individuals throughout the year who are committed to supporting the efforts of the Pioneer Library. But wait, there's more! We also sell used books on Amazon to raise funds and we get funds back from dedicated library users who have registered their Kroger card with the library as recipient of 5% cash back.

Employment

The Pioneer Library employs a director who works 30 hours per week and another part-time library worker. The total amount paid to two library workers is less than $20,000 per year. The entire budget of the Pioneer Memorial Public Library is slightly less than $35,000 per year. The remaining funds go to utilities, supplies, insurance, and books. The entire book buying budget for the year is about $2,000.

So, the Pioneer Library is not officially part of Harman School even though we are located on school grounds. We are also not part of the Randolph County Board of Education. The Pioneer Library is considered a nonprofit quasi-governmental organization with obligations to the Randolph County Commission (they approve and appoint our board members) and the West Virginia Library Commission. Both library workers are employees of the Pioneer Library and no other entity or organization.

Oversight

The Pioneer Memorial Public library has lots of oversight. The real bosses of the library are the patrons who use it regularly. We try to listen to suggestions and ideas that come from the people who use the library the most. As a Public Library we want to please the public. We are overseen by a five member Board of Trustees who meet six times a year to go over finances, events, trends, and other important issues that face the library. We are an affiliate library of the Upshur County Library who administers our payroll and hires an independent auditor for the library every year. We also have to complete an annual report that goes to the West Virginia Library Commission. This annual report is valuable in that it can reveal important circulation and collection development statistics. This is also part of a a required report that the WVLC is required to fulfill to maintain federal funding. There is a layered level of library relationships and monitoring that help to keep high standards for West Virginia libraries

In conclusion, the Pioneer Memorial Library is not an wealthy institution. We scrimp and save pennies to provide the very best for our small service population. We are also an official United States Public Library that is not part of the Randolph County Public Schools. We get lots of help and oversight from the West Virginia Library Commission and the Upshur County Public Library. Even if Harman School closed, the Pioneer Memorial Public Library would still exist and continue to function as such. So stop on by the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in beautiful downtown Harman, West Virginia, to check us out. How may we help you?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Free E-Books at West Virginia Reads via the Public Library

Did you know that if you have a library card in West Virginia, you probably have access to free e-books for download to your Nook, Kindle, phone, or computer? Really? Really. It's easy and convenient and this article talks about how to get started today.

Got Your Library Card?

To get started, all you need is your Northern Library Network library card. It's yellow and plastic and this is your key to free e-books in West Virginia. This card covers all Randolph County libraries including the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, WV. To get to the West Virginia Reads site, you can start at the Pioneer Memorial Library's website front page. From there, look for the WV-READs logo to connect to the site. If you click on the highlighted text here, it will take you WV-Reads. To be able to see all of the books that are available, you will have to enter your library card number, the one after the bar code on your card.

Sign Into WV READS

The front page of WV READS looks like this:

Go to Advanced Search

When you go to sign in, please use your 12-digit library card number. When looking through the drop menu of libraries, please make sure you select Upshur County Library, as they are the service center to the Pioneer Library. The front page of WV READS is pleasing with a green and grey colored theme. If you look into the upper right corner of your screen, you will see an Advanced Search option. I really recommend that you start here for a couple of different reasons.

First, you will be able to see what e-books are available. While the front page of WV READS looks inviting and promising, full of hot best-selling books, the reality is that you might end up on a reserve list that will take you months to be able to read the book. The way e-books work is that the publisher sells you the right to use the e-book for a certain number of borrows or circulations. So, even if there are ten copies of the book that you want, they may all be checked out.

How To Download an E-Book

In the advanced search window towards the bottom of the screen you will see a choice for a box to check that says, 'Available Now.' My advice is to click that button before you comb over all the books in WV READS. If you are looking for immediate reading gratification, this is the route to take. From here you may narrow down your search by genre, age level, and subject. On the day that I wrote this I looked for e-books available now and found almost 14,000 titles -- that's a great selection size to be able to choose from.

To select a book, all you have to do is click on how you want to download. Do you want to download to your Nook or Kindle? Or do you want to read the book on your computer. These are all great options to have. You have 14 days to read these books on the device of your choice, and at the end of those 2 weeks the book magically disappears. No late returns, no overdue fines, and that's all pretty sweet.

WV-READs has best-selling books from Grisham, Patterson, and Baldacci but you may have to place a hold on the book. When a popular book is on WV-READS, many people want to read it but there are a limited number of copies and "reads" available. So, for example, I put "Gone Girl" By Gillian Flynn on hold by letting the cursor float over the image of the book and look for buttons, "Place Hold" or "View Sample". I chose Place Hold and found out that I am in "Holds position: #25 on 3 copies." There is no helpful "estimated time available" date. I have no idea how long it might take me to get my copy of "Gone Girl" but I will keep you updated.

Watch a Video About How to Access WV-READs

Still confused? WV-Reads can be confusing if you're new to the site. I made a screencast video that helps walk you through step-by-step to help you understand the whole online process. If you are still not sure how to log onto and use WV READS, no worries. Stop by anytime at the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, West Virginia, and we will be happy to show you hows to use this remarkable tool to have e-books ready to read at any time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Future of Wifi - E-Rate Expansion, White Spaces, and Public Places

If you are a rural librarian, you know that access to broadband Internet is a problem in mountainous, remote Appalachian communities. In the Dry Fork Valley region of Randolph County, WV, there is only one Internet provider creating a monopoly for this service. Additionally, the Internet infrastructure that exists is old and sometimes unreliable. While we have an Internet wifi at the Pioneer Library, patrons must obtain a randomly generated username and password from a librarian during business hours. After business hours, many patrons do not have access to the Internet. If you are a city dweller, can you imagine not being able to afford Internet? Can you imagine not being plugged into the wifi grid for more than 24 hours? Our mountainous terrain makes it difficult even for cellular phone connections in West Virginia. But there is good news on the horizon for technology in rural libraries, tribal libraries, and public schools in the USA.

Thank You Senator Rockefeller

West Virginia's own Senator Rockefeller, who retired last year, achieved many wonderful things for the Mountain State. One of them is the E-Rate federal program that reimburses libraries and schools for telephone, long distance, and Internet. This is a national program that enables small, under-served, and rural libraries and schools to have the very best technology connection to the rest of the world. As a last farewell to his adopted home state, Rockefeller pushed through a multi-billion dollar E-Rate expansion that will hopefully allow every library and public school in the USA to have a super-fast fiber Internet connection. Thank you, Senator Jay Rockefeller for your service to West Virginia and to the rest of the country. Want to read more about it? Check out this article from New America that explains the fine print.

TV Goes Digital Leaves Spaces

Remember when televisions "went digital?" TV owners had to either upgrade to a new television or buy a digital-conversion box. This shift of television to digital freed up a large range of bandwidth that exists with the current infrastructure, the hardware of the super information highway. A fellow techie mentioned a conspiracy theory that cable companies would not allow these freed-up frequencies/channels/bandwidths to be used to offer free Internet because it would bankrupt Internet providers. OK. That was the rumor I heard that sparked this little rabbit hole of research into a nook of technology that I knew almost nothing about. Still interested? It's about to get more interesting, or, at least, I think so. The freed up bandwidth is known as White Spaces.

Conspiracy Theory?

So, did Internet providers conspire to keep free wifi from the people? The short answer is, no. White spaces, as they currently exist have no antennae or towers to broadcast their signal. There is no public infrastructure for global wifi that exists...yet. Making this even more difficult is that current computers would have to be equipped with hardware and software that communicates with the signal put out by white spaces wifi.

White Spaces at WVU

Another aspect of white spaces that is of interest: the first pilot campus-wide use of white spaces is happening at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV. Here is a great quote from WVU’s chief information officer John Campbell, "Broadband in this state is a huge challenge. We’re very rural and very mountainous. Between the terrain and the weather, it’s hard on infrastructure.” So, even in West Virginia's larger cities, reliable and fast Internet is a problem. About a year ago, WVU started using white spaces as an infrastructure for a campus-wide wifi that unites three campus via this old spectrum that used to be occupied by television. (Here is a great article about White Spaces at WVU from Network World. It's also where I pulled the quote from the WVU PR rep.)

How Do White Spaces Work?

White spaces. Old tv frequencies. New Uses. Potential for super wifi? OK, here's the part I'm fuzzy on. I am an information scientist but not a computer scientist. If you want the library technology geek details, I recommend this article from Information Age by Kane Fulton way back in March 2013.

Who owns the white spaces? Technically, they are still owned by the television networks who ruled them. The Federal Communications Committee has ultimate power of these white spaces and may force cable companies to auction them off when the time comes. Think of this as auctioning off swamp land that needs to be drained before it can be developed. According to a tech source whom will remain anonymous, white spaces are generating a lot more attention from Internet Service Providers than the FCC had predicted. The auctioning off of white spaces will be a multi-billion dollar affair no doubt ruled by AT&T, Cellular One, and Sprint, the usual ISP and cell phone suspects. So what will the FCC do with the billions that stand to make in auctioning off white spaces? Only time will tell. But wouldn't it be great if the Federal communications Commission could invest it in future E-Rate programs so that underserved and rural libraries and schools will be ensured free technology for years to come? It is most certainly what Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia would have wanted.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Don't Steal Software - The Case For Purchasing Legitimate Software in Libraries

Maybe you're reading the title of this blog entry and saying, "Libraries would never steal software!" And while that should never happen in the 21st century it still does. I have seen single copies of software passed out like candy with the reminder, "Don't try to register it." As librarians and technology guides we need to practice what we preach to our patrons, colleagues, and board members. We use software everyday that make our job easier and possible and we need legitimate and legally purchased software in our libraries and media centers.

Stay Legal - Purchase Software

So what is the number one reason to purchasing software? It keeps you legal. If you or your library is caught distributing illegal software or illegal copies of software you could face large fines, jail time, and loss of reputation in the community. If you are a public library that receives funding from your state through a library commission you could lose your funding. How would you feel if your library was on the front page of your local paper for software theft? That is a loss that no library needs.

TechSoup

I use software such as Microsoft Office, QuickBooks, and Adobe Photoshop on a regular basis in the Pioneer Library. While these software can be expensive for private companies and individuals, TechSoup makes it easy and inexpensive for nonprofit organizations to legally purchase software. It takes a little time to submit paperwork and supporting documentation of nonprofit status, but schools, libraries, and nonprofits all qualify for software donations from the manufacturers. TechSoup makes it easy to keep your library legal.

So Easy To Pirate

While it may seem easy to just pass a CD or DVD around with software, each copy needs to be registered with the manufacturer. Why? For one thing, imagine the following scenario: You are working on your library's financial records using QuickBooks. Something happens, a glitch, a bomb, the blue screen of death, a software malfunction. Maybe your computer is permanently damaged. Maybe your software has malfunctioned. What do you do? Who can you call? If you call the software manufacturer for help, they will report you for theft. You have no software support, no one to help you with your software conundrum. When you purchase legitimate software you have backup and support from the software company who wants you to have a good experience with their product. If your illegal software malfunctions you could lose invaluable data or records from your library, media center, or nonprofit.

Software Developers Deserve Their Dime

And think about it this way. Software developers spend millions to develop software that is user-friendly, reliable, and time-saving. If Microsoft Office or QuickBooks makes your professional and personal life easier, it is worth paying for. How would you feel if you wrote a book and instead of buying it someone photocopied it and read it without paying for it? You would be mad, right? It's not fair, right? Same deal with software. The federal government takes software theft very seriously as it can hurt competition and profit in the software industry.

So, the next time you feel tempted to copy software that you have not legitimately acquired and paid for, don't do it. Take time to contact TechSoup and purchase legitimate copies of software. How cheap is TechSoup? QuickBooks retails for approximately $229.95. On TechSoup the price is $30-39. If you want to purchase Photoshop Elements for your library it retails for $299. The TechSoup price for PS Elements is $22. As librarians and media professionals, we can afford to buy software legally and legitimately. We can't afford to be arrested or fined for software theft. If you represent a nonprofit that wants to register with TechSoup and need a little help, stop by the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, West Virginia, and I would be glad to get you started. Additionally, if you want to report software theft you can do so here.