My short bio: I'm an activist librarian and early library blogger. I work for Open Library at the Internet Archive. I used to manage the community at for almost a decade. I'm a second generation technologist, my dad ran the project that became the book Soul of a New Machine. I live in rural Vermont, teach an HTML class at the local tech school and do basic technology instruction.

A few other links....

My Proof

This has been great fun and we'll try to do it again soon but the sun is setting and I have to actually go to the big blue room for a bit. Thanks so much for all your questions

Comments: 869 • Responses: 89  • Date: 

0hgdwhY342 karma

Do you have a cat? Do most librarians you know have cats? Also, do you prefer chocolate or gummy bears?

jessamyn402 karma

No cats, though between my mom and sister they have three (formerly seven before the mass cat die off of last year) so I get a lot of cats in my life.

Chocolate, for sure.

trulyniceguy351 karma

mass cat die off

Do tell more

jessamyn352 karma

My sister and mom each had a few cats that were old and/or infirm. So in the span of about 12 months we lost Henry and Lucky and Boo and Trixie. Great animals, all of them.

0hgdwhY11 karma

Thanks for answering! Somehow I always thought you had a cat...

jessamyn20 karma

I had one a long time ago. P. Zesto was also a great cat.

eatpaste208 karma

what do you think of schools who are trying to turn their libraries into maker spaces? is there a point where libraries get too techy and lose their core mission? or since we can fit the world's knowledge on a tablet are things like physical reference texts and periodicals more and more redundant in a library space?

jessamyn292 karma

I like makerspaces as an idea but in a broader sense. Like the places that have sewing machines, craft studios, places that people can record music and work on a lawnmower engine? I think those solve real world problems for people right now. I like 3D printers and think it's good that libraries are getting interested in them (and they're fun for programs especially for kids) but I think thinking about real-world applications of programs are as if not more important than near-future wide-appeal applications of things like 3D printing. What I want to see is code camp things where people learn to render 3D models, make websites and apps and get computers to do things. 3D printing is smart of that, but there's a bigger ecosystem to get competency in.

I might argue that even though we can fit the world's knowledge on a tablet, we're not doing that because there's no way to make a business model out of that and that is one of the larger concerns about tech vs info that I think needs to be picked apart more critically.

bruisecruising65 karma

that is one of the larger concerns about tech vs info that I think needs to be picked apart more critically.

would you mind talking more about this? i work in a library and we are really struggling with how to aggregate information from all of the dozens of different publishers and databases we deal with, none of whom have any incentive to de-silo their information or encourage discovery from outside their own website. it's difficult for users and very difficult for us to keep track of our many thousands of electronic resources which are constantly changing. honestly it seems to me that with ebooks and e-journals, in many ways things have got worse in dealing with publishers. i imagine this is part of what you're talking about, i'd love to hear some ideas on what to do about this, or if you could point me at some other resources. thanks.

jessamyn99 karma

I have no idea, it's really frustrating. I think starting with use cases "Our users want to be able to aggregate searching between you and the other person we buy databases from..." is good but ultimately it's maybe being clear with higher-ups that you have to have staff specifically dedicated to this bullshit which would be totally unnecessary if the world were more open access or if the publishers would work together. Like, why isn't there an Overdrive for database stuff so that you could have a third party there basically aggregating stuff for which you had a license. It's incredibly frustrating but I feel like JSTOR and Elsevier really feel like they're going to come out on top and be the One Big Company and so they have no incentive to change.

I really wish I knew because it's one of THE most challenging things facing librarianship today, this shift to digital content and crappy companies who have really difficult ways of getting at it. We can't aggregate which is more and more what users want, we need to find ways to put pressure on publishers but I'm not sure if I know how. Maybe get the National Federation for the Blind to sue them? Head scratcher.

Sp3akSl0w150 karma

Your essay [] on what skills the next Librarian of Congress should have inspired a lot of debate on Twitter and elsewhere. What was the most interesting response you received? Have any Congresspeople or other politicians contacted you about it?

jessamyn105 karma

Yeah I got to talk to the white house which I discuss at length in circulatingideas' link. I also made my own blog post here

Nothing since then, nervously waiting to see what happens. I'm a big fan of Mao, the acting guy even though I think they'll probably go with someone else for the gig eventually.

The other big deal is that now LoC term limits are set to ten years (which could be renewed) and that's going to change the face of the job an awful lot.

Gummy_Joe20 karma

I'm pretty plugged into the scene at LC, and while I agree that Mao's a good choice (for one thing he's a trained librarian with a better sense of a library's mission as a result), the general criticism against him and Robert Newlen (the Chief of Staff for those unaware) is that they're not ready for this level of administrative duties. After all, Mao was "just" head of the Law Library a few months ago. What's your thoughts on their general lack of experience at that level?

jessamyn21 karma

Yeah he is super new but I think especially with the term limits, that you could give him a chance to grow into it and hire some people to help him with the stuff that isn't his wheelhouse which was Billington's thing. I'm concerned that he's just not "high status" enough to keep the James Madison Council ponying up $$ and that may be their real fear.

oolongthecat108 karma

Hi Jessamyn!

Fellow Jessamyn here. I registered for an account just so I can ask you: what is the pronunciation guide you use for your name? (I usually go with "rhymes with specimen," but it is a constant struggle.)

jessamyn69 karma

Rhymes with specimen is actually what I tell people and "There's an AMY in it" when I spell it out. Jess-AMY-n

CarrollQuigley84 karma

Did you ever end up having to take down the sign that said "The FBI has not been here"?

jessamyn90 karma

You know, it's no longer in the library that I sometimes work in but I am fairly certain we were also not visted by the FBI. I should ask some pointed questions.

4649ne14 karma

Can someone explain what this is about please?

jessamyn21 karma

Let me know if you have more questions. It's basically about a thing I did maybe ten+ years ago so yeah it's sort of obscure.

7shores62 karma

You, Doc, & Michael J. Fox take the Delorean to 2045 and you go to the Public Library in Peoria, IL. What's different about the Library? What's the same?

jessamyn93 karma

Peoria is biggish (compared to where I am from) and those libraries--large but not huge city libraries--tend to be changing the most. I'm a terrible futurist but I think the general trends are

  • libraries as community spaces, giving people something they can't get from google, programming, human interaction, heat in winter AC in summer
  • libraries where you can make things as well as be the passive recipient of information, collaborative spaces, not just makerspace things but access to old tech (tape decks, sewing machines, lawn tools) that make more sense to have centralized and not each person having one.
  • old books for learning, much new stuff will be electronic, librarians will be problem solvers and not just behind-the desk information gatekeepers.
  • more media - I think many libraries got out of, say the music and game and courseware businesses as those systems become weird and DRMed and splintered. I think we'll see more reasonable ways to get people access to more content that isn't all stupidly paywalled and hidden so people can use the library to make sense of ALL THE CHOICES and not just find one book or one game.

There's still going to be bad parking (though maybe public transpo, I have not been to Peoria, though I follow a great instagram of its cute houses) and people who need to use the resources to find job, medical information and who want to read the newspaper though it may not be in print.

I'm really hoping that by 2045 we've worked out some of our digital divide issues but I was hoping that in 1995 also and we've still got them so I am curious and not at all predictive about what that will look like.

yooperann3 karma

Help-I need a librarian. I thought I could easily find the Peoria cute house blog but no luck. Link, please!

griph50 karma

I owe the Brooklyn Public Library about $25 for losing a copy of the unofficial strategy guide for Beavis and Butthead for the Sega Genesis around 1996. Can you put in a good word for me?

jessamyn48 karma

If it's 1996 there's a good chance they don't eve have a record of it anymore. You should try signing up for a new card. (but yes I'll put in a good word for you)

Pizza_bagel45 karma

I'm a public librarian who is struggling to justify the time and money I spent on my MLS. All of the jobs available in my area are dogpiled by dozens of other underemployed librarians. I've started to look at other fields in data-related positions, but this bums me out.

Do you have any advice? Are there other vocational avenues that I might not be thinking of? I'm a good goddamn librarian and I love my work but can't keep this up.

jessamyn41 karma

Being a librarian in a tech company if you're someone who is organized and has older school librarian skills. The hardest part is that the job shortage is totally geographical. Lot of jobs in rural places go unfilled while big cities have tons of out of work librarians. So other than "consider moving" I'd look into other titles for what you can do: taxonomy, media content strategist (for non-profits, sometimes librarians are a natural fit), teaching (since you have a "terminal degree" this is how I got my job teaching at college)

imthatguy2540 karma

What's your favorite book?

jessamyn83 karma

It varies but the book that I carry closest to my heart is Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and the years-after sequel And Their Children After Them. Not just the photos and the stories but the idea of institutionalized poverty perpetuated by the state and the long-reaching and lasting effects of those things (that then needed to be repaired by the state).

I have a reading list online and I have a category for my favorite books.

abaganoush7 karma

This book list is Art Garfunkel wonderful: I wish I started one like that years ago

jessamyn25 karma

The code for this rinkydink little app is available on Google Code.

denriguez37 karma

"Here's an amazing list of books. Oh and by the way I wrote the code for that amazing list of books. Oh and by the way you can have it." <3 <3 <3

sylvar11 karma

Well, we are librarians, you know...

jessamyn4 karma

To be fair, I mostly project managed the code.

blakesterz40 karma

When the Jessamyn West Action Figure finally comes out what type of AMAZING push-button ACTION will it have?

jessamyn68 karma

Good question.

  • Strip DRM from ebooks in a single click!
  • Locate your missing socks under the couch
  • "I can name the book you are describing in ... six words"

blakesterz36 karma

Hey there! Who are some people you've seen speaking at librarian conferences lately that you thought were great?

jessamyn57 karma

The head of the Salt Lake City Public Library who spoke at CLA (did you see him) about how they are trying a pilot program to keep the library open 24 hours to help combat the issues that SLC has with people with homelessness or housing insecurity. Really revolutionary and he's very low key talking about it.

I saw a guy speak at AKLA who gave an AMAZING talk on dealing with keeping library restrooms in good shape which is a talk that all librarians should see, will try to track down his name.

gladvillain34 karma

Hey Jessamyn, first, I just wanna say thanks for being such a great admin over at Metafilter and askMetafilter all those years. It was my reddit before reddit was my reddit.

Since it seems to have died down quite a bit, have you found anything else that compares to it as a community? Reddit can be so daunting until you find the right subreddits, and I'm not sure if it captures the community aspect due to the sheer scale of it.

jessamyn18 karma

Im not sure if it's died down so much as stabilized. I think not having Matt at the helm (or me?) means fewer options for promotion and showboating so fewer media mentions and etc. I keep looking around and though there are a few other places I interact with people online (MLKSHK and my trivia league websites for example) MeFi still feels like my corner bar where I'll always know someone there and can meet new people.

dagaboy31 karma

Would you rather fight 100 duck sized Joe Schlosses or one Joe Schloss sized duck?

Also, how are local libraries and their local governments responding to the proliferation of DRMed eBooks? Are they finding ways to "lend?" Are publishers cooperating? What non-obvious impact are eBooks and DRM having on physical libraries?

jessamyn68 karma

I would never fight Joe Schloss for any reason, so I guess it's the giant duck for me.

DRM is a cluserfuck for libraries for a few reasons

  1. the technology is not awesome to start with. It's cumbersome, fails in bad ways, is not supported by the people who build it. Tech novices are equating ebooks with "difficult" and that's a damned shame.
  2. Licensing ebooks vs buying books are different things and people who sell this stuff want to sort of handwave over the differences. Therefore someone wants a book, the library can get it, interlibrary-loan it, make a photocopy of a few pages, whatever. Want an ebook? Library has to "own" it or buy it, no other options, no ILL. It's easier to steal it which is just crappy.
  3. Publishers are barely cooperating because they are in a panic about their own eroding revenue streams, there has been some terrible back and forth with some publishers. Ebook intermediaries (companies like Overdrive) are marginally better but the systems are still confusing, messy and barely interoperable.

I work for Open Library and we lend ebooks to anyone and have an online BookReader tool. It's slick and it's STILL a pain in the ass.

There's nothing inherent to "electronic books" that should make this situation so lousy, it's all about trying to make a business out of them and people not valuing or prioritizing the libraries or the end-user experience that make the ebook environment so bad. Some publishers (Tor, notably) are trying to make things better by going DRM-free and experimenting and we're really hoping more publishers will find ways to either 1. make reasonable DRM choices in the future or 2. find acceptable to them other ways to make money and make the ebook lending experience not be a terrible joke for libraries.

freefallingwithfate29 karma

I'm in grad school to be a librarian (graduating in may) and right now my job prospects look pretty bad. Any advice for finding a job without experience outside of internships?

jessamyn27 karma

See if you can take on some small projects that would show your abilities but that won't kill you in terms of time. Organize and automate a church or hobby club library and document what you did. Network and go to local professional organization events if there are any. Join some listservs or the ALA Think Tank on facebook and talk to some people there about your concerns. Get your name out and think about the work that you've done in the past and the way you could positively spin it to make it relevant to the future work you hope to have. Best of luck, I know it's challenging.

muddgirl29 karma

With so much of my generation (Millennials) using walled apps rather than the World Wide Web, have you experienced any barriers to reaching out and encouraging young people to get involved in open access projects?

jessamyn26 karma

It's really challenging. I think a lot of the times one of the best entries for people who may or may not have tech skills is to get involved with bigger data projects like hackathons or something with Wikipedia or Code for America-ish things. In my HTML class I talk about the difference between getting to make Your Own Site and just putting content on another site. Like, I think there is social value in being on the sites your friends are on (facebook/Instagram) but also understanding what is going on behind the scenes so that if you see a thing you'd like to do differently, you have those options.

WIkipedia of this decade is much better looking and has better tools for people to get "under the hood" so to speak and that helps people get motivated. The biggest deal, to my mind, is having a club or group of people--I live in rural Vermont so this is sort of my-world centered--who are doing what you'd like to do and having the concepts be social and not just the person-in-basement model. I mean it can be people-in-basements, nothing against basements but one of the things I stress about OA stuff is that it's inherently social, you learn to work with other people and that has its own value as well as being good for the larger community who might use your tools.

anneliv28 karma

What do you think the Librarian of Congress Succession Modernization Act of 2015, which limits the term of the Librarian of Congress to 10 years? While it may allow the Librarian to respond more quickly to technological change and will perhaps prevent a Librarian from just sitting on their thumbs, I worry that it will lead to a more politicized position and a decrease in the level of influence the Library of Congress has.

jessamyn31 karma

I am really not sure. I am also concerned. I think the law was put into place to avoid the Billington Effect where one person who is behind the times puts the whole institution at risk. Realistically, as I understand it, a president could just have appointed a new LoC without Billington stepping down (I might be wrong on this) but it's just never done. This is a more formal way of doing that. I think ideally a person who is still being awesome could be reappointed. A bad case scenario is that it becomes an irritating political appointment which is just a grab at whatever the Copyright Office is up to that looks like it might be worth influencing.

joshmillard26 karma

How has your experience as a Justice of the Peace the last few years changed your perception of and relationship with your town?

jessamyn40 karma

I've gotten a lot more aware of all the scutwork it takes to run a town and how much it is, or should be, everyone's responsibility.

Like I can marry people but I also need to count votes at election times and serve on a few town boards which is really hard work. People who think their house is assessed too high come to us and appeal. And as much as I'd like to say to them "Hey we'll just lower the assessment!" it means that everyone else's taxes would go up (by a teeny bit) if we did that because it takes a fixed amount of $$ to run a town, pay for schools and snowplows. I always sort of knew that but seeing more of the numbers, more of the time, and the human faces behind them has made me more thoughtful about some of my earlier knee-jerk responses about how people should run governments.

ThePinkSuperhero20 karma

What's the best way to inspire a love of reading in children?

jessamyn22 karma

Parents set an example and reading with your kid when they are young really does set up good habits and help kids learn to like reading. The bigger deals are keeping this love of reading when the kids get older and their peers aren't all reading and.or when school tells them to read stuff they may or may not like. Also being on the lookout for kids who don't like reading because there is a problem (eyesight, developmental issues, bad school librarian or teacher) can help correct problems before they go too far.

raisindick20 karma

How long did it take until Google took your town out of the lake?

jessamyn31 karma

WAY longer than it should have. Like ... two or three months. And this was after several more months of clicking "report a problem" which, no surprise, did nothing. Here's the song I wrote

marcusesses18 karma

How do you think Metafilter has changed in the past 5 (or 10, or 15) years? What positive changes have there been, and what worrying changes have you seen?

jessamyn9 karma

I think the community is huge so you can't know everyone. The community is also split so different subsites have their own flavor more than they used to. I think there's less emphasis on getting along and more on (sometimes) getting away with things. I think after I left and some longtime ankle biters got banned, things changed but only a little. I dislike the MeTa queue but I know why they have it. I think there is a very small group of very vocal people who want MeFi to be different than it is and I think the site is having some trouble with expectation-setting in that regard. I still hang out there all the time but I'm a lot less likely to dig into a complex back and forth there now and more likely to step in, try to say my peace and then move on.

greenduch16 karma

Oh gosh, this is the first AMA I've been excited about in ages!

What is the strangest thing someone has come into a library and asked you about?

What cool activist stuff have you been seeing lately?

Do you have updates about the Tor exit node conflict between libraries and the department of homeland security? Have more libraries started trying to participate in this program recently?

Your opinions about internet commenting are pretty interesting. What do you think reddit could do well to learn in this regard?

jessamyn18 karma

I talk about being asked what fisting was in this interview

Activist stuff has been a lot of local stuff in my town which is townspeople vs developers but it's been neat seeing people work

No updates on the Tor thing but I know that the Kilton library is very happy with their decision and I think they felt very supported by both the internet community and their local community and that was gratifying. I just saw Alison Macrina but I hadn't heard who was next on the list for Exit Nodes.

I think the Reddit thing is challenging because it's really its own giant culture and the people who own/run it have always been very very laissez-faire. Now they've gotten to the point where they have been being a little more assertive about what they don't want but less so about what they DO want. Some moderation decisions come out of wanting positive outcomes and not just fewer negatives ones.

So I could see them having a higher up person who was more like a community moderation philosopher who talked about the site's philosophy and ethics around community discussion and engagement so people could talk about talking a little. And also they have So Much Data and I think there is a lot of noise about what is happening on Reddit but there are also facts, lots of data processing could be happening that would add a lot more weight to various people's claims that "Reddit is like THIS" and I'd like to see that happening. The data-driven stuff we did on MeFi (showing, for example that comment deletions were staying at about 1-1.3% for years so moderation wasn't on the upswing for example) helped make our other cases about how the place ran.

But I am totally an armchair philosopher about Reddit and I don't spend much time here so I don't think I know The Answer but I know they have a PR problem and I'd love to see more sunlight on it by them, trying to openly and proactively manage it.

GeminaM15 karma

Jessamyn, do you have any advice for a middle aged, insecure, public librarian about how to gain confidence?

jessamyn20 karma

I think networking and mentoring are really helpful and thinking about whether your confidence issues come from something in your workplace (a bad boss, a bad job, a bad time of year, a bad patron) or something about you (bad time in your personal life, trouble at home, trouble in your family). Sometimes it's good to go outside of where you are, whatever that means and try to engage in other places. I was really in the dumps about where I was going in Vermont, had not gotten a few jobs I applied for, not getting good feedback from colleagues, etc but I found when I left the state (even to go to NH!) I got better feedback and felt better about the work I was doing.

Everyone has some degree of impostor syndrome, even your boss. Learning to manage difficult people in your chain of command can often help you feel less out of control and more confident at work. And getting good feedback on your work from others if it's not forthcoming at work.

It's weird but I've really found some professional groups--some listservs, some facebook groups, some conferences--to be a real shot in the arm for me when other things weren't.

Start small and work on little projects and scaffold upwards. If you're just not confident in your life, try tried and true things like Toastmasters or getting more sunlight and vitamin D or taking a yoga class. It's not the same for all people but finding ways to get good feedback (why do so many of us own cats!) can help you build on some small early good experiences. I know it's really tough, best of luck.

avocadotime415 karma

Hi Jessamyn! I know you've written a bunch of things and given a bunch of talks about the "digital divide." Do you see this divide narrowing at all? Where have we made progress and how has this digital divide changed within the last five years?

jessamyn22 karma

The thing I tell people the most is that there are multiple divides. We've seen the economic one narrowing a lot, most people now have access to a computer+internet at their library. However, we're seeing an empowerment or inclusion divide: people who are doing real what I like to call "computing" and people who just use technology as passive entertainment and shopoing systems.

There is nothing wrong with entertainment and nothing (mostly) wrong with shopping but the internet (and the resultant culture that is being built on top of it) SHOULD be for everyone and it's mostly being run by not-everyone. Wikipedia is an example that everyone loves to hate but there are other issues like women in tech, people of color on Twitter, accessibility for people with disabilities online.

Every time you have to have a huge FIGHT to gain access, as a person who is struggling, you feel that those places are not for you. That's something that we can't fix with classes and low cost tech because it's a cultural issue.

So, the good news is that I'm seeing more people with technology that they know how to use, more people being able to solve their own technological problems but I'm also seeing a lot of people who feel that online spaces are not "for them" or who don't feel that if they have a problem with something technologically (facebook privacy settings, all the stuff on gmail that is hard if you have a shaky hand or a poor memory) that they have the toolkit to solve it.

It's challenging because there's not a huge infrastructure (yet?) for helping people past this and having people being able to find their spaces and ensuring them that those spaces are FOR THEM.

Bigger topic than just this response, but I see it narrowing in some places as it widens in others.

thymelord14 karma

What are your thoughts on public libraries hiring public health nurses and social workers?

It's on the rise in the US and some librarians are emphatically for it, while others seem to think it's scope creep and we don't have any business offering social services. I personally think of it more as hiring the right kind of information expert to help patrons with complex questions around health.

jessamyn16 karma

I don't think so much as they need to hire them directly (i.e. we give library money to nurses) but that they find ways to work together proactively for the general health of the community. So the $$$ thing is always difficult but libraries have public space that is for everyone and so them leveraging that any way they can (as a meeting space, as a safe space for people to get together, as a place where you could have incidental contact with people needing social services) seems like a natural fit. We've seen it really doing great things in a lot of places and so just like I think seeing social workers working with police so that the police gain skills in working with people with mental illnesses (you know so they don't shoot them) you can see that in libraries where people in need of services who might never make it into a doctor's office could, for example, get a flu shot. Good for that person and good for the overall health of the community. All the library does is make an introduction and offer space, but there are also grant opportunities for public service agencies working together and it makes sense that the library be part of that equation.

benbryo12 karma


I'm passionate about libraries and open-access and libraries' role in international development. I'm applying to iSchools and library schools for next fall.

Do you know any people who's work I should be following who are big into libraries in developing countries? (I'm somewhat familiar with EIFL, IFLA, Beyond Access, and Room to Read)

Do you have any advice about library school? Or know which school might be the best place to emphasize international libraries? (I've considered a dual-Master's but not sure about money...)

jessamyn13 karma

IFLA is huge and within IFLA there are groups that are more narrow focused than others, FAIFE for example. I'm skeptical about some of the work done by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation domestically but I think their Global Libraries project is worth watching. The Social Responsibilities Round Table of ALA has an international bent and a social justice approach which has always appealed to me. There may be a local chapter in your state.

The nbig deal about library school for me is to go into as little debt as possible because the jobs don't pay well. And unless you are going into high status librarianship (big publics or big academics) most schools are more or less the same and it's the work experience and the attitue that matter the most. Good luck.

tedsmitts12 karma

Is the cabal real?

jessamyn21 karma

There is no cabal.

damienbarrett12 karma

Hi Jessamyn! Be wary, reddit is not Metafilter.

Tell us about your time as a moderator at Metafilter. What was the biggest challenge? What was most worthwhile?

jessamyn22 karma

The biggest challenge was people who were "sticky" on an issue and sort of couldn't leave it alone. This was sometimes a MeFi Issue (mods don't moderate this topic well enough!) or sometimes a personal issue (I am going to show up in every thread about adoption and tell my horrible story whether it's relevant or not). Some of that stuff didn't really scale and it's hard to tell someone "You need to stop telling that terrible story" but at the same time you can't have every thread on that topic become this one person's mopefest. So people poorly sharing the (limited) resources because of their own issues was basically the big challenge which broke down into other micro-challenges. And also: I spent too long being in charge of a place where I didn't have real power and that was, for me, ultimately, frustrating and a bad idea. Nothing against Matt but we had gotten into a bad cycle at the end and I think both of us are happier to be out of it.

Worthwhile: I have made some great lifelong (so far) friends there and it's STILL where I wan tto go online to celebrate good news, give advice or just "hang out" when I feel like doing that. I have more offline time built into my life now, for the better I think, but being able t have a job that pays you to do something you'd mostly be doing anyhow? That's everyone's dream.

empathogen7512 karma

What do you think that Reddit moderators can learn from metafilter's moderation policy?

jessamyn13 karma

I'm not sure since the communities are SO different but I think the main thing we did well at MeFi is setting expectations. Like the community is not going to be good for everyone, nor should it, but a constant "OK this is what we are trying to be. Tell us, are we being that?" could go a long way to getting disputes and issues to hopefully stay short0lived and local.

I think what you see a lot here is that there are local subs with policies that wouldn't really scale to the overall site and so there is a lot of cross-sub issue hashing out. And it's tough because all the subs (most of them) look a lot the same.

Honestly if Reddit early on had been a little less gung-ho on promoting certain sites above others (on the main page, I mean you can see why they did this, nothing wrong with that) some of this might have been avoided. But having someone in a position of power be willing to be wrong AND be accountable? That's a thing that I think is helpful for a community and that MeFi was able to do.

widdlebaby10 karma

What advice do you have for new librarians looking to find a job in the field? I'm about to graduate from an MLIS program and know for sure that there are more qualified grads than there are jobs.

jessamyn13 karma

It's a mess. The big deal is to make sure you can figure out, for yourself, what makes you special and an asset to a library.

  • Elevator pitches. If you don't have a lot of experience try to find ways to spin other work experience (or even social skills or hobbies) into something that makes you awesome for the job.
  • Research - learn about the library so you can make a really solid :why me and the library are a good fit" pitch
  • Social media checkup - libraries will google you, see what they will find and if it's AOK with you. If they find nothing that is not awesome either. If you can get on Reddit, you can do this step.
  • Netowkr - meet some other librariand in the Reddit sub here or on facebook at ALA Think Tank so you know what the people are like and you have a place to ask ALL the questions.

Also think about jobs that might not be exactly in your field but that you are qualified for, make the case that you are the right person.

turtar10 karma

What do you think is the most important thing LIS students should do in grad school?

jessamyn15 karma

Not go into debt and network like hell with people who already have jobs.

whinniethepony10 karma

Any interesting Sandy Berman stories to share? I'm a cataloging librarian.

And do you still welcome strangers into your home to stay overnight? Any stories to share from those experiences?

jessamyn9 karma

Sandy used to send me stuff in the mail, a juicy fat envelope of web pages that he'd copies to support his letters to the Library of Congress on LCSH (subject headings) that he wanted them to change. I loved getting these but they would fill up my teeny PO box and I finally had to ask him to stop.

Still have random people staying in my house but it's more often thought websites like Couchsurfing or Warm Showers (for cyclists! not pee enthusiasts!) and sometimes AirBnB. That was a mostly good experience but I couldn't pre-screen for people who just needed a place to crash and people who were going to want ... to be hosted. After a few "host me!" type of people I got a little more sparing with the invites.

akamarkman9 karma

What are your thoughts on libraries and the future of VR?

(and maybe let's pretend for a moment that Second Life never happened—more interested to hear about your take on all the new GearVR/Oculus/HTC Vive stuff coming out in the next year or so)

jessamyn8 karma

I feel like once they get the tech working in a nice way it's going to open up a lot of great options for people who like to organize information. I think augmented reality is going to be a big thing but we haven't seen a killer app OR a killer device yet. Like Google Glass was close but not right and some of that was JUST because of decisions made by Google, nothing inherent in the tech itself.

It's all really space age from where I sit in Vermont but I can really see how as we move more and more into Big Data, having an open way to interact with that stuff is going to be a big part of being able to continue to be a functioning democracy.

clango9 karma

What's the best breakfast in Vermont?

evaporated6 karma

Not OP, but Wayside Diner in Berlin, VT. Between Barre and Montpelier. So, so Vermonty and perfect.

jessamyn8 karma

Wayside was actually going to be my answer. If I was closer to home I'd say Eaton's Sugarhouse if you like pancakes.

DebSchiff8 karma

Hiya Jessamyn!

In your HTML class, what have been the most useful/valuable questions (and your responses to them)?

Thanks very much for doing this AMA! Happy Thanksgiving!

jessamyn9 karma

The most challenging thing about the class has been the idea that a lot of coding in HTML/CSS is not the code but it's the troubleshooting So students ask why a thing isn't working and a great deal of learning happens when they have to figure it out.... learning to use tools (like validators) learning to see like a machine (one missing semi-colon can tank everything) and learning to not be overconfident about their own abilities but confident in their abilities to figure things out.

BraveNewMeatbomb7 karma

Hi Jessamyn, it's me!

When you look in your crystal ball what does the USA look like in 50, 100 years? Does it still exist as a political entity? Is it still super important? Is it a more equal and just place than now, or is it some sort of dystopia?

jessamyn8 karma


I'm hoping Vermont decides to join Canada but realistically I think the US will be the same-ish but maybe have more regional divisions that are state-like in nature. I think geopolitical boundaries are dissolving but no government is going to willingly give up any power so you'd have to think about why such a thing would happen and what would be the outcomes. As I said elsewhere here, I am a terrible futurist, but I am hoping that the US is around in some sort of way but has maybe gotten over itself in terms of its status in the world and has to fight to get noticed the same way everyone else does.

eats_of_eden7 karma

Do you consider your moderation time at mefi a success?

Not a question:

I just wanted to let you know that while you were super-active on that other website (mefi) ... your comments of basic feminism taught me how far out of whack I am with feminism.

You would write simple things about men that would make me so angry that I would get away from the computer. When I finally got around to re-reading what you wrote ... I'd see that you were right time after time after time ... and that my misogyny/chauvinism has a tighter hold on me than I thought. So thank you for upsetting me so many times.

jessamyn12 karma

I was happy with the time I put in at MeFi though I sort of wish I had left not at the center of a big $$ crisis. I put up with more shit there than I should have and it's only seeing the site now, a year or two later, that I see what the mods are doing and think "I helped" I think they have their work cut out for them because I think the site is shifting and I think there are mods who are more and less attentive but yeah I enjoyed the time I spent there and I still hang out there.

You're welcome.

DBlankenship817 karma


jessamyn9 karma

I'm optimistic that we'll be able to maintain, at least somewhat, the net neutrality that we have. I honestly don't know, if the decision had gone the other way, what I'd be doing. Like, I have a Kindle but I hacked it and use it for getting books from Open Library and never pay Amazon a dime. So I assume there will always be alternative paths that people can use that will mostly work (using encryption, Tor, what have you) but I wonder sometimes what would happen to the general patroon privacy ideals of the library if we're forced into a world without Net Neutrality. I think for now keeping the pressure on is the biggest thing.

restingpebble7 karma

Hi Jessamyn, What are some of your favorite libraries in Vermont?

jessamyn7 karma

I've been on a quest to visit them all!

I think the Haskell is one of my favorites for sheer weirdness.

The St J Athenaeum for beauty

My local because it's my local

It's so hard to pick because i basically love all of them.

mentalstate6 karma

ok i'll be the one to ask it: how do libraries remain relevant in 2015 and beyond?

jessamyn16 karma

I think they need to figure out what skills that are unique and particular to librarians overlap with what people are looking for and then promote, publicize and maybe reinvent themselves. Some examples

  • privacy is HUGE for some people and yet we don't see libraries really amplifying signal on privacy initiatives outside of their own bubble. The Choose Privacy week was great but mostly a party for ourselves

  • unbiased access to information - you can get it at the library, for free but people don't really understand what this means or why they should care. Libraries can and should call bullshit on more corporate control of messages that are important (elections are a classic one) but they are sometimes not out in front enough for people to realize this.

  • the public is EVERYONE and that is an important message in a country that nominally considers themselves a democracy. How do you promote that idea without calling people snobs who basically don't like the public? It's a challenging question.

I think we see libraries doing it right all the time, but if they're doing their job right they don't have to prove it, they just continue to exist and continue to be awesome. I think sometimes we spend too much time arguing about our relevance and less time just mic dropping about how completely amazing it is that we have these free sharing institutions operating under the nose of people who would much prefer to be selling things to people, that's sort of cool.


Im studying metadata, bibliografical posts and tesaurus's in the university right now(informationscience and culturemediation), and we are reading a lot about how especially tesaurus system could be a obsolete system. Where do you stand? And please explain where i am going to ever use a tesaurus. :-)

jessamyn7 karma

I think the print thesaurus is not going to be useful but a digital hyperlinked one? Invaluable.

biblioramallama6 karma

Is librarianship a niche profession? How can librarians and libraries become part of the broader information economy?

jessamyn7 karma

I don't see it as a niche profession but because it's more non-profit and because the info economy is a lot more about business it's hard to find ways to work together. I'm not sure I have good advice about directions to take there. There's a lot of cross-pollination in professional development (librarians at SXSW, coders doing code camp in libraries) but things that are natural fits like Code for America don't seem to be things that attract a lot of either and that's been weird to me.

Aeolun6 karma

What IS a librarian?

I understand from the article what you are doing. But what makes someone a librarian?

jessamyn24 karma

There are a few things that I think most librarians share. That said there are many different sorts of librarians and not all are public-facing or good with technology but this is just what I see among the people I interact with.

  • a willingness and desire to help people
  • an ability to be happy in a low to no status job
  • a service orientation
  • some level of organizational skills
  • ease with shifting technology
  • troubleshooting or problem solving skills (with tech and elsewhere)
  • desire to share

For me it was being surprised and happy that I could do the activist work I wanted (surrounding privacy, technology, anti-capitalism) within a framework where that was mostly ok and find like-minded people to work with. It's not for everyone. Things more move slowly than in the tech world. The pay isn't great. The status thing is practically a joke. But it's a chummy group, as a professional group, and there's no other group of people that I'd rather be with than a group of librarians.

joelschlosberg6 karma

What are some underappreciated online resources?

jessamyn8 karma

  • Hathi Trust for looking up public domain stuff

  • Internet Archive (outside of online people, this is not well known) and their Book Images on Flickr is one of my favorite things

  • Making of America Collections at Cornell and UMich

  • Europeana for non-US stuff

  • Trove for Australia

I mean there are a zillion but htose are ones I use regularly.

commentor25 karma

Can a mossarium really stay totally sealed and alive for a long period?

jessamyn5 karma

YES, it's super weird sounding to me too but I have ones that (slowly) generate gases that pop a little when you open them and there are living plants in there.

freakincampers5 karma

What would you say has most surprised you about how libraries have adapted to new technology/the way in which patrons want information?

jessamyn5 karma

So many people are really happy with what I consider to be the inferior computing experience offered by a smartphone or tablet. I really like having a computer. I am typing this on a laptop, for example, but most people don't really care. Same with privacy. Some patrons care and they care a LOT but a lot of patrons are more shruggo about it. Doesn't mean that librarians should be that way but I was surprised more people didn't want to really learn about computers. They don't, they just want it to WORK.

JoeyTheGreek5 karma

What is the future of small rural libraries as their communities shrink?

jessamyn7 karma

You can run a teeny library on almost nothing. Where I live we're seeing libraries staying open but making a LOT more use of volunteers. However in my rural area (which is very slowly shrinking) we're seeing renewed interest in keeping libraries funded because it's seen as one of the very last public spaces in the town. The libraries in Vermont are doing decently well which is nice. Other rural areas get a lot of mileage out of digital delivery of services or other ways of getting some access at a distance.

okay___4 karma

What is one thing every librarian could easily do to spread the good word of public libraries?

jessamyn7 karma

Have an elevator speech and a nice smile ready for every encounter that's appropriate for spreading the importance of public libraries in modern society.

Basically that. Be a good library ambassador and explain why the money people give to their libraries returns to their communities tenfold on public good.

robot6414 karma

Is there anyway we can interest more millenials into using library services?

jessamyn3 karma

The oft-repeated line is that they come around when they have kids and want to hang with other parents and/or come to story time. I think Millennials are using the library they're just also using a LOT of other stuff, they're incredibly socially active. With that in mind having the spaces in the library be conducive to sharing and creating and places they can hang out with their friends or get GOOD information on things they care about? Useful.

joelschlosberg3 karma

If you could pick any 3 books to get back in print, what would they be?

jessamyn3 karma

The Abortion (the book that helped me decide to become a librarian)

The Long Lonely Leap

I don't have an offhand third, but those two have been on my list for some time.

brooklyncrooklyn3 karma

What's your salary?

jessamyn4 karma

I work .25 FTE at Open Library and barely clear five figures. All my other jobs are hourly or piecework. I take home maybe $35-40K/year.

revocer3 karma

What is going to happen to physical books?

jessamyn4 karma

There will be fewer and fewer of them and they will get more expensive. People will keep reading them but for more specialized reasons.

grimfel3 karma

How do you deal with the paparazzi?

jessamyn9 karma

By living in Vermont.

joelschlosberg3 karma

Did Google Answers live up to its potential?

jessamyn7 karma

Not at all. I mean I get that they have this "well let's try some things" approach but it was really dispiriting to watch them try to roll out a project that basically tried to scale human attention like that.

Chaseraph2 karma

What are your thoughts on the efforts of Outernet to create the self-proclaimed "Humanities Public Library"?

jessamyn3 karma

I feel weird about it. I had some conversation with the Outernet people and they seem terrifically nice but they maybe fundamentally misunderstand what a library is.

FatMan8321 karma

Can you make good money being a famous librarian and html teacher, or is it just like Internet cred.

Also, what does a famous librarian drive? Ferrari? Bentley? Psorsche?

jessamyn1 karma

I drove a green Subaru until just recently because they basically issue you one when you move to Vermont. I recently swapped it for my (decease) Dad's CRV which is fine but doesn't really thrill me. These are my license plates though...

But no, being famous pays (a little) in whuffie but not really that much in money. I could probably be working this a little harder than I do but mostly I like having a job that I can do more or less from anywhere and that I get to do with my favorite people and that doesn't make me feel like I'm making the world a worse place.

john_stuart_kill1 karma

Are you going to Denver in 2016?

jessamyn2 karma

Probably not unless someone pays my way but I do like Denver.

callipygian1-4 karma

Hi Jessamyn, welcome to reddit, I'm a fan...

Do you think metafilter's current hard-left posture, the incessant racial and gender outrage and slagging of "privileged" white males may have driven moderate and conservative voices off the site? Also...

Why is it, when people over there don't like something, sooner or later someone will call it "weird"?

jessamyn19 karma

I call everything weird including this question. We don't really have a first-principle agreement on your premises about MeFi. I see plenty of moderate voices there, they're just not always as loud. I think if you exclude entirely-optional MetaTalk the site isn't really that left leaning but I feel that it is trying to be decently welcoming to new users and I think it espouses a philosophy about power dynamics in online conversation that are orthogonal to the mainstream conversation. People call that hard-left but I really don't see it being moderated as if the site is run on hard-left principles.