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Author Archives: Sam Shaw
I had high expectations for Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself—While the Rest of Us Die. I became interested in the book after listening to an engaging interview with the author, Garrett Graff, on NPR’s Fresh Air. Unfortunately, the book didn’t live up to my expectations. Don’t get me wrong, there is some good stuff here. But generally I found the middle part of the book to be a repetitive bore. Raven Rock picks up during World War II, when the U.S. was heading full throttle into the atomic age, with Harry S. Truman President of the United States. While there are many facets to Raven Rock, Graff primarily describes the aftermath of the atomic bomb deployment prior to the cold war, subsequent U.S. government preparations for doomsday, and other disaster planning. The book provides a chronology by each president after Truman. I found the first few chapters to be of interest (Truman and Eisenhower), then the beginning of aforementioned lackluster, drawn out, and sleepy sections, then heating up again around September 11, 2001 (Bush 43).
I think one of the challenges for Graff was getting his hands on information that wasn’t classified. This might explain why the reader has chapter after chapter devoted to the 50’s and 60’s time period, yet less than 2 pages devoted to President Clinton. Raven Rock, named after the massive Raven Rock Mountain Complex (also known as Site R), is an underground military nuclear bunker carved into the area’s greenstone granite, and located about 6 miles north of Camp David. It is basically an underground city, complete with offices, communications centers, bomb blast doors, dining facilities, an infirmary, bathrooms, etc. Speaking of Camp David, Graff provides an interesting narrative about the history of it (formerly known as Shangri-La). One of the appealing aspects of Raven Rock is these sorts of anecdotes, and I wish Graff devoted more attention to them. A few highlights include Graff’s descriptions of code names used for government officials and their family members, and the challenge to deciphering them on radio transmissions. Example: “Volunteer will reside at VALLEY for an indefinite time. I repeat: VOLUNTEER will reside at VALLEY for an indefinite time. VICTORIA requests that VENUS will go to VALLEY with agent” actually meant that Lyndon Johnson (VOLUNTEER) will reside at his private residence at The Elms (VALLEY), and Lady Bird (VICTORIA) requests that Luci (LBJ’s daughter, VENUS) will go to The Elms (VALLEY) with an agent. Also, the fact that up until at least 1910, tourists could sit at the president’s desk in the White House, and as Vice President, Lyndon Johnson’s phone number was listed in the phone book. Another anecdote describes a curious exchange between Chief Justice Earl Warren and officials who distributed a Mt. Weather entrance ID card to him but not Mrs. Warren. In our self-centered world of today, you have to appreciate the Chief’s returning the card, sarcastically saying:
“Then I suppose I should call my wife and say, ‘Honey, there is an atomic bomb attack to be made on Washington, and I am flying to safety in Appalachia. Sorry I don’t have time to come home and say good-bye, but it was nice to have met you.'”
Raven Rock is one of a number of emergency operations centers for the government, along with Mount Weather in Virginia, and Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. But Graff’s Raven Rock is about much more than the construction and maintenance of these facilities; it’s about government disaster, succession, and “COG” or continuity of government planning — the principle that government continues to operate in the case of a catastrophic event. Granted most of this centers around the cold war, but on September 11, 2001, it took a much different turn. As Graff points out, September 11 exposed a clustered mess of communications problems and other assorted government disarray. Graff also devotes quite a bit of attention to the nuclear “football”. While the football doesn’t explicitly contain launch codes, “one military aide compared it to a Denny’s menu. You can go through and point at different pictures and that’s the type of nuclear war you would order. …”
All in all, Graff provides an interesting narrative of how the government’s plans have evolved over time to adequately handle these sorts of real and potential doomsday type disasters. Graff points out some of these failures along the way, but also interesting facts that most readers likely are unaware of. Just skip the middle third of the book.
Today marks the end of the Bibliostat tip series. We will focus on the federal question of capturing and reporting the number of Wi-Fi sessions your library has in the reporting period (your fiscal year). The idea behind this is that communities may lack areas providing free Wi-Fi, and the local public library often fills that gap. The difficulty lies with how to accurately capture this data, especially in smaller libraries that lack full time IT tech support. Real time technical solutions do exist, but for most these aren’t practical. Today I’ll offer you a simple potential solution to more accurately capture a representative sample of who is using your Wi-Fi. As most of you know, data for the public library survey is sometimes estimated from captured data from an “average week”. In other words, you take a representative sample during a typical time period (e.g. for the number of library visitors you count everyone during a week in the spring, summer, fall, and winter) and then you do a bit of math to get the reported annual figures.
So the question really is how you more accurately get this sample for Wi-Fi uses? And what about the kids in the parking lot that are using your Wi-Fi? Some libraries have taken to following people around to see if they have a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and then recording that data (called an “observation estimate”), but who really wants to do that (and it might be more than a bit creepy depending on the circumstances). So here is another option. If you have an android or apple device (e.g. smartphone) capturing these representative samples just got a little easier and a little more accurate, but it does take a bit of work during your sample time period. First, you need to get an app that tells you what devices are connected to your Wi-Fi at a particular point in time. You could search the App Store (Apple) or the Play Store (Android) at length for network scanners or terms such as who is using my Wi-Fi, but I’ll give you a couple of apps that are available for free and work fairly well. These are Fing and EZ Net Scan. In no way am I endorsing these over others; these are just two examples. You should try some out and see what might fit your needs. Downloading these apps offers you the ability, when you are connected to the library Wi-Fi, to see all the other devices that are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. So ideally you would start at a particular point in time, write down the IP addresses for the connected devices, and then re-scan every so often (say every 15-30 minutes) to see if any new devices are connected, or if a device drops connections. Once you collect the data during the sample time period, you just do your math to get an annual figure. Worst case scenario is that you capture data for a typical day and then multiply by the number of days in a year you are open. Better case is that you take a sample for a defined time period, such as a typical day during each of the four seasons (spring, summer, winter, and fall). Shaka.
Shaka. There are two more installments in this series of Bibliostat tips, and both will focus on library technology. Today we will take a look at internet connections and speed. There are two relevant questions: (1) What is the type of your internet connection; and (2) What is your download speed. For the type of your connection, if you don’t know, you will need to ask your internet service provider (ISP) to confirm. These are things like DSL, Cable, Fiber Optic, Satellite, etc. The trickier part to the survey is reporting your download speed, because there are a variety of factors that could affect your speed test. There are a number of different websites and online tools to measure your speed, but we like to recommend the NDT (Network Diagnostic Tool). Completing a test is easy by going to this site and clicking on “Start Test”. After a few minutes, a report will kick out that will tell you what your download speed is. A few things to keep in mind: It’s best to do a test at various times during an “average day”. If you only do one test or test at the same time every day, you are not likely to get an accurate sample of your actual speed. Also, try and perform tests both from your Wi-Fi and over a wired connection, as there might be some variance between the two. When you do multiple tests, report the average speed.
The takeaway from collecting this data on your end is that you have a more accurate picture of what speed you are offering compared to what you are actually paying for. Secondly, the speed tests might flag other network issues that you need to look into. For instance, if your wired speed is consistently 60 Mbps, and your Wi-Fi speed lags far behind that, then you might have issues that need to be investigated (such as your Wi-Fi router, it’s range, or some other issue). Finally, measuring your speed is helpful as a comparison tool; you can compare what your library offers compared to your peer libraries.
Shaka. Today’s public library survey data collection tip (part 4) takes a look at library collections and databases (or “electronic collections”). For those of you who subscribe to local databases or have vendors other than Nebraska OverDrive, this can be a difficult task. But if you only have Nebraska OverDrive here’s the good news: We pull the data for those holdings and circulations and prefill it on your survey. Recently, the survey has been redesigned so that for eBooks, Audiobooks, and downloadable video you only report current holdings. No more of that eBooks added and deleted business.
On the survey there are sections for reporting eBooks, Audiobooks, downloadable video titles, and databases/electronic collections. If you subscribe to a service or have a vendor other than Nebraska OverDrive, how do you determine where to report that service/vendor and the number of uses? It depends, but the key question here is: Do the items circulate for a set period, or are they permanently retained by the patron? If they circulate for a set period, then you report in two areas: (1) the library collections portion of the survey (under eBooks, Audiobooks, and downloadable video); and (2) the circulation portion of the survey (adult or children’s). Sometimes, vendors offer a package of items that the library does not select, and that are paid for based on their selection by the patron. For these, you report the number of times the item was selected by the patron, both as holdings and circulation. Sometimes it can be difficult to ascertain whether or not the circulation was children’s or adult. If in doubt, or it isn’t clear, we suggest reporting it under the adult category.
If items are permanently retained by the patron, count each vendor as one local database and report the number of uses (generally this would be a download or a stream in the case of audio or video). Finally, our survey is set up for databases as a repeating group, so we first ask how many total local databases you subscribe to, then we ask you to name each one and report the number of times it was used. To illustrate, say that you have 3 local databases (Example: Zinio, Freegal, and Mango Languages). You first enter the name of the first database (Zinio), and then enter the number of times it was used, then click on Save, then click Add Group to enter the next database (Freegal) and its number of uses.
Today we have part 3 in our public library survey data collection series. We will focus on expenditures. First off, for this survey you report what you actually spent in the listed categories. Most of the time, this is different than the amount that was budgeted. As such, your reported expenditures shouldn’t be nice round numbers, and should be at least slightly different than what you reported last year. A common issue that arises is the reporting of expenditures for employee benefits. The employee benefit expenditure includes things such as payments for health insurance and retirement, but also social security and FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act). This is a bit confusing because FICA typically includes both Social Security and Medicare. In the category, you need to report all of these payments, and the only way it can be a $0 is if you are paid as an independent contractor. If that’s the case, and rarely but sometimes it is, then enter “librarian is paid as an independent contractor” in the note field on the survey because this will undoubtedly come up on an edit check. A few other items of note about expenditures:
- For library materials in electronic format, you report expenditures for eBooks, Audiobooks, e-serials (electronic journals), databases, electronic maps, downloadable videos, and pictures in electronic or digital format;
- Other materials expenditures includes physical items that aren’t books. These typically are DVD’s, CD’s, microfilm, and other things like cake pans, puzzles, games, puppets, toys, and art;
- Capital expenditures should match or come close to matching what you report in capital revenue. However, keep in mind that sometimes funds are allocated in the previous fiscal year, so the capital revenue was reported on last year’s survey even though the expenditure is reported on the current survey;
- Capital expenditures are “major one time projects”, and examples include: (a) site acquisitions; (b) new buildings; (c) additions to or renovation of library buildings; (d) furnishings, equipment, and initial book stock for new buildings, building additions, or building renovations; (e) library automation systems (initial purchase of); (f) new vehicles; and (g) other one-time major projects. Examples include new roofs, new carpet, new windows, sidewalks, etc.; and
- There sometimes is confusion about what to report as computer hardware, accessories, and software and “electronic access”. These are two different categories. For electronic access, you report maintenance or consortium fees association with your integrated library system or costs associated with accessing the internet. For the computer part (hardware, accessories, and software), you report items that are for both staff and public use.
Part 2 in our public library survey data collection series takes programming a step further, focusing specifically on children’s and young adult programs. Reporting these programs can be a bit tricky, mostly because of difficulty in determining which category to count the program. Taking into consideration the fact that some of these programs may overlap and actually draw persons from both the children’s and young adult age groups, you might need to make a determination of what category to put your program in based on the nature of the program. Specifically, what is the primary intended audience? Children (for purposes of this survey) are defined as persons age 11 and under. Young adults (for purposes of this survey) are defined as persons age 12 to 18. Here is your extended cheat sheet:
- Story times and summer reading events should be counted as programs;
- Do NOT count library services that are provided on a one-on-one basis (such as computer assistance or one-on-one homework help);
- Count programs that the library either sponsors or co-sponsors;
- Count programs even if they are held off-site (not at the library);
- If a program is offered in a series, count each program in the series (e.g. if you have a discussion group that meets 6 times, that counts as 6 programs); and
- IMPORTANT: For children’s program attendance – “Include adults who attend programs intended primarily for children.” And: For young adults – “Please count all patrons that attend the young adult programs regardless of age.”
Today marks the start of a multi-part weekly series of tips for collecting data for your next public library survey using Bibliostat. Yes, I know, it seems like this survey just ended, and it did, but you should be collecting your data now for input into the next survey when the cycle begins this coming November. Keep in mind that the next survey covers the time period of your library’s fiscal year, which in most cases is either October 1 to September 30 OR July 1 to June 30. A few libraries have fiscal years that run from January 1 to December 31. A quick reminder about terminology: Bibliostat is the vendor that we use to collect the data, but the survey itself is the IMLS public library survey. Today’s post will focus on programs in general. Most of you know what a library program is, but to clarify what you count for a program on this survey, here is the definition:
A program is any planned event which introduces the group attending to any of the broad range of library services or activities or which directly provides information to participants.
Now that is pretty broad, so here is your cheat sheet:
- Library tours can be counted as programs;
- Examples of some programs include film showings, lectures, story hours, English and citizenship classes, and book discussion groups;
- Do NOT count library services that are provided on a one-on-one basis (such as computer assistance or one-on-one homework help);
- Count programs that the library either sponsors or co-sponsors;
- Count programs even if they are held off-site (not at the library); and
- If a program is offered in a series, count each program in the series (e.g. if you have a discussion group that meets 6 times, that counts as 6 programs).
As always, if you have any questions about what to count or not count, feel free to let me know. Next week we will expand on the program counts to include specific children’s and young adult programs. One final note, if you might not have been counting some programs you should have been counting, and now you are, your count will likely increase from what was reported in the prior year’s survey. If this is the case, it might trigger an edit check in Bibliostat. This means that you will need to enter a note in the note field explaining the increase (or decrease). It is perfectly acceptable to put something in that field such as “we did not count programs held off site last year, and this year we did”. Shaka.
The 2016 public library survey data is now available on the NLC website. This is preliminary data (meaning that it has not yet been certified by IMLS) so keep in mind that it might be subject to change. There is also a data dashboard that summarizes the data. Thanks to all of you who submitted your statistics. Historical data (back to 1999) is also available on our website. The next survey cycle begins in November, but you should be collecting those statistics now. If you are a new library director, check out the Bibliostat guide.
The 2017 state aid calculations are now complete. State aid letters have been mailed and payments are in process. In the meantime, you can read (in general) about state aid and how it is distributed. Here is a list of the state aid distributions for 2017 (including this year’s formula). Finally, here is a link to a press release you can customize and use for your particular library.
For those libraries that aren’t accredited, now may be the time to consider the accreditation process, as you would then be eligible for state aid next year. You also need to submit your public library survey online via Bibliostat. The accreditation process starts later this summer, and the next public library survey collection cycle begins in November.
My original intention was to write about a big wave surfing book I recently picked up from my local library. This likely would have been more exciting than Raymond Carver. However, as I trekked successfully through 3/4’s of the big wave surf book (for me, this is an accomplishment), it soured. Maybe another day or another surfer. I’ve been looking for something on Kelly Slater, not only the most dominant surfer to date, but arguably the most dominant athlete ever. For those of you who like infographics, ahem, I mean data visualizations, check this one out – it’s among the best.
I picked up Call if You Need Me, a collection of short stories, essays, and book reviews by Raymond Carver, published posthumously, and finished the bulk of it on a rain suffused weekend, reading mostly while simultaneously standing and hopped up because of a neck injury. I skipped the book reviews within Call if you Need Me. Reading Carver is a lot like watching an episode of Mad Men. On the surface things seem quite normal and ordinary, but in reality that is far from the truth. Having read a few of Carver’s other works in the past, this is familiar territory, and the short stories in Call if You Need Me were interesting and easy to read. If anything, I’d say they were a little less miserable (and slightly less humorous) than Carver’s other works. The short stories are flooded with the imperfect, often despair ridden world we live in; a world many of us have experienced firsthand one way or another. There is a prevalence of alcoholism, divorce, and depression, but also humor, hope, and a sense of contentedness that we often lack. I enjoyed reading about the timeline of Carver’s life — writing short stories late at night out of necessity because he had two kids at a young age, being poor, his literary influences, childhood, and the eventual successful sales of his work. If you haven’t read any Carver, I recommend you give him a try. The fact that these are short stories (as most of Carver’s other works are) means that there is little investment on your part.
It’s crunch time for the annual IMLS public library survey (submitted via Bibliostat). The survey deadline is February 17, 2017. Completion of the survey is required for your library to receive state aid if you are accredited. If you aren’t accredited, you still have an incentive to complete the survey ($200), called Dollar$ for Data.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, and thank you in advance for your participation.
Every five years the Nebraska Library Commission is required to conduct an evaluation of its implementation of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) “Grants to States” program. The LSTA Grants to States Program is a federal program that provides funding to each state based on a population‐driven formula. Decisions regarding how these funds are spent are made at the state level; however, expenditures must be consistent with the purposes and priorities that are established nationally.
As part of our evaluation, if you have not done so already, we are asking those we serve to answer a short survey designed to gather information about the impact that our LSTA‐funded programs and services have had on individuals and libraries in Nebraska. This is your opportunity to give us some feedback about how the Library Commission’s activities have affected your ability to provide quality library service. Please help us by answering the survey by February 10, 2017. Here is the link:
Thank you for your involvement in this important evaluation!
Let me say up front (gasp!) that I am not a football fan. Not one bit. OK, I admit that at a time in my life long ago I might become moderately interested in seeing a good game (and rooting for the underdogs), but in today’s day and age I have little interest. I read the bulk of League of Denial by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru while hanging out in airports and on airplanes during a recent trip. Before getting into the content of League of Denial, it might be beneficial to describe the authors’ backgrounds, as well as why these brothers have different last names (including the origin of the hyphen). Steve Fainaru is an award winning reporter for the Washington Post (known for his field reporting in Iraq). His brother Mark (he hyphenated his name with that of his wife’s) has a background in sports reporting for the San Francisco Chronicle, worked on the BALCO steroids reporting (subsequently co-authoring Game of Shadows), and is a current investigative reporter for ESPN.
League of Denial details the NFL’s concussion crisis. It describes the first players that were diagnosed (post-mortem) with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease that had previously only been identified in boxers or other persons that suffered repeated blows to the head. League of Denial chronicles a number of former NFL players who suffered from the effects of CTE, from their playing days to their life struggles after retirement. The first former player to be diagnosed with CTE was Pittsburgh Steeler hall of fame center Mike Webster. Webster’s story is interesting because his life is illustrative of the struggle that many former players go through during and after their days in the NFL. It’s a very sad story. League of Denial chronicles Webster’s retirement financial troubles, living out of his truck, addiction to various prescription medications, and the fact that he often couldn’t sleep unless a friend hit him with a Taser, rendering him incapacitated for brief periods of time. To illustrate, this interview, taken from the PBS Frontline documentary (titled League of Denial) shows the depth of his brain injury, as well as the struggle of former NFL safety Gene Atkins.
Then there are the suicides. A number of these former players that committed suicide were diagnosed with CTE afterward. League of Denial describes some of these, including Terry Long (45 years old, drank antifreeze), Dave Duerson (50 years old, shot himself in the chest and left a note indicating that he wanted his brain to be used for research), and Junior Seau (43 years old, another gunshot to the chest). League of Denial has a bit of it all, including intrigue, mystery, and cover-ups. A land where NFL doctors argue with independent ones, former players fight for disability payments, and the NFL (by far the leader in worldwide sports revenues fights to maintain its image (among fans, players, and moms). A lot of parallels exist between the NFL concussion crisis and the tobacco industry, and many of the league insiders have called for a different handling of the crisis by the NFL, which up until recently denied any link between football’s inherent traumas to the head and CTE. Dr. Ann McKee, longtime Packers fan and professor of Neurology & Pathology at Boston University, aptly sums things up by saying:
“Football is an American sport. Everyone loves it. I certainly would never want to ban football. . . . We haven’t banned cigarette smoking. People smoke. People make that choice. But they need to make an informed decision. They need to understand the risks and it needs to be out there if they want to pay attention to what those risks are.”
I would recommend this book, even though Ann is wrong about everyone loving football. It is an easy read and informative, whether you are a fan or not a fan, and the science surrounding the concussion crisis is presented in an interesting way.
The annual IMLS public library survey (submitted via Bibliostat) is now available. The survey deadline is February 17, 2017. Completion of the survey is required for your library to receive state aid if you are accredited. If you aren’t accredited, you still have an incentive to complete the survey ($200), called Dollar$ for Data.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions throughout the process. You can always start the survey, save your submissions, and then resume at a later date. It doesn’t have to all be done at once. Tip: It’s always a good idea to click on the red “save” button in Bibliostat before clicking “next” to the next screen. Thank you in advance for your participation.
It would be a gross understatement to say that Joel Selvin’s Altamont provides a mere description of the events leading up to and during the Altamont music festival (December 6, 1969). The San Francisco music critic provides much deeper coverage, including the overall music culture at the time, the Woodstock festival, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, and the lives of musicians and managers that were involved in these and other music events in the late 1960’s. And the other major player at Altamont, the Hells Angels.
The organizers of the Altamont festival, which was plugged as “Woodstock West”, unfortunately learned very few of the lessons that came from Woodstock. Altamont was largely a project put together by the Rolling Stones and other assorted handlers that included the Grateful Dead, and was in the end a semi-functional disaster. The Rolling Stones hadn’t toured since 1966, partly due to travel restrictions because of drug charges, and were in a financial crisis so to speak. So in November of 1969 the Stones began touring the U.S., playing large sold-out arenas with ticket prices outside of the norm (and also subsequently skipping from town to town without paying their hotel and travel bills). Altamont was supposed to be the answer to media and fan criticism of the Stones’ high ticket prices, but there were a few other factors at play in their decision to engage in a large scale concert. For one, the Stones weren’t at Woodstock, so there was perhaps an effort for something similar to make their mark (think grand scale). Secondly, the concert, although free to those attending, was always about the money. Perhaps not for a band like the Grateful Dead, but definitely for the Stones. For instance, Selvin describes one of the contributors to the chaos of the event being the multiple changes of venue. At one point, the Sears Point Raceway (now Sonoma Raceway) was selected and theoretically would have been a much better choice for the event than Altamont (after the organizers failed to obtain a permit to hold the event at Golden Gate Park). However, the Sears Point owners requested cash up front and film distribution rights, and the Stones weren’t willing to give that up. In the long run, it would have been well worth it.
In addition to the Stones, the lineup for the Altamont concert included Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and the Grateful Dead (although due to increased violence throughout the day of the event, the Dead decided not to play). With the last minute change in venue, one of the problems with the event was the fact that the stage could not be properly erected (and therefore lacked a natural barrier between the musicians and the mixture of LSD, amphetamines, and cheap wine that laced the crowd). The stage stood less than four feet high (compared with 15 feet at Woodstock). Added to the logistical difficulties were huge amount of traffic, inadequate roads, and the lack of other essentials such as food, water, and facilities (yes, those kinds of facilities). Finally (and perhaps most importantly), due to a distrust of the cops, at the suggestion of Jefferson Airplane, the Stones hired no security for the event other than paying the Hells Angels $500 worth of beer (on a truck with ice) in exchange for the Angels agreement to hang out in front and keep the spectators off the stage. And as we all know, the Hells Angels ain’t no cops (especially when they are spending the entire day and night drinking free ice cold beer). The scene at Altamont reeked of trouble from the start, as Selvin offers this depiction of Santana (the first band of the day) beginning to play:
“Santana drummer Michael Shrieve sensed the fog of evil as soon as he settled behind his kit and looked around. The stage felt claustrophobic and the audience packed up against it as tightly as they could. He saw one particularly menacing Hells Angel called Animal, who was wearing a coyote skin as a headdress—the flattened, dried-out head of the long-dead animal hanging grotesquely over his forehead. Something felt wrong from the start. … The Angels waded into the crowd flailing pool cues another half dozen times during the band’s forth-five-minute set, chasing down a hippie photographer who refused to give up his film, smacking around some freaked-out kid trying to escape by climbing onto the stage.”
All said and done, the casualties at Altamont included four deaths, numerous beatings at the hands of the Angels, and general bad vibes. Selvin paints an intriguing and engaging portrait of the events leading up to and during Altamont, as well as the major players. If you have any interest in the historical events of the late 1960’s, the Rolling Stones, or the rock musicians from San Francisco scene during that time, this is an easy and interesting read.
In Disrupted, Dan Lyons tells the story of his time working as a writer (mostly blogs) for the tech startup company HubSpot. Prior to working at HubSpot, Lyons had a number of writing gigs and most of them were technology related. His previous work included writing for Newsweek, New York Times Magazine, GQ, Vanity Fair, Wired, and writing the Secret Diary of Steve Jobs blog. When his position at Newsweek was eliminated, he found himself looking for work at the age of 50, while married with two kids to take care of (his wife had medical issues and was not working at the time). He started the search for new employment and eventually landed at HubSpot, a company that provides software for “inbound marketing.” Disrupted tells the story of Lyons searching for and then subsequently obtaining new employment (and the challenges that go with that) as an “older” adult (and with much younger colleagues), but also his general experience working within the unique tech environment. While not geographically Silicon Valley (HubSpot is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts) Lyons provides an apt description of an insider’s view from within a tech startup.
Lyons, albeit somewhat reluctantly, accepted the job at HubSpot for a few different reasons. For one, it was geographically close to home and his family. Secondly, he had a number of friends who reaped large financial benefits from working in tech startups (and had vouched that HubSpot was indeed legit), so there was a motivation of financial self interest. And thirdly, after writing about tech issues and companies for so long he was curious about experiencing the culture from an insider’s perspective. His experiences, as Disrupted details in often humorous and depressing fashion, were overall less than stellar. As he became immersed in the HubSpot culture, the realism of the organization he now was a part of settled in:
“This is the peppy, effervescent, relentlessly positive, incredibly hubristic and overconfident attitude that everyone in the HubSpot marketing department exudes from [the head] on down. These people are super cheery cheerleaders. The whole world of online sales and marketing is filled with people who listen to Tony Robbins audiobooks on their way to work and dream of unleashing the power within themselves, people who love schmaltzy, smarmy motivational-speaker guff about being passionate, following your dreams, and conquering fear.”
Lyons has now moved on from HubSpot, subsequently writing for HBO’s Silicon Valley (a gig he started while still at HubSpot). The thing that Lyons nails is his apt portrayal of the culture, including how these startups often don’t really make money, the lack of diversity (and apparent non-concern about it), sexism and ageism (Mark Zuckerberg once said that “Young people are just smarter”), and more concern with the fact that employees have bean bag chairs, ping pong tables, and unlimited supplies of beer, candy, and hype than actually producing a decent product that the average person understands. Lyons sums this up when mentioning the co-founders of Twitter (incidentally, Twitter hasn’t ever turned a profit), specifically Biz Stone, who has an estimated net worth of $200 million. Since leaving Twitter, Stone started two companies, Jelly and Super. As Lyons notes, no one understands what the companies actually do, including Stone himself:
“I know this is eye-rollingly, hallucinogenically optimistic…but our mission is to build software that fosters empathy.”
If you are interested in an insider’s view of tech startups, Disrupted is an easy and most entertaining read. If you liked HBO’s Silicon Valley, you would also like this book. And for the record, if you want to foster empathetic relationships, begin with your day to day interactions with real life human beings. Start with Hi. You don’t need software for that.
Shaka. The 2015 public library survey data is now available on the NLC website. This is preliminary data (meaning that it has not yet been certified by IMLS) so keep in mind that it might be subject to change (but most likely it will not). There is also a data dashboard that summarizes the data. Thanks to all of you who submitted your statistics.
Shaka. Thanks again to all of you who submitted your public library survey via Bibliostat, and to those unaccredited libraries who submitted the survey on paper, answering the federally required questions. Our data has been submitted to IMLS, and as soon as some cleanup occurs, the full data set will be available on our website. Our response rate jumped a bit this year, up to 89%. For those of you who might be new to the survey, now would be the time to start collecting your statistics for next year’s reporting cycle, which begins mid-November. If you are a new director, take a look at our guide for new directors. If you are one of those unaccredited libraries who responded to the survey on paper, if those statistics are submitted online next cycle, you will be eligible for a Dollar$ for Data grant payment.
Shaka. The 2016 state aid calculations are now complete. State aid letters have been mailed and payments are in process. In the meantime, if you want to know more information about state aid (in general) go to that part of the NLC website. Here is a list of the state aid distributions for 2016, and here is a link to a press release you can customize and use for your particular library.
For those libraries that aren’t accredited, now may be the time to consider the accreditation process, as you would then be eligible for state aid next year. You also need to submit your public library survey online with Bibliostat. The accreditation process starts later this summer, and the next public library survey collection cycle begins in November.
Since 2005, the Library Commission has provided funding for the Dollar$ for Data program. In a nutshell, if an unaccredited library submits their annual statistics online using the Bibliostat tool, they are eligible for a $200 grant payment. This year, there are 49 unaccredited libraries who submitted their statistics and will receive the payment. Letters have been mailed to those libraries, but a complete list is also on the NLC website. The purpose of this program is to encourage unaccredited libraries to submit their data and encourage them to take the next step and apply for accreditation. The accreditation process begins in July, and more information can be found here. Shaka.