Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The ToonLibraryBox : setting up

As mentioned in a previous blog post, as part of my Carnegie Library Lab project Commons are forever one of the ideas was to set up a LibraryBox at Newcastle City Library.  I thought I would share here my experience of doing just that - as a kind of "LibraryBox for the only-mildly-techy people" (like me) heads-up. So it's not an how-to guide but just some notes about stuff I encountered, which are going to make the "people in the know" smile while reassuring the others that they're not alone!

Newcastle Libraries present... the ToonLibraryBox

Set up a - what??
Oh, sorry - you've never heard of LibraryBox? It's a portable digital file distribution tool mainly composed of a router and a USB stick; to use it people just connect to the LibraryBox on a wifi-enabled device, open a browser window and can start downloading whatever documents are stored there. These documents are often either in the public domain or shared under an open license, and obviously carefully chosen by the librarian.
It may not have made it into the Oxford Dictionary yet, but the plural of LibraryBox is LibraryBoxen.
For more information on how it can be used, what you need to do to set up your own and how to customise it, there are two wonderful resources out there: the US LibraryBox Project original website and the French BiblioBox [in, well, French!]
CC BY-NC Jason Griffey (Source: LibraryBox)

What FAT32 really means (or how to nearly fail before even starting)
We are at the beginning of the story set-up. After reading thoroughly the instructions on both websites mentioned above (I am the kind of person who re-reads twice the recipe), I have ordered my MR3020 router and my USB stick. I know I need my USB formatted in FAT32 (whatever that is). I am spending a quiet evening in the library - I crack my knuckles, look up how to format in FAT32 when my work computer runs Windows, and start.
And I wait. And wait. And wait (well, to be honest I did other things in the meantime!) and it doesn't work.
I am the stubborn type. I try again. Error message again: "volume size too big". Erm, what? As it turns out, you can't format in FAT32 something that's bigger than 32GB. My USB (because I'm greedy ambitious) is a 64GB. Oops.

Thankfully, all I need to do is partition the thing to obtain 2 x 32GB to be formatted. But I cannot do that on my work computer because it's all locked and as a librarian I don't have that kind of permissions. Thankfully, I'm friends with the IT guy (more on that later) and he's kind enough to do it for me. Phew! First thing learnt.

Does your library have a predatory wifi network?
At this point, I have managed to set up my LibraryBox. I test it with my phone: it works! It's fantastic. I am so excited I want to show my friend the IT guy. I go over to his desk. Tell him what to do. It doesn't work anymore. *panic*

Sensing my dismay, my IT guy asks: "Oh, so this thing is its own wifi network, right? Have you had it white-listed?" "Erm, why?!", I ask.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, Newcastle City Library has a wifi network - for members of the public to access the Internet of course. But this network cancels out every other wifi network in the building. So when I connected to my LibraryBox, its wifi network had just been born and I managed to use it. But a few minutes after it was too late for my LibraryBox: the library's predatory wifi had noticed it and blocked it!
Needless to say, my friend from IT made the necessary calls to get the LibraryBox network unblocked.
Tip: be nice to your IT people - not only because it's a good thing to do, but also because you're probably going to need them anyway. (Honestly, if my favourite IT guy wasn't diabetic I'd have bought him chocolates)
The ToonLibraryBox homepage

While I was waiting for my LibraryBox to be "allowed" at City Library, I took it home to continue tweaking it. Also I wanted to "play" with Putty and FileZilla - and as you can imagine, it was much easier to do this on my own laptop than asking to get these installed on a work one.

My trusted old laptop did surprise me a bit as it just didn't pick up the LibraryBox, though it does recognise other wifi networks. I had to go in Control Panel / Network and Internet / Network and Sharing Centre / Advanced Sharing Settings - and turn on the network discovery.

The Box goes ever on and on
So now the ToonLibraryBox is set up, what is left to do? Just a couple of "small" things...
  1. Find it a permanent home. There are some great examples of LibraryBoxen being "staged" to make them more visible / tangible in the library, attract customers' attention to it, indicate where the signal is best, etc. I'd like to do something like that. I have a display case, just nowhere to put it! (or, if I'm honest, nowhere I would like it to be) So at the moment, the ToonLibraryBox is hidden somewhere on level 3 of City Library (but it works).
  2. Promote it. It's been in "test phase" for several months - it's now high time to properly launch it and make its presence more widely known to customers (and, yes, staff).
  3. Curate it. Change / add to the content regularly, develop themes, get people (both staff and customers - maybe even artists and authors?) to contribute to it. I have already spoken to my Local Studies colleagues (they have some interesting digitised material) and to the Library's publishing house but I am hoping to get other teams on board too.

I'm also chuffed by the fact the ToonLibraryBox is listed on the "France map of LibraryBoxen" (thanks to the guys over at BiblioBox). I know, claiming on a map of France a LibraryBox located in England - wars were started over that sort of thing!!! But I'm also looking forward to hear from colleagues in the UK (and beyond) interested in LibraryBoxen - so, over to you!

Monday, 25 May 2015

Fab Futures : non-library-FabLab founders

At the Fab Futures conference at Exeter Library there were talks about the FabLabs in Devon and Chattanooga libraries but there were also speakers involved in FabLabs that aren't in libraries.

Inside Exeter Library

Richard Clifford, MAKLab (Glasgow)
Interestingly, Richard's background is in architecture and design: he even taught architecture at the Glasgow School of Art! When establishing MAKLab, the founders were primarily interested in bridging a gap in education (getting people "job-ready"), but also wanted to look at social and economic issues by engaging groups such as disenfranchised young people and unlocking their potential.
In his talk "The power of collaboration", Richard drew from his experience at MAKLab to make us think and ask ourselves the right questions about why and how we would want a FabLab in our libraries.

Sharing experience: the team in Glasgow (currently 8 people) all started as volunteers and are now in full-time employment. They bring a diverse set of skills with them. As Richard said: "You can buy as much equipment as you want but in FabLabs the real value is the knowledge base, what the people know".
Think: what experience or skills in your team are underused? Who goes home at night and does something different?
What skills are missing from your team?
Space is expensive: so is electricity, a cleaner... MAKLab has a co-working space so everyone shares the costs and helps out.
Do you have spaces that are under- or unused? There is a lot of pressure on libraries to maximise space but are the spaces in your library being maximised for the right goal?
Who could use those spaces?
Sharing resources is important, as the equipment and technology change quickly; equipment is expensive and so is the knowledge on how to use it. You need to understand what equipment/machines you truly need.
What do you need?
Who has it? Is it being used where it is?
FabLab Exeter

There are other organisations out there that need the same things and have the same aims as you. MAKLab got together with four other local social enterprises to form The Wood Cooperative.
What benefit would you have in collaborating with a particular organisation? How does it make you stronger?
MAKLab is working with the NHS to prototype medical products such as 3D-printed teeth. FabLabs are where the real innovation is happening, because they are more nimble than the big organisations - therefore you should value your contribution!
What sets you apart? What are the reasons people come to you?
FabLabs - like libraries! - are about social empowerment e.g. empowering unskilled people to build something themselves, together. MAKLab helped a community design and build a boathouse - the people involved leave with new knowledge and confidence in themselves.
Another initiative (which I'd first heard of thanks to Marc De'ath of St Botolph's The Waiting Room) which has spread across the UK is Men in Sheds where older men come together in a workshop for some woodworking or other similar activity, but also for socialising. What is interesting is also to use it for intergenerational dialogue and transfer of skills by inviting school children in as well.
What groups do you want to work with?
What did you talk about on day 1, are still talking about and why have you not done it yet - what's the barrier?
Innovate quicker and don't be afraid of high risk: Richard said there is a culture shift in funders which means it is now ok to fail (though I'm not sure it has reached Councils yet?) Start small and prove your point: get some seed funding or borrow a piece of equipment from someone for a week and do something with it.
At this point, Richard also mentioned that highly innovative products do break down a lot!

Compliance and de-risk: you need to learn and design through the risk. Risk is always present, there are just ways of mitigating it e.g. programme a machine to stop as soon as you touch it.

Libraries are in the best position to develop FabLabs and maker spaces because we are already talking to the groups that need these things most (job seekers, young people...)
3D printers and laser-cutter at Exeter Library FabLab

Phillippa Rose and Joss Langford, MakeSouthWest
MakeSouthWest is a network of community-led maker spaces, educational establishments and industry partners in the South-West of England. Its members include a library (FabLab Exeter), a secondary school (KEVICC in Totnes), the Plymouth College of Art...
One of the initiatives mentioned is Open Devon: an open week for the local engineering and manufacturing sites (as far as safety and intellectual property protection allow!) It is an opportunity for the participating businesses to showcase their work and potentially find people who may be interested in working with them (either individuals - as future employees - or other businesses).

Eddie Kirkby, FabLab Manchester
The FabLab Manchester opened in 2010 and was the first of its kind in the UK. The FabLab is about empowerment: enabling members of the public to design and make their own things, but also inspiring them. It offers access to equipment and educational workshops as well as - to fund its free open days - a range of commercial services e.g. prototyping. It is very much about telling people and businesses: what do you want made? and we'll teach you how to make it.
In its first 4 years, the FabLab has seen about 2,500 visitors a year (numbers for both visitors and members keep growing), helped bring 20 new products to market and has even seen its first millionaire!
"Libraries are about access to knowledge. First they had books because that's where the knowledge was. Then they got computers because that's where the knowledge moved to. Now it's digital making." Eddie Kirkby

Monday, 18 May 2015

Fab Futures : Devon and Chattanooga

On 2nd May a baby was born - thanks to whom I had the opportunity to attend the Fab Futures: public libraries in the digital age conference at Exeter Library. No, I'm not talking about the royal baby (!) but my manager's first-born: as my manager knew he would be on paternity leave at this time of year, he had asked me if I'd be interested in going to the conference in his stead. As you can imagine, I didn't say no!

Useful bits first: the original conference programme. For a full overview of the day, I would recommend you also have a look at Claire Back's excellent Storify. Some short video clips are available on Exeter Library's YouTube channel.

A FabLab at Exeter Library
A few years ago, Devon County Economic Development team were setting up projects that would help residents develop their skills, learn new ones, inspire them to try something different - and therefore find employment or create their own by becoming self-employed. But how do you bring digital making and cutting-edge technology to a very rural county like Devon?
At the time, Exeter Library was being refurbished. As Ciara Eastell, Head of Libraries, Culture and Heritage at Devon County Council tells it, she got a phone call and was asked: "Would you like a FabLab in Exeter Library?" The idea of a FabLab tied in with the vision for the role of the library in the 21st century. Exeter Library was already running Raspberry Pi jams and Devon library service was part of the Enterprising Libraries programme whose aims are connected to local economic growth.

The funding came from Devon Council and external grants: £170,000 in total. Tips on setting up, from Tom Dixon, Public Information Manager at Devon County Council:
 - get as much advice as possible;
 - it's not easy to navigate Council procurement rules to get the equipment you want;
 - volunteers are crucial: you need to link with the local people who are already interested.

The FabLab Devon business model [that was the phrase used] has evolved over a pilot 12-months period. There is now a charge for courses, a membership scheme for using the equipment as well as pay-as-you-go options (people pay for the materials they use).
The FabLab contributes to the library running costs but also to its visitor numbers. It is used by tech-savvy or tech-curious individuals but also by local businesses such as a textile designer and a skateboard maker!
The next stage in the project is to bring FabLabs to other parts of the county.

 The children section at Exeter Library
(No link with what I'm saying; just because it looks nice, and I like the "Hello adults" sign)

  • Devon Libraries are looking into becoming a mutual (the route York took) in the near future - the FabLab is seen as important for this next incarnation.
  • Exeter Library has just joined the Business & IP Centre National Network. People using the BIPC at Exeter will be able to get intellectual property information for their product idea, use the FabLab to make a prototype and simply walk back into the Centre for support to start a business or market their product.
  • The FabLab volunteers do not replace staff but bring added value to the service; they have specific knowledge that staff do not / would not be expected to have.
  • Staff need to be given the opportunity to start projects based on their talents and interests - that's how the Raspberry Pi jams at Exeter Library started!
Funnily enough, one of the first questions asked by the audience was about the IT department. Apparently, the Devon IT department has been involved but "it's still a learning curve"... (what a polite way to put it!) The Council IT is not responsible for the equipment in the FabLab.
How to recruit volunteers with the relevant skills: Devon Libraries advertised the FabLab along with details of the skills they were looking for in volunteers. Fran, one of the volunteers (and textile designer mentioned above), said what attracted her was the fact it's a collaborative space: "the range of people you meet is amazing and you learn so much". Devon currently has the luxury of having too many FabLab volunteers! When showcasing what the FabLab does, there are always enthusiastic people coming forward. Linking up with other local groups with similar interests e.g. Code Club volunteers, Raspberry Pi Foundation events, also helps.

Raspberry Pi jam

Webcast with Corinne Hill, Chattanooga Public Library
Unfortunately, Jane Kunze from the Main Library at Aarhus, Denmark, couldn't make it at the last minute so instead the conference organisers arranged to link up with Corinne Hill from Chattanooga Public Library (the one with the wondrous 4th Floor) over Google Hangout.
[Updated 19/05/15] An edited version of the Hangout recording is now available on YouTube.

US libraries don't seem to have the same budget troubles as UK libraries (ahem) but Corinne Hill's talk was inspiring nevertheless. I can't agree with everything she says, but she does have a refreshingly frank vision of what libraries and librarians should be today! Sample quotes and bits of information below.
  • "Maker Spaces in libraries where only the staff can use the kit are totally missing the point."
  • In the 4th Floor people just come and do stuff: "it's more tinkering than anything else" [but they seem to have a LOT of kit]. There is no membership, just a small fee to cover the cost of the materials used.
  • A lot of events at Chattanooga 4th Floor are in partnership with other organisations; it's not the library staff running them.
  • Money for the 4th Floor came from a technology in libraries fund from the Tennessee State Library, which was before then used on new computers.
  • Libraries should stop using so much of their budget on reference collections and use it on FabLab activities instead.
  • You need to have the right team to create and develop something like the 4th Floor. Chattanooga changed the culture of the library service by changing the person specifications when recruiting new staff. Qualities needed in job applicants now include: being curious, keeping up with technology developments independently (the Library is not going to train them).

In the next instalment: my notes from the talk by Richard Clifford of MAKLab (Glasgow) and the FabLabs "national perspective" afternoon session.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

My Carnegie Library Lab project

Did you know that Selma, the recent film about an episode of Martin Luther King’s life, does not use his actual speeches? It is because of copyright issues.
Have you ever tried watching a music video on YouTube, and instead it showed you a message: “This video contains content from … who has blocked it on copyright grounds”?
Copyright is everywhere - so how do you know what you can and can’t do? Where can you find free works that you can legally use?

CC BY-NC-SA Chris Messina
(Source: Flickr)
From these questions, my answer obviously is: libraries can show you. Libraries are here to share knowledge and facilitate access to information, so we should help people know their rights and discover free content. But how do we do that? How do we attract attention to this problem and the role libraries can play? How do we start changing people's attitudes?
And that's when Carnegie Library Lab came along...

Carnegie Library Lab is a programme of the Carnegie UK Trust which aims to develop leadership and innovation in public libraries. For me, applying was the opportunity to bring together my interest in copyright issues (some of my colleagues would say I'm a bit of a copyright geek!), my belief in the role of libraries, my envy at seeing super cool things happening in France or the US (but not much in the UK) to promote public domain works and users' rights online - and do something with it all.

And then - quite extraordinarily - my project was one of the seven selected (Hehe!) If I'm honest, I'll say that one of my library managers, who did tell me my application was very good, also admitted that they didn't quite expect it to win as my project looked quite... radical!!

Now, there is a lot of work to do to implement it but it is also one of the most exciting things I've worked on! Thankfully, I can rely on colleagues for help and support (poor @biblioluke has been roped into it again) as well as the wonderful Carnegie Library Lab gang - formally known as the Carnegie Partners. As part of the programme, the Carnegie Trust has provided me with a mentor: Dominic Smith, on top of being an artist and digital curator, also has a PhD in open source (how cool is that?!)

The first hurdle for me to overcome was finding the project a proper name. It wasn't easy - finally I picked one that had both a literary reference in it (I have never read any Ian Fleming novel, but his titles are just perfect for parody) and the potential to spark an interesting conversation on the duration of copyright...

So to sum up: Commons are forever is a project developed by Newcastle Libraries with support from the Carnegie UK Trust. It aims to empower members of the public about their rights to use creative works that are free of copyright, i.e. in the public domain, and to in turn share what they create with others.
This will be achieved through a series of events to take place from April 2015 to March 2016. Ideas (to be developed / enhanced / changed / scrapped / revived) so far include: a debate on copying, a “where to find free ebooks” session, a hackday using library data, participation in Wiki Loves Monuments, workshops with local artists and Makers to give attendees the chance to use and re-use expired intellectual property (e.g. library collections in the public domain) and share the new works created under a Creative Commons license via a LibraryBox...
The name's Library. I'll-show-you-where-to-find-copyright-free-stuff Library.
Prepare yourself to hear a lot more about this project on this blog (and elsewhere?) in the year to come!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

INPI Keeps Calm and Carries On

This post is inspired by a conversation I've had with @biblioluke, which started with his discovery via The IPKat that someone wanted to register "Je suis Charlie" as a trademark, and ended with us agreeing that "INPI Keeps Calm and Carries On" would just be too good - a blog post title - to miss. So bear with me, I'll explain what happened in between, and add a few thoughts and references.

7th January 2015: attack on freedom of speech at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris - 12 people killed. As explained in this BBC article, the rallying phrase and logo "Je suis Charlie" was created by Joachim Roncin and quickly adopted by millions of people in France and the rest of the world.

Roncin himself is not claiming any rights over either the phrase or image, saying it belongs to all - i.e. it is in the public domain. The thing with public domain works is that since it belongs to everyone, people are free to also use them in commercial ways. Some tried to gain a commercial advantage by registering the phrase "Je Suis Charlie" as a trademark, which gives a monopoly over the phrase in a particular territory and for particular categories of goods/services. Over 50 applications were received by the French office for industrial property INPI, according to this article by BFM TV [in French]. What interested me in this article is that it said INPI is rejecting those applications on the grounds that the mark is not distinctive (one of the criteria for trademark registration everywhere) since it is largely used by the community, rather than by saying it is immoral or offensive (since another criteria for registration is that the mark cannot be offensive). The IPKat, in the article mentioned at the top, raised the question of whether applications such as these should be rejected on morality grounds, mentioning attempts in the USA to trademark "MH.17" but also "I can't breathe".
Someone in Belgium also applied to register "Je suis Charlie"
as a trademark, before changing their mind

Thankfully, both INPI in France and BOIP in Benelux (see picture above) say they will reject any attempts at trademarking "Je suis Charlie". So really: INPI Kept Calm and Carried On.

Hey, wait a minute! Keep Calm and Carry On - that's also in the public domain, right? In theory, yes: it was created by the British government and "published" (though in a rather confidential way) in 1939 according to this article on the topic, so the Crown copyright on it had long expired (it's 50 years for published works, 125 for non-published ones) when the poster was re-discovered by booksellers in Alnwick, Northumberland. The owners of Barter Books were happy for others to re-use the poster too and everyone was making money from it until... they were stopped because one of their competitors had managed to get an EU-wide trademark over the phrase (the article really is worth reading) But how did that happen when so many people were using it? Surely that meant that, just like "Je suis Charlie", "Keep calm and carry on" is not distinctive?

So if you can't trust your IP office to grant registration to the right kind of stuff, what do you do?
Unfortunately for you, I have recently been reading this very interesting article by Lionel Maurel [in French] which features among other things the Defensive Patent License - basically: you patent stuff so trolls can't have them and you make the patents available to use to a group of people who share your ethos. So before my brains (or yours, if you've had to put the aforementioned article through Google Translate and are now trying to make sense of the result) completely turn to mush, I'd like to ask two more questions: is registration really the best way to protect something from abuse even though it is something that could have belonged to the public domain? Following the examples of "Je suis Charlie" and "Keep calm and carry on", how do you make it work in the field of trademarks? The ALS Association tried to defensively trademark "Ice-bucket challenge" - erm, it didn't work out well for them.

Further reading:
Ledesma, R. (2015). Some Idiot Will Probably Try to Trademark #JeSuisCharlie. It Won't Work. [online] WIRED. Available at: http://www.wired.com/2015/01/do-not-trademark-je-suis-charlie/ [Accessed 14 Jan. 2015].