Jessamyn West (librarian)

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Jessamyn West
Jessamyn West - July 23, 2014 - cropped.jpg
Jessamyn West (2014)
Born (1968-09-05) September 5, 1968 (age 50)
OccupationLibrarian, blogger

Jessamyn Charity West (born September 5, 1968) is an American librarian and blogger, best known as the creator of and for her unconventional views on her profession. She is a former member of the American Library Association Council, and was a moderator on MetaFilter from 2005-2014.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

West grew up in Massachusetts,[2] where her father, computer engineer Tom West, worked for RCA and Data General. (He was the key figure in the 1981 Tracy Kidder book The Soul of a New Machine.) She may be named after the author Jessamyn West (according to her parents, a "coincidence"),[3] and as a child corresponded with her.[2] She is also the niece of actor Peter Coyote.[4]

She graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst[3] and moved to Seattle in 1990,[2] before moving back to Vermont in 2003.[3]


In 1995, she went to Cluj-Napoca in Romania, where she ran a library for the Freedom Forum.[3] After returning to the U.S. she completed graduate work at the University of Washington for a Master of Librarianship degree.[5]

West works as a freelance library consultant, mainly in Orange County, Vermont, focusing on helping libraries with technology.[3] She moderated the group blog MetaFilter, retiring as Director of Operations in 2014.[6] She continues to be active answering questions in Ask MetaFilter.[7][8] She is also an active Wikipedian, working particularly on Vermont and library topics.[9] In June 2011 she joined the Wikimedia Foundation Advisory Board.[10][11] She has staffed information desks at Burning Man and the 1999 WTO protests, and supported and maintained the Internet Archive's Open Library project.[12]

West briefly signed up as a researcher for Google Answers, writing about her experience for the journal Searcher.[13] (She resigned after finding she had probably violated her contract by writing about the service.)[14] West believed that "the money factor" skewed the relationship between the researcher and consumer of information, and played a part in the service's later demise.[15]

West is considered an "opinion maker" in the profession and presents frequently at conferences.[16] In 2002, Library Journal named her a "mover and shaker" of the library world.[17] She is a self-described anti-capitalist.[edit]
Type of site
Available inEnglish
OwnerJessamyn West
Created byJessamyn West
Current statusactive, which she founded in 1999 after finding the domain name unused, has become a "widely read and cited" resource.[16]

West characterizes as generally "anti-censorship, pro-freedom of speech, pro-porn (for lack of a better way to explain that we don't find the naked body shameful), anti-globalization, anti-outsourcing, anti-Dr. Laura, pro-freak, pro-social responsibility, and just generally pro-information and in favor of the profession getting a better image."

Library sign designed by Jessamyn West

Wired described her as "on the front lines in battling the USA PATRIOT Act," particularly the provisions that allow warrantless searches of library records. The act not only prohibits libraries from notifying the subjects of such searches, it prohibits them from disclosing to the public whether any such searches have been made. In protest, West created a number of notices that libraries can post which she suggests are "technically legal." One of them, for example, reads: "The FBI has not been here. Watch very closely for the removal of this sign." The Vermont Library Association provided copies of this sign to every public library in Vermont.[18]

West was one of about three dozen "credentialed bloggers" at the 2004 Democratic National Convention,[19] the first time that such an event issued press credentials to bloggers. She indicated in a New York Times feature on the group that her goal was making "the librarian voice in politics stronger and louder."[20] Her first-day quip that the convention was "Burning Man for Democrats, without the nudity or drugs" was widely reported.[21]

In 2007, West made a YouTube video of herself installing Ubuntu on two library computers, which attracted thousands of views and requests for free CDs from Canonical.[22] called it a "non-jaded, non-techie look at Ubuntu."[23] Cory Doctorow, writing on the blog Boing Boing, dubbed her an "internet folk hero", and brought the video 14,000 views in a day and a half.[24]

Works and publications[edit]

  • Jessamyn West (2011). Without a Net: Librarians Bridging the Digital Divide. Libraries Unlimited. ISBN 1-59884-453-9. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  • Jessamyn West (2007). "Introduction: What Do Librarians Do All Day?". In Priscilla K. Shontz; Richard A. Murray (eds.). A Day in the Life: Career Options in Library and Information Science. Libraries Unlimited. ISBN 1-59158-364-0.
  • Jessamyn West (2004). "You Want Me to Put What Where? Freelancing Librarianship as Job, Hobby and Passion". In Priscilla K. Shontz (ed.). The Librarian's Career Guidebook. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-5034-6.
  • Jessamyn West, ed. (2004). Digital Versus Non-Digital Reference: Ask a Librarian Online and Offline. Haworth Information Press. ISBN 0-7890-2442-X.
  • K.R. Roberto; Jessamyn West, eds. (2003). Revolting Librarians Redux: Radical Librarians Speak Out. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-1608-4.
The book is a follow-up to the 1972 Revolting Librarians (ISBN 0912932015), and includes new essays by ten of the contributors to the original.


  1. ^ "Who is in charge here? Are there admins and moderators like other sites?". MetaFilter. n.d. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Jessamyn West. "questions that are oftentimes asked of me". Retrieved 2008-03-13.
  3. ^ a b c d e Alex Hanson (February 3, 2007). "'Everybody's interesting'". Valley News. Archived from the original on 2007-02-09. Retrieved 2008-03-13.
  4. ^ Jessamyn West. "What happened to the hippie backpackers? (comment)". Retrieved 2010-01-13.
  5. ^ "Data" (PDF).
  6. ^ "Where I'm off to".
  7. ^ "Activity from jessamyn - MetaFilter".
  8. ^ Jessamyn West (October 15, 2006). "MetaFilter: Going Your Way". Library Journal. Archived from the original on March 18, 2004. Retrieved 2008-03-14.
  9. ^ Susan Youngwood (April 1, 2007). "WIKIPEDIA: What do they know; when do they know it, and when can we trust it?". Vermont Today. Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-14.
  10. ^ "Vote:Advisory Board - Jessamyn West". Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 2015-12-20.
  11. ^ "Advisory Board". Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 2015-12-20.
  12. ^ (2013-04-08). "We invite you to introduce yourself". Open Library. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  13. ^ Jessamyn West (October 2002). "Information for Sale: My Experience with Google Answers". 10 (9). Searcher. Retrieved 2008-03-14.
  14. ^ Jessamyn West (January 2003). "Google Answers Back Or How to Become an Ex-"Google Answers" Researcher". 11 (1). Searcher. Retrieved 2008-03-14. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  15. ^ Jacqui Cheng (November 29, 2006). "Google Answers decides to close up shop". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2008-03-14.
  16. ^ a b Melissa Laning; Catherine Lavallée-Welch; Margo Smith (2006). "Frontiers of Effort: Librarians and Professional Development Blogs". In William Miller; Rita M. Pellen (eds.). Evolving Internet Reference Resources. Haworth Press. ISBN 0-7890-3025-X.
  17. ^ "Library Journal".
  18. ^ Adam L. Penenberg (September 15, 2004). "Don't Mess with Librarians". Wired. Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  19. ^ "Who's blogging the convention". July 17, 2004. Retrieved 2008-03-13.
  20. ^ Lee, Jennifer 8. (July 26, 2004). "Year of the Blog? Web Diarists Are Now Official Members of Convention Press Corps". The New York Times. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  21. ^ Peter Hartlaub (July 30, 2004). "Unbound by tradition, Boston bloggers exercise fresh freedom of press". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-03-14.
  22. ^ West, Jessamyn (2007-05-09). "weird little radar blip". Abada Abada. Retrieved 2007-05-17.
  23. ^ Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (May 8, 2007). "The Joy and Sorrow of Ubuntu". Archived from the original on July 19, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-14.
  24. ^ [dead link]/(subscription required)"Open source spawns 'internet folk hero'". School Library Journal. July 1, 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-12.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]