Jessamyn West (librarian)
|Born||September 5, 1968|
Jessamyn Charity West (born September 5, 1968) is an American library technologist and writer known for her activism and work on the digital divide. She is the creator of librarian.net. She is the Vermont Chapter Councilor of the American Library Association, and was Director of Operations at the massive group blog MetaFilter from 2005 to 2014. West has been writing a regular library-themed newsletter, Today in Librarian Tabs, since 2016, which she publishes on the Medium (website) platform.
Early life and education
West grew up in Massachusetts, 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"), and as a child corresponded with her. She is also the niece of actor Peter Coyote.
In 1995, she went to Cluj-Napoca in Romania, where she ran a library for the Freedom Forum. After returning to the U.S. she completed graduate work at the University of Washington for a Master of Librarianship degree.
West works as a freelance library consultant, mainly in Orange County, Vermont, focusing on helping libraries with technology. She moderated the group blog MetaFilter, retiring as Director of Operations in 2014. She continues to be active answering questions in Ask MetaFilter. She is also an active Wikipedian, working particularly on Vermont and library topics. In June 2011 she joined the Wikimedia Foundation Advisory Board. She has staffed information desks at Burning Man and the 1999 WTO protests, and supported and maintained the Internet Archive's Open Library project.
West briefly signed up as a researcher for Google Answers, writing about her experience for the journal Searcher. She resigned after finding she had probably violated her contract by writing about the service. 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.
In 2002, Library Journal named her a "mover and shaker" of the library world. West is considered an "opinion maker" in the profession and presents frequently at conferences. In 2019 Jessamyn West gave the 30th Alice G. Smith Lecture for the School of Information at the University of South Florida in Tampa at the Robert W. Saunders Sr. Public Library titled, "Social justice is a library issue; libraries are a social justice issue". She addressed challenges faced by people in rural communities on The Takeaway podcast in September 2019, "How Libraries Are Bridging the Digital Divide". She is a self-described anti-capitalist.
Type of site
|Created by||Jessamyn West|
Librarian.net, which she founded in 1999 after finding the domain name unused, has become a "widely read and cited" resource. West characterizes librarian.net 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."
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.
West was one of about three dozen "credentialed bloggers" at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, 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." Her first-day quip that the convention was "Burning Man for Democrats, without the nudity or drugs" was widely reported.
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. DesktopLinux.com called it a "non-jaded, non-techie look at Ubuntu." 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.
Lawsuit against Equifax
In September 2017 Equifax, a consumer credit reporting agency reported a cybersecurity breach affecting 145 million consumers. West, standing up for the individual's right to digital privacy, sued Equifax in small claims court in Vermont. Her successful action was covered in the New York Times. West has outlined the steps she took in a Medium essay, "Suing Equifax in Small Claims Court". When notified that she had won her claim, West noted her intention was "the explicit mission of demonstrating that citizens are not powerless when it comes to their personal information."
In 2019 Jessamyn West's CNN Opinion essay, "Libraries are fighting to preserve your right to borrow e-books" drew wide attention for her stark assessment, "Librarians to publishers: Please take our money. Publishers to librarians: Drop dead." West analyzed the Macmillan decision at Information Today in an article, "Raw Deal in Ebook Pricing". West was interviewed by Jack Stewart at Marketplace and observed that this is an experiment that may not work out for Macmillan.
Works and publications
- Jessamyn West (2011). Without a Net: Librarians Bridging the Digital Divide. Libraries Unlimited. ISBN 978-1-59884-453-5. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
- 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.
- Chapters in Books
- 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 978-1-59158-364-6.
- 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. 2020. “Working From Home? Try Connecting With Twitch!” Computers in Libraries 40 (4): 12–13.
- Jessamyn West. 2020. “A Little Something Extra.” Computers in Libraries April/May 40 (3): 12–13.
- Jessamyn West, Raw Deal in Ebook Pricing Information Today 43, number 5, September/October, 2019.
- Jessamyn West. “Practical Technology.” Computers in Libraries 39, no. 10 (December 2019): 15–17.
- Jessamyn West, Libraries are fighting to preserve your right to borrow e-books, CNN Opinion August 2, 2019.
- Jessamyn West. 2018. “Data-Driven Discriminating Librarianship.” Computers in Libraries, p. 14.
- Jessamyn West. “Customize Everything From Gmail to Netflix.” Computers in Libraries 38, no. 10 (December 2018): 12–15.
- Jessamyn West. 2007. “Saving Digital History.” Library Journal, April, 2–6.
- "Who is in charge here? Are there admins and moderators like other sites?". MetaFilter. n.d. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
- "Today in Librarian Tabs" Vermont Libraries August, 2018.
- Jessamyn West. "questions that are oftentimes asked of me". Retrieved 2008-03-13.
- Alex Hanson (February 3, 2007). "'Everybody's interesting'". Valley News. Archived from the original on 2007-02-09. Retrieved 2008-03-13.
- Jessamyn West. "What happened to the hippie backpackers? (comment)". Retrieved 2010-01-13.
- "Data" (PDF). www.gbv.de.
- "Where I'm off to". metatalk.metafilter.com.
- "Activity from jessamyn – MetaFilter". www.metafilter.com.
- Jessamyn West (October 15, 2006). "MetaFilter: Going Your Way". Library Journal. Archived from the original on March 18, 2004. Retrieved 2008-03-14.
- 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.
- "Vote:Advisory Board – Jessamyn West". Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 2015-12-20.
- "Advisory Board". Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 2015-12-20.
- OpenLibrary.org (2013-04-08). "We invite you to introduce yourself". Open Library. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
- Jessamyn West (October 2002). "Information for Sale: My Experience with Google Answers". 10 (9). Searcher. Retrieved 2008-03-14. Cite journal requires
- Jessamyn West (January 2003). "Google Answers Back Or How to Become an Ex-"Google Answers" Researcher". 11 (1). Searcher. Retrieved 2008-03-14. Cite journal requires
- Jacqui Cheng (November 29, 2006). "Google Answers decides to close up shop". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2008-03-14.
- "Library Journal". lj.libraryjournal.com.
- 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.
- Cory Doctorow. Social justice is a library issue; libraries are a social justice issue. boingboing. October 22, 2019.
- How Libraries Are Bridging the Digital Divide.The Takeaway, September 2019. PRI and WGBH.
- Brown, M. (2006). Life in the Trenches of Print and Web Publishing: An Interview with Jessamyn West. Serials Review, 32(2), 106–110.
- Adam L. Penenberg (September 15, 2004). "Don't Mess with Librarians". Wired. Retrieved 2015-11-24.
- "Who's blogging the convention". Cyberjournalist.net. July 17, 2004. Archived from the original on February 15, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-13.
- 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.
- Peter Hartlaub (July 30, 2004). "Unbound by tradition, Boston bloggers exercise fresh freedom of press". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-03-14.
- West, Jessamyn (2007-05-09). "weird little radar blip". Abada Abada. Retrieved 2007-05-17.
- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (May 8, 2007). "The Joy and Sorrow of Ubuntu". DesktopLinux.com. Archived from the original on July 19, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-14.
- [dead link]/(subscription required)"Open source spawns 'internet folk hero'". School Library Journal. July 1, 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
- Haselton, Todd (September 7, 2017). "Credit reporting firm Equifax says cybersecurity incident could potentially affect 143 million US consumers". cnbc.com. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
- Rob Wolfe, October 1, 2017. Randolph Librarian, Privacy Activist Sues Equifax, Valley News.
- Niraj Choksi. June 20, 2018. "How a Few People Took Equifax to Small Claims Court Over Its Data Breach and Won."
- Jessamyn West. September 22, 2017. Suing Equifax in Small Claims Court" Medium.
- Emily Ballou. June 28, 2018 Librarian Bests Equifax In Small Claims Court. The Herald.
- Jessamyn West, Libraries are fighting to preserve your right to borrow e-books, CNN Opinion August 2, 2019.
- Jessamyn West Raw Deal in Ebook Pricing Information Today 43 September/October 2019.
- "Will 'Artificial Scarcity' of Library e-books Push Sales? " Marketplace.November 12, 2019.
- "A Librarian Blogger at the DNC", West's article on her experience covering the 2004 Democratic National Convention
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