Here in Syracuse, we’re in the midst of spring break, and I’m exulting in a bit of unprogrammed time to relax and refocus on the things that matter. I’ve been trying to remind myself about the projects that really excited me around libraryland–projects that sometimes get lost in the jumble of classwork and job-hunting. In the last few months, I’ve found a number of projects that have active communities, and exciting goals. There’s something about being surrounded by vibrant, dynamic people, whether in person or virtually, that re-energizes me and inspires me to make cool things happen, and I’m guessing I’m not the only one! Librarians are a natural fit for all of these projects–rally ’round the cause, folks!
As the ebook market is still settling out, and nobody seems quite sure what to do about ebooks and libraries, there’s a lot of room for public-domain and open-source content–books that, for whatever reason, aren’t under strict copyright. In many cases, the age of the book is what determines public-domain-hood, as copyrights eventually expire, but what if there was a way to make your favorite contemporary ebooks available under creative commons?
Unglue.it hopes to do just that. Taking a model similar to Kickstarter, Unglue.it facilitates the conversation between rights-holders and the public, running campaigns to “unglue” books. Once books have been unglued, the ebooks are officially available under a creative-commons license. Because Unglue.it is a crowd-funded model, if we all work together, everybody will win. We’ll have the right to distribute works that we all worked together to release, and creators of the works still receive some funding for their labors.
HackLibSchool has mentioned Unglue.It in the past–one of the first books that was successfully unglued was Lauren Pressley’s So You Want to Be a Librarian. We spoke with Lauren and with Unglue.it’s Andromeda Yelton a few months ago. There are a few active campaigns on the site now, and they’re still building momentum. Go check them out! (And start using the unglued works–they’re meant to be shared!)
Accessible ebooks are cool, whether they’ve been made available through Project Gutenberg or unglued by all of us and the help of Unglue.It. In a similar vein, what about audiobooks? LibriVox is a crowd-sourced platform for audiobooks–in essence, teams of people come together to record books in MP3 format, then release those recordings into the public domain so anyone can listen.
Libraries are becoming content-creation spaces all around the world–why not encourage library members to contribute to LibriVox? It’s a volunteer effort, and they’re very welcoming to new volunteers. Because they ask readers to record just one chapter of a book at a time, most books become collaborations between people from all around the world. The various voices and accents on the recordings are part of the fun, with a shared love for the recorded works and the project bringing readers together.
With open-source software like Audacity making it free and easy for people to record and edit audio, projects like LibriVox are bound to become more common. Libraries are ideal places for this sort of project to take root and flourish. What are you waiting for?
So once we have all of this excellent public domain and creative-commons content, how do we distribute it? LIBRARYBOXEN. I’m a hacker at heart–even more so now that I’ve learned some tools to help with the tinkering–so Jason Griffey’s LibraryBox project is right up my alley. According to the librarybox homepage, “LibraryBox is an open source, portable digital file distribution tool based on inexpensive hardware that enables delivery of educational, healthcare, and other vital information to individuals off the grid LibraryBox is designed to be safe and secure. No logins are required and no user data is logged. The system is purposely not connected to the Internet in order to prevent tracking and preserve user privacy.” In essence, a librarybox is a hacked router that creates a hyper-local network. Users can connect their devices to the network and download any content that’s in the box. Unlike the PirateBox, from which LibraryBox was forked, LibraryBoxen are download-only, and must be pre-loaded by their stewards (with a USB drive–just add the content you want to make available, then plug the USB drive into the LibraryBox and you’re good to go!)
I’m still finding new uses for LibraryBoxen, but I built my first one with almost no coding experience–it’s a great project for people just starting to dabble in the more technical side of librarianship. They’re beginning to pop up all over the place, and are a fun way for librarians to disseminate information and files without an Internet connection.
These three projects are a few among many–what projects are you working on, and what excites you about them? Let us know in the comments!