Andromeda Yelton

Across Divided Networks

what I’ve been up to

August 26th, 2013 · Uncategorized

So as we blogged at a month back, I have quit my job at so that I can teach libraries to code.

I’m still figuring out what that means, and if you have opinions, I want to hear them! (Seriously. I have a big list of people to set up Google hangouts with, and after Labor Day when everyone’s schedules have stabilized I’m going to start in on that.) I mean, on the high level, it means optimism and empowerment and building things and collaborating, a world of librarian partners-in-crime improving services and workflows through hacker epistemology and crafting ideas into things. But that’s gotta translate into action :) For starters, I’ll be teaching an online Python course through Library Juice Academy (please sign up!) and doubtless I’ll be doing a lot more teaching things, too.

But it starts with conversations. Conversations and listening and connections. You know where to find me.

In related news, I’m enjoying & feeling honored about & rapidly learning from my new role as a LITA Board member. (Are you a constituent, current or prospective? I have a info page and contact form just for you!) I’m liaising to the Education committee, so if you’re interested in doing a web course or similar for LITA, please talk to me and I’ll make sure you get a great committee member to help you through the process. Or if you already have an idea for a course you’d like to teach, you can skip right ahead to proposing it.

I’m also doing some independent software contracting. Right now my software bandwidth is pretty well taken up by my friend’s awesome startup (about which more later), but I expect to be taking on other projects later. My skills are chiefly Django front-end development (Python, CSS, jQuery, etc.), but my real specialty is doing things I don’t know how to do, so if you happen to need some software contracting like that (but not immediately), let’s talk. If you have ideas for how I can deploy Django and CSS and lightweight scripting and the like to make your library’s life easier or better, I’d love to hear those too!

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When you walk into a room, count: diversity and LITA Forum.

August 20th, 2013 · Uncategorized

This is what I ask: when you walk into a room, count. Count the women. Count the people of color. Count by race. Look for who isn’t there. Look for class signs: the crooked teeth of childhoods without braces, worn-out shoes, someone else who is counting. Look for the queers, the older people, the overweight. Note them, see them, see yourself looking, see yourself reacting.

This is how we begin.

– Quinn Norton, Count

I’m on the planning committee for LITA Forum 2013. And months ago I thought, I should count up my best guesses as to speaker race and sex and library type for the last few years of Forum, use it as a baseline, see where we are with diversity, and if we do better this year.

And then I counted up 2012 and it was too depressing for me to do 2011 and I couldn’t figure out how to even talk about it because this stuff is so inflammatory, so I wrote a draft I never posted and drank some whiskey. And then Twitter brought me Quinn Norton today. And so, I count.

Method: the terribly error-prone, but what I’ve got, best guess. Names. LinkedIn and Twitter and staff directory photos. As you can see from numbers not adding up to 100 I did not always have a guess.

I took the race categories from ALA data for the sake of comparison. It counts Hispanic separately from other categories, which both makes sense and makes me feel this horrible gnawing stomach feeling at having erased a whole swath of experiences, not that I could have at all reliably guessed from people’s LinkedIn photos anyway. I bet I’ve both undercounted nonwhite speakers, and undercounted them in precisely the same way most people would if they were at Forum and saw a sea of white-looking faces.

The thing is, we care. Then-LITA-president Zoe Stewart-Marshall, who’s ex officio on the Forum 2013 committee, specifically charged us with caring. Many of us have explicitly said we care about diversity. I know that I went out of my way to brainstorm speakers outside LITA’s usual white-academic bailiwick, to extend invitations outside it, to ask others to.

But the committee is also, when you get right down to it, overwhelmingly white and academic, and maybe replicating ourselves is what we know how to do, maybe that’s how homophily works, maybe caring isn’t good enough.

I remain proud to represent this organization, but I am not proud of this part. I want to represent more of you, and better. If you are willing, I ask that you tell me how. Maybe even at Forum, in person. I’ll buy you drinks. And give you feedback on your talk proposals for next year.

We care. But, for sure, caring isn’t good enough. Tomorrow I will want solutions. Today I’ve drained my whiskey counting up these numbers and I’m going to go get more.

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Missing #ala2013 already? Why not come to #litaforum?

July 3rd, 2013 · Uncategorized

I’m on the planning committee for LITA Forum, which means this November 7-10 I’ll be in Louisville, KY, wrangling logistics, listening to some speakers I’m pretty excited about, taking advantage of bourbon country, and maybe hanging out with you.

This means I’m going to have lots more to say about my personal conference highlights over the months to come, but let me give you some teasers…

  • Keynotes by Travis Good of MAKE Magazine, Emily Gore of DPLA, and Nate Hill of whatever crazy awesomeness the Chattanooga Public Library is up to lately.
  • An entire track on making and makerspaces. This was a hugely popular topic at ALA (there was a sold-out makerspace preconference!) So if you missed out on that, or were there and want more, we’ve got you covered.
  • In fact, we’re working on a field trip to the local makerspace. Stay tuned.
  • Whole track on UX and web services, too.
  • This Zagat list of 8 awesome foodie getaways worldwide includes Okinawa, Vieques, Cairo…and Louisville. Just sayin’.
  • Moar tracks: Management, Collaboration, Outreach; Data & Discovery; Repositories & Scholarly Communications. Seriously: whether you’re a web services librarian, a tech department manager, a repository nerd, an outreach librarian, a wikipedian, an instructional technologist…there is something here for you. We’ve even got some stuff for you codemonkeys.
  • Our speakers include academic and public librarians, independent consultants, library school students, a children’s librarian, and the YALSA president-elect. Aw, yeah. And we’ve got lightning talks, so maybe you’re one of our speakers, too!
  • A preconference on security and another on project management, both presented by experts I know and think highly of.
  • Poster sessions on the digital divide, tech training, discovery layers, library spaces, licensing…
  • Bourbon. Did I mention the bourbon? Louisville. Kentucky.

So yeah. That’s my early November, and I hope to see you there. For more info and to register, check out the conference site. And if your organization might be interested in sponsorship, here’s our prospectus, and let’s talk.

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wearing what I want

May 28th, 2013 · Uncategorized

It is one of those times when the blogosphere is talking about how leadership and professional identity dovetail with clothing choices. I love those times.

Me, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the leadership angle of fashion choices (though I expect now that I’ve been elected to the LITA Board I will be). But one of my singular little joys is when people say “you’re dressed up today!” and I say “yeah, work” and they are just about to nod in understanding and then do the double take of “…wait! You work from home!”

It’s true. I do. My dress requirements get as far as “should put on a shirt before the video call (but not necessarily pants)”. And yet most days I’m wearing this cozy sort of business casual with a twist of nerd, outright feminine though not too girly. With actual accessories. Often even a jacket.

Here’s the thing: somewhere in my twenties I had this blinding realization that I’m not in high school any more and therefore I do not have to pay attention to stupid social boundaries like “there are people who like math and people who like clothes and never the twain shall meet”. 1 And it’s taken me a long time to operationalize this because I have no innate taste, so I had to spend years studying style in a data-gathering nerdly way, and then I was spending all my money on grad school (and didn’t have the skill or kid-free time to pull off the stylish-via-Goodwill route), but now, here I am, necklace and portrait collar and wedge sandals and all. And it turns out, the more I’ve gotten into code, the more clearly feminine my style has gotten.

Because I like crossing boundaries and challenging stereotypes. Being a woman in tech at all challenges stereotypes. But then you get here and the men wear jeans and nerdy t-shirts and the women wear jeans and nerdy t-shirts and…huh. I am super glad that geekdom provides a home for women who are fed up with gender-normative performance, who are happier being androgynous or genderqueer or just not giving a damn (and maybe not even, while we’re at it, wearing the term “women”). A lot of my friends, no matter their anatomy or chromosomes, are happiest being somewhere outside mainstream conventions of gender performance, and that is awesome.

But it is not awesome if the unstated rule in slinging code is that, if you’re going to be female, you’d better not be obviously or conventionally female. That, you know, girls who code are cool and all, as long as it’s not too hard to pretend they’re guys. That we’re still in a space owned by guys, which girls get to enter if they play by guy terms.

I feel like I can challenge more stereotypes, from more directions, as a woman with a development environment and a skirt than I can as a woman with a development environment, full stop. And I thrive on that.

It turns out that the stereotype I challenge most is my own, of me. I thrive on that too.

Now I don’t think I get to play with these boundaries for free. Clothing choices still carry social signals, even if I’d rather they didn’t, and I can choose to dress in ways whose signals aren’t wholly accurate, but I can’t choose not to be misread for it. I do feel lucky to be in a position where I can dress more or less how I want, but I find the parts of this conversation I’m most interested in are the instances where people feel they can’t — where the social and professional consequences for misaligning signaling and role or identity or body politics are too big to take on. I’d like to hear a lot more from those voices.

And maybe over time, by dressing to be, yes, socially aware, but ourselves as much as we can, we can push this envelope outward, create more space for people to signal and be more variegated things, yet still unquestionably be seen as belonging inside the boundaries of “coder” or “leader”…


  1. So I mean I really like math. Ask me about the Cantor diagonalization proof sometime if you want to see me totally nerd out. It’s so elegant!

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Newtonian mechanics, and the LITA election

May 4th, 2013 · Uncategorized

I’m bad at physics.

I went to an engineering school and I majored in math and I almost majored in chemistry so people thought I was supposed to be good at physics but, no. Put me in front of a free-body diagram and I react with this sort of blind scared incomprehension, forces are supposed to act on this? What could they possibly be? How on earth would I know? There’s this cargo-cult algebra of gravity and normal forces I could try to do but I never had any sense of what I should or shouldn’t write, or why. Arrows, at random.

My school required three semesters of physics so, well, that didn’t work out awesomely for me. Thursdays, the night before physics and chemistry (also required) were due, I’d get together with two friends who were good at physics but struggling in chemistry and we’d trade off strengths, dragging each other bodily through the hardest classes we’d taken to date.

A week before the final I showed up at last, embarrassed, in the professor’s office to throw myself on her mercy. (Yes, I should have done this a lot earlier, but what do you expect of a 17-year-old without a trace of study skills.) And I’m not clear what I hoped for, exactly, some kind of guidance or clarity, the guru on the mountain making the entirety of mechanics clear to me, magic, but I definitely did not expect what I got from her, which was her saying: you’re a smart student and I believe in you.

I had, let’s be clear, done nothing that semester to justify her belief. But I was seized with a guilty fire of needing to live up to it. For the next week, I took my physics textbook with me absolutely everywhere I went. I read it through meals. I reworked every single homework problem we’d done all term. I didn’t study for any of the rest of my finals (I was doing better in those classes and had some wiggle room…) I took a few hours off to go see a Shakespeare class put on a play, but I had the book with me and I read it during intermission.

And then I sat down for that final, and the first hour was okay, actually, things looked familiar, I wouldn’t say I understood them but I’d seen the problems or something very like them and I can pattern-match, and then the second hour was this awful dawning horror of meaninglessness opening up underneath and I could feel this test physically assaulting me, I was in actual bodily pain, and hour three dawned and I thought, to hell with this, I didn’t study for a solid week to be defeated by some test, and I wrote blindly and damn-the-torpedoes handcrampingly fast nonstop until the second they made me put the pencil down, and then I staggered out with the rest of my freshman class into the California May sunlight and we blinked at each other in zombielike weariness and defeat.

The class average ended up around 50%. I got about a 75. So. I killed it. Brought my average all the way up to a B-, which I assure you was not where that average had been a week before, and I cherish that B- more than anything else on my transcript.

This is a roundabout way of saying, yesterday I was notified that I won the LITA election — that you, my friends, think that I’m someone who ought to represent you on the Board for the next three years. You believe in me. And for the girl who spent her introverted depressed math-nerd high school years not having a whole lot of friends, and who graduated from library school what feels like yesterday, this is a mind-boggling statement of faith.

Like walking into that office, being told point-blank I’m more than I believe myself to be. So. Time to study. Because it matters, that I justify your belief.

I made a LITA page to make it easy for you to contact me and keep up with what I’m thinking about the association. I hope you’ll use it. It turns out I do have study skills, when I have to, but I’ll learn a lot more if you’re on the journey with me.

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how to get me to want you as a concurrent session speaker

April 18th, 2013 · Uncategorized

Earlier I blogged on how to get me to want you as a keynoter. Now that LITA Forum acceptances & rejections are out, I think I can safely blog on how to get me to want to accept your concurrent session proposals. 1

I clearly gravitate toward some different things than many of my fellow committee members, so I’m going to state my preferences, and then tell you which grains of salt you should apply.

I also want to thank everyone who submitted proposals for Forum. I hoped that you all would make our jobs difficult, and you did; we had more than twice as many proposals as slots. We turned down plenty of talks that I am confident would have been good fits, or will be good fits for some other conference. We turned down talks that had strong advocates on the committee. So if we turned down yours, please revise and resubmit somewhere — there’s probably a good home for it. And I hope to see you in Louisville anyway. I hear it’s got great restaurants and pretty much all the bourbon

Stuff you should do

  • Proofread (better yet: ask someone else to). For heaven’s sake, you’re submitting a proposal to librarians. Some of whom may be catalogers. Don’t misspell stuff. We have issues with that.
  • Read the CFP. If we say “X is required” and you do not do X, we have issues with that, too.
  • Then read it some more… The CFP tells you what topic(s) and audience(s) the conference is aimed at. Your proposal needs to clearly fall under that umbrella. It should be obvious how your topic relates to ours and why your take on it is relevant to our audience. That doesn’t mean it has to be relevant to 100% of the audience — in fact there’s some benefit to having talks that appeal to new audiences — but we have to feel like people would actually attend.
  • ….but zag when others zig. Talks should be relevant, yet distinctive. 2 If you’re talking about a very new idea, your topic will be distinctive, so show us how it relates to libraries. If you’re talking about something that’s been around for a while, show us why your take on it is unusual. Same thing if you’re pitching a talk on something very trendy or heavily emphasized in the CFP — we’ll get a lot of those, so you have to have a special perspective to stand out. Concrete details are your friend here. So is personality. And it helps to know what people have said at similar conferences recently, so you can say something else.
  • Think about how you’ll present the material. You don’t have to prep the talk before writing the pitch (please don’t! who has that kind of time?!), but do think about concrete details. Are you doing a high-level ideas talk or an in-the-trenches how-to? Both can be great and both have fans, but you should know where you are between zero and fifty thousand feet, and so should we. How will you relate to the audience? What sorts of examples will you use? Will there be anything distinctive about your format: you’ll facilitate a discussion, have a hands-on activity, lead the audience to walk away with a deliverable or plan? You’re not just imparting information but delivering an experience; what is that experience?
  • Think about level. For a technology conference, you really need to be pitched at the level of attendees — nothing too basic, but nothing so obscure that it won’t have an audience. Your talk doesn’t have to be accessible to everyone, but it should be accessible enough to justify accepting it. If it has prerequisites that aren’t common in your audience, note them. 3 Similarly, don’t propose anything dated (but if you’re a stimulus-seeking Twittermonkey, your sense of what is so-last-year may not be the same as everyone else’s…).
  • Take advantage of the space you’re given. Don’t snow the committee under with a ton of stuff they won’t have time to read, but if you’re given some optional fields, use them! The CFP doesn’t give you a whole lot of room to make your case, so don’t waste opportunities. This is doubly true if you’re planning to do something a little outside-the-box that may not be addressed by the required questions. Similarly, if your proposal description only takes up a third of the allotted space, that’s probably a bug. Think about the distinctive elements of your format or perspective and add some concrete details or provocative questions.
  • Write well. If the reviews are blind, or if no one on the committee has seen you speak, this is probably your only chance to show that you can communicate. 4 Yes, it’s writing, not speaking, and maybe you’re an awesome speaker and a not-awesome writer, and that’s not fair, but it’s what you’ve got. At minimum you should have impeccable writing mechanics (see also: have someone else proofread), and you should be specific yet concise. Bonus points if your writing crackles with personality. I want to see that personality on stage.
  • Don’t forget to tell us what makes your talk special. Maybe everyone in your community knows how awesome you are. Maybe you’re working with high-profile partners. Maybe your work has a huge impact somewhere. But maybe the committee members are not in your community, don’t know about your partnerships, are not familiar with your impact.

Some reasons why ignoring my opinion might be the right call

I used to teach middle school. This means I think about pedagogy. I read a proposal and I gravitate toward anything I see about the experiential aspects of the talk. If there isn’t anything, I start guessing, based on the writing style or whatever other thin evidence I’ve got. I visualize what this looks like on a stage, how presenter and audience interact.

And it’s frustrating, because our CFP didn’t do much to elicit this evidence, and frankly I’m not sure how we could have. We can use presenters’ names, but that works against diversity and new voices, and makes things cliquish and predictable. We could have asked people to submit video, slides, etc., and maybe that’s a good idea, but it runs similar risks. We could say “tell us how you won’t be just a talking head on a stage”, but actually talking-head-on-a-stage can be quite good.

That said? I seem to be not normal in this regard. The rest of the committee was much more interested than I in topic choice and focus — the relevant-yet-distinctive questions above. So it’s possible that you can totally ignore everything I just said about style, voice, etc.; make sure you’ve got a solid topic and good proofreading, and you’ll write strong conference proposals.

But seriously? I would like everyone to take the rest of my advice anyway, because I don’t want a world full of strong proposals; I want a world full of strong talks. And the fact is, essentially any topic can be a great talk or a terrible one.


  1. I hope this is useful to people drafting proposals in future. No, I will not comment on any specific Forum proposals.
  2. Yes, you have to be different just like everyone else.
  3. What this means varies a lot by conference, of course. Also there’s nothing wrong with having a talk that is too technical for some attendees, as long as it still has enough attendees; it’s fun for conference organizers to be able to present talks pitched to a range of audiences!
  4. Which is why it’s so easy to do non-blind reviews and go with familiar speakers; at least you know they can give a good talk. But this is also totally unfair to new voices. It undermines diversity, it’s cliquish and unwelcoming. I don’t have a good solution to this.

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…a mass of incandescent gas…

April 11th, 2013 · Uncategorized

I was ego-surfing, as one does, and, well…

Also considering registration for the pre-conference workshop, Introduction to Python. Co-taught by Andromeda Yelton, the librarian! Holy hell! I am starstruck.

The Global Librarian

I’ve been starstruck. Still am, sometimes.

I was a babybrarian three years ago — only three! A library school student at my first conference, full of these stories of Important Names In The Field I’d read about or heard guest Skype talks from in school. And then one of them bought me a drink (starstruck) and I ended up coauthoring something with another and now they’re people I run into at conferences, not names but people, hi, how’s it going, what’s up with you these days. Sometimes I can’t quite believe my life works out this way.

Here’s the thing: we see the director’s cut of everyone else’s life, and the behind-the-scenes footage of our own. I have strengths and weaknesses, just like everyone has strengths and weaknesses, you know? And I have nights when I look at the pile of dishes that need to be done and the pile of emails that need to be sent and I say, you know what, screw it, I’m going to light some candles and pour some bourbon and read a trashy novel. The responsible capable endlessly-energetic directors-cut star in someone’s head never does that; she washes the dishes and sends the emails and reads a thought-provoking, life-improving book, and probably then gets six hours of sleep (which she thrives on) and wakes up early to ride the exercise bike, and moreover is not letting her six-year-old play video games right now so she can write this blog post. But I am not her. In fact I think tonight will be a candles-and-bourbon-and-trashy-novel kind of night. (Sorry if I owe you an email.)

Strengths and weaknesses.

So, okay, here’s a thing about that. One of my strengths is an obsession with gaining XP and leveling up, plowing those experience points into my weaknesses until they aren’t weaknesses any more. (Do too much of this and you really need the candles and bourbon and trashy novels…)

Like a lot of people my first introduction to roleplaying was D&D, and, really, doesn’t everyone have some times they just want to strap on the Sword of +5 Mysticalness and stomp around a dungeon killing some hapless kobolds? But I find that whole model increasingly unsatisfying because in real life — even in the real lives of people who have a 16 Comeliness and spellcasting ability — most of the problems we encounter aren’t the kind that can be solved with swords, and killing things isn’t the way we get XP.

These days I’m in a Dungeon World campaign. 1 The world has a D&D flavor but the system is far more lightweight, driven by storytelling rather than pages of rules. You roll dice when rolling dice would make the story more fun. And either you win, and the thing you want more or less happens, or you lose, and that’s when you get XP.

In the real world, we get XP by going out there and trying things. Taking a risk because, win or lose, it makes the story more fun.

A couple days ago I found out about Fake Grimlock 2 — he’s a giant robot dinosaur with fantastic advice about startups and, by analogy, life — and there’s this one essay with this one quote I really can’t get out of my head, on how to be awesome:


Stars burn with fire that make everyone warm. 3

This library profession, it’s full of still-waters-run-deep types. They may not talk a lot up front about what they’re doing, they may not be at a big-name institution, but you ask some questions and listen for a while and it turns out they’re doing something totally badass. Or they have this great idea or skill or passion but only half of what they need to make it real, and you introduce them to a person who has the other half, and — fire.

We are all star-stuff.

Global Librarian, I’d love to see you at ALA. (Kazakhstan! You moved to Kazakhstan for your librarianing. How cool is that?!)


  1. The GM of which, by the way, wrote this gorgeous fertility tracking app. So if you have an iPhone and a girlbody and you want to get pregnant, or maybe not get pregnant, or you’re into the whole quantified-self thing, et cetera, go check that out.
  2. How had I not known this was a thing?!?
  3. See also.

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Come learn Python with me! (early bird discounts end soon.)

April 9th, 2013 · Uncategorized

So hey, I want you to come learn Python with me!

tl;dr It’ll be awesome, and I’m so psyched about this workshop and I want to teach you Python, and early bird registration closes on Friday; register soon so you don’t miss out on the discount.

What: The Library Code Year interest group is sponsoring a preconference introducing the Python programming language at ALA Annual this year. I’m going to be coteaching. We’re basing our curriculum on the Boston Python Workshop, which has been heavily tested and refined in a number of cities. This workshop is part of the diversity outreach efforts of the Boston Python User Group, which means it’s woman-friendly and newbie-friendly.

Who: you! Whether you’re an experienced coder looking to add a new language to your repertoire, an occasional codemonkey trying to get more mileage out of the great ideas discussed on ACRL TechConnect, or someone with maybe some vague memories of library school HTML, you’re welcome here. A mix of self-paced, hands-on, and instructor-guided activities provide room for all skill levels; we’ll obsessively define terms, patiently answer questions, and high-five you as needed.

Why: because code lets you see and also it is fun and useful, and Python is a powerful yet approachable language. And you will build stuff you didn’t know how to build before

When and where: Friday, June 28, 8-4pm, in Chicago, at Annual. (You need not be attending the rest of Annual to register.) You’ll need to do some advance setup of the laptop you’re bringing (Mac, Windows, Linux all fine, but you do need one). We’ll provide online office hours and (we hope) in-person ones on Thursday the 27th.

You can register at any time (including onsite), but you get a discount with early bird registration, which closes on the 12th.

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do you like adorable baby animals? on the internet?

March 16th, 2013 · Uncategorized

When you run for LITA Board, 1 you get a lot of questions about how to get involved in LITA. Now people could read through the LITA web site, which has a ton of info, but no one really likes reading through long web sites. 2

You know what people do like? Adorable baby animals. Also? Reloading the internet in lieu of doing more productive things.

I’m there for you. Now you can satisfy your itch to reload adorable baby animal pics while learning about ways to get involved with LITA on a very short web site:

Feeling even slightly motivated? You can make the site better! The site lets you submit your own ideas for how people can get involved with LITA. Is your interest group or committee doing something awesome you want to pimp? Did you have a really great time at a LITA thing one day, and took pictures or wrote a blog post or something? Do you want collaborators 3 for your latest LITA project? You should totally advertise.

This should totally be the post where I tell you about the tech stack (Heroku! it’s so slick) and all the yaks I had to shave to get the code working (omg deploying static files in production with Django, let’s not), because I believe in knowledge capture and I want you to learn from what I did so you can replicate or hack on it and I feel really guilty if I don’t write documentation, but I have a headache and my kid is making me dinner, 4 so bug me to write that post later.


  1. Ballots come out Tuesday!
  2. Well, um. This is not true. I’ve read most of the LITA site. So not no one.
  3. Or minions.
  4. She’s so great. It’s pizza. She’s six! She made it mostly all by herself.

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So this happened…. (Library Journal M&S 2013)

March 13th, 2013 · Uncategorized

The official announcement won’t be for a few days, and I haven’t read the article yet (so curious), but I guess I can tell you now because…

LJ M&S 2013 online splash photo

…this is the photo on the front page of Library Journal right now, and that’s me having a dance party with Justin Hoenke and Kirby McCurtis and Kate Tkacik.

I’m moved that so many of you saw this award and thought that I should have it. I’ll try to justify your faith in me.

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