Jessamyn Charity West

Jessamyn West (librarian)

For the Quaker author, see Jessamyn West (writer).

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

Early life and career

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 graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst and moved to Seattle in 1990. 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.

She bought a house in Topsham, Vermont, in 1997, but did not begin living in the state full-time until 2003. As of 2008 she lives in Bethel. She works as a freelance library consultant, mainly in Orange County, Vermont, focusing on helping libraries with technology. She is a moderator for the group blog MetaFilter, and answers as many as two questions a day on the question-and-answer subforum Ask MetaFilter. She is also an active Wikipedian, working particularly on Vermont and library topics. She has staffed information desks at Burning Man and the 1999 WTO protests, and served as a judge for ThinkQuest.

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.

West is considered an "opinion maker" in the profession and is a frequent presenter at conferences. In 2002, Library Journal identified her as a "mover and shaker." She is a self-described anti-capitalist.

Librarian.net

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), antiglobalization, 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 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.

Published works

  • Roberto, Katia and 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.

  • Jessamyn West (ed) (2004) Digital Versus Non-Digital Reference: Ask a Librarian Online and Offline, Haworth Information Press; ISBN 0-7890-2442-X
  • Jessamyn West (2007). A Day in the Life: Career Options in Library and Information Science. Libraries Unlimited.
  • Jessamyn West (2004). The Librarian's Career Guidebook. Scarecrow Press.

References

External links

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