A Q&A with Alison Macrina, from the Library Freedom Project

Alison Macrina is the founder of the Library Freedom Project, “an initiative which aims to make real the promise of intellectual freedom in libraries by teaching librarians and their local communities about surveillance threats, privacy rights and law, and privacy-protecting technology tools to help safeguard digital freedoms.” They will speak at Digital Odyssey, at the Hamilton Public Library on June 10th.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What got you interested in libraries and tech?

I’ve worked in libraries for about 8 years, half of those as a library technologist, and now run LFP full time. I decided to work in libraries because I cared about maintaining and protecting the public commons and because I believe deeply in library values like free expression. I got into the technical side of it because I saw a big push in libraries to adopt every shiny new piece of tech trash without any critical eye to what they meant for those values. I thought there was an opportunity to shape our technical policy in the way we’ve shaped our collection development policies and our core values and the like — not just a frenzied push for relevance, but a meaningful consideration of the needs of our community and the kind of world we want to live in. That’s pretty much what led me to privacy-enhancing technologies in particular, because I saw a real need there.

Do you have any major projects on the horizon?

LFP is always doing a bunch of things — we run about 10-12 privacy trainings in libraries per month (for librarians or for community members), we write and speak about privacy in other arenas, we develop curriculum for librarians who want to teach privacy classes, we run Tor relays in libraries, and we work really closely with The Tor Project on bringing privacy to everyone all over the world. Beyond our typical stuff, I’m working on the nascent stages of an in-depth privacy training course for librarians that we’re calling Library Freedom Institute. If we get this off the ground, it would be something like a 6 month course taught by LFP staff and other technologists, activists, attorneys, and others working in the privacy space.

You train library staff all across the US and are based there, but I know you occasionally make the trek up North. Canadian privacy legislation is a little different, but do you think that really matters? Do you tailor the training you give to Canadian library staff?

Yes it matters and yes we tailor it. In the US we work with the ACLU to cover the legal contours, and in Canada we’ve worked with CCLA and some other civil libertarian attorneys. It does make a huge difference to know, for example, how C-51 could be used to falsely target political dissidents in Canada, and what librarians can do to protect themselves and their community members.

What advice would you give to a library contracting out services (like an ILS or e-book platform) to a private vendor?

Use these ALA guidelines as a template for informing your contracts: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/library-privacy-guidelines-e-book-lending-and-digital-content-vendors and don’t let the vendor talk you into any ridiculous data driven service model if it’s not necessary. They will always push for less privacy, more data. It’s our job to say no. We’re their customers, we should remember that we have leveraging power, even if we feel like we don’t.

Privacy in libraries is a pretty big issue to tackle. How do you stay energized and focused?

I feel pretty energized by the progress I’ve made with LFP. I only got started a couple of years ago, teaching privacy classes in a small library in Massachusetts. It quickly turned into an internationally-recognized full-time project. My success is good evidence of how much demand there is from our communities to do this for them. Yes, there’s a lot more work to do, but if more of us get involved it’s actually doable.

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Next stop on our #olitahangout tour: LinkedIn on May 19th and 20th

We have scheduled the next stop for our social media hangout tour! Our host is Jan Dawson and we’re going to hanging out in LinkedIn on May 19 & 20th.

Hi! I’m Jan Dawson, OLITA Council member. As part of OLITA’s 2016 Social Media Round About initiative (http://www.accessola…dpress/?p=66308), we have created an OLITA group in LinkedIn. Our social media round about is a tour of different social media platforms so our members can get to know one another and have a safe place to try out new tools.

  1. Click https://www.linkedin…/groups/8533301 and ask to join the group
  2. Jan will approve your membership
  3. Start a conversation or share a job via the two avenues provided in the group

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Join us on Twitter (#olitahangout) on May 12th for the OLITA Social Media Hangout

Continuing our tour of the Social Media Landscape, we’re travelling to the land of Twitter on May 12th with our host, OLITA Councillor, Jeff Toste. He writes:

Hi, I’m Jeff Toste, OLITA council member. Join me on Thursday May 12 to explore social media platform, Twitter.

If you want to learn about some terminology visit http://help.twitter.com/ before the session!

We’ll be using the hashtag #olitahangout to keep track of our conversation. My twitter handle is @NotRobot_ca if you want to send a public tweet to me.

We’ll be discussing:

1.       Who are some top people in the tech/library industry you’re following?

2.       Let’s take a look at lists. Try creating a list and sharing with OLITA members

3.       Show everyone where you’re tweeting from, use the location feature!

4.       How do you create engagement with your staff and stakeholders (customers, patrons, managers etc)

5.       Tweet out a poll with the hashtag #olitahangout

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The OLITA Social Media Roundabout

It’s difficult to understand the nuances of a particular social media platform without a group of people you feel comfortable being social with. That’s why OLITA is organizing a ‘Social Media Roundabout’ over the next several months.

We want to provide an opportunity for OLITA members to get to know one another while trying out various social media platforms. This way, you and the rest of OLITA can try out some of the more daunting interfaces (*cough cough* Snapchat *cough cough*) among friends and with an OLITA host that you can call on to ask for help when you need it.

We’re going to start off our tour on Slack! And our tour guide will be OLITA Council’s own, Susanna Galbraith!

Hello! I’m Susanna Galbraith, your friendly Olita Councillor who’ll be providing you with a Slack tour May 2 – 4th. Not sure what all the Slack hype is all about? Curious to try but don’t have an opportunity? Join me and give it a whirl!

Not even sure what Slack is? Here’s a tour: https://slack.com/is 

  1. Beginning May 2, send an email to me at galbrai@mcmaster.ca to get an invitation to our OLITA Hangout slack team.
  2. After you’ve received your email invitation, set up your account.
  3. Join all the channels you can see. 
  4. Introduce yourself in the #introductions channel.
  5. Make a giphy of your current mood in the #giphy channel. (Don’t worry, there’ll be instructions on how to do this.)
  6. Start a conversation in the #general channel.
  7. Share something random in the #random channel.
  8. For questions use the #help channel.
  9. Have fun and explore!

We’re hoping to try out a whole bunch of social media platforms over the next few months.

Is there one that you want us to go first? Please let us know!

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OLA Superconference 2017: Call For Proposals

Ontario Library Information Technology Association (OLITA) stream

The theme of the 2017 Ontario Library Association (OLA) Super Conference is “All In”. The OLA’s Ontario Library Information Technology Association (OLITA) stream invites session proposals from all types of libraries and all kinds of staff.

“We are a profession that welcomes all, supports all, serves all. We’re techies, readers, curators, storytellers, humanitarians. Our doors are open, our lights are on, we believe in what we do, and we aren’t holding back. More than ever, our enthusiasm, passion, commitment, and courage are needed.

The chips are down, but we’re not shying away from risks.

We are all in.”


OLA Super Conference | February 1-4, 2017

Submission deadline is Monday, May 23.

Submit your proposal here (http://www.olasuperconference.ca/)

This year OLA will be using ProposalSpace to help you keep track of the status of your proposal. Create a ProposalSpace account to get the process started.


Some topic suggestions:

These are only suggestions—please feel free to submit on any topic or innovative projects you think might be of interest to the OLITA community.

  • Homeless services
  • Healthy workplaces
  • Transferable skills and how to sell them
  • Library start-ups
  • Pop-up services
  • Dealing with precarious employment
  • New models of customer service
  • Approaches to rising journal pricing
  • Curing imposter syndrome
  • Surviving a zombie apocalypse

As always, if you’re interested in presenting on a topic but would like to share a slot, please indicate in your proposal that you’re interested in being matched up with another presenter.


Questions? Comments? Brilliant suggestions? Get in touch with the OLITA Planners! We’d be happy to discuss your proposal prior to submission.

Ana Vrana

Graham Lavender

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Access 2016: Call for proposals is live!


From time to time, OLITA Council receives announcements that may be of interest to our members. Please see below for a message from the Access 2016 planning team. Access Conference is a wonderful opportunity to meet library technologists from across Canada.

The Access 2016 Program Committee invites proposals for participation in this year’s Access Conference, which will be held on the beautiful campus of the University of New Brunswick in the hip city of Fredericton, New Brunswick from 4-7 October.

There’s no special theme to this year’s conference, but—in case you didn’t know—Access is Canada’s annual library technology conference, so … we’re looking for presentations about cutting-edge library technologies that would appeal to librarians, technicians, developers, programmers, and managers.

Access is a single-stream conference that will feature

  •  45-minute sessions,
  •  Lightning talks (speakers have five minutes to talk while slides—20 in total—automatically advance every 15 seconds),
  •  a half-day workshop on the last day of the conference,
  •  and maybe a surprise or two: if you have a bright idea for something different (panel, puppet show, etc.), we’d love to hear it

To submit your proposal, please fill out the form at http://accessconference.ca/2016-proposal/ by 15 April.

Please take a look at the Code of Conduct too: accessconference.ca/access-code-of-conduct/

If you have any questions, check out our site at accessconference.ca or write to David Ross (Chair of the Program Committee) at drross@unb.ca


We’re looking forward to hearing from you!


Merle Steeves

On behalf of the Access 2016 Organizing Committee

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Save the Date for Digital Odyssey 2016: Privacy in Public: Implications for Libraries

Mark your calendars today! Digital Odyssey will take place on Friday June 10, 2016.

Technology has become an integral part of our lives, and has made it easier than ever to find and share information online. Ever wonder what this easy access means for your patrons’ privacy? What information is shared when we access online databases, collections, or install the latest app on our smartphones? Do you struggle to raise awareness about the importance of protecting your privacy? At this year’s Digital Odyssey, we’ll be tackling these issues and more. In addition to presentations from experts in the field, we’re thrilled to announce that Alison Macrina from the Library Freedom Project will be leading a hands on workshop to teach us about privacy tools. Come to Digital Odyssey to learn about the latest privacy issues and take away tips and tricks that you can put to work in your library, whether it’s an academic, public, school or special library.

This year we’ll be meeting at the beautiful Central Library branch of the Hamilton Public Library. The Central Library is easily accessed by public transit (it’s only a short walk from the Hamilton Go Station) and public parking is also available in the vicinity. We hope to see you there!

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Piwik: Breaking Away from Google Analytics

Many of us in the library community who have a responsibility to assess the usage of our library’s websites have become very familiar with the popular Google Analytics. Google Analytics is free and robust, and yet the data it collects belongs to Google and is housed on U.S. servers, where data may be subject to the legislation of that country.

While many may see this as inconsequential (hey, Canada.ca uses Google Analytics, why can’t we?), those of us in the library community who wish to uphold the longstanding tradition in our profession of protecting user privacy, may wish to seek other alternatives. The ALA LITA Patron Privacy Technologies Interest Group serves as an example of the librarian community’s increasing awareness and concern around patron privacy.

One viable alternative to Google Analytics is Piwik. Piwik is an open-source web analytics platform that allows for 100% data ownership and privacy protection. Read more on Open Shelf…

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Super Conference 2016: we need OLITA convenors!

SuperConference_headerThere are still a few open slots for convening OLA Super Conference Sessions. We need your help! Please see the original call for convenors. You can access the remaining Super Conference Sessions that need a convenor using this document.

Please email Stephanie Orfano, OLITA Co-Planner, with the session you are interested in or with any questions you might have. The deadline has been extended to December 17, 2015 at 4:00pm.

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The Techie in You

Hi, as part of the new Technology Lending Library team, I’d like to update OLA members on what’s happened over the last year with our library. At the beginning of this year we refreshed our library with 2 brand new Arduino starter kits, 2 Intel Edison and Grove Starter kits, a Raspberry Pi 2, a BKON and additional Makey Makeys.

Our team (Susanna Galbraith, Beth Mens and Beckie MacDonald) is now working on promotion. We’ve hit the road this past fall to spread the word on these great devices and we are beginning to collect feedback from all of you. Beth began the trek when she visited the First Nations Fall gathering, which you can read about here. Our next stop was the Child and Youth Expo in Toronto in November where we heard great feedback on what librarians would like included and why they would need to use our library. It was a very rewarding experience to share our love of tech with the library community and to answer your questions. We are also planning on being at Super Conference so stay tuned!

You may be wondering why you would need to borrow a tech device like a Makey Makey or an Arduino? And we’re here to tell you that besides being personally enjoyable and fun, borrowing and learning about these devices can assist you in creating maker programs, planning a maker space and developing your staff. You can borrow multiple devices at a time, which allows you to gauge which has the most interest and applicability in your community.

If you’re wondering how to incorporate devices like Makey Makeys or Arduino’s into your library programming – project based is one way to go. For example, the lending library’s Arduino starter kit comes with an instructional book with 15 projects, which is a great place to start to learn about their potential. If you need ideas on what to do with your Makey Makey watch the video below for 6 sample projects (in 2 minutes!).


(Image courtesy of Jay Silver, Youtube.com)

Use the Intel Edison to keep tabs on your mischievous cat! As one of the newest added items, you can borrow this device to develop for the Internet of Things.


(Image courtesy of Matt Stultz from makezine.com)

As you can probably tell, different devices will apply to different user skill levels and age groups. Your library could host a petting zoo that demonstrates one fun project on each device to a multigenerational audience!

When borrowing the Technology Lending Library’s devices, you may want not want to do hands-on programming but instead might do a simple demonstration that at minimum creates awareness needed for buy-in and support from colleagues and other stakeholders like your Board. These devices are typically low cost and so adding them to your collection is possible.

In the new year we’ll be working with the OLITA team to determine ways we can improve, be it by incorporating new devices like wearables or child-focused tech or buying more of what we already own, improving our marketing and outreach program and web presence.

You can request items, free of charge from OLITA online.


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