A few weeks ago on this Code4LIB thread I learned about this Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign to build a database of library hours so that youth who have this "Range" app can find libraries in their community to provide them with a safe place.
My immediate reaction was that something was rotten in the state of Denmark, so to speak. And my suspicion of this campaign's integrity has grown with each passing day.
Anyone who thinks libraries are inherently safe is seriously ignorant. Anyone who perpetuates the notion that they are in order to receive donations is naive at best. Frankly, I think I'm being unusually generous putting it that way.
I was more than a little disappointed that those on the Code4LIB thread mostly harped on the technical aspects of doing something like this. While there wasn't even a discussion about needing a smart phone and cellular service to even use the app, someone did predictably bring up "schema.org".
As I briefly mentioned on the thread, I think maintaining an ever-valid dataset/data-service of library hours isn't just technical.
There are policy and people issues involved here. Some public libraries can barely get their county IT department to work effectively with them to provide an up-to-date website as is. In a crisis, are people necessarily going worry about their goddamn schema.org markup to the point where it's always trustworthy? Dream on.
This was a miniature library fail from my point of view. I realize that Code4LIB deals with technical issues, but to my mind all librarians have a duty to first fight for information integrity whether it's in your library, a private company you work for, etc. And it's relatively easy to at least say something to the folks behind this campaign. But instead, it's even easier to have a safe, theoretical discussion.
While I wish I could shut down this campaign via a button click, I submitted a comment to them via the Indiegogo site on May 6. They never replied and still the comment isn't published and I doubt they will publish it. So I will, below.
I hope you'll take the time to address a few things.
You say you'll add the hours for "all" libraries and that "Libraries offer a space anyone can enter, where money isn't exchanged, and documentation doesn't have to be shown."
How is this true for all libraries? Money is exchanged in the form of fines and even sometimes for just getting a library card when one is out-of-county or not a student of a particular institution, etc. Library cards and student IDs are forms of documentation. Access is often restricted to students at certain hours at academic libraries. Special libraries and archives often don't just let anyone in.
Also, you mention 17k libraries, but from what I've found on the IMLS site, that number only applies to public libraries.
In citing recent crisis, how does a static set of library hours assist when hours can become volatile in times of crisis?
Lastly, in terms of safety, it's not unheard of for sexual predators to hang out in public libraries because of the fallacy that they are inherently safe for many of the youth that spend time there.
ps: Since the Flexible Funding allows you to keep the money even if you don't raise $10K, are you planning a partial implementation if you don't raise all the money?
thanks in advance,
I'm fully aware that my comment to them and this post are also a safe, theoretical actions. But I don't feel better for having done so. I'm just more frustrated.
One of the people on the thread did communicate to the group behind this via Twitter. This "Caravan Studios" replied to his comment, saying that they'll eventually open the data set up to librarians. I'm curious if they even planned to open the data up to librarians in the future or whether they just said that to avoid looking bad – 'cause they look pretty freakin' bad. Even if they do open it up to librarians, that's not an everlasting "fix." All solutions beget new problems.
I won't be giving any money to that campaign. If I actually knew anyone that was considering doing so, I'd encourage them to think twice and to spend their money elsewhere.
My suspicion of the campaign's intentions aside, I don't like funding things that at least come across to me as poorly conceived, bullshit benevolence.
Update, the next day: I've been thinking how I don't really trust data re: hours for restaurants as listed on Yelp or Google for holidays, etc. I'll either call or at least check the restaurant's Facebook or Twitter page so see if they've addressed being open. Posting on sites like those and taking advantage of social media rather than some app with far, far less name recognition seems like a better way to go. I'd suspect Facebook is pushing out hours data as discrete information to search engines anyway. So, yeah that's just another reason I think this whole campaign sucks.