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Smart Woman Online: Jill Hurst-Wahl

Dear readers, Jane is so proud to present this week's Smart Woman Online, Jill Hurst-Wahl. Jill came into our life as just an email message on a Yahoo! forum, through our connection to the Rochester Professional Consultants Network here in Rochester, NY. Then, a few months ago, we attended an energetic and inspiring conference in Syracuse, where Jill had moved a few years ago, and we met Jill face-to-face. What a treat that turned out to be! Jill is so smart, so friendly, and so NOW, -- yes, we mean this millennium, that 'other' one... we consider this friendship a treasure to hold close. We think you will see why in this wonderful interview...

Lip-sticking: Tell us how you got into blogging, Jill. We have heard some interesting stories about this topic. As a woman online, and in library research, what was it about blogging that attracted you?

Jill: I began blogging last August (2004) because I felt that I had information to share on creating, managing and preserving digital assets – an area that I consult in. I also felt that blogging might help me to connect with others in the field, which has been true. People who want to learn more about digitization, vendors, and people working on projects have connected with me through my blog. Two weeks ago, I even received an e-mail message from someone in Hungary who is involved in a digitization project and who reads my blog.

Lip-sticking: Your blog, Digitization 101 is very detail oriented. It covers some subjects that are making the news these days-- the digitization of all written works. We also see a Creative Commons  license on the blog -- can you comment on these issues from the perspective of someone intimately acquainted with them?

Jill: So, you mean the entire area of intellectual property, right? One of the key reasons for converting materials from hardcopy to electronic form is to increase access to them. One of the key areas to consider is whether the project has the right to digitize the materials. In other words, are the materials in the public domain or has the project received permission from the copyright holder?

Thinking broadly, we often fail to realize that materials are copyrighted and that the right to make copies in any form is the right of the copyright holder and no one else. We often believe that what we do will be covered by Fair Use without realizing the limitations of Fair Use (a provision of the Copyright Law). 

In thinking about my blog, I have tried to be respectful of other people’s intellectual property. I include brief quotes from other sources (e.g., articles) and then link to the full-text. I do reproduce announcement (e.g., announcements of seminars) in full because the writer’s intent is to disseminate the information widely.  (Intent is a very tricky issue and not in the law at all…and can get people in a heap of trouble.)

I decided to use the Creative Commons license in order to state my intent with the blog. I’ve reserved some rights, while giving some away. With my blog, people can copy, distribute, display, and perform the work, as well as make derivative works as long at they abide by conditions in the license. I did not originally have a Creative Commons license on the blog, even though this type of usage was what I intended. The inclusion of this license makes my intent clear.

Does it show that I talk about copyright frequently?! Hopefully I’m not boring you! (BTW I did a handout of resources recently for a copyright discussion that I led that can help people learn more about copyright, if they are so inclined. The handout is at this link.

Lip-sticking: From the perspective of intellectual property and knowledge management, where do you think blogs fit in?

Jill: I take the same view as David Weinberger, former senior internet adviser to the Howard Dean presidential campaign. He has noted that centuries ago, everyone had knowledge and shared it. Over time, however, knowledge became the purview of specific people and we turned to them to share what they knew.

Now blogs have given the masses the ability to readily share their knowledge. That is the power of blogs. Individuals and businesses can use blogs to share their knowledge in a way that is continuous, yet with an archive. We can turn to those people in the trenches who are sharing their experiences and their knowledge built from those experiences.

Lip-sticking: Let's move on to your 'other' blog...which embraces Jane's favorite subject: women. At Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship you write about email signatures and shared wisdom. Good stuff for budding business folks. Give us some background on this blog...and where you'd like to see it go.

Jill: The WISE blog was started by Syracuse University’s Michael J. Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship. The Falcone Center is also the driving force behind the WISE conference which has been held for the last three years in Syracuse. In April 2005, over 500 women (and a few men) attended the one-day conference. The blog is an outgrowth of the conference and a way to disseminate information throughout the year. It is one of the things that the Falcone Center is doing to promote entrepreneurship among women. I’m working with the Center to provide content for the blog.

My hope is that the blog will become a place women will turn to for information on events, business tips & techniques, entrepreneurial practices, etc. I hope the blog attracts readers not only from Central New York, but eventually from across the country and around the world. The type of content in the blog will grow over the next few months as we add more guest articles and profiles of women entrepreneurs.

Lip-sticking: Give our readers some links to some WISE blog posts that they will find informative.

Jill: Here you go...

Lip-sticking: Okay, it's time for the typical Jane question: NOT do you shop online,  but...HOW OFTEN do you shop online, and...what was the last website you shopped at?

Jill: Actually, I shop online infrequently. I like actually seeing things and being able to hold/inspect them. The last online shopping I did was during December (Amazon.com). Prior to that, I shopped at Brecks.com for flower bulbs. I do, however, regularly use Amazon to place-hold items that interest me (Wish List).

Lip-sticking: As a technologically savvy lady, do you think shopping online is a benefit or a curse? Do you worry about security -- when shopping online do you look for the Verisign symbol or the lock, indicating a secure site?

Jill: I do worry a bit about security and do look to see if the site is secure. (Oh, that reminds me that I’ve done hotel rooms and conference/meeting registrations online this year.  Does that count as shopping?) I’ve been surprised a few times at the small business sites that do not use a secure server.

Lip-sticking: You recently (within the last few years, we think) moved from one city to another, not too far away, but...a big move anyway. Tell us about that experience -- did you do it for business or...some other reason?

Jill: After eight years in Rochester, I felt it was time for a change. I landed in Syracuse because I was offered the opportunity to become a visiting senior instructor in Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. I taught full-time for two-years while still maintaining my consulting practice.

I had not previously been an academic, so this was quite new for me! One of the things I learned was that I prefer business to academia, yet I do like bringing a practitioner’s perspective to the classroom (as do my students), so I now teach as an adjunct for SU. Even as an adjunct, I’ve stayed involved with the School, mentoring students and acting as a liaison between the student chapter of the Special Libraries Association and the Upstate NY Chapter. I also do guest lectures and other speaking engagements on campus.

Syracuse is definitely home now and I expect to be here for a very long time. It is an interesting community and there are lots of pluses to this area.

Lip-sticking: Think of the two people in your industry whom you admire the most -- who are they, and why do you admire them?

Jill: Only two? I think that answer changes depending on the day and what I’ve been doing. So today, I would list Steve Abram who is the Vice President of Innovation for Sirsi Corporation (a library technology company).

I’ve known Steve for many years through our involvement in the Special Libraries Association. I admire him because he is forward-thinking and he has been described as a futurist. He is very much into spotting trends. Steve is engaging to talk with, full of energy and very informative. He writes extensively, and many of his articles and presentations are available on his web site – part of that sharing mentality that librarians have.

Second? Sylvia Piggott who is a consultant based in Montreal. (mmm…I’ve picked two Canadians, perhaps showing my love of Canada?) Sylvia previously worked with the Bank of Montreal and the International Monetary Fund. I like the way she has managed her career and the successes that she has had. I find her a pleasure to be around. Always welcoming and always inspiring.

Of course, there are a myriad of others who I should mention and if you asked me tomorrow, I’m sure I’d give you two different names!

Lip-sticking: Think of two women throughout American History who have made an impact on the way you think about yourself and your work -- who are they and what impact have they made on your life?Jill_hurstwahl

Jill: One woman is someone who instilled in me to always do my best, no matter what I was doing. That is a lesson that has stuck with me. Doing my best means really applying myself to whatever I do. One outgrowth of this is that I will turn down an opportunity if I know that I don’t have the time to do it well (for example, volunteering on a committee).

This woman – my mother, Pauline Burrows Hurst – was also a trailblazer in her own right and a risk taker, and perhaps I’ve gotten my risk-taking abilities from her. (The town historian where my mother lived wrote about her after death last year and that piece is online here.

The second is Eleanor Roosevelt. I have seen a picture of her (I think in her home in Hyde Park, NY) that shows her carrying her own suitcase at an airport. Here is a woman who was very powerful, yet very down to earth. The message of that picture is that we should never think so much of ourselves that we wouldn’t do those everyday things that need to be done, like carry a suitcase.


We know you've enjoyed this interview as much as we did, dear readers. Jill certainly covered a lot of ground in such a short post! We especially like her copyright information and...her tribute to her mother. And, yes, arranging travel and lodging is shopping online.

What's not to like about that?


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Patricia Selinger

Thank you for this interview with Jill Hurst-Wahl. I've been following her Digitization 101 blog for nearly a year. It's been very helpful to my understanding of digital issues. The interview adds another dimension to her. Not only is her work an inspiration but her life and her family are too!

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