“A few years into teaching middle school Latin, I discovered there are very special people who can teach middle school their whole lives, and I wasn’t one of them,” says Andromeda Yelton. That’s when she shifted from Latin to library school: “I love the way that rapid technological change means that innovative, energetic people have a chance to invent the future,” she says.
In 2011, along with Jan Holmquist, Ned Potter (M&S ’11), and Justin Hoenke (M&S ’13), she initiated the Buy India a Library project, which crowdfunded close to $4,000 in under a month to build a library in Mysore, India. Today she’s helping to invent that future at Unglue.it, which has two simple taglines: “Free books for the public. Full value for authors and publishers.” Unglue.it crowdsources the funds to pay an author or publisher in full, up front, to publish an ebook or other digital content with a Creative Commons license. So far it has “unglued” three books.
While Unglue.it staffers don’t have formal job titles, Yelton does web development, publicity, “and whatever else needs doing,” she says. Yelton got into web development because Unglue.it needed someone who could manage the back end of the website. “I’d never done web development before, but I had dabbled in programming, and our other software people were too busy,” she says. She firmly believes librarians should learn code to improve workflow and usability, communicate better with IT vendors, and for “insight, dreaming, and creation.”
That’s one of the reasons she cofounded the American Library Association’s Library Code Year Interest Group. She especially wants to bring more women into the disproportionately male world of coding. Though she graduated from college with a math degree from an engineering program that was 75 percent male, she was still surprised to find herself the only woman at a “hackathon” roundtable in early 2012.
“It opened my eyes to how technology equals empowerment, and empowerment is for everybody,” she says. “The only barrier to coding should be learning to code, but homogeneous environments present social and psychological barriers on top of that.”
“If there’s just one thing I could say to people about technology, it’s, ‘You can do this.’ ” And, she says, “I’ll help.”