Copyright as a Hammer, not a Shield

From OpenCongress:

Big media companies and the Obama Administration have been asking Congress to change the copyright laws so that people who stream copyrighted content on the internet, whether intentionally or not, can be put in jail or charged massive fines.


The bill in question is S.978, sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar [D, MN], to “amend the criminal penalty provision for criminal infringement of a copyright, and for other purposes.” Specifically, it would raise illegal streaming from a misdemeanor to a felony by changing its legal status as a “public performance” to the same level as a “reproduction” or “distribution.” That would seem to mean that someone who unknowingly embeds a YouTube video on their site that contains material that is determined to be protected by a copyright could potentially face the same penalty as someone who runs a large-scale DVD bootlegging operation.

And thus begins the remix/rehash culture versus the corporate copyright fiefdoms. Or, as I see it, an incredibly good case for encouraging the use of Creative Commons for all sorts of mediums. For the artists and authors who want their fans to use and play with their creations, this law does everything opposite to it.

While I can understand and respect the right of creator to profit from their labors, it cannot be at the expense of fair use and its accepted derivatives.

(h/t: Alaskan Librarian)

Son of a Son of a Sailor

As much as it is a Jimmy Buffett song, it also happens to be true for me.

My paternal grandfather went to the Coast Guard Academy before dropping out to build submarines for World War II. He was employed by Electric Boat in Groton Connecticut as an electrician, handling the wiring between the bridge and the rest of the submarine. Grandpa would describe working on sixteen hour shifts building them, taking them out into Montauk Sound, and diving ten feet at a time and checking all the wiring. Ten feet at a time, they would take the boat down and make sure everything worked and that the submarine was watertight. He did this for the duration of the war.

His time at Electric Boat also taught him to make coffee; specifically, he learned to make Navy coffee. This isn’t so much coffee as a water based caffeine delivery system, a concoction so strong and ill tempered that cappuccinos and espressos would see it coming and cross to the other side of the street. One time, when I was getting my dad a cup of the stuff (which he cut with liberal amounts of water so that he would not get the shakes), I poured in some milk. The healthy dose of milk disappeared under the surface without a hint of color change on the time; it was like the coffee had consumed the cream itself. As my grandpa had survived on this coffee for years, it was a family theory that he had outlived his life span due to the sheer volume of caffeine that resided in his system.

In the later years, he would watch the submarines making their way from the Navy base in Groton on the Thames river. From the hilltop across from the Coast Guard Academy, he’d observe the cadets maneuvering in their sailboats or taking Eagle out to sea. I can still see him now, sitting with legs crossed at the knee, puffing on his pipe and watching the business of the river go by.

My father had his own sailing adventures, minus the military involvement. As someone raised in the New London area, the river and the ocean were not far away. Whenever he got the chance, he’d go out sailing with my aunt on her sailboat. I remember vaguely as a kid that he took a sailing vacation for a week. When we went to pick him up afterwards, he had a goofy grin on his unshaven face, the kind one gets coming fresh out of an adventure.

This was not the only adventuresome streak my father had. During college and another time year later, he went out to his college buddy’s ranch to be a cowboy. Or, to make it a bit clearer using his term, a real cowboy. As in, rounding up and driving cattle, branding calves, mending fences, riding horseback, and all of the sweat and hard work that the movies rarely show. On that remote piece of plateau land in Arizona, he experienced the American Western life as few have known it in the intervening years.

Unlike sailing, my father continues to follow his love of the American West. He is a season pass holder for Cowtown Rodeo in Woodstown, NJ. (Yes, there is a rodeo in New Jersey. It’s the oldest weekly running rodeo in the country. And having attended it multiple times, it’s a quite a bit of Americana that should not be missed.) Every Saturday night during the summer, he drives down to see men ride bulls and horses, rope steers and calves, and women barrel race. It’s a professional rodeo and, having sat out there on the benches as the sun sets, it is just a bit of the cowboy culture transported to New Jersey.

As this is a Father’s Day post, I would be remiss to omit my maternal grandfather. He was a sailor of his own right, having learned to sail on the Cooper River and on Long Beach Island. His attempts to teach his children how to sail resulted in excellent family stories about emergence of personality quirks and very little actual seamanship. Nevertheless, my grandfather would go sailing with his friends in and around Barnegat Light as the sea and the family vacation needs saw fit.

In the last years of his life, he and my grandmother took a river cruise with my great aunt and uncle down the Hudson. The boat made its lazy, meandering way while the four of them enjoyed the scenery over the course of a week. I cannot remember where they started from, but I remember this trip because they were set to dock and disembark in New York City on Tuesday, September 11th. (Yes, that Tuesday. Needless to say, they did not dock there.)

While I really do like Jimmy Buffett song, I find that common thread of sailing in my immediate paternal forbearers to be apropos. There is a certain call of the sea, a romanticizing aspect that intrigues one by invoking adventure and curiosity. The harsh reality of the actual voyage carries its own burden for each person who undertakes it, resulting in a clash of ideals versus reality. With that said, I guess it would be a fair comparison to that of being a father. Though heavy with stories, real and otherwise, there is still nothing that compares to the actual voyage.

To all the dads out there, a Happy Father’s Day. I’ll give the last lines to Jimmy.

Where it all ends I can’t fathom my friends
If I knew I might toss out my anchor
So I cruise along always searchin for songs
Not a lawyer a thief or a banker

[Guest Post] OA Student Publications: Reaching Beyond the Journal

Last week, I sent out an invitation to the Hack Library School people to do a guest post on my blog. I’ve never had a guest post before so I figured I’d ask give it a shot by asking a group of people who have a consistently excellent product. I should note that Hack Library School also just won first place in the Newcomer Library Blog category of the second annual Salem Press Blog Awards. As one of the contest judges, I was enormously pleased to see that they were nominated and made the final cut. I was also pleased to hear back from Julia Skinner who took me up on the offer.

Open Access (OA) is an issue that I believe more librarians should take an interest in. With the distribution network of the Internet and the restrictive agreements which journals offer authors (both faculty and non-faculty), it represents a new mode and idea for information sharing and knowledge exchange. Consider the ongoing Georgia State University copyright lawsuit that threatens to change the very nature of how documents are handled at in academic libraries. For the skinny on the issue, read Barbara Fister’s Library Journal post for an excellent summary of what’s at stake.

Julia Skinner is a doctoral student in LIS at Florida State University. She recently received her MLS and a Center for the Book certificate from the University of Iowa. She studies library history and is also interested in LIS education, social media, and student OA publications. You can visit her blog or see her handiwork as an editor at the Hack Library School blog. Or you can keep up with her day-to-day on her Twitter account.

OA Student Publications: Reaching Beyond the Journal

I’ve said many times on my blog and in Hack Library School that a large part of the reason I love our field so much is the passionate and dedicated people who feel drawn to become librarians and info pros. Recently I finished my tenure as Editor at B Sides Journal and it gave me a chance to pause and look at student publishing. When I did so, I realized that a lot of the excitement and innovation I see elsewhere in the field is happening in the world of student-run journals as well. I have worked with two different journals, so I thought I’d share a little bit about all the awesome things they are doing and why I’m proud to be a part of the process!

B Sides

B Sides was founded by two awesome ladies (Angela Murillo and Rachel Smalter Hall) with the goal of publicizing unheard voices (UI SLIS students) and broadening the scope of our discourse in peer-reviewed journals. B Sides has a dual mission of publishing quality work and of educating students about the publication process.

B Sides has carried through with these goals through the journal itself (including some very well-read articles,) but has also reached beyond that to help shape the student experience in other ways. The biggest was the student-led conference that showcased the work of current and former students and provided a space for networking. As a compliment to the conference, we hosted two faculty-led talks: a ‘best practices’ session held before for students planning to speak, and a post-conference discussion of the publication process. We also set up a Twitter account and a Facebook account to share updates with followers and get input. My fellow editor (Katie DeVries Hassman) and I just passed the journal along to our new editors (Melody Dworak and Sam Bouwers) and I’m thrilled to see where they take it!

Library Student Journal

I serve on the Editorial Board at Library Student Journal (LSJ), and I am impressed with the awesome leadership our Editor, Claire Gross, has shown, as well as by the publications. LSJ accepts student publications from around the world, which means that readers can learn from a diverse group of authors about a variety of topics. The site also hosts a very active blog, where Claire shares resources on current events on the field and updates about the publication. LSJ is very active in social media as well, with a very informative Twitter account and on Facebook.

Why I Get So Excited About These Things

Both LSJ and B Sides provide an opportunity for students to boost their resumes by submitting publications and serving as peer reviewers, but I would argue that they are doing a lot more than that. First of all, they are both open access, which means that readers can access full text versions of works without paying money or relying on an institutional subscription. That means more people can read our work, learn from it, and give us feedback (my piece in B Sides, for example, has had over 230 reads in about a year.)

Student publications also provide a unique opportunity for students, and also for those interested in reading LIS scholarship. In both cases, the hope is that we get to share some of the great scholarship being produced, but also help students feel comfortable and confident with publishing so that they will continue to share their perspectives in journals throughout their careers. By making the literature of our field more inclusive, it is my hope that it becomes easier for us to learn from each other, think in new ways, and try new things.

It also makes me hope that we will see an uptick in practitioner-based research that is thoughtful and uses practice and theory to inform each other (theory to inform our approaches, outcomes to challenge parts of theory that don’t hold true.) There is some great research out there that takes a problem from a library and outlines the implementation of a solution, but there is also a lot that just talks about the successes of an approach. Instead, by helping students to engage with the publication process from the beginning, we can allow practitioners to approach their solutions with a critical eye and with a recognition that we can learn as much from our failures as we do from our successes.

I know LSJ and B Sides are working to help familiarize students with publishing and share their work, but I would be curious about other publications I am less familiar with. For those involves with other journals (student or otherwise), I would love to hear your thoughts on the value of student publications or on how publishing fits in with the future of LIS!

Two Nights in Philly (Visiting SLA 2011)

On Monday and Tuesday evening this week, after a long day at work I hopped on the train to meet and dine with my fellow librarians in Philadelphia. The Special Libraries Association annual conference was in the area and I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to meet with a whole new set of librarians that I generally only know through Twitter, Facebook, or the blogs. Monday was a chance to meet students from Pratt at the Hack Library School meetup and then onwards to the people I consider to be my tribe, Library Society of the World. Tuesday, I will say, was the night I was really looking forward to as I got a chance to share a meal with Ned Potter. We’ve been corresponding back and forth for months on various library advocacy things so it was great to actually meet him. Later on, I was glad to meet Laura and Bethan as well as the other British librarians who had made the trip over (Chris, Sam, and Natalia) at the SLA Dance Party.

In reflecting on two days worth of conversations (both sober and slightly less than sober), I will say that it was a nice change of pace to hear about libraries that don’t face the same obstacles as public libraries. While socializing with the SLA Pratt students, the range of environments in which they were operating their libraries was fascinating. From hospitals to government agencies to non-profits, each person brought a new set of difficulties and challenges to the table. As someone who works in a public library and is generally surrounded by public librarians, it was like visiting a different culture which spoke the same language but had different customs. It was fun to question and explore what these students were doing and how their library experience was radically different or surprisingly the same as mine.

To me, it poses it’s own conundrum: how does one advocate for special libraries? This was uncharted territory for me; on top of that, it is very contextual. In some cases, it’s not an issue when the company, agency, or business has an output or product based on knowledge resources. In other cases, it’s a matter of convincing an executive or government bigwig that the library is not a cost center and has value on its own merits. In assessing it in the scope of Big Tent Librarianship, it begs its own question: so how does it fit under the tent? Where is the give and take as it relates to other libraries? These are things I’m going to have to think on now, but I welcome other insight.

It was a couple of great nights in Philadelphia. I hope to be able to see everyone again; in the meantime, I’ll see you online!

Open Thread Thursdays: Thought Leaders?

This is the first time I’ve been able to put fingers to a keyboard in any meaningful non-work fashion all week. Having spent the last few evenings visiting the good librarians of SLA at their conference in Philadelphia, the face-to-face socializing has taken precedence over the social media monitoring. My Google Reader is pushing the 1000+ count, my email is full of neglected correspondences, and Twitter is all but forgotten.

But the message from the TEDxLibrariansTO people I got a couple days back has been sitting on the top of this pile as they have been asking for videos discussing their theme for the conference which is “librarians as thought leaders”. As I tackle the question myself, I thought I’d toss it out there.

Are librarians thought leaders? If so, why? If not, why not? And feel free to narrow the context and scope of your answer.

As always, while I’ve given a starter topic, this is an open thread. Post what you feel and anonymous replies are welcome.

Way Down in the Hole

Awhile back, my brother lent me his copies of season 1 and 2 of the HBO series The Wire. You’d really have to be living under a pop culture rock not to have at least heard of this series as it is commonly cited as the best television series ever. (The emphasis does not originate from me.) I never got a chance to watch them on DVD, but when the HBO GO app became available for the iPad, I started watching the series.

“Give it three episodes,” my brother said. “If you don’t like it after that, then you can give up on it.” It’s a pretty reasonable time frame, the same way Nancy Pearl advises that you give books a certain number of pages before you can put them down for not liking them. I lost interest in The Sopranos after a season and a half so it’s not the first time I’ve given up on a series with critical acclaim. (The Sopranos is just part of hundreds of partially watched series that I’ve managed to collect over the years.)

I ended up watching Season 1 over the course of two days. Season 2 was more spaced out over a week. I just completed Season 3 last night with a marathon session at the end for the last four episodes stretching into the wee hours of the morning. I’m looking forward to starting Season 4, but I always wonder when I watch one episode if something is going to compel me to watch one or two or five after that. I have to be careful!

For myself, the series hits all the notes I look for in a television show: good acting, good plot, interesting characters, and (most important) a story arc that has an end to it. I want to emphasize the last part because as someone who watched a lot of television in the 1990’s there were so many series that just went on and on with no end in sight. The idea that “we’ll keep making them so long as people keep watching them” left me with no sense of actual closure to the series. And when I mean closure, I mean in the sense of “this is the end of the story, even if there are some questions that remain unanswered”. I’m sure you can think of a long running series that had to finish up because it was cancelled; I just hate when that happens.

My question to you is this: what do you look for in a story series? (Be it books, television, movies, or whatnot.) What’s your je ne sais quoi that makes things worth following? What makes you not follow a series?

Open Thread Thursday: Advance Token to GO

This past week the big news was EBSCO’s acquisition of H.W. Wilson. With this move, it raises some old concerns and fears about having a small number of companies with a large amount of subscription content. I don’t believe I’d have to go too far to find a disgruntled story about bad dealings with database vendors when it comes to subscription bundles and pricing. I’m not suggest that is the case here (time will certainly tell), but when the number of companies providing major amounts of databases grows smaller, it creates a smaller marketplace.

So, here’s the question for the thread: should librarians be concerned about this merger? Or is it just business as usual in the (relatively) free market? What should the profession be looking for when library vendors buy out or merge with their competition?

Reminder: this is an open thread. You can take the suggested topic or toss out something else on your mind. Anonymous posts are still accepted.

On Freedom and eBooks

From CNet:

Richard Stallman, who bridles to see the idealistic purity of his free-software philosophy debased into the more pragmatic open-source movement, can be a prickly character. But I find myself agreeing with some of his concerns about e-books.

In a piece titled "The Danger of E-books" (PDF), Stallman bemoans the e-book’s loss of freedoms that most of us take for granted with physical books and places the blame on corporate powers.

"Technologies that could have empowered us are used to chain us instead," he said. "We must reject e-books until they respect our freedom…E-books need not attack our freedom, but they will if companies get to decide. It’s up to us to stop them."

This sounds like a good supporting piece for the eBook Reader’s Bill of Rights even if it takes the extreme vantage point.  I’ve been thinking about that piece lately; it’s been about four months since Sarah and I released it upon the internet. It got a lot of coverage within the online librarian community and managed to hop outside it in a couple of places (BoingBoing being one of the bigger hops out). But, while it had initial spark, it has failed to catch on in larger continuing conversations regarding eBooks. Perhaps it is a bit too radical in its reach; perhaps it doesn’t go far enough in addressing the larger cultural and societal attitudes towards the treatment of electronic content.

I guess it boils down to who do we as a society trust with written content. From the manuscript to the final product to the marketplace, there are many current barriers in existence that can prevent a book from reaching its final destination in the hands of the reader. Is it only when it reaches the final step, in the hands of the consumer by right of the First Sale Doctrine or the licensing agreement of eBook sellers, that is the true point of controversy? Will there be an “ownership awakening” in which consumers will reject licensing and demand ownership rights or else? Perhaps not, but certain food for thought for your comments.

Librarians & Human Rights

From the Atlantic Wire:

The United Nations counts internet access as a basic human right in a report that bears implications both to on-going events in the Arab Spring and to the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowers. Acting as special rapporteur, a human rights watchdog role appointed by the UN Secretary General, Frank La Rue takes a hard line on the importance of the internet as "an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress."

Great. Now when public librarians kick people off the computer, they’ll be calling it a violation of their human rights. Soon public librarians will be occupied by a blue helmeted multi-national force in order to ensure people’s human rights aren’t being violated. Ok, maybe not. But it also hits on the digital divide.

La Rue acknowledges the logistical barriers that some nations face when it comes to delivering internet service. Without the proper infrastructure, some nations simply can’t engage the internet as the "revolutionary" and "interactive medium" it’s proven itself to be. However, all nations should make plans to offer universal access and also maintain policy that won’t limit access for political purposes.

And there we have it: a written declaration of the right to digital information access. I fully acknowledge that there is a vast gulp between the words and their realization; it’s not even a matter of governmental interference (that’s a concern in and of itself) but lack of national infrastructure in some of the poorest countries in the world.

It’s a step in the right direction, for certain. Is it something libraries could capitalize on? I think so in nations that still lack for them; it is a pairing of print and computing that mimics what currently passes for a modern library. In more modern countries, my hunch is to think it might turn into computer centers rather than libraries.

Internet access as a human right: what do you think?

#hcod on the radio

I did an interview for the local news radio station here in Philadelphia. Local is a relative term here since the station (KYW) covers the Delaware Valley region and gets some of the highest listening shares (over a million people) out of the Philadelphia radio market. I hope it brings the issue to more people outside of the library world.

(I’ll confess that I haven’t listened to it because I really don’t like to hear myself; same thing goes for videos of myself.)