#hcod and Change.org


Recently, I was asked if I would be interested in writing a petition with Change.org regarding the HarperCollins limited eBook license. After a couple of different drafts, some research as to who to contact, and some advice from Sarah Houghton-Jan, Brett Bonfield, and Carol Scott, this is the finished product.

Read, sign, share, and join with others.

(The above graphic is my original idea for the photo for the petition, but I opted to embed the 26+ checkouts video instead.)

SundaySpec: Librarian Leadership

I’ve taken to watching TED talks as part of my continuing professional education. These presentation range from five to twenty minutes in length and there is a wide variety of subjects being covered. TED has put out a pretty cool app for the iPad, allowing me to watch a talk or two in bed before turning off the light. The app doesn’t have access to every TED talk but it does allow you to save the talks it does have for offline viewing.

Last night, I watched a variety of amazing talks: Mick Ebeling, Caroline Casey, Morgan Spurlock, and Ralph Langner. But it was the General Stanley McChrystal talk that really got me thinking. In the middle of his talk, the General makes the observation that the old leadership days of getting all of the major decision makers into the same room and being able to look them in the eye is over. The new leadership reality means using email, chat, and phone and video calls to build trust and a consensus of a common purpose. Instantly I thought about the different things that happened out of the HarperCollins limited eBook circulation announcement. There were emails going to lists of people, chatting online with various folks, some phone calls, and only when I got to the Computers in Libraries conference did I finally talk to someone face to face about it. While it is not the same as sending men and women off into combat, I felt that the tools used by the General and the people organizing against HarperCollins are one in the same. It made me reconsider the issue of leadership within the librarian community.

For as much as people complain about the lack of leadership coming from the state and national librarian organizations, the reality is that the leadership vacuum has been filled by a numerous and diverse group of people all across the country, both online and offline. While the state and national associations are important for taking consensus (read “strength in numbers”) action, the steady state of leadership position turnover in these organizations has diffused actual leadership to members of the librarian community.

There’s a saying in poker that if you sit down at a table and you don’t see a sucker, then the sucker is you. I’d like to paraphrase it to my librarian brethren and say that, if you see an issue that you want to change and don’t see anyone taking charge of that, then the leader is you.

A group of students felt like their graduate school education was incomplete so they formed a group blog HackLibrarySchool to address and provide some of the education they felt was missing. JP Pocaro and Justin Hoenke felt that there was a lack of movement in incorporating video games as a viable collection materials and for programming; they founded 8bitlibrary as a library oriented video game and gaming resource. Brett Bonfield and Gabriel Farrell felt so strongly about the HarperCollins eBook limit that they set up the website Boycott HarperCollins and loaded it with information as to the importance of the issue.

These are but a few examples of people within the librarian community seeing a leadership need and filling it. Are there other examples you can think of? Has the librarian leadership really diffused to the community?

MARC Madness: The Finale

For the championship of MARC Madness: The Tournament of Library Terminology, it will be:

MARC vs. metadata

MARC took out festschrift 99-75 while metadata conquered information literacy 100-74. Thanks to all who took part in the voting in any of the rounds. This wouldn’t be the event that it is without your participation. It’s been fun to see how the terms would do and now it is time to call for the final vote.

AND NOW… the cataloging cataclysm is on!

Two terms enter, one term leave!

MARC. Metadata. Choose the winner!

Check back on Wednesday for the winner!

Third World Piracy, First World IP Headaches


The Social Science Research Council recently released a report entitled “Media Piracy in Emerging Economies”. This three year study focused on music, movie, and software privacy in countries like Russia, South Africa, and Brazil. You can get the report here, depending on which part of the Consumer’s Dilemma you qualify for in terms of price. The major findings of the report are as follows (I’ve summed up their bullet points):

  • Prices are too high. [Prices are 5-10 times higher relative to income.]
  • Competition is good. [No competition means no lower prices.]
  • Antipiracy education has failed. [Self-explanatory.]
  • Changing the law is easy. Changing the practice is hard. [Same.] 
  • Criminals can’t compete with free. [Same issue as legit companies.]
  • Enforcement hasn’t worked.

I wouldn’t immediately move to lump eBooks into this pile, but as it is a digital file, it can’t be far off from these findings. Especially the point about “criminals can’t compete with free”, which feels like a remote overture towards libraries; why would people buy the book if they can just borrow it for free?

Felix Salmon at Reuters writes:

For starters, Mike Masnick is absolutely right that the report debunks the entire foundation of US foreign IP policy. That policy has essentially been written by the owners of US intellectual property, who jealously protect it and think that the best thing they can possibly do is be as aggressive as possible towards any sign of international IP piracy. As the report shows, this makes a tiny amount of profit-maximizing sense for the companies concerned. But it actually encourages, rather than reduces, piracy in the aggregate. (Emphasis in original)

And (as quoted by Andrew Sullivan in part, attributed at the bottom of this post):

The big forces driving media piracy in developing countries are real and powerful and will not be changed, no matter how many western politicians get on their moral high horses and insist that countries like India and China build a “culture of intellectual property.” But the irony is that if governments and corporations really wanted to build such a culture, then they would encourage companies to set their prices low enough that the populations of those countries could actually afford to buy music, movies, and software at the full legal retail price. It turns out that domestic companies are quite good at distributing media at low prices, and can build profitable businesses by doing that. But foreign companies have different incentives in the short term, and don’t do that.

It’s worth reading his whole take on the report. The quotes he pulls out are stunning. For as much puffery that is placed on the ills of piracy and how much it costs those three industries, the documentation to this claim is either suspect or non-existent. Considering the robustness of these industries, it’s hard to see where the financial suffering begins.

Reihan Salam at the National Review Online has his take:

High prices for media goods create what the report’s authors call “the consumer’s dilemma”: you can pay the high legal price, you can find a pirated copy, or you can skip consuming the good in question. Technology has been diffusing faster than incomes have been converging. That is, there are now millions of people living around the world who have the devices and the broadband they need to consume media goods produced in the rich world, but without the incomes they’d need to pay the prices to which people in the rich world have grown accustomed.

In viewing these reports and reactions through the librarian kaleidoscope, the steps taken to prevent piracy in the third world make for a difficult product and limiting conditions in the first world. As the people who can afford eBooks under their current pricing structures, we (both libraries and consumers in the first world) are seen as the best way to recover expenses and generate revenues. We pay the DRM and monetary price for the actions of others well beyond the long reach of intellectual property law.

Now I’m off to wonder where libraries fall into this picture. As an entity that lends content at no additional cost to the community member, I can see why libraries are held as suspect in the publisher eBook lending idea. You can’t compete with free; but you also can’t compete if the obstacles to content make the pirate alternative a viable (albeit illegal) option. It’s something to consider as we move forward with eBook collections.

(h/t: Daily Dish, twice)

1Up @ Your Library

1upI’ve been wanting to write about Brian Herzog’s post about gamifying the library experience as well as Chad Boeninger’s post about rewarding library users with achievements. In approaching the topic, I was talking with my brother Pete about it this evening. There’s a little background I should mention here: in a previous career, he used to be a developer for White Wolf Games and has constructed game systems in the past, both for companies and for his own fun. As his brother, I had the pleasure of playtesting some of those commercial games as well as others. Between us, we have a fair amount of gaming experience (board, card, tabletop, RPG, miniatures, video, and so forth) to draw upon; we are quite the pair of gaming geeks. He also has a degree in Philosophy so he’s gotten the better share of logic genes in the family; it makes Pete a natural for bringing this kind of idea to him.

In talking about designing a game for a library setting, Pete brought up some basic game design criteria from Jared Sorensen (a well known game designer in the gaming industry). In looking to build a game, a prospective designer should ask themselves three questions:

  1. Who is the intended audience?
  2. What is the behavior that you want to reward?
  3. How is it fun?

In examining each question in turn, it gives insights into the game you want to make.

In considering the first question, is the game intended only for regular library users? Do you want to try to attract casual users? Is it just for people taking out material from the library or is it to engage people who are only (for lack of a better phrase) in-house users? Are you trying to attract non-users into becoming users? Students? Faculty? Teachers? Administration? Kids? Teens? Parents? Defining a target audience is a key step leading into addressing the next question.

In looking at the people you want to participate, what are the behaviors that they exhibit that you would like to reward? Is it their regular checkouts and visits? Returning items on time? Getting friends, family, and neighbors to sign up for cards? Using the computers or reading newspapers? Program attendance? Book reviews on your website, “Likes” on your Facebook page, or re-tweets on Twitter? Reference questions? Students asking for help for research projects? Faculty encouraging students to seek librarian help? There’s a good number of behaviors that benefit the library that could be rewarded. It’s a matter of figuring out which actions you want to offer incentives.

The question “how is it fun?” goes to another deeper matter: why would anyone play the game? It’s an assessment of the rules and reward system. What makes this a game that people would want to participate in and continue to do so? How much effort is involved in comparison to the prizes or boons bestowed? In scientific terms, what will set off the release of dopamine in the brain and give people that reward rush? And how can we get that specific brain activity while making it something that people enjoy? Without the fun factor, then it ceases to be a game and starts functioning like work.

In going over the idea of a library game with my brother, there are other aspects to keep in mind. In order to reduce potential cheating, you have to make the sum total of the effort and reward greater than the act and risk of cheating. In other words, it is about putting the legitimate reward pathway as the path of least resistance in comparison to taking the steps to cheat. No game system is impervious to cheating or trying to game the system, but you can reduce the temptation or urge. It is about measuring the effort to match the reward while limiting opportunities to circumvent the system. It has to play towards people’s feelings of what is fair for their time and effort. It will take some tweaking, but it can be done.

Another aspect is the amount of staff time and energy it would take to set up and run a rewards system like this. While I think that the majority of effort is at the front end, it is still a matter of getting staff on board to both understand and explain the game to the target audience. It is the fine line of making a rules system that is easy to explain while relegating harder issues to a staff referee who can handle any problems that may arise. However, I do think that once the system is up and running, the majority of the heavy lifting is done; it just becomes a regular maintenance operation.

I certainly hope this moves the ball for some people when it comes to adding a gaming component to their library. While it should be noted that you can offer rewards through Foursquare check-ins right now, there is nothing to deter you from rewarding specific behaviors or actions at the library. You can do more than thank them for showing up. I think there are fun and low or no cost things that can be done to add a little variety to any library (public, academic, school, or special).

I want to emphasize that I think any library can add a gaming aspect to it; it’s just a matter of answering those questions, coming up with a set of rules and rewards, and doing it.


I won’t leave this idea without taking a stab at a library game.

My inclination would be to target current regular and casual users by offering “borrower’s rewards” card. After nine checkouts (not total material borrowed, but every time they check out material and limited to once per day), on the tenth checkout I’d give them the option of reducing their late fines by up to $5 or a $5 gift certificate to a local restaurants or shops. I’d be looking to the library friends to fund the gift certificates and by using the local shops it  encourages people to shop in town (thus helping the local economy). I’d also like to offer a similar rewards program to people who are reading newspapers/magazines or using the computer at the library.

In order to keep track of the system, I have two possible ideas. In a manual system, the patron would be given a card. For each checkout or computer use, the card can be stamped with the date and initialed by staff. In an automated system, it would be a matter of developing a computer program to tally uses by scanning the patron’s library card. It would be something separate to the automation system but capable of working at multiple locations. (Perhaps the #code4lib people would see this idea as a challenge.) When the required number of uses come up, the staff would be prompted to issue a reward.

In working with this, it would be a matter of adjusting the number of checkouts to get people to continue to participate while not over-rewarding or changing how quickly they can get stamps. In the alternative, it might be a matter of bumping up the gift certificate or fine forgiveness to continue interest. The purpose in targeting these two types of borrowers would be to work on the word-of-mouth marketing that it could create in talking about spending their reward with family, friends, and acquaintances. It’s a system intended to offer incentives to regular and casual library users 

It’s far from perfect, but I did want to take a shot at it. Even now, I can think of some issues with this idea, but I’d rather not try to riddle it out in this blog post.


So, what do you think: are you game?

Open Thread Thursday: Fashion Police

All things DO keep getting better…

Last Saturday, there was some drama about the ACRL closing keynote speaker, Clinton Kelly. The host of the television show What Not To Wear was the subject of discussion as to why there was a non-librarian chosen to give a keynote at a major conference and the subject of fashion within the library community.

In tackling the first point, I don’t see the problem with having a non-librarian give a keynote. We invite authors to do it all the time; as Clinton was there as part of his book tour (which knocks down his speaking fee to dirt cheap), it sounds like business as usual to me. I would certainly hope that we could get more non-librarians to speak at our conferences. And for that matter, why not someone controversial? Why not speakers like PZ Myers, Rick Warren, Al Franken, or Bill O’Reilly? For a profession that proudly touts how libraries should contain material that is potentially offensive to everyone, the inclination to pick the least offensive speaker seems to be a conference norm. Break out of the echo chamber, people.

In addressing the second point, I’ll just relate my experience. When I started, I just wore some inexpensive dress shoes, a button down shirt, and khakis or slacks to work. After a couple of months, the attire really made me feel (for lack of a better term) unprofessional. I felt like I was dressed for a high school presentation. In looking to add something, I bought a few pairs of decent dress shoes as well as added sweaters and sweater vests to my wardrobe. In coming to work, I felt that I presented more like a professional. I’m thinking about taking another step and adding ties and vests to my wardrobe to give me some other options (especially in the summer). I’ve come a long ways from the grungy jeans and flannels of commercial nursery work.

I know that my attire works for me as an adult services librarian at a branch library; it may not work as well with other jobs and positions within the library. The point I am reaching for is that there is a benefit to both dressing and looking the part within the profession. The attire works towards self-image and self-confidence; it also influence how the public perceives the librarian. Like it or not, personal appearance matters and it is judged; how librarians come across in those initial non-speaking moments matters as a first impression. You really don’t get a second chance for that.

So, pick your comment poison: non-librarian speakers at conferences or the fashion of the profession. And let’s hear it.

MARC Madness: The Penultimate Matchup

Announcing the Division winners!

Acronym DivisionMARC 104, MLIS 59

Lexicon Divisionfestschrift 97, authentication 66

Lingo Divisionmetadata 97, authority control 66

Buzzword Divisioninformation literacy 93, user experience 70

Congratulations to the terms that won out! There was some fierce competition between different terms at different tiers, but these four made it through. Thanks to everyone who has voted over the past two weeks.

Now, time to figure out who will square off for the championship!

Will MARC be able to defeat festschrift?

Will metadata go all meta on information literacy?

Let’s find out!

Pick the championship match here!

Voting ends Friday!