This coalition is raising all the important issues for the future of e-collections, and makes a strong case for the rights of libraries to manager their purchased ebooks for the benefit of their user communities
This coalition is raising all the important issues for the future of e-collections, and makes a strong case for the rights of libraries to manager their purchased ebooks for the benefit of their user communities
Thanks go to Blake Carver for spotting this well-written analysis of the tension between current publishers’ goal for ebooks, and library advocacy for fair use and the importance of building e-collections.
At 1 p.m. CDT on Oct. 17, the Public Library Association (PLA) hosted a live, hour-long webinar, “ Make Way for Makerspaces at the Library” (PLA login required for this site. The presentation was given by Lauren Britton, transliteracy development director at the Fayetteville (N.Y.) Free Library, and creator of the first public library makerspace, the Fayetteville Fab Lab.
Makerspaces are innovative spots that introduce patrons to tools, like 3D printers and makerbots, not normally found in the library and offer patrons the opportunity to explore their interests, use new tools and develop creative projects. During this PLA webinar, participants will learn all about makerspaces including what they are, why public libraries should think about developing them and what elements need to be incorporated. The presentation covered projects, programming ideas and examples of current library makerspaces.
I enjoyed viewing Brian Kelly’s slides for his recent presentation titled “What Next for Libraries? Making Sense of the Future!” The presentation was given at the Emerging Technologies in Academic Libraries conference, which was held in Trondheim October 1-3, 2012. Brian synthesizes our perceptions and beliefs about what is to come and how things don’t always work out quite as we think they will. He uses the monorail—a “bleeding edge” technology some 50 years ago—as an example of a promising technology that reached a dead end.
Brian’s UKWebFocus post about his presentation at EMTAC also “reblogged” Lukas Koster’s post title about the event: “Change or Be Irrelevant.” This is a topic I always warm to, having been engaged in this debate, mission, or aspiration about library futures as long as I’ve been in the profession.
Librarians are rightly concerned about their future, as new technologies influence how people use information. But our recent history is one of continuous change, with many smart moves paying off in big ways. One example is our early move into Web-based database aggregation, and becoming content creators is my current favorite. But for now, I want to respond to the risk of irrelevance that seems to stalk us, and add one thought based on some reading I have done over the years.
We’re not alone.
Virtually every profession that styles itself the guarantor of quality service, advice or judgment is facing the same uncertainty that librarians do. The shrillness of the alarm that other professionals articulate can make librarians seem like calm, unruffled masters of the universe.
Some of the most august professions are confronting bigger challenges than librarians, with varied degrees of success. For example, law is currently the site of high anxiety about partner profits, new models for providing legal services more cheaply, what young lawyers ought to be doing once they leave law school, and even the demise of the practice of law as we know it. The prime culprit is once again technology, with a boost from the economic downturn.
Further afield, health care professionals of many stripes struggle to increase their status, sometimes engaging in fierce debate their fellow care givers. Nurses have seen their status grow, while doctors openly complain about the growing burdens they face in the administrative and bureaucratic arenas. Psychologists clamor for the right to prescribe medicines for mental health issues, while psychiatrists man the battlements and will not give an inch. My sense is that the entire system of professions is being upended by new technologies, new ideas, new players taking on the establishment and so on.
This is a good thing.
But technology along is not the sole driver of professional distress—which is being voiced in the trade journals of every field in one form or another. Competition between professions is another new and revitalized factor in the batter for relevance. Technology speeds up the impact of competition between people, and it challenges professions to respond. In a way, the “marketplace of ideas” that is at the heart of intellectual inquiry is joined by a marketplace of “skill,” which is marked by fierce competition and innovation. This process affects all professions.
It is also not a new process. Any serious student of the future and of the information professions in particular has some required reading to do in the discipline of sociology. Andrew Abbott, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, penned a book in 1988 titled The System of Professions (University of Chicago Press, 1988). In this book he outlines the dynamic process by which all professions compete to gain special status, and then organize to hold onto it. One group can gain leverage over another by offering a better solution—for example, paralegals could offer in-depth services that step onto the turf of attorneys. This process is known as “treatment substitution.” Essentially new groups rise and offer a better “treatment” than the traditional players, and gain ground as a result. Abbott devotes an entire chapter to the information professions—of which librarianship, even in 1988, was just one among many.
Abbott returned to his study of librarians and the challenges they face in 1998, in his article titled “Professionalism and the Future of Librarianship” (Library Trends, Vol. 46 (no. 3), Winter 1998, 430-443). This article gained some attention in its day, and both his book and the article have passed the test of time quite well.
The core of Abbott’s thinking is compelling, and holds many lessons for the library professions. If we can understand challenges to our status as professionals and in particular our ability to master new technologies as based in “treatment substitution”—that is, others moving into our turf—we are more likely to develop survival strategies that advance our own “unique skill.” Essentially, we would be telling the professional world, “Our solution is the best solution. Here’s why.” –and take it from there.
Consider the idea of an organization’s mission statement. It should outline the core beliefs of the organization in ways that keep it on course and enable it to thrive. Likewise, a strategy that is based on the belief that all professions are certain to compete—especially in this present era of disruptive technology—is more likely to facilitate action-oriented thinking that looks to the future, rather than the past, for inspiration.
And so in the quest for relevance, I look not only to examples of dead-end technologies or the emergence of mobile and app-based computing; I look also to see what strategies new players in the information sphere are trying out to create a niche themselves. We have solid data that tells us that people are not effective searchers when it comes to finding articles via Google or the Library Web site. Maybe that’s one issue that could inform a fresh strategy to make ourselves not only relevant, but indispensable….
Blogger and all-around newshound Blake Carver is doubling as an emerging technology spotter (and has been doing so for years!). Check out his post titled Three Start-ups That Could Change The Market? for a good read.
Of these three–all of which are intriguing by the way–his third pick is the most compelling potential game changer in my opinion: BookShout!
If you entrust them with your personal data, they will aggregate your Kindle bookshelf and make an ebook library for you–one that you have already paid for, and so it would have to be regard as an authorized activity. Blake rightly describes the “hook” for this venture as the usage of loopholes at Amazon and Nook; I can’t help wondering if those loopholes will stay open…
This summary was prepared by Brandon Butler for the Association of Research Libraries, and it provides a succinct but thorough overview of the decision.
The full decision is available on Scribd at http://www.scribd.com/doc/109647049/HathiTrust-Opinion
Prepared by Brandon Butler for the Association of Research Libraries
Authors’ Guild (AG) and individual authors sued HathiTrust (HT) and individual members, alleging that mass digitization was an infringement of copyright, as was the (suspended) Orphan Works Project. HT responded that fair use applied, among other defenses. The parties filed motions for summary judgment on these questions. The opinion was issued 10/10/2012 by Judge Harold Baer, Southern District of New York.
1. AG lacks standing – The court held that the AG does not have standing to sue because the Copyright Act allows only the “legal or beneficial owner of a copyright” to bring a lawsuit for infringement. AG is not suing because of rights it owns, but rather is suing on behalf of rights its members own. Some laws allow this kind of lawsuit, but the Copyright Act does not. (Judge Chin has allowed the AG to sue Google on behalf of its members, but Judge Baer argues that this is only because Google did not raise the issue of standing under the Copyright Act; if a defendant doesn’t raise the issue, the judge need not decide it.
2. Section 108 does not preempt Fair Use – The court held that fair use is a supplement to Section 108, and, contrary to the AG’s arguments, libraries are entitled to a full fair use defense and are not required to rely only on §108. The Library Copyright Alliance amicus brief was mentioned in support of this holding.
3. Authors cannot sue over a future Orphan Works Project – The court held that because the project had been suspended, there was no way to judge what harm, if any, a renewed Project might cause. The dispute is not ripe for decision. Authors can sue over orphan works if and when a new program gets under way.
4. Mass digitization for search, preservation, and accessibility is a fair use – The court finds that all of HT’s uses are decisively fair. They are non-profit, educational uses, and two of HT’s purposes (search & accessibility) are “transformative,” because the works are used for a different purpose from the original, intended purpose. The court says use of the entire work is fair where appropriate to the purpose, as it is here. Finally, the court pointed to evidence showing that a market likely could not develop for licensing these kinds of uses, and further that, again because they are transformative, these uses cannot be subject to licenses. The court also dismissed as unsubstantiated the security concerns that had been a central part of the AG’s public statements about HT. AG had provided no reason to doubt the effectiveness of the complex security system that HT described at trial.
5. The ADA requires, and the Chafee Amendment allows, mass digitization for accessibility – Making library collections equally accessible is required for equal access to education for the print disabled. The market will not satisfy the need. Chafee arguably applies because the ADA makes accessibility a “primary mission” for all libraries. Even if Chafee does not apply, fair use does.
ONLINE 35 (no. 5), September/October 2006
(copyright 2006 by Terence K. Huwe. All Rights Reserved.)
Even though I run a library and I’m called a librarian, nowadays my portfolio of responsibilities goes far beyond my library role. Much of what I do is all about communication–digital communication: Web sites, digital repositories, publications, exhibits, and graphic design. Where I work, at the Institute of Industrial Relations, University of California, Berkeley, everything is connected. Over time, it’s been a big career change, yet without a job change.
How did it all end up on my plate? Well, for one, no other individual where I work is “diagnosing” the organization in quite the same way I do. I am monitoring information dynamics and taking appropriate actions. I’m also interested in the strategic role of information, both its form and content. Over time, my skills with digital information management have been “discovered”–and put to use in unexpected ways.
Many information professionals utilize similar analytical strategies. Those who do may have found, as I have, that we now can step into expanded roles in organizations. However, to do so, we need to recognize that we have become digital communicators: following digital media as it transforms organizations, and applying library skill throughout the process.
Library skill is a strategic resource that can transfer to a much broader playing field within organizations, but some basics apply. Primarily, digital communicators recognize the strategic value of reference and research skills–and aren’t afraid to talk about this value point to anyone. Second, digital communicators understand that in the present era, strategic information, no matter what the setting, has become a mutable commodity. We can repurpose it for a wide array of uses, benefiting many groups and extending the information life cycle. Third, digital communicators “diagnose” the organizations they work in, looking for both robust features and shortcomings. This diagnosis is ongoing and drives strategic actions that might seem unorthodox, or even tangential, to a “conventional” library mission.
Many information professionals are already taking these steps, to be sure. But I am suggesting that our fundamental “library” work now routinely drives us in new–and sometimes unforeseen–directions and can bring us new distinction in the workplace. To illustrate just how diverse those directions might be, here’s a closer look at the organization where I work and what I do there.
The Institute of Industrial Relations (IIR), at the University of California, Berkeley, is an “organized research unit” that supports faculty research and doctoral-level study. It’s a community of more than 250 people, with 65 affiliated faculty hailing from more than 12 departments and schools, about 40 staff, and lots of graduate students. IIR has an attractive (if ramshackle) building that is located off campus in the Telegraph Avenue retail area of Berkeley. Here’s the key characteristic of the setting: It’s physically isolated from the hurlyburly of the campus. Faculty and staff work at a distance from their departments and schools. E-mail is the glue that defines the community.
Dispersed “communities of practice” like this one abound in the U.S., both at universities and in industry. In such settings, the key tasks and activities that transform “workplaces” into vibrant communities are often left to chance. Notably, information professionals are in a unique position to discern what others often miss: that the digital life of organizations is growing, often trumping the “official” organizational structure. The Internet expands the zone where a meaningful community can grow–but community members often miss the growth opportunities. At the same time, the Internet enables organizations to merge the “content” of research or business activity with the “forms” of output, communication, and feedback. While this not really “news” anymore, proven and comprehensive approaches to the new communications frontier remain in short supply.
At IIR, our library diagnosis of the missed opportunities led us in the direction of digital communications management. Since no other group was watching the impact of the Internet on their own jobs so closely, the opportunity fell to us by default.
Our first diagnosis and “treatment” was pretty basic–build community with e-mail. We had noticed that no one was nurturing lively e-mail conversations; the library staff were the only group who saw e-mail as a community builder instead of a daily hassle. Therefore, in 1994, we proposed to manage all of the community e-mail lists, as many as six or more at times.
Managing digital conversations is mundane, but not trivial. It is an incremental task that brings long-term rewards for info pros who practice “selective dissemination of information” (SDI). With that in mind, we started out with three objectives. First, we wanted to know definitively who “belonged” to our community, and list management was the key. Second, if we oversaw digital conversations, then love us or hate us, you’d know who the heck we were. Third, community members were starved for news, resources, and other personal touches that help create the kinesthetic experience of community–a sense of belonging.
We began crafting and timing the release of library e-mail news alerts, and over time the alerts have become very popular. Indeed, after a few years, the faculty started “talking back” to us–thanking us and asking for more. For example, when we covered a historical analysis of unskilled labor in the U.S., Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor (now a professor at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy), replied, saying, “Many thanks–this is very useful.” It’s not uncommon for faculty members to ask us to resend messages that included items of special interest whenever they accidentally delete mail. If the offerings are distinctive, e-mail outreach like this can jump-start more vibrant digital community interaction–and in our case, the library was the change agent.
Also in 1994, IIR faced the World Wide Web explosion head on. Once again, the library volunteered to take on the work of Web administration. It was a risky move, because it was sure to create a mountain of new programming labor. However, it also enabled the library staff to integrate directly into the daily lives of the program staff and to offer a service no one else could perform. We became the “go to” folks for content management–not a bad place to be in a research environment.
The importance of our Web responsibilities cannot be overemphasized. We develop Web resources, perform HTML markup and site management for independent program units, present and analyze Web statistics and traffic, and consult about Web publishing and e-journal creation. Most important to us, these high-demand Web services extend our reference “reach.” By taking on a labor-intensive Web role, we have achieved a key goal: mainstreaming ourselves into the digital community.
Our advance into the Web arena set the stage for moving into print production. In 2002, our faculty director asked us to create publications to highlight IIR’s research and programs. Surprise, surprise–the original paper “platform” for content is still widely appreciated as a copy of record.
Because we had good working relationships with everyone and content in hand from our Web duties, we had all we needed to publish high-quality newsletters. Web programming actually led us into editorial roles that continue to this day. As editors, we analyze the relevance and value of IIR’s faculty research and other content, applying a reference provider’s eye to accentuate distinctive material. We now produce publications that the administrative staff could never find the time to publish–filling another crucial communications role. Being IIR’s digital publisher has brought additional support to the library–and pushes its reputation further as we follow the media.
The California Digital Library centrally launched the repositories at the University of California [See ONLINE, September/October 2002, p. 38]. The eScholarship program has been very popular with the faculty at all 10 campuses, and this has held true locally in Berkeley. The library manages the digital repository. This custodial role has showcased our evolving role in digital information management. In 2005-2006, IIR’s many eScholarship series received over 51,000 downloads.
Managing digital repositories also helped us educate the faculty about the importance of online resources, as well as their scholarly validity. At first, many faculty members scoffed at Web download histories–they saw them as inconsequential usage indicators. Yet our Web traffic hit the million-download mark by 1997 and has gone up ever since. The main destination has consistently been the full text of faculty research. The implications weren’t immediately obvious to the faculty, though. “How do we know that downloads means someone actually read the paper?” one faculty friend asked me, in 2003.
But Web traffic eventually makes an impact. In recent years, the overall IIRWeb has consistently received millions of downloads–and analysis confirms that our policy briefs, reports, working papers, and other content are the top draws. (See Table 1 on this page.)
Single documents can receive phenomenal attention; in one case, a controversial report focusing on Wal-Mart generated over 78,000 downloads in a single week.
Digital communicators are innovators. Often this means they can’t wait for enterprises to establish organizationwide technical standards before trying new technologies. Blogs, wikis, and podcasts are great examples. With zero- or low-cost options available on the open Web, why wait for central planning units to make a decision? We use blogs to collect RSS feeds about labor issues, as well as events and new Web publications. These blogs, none of which reside on Berkeley campus servers, average more than 1,900 downloads per month and dovetail effectively with our e-mail news alerts.
Wikis also opened new territory. In 2006, reference librarians persuaded the university library to buy a site license for JotSpot [www.jot.com].We use it locally as a “virtual private network” for groups of faculty and doctoral students. One group, the Immigration Workshop, uses Jot to share resources and engage in collaborative writing. We set it up for them and then turned them loose to build it as they go with our assistance.
The good news: Wikis present an ideal forum for strategic reference services because you have a captive reference audience. Proactive reference in these venues pushes “the library” into the virtual communities where academics actually work. This isn’t theoretical; we’re doing it now, and so are other similar libraries, such as UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies Library [www.igs.berkeley.edu].
Digital communicators use public service strategies to create “push” and “pull” outreach opportunities. For us, this meant first capturing the development stream of Web content and then analyzing its strengths and potential markets. However, we work in a doctoral-level community that has specific goals and target audiences. Is the “follow the media” plan we’ve employed locally transferable to other environments with different challenges?
Most definitely–as long as you discern the key value points in what you’re trying to do. At UC Berkeley’s Teaching Library, Karen Munro, an e-learning librarian, is blogging her reference work [bibliophagus.blogspot.com]. While at her previous job at the University of Oregon, her reference blog made a positive impression on administrators, who used her stories in the university library’s annual report. “My reference blog helps me chart what users are looking for, and it opens eyes to the fascinating work that goes on at service desks,” Munro said. “All too often with reference, once you’ve finished the question, it’s gone forever. But blogging shines a light on that work.”
The strategy is clear: Extend the services, community, and values of the library to the users you are trying to reach–including your own leadership. With the vast multiplicity of technological platforms, you can keep trying new approaches until you find one that works.
It can also make sense to gamble on occasion. For example, identify an unmet need, and then fill it before it actually bubbles to the surface. Locally, we knew that IIR had not done enough outreach to top campus administrators. Anticipating a need, we turned our electronic newsletter into a two-times-per year print publication. We guessed right–our faculty director loved the publication, and now administrative support staff mail our finished product to UC administrators and deans, as well as to the Friends of IIR for fundraising.
Speaking of the Friends of IIR, the library team led in its initial formation. Friends of IIR is just a standard alumni fundraising program focusing on annual giving. There were plenty of successful models available on campus for emulation. We contacted the university relations office, identified alumni records and tagged them, and even managed the first two mailings. Once again, a past director asked us to do this, mainly because she had seen our abilities with the Web and print publications. Development work is a job unto itself, but our efforts kick-started IIR’s fundraising function. Now we’ve spun that work off to an administrative staff member who participated in the formative stages. We still consult informally on development work; it’s been a terrific education for us.
By 2005, our overall content creation and outreach strategies were going strong. In addition to our core reference and collection development services, we were now building blogs to share RSS and to announce programs, lectures, and events. We had implemented wilds as long-term resource and writing tools. We were overseeing vibrant e-mail discussions, producing Web and print newsletters, and working closely with the faculty to spread the word about their research. We were managing digital repositories that were receiving thousands of downloads per year and offering full-service Web administration to our “clients.” We had run a very successful photography exhibit series. It was a full plate. In addition to all of this, there was another unmet need in our organization–graphic arts.
At first, it seemed like a stretch. But our faculty director wished to showcase faculty publications and IIR’s history in the meeting rooms of our historic landmark building. We had already shown that what could go on the Web could also go into print–why not the wails? So in addition to our digital activities, we became exhibit graphic designers too. Our Web administrator, a gifted graphic designer as well as a great programmer, was able to take this on. We created historical timelines and posters that highlighted IIR’s history and achievements. We also developed attractive faculty publication posters, which have become very popular. It’s been great starting this project, but once again, it is very likely that we will eventually spin it off–either that, or lobby for additional staff support to keep it going.
Some might read this account with dismay, as many of these tasks qualify for the statement, “But that’s not ‘library’ work.” Indeed, we have heard this from our own colleagues at Berkeley, though not recently.
There’s a short answer and a long answer to this claim, and here they are in order. Short answer: Does a library exist to serve its user community? If so, then any and all work that serves those users–and advances the library’s role–is “library work.” Are we just a tad busy? Yes. Is it worth it? You bet.
Long answer: Libraries now exist in a complex world where overlapping digital collections, Google, visual media, and even online teaching domains compete for end-user attention. It’s an exciting time to be a librarian, and the jig isn’t up. Both universities and business firms are looking for self-starters who have a vision. In our case, preserving our reference work, together with our collection management work, informs all our activities. Some tasks we oversee may not seem directly linked to our core services, but nonetheless the tasks are strategically useful because they keep opening doors to our end-users’ worlds. It’s a worthwhile stretch to think a few years ahead of the present moment to anticipate emerging needs and to speculate about where we might be going. It takes imagination, and so it’s all the more important to stay in touch with what our users really want–on their terms–from us.
An academic library that sees itself as a passive repository is a library at risk. In contrast, activist librarians think about many ways to apply information counseling and collection management skills. By enabling more digital communication, we can become pivotal players in the formation and evolution of our organizations. Regardless of whatever we may hope the future will bring, it’s very likely we will all be doing a lot more digital communicating amidst a sea of rapidly changing technologies.
Each environment carries its own special characteristics, and having a bold strategic plan that responds to those characteristics is crucial. Our bid to become the digital communicators of this research institute has morphed our jobs, to be sure, but it has also protected our information services role. The diversity of our portfolio has also created occasions for discussion about information literacy, digital persistence, and other vital topics that may not be foremost in the minds of the faculty.
We can regard the profession as a field under siege by any number of factors, or we can regard it as a field of opportunity. You can make a strong case for either position. However, with public library card ownership at historically high levels, there’s certainly room for optimism. Here are three recommendations that may spark a creative look at local settings, no matter what special conditions apply.
Start with an information audit. The days are so busy that it can be easy to forget this step. However, effective strategy depends on solid survey and analysis. This can be as informal as setting some time aside to think about the environment and interview key staff. If funds are abundant, consider bringing in a consultant.
Understand the leadership. Befriend, meet with, and collaborate with the top managers in the organization. This requires time–even years–and it may involve building relationships with successive generations of deans or vice presidents. Knowing people well frees your intuition; it’s easier to take bold moves if you have some confidence about how your actions will be interpreted.
Make mistakes–but have a “damage control” strategy. Any step out of the ordinary involves risk. The greatest risk is earning the right to do more work than you can possibly do, but there are many others too–like being “disintermediated” out of existence. Digital communicators accept the risks and know that mistakes will be made. Therefore, it’s best to have a damage control strategy in place when undertaking a new initiative in order to influence the dialogue if things don’t work out.
The range of activities that information professionals can now get involved in has grown, as digital convergence lurches forward in the workplace and the global economy. In response, we have an opportunity to become digital communicators, expanding the library’s role, yet preserving its most important tenets.
We come to organizations with an interest in information counseling, content management, and preservation–and it turns out that these activities can be keys to innovation, both within and beyond the library walls.
The profession’s core values have been durable guides to help us ride the dragon of organizational change, which continues to reinvent both higher education, and the modern business firm. Following the digital media stream throughout changing organizations prepares us for fluid conditions, builds our strategic knowledge about the firm’s strengths and weaknesses, and helps us anticipate what information needs will emerge–before those needs become common knowledge. Digital communicators preserve tried-and-true services such as reference and collection management, but they also look for new ways to use digital media advantageously. This bias for innovation carries benefits not only for information professionals, but also for the entire organization.
The IIR Web generates millions of downloads per year. The library handles Web adminstration for all IIR’s programs and enjoys strong support for doing so.
Legend for Chart: A - ACADEMIC YEAR B - TOTAL REQUESTS C - DISTINCT HOSTS SERVED A B C 2001-01 2,211,150 87,569 2001-02 3,924,838 126,569 2002-03 7,644,390 190,448 2003-04 6,174,869 130,631 2004-05 2,796,641(*) 142,261 2005-06(**) 3,995,604 83,627