Setting a questionable example

A fair amount of my time spent at work involves informing faculty and other staff about copyright issues and trying to ensure that the employees of the school avoid egregious violations of copyright.

A cloudy issue that often comes up is the in-class viewing and linking-to videos on YouTube. As we all know there is a vast amount of content that has been up-loaded there without the permission of the actual copyright holder (and YouTube’s owner is dealing with a major lawsuit due to this reality).

When faculty ask about linking to this content we advise them against it. Obviously there’s about a .0001% chance of the school getting in to any legal trouble by giving teachers cart blanche to link to whatever content they can find on the Internet. However, that isn’t really the point.

If pushed for a justification for our policies I would say, “how would you feel if some guy in his basement scanned a bunch of pages from a book you wrote and put it up on some site where anyone could view it, copy it, print it, etc.?” (this is obviously happening more and more).

In my mind that type of copying and distribution of someone else’s work is equivalent to someone taking a substantial portion of a TV show, movie, etc. and just uploading it to a service like YouTube.

Schools also spend a lot of time and effort creating policies for students to properly cite their sources, avoid plagiarism etc.

In my mind this message becomes muddled when I see examples like this from the North Metro Technical College library’s blog:

violating copyright

The blog entry embeds a YouTube video of the classic School House Rock video about the U.S. constitution. When you click on the link you see that it was uploaded by the immortal Dogboy2709. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that he is not the legitimate copyright holder of the video.

Of course you could argue that the writer of the entry thought the video would be educational/enjoyable for their audience and didn’t know it was uploaded without the proper permission. However, the authour admits:

“Someone has uploaded the School House Rocks version- which is very clever, easy to sing and probably violates copyright…”

So you admit it is likely a copyright violation for this video to be on YouTube. But you not only link to it, you embed it?

I know America has the DMCA which provides video sites like YouTube a lot of legal protection as long as they remove a video after they are alerted that it is an infringing copy. Even with the lack of any legal jeopardy, I don’t think this blog entry sets a particularly good example when it comes to respecting people’s intellectual property.

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Friday at the OLA Super Conference 2008

After being exhausted from trying to handle two days at my first OLA Super Conference (1, 2) I decided that one day was enough this year.

So I braved the Toronto snow storm on Friday and made my way down to the Metro Convention Centre.

Session 1009 – Google: The New Library Vendor
This session was given by Greg Sennema from Wilfred Laurier. The OCULA blog gives a good description of the talk. I saw his session about WordPress last year and again he put together a very solid presentation. Having a keen interest in all things Google, I must admit I already knew about some of the topics he touched on such as iGoogle and Custom Search Engines. However, his main point in showing some of the new tools Google is creating was to ask the question about how they will effect the services libraries provide in the short and long-term. A thought provoking idea he mentioned was whether projects like Google Books (scanning all of the books in libraries like the University of Michigan, etc.) will replace the traditional delivery of ILL. While the full-text of copyrighted books are not being provided to the public through Google Books, you can imagine that in the future that various universities that are part of the Google Books project may come together to provide full-text access to each others’ user communities, thereby making all the staff time and cost of traditional ILL irrelevant. I’m sure the copyright-owner lobbyists may have an objection or two to this however.

Session 1100 – Slow in the age of speed
This presentation by Carl Honore, author of “In Praise Of Slow“, inspired me to try and make more time to nap in my office. I’ll report back on how my supervisor feels about this effort to be more productive.

Session 1204 – The Kids Are Alright, Or are They?
Any session named after a Who song has to be good. The content of this very interesting talk is summarized well on the OCULA blog. I’m already an avowed Mohawk Library fanboy so it was interesting see and hear from two of the schools’ main librarians. I think the lovely (and award winning) Jennifer commented on my post back in the day. They talked about how educators, library people, etc. are inundated with the idea that today’s students (millenials, etc.) have all these specific characteristics (naturally tech-savy, able to do their homework while listening to their iPods, have differently wired brains, spend all their time in Second Life, etc.) so we must change the ways we instruct and interact with them. They talked about how these claims did not always square with their experiences at the reference desk. I know how they feel. Seeing students struggle with Microsoft Office documents that open inside WebCT and not knowing how to print them, I question the theory that because a kid plays World Of Warcraft all day that he somehow becomes a savant at how various software systems interact.

The speakers did a great job at peaking behind some of the research the Mark Prensky’s of the world use to back up their claims and showing the lack of solid scholarship at the heart of much of it. I knew I recognized that name when they mentioned it and I remembered that I did a copyright request for the use of some of his materials. Hopefully the department I did the request for isn’t basing all their plans on Prensky’s work.

All in all, an excellent example of evidenced based librarianship. Check out the blog they created for their research: http://kidsarealright.wordpress.com/

Session 1318 – Scholar’s Portage. Avoiding the Waterfall: Leveraging Social Networking Tools And Scholars Portal Data
Come 3:45pm on a snowy day, the third day of the conference, people are naturally getting a little tired. Add to this a session that some people may consider a little on the ‘dry’ side and it added up to a sparsely attended event. Luckily I dig ‘dry’ and throw in a cute librarian who’s really into music giving the presentation so I found the session very worthwhile. While it has very little effect on my duties I am always curious about what exactly Scholars Portal is and what the future plans are for this joint effort of Ontario’s universities. The speakers gave some interesting insights into what they do now and were open about their thinking process in trying to decide how to evolve their services in a way that truly is a benefit to their users and not just Library 2.0 applications for the sake of Library 2.0. As usual I’m doing a lousy job of describing the session so here is:

Conclusion
All in all it was another very well organized event with interesting speakers and topics. My only complaint was the lack of a free pen in my conference package. Also I can’t really be seen carrying around a bag covered in butterflies so I had to give the conference bag away to my Mom. I also forgot to see if Access Copyright was giving away free mints again this year. There’s always next year.

Piping Hot

Having some free time over Christmas, I have gotten around to playing around with some of the new mashup for dummies technologies being made available.

Besides Microsoft’s Popfly and Dapper, I have spent time trying to understand the basics of Yahoo’s Pipes. Some of the Pipes people are creating are quite complicated with geocoded maps and lots of localized information. In trying to figure out how to create something simple and at the same time wondering how tools like this can be used in the library environment I tried to think of ways to combine various RSS feeds. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

Ontario Nursing News
When I think about the future evolution of the traditional library subject guide I feel a big part of it should be automated updated content. We have a lot of nursing students in our library and I imagine a feed they could view which had up to date relevant information to them would be useful.

So I went about creating a Pipe from 3 different feeds. I created a simple Google News RSS feed for a search for stories that mention Ontario Nurses. But I also wanted to extract the news sections from the Canadian Nurses Association and the Ontario Nurses Association which do not provide their stories in a RSS feed. Pipes mentions using the tool Feedity, which scrapes a basic web page and creates an RSS feed from it. You can see below what this Pipe looks like:

onn.jpg

The results list is not as perfect as I would like. For some reason when Feedity scrapes the ONA site for stories it includes the ads from the site in the results of the Pipe. But overall, it does what I intended it to do. And now I can use the output of this Pipe as an RSS feed.

Access Copyright News
With all the news about copyright law changes coming I wanted to create a Pipe that combined a variety of feeds that mention everyones’ favorite copyright collective Access Copyright. This pipe is fairly basic and combines a feed from an Ebsco search and ones from Google Blogs, Google News and Yahoo News.

accesscopyright.jpg

The Filter module was needed to make this Pipe useful because with the Ebsco, Google and Yahoo searches it was not easy to verify that the phrase “Access Copyright” was returned and not the word access and copyright separated by a paragraph or a period. Before I put the filter in I was getting a lot of unrelated stories which had the word access as the last word of the articles and the copyright notice at the bottom of the article. Now I have a useful feed that keeps me up to date when Access Copyright news is happening or when articles that discuss the collective are written.

Library Catalogue Alerts on NCAA/College Basketball
Finally, I wanted to try a library focused Pipe. Knowing that there are a growing number of libraries with modern OPACs that create RSS feeds for searches I created a Pipe on the topic of basketball with a filter for NCAA/College basketball. I used the catalogues from Ann Arbor District Library, Plymouth State University Library, and North Carolina State.

ncaa1.jpg

I’m not sure how useful this particular Pipe is. It was more of an effort to see if it would work. I can imagine that if WorldCat had a way to create similar RSS feeds, the ability to filter results that Pipes has would allow you to create some interesting alerts about books on very specific topics being added to libraries across the continent.

Can school libraries have their own Facebook profiles now?

At the risk of reporting something that everybody already knows, I came across something new to me regarding Facebook.

In one of my blog feeds from a university affiliated research body there was an invitation to add them as a friend.

This invitation came as a surprise to me since I had been reading stories over the last year of librarians trying to create profiles for their libraries within Facebook in an effort to reach out and connect with their users and being told that only individual people can have profiles not companies/associations/departments, etc:

I saw another example of a college with its own Facebook profile (not a Group or Network). What they had in common was that their URLs are structured like this:

http://somenetwork.facebook.com

Does this mean that as long as the non-human profile you create is within a registered Facebook sub-domain (not a standard http://facebook.com URL) that you are free from fear of the Facebook police coming in and deleting the profile you are creating for your school or library?

Miscellaneous presentations

If you’ve got about some time to spare you may want to check out David Weinberger’s talk at Google and his talk at Yahoo! about his new book “Everything is Miscellaneous”.

In these videos he gives a humorous and concise review of this history of taxonomy and how the rise in digital information leads to a questioning of the adherence to the Aristotelian approach of rigid, arbitrary classification and embracing the idea of classifying everything as miscellaneous and doing the sorting based on the attributes that matter to you.

Interesting points from the Google video include:

  • A funny critique of Melvil Dewey (20:00).
  • The tension between the main stream media, encyclopedias, etc. which make a constant effort to appear authoritative and completely subjective while new sources like Wikipedia allow the community to post notices within articles which suggest that they may have bias, use weasel words, etc. (44:30)
  • A review of faceted classification which uses the Endeca catalogue at NCSU as an example. (31:40)

In addition to the rough treatment given Mr. Dewey there are inevitably comments made about every-ones favorite beacons of information organisation, librarians. In the Yahoo! video the interviewer is Bradley Horowitz, their head of technology development. Being the hip, techno guy he is, he takes some sly digs at library types (11:40) referring to them as, “the last bastions of the old guard” and “neatniks”. Weinberger responds to this by saying that he does not see such a clear delineation between these two camps when it comes to how to go about approaching, sorting and classifying information in this new digital age.

Another one of Weinberger’s key points (Yahoo! 16:20) is the idea that with so much information coming in to us it has now become easier to collect everything than to take the time and labor to review/judge/rigidly classify the information that comes in (his example being all the pictures you may take on a digital camera) and figuring out what to delete. Along with this is the idea that you can never know when you or someone else may need the information you think you should delete.

I am struggling a bit with this since I signed up for a Gmail account. I kept looking for where you create the folders so I can nicely sort my emails in to nice defined piles. Now I have to get used to this idea of Labeling Mail and letting all the emails sit together in the All Mail box.

These videos also brought to mind the issue we often have with our library web site. I know we could provide much more details about various aspects of the library but we arbitrarily decide at what point a piece of information would have such a limited audience that we decide that the work needed to create it, keep it current etc. is not a good use of our limited time.

This push and pull between the power held by the traditional information brokers and the rising chorus of the user wanting a bigger say is going to continue to be interesting to be a part of.

Library associations and 2.0

Marge: Homer, it’s very easy to criticize…
Homer:
and fun, too!

The idea of writing this post has been percolating for some time but a recent post by Meredith from Information Wants To Be Free has given me a push to put my thoughts to virtual pen. In her post she comments about how one of the tenets of the Library 2.0 movement is the effort to end the “but we’ve always done it this way” attitude. She goes on to describe that while this idea is beginning to take root in the libraries we work in (though that’s a post for another day), it’s not always the same story with the associations we belong to and represent us.

I can only speak about the organizations I am or have been a member of, but each of them vary in how much of a push they have made to use emerging technologies to communicate with and involve their members.

As a caveat I will say I didn’t bother looking for any presence of these organizations on MySpace. For one thing, I despise any web site that starts playing music when I visit it (let me decide if I need to be blasted with the new Avril Lavigne single), but the garish designs, clunky photo slide shows and endless posts of, “thanks for the add” remind me of the millions of wack looking Geocities sites created in the mid-to-late nineties. As the creator of a garish Toronto Raptors tribute page back then I’m as guilty as anyone. I find that services like Ning (see the Library 2.0 network) to be more promising.

CLA
Since they offered a cheap membership rate to students I became a member a few years ago. When it comes to print publications, I find that most editions of Feliciter have several articles of interest to me.

In terms of electronic communication, they do send out an e-mail newsletter every week or so, but from a design point of view it is in a font that is not easy to read on a computer screen and the spacing and layout scream, “I was designed for print and simply cut and pasted in to an electronic format.” (UPDATE April 20: Wow, a week later I get my first edition of a redesigned, graphic-rich version of the newsletter. I won’t assume my critique had anything to do with this…)

There is a CLA presence on Facebook. There are over 100 members there now with some ongoing discussions and Wall posts. Counter this with the state of the discussion boards found in the members only section of the CLA web site. There are a couple un-responded to posts but it is mostly a ghost town. This leads me to be even more convinced that well designed social networking tools like Facebook provide a forum for casual and serious interaction and the top-down control, silo-like structures that have been the method of choice for organizations like the CLA need some loosening up.

The only blog I have seen associated with the CLA is Re:Generations, which is dedicated to new academic librarians and those who want to “re-energize” academic librarianship. I guess I should not be surprised that it is the new and forward-looking members of the CLA who pushed to get this blog up, though the fact that it is the only one proves that some organisations embrace change at a more glacial pace.

One thing I notice on the CLA Facebook page and other library focused ones is that the pictures of the members seem to indicate that the participants seem to run counter to the overall demographic makeup of the profession. The 8Rs Canadian Library Human Resource Study found that nearly half are currently 50 years of age and older. It’s not surprising that the younger members of the profession would be quicker adopters of new technology but I hope it is also a sign that the voices of this portion of the library community is having its voice heard in their workplaces.

I’m not sure I will continue as a member of the CLA in the future. As a Library Technician a lot of their focus is not on issues that effect my day-in day-out work but I do like supporting a national voice for the profession.

OLA
I also joined the OLA when I was a student. Their magazine is heavily weighted towards public and school libraries so there are not many articles I find of interest in it. On the other hand there are several blogs (from OLA and their divisions) that make it easier for me to feel in the loop: OLA Headline Stories, InsideOCULA and InsideOLITA.

While their various discussion groups are not exactly hives of activity, I think the OLA and its various divisions are providing quality access points for those not on any official committees to sense they are still part of a vibrant organization. The activity on the OLA Facebook page is also very similar in level of activity to the CLA one.

OALT
The OALT is the organization that brings together my hard-working Library Technician brothers and sisters (well, since the 8Rs study found that 9 out of 10 paraprofessionals are women I’ll say mostly sisters).

I was a member for a short time while in school but I did not feel a strong incentive to renew. Unlike the CLA or OLA, the OALT does not have a prominent role as advocates for library issues in the broader society. Given the organisations smaller size and lack of prominence when it comes to much of the public’s discourse on library issues (want to confuse someone on the street, ask them what a library technician is) I don’t think it would be a good use of the organisations resources anyway.

I think that at its best the OALT functions as a central hub and meeting place (physically and virtually) for library technicians to discuss the issues they face in the workplace, share knowledge about various technologies and create a greater sense of camaraderie and community.

Even without being an official member I am able to be part of the OALT discussion group. This is a fairly active group with over 200 members. There have been questions from new graduates about how to land jobs, and a variety of other discussion topics. There is also a Library Technicians in Canada Facebook group created by OALT members. Again this looks like an ideal method for creating a broader community for those of us in the profession.

I find it unfortunate that there has not yet been a blog created by the OALT. Their current official method of disseminating information is a standard print newsletter with various news about the OALT and the profession. Like any volunteer organization finding staff to write, compile, publish, etc. is a tall order. Maybe asking one or two people to take all of this work on is not the best approach. Perhaps a blog where the ability to write postings is open to the broader membership is a better approach in terms of getting out information in a timely way. In 2007 I question the overall value of a publication arriving 3 times a year with some of the information fairly stale by the time it arrives on the doorstep.

Conclusion
In the day-to-day grind of our jobs, the machinations of our various library associations may not see to be a big deal but it’s important to recognize the work done by those in our profession who put in the time and effort to better support libraries, their users and their workers. But as technology transforms our libraries and shift our user’s expectations we should ensure that the organisations we join and speak for us also evaluate their structures and methods so they can take advantage of the amazing tools becoming available.

Modern OPACs

Articles and studies continue to point out that when it comes to fulfilling their information needs, the first choice of students is to use search engines and the other Internet tools they grew up with, as opposed to the current crop of tools the vast majority of libraries provide for them.

As this video highlights, today’s OPAC is often the source of much frustration, both for patrons and library staff. Speaking about our own OPAC, let’s just say that its “leisurely pace” has made me an expert at small-talk while the patron and I wait for the results to come up. It also not hard to detect the frustration/bewilderment they have when we explain why they need to use one tool to search for books, and another to search for articles. They have come to expect one search box as the launching point to find the resources that are available to them.

Thankfully, various libraries are beginning to implement tools that integrate the strengths of Google and other web tools (speed, interactivity, user-friendliness) with the strengths of library resources (controlled vocabulary, access to high-quality material, etc.)

In the news a few months ago was the award given to Casey Brisson, the Information Architect for Plymouth State’s University’s Lamson Library, for his creation of the WPopac application. Among other features, this modern take on the OPAC makes the library’s holdings visible to users of search engines and it allows patrons to add information to the library record. This link shows what a holding record looks like in this catalog.

While the WPopac is the work of a small dedicated team, Endeca is a diverse information technology company. I have come across two libraries that have implemented their search product. McMaster announced their launch of the product today. As you can see when you try a search in their “Endeca-powered library catalogue”, the interface makes it easy to limit a search to geographic region, subject era, etc. Most exciting to me is the seamless integration with their electronic resources.

McMaster’s new OPAC

North Carolina State University Libraries also have an Endeca-based product. They also allow you to install a web-browser search box for the catalog. Another cool feature is that after you type in your search, at the top of the page you get a breakdown of the results by Call Number.

NCSU

If for whatever reason you were looking for items about Abraham Lincoln and the Fine Arts, this product makes it quick and easy to do.

One area where the Endeca products fall short of Google is spelling error recognition. As someone who constantly has to use Google to find proper spellings for the searches students ask to me to do for them, any help I can get from a search product is appreciated.

In honor of the NCAA basketball tournament I decided to do a search for items on the topic of former Kansas Jayhawk star Wilt Chamberlain. When I typed in “Wilt Chamberlin” in Google it immediately suggested I meant to type in “Wilt Chamberlain”. However with the McMaster and NCSU catalogs, they did not guide me to the person I was obviously looking for.

Except for this small quibble, it is a positive sign that libraries are working hard to bridge the gap between today’s advanced web tools and technology and the legacy products so many of us are tied down to.