A message I sent to the Texas Library Connection

There are many viewpoints in the information profession… the changing role of libraries and who information professions are is one of them, as is the role of our educational institutions. I’ve just squashed a ton of discussion and debate into that sentence, because I’m kind of tired right now. ^_^; At any rate, I recently sent this letter out to the tlc list in response to something my mother passed along…
—-

I work at the school, and my views don’t necessarily reflect anyone else here.

I am not a librarian. I would be proud to call myself a librarian. It’s just a fact. I, like many, have an MLIS degree. I graduated from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Texas at Austin. I am a member of TLA. I am a member of ALA. I am concerned with intellectual freedom, access to information, libraries and information services.

I am a “Computer Resource Development Specialist” at the School of Information, formerly GSLIS. Am I anti-libraries? No. I love libraries. Am I anti-book? No. I love books. Am I anti-librarian? No. My mother was a librarian for many years. My wife has worked in libraries since college. As a matter of fact, in the tech department here at the iSchool, all of our mothers were librarians, and all of us have an MLIS. ^_^

I am not a librarian. I love librarians, and what they do, but it feels wrong for me to call myself a librarian. It’s not because I don’t deal with books- I do actually deal with books. It’s not because I do technology support and deal with vendors, licensing, budgets, and so on- lots of librarians do the same thing- or because I teach a web-based undergraduate course. Librarians teach all the time.

It’s because I don’t work in a library. I don’t have a library titled position in a library setting. I would be proud to call myself a librarian if people considered what I do librarianship. I’d be happy to call myself a librarian even if ALA thought what I did was librarianship. But most people focus on the setting. I was happy when someone recently referred to me as an MLIS-related professional. ^_^

I do interact with people. My purpose is also to connect people with information. Sometimes the best way to do that is with a book. In the questions I get asked, it’s often not, but that’s to be expected in my own role. ^_^ But a whole lot of our graduates do the same thing, and not in the library setting. We’ve got archivists here. We’ve got records managers. We’ve got a great preservation and conservation program. We’ve got people who work with human computer interaction, and people who work with information architecture, and people who program, and people who work with education and distance learning and organizing and accessing information, and people who love books, etc. etc. But you’d better believe we have librarians. We have school librarians, academic librarians, special libraries librarians, etc.

Many of the positions people end up in, or even their areas of interest, though, don’t directly involve libraries. And I’m not saying that to slight libraries. But all of these positions have commonalities. We are all concerned about people interacting with information. People are still the focus of all of our positions.

I was a student at the school just before the degree name change. The MLIS became the MSIS. GSLIS became the iSchool. I was okay with that. I would have been happy with either degree, actually. I was really okay with dropping the “information science” part of the name. I think School of Information is more inclusive- because all of those roles can fit. Does it deepmhasize the role of libraries? That wasn’t the intention. Libraries are very much a part of our program. But they couldn’t call it the School of Archives, Records Management, Libraries, Instructional Technology, and you get the picture. They went with the broader theme, and chose not to focus on one setting. One setting is more limiting than it should be. I don’t think they expected to the change to have been quite as divisive as people make it out to be- it was supposed to be inclusive and focus on the common areas and values we all share.

Now, this UGL thing- it disturbs me. But the article is premature in describing what will happen to that space, because right now nobody really knows. It’s been talked about for a long time, and I don’t even know if it’s really in actual planning stages yet. The removal of the books disturbs me, but I suspect that it was more of a budgetary thing than anything else. (I don’t know.) The University Libraries have gotten the short end of the stick regarding money in the past, which I find awful. I am fairly confident that the space isn’t going to simply be turned over to ITS with no regards or thought about student needs, though.

I find that the biggest problem is, for a lot of people entering the field, is that librarians don’t earn what they should. I don’t know how that can change, but it’s one of many reasons that I joined the professional organizations.

Just another information professional,
Carlos Ovalle

RIAA North Carolina universities subpoenas quashed

From BNA News, The RIAA DMCA Subpoenas at UNC & NC State have been shot down, apparently because the court issuing the subpoenas lacked jurisdiction and because the copyrighted materials were found on computers outside of the University’s reach (in reference to an earlier case).

It would be wrong not to include a link to Decontructing Stupidity, articles by law professor and founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain, James Boyle. The article addresses several problems with current policy dealing with intellectual property. As you might by able to infer from the title, the author does not look favorably on current practices (namely, not actually basing assumptions on evidence). ^_^

MPAA; AP; Eminem; Public Schools

So many acronyms, so much time. A Daily Texan story from last Friday addressed the MPAA going after filesharers on Internet2, just like the RIAA. Ah, the spread of fear.

The Associated Press is going to charge online licensing fees. Some news outlets already purchase stories from the AP, but now every newspaper will need to license the content to post online. Now we’ll just need to wait and see if a) there is an overall increased cost to the news entity, and b) how these costs will affect the consumer.

Saw this story at SivacracyDeAngelo Bailey v. Marshall Bruce Mathers III, a/k/a Eminem Slim Shady [PDF] was decided in favor of Eminem. A person that Eminem mentioned in his lyrics as a guy who bullied him when he was a kid sued Eminem, and basically lost because as it turns out, although the song most definitely (and obviously) exaggerated events, the guy really was something of a bully when he was a kid.

Public School Proselytizing is troubling in several respects. I can’t agree that the books in question should be removed from the library without really understanding what’s going on at the school. What I do believe is that the manner that the book is being provided- at least the Journey to Japan book, in an accelerated reader program- seems entirely inappropriate given the bias in the book, particularly if, as noted, there is no context provided with the book. If the book was a regular part of a library collection, that is different. Then we have to look at how and why the book was acquired…

RIAA and the Internet2

Saw the RIAA/Internet2 story on BoingBoing, Freedom to Think and a few other places. It’s not a shocker that the RIAA is suing more colleges for trading over Internet2, and as Felten notes, it’s not suprising that the RIAA could access the Internet2.

I’m willing to bet, though, that many students have no idea that they’re using the Internet2 to fileshare. Use of the Internet2 is transparent to them, at least here at UT. Judging at the very least from people to work from me and past students, it’s not something that many of them think about, or have even been told about. The Internet2 is just part of the Internet, “maybe the faster” part that we get here at the University, a couple have said. Most of our students are surprised to find out that some of their data is being transferred over the Internet2 when they connect to other universities- we have them use traceroute and watch for the Internet2 Abilene network in one of their assignments.

There’s a bit of a strange story in the Daily Texan today about the RIAA/Internet2 lawsuits. It notes that the RIAA would like to include subscription file sharing services in student tuition. I wonder how well that idea would go over?

Like the RIAA/MPAA educational materials and many college and university copyright policies, the story doesn’t really provide enough information… “Sherman said the lawsuits were intended to educate the public, and students in particular, that file sharing without permission is legally risky. Copyright infringement carries a minimum penalty of $750 per item, Sherman said, but the RIAA routinely settles the cases at far less, in the $3,500-$4,500 range. ” It’s all true, but the RIAA education always pushes the legal risk without truly educating about legal uses of P2P software. I don’t think they can call what they’re doing education. Of course, the article is very clear that the RIAA is all about the fear. The ending is particularly unusual, with quotes from Eric Garland of BigChampagne (who tracks P2P usage for the industry, according to the article):

Suits can only be brought against people who not only share their music but also allow downloaders to browse their files freely – something most peer programs now configure against automatically.

“The industry is picking off easy targets,” Garland said.

Everyone at the University can download the entire history of music without any fear of litigation, he said.

“You can be immune right there in your dorm room.”

I find that odd for several reasons, not the least of which that it isn’t entirely correct. That someone who works for the industry would make a statement like that is surprising, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it was taken out of context given some of our previous experience with the paper. But the statement could also lead to a false sense of security- even if the student’s directory isn’t browsable, people can certainly use packet sniffing, bandwidth and network monitoring to find out if someone was sharing files with many of the popular P2P file systems. I knew they were targetting people who shared a lot of music, but I thought they collected information using more sophisticated means.

Libraries and the DMCA

Seth Finkelstein notes to librarians that they can’t hack the DMCA. True, but it’s a pity. He was responding to a post at the Shifted Librarian’s blog. The comments at the shifted librarian are also pretty interesting, including this:

Here’s the rule about electronic and electronically-distributed information: licensing reigns supreme and copyright goes by the wayside. It is a trend that, unfortunately, is not discussed enough amongst librarians and other information professionals.

I don’t find that observation entirely true- the lib license list discusses it fairly often, and it’s a subject I’ve seen with increasing frequency over the last few years in places (like the copyright courses at the iSchool, for example). But I absolutely agree that it needs more discussion, comment, and publicizing.

Texas to put RFID tags in cars?

The Daily Texan today is running an article about a propsal that would place tracking systems in cars, coming from the Texas House of Representatives. The bill, proposed by State Representative Larry Phillips (R-Sherman), apparently aims to stop people from driving without insurance.

Privacy advocates are wary. The Texan reports that Scott Henson from the Texas ACLU believes the the language is broad enough for tracking use by any law enforcement agency.The iSchool’s own Professor Doty is also quoted: “One of the essential elements of privacy is that citizens are presumed innocent until they are proven guilty. This law presumes everyone should be tracked and monitored simply because they exist… In post-Patriot Act America, people have lost awareness of the little changes that lead to a chain of effects that restrict us politically and individually. There is no reason to believe that this insurance database won’t be combined with other databases, such as those of the attorney general or the FBI.”

Text of HB 2893
HB Bills Status

Organization, Kahle, and Open Access articles

Three interesting articles about current trends related to library and technology:
In the new game of tag, all of us are it
About a grassroots method of classifying information.
The Archivist
About Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive
Open Access Journals Flourish
About the proliferation of open access journals.

TLA

On a related note, I went to the exhibition hall of the Texas Library Association‘s annual conference here in Austin yesterday. Although I’m not a practicing librarian, I do have an MLIS and still support a great deal of those values, and my job here at the School of Info (when I was here, the Graduate School of Library and Information Science) still deals with a lot of information organization, presentation, access, etc. So I decided to join ALA and TLA officially recently, despite recent comments by Gorman about Information Science and blogs… At any rate, I’m still too poor to really attend the whole conference ^_- so I decided to go the exhibition hall, volunteer at the iSchool booth.

The exhibition hall was much bigger then I expected (and that’s because I’ve been there at least once before.) My parents were in town for the event (and mom was on a panel), so I met with them and heard all the stories about what’s happening in the library world and different views on the school and librarianship in general. At any rate, there were many, many, many vendors and booths there. I ran through the entire thing, picking up catalogs that I thought might be useful or interesting for work. And, I confess, one or two manga- DC, Tokyopop, and Viz all had booths and I got to hear vendors explain to librarians what manga was, why it was a good thing, why they “all look like Sailor Moon” and why some of them are read right to left.

I find it interesting that there are so many vendors there, selling fairly expensive things, when libraries haven’t really been receiving a lot of money to really purchase these types of things… it must very much be a competition for resources. I haven’t had a chance to go through the catalogs yet, but I’ll keep an eye out if there’s anything particularly interesting.

“Today’s generation” and libraries

Serving ‘millennials’ is new chapter for libraries, writes the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It’s one of those things that is interesting and kind of worrisome. As an undergrad, I almost never used a library. I only really used a library when I needed to write my Masters’ Thesis, and in the interest of full disclosure, a great deal of my library time was partly to visit with that cute librarian floor supervisor. ^_^ (We got married.) At any rate, it’s not a big shock that a lot of students don’t know how to use a library, and think that library research takes too much time. What are we going to do about it?

New York Common Law Copyright

Here’s a strange and somewhat disturbing case:
http://blogcritics.org/archives/2005/04/05/140248.php

It appears that New York common law expands copyright for sound recordings that, under federal law, are no longer protected. It’s disturbing for a number of reasons. For one, now people must think about a host of other issues whenever they use a work, even if it is no longer protected by federal copyright law. That was difficult enough before this decision, and that difficulty has now grown. Now we’ll have to wait until a case of digital and/or online infringement is brought to suit.

Will any court or law recognize the value of the public domain?