Jessamyn + Ubuntu makes Groklaw. ^_^

Jessamyn West of created a video of installing Ubuntu (the Linux distribution) on a couple of library computers, and it’s been sweeping the net. I had seen it on her blog first, then Boing Boing, and now Groklaw. Excellent!

Google to finish UMich scanning in 5 years- what’s that mean?

I’ve started doing some actual research (and by that, I mean following a more formal methodology with the intent of writing something) about the University of Texas and the Google Project. I’ve been thinking about it and working a bit on it throughout the semester, with some helpful discussions with Georgia Harper and my committee as well as other students, librarians and library employees. One things I’ve noticed that news tends to make a big deal about certain facts about the speed at which Google digitizes materials, like in this article:

That’s amazing to Wilkin, who also leads the university’s own digitization project that began before the school partnered with Google. The in-house project scans about 5,000 volumes a year. At that pace, scanning the entire library would take 1,400 years.

And sure, that’s very interesting- but if the Michigan project is like the Texas project, it’s not quite as amazing. Or rather, it’s amazing on its face, but it’s not something that should really be compared to the library’s digitization efforts. The digitization going on by Google and the digitization university libraries are doing in this situation are two different (and exclusive) actions that serve different purposes. Comparing them isn’t entirely apt.

The broader question of what Google’s digitization means, I’ll be looking at later.

Opting out of copyright.

In Kahle v. Gonzalez, the head of the Internet Archive Brewster Kahle challenged the change of the copyright system from opt-in to opt-out, stating that this change was unconstitutional. Kahle also believed that this change prevented librarians from having digital materials on their shelves, particularly with respect to orphan works. The Ninth Circuit court of appeals disagreed, decided that this case was not very different from Eldred v. Ashcroft, and affirmed the lower court’s decision for Gonzalez. I’ll respectfully disagree slightly with a Scrivener’s Error post from January 22nd, in which the author argues that the opt-in/opt-out terminology is inept.

I agree that once a work is created and fixed that it is in copyright, period. I also agree that the GNU License, Creative Commons License, etc., are basically covenants not to sue rather than opt-out mechanisms, with one caveat- the most popular versions of those licenses meet that description, but there is a Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication. However, the fact that these licenses aren’t mechanisms to opt-out does not mean that the system itself hasn’t changed to an opt-out system, particularly from the perspective of users of copyrighted materials. Even though a copyright holder must opt in for legal remedies, the work itself is now in copyright as soon as it is created. That automatic existence of copyright requires creators to opt out of the copyright system if they want their work in the public domain, rather than opting in to the copyright system by registration.

Of couse, I guess overall I agree that the terminology could be clearer, so maybe I’m not disagreeing that much.

Texas joins Google project

As reported by the Austin Statesman, UT is apparently joining the Google digitization project (may require registration). I’d heard rumors that this was going to happen for quite awhile, but now it’s confirmed, and it looks like President Powers thinks it’s a good idea. I hope to find out more from people who work there soon. The University Libraries has committed to many digital projects recently. On one hand, it’s good that the University is doing some interesting things with digital preservation and similar projects; on the other, I really don’t think that all print materials can be considered “legacy collections,” as I’ve heard some refer to them. As for the Google participation, we’ll need to see what that means for us…

Update: UT’s Announcement

Georgia Harper’s blog; UT Libraries

Copyright attorney Georgia Harper is now attending the iSchool and has an interesting blog.

She’s currently working for the University Libraries, which is a great thing. The libraries have made some interesting decisions recently. One of decisions I’m troubled by is that they no longer public post their Tea with the Vice Provost or Director’s Meeting minutes. They still exist, but they’re now behind the UT EID, staff-only. They’ve also gone and removed all previous notes that were up, so links from previous blog entries here no longer work (although I still have copies). Of course, I could ask to see them, or even make an open records request, but I found them more useful where they were where everyone could see and discuss.

ALA’s President-Elect’s blogs

Loriene Roy, ALA’s president-elect, is a faculty member here at the School of Information. I’ve been acquainted with her from some time, first as a student, later as a staff member, and now both. I didn’t really write about her during her campaign for various reasons (although I did leave a few comments here and there), but now that she’s been elected I feel freer to.

Loriene’s a pretty interesting person. Of all the faculty members here, I think she’s the person who most integrates community service in her courses, although several faculty members are starting to rival her (notable some of our recent arrivals). She’s been both complimented and criticized for that practice, but I personally believe it’s a positive thing.

Yesterday, she did something pretty interesting- she had a meeting with the some of the tech staff (including me) and talked about her plans related to the ALA presidency for the coming years. She sought our opinions about how to approach some of her ideas, particularly when they involve utilizing technology. I really appreciated that- you might be surprised at the kinds of things that we don’t get consulted about that we should be, and in this case there really are ways we can contribute that coincide with our existing projects. I’m not sure if the situation is the same in every iSchool/LIS school out there, but here all of the full-time tech staff have MLIS or equivalent degrees as well, so we do believe strongly in the success of the school and of the professions.

One thing I learned from this meeting is that she’s continuing her use of blogs- her campaign blog is now her president-elect blog, and she’s had blogs set up for the various task forces and groups that she’s creating/working with. I don’t like the navigation to find the blog listing and on the page with the blog listing (navigation text identified via rollover- well, I plan to direct the usability class her way ^_^;), but the sites have potential. Here are the blogs:

Loriene Roy’s President-Elect Blog
Workplace Wellness Blog
Circle of Literacy Blog
Supporting LIS Education through Practice

Each of those ventures seem worth following, to me.

Vacation, Libraries, and Library Tech

Back from vacation! My wife’s family lives in Nebraska, and we had a family vacation travelling around Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming. We drove over 3,500 miles (starting from here in Austin) and saw some really great stuff that I’d never seen before, including Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse monument, the Black Hills, Deadwood, Sturgis (just before bike week), Devil’s Tower, Cheyenne Frontier Days, and a demolition derby. ^^

We ventured through several small towns, and in just about all of them the city library had a prominent position on the main street, and looked well-maintained. There was a lead story about library programs in the main paper at Lincoln, NE, and in Cheyenne we saw a library reading program commercial on television. Today we saw a Library of Congress commercial about reading… when did those start?

We’ve started a Koha installation for our IT Lab’s book collection. There are several reasons for this, beyond our book collection getting out of hand. ^_^ First, open source and free software are pretty logical choices for libraries. Code can be examined and edited, and if you have people who are comfortable with tech and experimentation then it can be a pretty low-cost alternative to other software, especially for libraries with limited resources. I’ll write more about open source later (and link to the open source and libraries websites that are outhere), but we’ve always had a pretty good commitment to it- we’ve got about 25 or so servers running Linux, including our main systems. Koha is shaping up to be a pretty interesting project. We’re not too thrilled with the interface, but if the Z39.50 add-on works then we should have relatively smooth sailling… sadly, it seems that LDAP integration with Koha is problematic, so we’re not quite sure how we’re going to sign iSchool individuals up for accounts yet.

Got the new version of DSpace up (1.4) this week, using Gentoo. I’ll be creating pages detailing some suggestions for installing DSpace with Gentoo based on my, Sam’s, and Shane’s experiences.

The Quiet Demise of UT’s Knowledge Gateway

Back in 2002, then-President Faulkner of the University of Texas at Austin shared a vision: to provide Texans with online access to educational and cultural materials located and generated at the university in a digital Knowledge Gateway. The Chronicle of Education wrote about this Gateway, as did other news outlets, and the project soon received funding from a variety of sources. The Knowledge Gateway promised a great deal:

Research, education and sheer appreciation alone are no longer limited by campus boundaries or travel time to Austin. The Knowledge Gateway will let you access UT’s resources from the comfort of your own computer. Browse through the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art’s extensive Latin American Collection, examine a map of Afghanistan from the Perry-CastaƱeda Library Map Collection or bone up on aquatic trivia with the Texas Memorial Museum’s Fishes of Texas exhibit. The possibilities are virtually endless.

The Knowledge Gateway, soon renamed UTopia, was very ambitious and apparently worthwhile collection of digital materials. Things didn’t quite work out the way they were planned, as revealed in the June 28th “Coffee with the Vice Provost” notes. The Vice Provost of the University Libraries announced that UTopia will be losing support and funding in 14 months, after “an unambiguous and final decision” by President Powers and the University Budget Council. There will be an attempt to relocate some library staff to other areas… but I know this loss of funding will be a blow to the library’s digital services.

The Gateway had problems early in its existence, many of which had to do with it’s management (from an outsider’s perspective, albeit an outsider who interacted with some developers). Some of the early architectural and technological issues were hammered out, but then what? Management seemed to float between the gateway being it’s own entity, being managed by Information Technology Services, and being managed by the University (then General) Libraries. Eventually, it became housed in the Libraries, which inherited a pretty difficult set of tasks burdened by ambiguity and some odd decisions.

Here are a few other concerns that I and a few others I knew had about the project. UTopia depended on content provided by UT organizations and faculty, but apparently was to be aimed at the K-12 range. While commendable, this may have had an effect on how much faculty would be able to contribute as products of their research. Providing UTopia with content also meant that the provider agreed to keep the materials current in perpetuity. That certainly could prove difficult with limited time, money, and effort from the original providers. There were also a few strange copyright concerns (which may have just bothered me since that’s what I’m interested in). According to the FAQ, content could be used by anyone as long as the University was given attribution- but according to the faculty agreements with the UTopia group, the faculty only signed over authority for the University to use the materials, and did not give permission for other parties to do so. (The University allows faculty members to own the copyrights in educational materials they create.) The copyright problems could have been worked through, but I’m not in a position to know how other concerns could have been addressed.

I haven’t seen any official announcements- I was waiting for it and almost missed this reference- so we’re still waiting to see what happens with the existing collections/projects and the people who are currently funded by UTopia. I don’t know if this action reflects on other digital collection attempts or not, but I’ll be trying to figure out how people measure the success of digital collections…

No more Public Access Terminals at UT?

I’m using my lunch break to browse the University of Texas at Austin’s Libraries Administrative Council minutes and UT’s Library Committee minutes. I think it’s a great thing that these minutes are made available to the public. They’re usually open records, and there’s some interesting and useful information publicly available there (sometimes if you read between the lines).

I spotted something interesting in the May 31st minutes: “Campus IT group has started discussion about discontinuing public access to campus workstations. Libraries will develop a process to grant temporary EIDs to the public.”

This is interesting for several reasons. One, it looks like it is the result of pressure from either ITS and/or the Information Security Office. What are management implications for library information technology decisions made under these circumstances? Is it a common occurrence? Is it a cause for concern? (That’s before noting that the current method for granting temporary EIDs is time-consuming and difficult).

Two, and more importantly, what does it mean for the privacy of patrons? Is anonymity an important concept on the web in the library? Because the EID authentication system is handled through UT centrally, I’m pretty certain that these records aren’t controlled by the library. Should the browsing of patrons be considered in the same way we consider library circulation records? I can’t imagine that these ideas weren’t discussed- well, I could imagine it, but I’m sure the administration must have given some thought to the subject. What have other people done, and is it something to worry about?

Gormon’s a n00b.

At any rate, you can read about the latest Gorman speech at fellow GSLIS alum Steve Lawson’s blog, See Also. Steve’s also got several links to responses to Gorman’s statement, in which he discusses the current state of LIS education, which he perceives as in crisis. He decries the opinions of “the millenniarist librarians and pseudo-librarians who, intoxicated with self-indulgence and technology, will dismiss you as a ‘Luddite’ or worse. They and their yips and yawps can safely be left to their acronymic backwaters and the dubious delights of clicking and surfing.” There might be a point in the statement, which can be read in full using the dubious technologies of the Interweb and PDF, but it’s easy to lose his point with such divisive and dismissive language. He may have “rattled some cages,” as he puts it, but he’s really drawing attention away from the areas that he wants to focus on. That’s a pity, because the subject itself is an important one. What does it mean to be an ALA accredited institution? What are the core values of librarianship that every librarian should learn before they graduate from such a program? What are the best ways to teach these values? What are the practices and skills that people need? There are all sorts of discussions that we could be having. There are differences in values among different types of librarians, and other information professionals as well. How do we reconcile the professional values to the different types of jobs that people who graduate from our program are going out and getting?

As I commented on Steve’s blog, I’m starting to hear “traditional” librarians, presumably the main focus of Gorman’s statements, completely dismiss his statements. I suppose the pseudo-librarians and millenniarist librarians already do. I wonder what I am? I’m not a librarian at all, but I’ve got The Degree. I’m certainly not technology-phobic, working on IT at an ALA-accredited program. I also value “traditional” librarian values and practices. Come on, Gorman.

Ah, well. At South Padre Island near the town where I was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley on the border between Texas and Mexico. I’ll be talking to educators and librarians about copyright, education, and technology. The recent national immigration focus has certainly been interesting here… I’ll write about it a bit later.