Category Archives: Library Issues

Library of Congress blocks access to Wikileaks

This is evidence of the insane world we’re currently living in…the Library of Congress, ostensibly the Library of Record for the United States, is currently blocking access on it’s staff computers as well as it’s guest wireless network to Wikileaks.

From the above story, the Library issued a statement, saying:

The Library decided to block Wikileaks because applicable law obligates federal agencies to protect classified information. Unauthorized disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.

Oh, really? Is that so?

Anyone online realizes this is a senseless act, and that anyone with any knowledge of the Internet will be able to get around this sort of filter trivially…this does absolutely nothing to protect classified information. As far as I can tell, it does nothing except make the Library of Congress look asinine. Perhaps the librarians running the LoC should take another gander at the Library Bill of Rights to remind themselves what exactly it is that they should be doing.

I hope that there is serious fallout for those who made this decision. ALA Council…here’s a discussion worth having.

Serialized Literature makes a comeback

Way back in 2008 at the Online Information conference in London, I talked a little about where I thought we’d see writing in general go, given the technologies that were mature/maturing: eReaders (the Amazon Kindle had been for just a year at that point), blogs and blog software, and more. I predicted that we would see a revitalization of the sort of serialized long-form content that was prevalent in 19th century literature, like Dickens and Doyle. It made sense to me at the time, given that one could subscribe to an ongoing series, have it automatically delivered as written/released, enjoy it on your container of choice (eReader, mobile phone, etc).

While there have been a few attempts at serialized writing in the last few years, it’s only very recently that I think authors have hit on a model that might work well. There are two that I’m aware of that take slightly different paths but are, in the end, paving a path to an old way, but a new channel, of publishing.

The first, and most exciting to me, is The Mongoliad. From the wikipedia entry:

The Mongoliad is an experimental fiction project of the Subutai Corporation, scheduled for release in 2010. The corporation is an application company based in San Francisco and Seattle, whose chairman is speculative fiction author Neal Stephenson. Stephenson is the guiding force of the project, in which he is joined by colleagues including Greg Bear.

The work is intended to be distributed primarily as a series of applications (“apps”) for smartphones, which the Corporation views as a new model for publishing storytelling. At the project’s core is a narrative of adventure fiction following the exploits of a small group of fighters and mystics in medieval Europe around the time of the Mongol conquests. As well as speculative fiction authors Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Nicole Galland, Mark Teppo and others, collaborators include filmmakers, computer programmers, graphic artists, martial artists and combat choreographers, video game designers, and a professional editor. In a departure from conventional fiction, much of the content of The Mongoliad will be in forms other than text, not bound to any single medium and not in the service of the central narrative. Once the project develops momentum, the Corporation envisages fans of the work to contribute, expanding and enriching the narrative and the fictional universe in which it takes place.

So this is collaborative, multimedia, world creating…which just happens to be led by two of the biggest names in genre fiction. I’m a complete sucker for Stephenson, and I signed up as soon as the site went live. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this project goes.

The other interesting serialized novel being done is also in the genre fiction realm, the DragonsBard project by Tracy & Laura Hickman. Tracy Hickman is probably best known for being half of the Weiss & Hickman writing duo that gave fantasy the Dragonlance world of novels. Unlike the Foreworld stuff above, which is a subscription model, the DragonsBard publishing model is a single price upfront, which gives you access to the ongoing story and a limited-edition signed & numbered hardcover of the story when it’s over.

There are two things that I find interesting about this model of publishing. The first is it’s leveraging of technology to provide not only different sorts of distribution, but also different types of content completely (images, video, etc). The second is how it allows for the complete disintermediation of the publishing house.

I look forward to seeing if other authors take this approach. I also look forward to seeing how these sorts of works get cataloged. :-)

Are we live?

Today is the scheduled Go Live date for the first implementation of the OCLC Web Scale Management services, and we are so close that we can almost touch it. We spent the day doing massive testing of the various pieces of WMS: Circulation, Acquisitions, Cataloging, and our WMS-driven Worldcat Local, with the OCLC team working with us to tackle anything that popped up. As you might expect, being the first to implement this radically new a system brings things to light that neither we nor OCLC entirely knew about or understood…the infrastructure for this is only now really being tested with live data from a working library. I know that a lot of eyes are on this to see how it works (or doesn’t work), so here’s a quick rundown of where we are today.

Circulation could, as far as the system is concerned, go live now…it’s a functional system at this point, with all of our policies in place and working for all of our patron types. However, we now have a backlog of circ data to catch up on (the delta between the last massive data load and now), and we’re proceeding with it, and with further data-verification testing at the same time.

Acquisitions/Cataloging is so, so close. We successfully received and cataloged books today from scratch for the very first time, and walked them all the way through the process of preparing them to circulate. As a part of this process we discovered that we are going to have to re-evaluate our workflows even more…even we, who have been preparing for this for 6 weeks now, didn’t really grok the degree to which this alters our traditional workflow. So over the next few days, we’re going to be taking a closer look at those, and see how we take advantage of the massively streamlined workflows that are possible with WMS. Acquisitions is still very much a module in progress…it’s much ahead of schedule as far as the initial install schedule goes, and I’m impressed with how far it’s gotten in almost a ridiculously short timeframe.

The last piece of the puzzle is Worldcat Local, which is about 95% of the way there for our needs. The one major display issue cropped up last week as we started to see our serials holdings in Local, and that display issue is already scheduled as an out-of-cycle fix. We’ve seen the fixed display, and it works really well.

I can’t really explain how hard many people have worked to get us to this point. Andrea Schurr, our Web Technologies and ILS Librarian has worked multiple 80 hour weeks to get all our data out of our current system and into WMS. The entire staff at Lupton Library have laid other needs aside to help out with every little piece of this project, completing things in weeks that were timelined for months of work yet. And the team at OCLC has just kicked ass responding to questions, pushing for updates, and generally being amazing in helping us understand how this beautiful beast is constructed so that we can get the most out of it.

So with all that said, it comes down to: did we make our implementation date? Are we “live” with WMS? At this point, for my purposes, we are. We have about 98% of our data in the system, and the few straggling records are ones that require some serious cleanup…which we’re doing, and those will be done in the next couple of weeks. We are are working towards catching up our circulation activity of the last 2-3 weeks, which will take a few days. As well, we are going to take a few more days to examine our acquisitions and cataloging practices in order to make sure that we’re using the system and our staff as efficiently as possible, and then begin the process of catching those data bits up…if you aren’t processing as you go, it’s amazing how quickly things fall out of sync. And our patrons are already using Worldcat Local, driven by WMS data, for discovery and resource location.

Are we as live as I’d hoped? Honestly, no, we’re not. But as my Dean keeps reminding me: it’s not about us, it’s about the patrons. We have to get just a bit more testing, more data verification, and more workflow examination on our end in order to make sure that what we’re delivering to our patrons is the best possible experience we can for resource discovery at UTC.

Here’s my takeaway from this whole process up to this point: we now have the first working system of this kind in any library in the world. We moved from our previous ILS to this completely new model and set of data structures in just 6 weeks, or roughly 1/6th the time of the average ILS migration. We are working very hard, still, to make this as good an experience as we can for our students, faculty, and staff. Who can complain if we take a couple of extra days to triple check a few things? :-)

LITA Top Tech Trends – ALA Annual 2010

Here’s the video of the LITA Top Tech Trends panel from ALA Annual 2010. My impressions of the panel were mainly “OMFG I’m on stage with Lorcan Dempsey” and “How big IS this room?”…was very hard to concentrate on the content being put forth while actively involved in it. But I think we all had very interesting things to say. I’ll see about cleaning up my notes and putting them up in a post in the next few days.

Code Monkey a la LSW

Here’s what happens when someone offhandedly makes a comment about a music video on Friendfeed: dozens of librarians, thousands of miles apart, put together a small, almost-musical tribute to JoCo.

I discovered three things in watching this:

  1. My voice isn’t all that bad.
  2. There are people much more musically talented than I.
  3. Jason Puckett rocks.

Interfaces

I’m sure this isn’t an original thought (so very, very few are), but it was novel enough to me that I needed to write it down…and that’s pretty much what a blog is designed for.

I’ve written and talked about how libraries need to become comfortable with the containers of our new digital content, as since we move into the future the containers (ereader, ipad, tablet) will be important to users. We already know, more or less, how to deal with content. I’ve also been thinking about the interfaces that we use to access this content, and it just hit me:

Print is the only example of a media where the User Interface, Content, and Container have been, historically, the same thing. With music and video, we are completely used to the container, the content, and the user interface each being distinct: we put a tape into a player, which we control with kn0bs or buttons, and the content itself is ethereal and amorphous. With print, until very recently, the content, container, and interface were all the same thing…a book, a magazine, a broadsheet, a newspaper. All are content, container, and interface wrapped into a single unit. This may point to one of the reasons that people seem to feel a deeper connection to print materials than to the 8mm film, or the cassette tape.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these distinctions between container, content, and interface….I think that these three concepts could inform the way that libraries conceptualize what we do, and maybe find better ways to do it.

Disney, Libraries, and Copyright

Anyone who is even remotely familiar with Copyright Law in the United States has probably heard of the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, passed in 1998 largely due to the lobbying power of the Disney corporation. Anyone who has children, or is just a fan of the Disney oeuvre, is likewise aware of their “Disney Vault” system, wherein Disney releases one of their animated films on DVD for a limited time, and the withdraws it from retail sale for between 7 and 10 years.

The tension between copyright, libraries, and Disney’s Vault process is one that was brought to light for me in a series of tweets this past week from Gretchen Caserotti. She was struggling to replace films in their collection due to damage, loss, etc, and discovered that there are 22 Disney films that they can’t replace now due to Disney’s Vault. I hadn’t thought about this as a result of the Vault, and my first thought when the issue came up was Section 108 of the US Copyright Code…otherwise known as the Reproduction by Libraries and Archives section.

Librarians should all be familiar with Section 107, the Fair Use provision of US Copyright law. But I’m consistently surprised how few librarians know Section 108. It gives libraries specific abilities regarding copyright, and in regards to the Disney issue, I immediately thought of this section:

h) (1) For purposes of this section, during the last 20 years of any term of copyright of a published work, a library or archives, including a nonprofit educational institution that functions as such, may reproduce, distribute, display, or perform in facsimile or digital form a copy or phonorecord of such work, or portions thereof, for purposes of preservation, scholarship, or research, if such library or archives has first determined, on the basis of a reasonable investigation, that none of the conditions set forth in subparagraphs (A), (B), and (C) of paragraph (2) apply.
(2) No reproduction, distribution, display, or performance is authorized under this subsection if —
(A) the work is subject to normal commercial exploitation;
(B) a copy or phonorecord of the work can be obtained at a reasonable price; or
(C) the copyright owner or its agent provides notice pursuant to regulations promulgated by the Register of Copyrights that either of the conditions set forth in subparagraphs (A) and (B) applies.

There is also the section that allows for:

(c) The right of reproduction under this section applies to three copies or phonorecords of a published work duplicated solely for the purpose of replacement of a copy or phonorecord that is damaged, deteriorating, lost, or stolen, or if the existing format in which the work is stored has become obsolete, if —
(1) the library or archives has, after a reasonable effort, determined that an unused replacement cannot be obtained at a fair price; and
(2) any such copy or phonorecord that is reproduced in digital format is not made available to the public in that format outside the premises of the library or archives in lawful possession of such copy.

This section isn’t as useful, as (c)(2) prevents the circulation of copied DVDs, although it does appear to allow for patrons to view the DVD inside the library. And section (h) is limited to works in the last 20 years of their copyright term. The original Mickey Mouse cartoon, Steamboat Willie, was published in 1928, and Wikipedia reports that it should fall into the public domain in 2023. This would mean that, roughly, Disney media published between 1928 and 1935 would be subject to this rule. That range does not, unfortunately, cover any Disney films, as Snow White was released in 1937, and was the first major motion picture put out by Disney. But it would mean that in just 2 more years, in 2012, that Snow White _should_ fall into this category.

So, copyright nerds and librarians: is it legal for libraries to back up their DVD purchases, in a situation where it is a known fact that they will not be able to re-purchase them when they are needed? Here’s a situation where a legal copy of a DVD is owned, it is damaged or stolen, and the legal owner wants to buy a replacement…but can’t. Shouldn’t it be legal for a library to do this? Does Fair Use (section 107) give a library the right to make a copy in this situation?