Here’s a 5 minute or so snippet from my recent presentation to the San Diego Law Library Association on Realtime web. They chose a really interesting few minutes to post…
Incredible article in Wired this month on the Good Enough Revolution, which explores and explains a set of emergent economic principles that I think are equally applicable to information seeking. There’s a degree to which we really need to start looking hard at economic models in library and information science…I think they can really inform the creation and distribution of the services that we offer. Check out this quote, for example…
…it happens to be a recurring theme in Good Enough products. You can think of it this way: 20 percent of the effort, features, or investment often delivers 80 percent of the value to consumers. That means you can drastically simplify a product or service in order to make it more accessible and still keep 80 percent of what users wantâ€”making it Good Enough…
At the OITP panel I was a part of at ALA, I think that Eli and I shocked a few people in the audience when we asserted that quality of information doesn’t matter. That isn’t to say it NEVER matters…I want my doctor and my lawyer to have the best information possible. But for the vast majority of information need, good enough is good enough.
Think about the services in your library, and the amount of effort and resources poured into making your services as good as they can possibly be. What if good enough is really enough, and instead we should be expanding our range of services instead of seeking perfection in any single one? How does that change the way libraries operate?
Yesterday, the Louisville Free Public Library in Louisville, KY was hit with a terrible storm, and was flooded. The initial damage estimates are around $1 million, but given the pictures that were shared yesterday, I’m guessing that’s a lowball estimate. The pics are horrendous.
Steve Lawson has set up a paypal account specifically for donations going to the Library, in the name of the Library Society of the World. I’d like to ask everyone to head over to his post, and donate something…$5, $10, whatever you can afford. The people of Louisville will appreciate it.
So yesterday brought the news that Amazon acquired Zappos. For those not familiar, Zappos is a company that sells shoes (primarily, although they now sell other things) and is known for its nearly insane customer service. Seriously, they will do just about anything they can to make sure you’re happy, and are responsible for crazy customer service stories. This story about Zappos sending a woman flowers is maybe my favorite customer service story of all time. My other favorite thing about them is their “Pay new employee to quit” program.
As a result of the acquisition, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos released this youtube video
Take a minute, and watch the video…it’s worth it.
So Jeff explains a bit about the deal, and why Zappos and Amazon are a good match. According to Jeff, he only knows these things:
- Obsess over customers
- Think Long Term
- It’s Always Day 1
Why do I mention this on what is ostensibly a blog about library science stuff? Because I feel strongly that our future isn’t in content, really…it’s in services. No one does service better than Zappos. If we take Zappos customer service strategy (do anything to make the customer happy) and the four things that Jeff Bezos knows about running a company, how could we change libraries for the better? What can we do to be the Zappos of information?
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about something I’m calling “proactive reference.” The way I’m thinking about it, proactive reference is the monitoring of the real-time web (Twitter, Friendfeed, Seesmic, etc) by librarians who answer questions relating to their area or specialty, whether subject or geographically based. Public librarians who answer questions by searching for mentions of their city, county, or library, and Academic libraries who monitor for mentions of their university are two examples, but are many more possibilities.
I’m doing a bit of it now, just to see how effective it is at marketing the library’s services and such. Is anyone else out there actively monitoring these communication channels right now? My instinct is that this is going to be a HUGE market in a very short time, and that libraries should dive in fast and get used to it.
Sometimes, it’s just nice to laugh at industries that are desperately attempting to hang on to their relevancy in a changing world. Exhibit A for today is the Copyright Clearance Center, and their interesting attempt to educate users about copyright via their Copyright Basics video. Let’s examine the ways in which CCC fails at modern web usage.
First: here’s the opening screen of the video
I think that’s enough said, yes? Among the nearly-unreadable text is the prohibition to “distribute copies of the Program to persons outside your company, or post copies of the Program on any public website (including any video sharing or social networking site).” Â Yep, that’s the CCC…all about education. Wouldn’t want those non-paying people to easily get your content that explains why they should pay for your content.Â
Second: To get a copy of the video to use internally, on a non-public server that is limited to only your employees, you have to fill out a form on this page. Or, you know, just look at the page source:
Where the FLV file is handily linked for anyone who might want to use it.Â
If ever there was a direct example of how the modern web breaks copyright, the CCC just gave it to us. The answer, of course, isn’t to ignore the de facto standards for the distribution of video on the web, to limit the ability to share and distribute content, and to generally treat people who want to use your content like criminals. The way to make yourself valuable and heard is to share what you make as widely as you possibly can…something that the CCC can’t bring itself to do. Â It’s really hard to participate in the modern conversation when your very business model is tied to archaic and irrelevant legalese.
I’m in the middle of writing a book about Mobile Technologies and Libraries, and am researching libraries providing mobile-specific services of all sorts. I came across the University of Virginia’s Ebook Library, and decided to take a look at what they are offering. It’s a very old ebook collection, with the original Etext division starting in 1992. Here’s the part that made me scratch my head…it’s in their Access and Conditions of Use:
While many of these items are made publicly-accessible, they are not all public domain — the vast majority of the images, and a number of the texts, including all of those from the University of Virginia Special Collections Department, are copyrighted to the University of Virginia Library, for example, and a number of other texts are still copyrighted to their original print publishers and made available here with permission.
I have no qualms with the texts that are copyrighted by their original publishers, and that UVA got permission to use. My eyebrows raise at the bit about “including all those from the University of Virginia Special Collections Department, are copyrighted to the University of Virginia Library…”
I had my suspicions here…it’s not like the UVA Special Collections Department are writing books, right? After look around, I found this text: Po’ Sandy by Charles W. Chestnutt. Published in 1888 in the Atlantic Monthly in New York, it is clearly in the public domain in the United States. But there it is, in the front matter:
Copyright 1999, by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia
Looking around just a bit, it looks like this shows up on all sorts of texts that UVA digitized. My favorite is The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, completed in 1788 by Franklin but the particular version republished by UVA was published in 1909 by P. F. Collier & Son Company in New York. Also, without any doubt, in the Public Domain in the US. It also has the note:
Copyright 1999, by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia
What gives UVA the right to claim copyright on these texts? They couldn’t have legally digitized them if they weren’t in the Public Domain at the time of their digitization, and changing the form of something doesn’t give you the right to claim a copyright, especially on the bits that make the work up. Even stranger, they aren’t just claiming copyright, but including a EULA!
By their use of these ebooks, texts and images, users agree to follow these conditions of use:
- These ebooks, texts and images may not be used for any commercial purpose without permission from the Electronic Text Center.
- These ebooks, texts and images may not be re-published in print or electronic form without permission from the Electronic Text Center. However, educators are welcome to print out items and hand them to their students.
- Users are not permitted to download our ebooks, texts, and images in order to mount them on their own servers for public use or for use by a set of subscribers. Individuals and institutions can, of course, make a link to the copies at UVa, subject to our conditions of use.
Really? Is UVA asserting rights here that they just do not have? Not permitted to republish? Only if there is a copyright concern…which I think that UVA is asserting incorrectly here. It’s possible that there is some piece of copyright law that they are leaning on for these claims, but on the face of it, this seems like over reaching. Can anyone explain to me how they could possible have legitimate copyright claims on things that they didn’t create and are beyond the time limit for copyright protection in the US?
I would like to offer my personal endorsement of the following candidates for LITA offices for this election cycle:
Aaron Dobbs and Maurice York for Councilors at Large. Both Aaron and Maurice have worked behind the scenes for years to improve the way that LITA does things, and I think having them on the Board will help move LITA forward. I know both of them well, and have worked with both at a national level with LITA, and would be thrilled to see them as members of the Board.
I would also like to endorse Karen Starr for Vice-President. Her personal statement says “The innovators and leaders of tomorrow are the LITA members of today. It is refreshing to work with a dynamic group on the national level who care, who want to define that future and who come together to work on what the big picture should look like.” I believe that the time has come to define our future.
Please remember to vote, and I hope that you take my recommendation to the polls!
This endorsement represents my personal opinion and is in no way reflective of any committee, interest group, or other unit of LITA or ALA.
I am overjoyed to be included in the Library Journal 2009 list of Movers & Shakers. More important than being on the list, for me, is the incredible set of other people that are on the list. To be included in any list, anywhere, with:
- Sarah Houghton-Jan
- Chad Boeninger
- Michael Porter
- Lauren Pressley
- Pam Sessoms
- Jaap Van De Geer
- Geert Van Den Boogaard
- Erik Boekesteijn
- Jenica Rogers-Urbanek
- Dorothea Salo
- and, of course, Karen Coombs
Wow. I am thrilled and a bit overwhelmed. I’m desperately looking forward to reading up on those people on the list that I don’t know…
I have one bit of a correction: in the article, it says “Their commitment to sharing information about cutting-edge technology led to LITA BIGWIG.” That’s not actually true, unless they left out the word “them” between “led” and “to.” BIGWIG is the original brain-child of Karen Schneider and Clara Ruttenberg. They decided that it was time for LITA to focus on blogs and wikis as a part of the organizational structure back in 2005 or so, and BIGWIG was instantiated under their oversight. It was, however, Karen, Michelle, and myself that moved it into the sort of tech breeding ground that it has become. The next overseers will, hopefully change it as appropriate for the times and needs of the organization.
In any case: I am thrilled, and thanks to anyone and everyone who recommended me for this honor. Now to cross my fingers for that Shovers & Makers award…
There was an explosion of discussion about this topic over on Friendfeed, and I wanted to be able to reference it later. Thought maybe some of the readers would want to chime in as well. You can find it here: