Tuesday, March 13, 2007

some thoughts from Karen Schneider

these are quotes from a piece Karen wrote on the ALA TechSource blog as an open letter to the LOC regarding a meeting they were holding at Google headquarters - no comments from me, just using this space as mental storage backup.

It is both ironic and poignant that librarians are still worrying about “bibliographic control,” after ceding so much of the same to the companies that now rent them journal access per annum at usurious rates, digitize their book collections into DRM obscurity, or sell them ponderous, antiquated “management” systems that on close inspection do little more than serve as storehouses for the metadata specific to the formats of bygone eras, bold days when we saw our central roles as defenders and curators of our cultural heritage.

We have moved from the librarian as information artisan—a professional creating and using tools to manage information—to the librarian as surrogate vendor, facilitating what is essentially the offshoring of thousands of years of information into private hands.

However, I would caution the committee that tinkering around the edges of how we as a profession do our old-world business—buy a book, create a record—is to miss the point. Small upward bumps in traditional book circulation, coaxed by major redesigns of traditional tools—however important these redesigns--are no more comforting than brisk sales at a masking-tape store in a mall going out of business (to invoke an old Saturday Night Live skit).

To paraphrase Andrew Abbott's point in The System of Professions, we are behaving like the train companies, who thought they were in the train business, not the transportation business, and like them, there are already signs that the “train business” we do is on artificial life support. We are not even close to being the first service of choice for information seekers; we are pretty much down there with asking one's mother. Libraries across the country are increasingly asked to justify their existence in order to receive continued funding, and some have been unable to do so.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Freedom and Innovation Revitalizing US Entrepreneurship Act of 2007

via THOMAS (Library of Congress)

well, the details look good to me. Decriminalizes hacking DRM to make mixes and mashups for personal and educational use, and re-asserts that just because a device can break copyright, as long as it has legal uses, the device and the device makers cannot be held responsible for criminal uses.

I say it looks good to me, but I don't have a whole lot of experience reading these things, and really wish there was a ready made plain language translation.

I read about this due to one of my newer rss feeds - the US Copyright office's copyright legislation page. The copyright office, a division of the LOC, has really sexed up their website - slick, clean, and useful.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Cyber School Day

Queen Anne's School, a prep school in Maryland has a system in place so that if school is cancelled because of inclement weather, every student and teacher logs on to the internet and they have Cyber School. The headmaster talked about IM, and they seem to have a really serious and involved Virtual School system. And they've been doing this for 7 years.

There has been some talk of late amongst state level administrators about trying to plan for the possibilities of epidemics - bird flu being the inspiration behind these conversations - and trying to deal with what can be done if school needs to shut down for months at a time. This *could* be done, but there are about a gazillion steps between us and Queen Anne's School's readiness.

Heard on NPR (only 3 minutes)

my favorite quote - "As headmaster, I can tell you that I know more about what goes on and can really validate the worthwhile nature of it on a cyber school day than I can when they're on campus."