Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Copyright and book theft

Typewriter typing the word steal This opinion piece in the New York Times caught my attention in September. In "Steal This Book? There’s a Price",  R
Since 2009, when eBooks and book piracy became a phenomenon, income for authors has declined 42 percent, according to a 2018 Authors Guild income survey, with the median income from writing now so low — just $6,080 a year — that poverty level looks like the mountaintop. By contrast, a 2017 Nielsen survey found that people who admitted to having read a pirated book in the previous six months tend to be middle class, educated, female as well as male, between the ages of 30 and 44 — and with an income of $60,000 to 90,000 a year.
First, I still contend that we aren't teaching children/students/people about ownership of their work at a young enough age, so that they understand what ownership means.  I think, then, children/students/people could learn better about what it means to respect the works of other creators who own their own works. It would also mean reinforcing ownership in other areas, such as recognizing that even taking one piece of candy from a store is wrong.  For this to really work, everyone would need to operate at a higher ethical standard.

Second, there needs to be a easy way of reporting to an author or publisher when an item do not appear to be a legal copy online.  I think what this really means is that authors need to put their contact information on their works, including their books.  That could simply be a specific email address for the purpose of contacting the author about the work, including reporting copyright violations.  (In other words, not the author's personal email account.)  

You may read my two points above and think they will never come to be, which is what I think too.  I'd be interested in hearing what solutions you might have, so leave a comment.  And yes, do read "Steal This Book? There’s a Price".  I think you'll find it interesting.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Random thoughts and examples: Creating accessible content

Not all disabilities are visible
As we all have, I am more aware of creating accessible content and also noticing when material I use is (or is not) accessible.  Accessibility assures that material is usable by all people.

While in Washington, DC, for the ALA Annual Conference, I went to the Starbucks near Gallaudet University.   Gallaudet describes itself as "the premier institution of learning, teaching and research for deaf and hard-of-hearing students."  Businesses near Gallaudet are more aware of the need to be accessible for all.  In the business district on H Street is the first signing Starbucks in the U.S.  "Signing" means that the preferred language in that Starbucks is American Sign Language (ASL).  The facility was built to be accessible for all, rather than being retrofitted.  It is a beautiful and peaceful (quiet) location, where all of the worker use ASL.  In this facility, accessible content is being created constantly as members of the deaf and hearing communities interact.

Question: When your create a new facility or remodel an existing facility, how committed are you to creating space that is truly accessible for all?

Fish from these waters may be harmful to ear
Accessibility is also something we need to consider, when we create signage. How many languages are spoken in your community? How many languages are your signs in?  While we acknowledge that many languages are spoken in our communities, we often only have signage in 1-2 languages.  (Can you guess which ones?)

I'm impressed with this sign in a park along Onondaga Lake, which is in English, Spanish, Burmese and Nepali.  Why? Because some people see the lake as a food source, but eating fish from this lake is not recommended. This sign to right is in four of the languages that are spoken in Syracuse.  I wish there was a visual representation of the message, which would be accessible to more people.

Question: Is your library's signage in language that your community members use?  Have you created frequently asked questions in multiple languages?  Is there a way for your website to be automatically translated into other languages?

Starbucks business card in English and Braille
Going back to Starbucks for a moment, here is the manager's business card in both English and Braille.  (Don't worry, there is no personal contact information on this card.)

Question: If you are interacting regularly with people who need your contact information in other languages or in a different format, have you create a business card for those situations?

Finally, I want to point out that Sabrina Unrein has written a white paper entitled “What Makes a Good Library Website?”   Sabrina is an MSLIS student at Syracuse University and is working working me as part of the iSchool Public Libraries Initiative.  Included in her white paper is information about web security and creating accessible content. 

Question: Have you reviewed your website and all of its content to assure that everyone can use it?  Is it accessible on mobile devices as well as screen readers?

Monday, October 07, 2019

#ALISE19 : Copyright and LIS in a Global Context: Current Knowledge and Future Trends


Laura Saunders, Allison Estell, Deborah Charbonneau and Dick Kawooya

Abbreviated session description

Copyright impacts nearly every aspect of an information professional’s job, across all settings. The centrality of copyright to the information professions suggests that LIS professionals need a strong grounding in this topic, and indeed the American Library Association considers knowledge of copyright to be a core competency...Together [four panelists] will share the results of five separate studies to provide a broad overview of the need for copyright knowledge in the field, and discuss the current preparedness of LIS professionals and students. The first panelist will report the results of a study on self-perceived copyright awareness and training needs of academic librarians highlighting copyright, fair use, and intellectual property. The second panelist will discuss the results of a content analysis of job postings for librarians, to examine trends in expectations for copyright knowledge. Finally, two panelists will discuss a series of surveys that put copyright knowledge and literacy in a global context. The first survey gathered current practitioners’ self-reported knowledge of copyright issues in the United States. Data from this study was pooled with data from the same survey distributed across 13 countries for a cross-country analysis. The second survey tested American LIS students’ copyright knowledge and gathered their feedback on actual copyright instruction within their LIS programs. The survey of LIS students has been replicated in 14 countries and while data is still being analyzed, the researchers will share preliminary comparative data. After sharing the results of each of these above-mentioned studies, the panelists will discuss implications for LIS education.


Copyright  librarians - areas/requirements?Because of my focus on copyright, this was a fascinating and important session. I know that many MSLIS courses touch on some portion of copyright and licensing, but that there are few regularly given courses on copyright in MSLIS programs. Given all of the electives a student could take, being able to take a course in copyright is a luxury that not every student can take advantage of.

For me, these things stood out in the session:
  1. Members of our profession believe that copyright is an important topic for them to understand.  People have taken advantage of a number of different ways in order to learn about copyright. Among those, who responded to a survey on this topic, most believed that they felt prepared in terms of copyright.  However, the survey asked for their opinion and did not assess their actual knowledge.
  2. People (including students) turn to library staff when they have copyright questions.  In other words, people count on librarians understanding copyright and being able to answer questions appropriately.
  3. More job ads are asking for copyright (or licensing) related knowledge.  This seems to have exploded since 2013.  It was noted that although copyright knowledge is desired, there is no widespread hiring of people with law (JD) degrees. Rather they expect librarians to have this knowledge.
  4. Members of our profession believe that copyright should be in the LIS curriculum.  Because every MSLIS student needs copyright knowledge, the speakers felt that copyright should be woven into (and across) existing courses. 
  5. Members of our profession also felt that there needs to continuous learning in this area.  Once you learn about copyright, you need to refresh that knowledge, especially given that the courts do set new precedents regularly.
In term of weaving copyright into exist MSLIS courses, this would mean including such topics as:
  • What is intellectual property?
  • What is covered by copyright (Title 17, Sections 102-105) 
  • The rights of the copyright owner (Sections 106-106A)
  • Fair Use (Section 107)
  • Reproduction by libraries and archives (Section 108) 
  • First sale doctrine (within Section 109)
  • TEACH Act (within Section 110)
I've included the specific sections of the law above for two reasons. First, I think it demonstrates that this needs to be more than just a mention of a specific area, but rather what do we mean by "X".  Second, I do think that students should become familiar with the law itself, in addition to using other resources, including articles and textbook.
These topics could be connected to courses such as:
  • Introduction to the profession
  • Reference 
  • Information literacy
  • Library instruction
  • Collection development
  • Information policy 
  • Materials for... (or classes such as Youth services)
However, the program would need to map which topics are being covered (and where), in order to ensure that students are receiving the copyright knowledge they will need as a practitioner.  Of course, it may be impossible for every course to contain a copyright assignment, but courses could have appropriate lectures and readings.  If classes are taken in a specific order, perhaps a later classes (e.g., Information policy) could contain an assessment which would require students to use all of the copyright knowledge that they have gained.

There were other topics at ALISE, where the answer was "this needs to be infused in the curriculum."  Doing all of those changes would be a huge coordinated effort, a task that would not be for the weary.  An alternative would be to take some topics or subtopics and create a way for students to engage in self-education.  A student should know that they cannot learn everything in their MSLIS program; to do so would require much more than 36-42 credits. Therefore, students should be motivated to learn outside of the structure of the curriculum.  In regards to copyright, a program could develop a list of external resources (books, articles, webinars, ecourses, etc.), which the student could engage with in order to learn the topic.  While the program would not assess the student's learning, the student should be ready and willing to discuss what they have learned during an employment interview. Some students may find other ways of demonstrating their knowledge (e.g., articles, blog posts, etc.), which could be seen by prospective employers. Of course, some learning options might have their own built-in assessments.

I left this session very happy, because of my love of teaching copyright.  I hope that others have taken what they heard back to their programs and are thinking of what they might do with this knowledge.  I know that I am!


These are articles I found online and were not mentioned during the session.
  • Allison Estell, Laura Saunders (2016) Librarian Copyright Literacy: Self-Reported Copyright Knowledge Among Information Professionals in the United States, Public Services Quarterly, 12:3, 214-227, DOI: 10.1080/15228959.2016.1184997 
  • Deborah H. Charbonneau, Michael Priehs (2014) Copyright Awareness, Partnerships, and Training Issues in Academic Libraries, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 40, n. 3-4,  228-233, DOI:
  • LeEtta Schmidt, Michael English (2015) Copyright Instruction in LIS Programs: Report of a Survey of Standards in the U.S.A., The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 41, n. 6, 736-743, DOI:

Addendum (Nov. 11): As an FYI, ALISE has reported this information about the conference:
A total of 282 people, including 76 first time attendees, traveled from eight countries - USA, Canada, China, Germany, Jamaica, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom - to participate. 

Monday, September 30, 2019

#ALISE19 : Understanding information seeking behaviors within a community

The word KNOX made from large pieces of woodLast week was the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) Annual Conference in Knoxville, TN. This year's theme was "Exploring Learning in a Global Information Context." Part of the global context is diversity and a number of sessions connected with that specifically. A thread that crossed several presentations and posters was the information seeking behaviors within a community, however, that community is defined.

Information and Under-represented Communities

In the juried paper, "Information and Under-represented communities: LatinXs Finding InformaXion in Boston" by Monica Colon-Aguirre and Janet Caja Alcal, we learned of the information seeking behaviors of those who speak Spanish in the LatinX community. A 2015 Pew Research study found that LatinXs are less likely than other groups to know about the services offered by their public libraries. LatinX communities are the largest minority group in the U.S. and have complex information needs. Colon-Aguirre noted that LatinX populations are not monolithic, which means that we need to be careful about any assumptions we might make about their information needs.

Through 13 interviews, Colon-Aguirre and Alcal found that educational attainment and English language acquisition impact the use of library collections and facilities, and whether that use is for the person or for their child. For example, someone with a higher levels of education would use the library for themself, while a person with lower levels of education would seek services for their children.

Colon-Aguirre recommends that LIS educators prepare future professionals with the knowledge and skills to foster cultural competence. She also said we need to encourage students to acquire proficiency in languages used in our communities, other than English. She noted that LatinX communities are less likely to learn English than other migrant groups, mainly due to ethnic enclaves in cities around the U.S. Of course, the optimal solution would be to hire librarians that represent and look like the people in their communities.

Colon-Aguirre also recommended that libraries:
  • Employ community engagement strategies
  • Develop more programming
  • Build rapport with community members, especially those who are gatekeepers
  • Create bilingual catalogues 
Besides being proficient in another language, library will want to build cultural competence. Cultural competence is a set of attitudes, skills behaviors and policies that enable a person to work effectively in cross-cultural situations.  Rajesh Singh (St. John's University) and Beth Patin (Syracuse University) have MSLIS courses on this and others may also exist.

Chatman Revisited

LaVerne Gray and Bharat MehraLaVerne Gray and Bharat Mehra were two of the panelists in the session entitled, "Chatman Revised: A Panel Reexamining and Resituating Social Theories of Identity, Access, and Marginalization in LIS."  Gray joined the SU iSchool in August, so she's been educating me about Chatman for a while! Mehra was her doctoral advisor and remains a collaborator.

Elfreda A. Chatman (1942-2002) was "well known for her ethnographic approaches in researching information seeking behaviors among understudied or minority groups." (Wikipedia) Chatman studied information seeking behaviors, and then created theories about them.

Because I will not be able to fully articulate her work, I encourage you to locate information on Elfreda Chatman. Two articles, which I quickly found, are:
    When we look at a community, we will consider if the community has an abundance of information or is information deficit. We might ask whether the community seeks information from within itself or if it goes outside its boundaries to locate information. Chatman focused on how communities sought information from within itself. She saw an information deficit because a community - for whatever reason - might not go outside of itself for helpful information. Chatman created the theory of "life in the round", which explains why members of a community might seek information from within its boundaries.

    Rather than seeing the abundance of information within a community, Chatman saw a deficit. Rather than seeing external forces that created the confined community and questioning those forces, Chatman focused on the community as is. Mehra looks at Chatman through fresh eyes and is willing to question her theories, recognizing that doing so is uncomfortable for some.


    Listening to Mehra and Gray reminded me of conversations with Beth Patin about community knowledge, especially in ethnic and indigenous communities and epistemicide (the destruction of traditional knowledge). That destruction begins with devaluing the knowledge held within a community. The community knowledge is held as being deficient, while knowledge from outside the community is held as being more valuable and important.

    For example, using Chatman, the knowledge of an Amish community might be seen as deficit, because the community does not reach outside itself to enhance what it knows.  Thinking of epistemicide, the external world seeks to destroy the traditional knowledge of the Amish people because it is not based on broader concepts and is not valued.

    Did I Get it Right?

    As I've written this, I have gone back through my notes and looked at relevant tweets. I'm thankful for those people who tweeted the sessions, because they captured ideas in real-time that were taking me longer to parse. However, now it is your turn. If you were at ALISE or are steeped in these areas, did I get it right? What should be added or corrected? Please leave comments and let me know.

    Thursday, September 19, 2019

    This rant is overdue: Skype interviews

    Skype logo
    Over the years, I have been on many search committees and some of those committees have conducted Skype interviews.  I have a love-hate relationship with Skype interviews (or Zoom or whatever video tool people are using). They allow the search committee to conducted a live video interview with a candidate, where each side can see the other.  When each side is competent at using Skype, it works well. But often they are not and that is a problem.

    If you (a job applicant) will be giving a Skype interview, here are several things to consider:
    • Do you know how to use Skype to video chat with someone? If you have not used Skype previously, can you take a Skype tutorial or have someone give you a lesson?
    • Do you have the correct hardware, Skype version, and Internet connection so that the video interview will technically be a success?
    • Can you be hardwired to the Internet, so there will be no video lag?  Video lag could cause the interviewer to not hear all of your answers.
    • Do you have a headset, so that the sound will be the best possible?  Note that even earbud headphones can give you very good sound quality.
    • Can your device sit steady on a table, at a height that frames your face well?  The interviewer  does not want to be looking at the top of your head or gazing up your nose.
    • Does the lighting allow the interviewer to see your face clearly?
    • Does the interviewer have a phone number for you, which can be called in case something goes wrong?

    Tips for the Interviewer 

    Read all of the tips above and apply them to your role as the interviewer. Yes, you need to be competent, too. 

    If you are conducting confidential interviews, you may want to use a personal Skype account, so you can control who can see the call history.  Why shouldn't you use a shared Skype account?  Currently, there is no easy way of deleting the history of Skype video calls.  If that shared account can be accessed by anyone, they may see who has been interviewed and that may be a problem.

    Using Skype with Diverse Job Candidates

    • If you believe that seeing your candidates could adversely impact your process - in other words, that it could case bias reactions - then consider a conference call.  You can use Skype for a conference call, but you can also do that with many telephones.
    • Interviewers will automatically assume that the candidate is comfortable with a Skype call.  However, you may want to ask candidates for their consent, rather than assuming. Why?  A candidate may feel that a video interview will disclose a disability and put that person at a disadvantage early in the interview process.
    • Conversely, a Skype interview could be helpful in interviewing someone who using sign language or who needs to text chat along with video.  In other words, Skype could provide useful flexibility.

    What Else?

    This post has just been about the technology, but you - the interviewee or interviewer - need to pay attention to the other aspects of interviewing, too. Have you thought about the questions that will be used?  Have you rehearsed the questions or the answers?  If you are the job candidate, can you provide examples from your work history to support your answers? As the job candidate, can you explain why you are the best candidate?

    In other words, you need to prepare for the interview. Please.