Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Stopping text from being copied - Yellow dots and the EURion Constellation

If you work in an office, then likely you use a photocopier.  In fact, that photocopier might function as a copier, a printer, and a scanner.  Some offices lease their photocopiers, so they have tech support and the ability to upgrade easily to the latest technology.  That copier may be a vital tool in getting your work done, but that copier could actually be working against you.

Last week, I learned about the EURion constellation, which is a series of small yellow dots. These dots are printed on our currency to stop counterfeiting.  In addition, some book publishers are adding these dots to specific pages in their books. Why? Even though you cannot see them, these dots can signal to a copier that what you are printing was produced by someone else and stop you from making a copy. This technology was initially used to stop people from copying currency and now it is being used to stop use from copying pages out of a book. Yes, this is true.  I've spoken to a librarian who is dealing with this. Even if your copying would be considered Fair Use, those yellow dots will stop you if you try to copy a page where they exist.

Yes, this is a form of digital rights management, but a sneaky form because it is being imposed on you without your agreement. This could stop you from exercising Fair Use or completing an interlibrary loan request, for example.

You might be tempted to take a book to your copier and see if you can make copies. Here's the problem.  I can't tell you if that book in your hands has those yellow dots and I can't tell you if your copier would even recognize them.  

But wait...privacy

Now...let's take this to the "next level." Your color photocopier could also be placing these yellow dots on the items that you print, without your knowledge. Those documents could then be traced back to your specific copier. Yes, this has occurred.  

I'm still learning about this. Below are links to articles and videos that will help you know more. The video below is quite helpful.  

By the way, if you already had a run-in with the EURion Constellation, I'd be interested in knowing how it occurred. Did you know what was happening? Did you think your copier was broken? What did you do next?


Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Struggle to Diversify Library Staff, part 4

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi with moderator and ASL interpreter
Earlier this month, I wrote three blog posts about diversifying the profession. Many people read the first post, with a smaller number reading the ideas listed in part 2, and fewer reading my radical idea in part 3. That means that most people never got to the idea I put forth after asking, "how does library education need to change in order to have the diversity we desire in our libraries?" Too bad. No wonder there was no push-back on the idea!

Last night I had an opportunity to hear Dr. Ibram X. Kendi speak. Listening to him, I realized that those posts do not use the phrase "structural racism" or even the word "racism," yet clearly the structure (or pathway) which leads to becoming a librarian is racist if it inhibits people of color from that path. Yes, some people of color Black, brown and indigenous people do successfully become librarians, but not enough. 

So let me ask:

How do we prompt real change? 

What needs to change so there is real change?

I hope you will share with me, or with others, your ideas.

Ocr. 27, 2020: This article in tangential to the topic of diversifying library staff, yet I think it is important to remember: Iowa City Public Library to focus on DEI, alternatives to police intervention in new strategic plan.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Samantha Mairson: Blacking Out Books: What Would You Do?

Page with some of the text blacked out

Samantha contacted me as she was writing this post, because she had a copyright question.  It is a worthwhile post, so I'm sharing it here.

In this post, Samantha Mairson begins by stating:

Libraries are reopening in a post-COVID world. It is a good time to revisit the Library Bill of Rights and ethical considerations that should ground the everyday work of libraries.

She goes on to talk about "expurgation," which is to delete part of an item/material (e.g., book), which can be seen as censorship.  Mairson then includes definitions, resources, and questions for you to consider.  

If you have never thought about expurgation, this post is an excellent introduction. If you have expurged (purified) materials, you might want to read this and then think about your actions.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Report: Public Library Survey Data: Some Answers, Many Questions

OCPL Central LibraryTwo years ago, the Syracuse University iSchool Public Libraries Initiative (IPLI) became interested in the IMLS Public Library Survey (PLS) data. At the time, the IPLI was doing some work on the data in conjunction with the EveryLibrary Institute. Seeing the data from every public library in our 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and our U.S. territories raised questions in us. Exploring those questions took time and required adding some skills to our team, while also understanding which of our questions were answerable and how many were not. Fast forward and I have finally finished a 17-page report using the 2017 PLS data entitled Public Library Survey Data: Some Answers, Many Questions.  The report is available as a free-download.

If you work in a public library in the U.S., you might not even know that your library - through your state library - contribute to this huge data set, which is available for anyone to use. Yes, one row for every public library (main/central) library in the one data file, and one row for every library outlet in the other (i.e., branch libraries and bookmobiles).  Thousands of rows and dozens of columns. There is data about public library staffing, budget, services, and more. While there is much that this data can tell us about our public libraries, there are many questions that cannot be answered. Those unanswerable questions frustrated us and we tried to give voice to some of them.

Why care about this report?

I think you should read this report in order to look at U.S. public libraries from a different point of view. You are likely focused on your library or the libraries in your region. What if you took a step back and looked at public libraries more broadly? What could you learn?

One important lesson we learned is that public libraries have not documented their histories as much as we had hoped. One of our initial questions was, "Why have public libraries selected their specific legal structures?" Why, for example, is your library a municipal library and not an association library? Perhaps some libraries have documented their thought process or maybe the decision was made for them.  However, what we found important is that this history is not readily available and likely lost. This, by the way, was the impetus for Heather Elia's article entitled "The Do's and Don'ts of Documentation."

Report description

The federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) collects and reports on key data points about public library activities, behaviors, expenditures, and staffing annually in the United States. Pre-COVID era data is important to interrogate and understand because the framework for the COVID-pivot starts with library activities on the day of the shutdowns. In the research paper in "Public Library Survey Data: Some Answers, Many Questions", Syracuse University Emeritus Professor of Practice Jill Husrt-Wahl presents a thoughtful discussion of the 2017 IMLS Public Library Survey data as more than past history. She writes, "Comparing this year, for example, to a previous year will tell the story of the negative impact COVID-19 had on some parts of the library, as well as the positive impact it had on other areas, such as ebook and database usage. Some libraries may use their data to point to the level of funding and staffing it would like to return."

In "Public Library Survey Data: Some Answers, Many Questions", Hurst-Wahl takes us through several data points to interrogate both the underlying reports as well as questioning the conventional wisdom about critical interrelated issues like the legal structure of public libraries, the staffing comportment of libraries, and the ways that properly-funded libraries express their mission, vision, and values. The crux of this discussion focuses on the role and importance of library staff, regardless of their job title or classification. "We know that this [IMLS] definition does not capture everything that public library staff does, especially considering both physical and virtual spaces," writes Hurst-Wahl. "This definition does not reflect the depth of community services that members of the staff provide." This report attempts to connect these dots and offers library leaders valuable insights for planning for success in a COVID-impacted world.

Thanks to...

Several people in IPLI helped me think through the data and I need to thank them: Heather Elia MSLIS '20, Deepak Sharma MSIM '20, Sabrina Unrein MSLIS '20, Georgia Westbrook MSLIS '19, and doctoral student Jieun Yeon, A big thanks to the EveryLibrary Institute - especially John Chrastka and Patrick Sweeney - for piquing my curiosity in this data and for publishing the report.

Additional Resources

  • The podcast T is for Training talked about this report on its Oct. 8 episode - show notes, audio link. The show notes include resources listed in the episode.
  • EveryLibrary Institute Library Funding Map
  • Measures that Matter - This is worth knowing about.  It is an initiative begun in 2016 to help coordinate a field-wide conversation around library data collection with the aim to develop and implement a related action plan.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

The Struggle to Diversify Library Staff, part 3

Jill and Tracy AllenDisclaimer: What follows is my point of view. Mine and no one else's.  

At the end of part 2, I wondered if there are other options which might help to diversify library staff. Yes, and it is a radical idea. (BTW here is a link to part 1.)

Focus on the Community

Mr. Spock: “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
Captain Kirk: “Or the one.”

I know there are problems with that quote from Star Trek II, but I still like it.  In this case, what if we focused on the needs of our communities in terms of having diverse representation among the professional library staff? What if we decided to break down barriers to make that happen?  What if doing that outweighed - or altered - what we do now?

In other words, how does library education need to change in order to have the diversity we desire in our libraries? I'm talking real change and not just tweaks.

What does it mean to be an educated librarian?

Somewhere at least once a year there is a conversation about why the MSLIS degree matters. What is taught? What is learned? What should be taught? Is it a rubber stamp (is it truly necessary)? Is there some way of passing a test instead of going to graduate school? How come the undergraduate degree doesn't mean much?

In other words, what does it mean to be an educated librarian? Imagine if we knew the answer to that.  Imagine if we - the profession, our academic programs, and associations - could agree on what that meant. We could then focus not on six years of higher education to become a librarian, but on acquiring specific knowledge and skills. We might create a path for more people from diverse backgrounds to enter the profession. 

By the way, some of these conversations in the past turn into shouting matches, because everyone is passionate about this and people want it their way. Likely these conversations need skilled mediators, who can move the group beyond shouting, and beyond their own opinions and self interesting, and towards thinking about what is best for our diverse communities, if we want our staff to represent the people they serve. 

An agreement on knowledge, skills, and abilities

The American Library Association - and other library associations - have lists of core competencies.  The ALA document states:

This document defines the basic knowledge to be possessed by all persons graduating from an ALA-accredited master’s program in library and information studies. 

The ALA Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies (2019) states under Curriculum:

II.2. The curriculum is concerned with information resources and the services and technologies to facilitate their management and use. Within this overarching concept, the curriculum of library and information studies encompasses information and knowledge creation, communication, identification, selection, acquisition, organization and description, storage and retrieval, preservation and curation, analysis, interpretation, evaluation, synthesis, dissemination, use and users, and management of human and information resources.

None of this gets at the core skills a librarian needs for specific positions or specific situations.  That is left up to the hiring managers, who seek candidates with the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) they believe are most relevant. Imagine being a student and trying to obtain the correct KSAs for the job you want to hold.  You are going to receive different advice from various peoples on classes to take and skills to acquire (either in class or on the job).  What if there was some agreement on the KSAs needed?

First, there would need to be agreement on what the jobs are in libraries and see similarities across those positions.  Those jobs might be categorized and then specific KSAs determined for those categories.  This step would benefit those interested in working in libraries, because they would be able to see a group of jobs that required similar KSAs. They would know better what KSAs to acquire, which positions to seek, and what their career path might be.  They would also know what KSAs to acquire in order to make a career move.

Yes, this step would also help hiring managers, because it would help them define what skills (KSAs) a person needs for a specific jobs. 

Second, there would need to be agreement on how these KSAs are acquired. Yes, it could be that some college courses would be required. And it could be that for some management positions - or very specialized positions - that a graduate degree would be necessary.  However, if we want to make our profession accessible to more people, we need to eliminate the hurdles that higher education creates. What about:

  • Work in other industries where a person might demonstrate customer service skills, storytelling, working with special population
  • Specific workshops, webinars, or continuing education courses
  • Internships
  • Library work experience
  • Proof of specific skills through tests 
    • This could be wonderful for skills we want staff to have, but that aren't in college courses like proficiency with office-related software.

Oh...I can hear you screaming at me how this wouldn't work. This wouldn't work in our current system, but what if we re-imagined our profession?

BTW although you may be reading these posts as focused on public libraries, I do believe this change would work across all library types.

Impact on accreditation and MSLIS programs

Faculty in academic regaliaA change like this could not occur overnight because there would need to be widespread agreement about it, and specific groups would need to be willing to radically change how they think and what they do.

I have worked in a professional academic school and led a program successfully through an ALA Accreditation review. I understand the impact that the Council for Higher Education Accreditation has on programmatic accrediting organizations like ALA, as well as regional accreditors like MSCHE. None of them will look at the idea I've laid out here with glee, because it changes the paradigm they live in. It could make them less relevant, which they would not like.

MSLIS programs will not be happy with this idea, because it would decrease their enrollments.  Some might successfully pivot to focus on those areas which would still need an advanced degree. Others might focus on providing those college classes that library workers would need to qualify for their positions. Some might focus more on professional development.  Some might turn their efforts away from libraries and more into information science (a trend that some believe is already occurring(. A few might become the places that educate future library educators.  (Yes, library educators would still be needed.) And, yes, some might close.  

Would the MSLIS totally disappear? I don't think so, but I do think it would be very different.

Remember to focus on diversifying the profession

We're struggling to diversify the profession and so we need to think differently.  We need to locate people from diverse backgrounds who have some interest in librarianship. We need to cultivate that interest in them and move them towards thinking about librarianship as a career. We know that there is a narrowing funnel between graduating high school and getting a master's degree, and that fewer people from diverse backgrounds make it through that funnel. So can we remove the funnel?

BTW our overall population trend in the U.S. is downward, which is why allowing people to immigrate to the U.S. is important. Fewer 18 year olds translates into fewer college graduates, etc.

We know that a stumbling block is the cost of a bachelor's degree, plus the cost of a master's, given the low salaries for many library positions. People are going into debt to become a librarian. Could this remove that stumbling block and make being a librarian a more economically feasible job choice?

No, I haven't lost my mind

Finally, no, I haven't lost my mind.  I start this thought process because of notes in old work journals, where I saw the same issues and ideas rising again and again in different conversations. I think that the only way of moving forward is radical change.

Yes, I have just laid out in this blog post ideas that you might really not like. That's okay. Perhaps the radical change that is needed to diversify librarianship is something else and not this. Whatever it is, we need to be working on it because it will take time to implement and have a real impact. And we need to start now.