Friday, July 12, 2019

#ALAac19 : Privacy and legal issues

Mobile at the Convention Center made from guitarsI was unable to attend these two sessions, but want to tell you what they were and  point you towards articles about them. Why? Because I believe the topics to be important.

Library Confidentiality: Your Privacy is Our Business


American Libraries covered this session with an article.

Description

Protecting patron privacy has long been a tenet of libraries. In today’s environment of social media dominance, political partisanship, and big data collection and analysis, libraries continue their gate-keeping tradition. Participants in this program will learn about the policies, guidelines, ethics and laws behind the privacy and confidentiality standards that affect their libraries. Attendees will have several opportunities to share and explore cultural and policy approaches to privacy and confidentiality with their colleagues, while strategizing to resolve challenging patron privacy scenarios and policy concerns they may encounter at their own institutions.

Privacy is as much an institutional cultural construct as it is a framework of laws, regulations, and policies. We begin by reflecting upon our own personal concepts of privacy. The presenters will share what students have told them about their privacy fears. You will find that our concerns are surprisingly similar, and yet we wittingly or unwittingly share our private information on a regular basis. As information professionals, what is our role in creating privacy and confidentiality awareness among our patrons and staff? Our examination expands to compare and contrast how we, as a profession, protect the privacy of our patrons even if that is at odds with how our patrons want (or do not want) their privacy protected.

This program makes participants aware of the potential for challenges to patron reading records and models options to be both proactive and reactive, outlines the history and practice of ALA’s ethical and legal response to those challenges, and reflects upon the increasing institutional focus on assessment, data-driven decision making and the use of Big Data to prove our value. Will these new initiatives threaten our patrons’ privacy?

Speakers: Kathleen Ross and Nancy Greco, St. John Fisher College

PLA Legal Issues in Public Libraries Forum



This event was part of the PLA meeting at ALA. American Libraries did an article on it.

Description


Can a patron require us to accept a gift subscription to a publication we don't want? Can I play music during a story hour and have the children sing along? What if we stream the story hour from our website? We notice one patron often comes into the library barefoot. Can we do anything about that? Can "that" group really be allowed to use our meeting room? We have received a list of books for which a number of patrons (there is a signed petition) want restricted access so that children cannot read or check out the books unless there is a parental permission on file. Must we abide by their wishes? The library has a new crafting space, with glue guns, various cutting blades and other sharp objects. Can we have patrons sign some sort of release protecting the library in case someone gets injured? I am reviewing an agreement from a new online content provider. What does it mean when the agreement says the vendor waives all warranties including non-infringement and that the library will indemnify the vendor? Need answers to these and similar questions?
PLA announces a new conference resource and informational session, the Legal Issues in Public Libraries Forum. The Forum is an open discussion venue for legal issues common in public libraries such as patron privacy, challenges to both in-house and online content, patron behavior, copyright and licensing, other liability issues such as those related to maker spaces, and more. Recent cases and legislation affecting libraries can also be discussed. The Forum serves as a resource, a place where issues you may be facing can be vetted in a neutral space. The Forum draws upon the experience and knowledge of your peers, of those in attendance.
Held at future Midwinter and ALA Annual Conferences, the Forum is convened by Tomas A. Lipinski, Dean and Professor at the School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, author and co-author with Mary Minow and Gretchen McCord of numerous books and articles on various legal problems in libraries. Tom, like Mary and Gretchen, is both a librarian and a lawyer. The hope is to always have several lawyer librarians in attendance as well as seasoned library administrators.

Please note this Forum is intended to provide accurate information in regard to the subject matter covered. However it is not a place to obtain legal advice or other professional service. If legal or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.

The Standardized Mass Contract

Seth Godin
Seth Godin spoke at the Association for Talent Development conference in May in Washington, DC.  Godin, who knows how to promote himself and his activities, gave away copies of his book Stop Stealing Dreams: What is School Good For? and two of my friends got me a copy.  The book is available online for free in full-text.  Yes this was first published in 2012.

Godin has written the book in a series of short chapters and it is indeed focused on education, both K-12 and higher education.  He does a very good job dissecting what is right and wrong with education today, which makes it a worthwhile read.  In addition, there is text that can be applied to other situations, such as this about standardized mass contracts, which is a quote from Friedrich Kessler (1943):
The development of large scale enterprise with its mass production and mass distribution made a new type of contract inevitable — the standardized mass contract. A standardized contract, once its contents have been formulated by a business firm, is used in every bargain dealing with the same product or service. The individuality of the parties which so frequently gave color to the old type of contract has disappeared. The stereotyped contract of today reflects the impersonality of the market…. Once the usefulness of these contracts was discovered and perfected in the transportation, insurance, and banking business, their use spread into all other fields of large scale enterprise, into international as well as national trade, and into labor relations.
When I read this, I thought immediately of the "click through" (or "click and accept" or"web-wrap") agreements that we are confronted with daily.  These are standardized mass contracts which we cannot negotiate and must accept as-is, if we want to use that service.  We are so used to these agreements - and their long, unintelligible legal text - that most of us click and agree automatically.

I think, too, of the content we use from a variety of different databases and  websites, where we cannot individually easily negotiate a different terms of use.  (Notice the word "easily" in that sentence.  Yes, negotiation is possible.)

Godin would argue that our education system has taught us to comply and to stay with what the larger group is doing. Thus we accept these click through agreements, because it is what is expected of us and it is what others are doing.  In the past, libraries have automatically accepted the standardized mass contracts their vendors have given them, but that is changing.

What do we each need to do to change these contracts that have been standard since the industrial revolution?  How do we create changeable contracts that can be easily altered to meet specific needs? Yes, I know we have the Creative Commons, but I'm thinking of database contracts, for example.  Can we build momentum, rather than having individual libraries seemingly tackling this alone?

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Podcast: How to ensure free speech; and the EU's new copyright directive

RN Future Tense did a 30-minute podcast on "How to ensure free speech; and the EU's new copyright directive." While the later would definitely be of interest to you, the topic of free speech is something that many libraries and other groups are struggling with. 

The podcast is available on the Future Tense website and other places where podcasts are available (e.g., iTunes).

Description

Many Western governments continue to struggle with free speech. It’s not that they’re necessarily against it, it’s just that they don’t know how to effectively regulate out the offensive stuff. Political scientist Katherine Gelber has put forward what she calls the “capabilities-informed approach”. Also, the EU’s new Directive on Copyright — why are the big tech players warning it can’t work?

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

#ALAac19 : Digitization

Among the 701 exhibitors at the ALA Annual Conference were several digitization vendors; however, I only took photos of two of the booths.  Interestingly, there is no way to search the exhibitor list on the ALA website to locate all of the digitization vendors. (Trust me, I tried.)  With that as a introduction...

What stood out to me?


First, I continue to be pleased that digitization vendors such as SMA, DLSG, Backstage Library Works, and others continue to exhibit at library conferences.  For some in our industry, digitization is still "new" (even though it isn't). So having a presence and being willing to talk about the technology and its uses is important for those thinking about digitization for the first time (or thinking about digitization in a new way).

Second, the technology is changing.  Scanners are getting bigger.  Complete systems are available for use by library patrons.  Digitizing is being integrated with systems to help students study and help community members create their own works (e.g., photo albums).

By the way, if you have not looked at digitization equipment in a while, don't make decisions based on your old knowledge.  While no one is screaming this from a mountaintop, you should know that these vendors are continuing to develop their technology and systems. They are not standing still.

Third, speaking of complete systems, DLSG offers the Knowledge Information Center, which allows patrons to scan materials and have the output in several different formats, including searchable PDF, JPEG, MS Word, KIC Study System, and others.  These complete systems allow users (patrons, students) to control what they digitize and how they are going to access the material.  While I've mentioned DLSG,  I'm sure other vendors are offering similar technology.

Fourth, what vendors display at conferences isn't always what they have available on their websites.  DLSG had two interesting publications at their booth:
  • Digitization Technologies for Public Libraries
  • Digitization Technologies for Academic Libraries 

While I cannot find these publications on the Internet, these seem to be similar (but not the same) to some of DLSG's online content, such as this about using KIC in K-12 education.  This is a reminder that if you're interested in a company or technology, it can be good to pick up material from their booths, even if you don't talk to anyone.  What you pick up may be a unique and helpful marketing piece.

I should note that I skimmed the 701 exhibitors, rather than taking a deep dive into any particular area.  I did not have as much unstructured time as I would have liked, and so did not really spend as much time in the exhibit hall as I likely should have. The time I had was spent getting a feel for the entire exhibit hall, going to a couple specific meetings, talking to library colleagues, and resting my feet.  (Thanks to those companies that had seating available that could be used without feeling that a marketing pitch was eminent.)

Photos


Below is a photo of the SMA booth, which contained large format scanners. There are also three photos of the DLSG Knowledge Information Center (KIC) booth, which was massive.


SMA V3D Flatbed Scanner booth


ALAac19


Knowledge Imaging Center


DLSG Knowledge Imaging Center Study System

Monday, July 08, 2019

#ALAac19 : How to Hug a Porcupine: Relationship Building with Lawmakers and Why It's Important

In this session, Brad Fitch, president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation, spoke on how to build relationships with elected officials, as well as effective communication tactics.

Description

Building relationships with elected officials can sometimes be difficult and uncomfortable. It forces you and your key stakeholders to get close to politicians in ways that may feel “prickly” – like hugging a porcupine. This program will help participants overcome that discomfort, revealing the methods and benefits for building relationships with elected officials. Participants will learn: who members of Congress and state legislators listen to; what congressional staffers believe are the most effective communications tactics for influencing undecided Members of Congress; and how to conduct effective in‐person meetings, influence legislators at town hall meetings, as well as effective advocacy in the state/district.

Summary


I want to note that early in his presentation, Fitch recommended the documentary The Congress, which was released by Ken Burns in 1999.  Clips from the documentary are available for free, with the entire documentary available for purchase.  This documentary provides the history of Congress, which most people know little about.

Fitch, who has been a Congressional aide, gave us a valuable lesson on advocating with our elected officials.  We tend to think that an official needs to hear from many people, in order to be spurred to action, but that is not true.  Often just hearing from 10-30 people is enough, especially if those people personalize their communication, and connect themselves and their stories to the issue.

Note bene: The photos below are of slides Fitch used during his presentation. The background on the slides was white, but when I photographed them, the background displayed in a rainbow color.  I don't know why it happened, but I do like the result.


As the slide above shows, in-person visits from constituents provides the most influence, followed by contact from constituents' representatives, individualized email messages, and a visit from a lobbyist.  What provides the least influence is what we often do and that is a form email message.  Those form email messages, which many organizations have us do, have the least amount of effect.

What is helpful or very helpful

This slide notes that a personal story related to the bill or issue is rated as "helpful" or "very helpful" by 79% of politicians and their staffers surveyed.  When a constituent provide a reason for supporting or opposing a bill or issue, that is seen as "helpful" or "very helpful" by 90% of respondents.  Information about the impact the bill will have on their Congressional member's district was rated as "helpful" or "very helpful" by 91% of respondents.

What is unhelpful

So what is unhelpful? As the slide above shows, it is unhelpful when the constituent:
  • Didn't have data on impact on the person's district or state
  • Didn't know the Congressional member's history on the policy or issue
  • Was unspecific with their request
  • Didn't convey a personal story related to the issue
  • Was rude
Fitch provided a recipe for a successful interaction with a member of Congress or a Congressional staffer.  He said to:
  • Begin with the end in mind.  In other words, know what you hope to achieve.
  • Set the stage for your story. This could be a brief introduction.
  • Paint a picture or, in other words, tell a personal story related to the issue or policy.
  • Describe the fight or conflict related to this issue or policy.
  • Include a surprise.
  • Introduce the potential for success and joy.  What will happen if this issue or policy is addressed in the manner that you are advocating for?
  • Finish with a hook.
I've listed seven items above, but I think he had five, which means a couple these should be combined. What doesn't show is that these steps can happen quickly.  You will not have endless amounts of time to talk with your representative or that person's staff member.  You will need to do this likely in just a few minutes.

Due to Brad Fitch's work in DC, this was a valuable and well-thought out presentation.  I clearly could not capture all of the information he provided.  Luckily, his organization has useful information on its website (Communicating with Congress), where we can continue our learning.

By the way, the ALA Cognotes publication had a story on this session.  It is on page 12 in the June 24 issue.

Learn from Others


We are fortunate that there are library advocates in our midst, who are willing to train us as well as spearhead advocacy efforts.  Among them are Libby Post, John Chrastka and Patrick Sweeney, and ALA.  It is likely that your regional or state library association (e.g.. NYLA) also provides help with and training for advocacy.  In other words, if advocating for your library or cultural heritage institution is new to you, there is someplace where you can learn more about what to do, as well as people who can help.