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.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

The Struggle to Diversify Library Staff, part 2

Students outside the Hall of Languages

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

At the end of part 1, I wrote:

Are we attracting diverse people to librarianship? Can we find those who have a bachelor's degree and are interested in library science? This is where LIS programs, LIS associations, and others spend their time and efforts. This is where some get frustrated, while others may have some success. This is where being methodical is important, but being methodical requires patience and we're not always patient.

Over the years, I have been in many conversations and meetings about how to diversify the profession. Every library association is interested in this as is every LIS graduate program. Many libraries want to hire staff who represent the diversity in their communities and thus are part of this conversation too. Some of our communities are quite diverse, with dozens of languages spoken, so mirroring the diversity of the community can be huge goal. What options do they consider or pursue?

A Laundry List of Ideas

Let me start by listing ideas from a broad range of sources which show up in my work journals, then I'll comment on the list. This list is in no particular order and with no judgment on the specific ideas.

  • Work to communicate a modern image of libraries, rather than an archaic image many people still hold in their heads.
  • Use marketing to show that there is already ethnic diversity in the field.  In other words, you (the recruit) would be joining people who are like yourself.
  • Attend recruiting events at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
  • Recruit at schools of education, since some people finish an education degree but then realize they do not want to be teachers.
  • Recruit at Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), which comprise the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC).
  • Attend college recruiting events for high school students, in hopes of attracting them to librarianship.
  • Talk to existing library pages and clerks - especially those who are high school or college students - about making librarianship their career.
  • Show how the MSLIS degree relates to data science and/or information science, in hopes of attracting some students to crossover into LIS.
  • Emphasize the range of opportunities available to an MSLIS graduate, including those in "non-traditional" positions and more entrepreneurial work.
  • Encourage LIS programs to partner with libraries, so that students are connected with an internship site/employer immediately. 
  • Place ads in places we believe likely applicants visit, including the student newspapers of undergraduate programs.
  • Create a clear identity for your MSLIS program, which sets you apart from the other programs, while attracting the students you desire.
  • Market to influencers, who can then recommend your program to their network.
  • Use social media and websites to reach perspective students.
  • Purchase and use email lists from relevant groups (e.g., associations for library assistants).
  • Showcase your diverse faculty as a way of attracting more diverse students.
  • Recruit from relevant undergraduate student organizations.
  • Offer large scholarships to attract applicants who are Black, indigenous, or people of color.  
  • Hold recruiting events at job placement agencies.
  • Recruit through relevant trade unions.


WOW...yup, quite the list. There is merit in every idea, so which ones would make the most sense for any MSLIS program? That is for each program to decide.  Here's my question - Will an MSLIS program  grab an idea and then implement it long enough for the idea to work?

We all want quick results. We don't want a diverse graduating class in five year, but rather we want one now. We don't want to hire more diverse staff in five year, we want a more diverse staff now.  According to 2019 data from the AFL-CIO:

  • Over 83 percent of librarians were white, non-Hispanic in 2019. Library technicians and assistants were slightly more diverse. Among library technicians and assistants, 68.9 percent identified as white, non-Hispanic in 2019.
  • In 2019, just 5.3 percent of librarians identified as Black or African American, 7.1 percent as Hispanic or Latino, and 3.5 percent as Asian-American or Pacific Islander.

Those numbers are not going to change overnight, but they will change with effort and if we recognize that we need to work for years, and not days or weeks. Sadly, it is hard to engage in an activity if you know the benefit it not going to happen for a couple of years or more. But consider that you might not even have any indication for 1-2 years that your actions are having any effect. You might need to engage in several activities (no...not all of those above!) and use feedback to decide which ones to continue for an extended period of time.  

Imagine if you decide to educate college freshmen about LIS as a way of attracting some of them to enter graduate school and then become librarians? Well, you would need to engage with them as freshmen and then through the remainder of their college careers. You'd also need to engage with the next freshmen class and the next (and...). You would need to find ways of engaging with them that helped them understand what library and information science is, and help them see themselves as possible future librarians.  Not all of them are going to be interested, so your pool will get smaller over time.  However, you would hope that in four years that you might have some who are interested and ready to enter a graduate LIS program. Do you, your organization, or your institution have the stamina for that? Are you willing to seek the long-term benefit?

By the way, in the paragraph above I have actually gone through four recruiting steps:

  1. Build awareness - Help the person become aware of careers in libraries.
  2. Build their interest - Being aware isn't enough. You need to build their interest, which may mean showing them different type of jobs, careers, or employers. This is helping that perspective librarian begin to see themselves in a library-related career.
  3. Help them build their desire - We know that being interested is not enough.  The person needs to desire to take the steps to become a librarian. They have to be motivated.
  4. Help them act on their desires - This needs to be easy and not a series of tough hurdles. Look at possible schools, making a decision on which one to attend, getting financial support, etc., should not be seen as huge barriers.

In this example, a student may decide to enter an MSLIS program, but not the one that has been working with that student for four years. Here that program has done all of this work and not gained from it. However, the profession has gained.  Can we be truly happy if our efforts has helping the profession, even if they do not help our particular institutions? I hope so, but that can be hard.

Are there other options?

Yes, I think there are and I'll talk about those in Part 3.


Relevant Library Associations 

One of the things often mentioned is working with different library associations.  Because of that, I'm listing relevant library associations here. There may be other associations or sections of specific library associations, which I have not captured below. If you know of any to add, which are focused on specific non-White library staff, please leave a comment and tell us. Thank you!

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

The Struggle to Diversify Library Staff, part 1

ill and Don SimmonsLooking through notes I'd taken in an old work journal - and then looking at blog posts I've written - I can see this ongoing focus on diversifying library science students and library staff. This is something the profession has talked about for a long time and has engaged in focused activities. Sadly, the overall diversity of our LIS programs and library staff is not what we want it to be.  Why?

Disclaimer: I need to stop and say that what follows is my point of view. Mine and no one else's.

First, we need to recognize that our public libraries were not originally for the public. They grew out of men's and women's clubs, which were not open to everyone. In addition, we need to remember that public libraries in the U.S. were segregated, meaning that Black people did not have the same access as those who were White. We need to acknowledge that academic institutions were segregated for many years.  Historic Black colleges and universities (HBCU) offered LIS degrees, because people of color could not attend White institutions.  Yes, now libraries are reportedly for everyone and anyone can hopefully attend any academic institution.

As a side note, here is the original "Library's Bill of Rights" passed by ALA in June 1939. This version says nothing about who can use the library. or if they can use the same materials. The current version of the Bill of Rights includes:

A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views. 

Seiko and her motherSecond, to be a professional librarian, you need an accredited master's degree. A student needs to have a bachelor's degree and be accepted to a master's program.  Not everyone makes that cut.  And the student needs to be able to afford - in money and time - to attend that master's program. Not everyone has the money and not everyone has the time. 

2019 information from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that 40% of Black students finish their undergraduate education compared to 64% of White students. This means that fewer Black students are eligible to attend graduate school. How many of them will see LIS as their career choice?

We know that student loan debt adversely affects many students. How many students can afford to take on more debt? Given the salary for librarians, is that debt a good choice?

Are LIS programs prioritizing scholarships to educate those Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) who have a bachelor's degree and have decided that they want to become librarians?  

There is an important point in there.  Are we attracting diverse people to librarianship? Can we find those who have a bachelor's degree and are interested in library science? This is where LIS programs, LIS associations, and others spend their time and efforts. This is where some get frustrated, while others may have some success. This is where being methodical is important, but being methodical requires patience and we're not always patient.

And this is where we'll pick up in Part 2.


There are many resources on this topic. Below are related posts that I've written. As you can see, this has been important to me for a long time.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Mentoring: Creating a Developmental Network

Higgins and Kram have written about reconceptualizing mentoring.  Generally, we think of a mentee as having 1-2 mentors. In some organizations, those mentors are assigned.  Often - if a person is cognizant of it - they will recognize other people who are informal mentors.  However, the word "mentor" doesn't define what that person is supposed to do.  Out of the research by Higgins and Kram has emerged four roles: navigator, sponsor, coach, and confidant. Briefly they are:

  • Navigator: Advises on organizational dynamics and expectations.
  • Sponsor: Promotes your interests within the organizational structure.
  • Coach: Listens to help you develop the skills needed to negotiate your duties.
  • Confidant: Listens to your challenges and triumphs. Cheers you on.

Notice that the last two roles do not need to be people within your organization.  Also...you need all four roles! One person cannot do all of these things.  In addition, some people are better at certain roles than others.

This is an unprecedented year with more change and turmoil than most of us could ever imagine. This is a year where you may need someone who is formally or informally your navigator, sponsor, coach, or confidant. It could be that you need someone to help you understand the changing dynamics in your organization. Maybe you need someone to help you develop new skills. Or perhaps you need someone who can listen to your challenges and cheer you on, even if that person cannot help to solve them. If you need people in these roles, look within your organization and at other people in your broader network. The right person may be hundreds of miles away and in an organization that is different from yours. 

With any mentoring relationship, you may want to tell that person what you need from them. Do you need someone who will just listen (as if listening is easy) or someone who help you increase your visibility? Do you need someone to help you short-term or are you interested in developing a long-term relationship?  Be honest...at least with yourself.

And do keep in mind that relationships change. That person who is an awesome mentor now may not be the person you need next year. That's okay.

Definitions of the four mentoring roles


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Wayback Wednesday: 2011 notes on information access are today's reality

In June - in the middle of a pandemic - I official retired from academia and cleaned out my office.  (Retirement does not mean doing nothing, so I'm still quite busy! More about that in a future blog post.) Among the items I brought home were my work journals going back to fall 2011.  I'm now going through them to see what I had taken notes on.

On Oct. 13, 2011 I wrote noted on the "nature of information access." Looking back in this blog, I see that these notes were in preparation for a guest lecture I did in November of that year. The blog posts are:

Please note that I have not checked all of the links.  If a URL has changed, use your favorite search engine to locate it OR use the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

Game-like interfaces? Yes. Interesting uses of virtual reality? Yes, including some graduation ceremonies this year. Ability to interact in real-time with information? Yes. When I think of this, I think of data science.  Data science is all around us and is delivering data to us that we take for granted (e.g., information on COVID-19). 

The one that has come true and makes me a bit uneasy is information as entertainment.  I noted in my blog post that Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart were doing this. This year, more late-night comedians have turned their shows into news shows that contain a bit of comedy.  While the news media can give us good information, the comedians can also help us understand it, laugh a bit at it, and build some camaraderie.  They have been able to interview people, who the news media may not have access to.  Most importantly, they have been able to educate (thinking specifically of Kamau Bell and John Oliver). 

Why does this make me uneasy? Because comedians are not journalists. Their training is different as are their standards.  They generally do not have the same research staff that the news media has (or should have). The exception seems to be John Oliver, who has a very good research staff to help him deliver accurate information and stay out of litigation. 

I'll also admit that I don't think the news should be entertaining, but that's me. Clearly the news programs have their entertainment aspects. I just hope that doesn't stop them from delivering the news we all need to understand.

Please go back and look at those two blog posts from 2011, and think about those ideas. Where have you seen them come true?  What concerns do you have?

Friday, September 25, 2020

Article: Amazon’s Importance to US Book Sales Keeps Increasing—for Better or Worse


In this article, Jane Friedman wrote about Amazon's programs for authors and how it impacts authors, especially those who are self-publishing.  I had no idea of all of the writer-focused programs Amazon had at one time, so that was an eye-opener to me. Clearly Amazon had tried different programs to endear itself to writers. The only program that still remains is Kindle Singles and she connects this to a program entitled Kindle Unlimited, which gives readers unlimited access to some of Amazon's content.

Friedman notes that Kindle Unlimited requires that an author give Amazon exclusive rights to their ebook editions (not print) and that is pays those authors based on pages read. By asking for exclusive rights to the ebook editions, Amazon is keeping these digital works out of the hands traditional publishers and thus out of content which libraries might subscribe.  This narrows the works that libraries have available for their communities.  We might think this is no big deal, but Amazon is a very large company with lots of influence.  We don't want them withholding content or limiting access, and we don't need them giving other publishers similar ideas.

We often don't think about what Amazon is doing. We like them or not sometimes based on how they treat their workers.  We don't think about how they treat their authors and what that means for the rest of us. What rights do they demand from authors? How long does that agreement last? How does that impact our access? 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Heather Elia: The Do's and Don'ts of Documentation

Heather Elia, who is the incoming library director for the New Woodstock (NY) Public Library, worked with me for two years as part of the iSchool Public Libraries Initiative. Out of her research efforts came this article, which has been published in the The Political Librarian, entitled "The Do's and Don'ts of Documentation." Often documentation never occurs, but Heather argues that it is important and provides a series of best practices in this article.  

If you know of others who could benefit from this article, please pass it along. This is an area where our libraries need to improve.


Whether through grant funding or taxpayers dollars, public libraries are entrusted with money to spend on programs and services. Funders, as well as other stakeholders, will be interested in accountability, wanting to know what the library has been doing with these funds and what the stakeholders got for their money. The author argues that fully documenting programs and services -- which many libraries fail to do -- provides a tangible answer to these questions, as well as a record that can be used to expand or replicate successful initiatives. A series of best practices for documentation are proposed, which include the need for planning, marketing, and assessment information, as well as the collection and distribution of visual as well as textual material. Different levels of documentation are discussed, and the differences are identified between what is merely acceptable and what is good, or even excellent. A list of the various audience members, with whom documentation might be shared, is included. The author concludes that documenting a library’s successful programs is a good professional as well as political move, when the library needs to make a case for funding or government support.

Monday, September 21, 2020

You have a ton of reading to do. How can you do it faster?

How can you read faster? This topic has come up a few times recently in conversations. If you're a student - especially at the masters or doctoral level - you have a lot of reading to do each week and it may be overwhelming.  Are there tips or techniques you can use? Yes, there are!

First, you should know that we are not taught how to read faster in school.  (If you were taught that, congratulations.) Generally, we're just given more to read and somehow we figure out some way of getting through it all. But we may not have figured out a real method. So if you feel like you're the only person who can't read faster, you're not.

Second, it is important to know that any technique requires time to learn and time to apply it consistently. And not every technique works all the time. There will be texts that you will have to read carefully and slowly, while there are others that you will be able to read quickly using a technique from the resources below.

Finally, a real ah-ha for me is that it is okay to not finish an article or book.  Yup, sometimes what you need to do is to read portions of a work and not the entire thing. Knowing that "not finishing" is okay, I am able to release whatever guilt I had (which often made me push through a text that I didn't want to finish).

If you have different techniques to add, which are easy to apply, please leave a comment.



Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Finding diverse illustrations for your presentations

Black woman sitting in front of a laptop computer
When I look at websites, presentations, etc., which are supposed to appeal to a broad group of people, I look to see who is represented in the photos and illustrations. Often times those illustrations do not show any diversity...still. That needs to change.  Here are three sites to help you obtain more diverse images.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Selling the Invisible and Marketing the Library

At the 1999 SLA conference in Minneapolis (MN), the Library Management Division, in conjunction with several other divisions, sponsored a talk by Harry Beckwith. Beckwith's focus is on marketing in a service-based economy and he spoke about market the special library. I remember that his presentation was better and more impactful than the keynotes that year! An a plus what that he was willing to interact with those of us who were attending the conference, and not just present and then leave. The summer 1999 newsletter from SLA Military Librarians Division list the "Ten Keys to Successful Relationships" which he covered:
  1. Faster -- everybody wants it faster
  2. Affinity -- develop a good chemistry with your users
  3. Predictability -- be consistent, have integrity; remember that your word and deeds are integrated
  4. Comfort -- create the feeling of comfort in your library; a comfortable atmosphere from you and your staff will get them in the physical and virtual door
  5. Expertise -- be a consultant; show the appearance of expertise
  6. Sacrifice yourself to make the user feel important
  7. Thank people more
  8. Welcome them
  9. Follow-up -- find out how you are doing
  10. Connect -- make a personal connection by learning names and using them

At the conference, copies of Selling the Invisible (1997 edition) were for sale and I still have the copy I purchased.  I read it, referred to it, and used it in some of the library classes I taught.  The book was republished in 2012.  

As I stare at the book in my bookcase and wonder about Beckwith, I see that he published several other books all focused on marketing, including one on the art of selling yourself.

What is a service?

Beckwith wrote (Selling the Invisible, 1997, p. xv):

A product is tangible. You can see it and touch it. A service, by contrast, is intangible. In fact, a service does not even exist when you buy one. If you go to a salon, you cannot see, tough, or try out a haircut before you buy it. You order it. Then you get it.

Libraries deliver services:

  • Advising patrons on what they might read next
  • Hosting programs for various age groups and people with different interests
  • Provisioning materials on demand from other libraries or publishers
  • Reference and information services
  • Circulation services
  • ...and more...

Yes, libraries contain materials, but how someone decides to borrow a particular item - and the act of borrowing - is a service.

Why am I mentioning this? 

It is August 2020 and every organization is facing some sort of financial hardship due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including libraries.  We - libraries - need to focus on selling ourselves, which means understanding what our users want, ensuring that the service is delivered consistently, nurturing our users, and talking about what we do.  We need to be doing this all the time, even when our budgets are being cut, in fact it is more important during those times.

While I like Selling the Invisible, there are many books and articles available on how to market services. If this is an area you need to learn more about, use on the services of your library (perhaps ILL) and borrow a copy of Beckwith's book.  I know you will find it easy to read and you'll also be inspired to put something new into practice.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

How to Read an Academic Paper

With the fall academic semester beginning, many students are faced with reading academic papers unlike they have experienced before. They are likely asking:

  • How can I read this?
  • How can I read this quickly?
  • How can I make sense of this?

Honestly, most of us aren't taught how to read academic papers. We're told to read them and hopefully we learn "how to" through that process. In reality, there  are many resources on how to read academic papers, with some resources available for specific subject areas. Here are two short videos that are more generic and I think will help anyone, no matter your age, major, or school. Please note that these methods take discipline to stick with them and use them consistently. Once you understand these methods and use them for a while, I think they will become easier.

I also want to say that a real ah-ha moment for me was learning that I didn't have to read everything.  Yes, sometimes I do need to read something word for word, but sometimes skimming is enough. Maybe I just need to focus on what a specific article is saying that is different. At any rate, I no longer feel guilty if I don't read everything word for word.

How To Read an Academic Paper (3 minutes) from the UBC iSchool (2013)


5 Ways to Read Faster That ACTUALLY Work from Thomas Frank (2015). Watch the sections on pre-reading, skimming, and pseudo-skimming beginning at minute 1:59.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Sara Benson: Reading Aloud and Fair Use

Sara Benson, who has the podcast Copyright Chat, recently did a 10-minute episode on reading books aloud and Fair Use.  The episode is available where you get your podcasts and also on her library's website (along with a transcript). She also points to a guide written earlier this year by eight people entitled "Reading Aloud: Fair Use Enables Translating Classroom Practices to Online Learning."

As Benson states, since the start of our stay-at-home orders in March and the need for libraries and teachers to work remotely, people have had questions about reading books aloud online. We're used to do this in-person in the library or classroom, but what happens when we do this online? The good news is is that Fair Use still applies.

If you are relying on Fair Use, do you need permission or guidance from the publisher? No. While some publishers have provided such guidance, you don't need that. You need to look at, understand, and rely on Fair Use.

Are there instance where Fair Use does not apply? Some. The one that Benson notes is when read alouds are posted to YouTube and those videos have ads. Rather than posting your videos for everyone to see - and in a platform that you cannot control - I would hope that you would consider how to deliver your read alouds to the group that you normally do this with. Stay focused on your audience (which helps you keep your use fair).

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Little Free Libraries: An Update on Three Specific Installations

I have not written about these Little Free Libraries here, but am doing so in order to document them and share - in one spot - information about them.

In 2011, I saw something about little houses called “little free libraries'' and wondered on Twitter if that concept could work in Syracuse, NY. From that tweet arose a collaboration between the Syracuse University iSchool, the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), and residents of Syracuse’s Near Westside (NWS) to develop three little free libraries LFL) on the Near Westside. It’s time to look back at what happened, check-in on the three LFLs we installed, and think about them in the age of COVID-19.

It was a team effort

Person writing on whiteboard in front of people
Developing and placing the little free libraries in Syracuse was a collaborative effort. We first had to consider where we might want to place them and how we envisioned them being used. Our first ideas were too complex and eventually we realized that the LFLs will be used how the community wants to use them. In other words, once we placed them in a community, we could not control them. Then we thought about which community could use them the most and we immediately thought of the Near Westside.

Jaime Snyder (now a professor at the University of Washington), Zeke Leonard (SU College of Visual and Performing Arts), and I (now professor emerita in the iSchool) were able to get SU students interested in the idea. Students in VPA were curious about the design aspects and how to create little free libraries that fit into the atmosphere of the Near Westside. iSchool students were interested in meeting the information needs of the Westside residents. We were joined by Maarten Jacobs, who was then the Director of the Near Westside Initiative. Maarten connected us with residents on the Westside, who wanted to give us input and offered to help as caretakers of the LFLs.

Little Free Library full of books
The first LFL was built by VPA students from an old phone kiosk and was located on a building on Gifford Street. The store owner was happy to give us use of part of his outside wall. iSchool MSLIS (library science) students hosted book drives and worked to put bookplates in hundreds of books, along with bookmarks. On Feb. 3, 2012, we held a launch party on Gifford Street for that first LFL! During the event, we accepted more book donations and filled that first LFL several times. It was a hit!

And then there were three

We then installed two more LFLs on the Near Westside. One was at 601 Tully, which was moved three years later to 208 Slocum Avenue. The third was mounted at 300 Otisco Street. All were made from repurposed telephone kiosks, which are virtually indestructible. The original kiosks were modified with shelving, door, and signage, and made waterproof.

The building, where the original free library was located, was purchased and that site turn into a St. Joseph’s Primary Care Center, where the LFL was incorporated into the building’s design. This LFL is being maintained by a broad range of people who live, work or worship in that neighborhood. The other two LFLs have not been maintained as well as hoped, but they do still exist. They both need a bit of care and attention. Perhaps besides books, the community needs them to share other resources such as food or personal care items.

Take a book, return a book

The premise of the little free libraries is “take a book, return a book.” However, we knew that residents on the Near Westside might not have books to leave in the LFL and that they might want to keep the books they borrowed. We didn’t see that as a problem, but rather knew that meant obtaining book donations would be important, so we could keep the LFL filled.

One thing we learned is that many people had books to donate. In fact, we ended up with many more book donations that we could easily handle. Storage became a problem, as did marking the book as being from/for the LFL. Thanks to Maarten Jacobs, who was able to give us storage space, and Lorranne Nasir (a then MSLIS student), who processed a lot of books!

Those three LFLs are not alone in Syracuse

Map of Syracuse area Little Free Libraries
The number of Little Free Libraries in Onondaga County continues to grow. This map from the Little Free Library web site shows many of them. However, many have not been formally registered and are not listed on the site. Interested in LFLs in other regions? You can run your own search on the LFL web site.

We did create documents to be used by other little free libraries, such as information on book drives and a collection development policy. (The collection development policy was a student project.) These are dated materials now, but may still be a good starting point for others as they think about what to accept in their LFL and what to toss out. In fact, the collection development policy would likely be written quite differently now.

LFLs and the pandemic

On the Little Free Library website, Margret Aldrich has written “Best Practices at Little Free Libraries During the Coronavirus Outbreak.” If a LFL steward (or caretaker) decides to leave their LFL open during the pandemic, Margret suggests the following:

  • Follow the Center for Disease Control guidelines. 
  • Wash or sanitize your hands before opening your Little Free Library and every time you use the library. 
  • Regularly clean your LFL, especially high-touch areas of the LFL, like the handle or bookshelves. 
  • If you are sick, don’t share books in your library until you are symptom-free. 
  • If your neighbors are sick, they should not come to your library. 
  • Do not gather with others at your Little Free Library. Social distancing is critical to flattening the curve and slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

A book is the cover and the pages inside. It is believed that the coronavirus does not live long on paper, but may live longer on a book cover which is a harder surface. Research is underway by OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and Battelle “ to create and distribute science-based information and recommended practices” to support the handling of library materials, while mitigating exposure to COVID-19. This research will help LFL caretakers, by giving them science-based information on how to handle donations to their LFLs. In the meantime, caretakers may want to:

  • Quarantine books for a minimum of three days before placing them in the LFL. This is a practice that many public and academic libraries are following. When a book is in quarantine, do not handle it at all.You might set up a quarantine area in a particular spot and mark it as such. 
  • If you are concerned about book covers being dirty, wipe book covers with disinfectant wipes. (Remember that you do not need to disinfect the paper.) 

They belong to their communities

After the Little Free Library launch party
While a few names are mentioned in this post, there are many, many others - too many names to mention - who should be thanked for their help with these little free libraries. (And many more than shown in this photo.) In addition, I know that there are many people in the Syracuse community who have supported these LFLs. Thank you for the books you have placed in them. And thank YOU to those who have taken a book to read. By doing that, you are also supporting these little free libraries!

And that brings us to the biggest lesson of all about these structures. They truly belong to their community. That community includes people who put books in and those who take books out. Jaime, Zeke, and I long ago relinquished any claim to these LFLs. Really, there were never ours. Rather they were a gift from a large group of people to the Near Westside. We’re thankful that you have liked them!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Sharing Indigenous Cultural Heritage Online: An Overview of GLAM Policies

Existing copyright law, steeped in Western concepts and values, does not adequately protect Indigenous traditional cultural expressions, nor does it sufficiently reflect or account for Indigenous cultural values. - Creative Commons

The first week in the ALA eCourse U.S. Copyright Law in the Library: A Beginner's Guide (which is being taught now) is about local, traditional, and indigenous knowledge. I added that week to the eCourse earlier this year, because I felt that we needed to start with a non-western view of information.  We should understand something about how local communities and indigenous people retain and protect their knowledge.

In this new post from Creative Commons, they talk about sharing the works of indigenous people by galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAM). This is part of their Open GLAM initiative. The Creative Commons has also published a series of Medium (blog) posts related to "global perspectives on open access to the cultural heritage."  (A free-subscription to Medium allows you to see three posts per month.)



Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

"...work hard, hustle, grind it out, busy-ness..." - Matt D'Avella

I started this blog post a year ago. I recognized that I was tired of saying that I'm "busy" and that being involved in so many things was impacting my ability to learn new things (some of which I really needed to learn). Lots has changed since I began this post; so much that I've deleted what I originally wrote.

In 2019, we were all busy! No matter who we were, there was something we needed to do: work, find work, volunteer, engage in specific social activities, etc.  As 2019 came to an end, we looked forward to what we knew about 2020. By March, we realized that what we knew was wrong and what we might have hoped to do wasn't going to happen. Our busy-ness changed and some of it changed into worry.

While we - as people - found our lives shift in March, we watched our organizations shift as well. Many people were told to work from home and many students had to learn from home. Most libraries closed and services shifted to what they could do online. Fortunately, libraries were able to increase their online offerings during this time, which was good for the communities. Sadly, some libraries had to furlough staff because of their budgets. This also caused the remaining staff to be busier.  Yes, during this time we all became busier. More online meetings with work colleagues, family members, and friends. Everyone wanted to connect in some way. And there were many online events being offered, as people tried to keep each other busy. Can we really attend that many virtual meetings and events in one day or one week?

It's now August.  Many businesses and libraries have reopened in some manner. Schools - K-12 and colleges/universities - are reopening for either online, hybrid, or in-person instruction.  We are all now busy preparing for what's next. We might even be thinking about the next shutdown and preparing for that, too.


The draft post and  9-minutes video by Matt D'Avella reminded me that sometimes we need to do less. We can be so busy that we're really not getting things completed, or getting the correct things done. We need to stop and discern where we actually need to spend our energy.  Where can we have the greatest impact? Yes, write down your ideas and then sort through them. Talk with friends and colleagues. We have all spent a lot of time as well as mental, emotional, and physical energy so far this year.  We've been busy.  Now is the time to figure out what we really need to pursue. Focus on those things. Yes...and perhaps do less.

If you're in a library, museum or archive, the remainder of this year may look challenging. In fact, your budget for next year may also looking challenging. Slow down. Focus. Understand the impact you want your institution to have. You will not be able to do it all. Just like you (the person), your institution needs to come through this crisis ready for the future. Being too busy now may drain your organization's ability to do that work when it is needed.

For a moment, try to pursuit less. Your body and institution may thank you.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Title 17, Section 105: "Subject matter of copyright: United States Government works" has been updated

Section 105 of Title 17 has been fairly short, but: the footnote on that section notes:
In 2019, the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2020 amended section 105 by adding “(a) In general.—” before “Copyright”; and by adding new subsections (b), (c), and (c). Pub. L. No. 116-92, 133 Stat. 1198. 
All of Section 105 now reads:
(a) In General.—Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government, but the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.
(b) Copyright Protection of Certain of Works.—Subject to subsection (c), the covered author of a covered work owns the copyright to that covered work.
(c) Use by Federal Government.—The Secretary of Defense may direct the covered author of a covered work to provide the Federal Government with an irrevocable, royalty-free, world-wide, nonexclusive license to reproduce, distribute, perform, or display such covered work for purposes of the United States Government.
(c) Definitions.—In this section:
(1) The term “covered author” means a civilian member of the faculty of a covered institution.
(2) The term “covered institution” means the following:
(A) National Defense University.
(B) United States Military Academy.
(C) Army War College.
(D) United States Army Command and General Staff College.
(E) United States Naval Academy.
(F) Naval War College.
(G) Naval Post Graduate School.
(H) Marine Corps University.
(I) United States Air Force Academy.
(J) Air University.
(K) Defense Language Institute.
(L) United States Coast Guard Academy.
(3) The term “covered work” means a literary work produced by a covered author in the course of employment at a covered institution for publication by a scholarly press or journal.
 Yes, there are two sebsections "c". The footnotes on the second Subsection (c) states:
When the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2020 added three new subsections to section 105, it designated them (b), (c), and (c). But for this typographical error, the third new subsection would have been designated as (d).
I find it interesting that the new sections (b), (c) and (c) are specific to U.S. military-related educational institutions.  This means that faculty at those institutions may be required to give the copyright in their works to the federal government. I would be curious to know what this means in reality to those faculty members. What are the positives and negatives of this?  Is this being enforced on new works only?

Monday, July 13, 2020

Reminder: Registration is open for U.S. Copyright Law in the Library

Copyright symbol by Horia VarlanA reminder that I will be teaching an online course on U.S. Copyright Law in the Library this August. This course will cover the basics of U.S. copyright law, including how it informs what libraries, staff, and patrons can do with their materials, as well as how to stay up-to-date as copyright law evolves.

This online course will start in less than four weeks on August 3. The course will run for six weeks (ending in September). You can find more information and register at the ALA Store. Bulk and institutional pricing is available. If you have any questions, you can contact me or the folks at ALA Publishing at elsmarketing@ala.org.

This year, as libraries shifted from in-person services to providing more services online, people have recognized a need to know more about copyright law. This six-week course will provide the grounding that you need, so you can productively engage in the conversations occurring in your institution, as it continues to work through how it wants to deliver services in our changed world.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Brammer v.Violent Hues Productions LLC: Copyright of photographs

I often start blog posts, save them, and then never return to finish them.  I suspect that I'm not the only person who does this.  Occasionally I look at my draft blog posts and wonder if any are worth completing.  This one, yes, because it is a good case to remember.  I particularly like that the Appellate Court when through the four factors of Fair Use in detail.

In June 2018, the Eastern District of Virginia, in the case of Brammer v. Violent Hues Productions, LLC, decided that photographs were facts and could not be copyrighted. As you can imagine, people's reaction to this was swift! How can a photograph be just a factual representation? Ask any professional photographer - and many amateurs - and they will tell of the work and creativity involved.  

Thankfully, an appeal was filed and the Fourth Circuit reversed the lower court decision.  The court's decision goes through the four factors of Fair Use and then states:
After examining the four factors, we conclude that none weighs in favor of Violent Hues. Considering these factors together, it is clear that the copying here fails the “ultimate test” of fair use: Violent Hues’ online display of Brammer’s Photo does not serve the interest of copyright law.
Later in the conclusion, the court states:
We reach our conclusion with the recognition that the Internet has made copying as easy as a few clicks of a button and that much of this copying serves copyright’s objectives. Many social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are specifically designed for the participatory “sharing” or copying of content. We express no opinion as to whether such sharing constitutes fair use. We note, however,that Violent Hues’ use is not of this kind.
Violent Hues did not comment on the Photo, promote the Photo, “remix” the Photo, or otherwise engage with the Photo in a way that might stimulate new insights.
I've listed several resources below.  If you want to read something that is "brief" to start with, I would suggest the Gates article, which was written after the appellate decision.