Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 Year in Review: What Doesn't Fit into a Neat Category

Vaccinate New York logo

Similar to what happened in 2020, much of the conversation this year was dominated by COVID. Even when we were trying to not talk about COVID, we talked about COVID. It impacted everything we did. Everything. But there is one thing it didn't touch...

T is for Training

T is for Training is a podcast started in 2008 by Maurice Coleman. It's recorded through TalkShoe, which means we're not in the same location. COVID didn't affect the podcast, which is good because we celebrated our 300th episode! (Actually, there have been special episodes, so more than 300, but who's counting.)

T - as we often call it - has changed over the years, because nothing can stay the same. The conversations may have a theme or a special guest to focus us. We've also had free-form conversations. There is always laughter and we always learn something new about training-teaching-learning.

I got involved in T on episode 3 (Oct. 2008) and became its blog editor in May 2013.  Among the regulars are people who contribute show topics, arrange for guests to be interviewed, and ensure that the conversation keeps flowing. The important thing is that whomever shows up - and yes, you could show up! - is involved in the conversation and is always welcome to come back.

This year (2020), we've had a number of guests on the show who talked about assessment of learning, gamification, having impactful learning elements, creating space and grace, black swan events, and much more. T is for Training is available on most podcast platforms, so it these topics are of interest to you, give them a listen. Links to the recordings are also in the T blog posts.

Black woman with laptop sitting in front of a bookcase

Diversifying Library Staff

I wrote a series with this title in 2020 and then added a fifth post in 2021. These posts are among the most read posts in this blog. And diversifying the profession is always in my thoughts. Sadly some people see the barriers that exist, but then don't see how to eliminate them. I'm always trying to find ways of broadening their thinking, but it's not easy especially when I see the doors to their thoughts are already closed.

Besides these posts and many informal conversations, I did a session for the ALA Librarian Education Reform Discussion Group in March on this topic. In 2022, I'm giving a webinar for the SLA Kentucky Community Student Speaker Series on "Breaking the White-ness of the Profession," which I hope will be more of a discussion than a one-way conversation.
 
Did COVID impact the diversity in our profession? I think we'll need to see employment and graduate program statistics, for example, to know the answer.

SLA's John Cotton Dana Award

I would be remiss if I didn't hip-hip-hurrah on this last day of 2021 my personal good news from this summer. It still feels unreal. I am thankful that I have been able to give back to the profession as much as I have. I'm incredibly thankful for those before me, who taught me what being a member of this profession meant and encouraged me to be an active participant. 

By the way, in normal times this award would have been given in person. Because of COVID, the ceremony was online. That meant that friends and family could easily attend, which was awesome!

Saved Quotes

After attending the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color in 2018, I've kept a bullet journal. I've used each journal a bit differently and this year incorporated space to capture quotes. I shouldn't be the only person to see them, so here they are:

  • Move at the pace of trust.
  • The obstacle is the path.
  • Life's journey is twisted.
  • Justice is what love looks like in public. - Dr. Cornel West
  • What we know may make us experts, but whom we serve makes us noble. It is not in your insight and expertise we find the true measure of worth for a librarian, lawyer, doctor, or teacher. It is in the service of the communities we serve. - Dave Lankes, The Boring Patient
  • It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important. - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Know someone who should subscribe to Digitization 101?

Of course, you do! If you receive Digitization 101 in email, forward it to them. There is a link for subscribing at the bottom of each email message. If you're reading this online, you - and your colleagues - can subscribe through this form.

Finally...

I hope that you have found things in 2021 which brought you great joy. May 2022 bring us all good health and happiness. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

2021 Year in Review: Copyright

 

Fluffy dog
A few things stand out to me in 2021 related to copyright and one major effort that is not (but is about access).

First,  I've already written about Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) and clearly that was a place where I spent much time and effort, including the use of CDL for interlibrary loan.

Second, this was the year where we all dove into the CASE Act and the Copyright Claims Court. For me, it felt like the further we got into the year, the clearer the Copyright Claims Court became. It is still developing, so this is an area to keep an eye on. 

I'm thankful for the number of people who spoke on the CASE Act this year (some captured below) and the clarity they were able to bring.  I also appreciate the questions they asked about the Copyright Claims Court and its relationship to our judicial system.

Relevant posts:

Somehow this year, I found that I could subscribe to receive notices from the U.S. Copyright Office. This is a good way for me to see what they are thinking about, where they are looking for comments, etc. I'm currently subscribed to "CASE Act and Copyright Small Claims Board Updates" and "What's New at the U.S. Copyright Office", and I do not find it to be overwhelming.  

Last, while this has nothing to do with copyright, it does have to do with access to materials. In 2021, the Maryland Legislature introduced and passed SB432/HB518 ("Public Libraries - Electronic Literary Product Licenses - Access").  This bill (synopsis):

Requiring a publisher who offers to license an electronic literary product to the public to also offer to license the electronic literary product to public libraries in the State on reasonable terms that would enable public libraries to provide library users with access to the electronic literary product; authorizing the license terms authorizing public libraries to provide access to electronic literary products to include certain limitations; defining "electronic literary product"; etc.

According to Publishers Weekly, "the legislation simply provides that if a publisher licenses an e-book or other digital literary work to the public in Maryland, the publisher must also make a license available to public libraries as well."

While the bill did met opposition, it passed into law, which was good news. However, since then the Association of American Publishers have filed a lawsuit against it, which was expected given their opposition.  Now we will have to wait to see what happens next.

The good news is that the Maryland bill sparked similar legislative activity in Rhodes Island and New York. While the Rhodes Island bill died in committee, the New York bill was passed by the Legislature and sent to the Governor to be signed into law. Sadly, Governor Hochul vetoed the bill. Did the lawsuit in Maryland scare her? We may never know for sure, but I suspect the answer is "yes."

This type of legislature has been discussed in other states and I hope more move forward to ensure that ebooks are available to libraries at the same time they are available to the general public. We do know that U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) have demanded information from ebook publishers about their library ebook practices. Having the federal government look into this is shining a bright light on publisher practices and I think only good can come from this attention.

Relevant posts:

While the dog at the top of this post has nothing to do with copyright, (although she might cause you to smile), she is a reminder to me that we need to look up, clear the cobwebs (or hair) in front of us, and take a good look at that is happening around us. When I started this post, my first that was "nothing has happened", but then I cleared my own cobwebs, looked back through my blog posts, etc., and saw that there has been a lot of good activity this year. And given what has occurred, I expect even more in 2022!

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Open Educational Resources (OER)

Best Practices in Fair Use for OER

As I clean-up unfinished blog post, I found this one. If your into OER and you haven't come across this, take a look at it.



Earlier this year, a group of copyright experts below facilitated the creation of the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Open Educational Resources (OER): A Guide for Authors, Adapters & Adopters of Openly Licensed Teaching and Learning Materials, which was "built on a series of workshops, interviews, and webinars that were conducted over the course of 2019 and 2020. Without the contributions of those partners and participants this project would not have been possible, and we want to recognize their indispensable support for this project." Their webpage continues links to the workshop recording (available through YouTube).

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

2021 Year in Review: Library Futures and Controlled Digital Lending

Libraries buy the books, then lend the books

Last year (2020), I joined a group which became known as Library Futures. Our formal launch was in January 2021. Our goal is to "empower libraries to fulfill their mission and provide non-discriminatory, open access to culture for the public good." We back that goal up with seven principles and a lot of actions.

When Kyle Courtney asked me to join Library Futures, I didn't know the other board members and we didn't yet have an executive director. You might say that we were a twinkle in someone's eye! However, we got off to a fast start and have not slowed down! 

Most of our efforts are related to controlled digital lending (CDL), because we see that as a legal way for libraries to share print materials from their collections. We have built a coalition (see bottom of this page), given a number of different talks and presentations, and looked at how we can advocate for specific efforts including broadband access for all and ebooks in libraries. We have also partnered with iFixit to distribute100 Pro Tech Toolkits in support of the Right to Repair.  Through controlled digital lending, we've been introduced to people outside of the U.S., which led us to be asked to file a factum (written argument) in a Canadian Copyright Case. If you check our blog, you'll see some other things that we did this year.

Through Library Futures, I was able to get involved with a small group named CDL Co-Op. Together we published "Statement on Using Controlled Digital Lending as a Mechanism for Interlibrary Loan." That was an amazing effort and the statement has been well received (see signatories). 

And through CDL Co-Op, I've met an number of other people, which demonstrates again how quickly we build meaningful connections in the information profession. Joining Library Futures in 2020 truly had a positive impact on my 2021! I can't wait to see what 2022 brings.

Resources:

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

2021 Year in Review: Conferences

Jill Hurst-Wahl and Andrea Snyder

In most years, I can easily list the conferences I have attended, because they were events I traveled to. And when you need to travel to attend a conference or most professional development events, you aren't going to multiples each month. However, the move to online events in 2020, because of the COVID pandemic, changed how conferences were run and how many events a person could attend.

Soon after March 13, 2020 - the last day I worked on-site before being sent home because of the pandemic - organizations began hosting events online. Early in the pandemic, the thought was to give people learning opportunities as something to do. Then there became a need for learning opportunities which addressed challenges occurring during the pandemic. However, rather than attending these learning opportunities, I was involved in creating them by giving webinars or being on webinar panels. 2020  opened up new opportunities and I'm grateful for all of them.

Now in 2021, in addition to being involved in giving webinars, I found myself attending many online professional development events and conferences. Yes, some events were free or low-cost, while still providing top quality content.  Having virtual events made it easy to go from event to event, when it would have been impossible to do so if I needed to attend in person.  (On Oct. 22, I attend parts of the Central NY Library Resources Council Annual Meeting, the South Central (NY) Regional Library Council Annual Meeting, and Library Research Round Table event - back to back events - without leaving my office!) Memorable to me was that I was able to attend the 2021 Miami University Libraries Copyright Conference, which had Kenneth Crews and Jack Bernard among its speakers.

The ShapingEDU Winter Games in January are worth noting, because I think more people should be paying attention to this group. From its first on-site conference in 2018 to now, ShapingEDU has been gathering people together to talk about the education and work towards changing it. The Winter Games had presentations and panels from a wide variety of people who are involved in education, including speakers from specific companies that are shaping how we learn. I sat enthralled in front of my computer! Yes, this was a free event!

The ShapingEDU Unconference in July was an event where people engaged in conference-long learning and envisioning activities. It was structured in a way that made it possible for people to dip their toes into specific topics, if they didn't have time for a deep dive. Sessions were led by people who are deeply involved in the areas covered by the Unconference, which meant that you had an opportunity to learn from the best. And did I say this was free? Yup. 

If you are interested in education, I encourage you to look at ShapingEDU. Their next event - Pente Pitch Challenge - will be in February 2022. Check it out!

The Special Libraries Association (SLA) had its annual conference online in August and I was on a panel entitled "Work-Life Pivots: Tales from the Trenches" with Julie Edwards and Eugene Giudice. Marydee Ojala was the moderator.  All of us had pivoted our careers at least once - if not multiple times and this allowed us to share our experiences, talk about what we had learned, and provide tips. 

Everyone can pivot their careers. Everyone. I know some people think it is impossible, but it isn't. Yes, it might take time and effort to achieve. Yes, you might have to learn new things. Yes, it might be scary. Yes, you can do it.

During the SLA Conference, I received the John Cotton Dana Award for lifetime achievement. I'm still stunned by that!  I've already written about it, if you want to know more.

My first in-person conference of 2021 happened in November, when the New York Library Association Annual Conference came to Syracuse.  Besides the in-person component, NYLA also held a virtual conference in October and had recorded on-demand content available. I've written a number of posts about this conference already. For me, it was wonderful to be at an in-person event. Because we were in a county conference facility, we had to wear masks all the time, except when eating or drinking. Seating in the sessions was spaced out, so we could keep at a distance from each other.  

Next year, NYLA will return to having an in-person conference only in Saratoga Springs, NY on Nov. 2-5. I hope that COVID is under control by then, meaning that the number of cases are much lower and we can meet without the need for masks or the fear of getting COVID. I plan on being there and hope to see many of my NYS library buddies there, too.

2021 Lessons Learned:

  • Online conferences can be quite good! They do need a lot of planning, as well as good software, so don't think that hosting an online conference will be easier. One of the best things about them is that you can have a wider variety of speakers, because they do not need to travel.
  • Attending an online conference is easier, because you don't need to travel. However, it is easy to get distracted because you're sitting in front of your computer. It is up to you to stay engaged, because there is no one sitting next to you to poke you when you clearly are not paying attention. 
  • During 2020-2021, online conferences were held at a number of different price points. Don't assume that a conference will be too expensive for you to attend. Read the details! You might be surprised. 
  • Offering online events at a low cost or free is likely a finance burden for the event organizer. However, I hope that organizations will continue to find ways of making some of their events widely available, so that they have a larger impact.
  • Staring at people through a virtual event portal is fine, but it is not the same as being in-person. I think that people will want to attend a mix of virtual and in-person events each year, because the in-person events really do engage people differently.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Mary Minow on Supporting Online Classes

graphic of paper and letters
I continue to catch-up with reading magazines that are on my "pile." Today I found this gem. 

In her June 2021 American Libraries column with Tomas Lipinski, Mary Minow answers the following question (last question in the column):

With classes now online, how can school districts create meaningful programming to support teaching and learning? What about copyright?

This is a question I answer in my copyright webinars and courses, and I include additional information on the TEACH Act. Yes, Mary Minow and I agree...and we agree with Kenny Crews! (In other words, we not taking a wild stance.)

Yes, you have to pay attention to the details and that should not be hard, especially if you want to use content online and do so legally. Yes, if you pay attention to the details, you can use copyright content in your online classes.

Reddit Thread on Section 1201

On October 29, a group of copyright experts answered questions on Reddit about Section 1201  in U.S. Copyright Law. Even though that conversation had ended, the thread is still worth reading, because there is a lot of wisdom in there. As I read it, this text from Cara Gagliano stands out to me:

We agree that section 1201 needs to go entirely, and in 2016 we filed a lawsuit that's still pending challenging the law's constitutionality.

We also totally agree that for as long as we're stuck with this exemption scheme, it shouldn't be addressing different devices piecemeal and should include non-repair modification—which is why we asked for both of those things in our petition this year.

The result was a mixed bag: While we're disappointed that the final repair exemption doesn't go as far as covering all software-enabled devices, it's actually a pretty big win that we got it to cover all consumer-oriented devices. In the past, the Copyright Office has been more stubborn about limiting the exemption to specific devices that have evidence in the record. This change makes the exemption a lot more flexible, and the fact that they've started listening to us about the problems with that approach and the lack of meaningful distinctions between different device firmware is encouraging.

The biggest disappointment is the refusal to include non-infringing modifications in the exemption, especially because the Register's recommendation didn't even meaningfully engage with that point. From a more optimistic perspective, this has always been an incremental process (frustratingly so), and it's at least moving in the right direction. The progress we made on the scope of covered devices will let advocates focus more on modification next time around (if we haven't managed to get rid of 1201 by then!), and we already have support on that point from the NTIA, which has input in the process.

As you read it, you might find other text that is meaningful to you, so dive in!

[Addendum 12/29/2021: Looking back, I see I posted something short about this in November. Apologies for the repeat, but this Reddit thread is truly good stuff!]


Thread Title: We are copyright experts here to talk to you about this week’s anticircumvention exemptions from the U.S. Copyright Office. Ask us anything.

Thread Description: On Wednesday [Oct. 27], the Copyright Office released its recommendations regarding the latest round of exemption requests to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it illegal to bypass a digital lock that protects a copyrighted work, such as a device’s software, even when there is no copyright infringement. Every 3 years, the Copyright Office reviews exemption requests and issues recommendations to the Librarian of Congress on granting certain exceptions to Section 1201.

Ask us anything about this week’s decisions, the review process, or right-to-repair and security research generally.

Participants:

  • Electronic Frontier Foundation's Cara Gagliano
  • iFixit's Kyle Wiens
  • Public Knowledge's Kathleen Burke
  • Public Knowledge's Meredith Rose
  • Organization for Transformative Works:
    • Copyright Law Professor Rebecca Tushnet
    • Copyright Attorney Heidi Tandy

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Copyright Office Announces a Series of Consultations on Technical Measures that Identify or Protect Copyrighted Works

This announcement arrived in my inbox today and seems like something libraries should pay attention to. In the Federal Register notice, this caught my eye:

The consultations will address current and forthcoming technologies for identifying or protecting works online, including the technologies’ availability, their use-cases, and their limitations. (Under "Consultations")

Libraries employ technical measure for protecting works. Are libraries one of the industries that will be represented in these discussions? I hope so.


NewsNet 940
December 22, 2021

The U.S. Copyright Office has published a Federal Register notice announcing a series of consultations on technical measures that identify or protect copyrighted works. In a letter dated June 24, 2021, Senators Patrick Leahy and Thom Tillis requested that the Copyright Office “convene a representative working group of relevant stakeholders to achieve the identification and implementation of technical measures.” The consultations will address current and forthcoming technologies for identifying or protecting works, including the technologies’ availability, their use-cases, and their limitations.

The Office plans to hold a plenary session to launch these consultations on February 22, 2022, to be followed by smaller industry-sector specific consultations in 2022. Both the plenary and industry-sector based sessions will be held virtually over Zoom.

For additional information, including instructions for participating in the consultations or submitting comments for the record, please visit the Office website. A statement of interest to participate must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. eastern time on February 8, 2022.


 

Monday, December 13, 2021

Article - Copyright: Charming or Chilling? Introducing the Copyright Anxiety Scale

Two Canadian librarians, CĂ©line Gareau-Brennan and Amanda Wakaruk, have written a blog post based on their recent article entitle "Introducing the Copyright Anxiety Scale." Both the blog post and article are worth reading. We know that copyright anxiety is real and now we have data on the anxiety.  The data in Table 1 (Factor Analysis of All Copyright Anxiety Scale Items) of their article could be used by any person or institution to lobby for increased training on copyright and related topics. Even Table 2 (image below) could help fuel increased learning about copyright. The more you know - and the more your institution knows - the more confident you will be.

Respondents that Agree or Strongly Agree with Statements About Copyright Anxiety
Yes, consider setting an intention to take a copyright webinar or course in 2022. I'll be giving a webinar and ecourse for ALA in the spring, and I know there are opportunities across library land. Yes, take more then one course! Get your knowledge reinforced and hear how different people explain it. And don't be afraid to learn more. The more you know, the more copyright knowledge you'll be able to use. In addition, you'll ask better questions about the situations you're encountering. Better questions lead to better decisions.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Book: Building Legal Literacies for Text Data Mining

Book cover
This book may not be of interest to you, but may be of interest to someone at your institution, especially if you work in academia.

Out of the National Endowment for the Humanities Institute entitled Building Legal Literacies for Text Data Mining has emerged this digital book of the same name. The book, Building Legal Literacies for Text Data Mining, was edired by Rachael Samberg and Timothy Vollmer, and published by the University of California Berkeley Press in 2021. It carries a Creative Commons 0 (Zero) license.  The site says:

To the extent possible under law, Scott Althaus; David Bamman; Sara Benson; Brandon Butler; Beth Cate; Kyle K. Courtney; Sean Flynn; Maria Gould; Cody Hennesy; Eleanor Dickson Koehl; Thomas Padilla; Stacy Reardon; Matthew Sag; Rachael Samberg; Brianna L. Schofield; Megan Senseney; Timothy Vollmer; and Glen Worthey have waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Building Legal Literacies for Text Data Mining, except where otherwise noted.
Yes, the entire book is online AND can be downloaded in several formats. Below is the introduction, which might peek your interest or the interest of someone at your institution.

INTRODUCTION

Until now, humanities researchers conducting text data mining in the U.S. have had to maneuver through a thicket of legal issues without much guidance or assistance.

UC Berkeley Library led more than a dozen institutions in submitting (and receiving) a grant to create a National Endowment for the Humanities Institute entitled Building Legal Literacies for Text Data Mining (Building LLTDM). We wanted to empower digital humanities researchers and professionals (librarians, consultants, and other institutional staff) to confidently navigate United States law, policy, ethics, and risk within digital humanities text data mining projects—so that they could more easily engage in this type of research and contribute to the advancement of knowledge.

On June 23-26, 2020, we welcomed 32 digital humanities researchers and professionals to the institute. After months of preparation, we had been looking forward to working and learning together at UC Berkeley, but the world had other plans. Due to the global health crisis, we had to transform our planned in-person, intensive workshop into an interactive and relevant remote experience.

The pandemic meant we had to transition everything online. The substantive content was pre-recorded and delivered in a flipped classroom model. Faculty created a series of short videos, and shared readings relevant to the legal literacies. We also provided the video transcripts and slides to participants to promote accessibility and accommodate multiple learning styles.

This book explores the legal literacies covered during the virtual institute, including copyright (both U.S. and international law), technological protection measures, privacy, and ethical considerations. It describes in detail how we developed and delivered the 4-day institute, and also provides ideas for hosting shorter literacy teaching sessions. Finally, we offer reflections and take-aways on the institute.

Thursday, December 02, 2021

The Basics and the Intricacies of the Open Meeting Law

I began this blog post in March 2021 after attending a webinar entitled "The Basics and the Intricacies of the Open Meeting Law," which was focused on open meeting law in New York State.  Even though that event was months ago, I'm going to summarize information from from the event, because it is still relevant.  I've kept some of the COVID-related information, because it might be interesting or useful.

Background

Since I became ta member of my public library system's board of trustees,  I have been learning about Open Meeting Law in New York State. Public institutions in NYS must comply with Open Meeting Law. The text of the law is on the NYS Committee on Open Government (COOG) website. What is the Committee on Open Government? The site says:

The Committee on Open Government oversees and advises the government, public, and news media on Freedom of Information, Open Meetings, and Personal Privacy Protection Laws. The Committee offers guidance in response to phone inquiries, prepares written legal advisory opinions, and provides training to government and other interested groups.

Text of the law is on the website and it is not long; however, it can cause an organization to raise many questions, which you can see in the opinions rendered. The basic idea of Open Meeting Law is that the governing bodies of public institutions should be transparent in what they are doing and thus their meetings should be open, Open Meeting Law states what that means and provides rules to follow. Following the law can be both easy and hard.

Notes

  • Open Meeting Law is codified in NYS Public Officer Law, Article 7, which was updated in 2021. The COOG website includes those updates.
  • The COOG website contains advisory opinions index alphabetically by key phrase. When looking at the opinions, it can be helpful to look at several since they may provide different information.
  • Public business be held in an open and public manner.
  • Citizens have the right to attend and listen to deliberations.
  • With a public body, the whole public body (e.g., all of the trustees) are together one type of committee that is subject to open meeting law. In addition, a subcommittee, which is entirely comprised of members of the larger body is also subject to open meeting law. The fact that it is less that the quorum of the entire body is irrelevant.
    • For example, a 15-member city council, with a 3-member subcommittee. That subcommittee is its own public body. (More than 2 members.)
  • Are you having a meeting?
    • Is there a quorum present? Quorum is 50% of the entire board/counsel.  If the board has 11 members (even if some positions are vacant), the quorum is 6.
    • Will you be discussing public business?
    • If yes, you are having a meeting regardless of the intent to take action. 
    • There is no legal distinctions between workshops, meetings, agenda setting sessions, informal gathering, if you are discussing or conducting public business.
  • What might be outside the scope of a public meeting?
    • Site visits - no discussion or deliberation. Only for gathering information.
    • Retreat or educational seminar. Team building. Not there to discuss their own public interest.
    • Attendance at committee meeting as a member of the public
    • Social, e.g., holiday gatherings
  • During the COVID pandemic, how a meeting was defined changed due to the Governor's Executive Orders and actions taken by the State Legislature. Given what we experienced during the pandemic, the question is whether some of those changes may become permanent.
  • You cannot conduct a meeting by teleconference (phone) or email. Sharing information through email is appropriate. There should not be substantial deliberations via email.
  • Notice of Every Meeting
    • Time and place of the meeting
    • Prior to every meeting
    • To the media - local media must have notice that the meeting will occur
    • Must be posted on a designated physical location
    • On the website
    • Must be given 72 hours for meetings schedule more than 1 week in advance
    • For meeting on short notice, notice must be given to extend practicable.
    • Do you need to meet quickly? What would the harm be if delayed?
  • Minutes
    • Must include motions, resolutions, votes
    • Does not need to be a verbatim account of the meeting
    • Does not need to include a summary of deliberations or public comments 
    • Must be available within two weeks for open sessions, and within one week for executive sessions (if action taken).
      • Does not matter whether minutes are unapproved or in draft form
      • Nothing in the law states that minutes must be approved
      • They must be made available upon request
  • Recording
    • Any meeting that is open to the public can be photographed, recorded, or broadcast
    • Agency is not obligated to record
    • Agency may establish reasonable rules to limit disruption
  • Executive Session
    • It is part of an open meeting
    • Cannot be held prior to an open meeting
    • It cannot be a separate session 
    • Most have a motion
    • Upon majority vote
    • Specificity of the motion, signal proper purpose
    • Discuss items that would be harmful if disclosed
    • Cannot just say that you are entering an Executive Session for "personnel" matters. The wording needs to be more specific. (See the law)
  • Public Participation
    • Not required
    • Can establish reasonable rules, e.g., time limits, limited to agenda items
    • Implement fairly and consistently
    • Hearings are not the same as meetings. There are other statutes that govern public hearings.
  • Matters/Records Scheduled to be Discussed
    • There is no obligation to prepare or follow an agenda
    • Proposed resolutions, etc., shall be made available by required, prior to the meeting, or at the meeting
  • Section 108 Exemptions for Meeting Behind Closed Doors
    • Judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings
    • Deliberations of political committees, conferences or caucuses - discussion must be limited to political business
    • Any matter made confidential by federal or state law, e.g., meetings with agency attorney covered by attorney client privilege.
    • Non-Compliance and Enforcement
  • Enforcement is through the initiation of a CPLR Article 78 proceeding in State Supreme Court. The Court has authority to:
    • Award costs and attorney's fees
    • Invalidate action - likely if the violation is substantial
    • Require training 

Questions


Some of these questions were specific to meetings being held during the pandemic.
  • Must members of the public identify themselves when attending a meeting? No.
  • Must members of the board/committee have cameras on at all times? In non-COVID times, yes.
  • If a meeting is recorded in non-COVID times, the recording needs to be kept for 4 months. There is no obligation that a transcript be prepared.
  • We note on our meeting minutes who from the public attended (which could be staff). Do we need to do that? This is not needed. Members of the public may not want to be listed.
  • Under the Governor's Executive Order (during COVID), the transcripts created by Zoom, etc., are sufficient.
  • Do attendees need to identify themselves? No. Attending a meeting cannot be conditional of identify yourself. 
    • During COVID, you may collect this information for contract tracing.
    • If the building has security procedures which require identification, that is different than open meeting law.
  • Definition of committees:
    • If the committee is comprised of only members of the larger body, it is subject to the Open Meeting Law.
    • Advisory committees with mostly non-board members are not likely subject to Open Meeting Law.
    • Committees subject to NYS statute are subject to Open Meeting Law.
  • During COVID and the Governor's Executive Order, a committee can meet in person and give the public a remote option for attending. 
    • The in-person gathering, under COVID, must be able to accommodate social distancing.
  • Telephone meetings - less than a quorum - are allowed.
  • If action is taken in Executive Session, your clerk should be present to record the action.
  • If a virtual meeting is live-streamed (during COVID), the public can watch. They do not need to be able to make comments.

Final Thoughts

This was not my first training on open meeting law and likely will not be my last. (See NYLA2018 post, elective session script) While the law seems simple and it is easy to implement, it is hard because it means being very transparent and that can be awkward if people feel that they are discussing something sensitive like the budget. We need to keep in mind that being transparent is good for our communities.

The idea that a agenda does not need to be followed is liberating for me, but I also have learned that having a standard agenda is helpful for everyone involved. Personally I think the agenda should help the organization focus and be able to change when needed.

Personally, I appreciate minutes which capture some of the discussion. Why? Because I think it is important to know what was discussed.  I've been in groups where someone will say, "check the minutes" and then see that the minutes don't provide any clues about what was said.  I think minutes should be helpful and provide a historical record. But that's me and I know that it is more than what is needed. (Yes, I recognize that people can keep their own notes, but that doesn't help when everyone who was around when 'that thing happened' is gone.)

I've learned that even committees can have executive sessions. Useful and good to know.

In another training, I've learned that anyone can attend an open meeting, whether or not they live in that area.  In other words, there is no residency requirement. You might want to exclude someone, but you can't. 

Also interesting that you do not need to capture the name of everyone in attendance.  If it is your practice to capture everyone's name, a person can ask to be unnamed.

The meeting is for the board/committee that is meeting and it should be useful for them. Hearing from others - e.g., a time for receiving comments - is not needed. If a board decided to receive comments, it should do so in a consistent manor and only receive the comments and not get into a discussion.

BTW checking the advisory opinions, I see that adhering to Robert's Rules of Order is not in the law, although a body may adopt to use Robert's Rules or adopt another set of rules.

Finally, having gone through open meeting law training, I think the more people trained in it for a public body (e.g., board), the better.  That will help the public body consider and implement open meeting law well, even when being transparent is uncomfortable. Honestly, I keep learning new things about open meeting law and how to implement it, which means that there is much to consider in how it is applied.