how should libraries participate in assisting students with identifying and acquiring cheaper course materials, especially those that come from a source other than the campus library? Does the creation of a research guide or flyer for textbooks that points to commercial sources other than the campus bookstore fit into the library’s mission and role on campus? More generally, what is the library’s responsibility when it comes to textbooks?
Do librarians really get sued, or threatened with lawsuits, all that often? It is hard to say. My initial impression is that they do not get haled into court very often, but it is very difficult to know about threats. There may be more saber-rattling than we know about, and if such threats actually prevent librarians from taking the challenged action, we might never know about it. That is called a “chilling effect,” and there is a website devoted to cataloging such threats, which librarians should be aware of and, I think, contribute to when appropriate.
Roy Tennant’s recent series on assimilating new technology (start here to read it) spurs me to talk about helping library school students do that. My workhorse course, the one I first developed and taught in 2007, that I’ve been teaching ever since, is an introduction to computer-based technologies in libraries called “Digital Tools, Trends, and Debates.”
The White House recently released a memo entitled Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research. According to the memo, “the Administration is committed to ensuring that…the direct results of federally funded scientific research are made available to and useful for the public, industry, and the scientific community.” To clarify “direct results,” the memo continues: “Such results include peer-reviewed publications and digital data.” Along with the recent Congressional bill The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), the country is possibly one step closer to open access scholarship.
Most of us are aware of the basics of U.S. copyright law, including the categories of copyrightable and non-copyrightable works. Some materials are explicitly exempted from copyright in this country, a key example being U.S. Federal documents. Another exempted category is that of facts and compilations of facts that have no creative component. As you might imagine, “modicum of creativity” is itself very difficult to define. This question of facts versus creativity comes up in the discussion of ownership and copyrightability of library catalog data.
Sometimes I tell people that I’m haunted by the iPod. When it first came out, most of us looked at it and basically said “Oh, how fun; it’s a digital Walkman.” We figured it would do just what a Walkman did—give people an easy and private way to listen to their albums while they walked around—the difference being that it could hold multiple albums at once and the music would be loaded and saved digitally. And that was a perfectly reasonable assessment of the situation; there was no particular reason to expect that the iPod was, in fact, going to take us from an album-based music economy back into a song-based one and thereby massively disrupt the record industry (before giving birth to the iPhone and thereby revolutionizing both mobile computing and the marketplace for telephone services).
What interesting times we live in. I just got a panicked call from a professor who asked her students to find reviews of YA books that had appeared at the time they were originally published. She suddenly realized she didn’t know how to find a review of a now-classic Judy Blume novel that she planned to use as an example. She couldn’t find any reviews from 1970 on the web. She couldn’t find any in our databases, which often don’t have full text that far back. The Publisher’s Weekly review posted at Amazon is not from the time of the original publication, but refers to a later reissue. The author’s website didn’t include reviews from 1970. And here she’d thought it was a simple assignment.
The spring semester always has a unique kind of newness to it, different than the fall semester. Returning students who participated in various orientation events and the campus convocation have a sense of what they are doing and clearer expectations. But there are a handful of students for whom the spring semester is their first semester. Their orientation experience is limited at best and often lacks an opportunity for contact with the library.
We talk a lot about outreach in academic libraries, but this semester these students have been on my mind, and in thinking about them I realize I’ve been the fortunate beneficiary of an illuminating kind of “reverse outreach.”
In December, Ithaka S+R released a study on Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Historians. It has advice for librarians and archivists on supporting research that’s worth reading. For now, I want to take a look at parts of the document that confirm my belief that we’re all in this together. But what can that mean in practice?