POTUS in our corner: eBooks and the next LoC

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President Obama signs a bill into law that supports the role of libraries in education last year. From District Dispatch. President Obama has generally been supportive of libraries.

Since politics is in the news today (hello Super Tuesday!), I wanted to balance the generally negative political news with two announcements that came out last week from the White House. Continue reading

Understanding fair use

This week is Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week, which is a pretty big deal. According to the Association of Research Libraries sponsored website:

“Fair use [in the U.S.] and fair dealing [in the U.K.] are essential limitations and exceptions to copyright, allowing the use of copyrighted materials without permission from the copyright holder under certain circumstances.”

Fair use is important to librarians, since it governs how content can be “fairly” used without breaking copyright. The American Library Association has created this resource for librarians to share with their patrons. And the following graphic, commissioned by ARL and created by YIPPA, offers some essential thoughts on fair use. (Get the full graphic by clicking on the image below.) ARL-FUW-Infographic-r4-page-001

The impact of fair use on scholarship is especially important in research and academic libraries, because that’s where most people affected by fair use go. But that doesn’t mean all librarians shouldn’t be familiar with the concept. At my own public library, plenty of online students, as well as some local community college students, use our public internet and computers to get their work done. This means that when they have questions about citations and the like, we are the people they ask. Public librarians, though not forced to publish, may also wish to do so at some point in their careers. Fair use will be important in that context as well. During an “appearance” on the Circulating Ideas podcast, Jessamyn West discusses how fair use affected the publication of her own book.

But fair use is important in many other contexts as well.  Continue reading

Librarian Activists

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There are many skills library school can give you, but often, an understanding of the role of librarian activists isn’t one of them. While I took two classes on ethics and government policy in relation to librarianship, I didn’t come away from those classes with a practical idea of how librarians can advocate for themselves. Perhaps it is because librarians shy away from having an opinion on anything in an effort to remain unbiased. But libraries are constantly struggling to get a piece of the funding pie, and we need library advocates to do that. Who better to relate the awesomeness of libraries to politicians than the librarians themselves?

A recent post on whether librarians should be activists from Hack Library School got me thinking about this topic again. The author of the blog defines activism as:

“Activism is anything you do that supports a cause and encourages change.”

The post goes on to say that grand actions can be amazing and turn heads, but the little everyday things also make a difference in garnering support for libraries, as well as encouraging change in the way the public views and supports libraries.

I think, however, that librarians have a tendency to do small things and hope people notice. The small actions are important, but they need to be supplemented by more to ensure libraries remain to help people in the future.

Continue reading

The value of books

In the fight to prove the value of librarianship we sometimes like to downplay the importance of books in our world. Yes, we offer access to computers and the Internet, training with a variety of digital media and devices, and a safe community space. But we also provide books, a fact that shouldn’t be ignored. Books are a powerful and vital tool in society.
Author Junot Diaz discussed this in a recent video from Big Think (The full video is here):

I’m not saying that any librarian is saying that books are no longer important. But I do think that we as a profession have recently, as an act of survival, spent a lot of time driving home the fact that libraries aren’t about books anymore. That is not the case. We may not be just about books anymore, but books are clearly important to what we do because books are still so important to being a human being. As Diaz puts it:

“Over the long-term, a relationship with literature produces extraordinary effects in that it brings the reader not only in contact with other times and other places but it brings the reader in contact with themselves.”

Diaz also points out that in bringing us in contact with these other times, places, and even other selves, we can begin to think about how we – individually and collectively – can create a more fair and just society. Libraries can do that. By providing books, a safe place to read them and even opportunities for discussion (I’m thinking of book clubs and discussion panels, friends!), we can be a huge part of the solution to what has been ailing the human race. So my librarian readers – and all by book-loving readers – don’t downplay the book. As The Doctor says: