Link roundup, things you might like

Why the Library of Congress Is Blocking Wikileaks

I’m not totally comfortable with Library of Congress specifically blocking access to Wikileaks for staff and patrons at the Library of Congress as confirmed on Talking Points Memo. Here is the LoC blog’s response which refers to the same statement they are giving to reporters and the press. The situation is, of course, quite complicated but I find this to be an odd precedent that makes me a little itchy.

Copyright is killing sound archiving and fair use isn’t doing so well either


Fair Use poster image by Timothy Vollmer

The Library of Congress just released its 181 page report “The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States: A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age” talking about the challenges of digitally archiving sound recording. BoingBoing gives a nice summary “[T]he copyright laws that the recording industry demanded are so onerous that libraries inevitably have to choose whether to be law-breakers or whether to abandon their duty to preserve and archive audio.” More analysis from OSNews.

And if anyone’s wondering where I’ve been this week, the answer is “Mired in getting copyright permissions for the intellectual property in my book. Thanks for asking.” I have a pretty firm grasp of Fair Use and have been trying to follow the guidelines for Fair Use in Media Literacy Education. I signed a book contract that specifically says that I am responsible for assuring that my materials are being used with permission. Despite this, my publisher (who I am quite fond of otherwise) is risk-averse and wants to make sure I have permission anyhow. Permission that I assert that I don’t need for small screenshots of, say, Google search results or an ALA nested menu.

This gets even more confusing when some of the organizations involved claim that I need permission when I don’t. Since Fair Use, like the Americans with Disabilities Act, is mostly something that gets hammered out through litigation there is no strict set of guidelines as to what Fair Use is. So, big companies with a lot to lose err on the side of compliance with other big companies’ requests, requests that may be extralegal. So Google can’t legally tell you to only use the public domain offerings from Google Books (which they admit) but they make a polite request, a polite request that sounds a lot like a terms of service.

So right now I’m waiting to hear back from Facebook after filling out a form on their website asking for permission to use a screenshot. They say it will take 1-2 weeks. I am confident that my screenshot is fair use. My editor also thinks it is fair use. However they’re not willing to risk it. And so we wait.

Thomas Mann interviewed by Joshua Kitlas

Library student Joshua Kitlas interviewed LoC reference librarian Thomas Mann for one of his classes at Syracuse. I am a Mann Fan, so it was fun to get to read this.

“The profession is radically getting dumbed down. There is so much more to search than Google or OCLC. You need to see relationships between subjects and their headings. Tags by users are simply no substitute. They’re okay as supplements to controlled vocabularies–but not substitutes. There’s a need to go beyond the internet and look at the systems librarians and publishers have developed that are not accessible by Google or the other engines.”

Banned Books Week as seen through its funders’ eyes

More on the Chicago Defender.
Here are my old Banned Books Weeks posts: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. I skipped 2005.

It’s time for a review of Banned Books Week. This year most of my BBW information comes from Twitter. Amusingly BBW on Twitter can mean two very different things. This is the note I put on Twitter yesterday.

“Oh look an actual attempt at, well not book banning exactly. Weird old Pentagon. http://bit.ly/cqg9PL Happy [sort of] Banned Books Week.”

Pretty sketchy story. The Pentagon bought up the entire first printing of a book published by St Martin’s Press because it “contained information which could cause damage to national security.” The second edition has come out, heavily redacted. This is one of the closer “government is telling you what you can’t read” stories that I’ve seen this year. Here’s another look at the websites that are linked from ALA’s offical BBW website ala.org/bbooks, a page that is linked from the front page, but only as one of the six “slides” that revolve through the top of the page. So, Banned Books Week is sponsored by these organizations. Let’s see what their websites look like.

One of the interesting thigns to note about the ALA list of challenges is how many of the public library challenges seem to be centered around just a few library systems. Most of these stories are ones that hit the national news and so I’ve heard about them and you probably have also.

There are also good websites to go to to learn about censorship and the larger (to me) issue of chilling effects on people’s right to live free from fear and free from silencing. Here are a few things I’ve been reading lately

Join me in a rousing song celebrating free expression, won’t you?

why is the ACLU suing the Library of Congress?

The ACLU filed a lawsuit agains the Library of Congress for terminating a CRS Assistant Director for writing a letter to the editor for the Washington post and an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal. Colonel Morris D. Davis was, prior to his CRS position, responsible for the prosecution of suspected terrorists held at Guantánamo Bay.

62. Because of his former position as the Chief Prosecutor for the military commissions, Col. Davis is regularly asked to comment on Guantánamo and the military commissions system. Col. Davis believes he has a unique perspective to add to this debate, and he would like to convey his insights and opinions to the public. Since he was informed that he was being terminated by CRS, however, Col. Davis has declined numerous opportunities to speak publicly about military commissions issues out of fear that he could be subject to further retaliation by the Library and [CRS Director Daniel] Mulhollan.
63. The decision to terminate Col. Davis for his speech has intimidated and chilled other CRS employees from speaking and writing in public. CRS employees are confused, uncertain, and fearful about what outside speaking and writing is permissible.
64. As a result of the Library’s and Mr. Mulhollan’s actions, Col. Davis has suffered, and/or will suffer, both economic and non-economic losses, emotional distress, and other compensable damages.

public library photos and reminiscences

New Canaan Public Library from LoC
Shorpy is a great source for old photographs. They often get them from sources like the Library of Congress which is where this photo of the New Cannan public library in 1953 came from. You can also see the original set of photos over at the Library of Congress [did not see this one over at their Flickr photostream]. The big add that Shorpy’s has, however, is the community. It’s not just a photo of a library, it’s also people commenting about their memories of the library including where else they’ve seen that certain floor tile [fun fact: it's also the tile that's in my bathroom as near as I can tell] [thanks mike]

Be social with your national library

I just became a fan of the Library of Congress on Facebook. They seem to be using facebook in a prety normal way, highlighting events, adding a few photos. If you want to find other ways to be social with LoC, check out this post on Resource Shelf. I’ve always felt their YouTube channel was pretty nice.

oh Library of Congress, I am sorry you are not leading the way

Erica says it better than I can — regarding the discrimination lawsuit the Library of Congress lost because it rescinded a job offer from a hired applicant who disclosed that he was transitioning into becoming a woman — “Hey, Library of Congress. Cut that shit out.” Thanks to the wonders of YouTube you can hear Diane Schroer herself talking about transgender discrimination.

Library of Congress reports on Flickr project

The Library of Congress has finished a report (full report and shorter summary in pdf) summing up what they’ve learned after the first nine months of their experimentation with Flickr. Here is an excerpt from the summary. Look at these numbers.

The following statistics attest to the popularity and impact of the pilot. As of October 23, 2008, there have been:
  • 10.4 million views of the photos on Flickr.
  • 79% of the 4,615 photos have been made a “favorite” (i.e., are incorporated into personal Flickr collections).
  • More than 15,000 Flickr members have chosen to make the Library of Congress a “contact,” creating a photostream of Library images on their own accounts.
  • 7,166 comments were left on 2,873 photos by 2,562 unique Flickr accounts.
  • 67,176 tags were added by 2,518 unique Flickr accounts.
  • 4,548 of the 4,615 photos have at least one community-provided tag.
  • Less than 25 instances of user-generated content were removed as inappropriate.
  • More than 500 Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) records have been enhanced with new information provided by the Flickr Community.

Between January and May 2008, the Library saw an increase in hits at its own Web site. For Bain images placed on Flickr, views/downloads rose approximately 60% for the period January-May 2008, compared to the same time period in 2007. Views/downloads of FSA/OWI image files placed on Flickr rose approximately 13%. Average monthly visits to all PPOC Web pages rose 20% over the five-month period of January-May 2008, compared to the same period in 2007. For additional information, see the Outcomes section in the full report.

Not only is that data good news about the project but being able to say “Hey when the Library of Congress opened up their photos to commenting and tagging, they only had to remove 25 inappropriate tags/comments out of 75K instances of user-generated content” thats a big deal.