This all started with a little wink-wink posting about OCLC from Tim over at LibraryThing which was the first I’d heard about OCLC’s policy changes. As someone who doesn’t interact with OCLC or their data too much, I didn’t really understand this and had to wait for some clarification posts to understand both what was going on and how it affected people and projects like LibraryThing and Open Library. The upshot as I understand it is that OCLC is basically saying “Sure you can share your records, but not with people or organizations who materially compete with us” That’s my summary anyhow. Here’s the non-legalese policy on the OCLC site. Here’s the more legalese version. Here’s a wiki version of the changes between the “old” new policy and the new policy. Isn’t technology grand? Karen Calhoun a VP over at OCLC has written a defense of the new policy on her own blog; there is some lively discussion happening in the comments. There is also this podcast of Roy Tennant and Karen Calhoun talking with Richard Wallis from Talis (whose business model is also potentially affected by this policy change) about the ramifications of this change.
So, the policy OCLC has put up has been revised somewhat, doesn’t go into effect until February, and gives people a lot of time to think about what if anything they want to do about this. Tim Spalding has a business model that is compromised by OCLCs refusal to let their members share these records. The Open Library project is also possible compromised and Aaron Swartz has written two posts about the policy change: Stealing Your Library: The OCLC Powergrab and OCLC On The Run. He also directs people to the Stop OCLC Petition if you’d like to sign on to ask OCLC to repeal these changes. More community discussion taking place at MetaFilter, Inside Higher Ed, and Slashdot and code4lib is maintaining a wiki with links to more commentary. I’m still catching up on the back and forth and may write more later, but it’s interesting to watch this unfold.
If you’re into the whole usability idea — and more and more our interfaces to technology are all we have when interacting wiht the goods, services and government in our lives — then you might like to know that World Usability Day is tomorrow. I’ll noodle around a bit looking at my own websites and I suggest that you and your libraries do the same.
Technology should enhance our lives, not add to our stress or cause danger through poor design or poor quality. It is our duty to ensure that this technology is effective, efficient, satisfying and reliable, and that it is usable by all people. This is particularly important for people with disabilities, because technology can enhance their lives, letting them fully participate in work, social and civic experiences. Human error is a misnomer. Technology should be developed knowing that human beings have certain limitations. Human error will occur if technology is not both easy-to-use and easy-to-understand. We need to reduce human error that results from bad design.
Mother Jones had a good article (print version) about the Connecticut librarians [“radical bookworms” in MJ’s terms, oy!] who fought the USA PATRIOT Act. It’s a little overblown, in my opinion, but has a good sequence of events. Worth understanding that though the National Security Letter of USAPA was deemed unconstitutional, many other parts of the USA PATRIOT Act are still with us and will be into this next administration. More Daily Kos discussion on this topic yesterday.
National security letters are a little-known fbi tool originally used in foreign intelligence surveillance to obtain phone, financial, and electronic records without court approval. Rarely employed until 2001, they exploded in number after the Patriot Act drastically eased restrictions on their use, allowing nsls to be served by fbi agents on anyoneâ€”whether or not they were the subject of a criminal investigation. In 2000, 8,500 nsls were issued; by contrast, between 2003 and 2005 the fbi issued more than 143,000 nsls, only one of which led to a conviction in a terrorism case.
Since my bank receipt today came with holly berries on it, I figure it’s time to start the holiday sidebar.
I’m not much of a shopper, but I’m aware that I am not particularly normal in this regard. So, similar to last year I’ll have a sidebar on librarian.net illustrating particularly excellent things that mike make good gifts for librarians. Feel free to add your own in the comments. Last year I got both of my parents woodblock prints from David Bull — a guy I know from MetaFilter — and am particpating in his affiliate program this year. I also have a pair of miniature book earrings from ShoeString press that are pretty nifty. Every year at MetaFilter we do a listing of shops run by MeFites, if there are librarian.net readers that have wares to hock, please feel free to drop me a note or put a comment below.
I’ve been writing more and travelling more this year in compensation for not doing teeny library work as much. One of my newer gigs has been as a reviewer for Rachel Singer Gordon’s new project The Tech Static, helping librarians do collection development for tech titles. I did a short review of a DVD/manual for people learning Access 2007. There’s already a lot of good content up there. Add it to your feed reader and check the meta category for more background information.