DRM and Libraries, what is useful to know

Proprietary formats — whether it’s Windows or Mac — are one of the big issues with ebooks and, therefore, ebooks in libraries. Here is one patron’s response to their library system going with Windows Media format ebooks that won’t play on Macs or Linux machines. He worked out a song with a friend: Your Audio Book Sounds Silent to Me [listen to it, it’s short and fun]. Phil works on digital divide and digital minorities generally. I happen to have read his notes about the song the day he also posted Trying to Update this Site from a Computer at a Public Library. Fascinating.

Do you know who is getting the shortest end of this stick? The tenants in affordable housing units in Northern Virginia where GNU/Linux computer labs have been set up for them to use. Many of these tenants are hardworking immigrant families. Could the adults and children in these families benefit from greater access to audio books? You tell me. “Sorry, buster, you’re a digital minority. No audio books for you. Here, let me relieve you of your taxpayer dollars all the same.” How about this for irony — one of the books currently inaccessible? Martin Luther King, Jr., On Leadership: Inspiration & Wisdom for Challenging Times, by Donald T. Phillips. I hear it’s a good book.


ranganathan and digital libraries

You know how much I love Ranganathan. Please read the article in Library Journal by Michelle Cloonan and John Dove “Do digital libraries violate the Third Law?” and in-depth and thorough look at twhether moving our collections in to the digital realm is subtly or not so subtly reinventing the close-stack system of bygone days. At the same time, the article gives sensible suggestions for how to increase access to information in general by using technology sensibly. Of note: don’t assume “your entire patron base has access to your electronic resources because you have purchased and installed them.”

The third law is violated when valuable resources that would truly delight the reader are effectively hidden away or crowded out by the noise and onslaught of irrelevant data. With increasing access to more resources and more ways to search for them, every book or information source can make its way to its appropriate user.

As Ranganathan asserted, “It should be the business of…the librarian…to adopt all the recognized methods of attracting the public to the library, so that every potential reader may be converted into an actual one, thereby increasing the chances for the fulfillment of the Third Law.”

Ranganathan’s Third Law, inherently the most elusive of the five, is the most forceful. Getting authoritative information sources to potential users is the raison d’être of librarians and libraries

tech for small libraries?

The Librarian in Black points to an article on WebJunction called “Technology Watch List for Small Libraries” and I have to say that I am also unimpressed. The difference between reading blogs and RSS feeds and creating blogs and RSS feeds is substantial, as is the difference between employing a thin-client solution to the centralized server problem and just learning how to do ghosting effectively. Ebooks are not a good solution for cash-poor libraries [which is what I hear when I hear “small libraries” though maybe this is geared towards small rich suburban libraries] and when I think “cost effective” for virtual reference, I think IM — which isn’t even mentioned — not joining a consortium. In short, this article seems to be more effectively titled “shopping tips for small libraries” because by and large it is much more geared towards things to buy than things to learn.

my talk, unc 3/21

Both talks went well today. One was in the morning to an undergraduate information science class. High point: mentioning something about gopher sites and realizing that the students in the class were 7 years old when gopher was popular. The afternoon talk was larger, maybe 50 people, and may be available in streaming video one of these days. You can read all the notes from my talk here.