I support Open Library. We don’t offer a lot of support but we do offer some. If you don’t understand a thing, a person will help you with it.
Nowadays most “free” products only offer self-serve help pages or forums if you have a question. I had one today. I made a post on Instagram. Instagram posts automagically to Facebook. I used two hashtags #meta and #1977. The first one auto-linked on fb and the second one did not. I checked the help files and it seems to say that you can use numbers in hashtags. So what was going on? My hypothesis was that numbers were somehow reserved in the internal mechanisms of the thing. So I did a few experiments.
1. Does it even work? The #meta hashtag (which fb auto-linked) generated this URL: https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/meta. You can link it and go read some stuff. If you make a new URL with 1977 you get a decently ugly error page.
2. You can search for either of these tags in the search box and find posts using the string of characters #meta or #1977. Huh.
3. Maybe dates are a special sort of number that’s eliminated? I tried a few more hashtag options: love1 and 1love work. OneEightSeven works but 187 does not. In fact, I could find no combination of only numbers that wouldn’t produce that ugly error message. And, though it took me a while to find a combination of letters that resulted in no hits, I did still get a response when I did that, not a failure.
Conclusion: facebook’s help files are missing the useful piece of information that you actually can’t have a hashtag that is all numbers. This is part 47 of why we will still need librarians or their equivalent in the age of Google. I hope this is helpful for someone. The end.
Right after I got back from New York, Hurricane Sandy hit and I spent a lot of time in the quickweb spreading links about how people could help libraries affected by Hurricane Sandy (you still can – NJ, NY) and making my own donations. A week after that I also got the news that I’d been elected Justice of the Peace of my small town in Vermont. This is neat news. Similar to my stint on ALA Council a long time ago, I’ve often felt that helping people different from you to solve their problems often involves working from the inside. So in addition to weddings, local JPs help out with elections and tax abatement hearings and it seemed like a good way for me to get involved. Because I didn’t know much about this position, I’ve been doing (surprise!) a lot of research and I’ve been collating that into a post-a-day blog called For Great Justice. Feel free to read if you’d like to.
I have also still been reading a lot of the trade publications and the usual Twitter/Facebook/blog stuff, I’ve just been doing a poorer job of radiating it outward. The latest thing I’ve been reading that has made an impact is this long ALA Think Tank discussion of a blog post by Stephen Abram about managing “hig potential” employees or, as he puts it, The Rock Star Dilemma.
As I may have mentioned in the past, I have this problem. Not like “Oh I am so terrific at work all the time!” but that I have a lot of energy and ideas and have often found that in real-world library jobs this is not only not appreciated (okay, that’s fine) it’s actively discouraged, de-emphasized and occasionally disparaged. This bums me out. So it was interesting to read the long discussion on how not just management but “high potential” employees themselves can better manage these awkward situations to achieve better results for libraries. Stephen has created a lengthy follow up post where he includes a thoughtful list of suggestions and tips that synthesizes a lot of the ideas that came up in the discussion. Worth a read.
As you know, Vermont was hit hard by Hurricane Irene and a lot of resultant flooding. I am fine and my house is fine. I’m not sure what the library damage assessment is at this point but I’ve been hanging close to the Vermont Flooding facebook page and doing some “on the fly” reference with some of the local information I have access to. I came across this post on the Roxbury Free Library’s facebook page and smiled. I hope she gets a ride.
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.
I upgraded WordPress this week. Please let me know if anything is wonky.
This is an exchange from facebook with names changed to protect the innocent. It highlights something I find happening to me in the library world all the time — having to balance solving the problem with following the rules. The person posting the update needed an article. The rules said they had to pay $31.50 for an article. This didn’t pass the sanity check [“$30 for one article from a journal, that’s crazy!”] and the librarian was grousing. They’re also grousing to a huge network of librarians, many of whom had free [or, paid for by their institution] access to the same content. I saw Nicole speak in Florida this past week and one of the quotes she repeats again and again is “With enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow” meaning that a particular coding problem that might vex one or two programmers is unlikely to vex, say, a thousand programmers.
My Jessamyn corollary to this is “With enough libraries, all content is free.” That is to say… if the world was one big library and we all had interlibrary loan at that library, we could lend anything to anyone. The funding structures of libraries currently mean that in many cases we’re duplicating [and paying for] content that we could be sharing. This is at the heart of a lot of the copyright battles of today and, to my mind, what’s really behind the EBSCO/Gale/vendors. Time Magazine is losing money and not having a good plan for keeping their income level up, decides to offer exclusive contracts to vendors and allows them to bid. EBSCO wins, Gale loses. Any library not using EBSCO loses. Patrons lose and don’t even know they’ve lost.
When I was blogging for BoingBoing I often came across content that I didn’t have access to. I was also confronted with, in many cases, unreasonable fees requested [$9.95 for 100 words, really?]. Me being me, I could always find a librarian with access to, say the Times Online archive, or old articles in JSTOR. But I also felt it was cheating. But I was also annoyed that being resourceful is also somehow cheating. And I knew that many of my patrons with fewer resources would just pony up. Where do we draw the line between enforcing other people’s rules and solving problems with our patrons? Now that we’re getting more and more networked, this whole idea of local content works for some things [historical photos, town history] and not for others [journal articles that are held in thousands of libraries worldwide]. Do we have a plan for moving forward?