Two things to mention here
1. I finally saw Desk Set. I have no idea how I not only managed not to see it before but also how I even missed the theme which is whether computers will ever really effectively (and cost-effectively) be able to do our jobs.
2. ALA is going on right now and I’m not there. Each year there is usually some sort of “Librarians, they are really great!” press release around this time which often winds up in my various mailboxes by various sources. This year it’s this one: APNewsBreak: Librarians to help with health law. Which, hey great, librarians they’re still there doing their jobs. Good for them. The thing that is so weird about this, to me, is it’s basically implying though not outright stating that librarians will be doing this work 1. officially and 2. as part of some nationwide project. Neither is true as near as I can tell. I asked over at ALA Think Tank for people to give me an update on what was happening at ALA (at this program) which further confused me.
The only real fact we got from that article is that OCLC got an IMLS grant to create training materials to help librarians do this. Today I got this press release from Meredith (thank you!) that seems to say that OCLC got $286,000 from IMLS to create training content on WebJunction to help libraries help patrons with the new heath care law. And then, amusingly as I was driving from Massachusetts to Vermont trying to find a radio station, I heard some right wing talk show radio host who was MAD that librarians were going to have a part in the “indoctrination” by the “regime” that was doing the health care stuff. Sheesh.
In summary: librarians are still doing their jobs. OCLC/WebJunction are getting money to (maybe) help us to do them, lots of people get the wrong idea about libraries’ role in helping the people who have been digitally divided.
Karen Coyle has a new blog post detailing what Sky River’s specific allegations against OCLC are.
[O]ne could look on WorldCat as a shared community resource, not the property of OCLC. In fact, OCLC uses this kind of argument in its record use policy, but somehow leads to the conclusion that WorldCat should not be used to foster non-OCLC library services. It seems easy to make the opposite argument, which would be that WorldCat could be the basis for a wide range of services that would benefit libraries, even if they do not come from OCLC.
“In a move that could have far-reaching implications for competition in the library software and technology services industry, SkyRiver Technology Solutions, LLC has filed suit in federal court in San Francisco against OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. The suit alleges that OCLC, a purported non-profit with a membership of 72,000 libraries worldwide, is unlawfully monopolizing the markets for cataloging services, interlibrary lending, and bibliographic data, and attempting to monopolize the market for integrated library systems, by anticompetitive and exclusionary practices. ” Karen Coyle has a great series of posts explaining what is really going on
The article quotes Karen Coyle as saying
As the representative of a major ILS company explained to me a few years ago, the library market is a zero-sum game: every time one vendor wins, others must lose, because the number of customers is not growing. The library market is a pie that can be divided into any number of slices, but the pie remains the same. This makes the rise of any one company a threat to all. In the commercial marketplace, the vendors compete over functionality and price. With its non-profit status OCLC has a distinct advantage: it doesn’t pay federal income tax on the revenues it brings in. That said, given its size and depth of its involvement in day-to-day library operations, it is plausible that even without its non-profit status OCLC would be a formidable competitor for ILS vendors.
Interesting times indeed. Follow the conversation on Twitter by looking for the skyoclc tag or read posts to the autocat mailing list that mention SkyRiver and OCLC. [via openlibrary]
From LISNews: “Geek the Library is a community-based public awareness campaign designed to highlight the vital role of public libraries for individuals and communities, and raise awareness about the critical funding issues they (we) face.” What do you think about it?
my librarian friend : i’m waiting for you to weigh in on the new OCLC thing that looks pretty but i don’t get.
me : which? OCLC is so barely relevant to me
my librarian friend : ha! http://geekthelibrary.org/
me : did you know that George from Flickr [who was doing the commons stuff] is now running Open Library?
my librarian friend : i did not know that
me : if OCLC has so much money why aren’t they giving grants or donations to smaller libraries so they can truly be a union catalog?
me : that’s how I’d like them to show their support for the library community
my librarian friend : yeah but then they couldn’t sell things to those libraries in the future, silly.
me : “Igeekopen standards”
me : wow, I did not know about this though
my librarian friend : make a badge for your site.
me : is the Igeek thing supposed to be evocative of like iPod?
me : do they know they’re doin it wrong?
my librarian friend : dunno why they decidedtoerasespaces
me : man this is annoying. Slick site, very functional and still this is where BMGF decides to put their cash?
my librarian friend : yeah, i want to like it just because a library “org” actually put out a nice site, but…
my librarian friend : plus? lou reed
me : and geek isn’t a verb, I mean I know that’s pedantic but this is totally advocacy from the outside
my librarian friend : is lou reed the only famous face?
my librarian friend : if so, odd.
me : I assume he’s someone’s friend
me : and where are, you know the ACTUAL LIBRARIES on that site
me : srsly
me : it’s all about bypassing the institutions to get at the readers/users, sort of? awareness capaign of the future libraries while ignoring the current ones?
me : I mean it’s easy to poke fun at
my librarian friend : what i don’t understand is how people declaring their interests on this site will lead to support for libraries.
me : there’s a page that tells you to call your mayor
my librarian friend : yeah
me : I see some more famous people
me : and a survery which is more data for them
my librarian friend : for the next report!
me : yep
me : it’s really graphically appealing
There’s a quotation that I like that we bat around in activist circles a lot “Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” attributed to Margaret Mead. I like to apply this to some of my library struggles, saying that if I don’t point out things that I think are going wrong, who will? And that if I do make noise about things, maybe they will change. We’ve seen an example of this playing out over the past year with OCLCs new proposed policy and the pushback it received — starting small but gaining momentum — to the point where the general push of the old-new policy (OCLC retaining restrictive rights to records created by others) is off the table according to this post on LibraryThing. Good. Nice job team.
I have less of an opinion on OCLC entering the OPAC market because none of my libraries can afford them, still. I do believe that more sharing is a good thing, data monopolies are a bad thing, and murky policies that consolidate power anywhere other than “with the people” isn’t really solving a problem for libraries in general.
It’s time now for the library world to step back and consider what, if anything, they want to do about restricting library data in a fast-moving, digital world. Some, including some who’ve deplored OCLC’s process and the policy, want restrictions on how library data is distributed and used. Once monopoly and rapid, coerced adoption are off the table, that’s a debate worth having, and one with arguments on both sides.