Shiny Toys or Useful Tools? Wikis and Blogs

Walt Crawford’s new version of Cites & Insights contains the freestanding article version (pdf) of the talk he gave at the OLA Superconference that I thought was so useful. Lots of good charts and graphs and stats about the world of library blogs and library bloggers. Interesting reading no matter what your familiarity is with either of these tools.

Blogs and wikis aren’t shiny new toys for libraries and librarians any more. They’ve moved from toys to tools. As with most tools, they’re not magic, they’re not right for everything or everybody, but they can be powerfully effective in many situations.

Balanced Libraries, a new title by Walt Crawford

Mazel tov to Walt Crawford on the publication of his new book Balanced Libraries. Walt published this book via Lulu Press and has devoted some space in his most recent issue of Cites and Insights to discussing how the Lulu Experience worked for him.

I’ve spent some of the last week going back and forth with editors of various things I’ve written. In one case an article I’d written had a blurb that I felt totally missed the point of my article, and in another case the changing of an ellipsis to a period made the last paragraph of a book introduction I wrote come across in a way I hadn’t intended. I decided not to continue co-editing a column for Serials Review because the sheer amount of process involved in communicating with Elsevier — making sure each web-page citation was in proper CMS style, getting a ton of automated email, most of which I was directed to ignore — wasn’t worth it for me. Every time, I was working with great editors, but there is only so much they can do between the time an article is written and the time it appears in print. No one enjoys being edited, but I think for most of us it’s the cost of doing business.

Between Walt’s Lulu experience and the books that Rory has been putting out as part of Library Juice Press — which I shamefully confess to having received and not yet had time to read but man do they look lovely — there are now alternatives to the slow intractable schedules and my-way-or-the-highway agreements that print publication has given us. Granted, these may not be legitimate in the eyes of tenure-granters, but not all of us are looking for tenure nowadays. I wish this shift were giving more of us bargaining power with existing print publishers, or changing the way they do business somewhat, but my feeling is that it will.

RLG + OCLC = ???

Will Walt Crawford start blogging for It’s All Good? We can only think about whether that would be a consequences of the pending OCLC and RLG merger. Here is OCLC’s press release. Here is RLGs press release (note, they are the same). I’ll link to RLG’s version when I can find it, or when they write one.

According to the release, the current president of RLG, James Michalko, will get a new job title: “Vice President of RLG-Programs Development, working under the leadership of Lorcan Dempsey, Vice President of Research and OCLC Chief Strategist” The press release also notes that “Any change in RLG service offerings will be announced well in advance.” and doesn’t mention what will happen to OCLCs service offerings, presumably nothing. The press release uses nice words like “combine” a lot, an awful lot actually, but when I think of combinations, I think of how you mix butter and sugar to make something that is part both and part neither. This seems to be the sort of combination where you mix sugar and water and what you wind up with is water, sweetened. It will be interesting to see how this works out. [web4lib]

Copyright, licensing, the government and you

Walt Crawford has a long piece in the latest Cites & Insights about the Creative Commons Non-Commercial license, responding to some online arguments against them by the Free Content community (Walt’s capitalization creates a useful distinction) including Wikipedia. My approach to the NC designation which I also use on this site, is philosophically much the same as Walt’s. If you’re using my content as a primary method of making money for yourself, please cut me in on it. If you’re not, then go ahead and use what you’d like. Letting me know is always appreciated.

This specific designation on this blog has come into play three times that I can recall.

  1. The New York Times magazine reprinted a text version of my Five Technically Legal Signs for Your Library, only they changed five to three and changed some of the wording and credited the material incorrectly. I wrote them a pointed email outlining this and highlighting the site license, and they allowed me a heavily edited response in the letters section of the next issue.
  2. When a Wikipedia editor wrote an article about me, I was asked if I would offer my “The FBI Has Not Been Here” sign as an illustration. This seemed to be preferable to some dorky picture of me, so I agreed. They needed me to remove the license from that image in order to have it be available on Wikipedia which is a Free Content site — meaning that you can use any image in Wikipedia for any puspose at all. Remember the people who own the content and dictate the terms of the license can negotiate other deals for their own content, the license is just a shortcut for people who want to know “what can I do with this content without even asking?”
  3. When TechSoup asked to reprint an article of mine on safety and security issues for public access PCs that had originally appeared on WebJunction, they asked if I wouldn’t mind putting a CC license on the content so that it could be reprinted by other nonprofits which seemed fine to me. We had a little back and forth about how much editing the reprinted article would go through. The fact that I had licensed the content made it a little easier to have the content presented the way I wanted it to be presented and I’m happy with the result.

This luxury assumes of course that you own the content to begin with, and that you know you own it. As we move into the shiny world of user-created content in the form of blogs, podcasts, collaborative online projects and ephemeral notations (do you own the comments you put on someone else’s blog?) this will get more complicated before it gets simpler. For another copright consideration to sink your teeth into, K. Matthew Danes has put together a long easy-to-read piece on what copying means in a library context including a deep look at Section 108 which governs copying by libraries. Read and learn.

investigating the biblioblogosphere

Very fascinating article and research by Walt about library blogs. Instead of pullquotes and links, he crunches some (admittedly somewhat subjectively chosen) numbers to line up 60 library blogs in some semblance of order. Don’t like his conclusions? You can download his data and fiddle with it yourself. Which reminds me, I need to get my mission statement back on this page. Fiona notes: we need tools, and fast and puts out a call for more non-USian bloggers.