Library Staff Differentiation

Dress code as seen at a London Club in the Soh...

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There’s a lot of change going on in the modern library. I’m not even talking about the shift to digital, attacks on fair use, or a host of other issues related to content. I’m talking about personnel. Professional librarians are shrinking in numbers and have been for years. But it hasn’t been a total loss as the occasional gap is filled by non-professional librarians. So now our libraries are increasingly staffed by a hybrid of professional and non-professional workers who get equal face time with the public. What’s more, dress codes, if they exist, are becoming more and more lax over time. Don’t be mistaken, I’m all in favor of not having dress codes. But my ultimate question is this: Given the above-mentioned trends, how do libraries (I’m talking all libraries) handle differentiating staff from non-staff and professional staff from non-professional staff? Is there a need for such differentiation? Perhaps your library recently started using name tags with titles on them; have you noticed any change? Perhaps your reference desk just updated its signage or completely changed its orientation; again, any noticeable change in user relations, for good or bad? I think you get the gist. Your comments and insights are appreciated.

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An eBook User’s Bill of Rights

*The following bill of rights comes courtesy of the Librarian in Black.

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights is a statement of the basic freedoms that should be granted to all eBook users.

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights

Every eBook user should have the following rights:

  • the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
  • the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
  • the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
  • the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks

I believe in the free market of information and ideas.

I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.

Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.

I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.

I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks.  I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users’ rights.

These rights are yours.  Now it is your turn to take a stand.  To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others.  Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.

To the extent possible under law, the person who associated CC0 with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work

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The Ideal Future – One Step at a Time

I always find what Syracuse professor Dave Lankes has to say quite thought provoking. In the above video Lankes dismisses the idea of there being one future for libraries. Instead he proposes taking steps to reach an ideal future for libraries. With that in mind, what step or steps can be taken now in light of the Harper Collins (HC) decision on circulation limits? Should libraries cease further purchases from HC in hopes of negotiating better terms? Should libraries boycott all DRM-restricted e-books? Should libraries be licensing e-books at all or simply working with other organizations to provide access channels? The question of how libraries and e-books mingle is likely to dominate the conversation for at least the next few years. Perhaps a more proactive, less reactive, approach is necessary.

Here’s some more reading on the Harper Collins/Overdrive debate:

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Libraries and eBooks: the Way Forward

A Picture of a eBook

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The most recent battle in the e-book wars manifested as Harper Collins imposing a 26-circulation limit on Overdrive, the primary vendor of library e-books. But this is just the latest in a number of moves that attempts to treat digital and physical books as equals. But if digital and physical books were essentially the same, would anybody care? The power of digital books rests in the following:

  • Instant Access
  • Accessible from Anywhere
  • Search, Annotation, Hyperlinking
  • Cost

The first item is perhaps the most powerful and alluring. Nobody should have to wait in line for an e-book, as is currently the norm. This system doesn’t benefit users, publishers or authors. So how can we allow e-book lending on such a massive scale while still honoring content creators? Could libraries pay authors and publishers under a pay-per-access model? Under that or a similar model, how would DRM be handled? Is DRM necessary under such a model?

What Harper Collins is doing in limiting digital circulations is raising prices, pure and simple. There are no definitive statistics that say physical books poop out after 26 circulations. And if Harper Collins wants to raise prices, why not do it in a way that makes sense and builds relationships with libraries. Also, why is it currently not possible to return a digital book before the 2-3 week lending period often observed by libraries? If someone borrows an e-book and finishes it in 2 days, that person should be able to easily “return” the e-book to the library. Why are digital solutions for universities and other academic institutions still nonexistent? Amazon just added page numbers.

There are creative solutions to dealing with the growth of e-books. Very few of them revolve around the publishing world we’ve known for centuries. Both publishers and libraries should stop looking to the past for justifications as to why things should stay the way they are. The future is now.

There’s a ton to read on this topic right now. The articles below are all good places to start and will easily lead you further down the rabbit hole. Twitter users can follow these proceedings with the hashtag #hcod.

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Save Our Libraries Day

Save our LibrariesToday is Save Our Libraries Day. No library is safe from budget cuts or branch closures these days. In the UK alone, some 450 libraries are on the chopping block. In California, which has some of the lowest reading scores in the U.S., the new governor has threatened to cut all state funding to public libraries. These cuts and closures are happening as libraries all over the world are seeing more and more people pour through their doors due to the recession. Politicians like to talk about investing in education and re-educating the public for careers in new or changing industries. But at the end of the day college tuition continues to skyrocket while sources of low-cost training and professional development (community colleges and libraries) remain easy pickings come budget time.

There are a number of things you can do today to support your local library. Send a brief message of support on Twitter using the (#savelibraries) hashtag. UK dwellers can visit the National Save Libraries Facebook Event for today’s listings. There’s another Facebook page for Californians that includes relevant information for contacting local officials. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) has great resources including a ‘sliding scale of spare time’ for getting involved. If you are unaware of the situation involving your local library, contact them to find out how you can help. And let your governing officials know that the free availability and exchange of ideas should not be up for debate.

For a great history of public libraries, grab a cup of coffee or tea and read this piece from Nick Moore of Acumen Research and Consultancy Ltd.

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Still Uninformed on Wikileaks?

Logo used by Wikileaks

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The recent issue of Wikileaks is complex enough without considering the myriad of other actors that have come to be involved. The federal government, credit card companies, social networking sites, media outlets and beyond have all been somehow ensnared in the leaking of once classified documents. I have not been ignoring Wikileaks since the organization began releasing cables, but I have not delved into the issue either. Where does one begin? My approach thus far has been to continue sifting through chosen and respected news sources in hopes of coming across the answers to my many and varied questions. But as several aspects of the Wikileaks story have no precedent, definitive answers are hard to find.

The following video presents part of a panel discussion featuring experts from various sectors, or with experience, related to the Wikileaks phenomenon. This particular segment features Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame discussing the Obama administration’s approach towards whistleblowers. It has proven to be a great and thorough introduction to the Wikileaks topic.

Though the full program is close to two hours in length, I highly recommend it. The issues involved are more than worth that much of your time.

What sources have you found enlightening or invaluable on this topic, from any perspective, or in any medium?

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Research Habits of College Students

On November 1st, 2010, Project Information Literacy (PIL) released a progress report on the approach of college students towards information in the digital age. I finally got around to reading the report and wanted to share some of the findings that stood out to me. If you’re interested in information literacy at the college level or it’s repercussions on society I encourage reading the full report (PDF).

The PIL study surveyed over 8,000 college students from 25 colleges and universities across the U.S. The percentage of respondents who stated using librarians as a source for course-related research was 30%, compared with 47% in the 2009 report. While this statistic is not surprising, it is no less disappointing. The most difficult portions of the research process were found to be defining and narrowing down a topic and filtering through information resources. Why is there such a disconnect between students with information needs and the information professionals at their disposal? The report published numerous quotes, among them the following:

None of the old timers – the old professors – can really give us much advice on sorting through and evaluating resources. I think we’re kind of one of the first generations to have too much information, as opposed to too little. We’ve never had instruction really on navigating the Internet and picking out good resources.

-Engineering student in a follow-up interview

One suggestion put forth in the report is to have academic librarians draft a research rubric, one that could potentially be incorporated into future grading practices. I’d love to hear from academic librarians familiar with the above statistics and attempts they’ve made to increase awareness.

Perhaps the most troubling statistic found in the report is what students listed as most important during course-related research:

  1. Passing the course (99%)
  2. Finishing the assignment (97%)
  3. Getting a good grade (97%)

Further down the totem pole were things like learning something new (78%), improving analytical skills (69%), and having a chance to be creative (55%). What values are most desirable in the workplace and how do they correlate to this list? What are we preparing kids for?


Head, A. J., & Eisenberg, M. B. (2010). Truth be told: how college students evaluate and use information in the digital age. Project Information Literacy Progress Report (pp. 1-72). University of Washington’s Information School. Retrieved from

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