Category Archives: Other blogs

Publishers, Green OA & Institutional vs Subject Repositories

Back in November, I was among the many authors to receive an email from Emerald Group Publishing, touting the publisher’s “commitment to protecting your work,” and announcing their use of the Attributor service to track down “unauthorized copies” of “my” (really more  theirs, now, as I only retain some limited rights) work and issue “legally-binding takedown notices.” Emerald asked for my cooperation by providing my personal/institutional/corporate web addresses (presumably for exclusion from the search).

This was much discussed in the blogosphere while I was busy getting a concussion: see Dorothea Salo (multiple posts), and Charles W Bailey if you need the rundown.  Basically, Emerald decided to use this weird Attributor software that was intended for mass-media use in order to try to clamp down on free-roaming e-copies of their articles. This, while unpalatable to some, is technically their right. Then I guess they decided that they could spin this in a way that would appeal to academics, and sent out that strange email that had some reeling and others just ignoring.

Among the questions in response were: Will anything bad happen if I don’t reply with my URLs? Will anything bad happen if I do? Why are they calling it *my* copyright, when they took it from me? Am I going to get in trouble for self-archiving in my subject repository, since they didn’t ask for those URLs? Should I send them URLs of other places (e.g. course websites, subject repositories) the article is posted, to try to get those excluded from the search since I’m okay with them, or is that just asking for trouble? I’m not sure when the response rate to the Emerald Attributor email was, but I’d guess it was low due to a combination of people being unsure of what it meant and people feeling like it was unnecessary spamminess regarding articles from projects that were long ago “closed out” as far as the authors were concerned.

At the time, I wondered if the omission of subject repositories (e.g., PubMed Central, RePEC, E-LIS) on Emerald’s list of URLs to collect was an oversight. Emerald is, after all, a RoMEO “green” publisher with no embargo period, who states outright, “We do not restrict authors’ rights to re-use their own work.” I haven’t personally published with Emerald in a few years now, but when I did, my friendly editor didn’t seem to balk at my hand-scrawled confirmation of my understanding of my self-archiving rights on the copyright transfer form.

However, about a month later I was advising some authors in copyright negotiation with Elsevier, in which an editor refused to allow archiving in a subject repository (e.g., PubMed Central) without a specific deal between a mandating funding body and the publisher. I was therefore forced to conclude that I was just naive in my reaction to Emerald’s apparent distinction about archiving location and there is some publisher strategy afoot that is accepting deposit in IRs yet creating barriers to use of subject-based repositories.

This is a troubling distinction in my eyes. I work in health research in Canada and our funders are so relatively small (compared with the US NIH) that our needs are often overlooked/left out of publisher policies and deals. Not allowing our authors to archive their articles in PubMedCentral Canada may inhibit discovery of their works, as (unlike items in our IR) PMC Canada articles should be discoverable via any PMC portal. It’s also a potential blow to smaller genre subject repositories that are unlikely to be included in such deals. Further, these distinctions make archiving yet more complicated for researcher/authors to navigate (perhaps this is the point).

In this example, the Elsevier editor pointed to the CIHR policy (which applied to the authors and was used as their rationale for wanting PMC Canada deposit). This policy, however, was written before PMC Canada was up & running and thus does not absolutely require deposit there. Elsevier – among other publishers – seems well aware of what they can get away with, and where. Had this been an NIH-funded project, it would be deposited in PMC. I hope CIHR clarifies their intentions regarding deposit location with a policy revision soon, because the “preference” for PMC Canada does not provide authors with the necessary leverage to convince publishers that they must deposit there, instead of only in their IR.

-Greyson

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Filed under copyright, funding, OA, Other blogs, publishing

Net neutrality & tiered pricing structures

It’s come to my attention that AWMarco at Team Awesome wrote about the recent Harpham and Greyson net neutrality articles in Feliciter (<– pdf warning) and seems to think that I conflate the issues of data packet neutrality and access to unlimited bandwidth in my article.  I don’t agree that I conflated those issues in my article, although I concede the AWMarco and I may have different definitions of “throttling” and I should have clearly defined the term in my article.

I stand by my statement that a neutral net is both content- and protocol-agnostic. I do not agree that being protocol-agnostic necessarily means letting one high-bandwidth user eat up your entire network. I pay my ISP for a certain mb/s speed and a certain GB/month data limit per month, and I do not expect that my use will be tampered with as long as I stay within the limits of my subscription – no matter what (legal) content I access or publish, and no matter what protocols I may use. If my ISP has oversold their capabilities it is on them to increase capacity otherwise come clean with customers.

I do, however, think the issues of content neutrality and tiered pricing for different levels of service are commonly conflated. Given that I actually found the above blog post while writing a long email to someone just last week about how tiered pricing structures are not the same thing as net neutrality, I figured I ought to set the record straight by repurposing some of those emailed words for the blog.

Here’s the thing:

Some people do include tiered pricing (paying more for faster access/more bandwidth) under the umbrella of “non neutrality.” I do not, and to my knowledge my library associations have not either. Rather, we have focused on differential treatment of types of info or protocols. I recommend staying with this tighter definition, and not getting into the area of tiered pricing for speed.

While tiered pricing is not equitable, it does not (IMO) violate the
principle of network neutrality, which I define as a network that is
neutral to the info sent over it, in accordance with common carriage.
To extend a metaphor, I can send you a book via air mail instead of surface mail and get it there faster if I pay Canada Post more $, but it’s not okay for Canada Post charge me more $ for sending a book of political propaganda than a book of fairy tales (or a French book more than an English book) sent via the same mode.

Canada Post should not treat my package differently based on what is inside. The fact that some people cannot afford express air mail prices, while inequitable, is a different issue than slowing down mail because you don’t like what’s inside.

It’s a little tricky, in terms of semantics, because sometimes you do hear people use “tiered pricing” in terms of access to portions of the Internet — in a non-neutral net an ISP might hypothetically charge end-users a premium for non-throttled or non-blocked access to the Internet. But mostly when you hear “tiered pricing” you think paying more for faster Internet access, which is pretty much the norm right now, and not usually included in the net neutrality basket.

I know that excessive prices for decent bandwidth can be a library issue, certainly.  That’s why we have the CAP program, much like library book rate with Canada Post. However, when we’re talking about neutrality, I think we should steer clear of talking about tiered pricing for speed, and focus on content/protocol neutrality at every access level.

-Greyson

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Filed under net neutrality, Other blogs, technology

Internet Linking is Analogous to Citation

Everyone with whom I have discussed the issue of Internet linking agrees that Internet hyperlinks are a form of citation. But the subset of the population with whom I discuss these issues is not representative of the entire world, clearly. There are 2 schools of thought that I’ve encountered thus far that substantially differ from the above:

  1. The folks who think you need to obtain permission to link to another website, and
  2. The folks who think the author/owner/host/ISP of a webpage are responsible for any content accessible via hyperlinks on that site.

Neither one of these perspectives makes a whit of sense to me, seeing as I conceive of hyperlinks as akin to footnotes or citations, not republication of the material to which the link directs. Republication would be copying content on one webpage and posting it (in a manner beyond that permitted by fair dealing/fair use) on another page.

Because I can’t really understand how a hyperlink could actually be considered republication rather than citation, I am dumbfounded by people who adhere to – and sometimes threaten legal action in accordance with – either of the above two viewpoints. I actually find myself a bit stymied when pressed to defend my stance that hyperlinking is citation, because the alternative is so ludicrous in my mind. I need to work on this, which is why I’m posting this here.

1. Permission to Link

I have encountered a few individuals who have adamantly insisted that their websites were their property and thus they had the rights to dis/allow linking to their web content. I have actually been threatened with legal action from a blogger (with a PhD – which led me to expect that she’d at least be able to research the actual law) who insisted that I not link to her weblog from a password-protected site, which I found incredible! (In this specific case, although I knew she didn’t have a legal leg to stand on, I removed the link because I liked her writing and didn’t really want to make her mad, and also because I didn’t want to sink energy into a fight, but stopped following her blog lest I accidentally post a link she didn’t approve again.)

Apparently U.S. Judge Richard Posner also did or does think that permission to link to a webpage should be the law. In this blog post from last year, he states that:

Expanding copyright law to bar online access to copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, or to bar linking to or paraphrasing copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, might be necessary

in order to save the newspaper industry (from the competition of free news aggregation sites). While I have great sympathy for the difficult times the newspaper industry is experiencing in this era of digitization, the above suggested curtailing of fair use/fair dealing is appalling.

My understanding is that nothing has been legally established in Canada about permission-to-link, but in the U.S. there is a bit of case law establishing that (in the absence of other factors such as defamation or violation of – in Canada – moral rights) as BitLaw states,

“there would appear to be no legal means for preventing someone from including a link in one page to another”

2. Liability of Link-maker

SO, the Supreme Court of Canada has apparently agreed to hear Wayne Crookes’ appeal of a 2008 BC ruling (an appeal that was dismissed from BC Supreme Court) that linking to websites that contain allegedly defamatory material is not in and of itself defamation. Vancouver-based Crookes has sued a bagload of folk for libel based not on things they wrote on their websites but on thinks written on sites they linked to, or sites those sites linked to.

Whoa. Similar to how ISPs should not be responsible for the content of their customers, web authors should not be held responsible for the content on pages they link to! Citing something, in traditional publication, is hardly the same thing as agreeing with it, let alone authoring it. Hyperlinking is like citing – a pointer, a reference.Hyperlinking is not – as I think I clearly distinguished above – republication of content.

Hopefully the Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear this in order to set precedent (in accordance with the BC courts decisions) and thus stop the free-expression chill that such SLAPPs create. The alternative is just too ludicrous, right?

Right?

-Greyson

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Filed under censorship, copyright, digitization, Intellectual freedom, Internet, IP, Other blogs, publishing

Academic librarians and research: a response

Before you read this post, go here and read Mark Rabnett’s blog post, ““For academic librarians what’s hard to reach is time for research.”

I started leaving a comment there, but soon realised that my comment was likely to challenge the original post in length. Thus, I figured I’d just post a response here and link back. What follows is my more fullsome response to Mark’s post. Feel free to join the conversation either in comments below, or on your own blog, linking back.

Mark, since I first read this post, it has kept coming back to the front of my mind. Very timely.

As you probably know, I don’t have faculty status, in my unconventional, embedded-librarian job. Ironically one of my hesitations when I consider applying for other, more traditional academic library type positions, is that I know that in order to obtain faculty status I will likely lose the research time I currently enjoy.

You really hit the faculty-status-but-not-really-faculty nail on the head when you point to the conflicting expectations on academic librarians to keep specific hours, far beyond what other faculty are obliged to do, like office staff, yet also produce independent research (some types of which necessarily take one out of the office).

I’m sure the degree of autonomy varies greatly among libraries, and perhaps even among individuals at the same library system, of course. I wonder, though, how many academic librarians have as few time-bound duties as a typical “teaching” faculty member (i.e. regular office hours, regular class times, but beyond that whatever you need to get the job done goes).

I would add to your post a degree of despair at the quality and amount of actual research training and experience I have seen library school and library jobs naturally providing. If we are to be a more evidence-based profession, the quality of research training and mentorship really must improve. In my opinion, that – not more workplace policies to look over our shoulders – is what will improve librarians’ research.

I’m sure you are aware of this, but Manitoba’s policy of 12 “research days” seems generous compared with many university libraries. I recently asked a high-level administrator from a university library acclaimed for reinventing their librarian jobs where research fell in the scheme of things (since conducting research was not apparent in the new job descriptions). Said administrator told me that while it was a critical part of T&P, librarians’ research would typically be conducted outside a normal 40-hour work week. She likened this to academic faculty who are not limited to a 40 hour work week, but as you point out these academic faculty do not typically have a prescribed 40-hour week at all.

I know there are librarians who do not want strict requirements to do research, and do not think it’s necessary to conduct research in order to be a good academic librarian. My own experience has been that unless I do research, faculty certainly do not see me as a peer, and that collaborating on research has helped me create valuable relationships with faculty members.

As far as academic freedom is concerned, apparently this is not just a Canadian issue, as John Buschman has just published an article on this very topic – the watering down of academic freedom for academic librarians – in the AAUP’s “Academe Online: (link here – which I should say I only know about from a tip on the Library Juice Press blog).

-Greyson

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Filed under academic libraries, Blogroll, Other blogs, publishing, The Profession

OLPC Give 1 Get 1 for 2008 launches Nov 17

Tipped off by the Digital Copyright Canada blog, I heard that the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project is gearing up to launch another “Give 1 Get 1” (G1G1) campaign.

This is awesome, and I think I know a number of folks who were considering getting computers for young people for the holidays and might buy in to this project. I have certainly spoken with a number of people who were disappointed they couldn’t participate in G1G1 earlier in 2008.  It’s a nice way to get an inexpensive general-use laptop, promote OSS, and make a donation all in one. And if the “get one” laptop is a gift for a young person in your life, it’s a great teaching moment about the value of openness, building the practice of making donations into your life, and the issue of the global digital divide.

Official word is:
“One Laptop per Child is launching its second ”Give 1, Get 1” [G1G1]
program starting November 17, 2008, following last year’s popular
program which received donations from over 80,000 people.  This year
the XO laptops will be shipped to donors through Amazon.com.

The laptops feature the latest release of the Sugar window manager, running
on a Linux-based Fedora Core operating system.  For answers to frequently
asked questions, and for other XO giving programs, see the OLPC wiki.

More on G1G1 2008:  http://wiki.laptop.org/go/G1G1_2008
More about the XO:  http://laptop.org/en/laptop/&#8221;

OLPC is setting up a storefront on Amazon.com.  Giving a laptop to a child in the developing world will be $199 this year, and G1G1 (giving a laptop to a child and getting one of your own) will be $399.

I’ve seen a few librarians with the XO laptops at conferences and thought what an awesome solution it is – for those who don’t want to risk damage or confiscation of their regular laptop while travelling.

I’d think about doing G1G1 myself, but it appears that G1G1 will only be available to US residents this year.  Hopefully by the time the hand-me-down computer my son uses crashes and burns, G1G1 will be available to us Canucks too.

Now that my mind has started spinning, I am starting to think of all kinds of ways to take advantage of G1G1 here, such as a campaign to donate the “get one” computers as well, to domestic under-resourced communities, class or school fundraising to both get computers for the school and to donate to the program…anyway, pass the word!  G1G1 is back!

-Greyson

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Filed under globalization, inclusion/exclusion, OSS, Other blogs, technology, youth

YouTube videos on CanWest info issues

I don’t have a television, but I do love to watch stuff on my computer.  Back in the last millenium, when I did have a TV, I didn’t have cable anyway, so I am easily impressed with the amazing diversity of media to which I have access via the Internet.

As you may have noticed from previous blog posts, I am a fan of YouTube and similar video sharing sites. I love them.  I love just searching for a video to explain science concepts that we can’t demo in our kitchen (like that whole beluga whale tail-first-birth so it doesn’t drown thing- so cool!) to the kid. I really appreciate being able to watch various political debates (back in 2000 I couldn’t watch the US presidential debates b/c I couldn’t find anywhere with a TV to watch them), or just see someone’s version of the highlights if I don’t really want to watch the whole thing. I admit ot using short online videos in my teaching quite frequently.

And I absolutely adore the way people are using this medium for activism.

Of course there’s the best ever super simple explaination of net neutrality from the Save the Internet coalition. (Old news in web-time, I know, but still relevant.) Just this week, however, two different new activist videos about CanWest came through my inboxes. Since I’ve been struggling to demonstrate the ironic connection between CanWest’s attempts to muzzle others’ free expression and the company’s fight to be allowed the “free expression” to sell ad airtime to drug companies, I thought I’d highlight both new videos here.

1)Media Blackout: CanWest Global Attacks Drug Ad Laws

This came to me via a colleague’s email. Rob Wipond connects ad revenue in our corporate media with the role of the media as our major source of health information (and historic firings of journalists who deviated from media/advertiser party lines). Not content to merely point out the misleading nature and accompanying health risks of drug advertising, he calls out drug industry-funded health advocacy groups.

2) Canwest Media Bully

I saw this one in my RSS feed from the We Read Banned Books blog.  WorkingTV covers and explains the “SLAPP” lawsuit over the Vancouver Sun parody printed June 2007, making connnections between media concentration and lack of tolerance for diversity of viewpoints.

Tara over at We Read Banned Books commented:

I’m excited to see old school activists start to social media effectively.  This video feels especially appropriate as they are standing up to a mainstream media conglomerate, like CanWest and the Vancouver Sun.  I think this video has much broader appeal than a didactic pamphlet written in Times New Roman 10 point font.  My only critique is the seriously corny folk song at the end

I couldn’t agree more (sorry David Rovics – I am quite fond of you, personally). While neither of these  videos is as slick as the net neutrality clip linked above, they are FAR more engaging than a flyer handed to me on a street corner, another mass email sitting in my inbox, or a speaker that I probably can’t go to see because I can’t get childcare for yet another meeting. And I’m one of the old skool print media lovers, right? (see: no TV)

Call me dumbed-down if you wish, but keep on making these engaging videos!  I love them!

-Greyson

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Filed under censorship, digitization, Health, Intellectual freedom, media democracy, net neutrality, Other blogs, publishing, technology, tips and tools

DOAJ: Continued Growth (plus a Creative Commons bonus)

Over at the Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, librarian Heather Morrison has been tracking the Dramatic Growth of Open Access over the past couple of years in a series of blog posts.

On Friday, Morrison noted that the growth rate of the DOAJ (directory of open access journals) has almost doubled in the past year. She writes:

This simple chart illustrates the near doubling of the growth rate of the Directory of Open Access Journals from 2007 to 2008, from an average of more than 1.2 new title per calendar day, to an average of 2.2 new titles per calendar day.

H Morrisons illustration of the DOAJs growth 2007-2008

As further illustration of the growth rate of DOAJ: as of today, DOAJ includes 3,587 journals , and has added 63 new titles in the last 30 days, more than 2 new titles per day (and it’s August!). Since September 30, 2007, DOAJ has grown from 2,846 titles, an increase of 741 titles in 11 months, or 330 days at 30 days/month, for an average net growth of 2.2 titles per day. In the September 30, 2007 Dramatic Growth of Open Access update, I noted a growth rate of 1.2 titles / day for DOAJ over the previous year.

Now, if you’re like me and need a visual aid to understand the rate of growth in absolute number of titles versus rate of new titles, check out this chart I tossed together from Heather’s data:

Amended chart of DOAJ growth 2007-2008

This post is here not only to call attention to the “Dramatic Growth of Open Access,” but also to assist in illustrating the use of Creative Commons licensed content. The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics is published under a CC Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Canada license, meaning I can reuse IJPE content and make derivative works as long as it’s not for profit and I use a similar license.

As noted on our About page, SJL is published under the similar, although not identical Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license.

-Greyson

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Filed under copyright, IP, OA, Other blogs, publishing, tips and tools, Uncategorized

Free Speech and Patron Privacy are Corequisites for Intellectual Freedom

The book

So you’ve probably heard about this library assistant (Sally Stern-Hamilton, aka Ann Miketa) in small-town Michigan (Luddington) who wrote a fiction book (“Library Diaries”) based upon her accounts of library patrons, and published it under her maiden surname at a vanity press. The book doesn’t sound all that original or like it’s anything that should garner international attention. However, the scandal that has ensured over the book has brought the book, author, and little town in the Midwestern US, into the spotlight.

n.b. I was hesitant to write about this kerfuffle at first, as I think the attention only serves the author’s book sales and it’s not a book I personally care to promote, but on balance I decided that discussion of the issues of free speech and privacy that underlie the news are worth it.

The disciplinary action

After the book came out, the author was suspended from her job, with a letter that stated, (presumably among other things):

“The cover of your book includes a picture of the Ludington Library. Each chapter is devoted to a specific library patron or patrons. Your book portrays these people in a very unflattering manner. You describe individual patrons as mentally ill, mentally incompetent, unintelligent, and unattractive. You label several as ‘perverts.’ While you stop short of naming the individuals you targeted in your book, your detailed descriptions of their unique characteristics and mannerisms make them easily identifiable in our small community.”

The author response

The author has gone public, with such statements as,

The absolute irony is that the public library is a pillar of free speech and leads me to wonder why the administration is so upset.”

It should be noted that at the same time, this author is railing against

instances of known sex offenders using library computers to view pornography.

indicating that she perhaps disagrees with the notion that the library should be “a pillar of free speech” at all. Or maybe she thinks intellectual freedom can be a one-way street, push-only, and not inclusive of access to informationHold that thought.

The public response

Varies greatly.

Local newspaper comments calling the author a “loose cannon” and saying that the book’s characters are easily identifiable community members, are mixed in with someone who thinks there is a Muslim running for President of the US.

Conservative viewpoints are defending the author’s whistleblowing about libraries giving sex offenders access to the Internet, in the name of protecting our children.

The Annoyed Librarian theorized that the author was fired not for betraying patron privacy but for criticizing her superiors.

The issues

Leaving aside questions of literary merit, this situation highlights some oft-confused aspects of free expression and intellectual freedom: namely that free speech is but one element of intellectual freedom, and that library organizations – for instance the ALA – tend to try to strike a balance between privacy, access and free expression in order to promote the package we call Intellectual Freedom.

Patron privacy and confidentiality is an essential element of ensuring access to information. Privacy is as essential as anti-censorship in assuring intellectual freedom. (Hmm…why hasn’t a “Privacy Week” caught on the same way as “Banned Books Week” or “Freedom to Read Week”? I would say something about USA PATRIOT but this really goes back much farther than that…something for me to ponder)

If a library user fears ridicule, exposure or public humiliation due to his question, mannerisms, health history, or criminal record, that patron is not actually being provided with the access to information we hold. The beginning of that ALA Library Bill of Rights reads:

Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves.

It later states that:

Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

clearly indicating that resistance of censorship, and promotion of free expression, are one facet of the great goal of providing access to information (and nirvana).

By threatening patron privacy – be it by complying with a warrentless library search,  or by writing a thinly veiled exposé of the “perverts” in your library, a library worker is eroding intellectual freedom, no matter how loudly she may insist that the privacy threat was made in the name of “free speech” (or national security, “for the children,” etc.).

The “Library Diaries” author has posted an online rant:

“Whats going on in this world? I have not been able to find one lawyer to make a First Amendment (Freedom of Speech, Press) case or even a whistleblower case.”

I suspect this is because the lawyers she has consulted have a stronger grasp on the concept of free speech than she does. In addition to free speech being one part of the intellectual freedom balancing act in the information world, there are legal limits on free speech as well. Defamation (for example libel, which may or may not have occurred in this book) is a legal restriction on freedom of speech in the US.

Many professional codes of ethics restrict professionals’ free speech, but this is not a constitutional violation because employment in that field is voluntary. Would a doctor being fired from a hospital after publishing thinly veiled accounts of her patients’ weird and embarrassing health issues cry “free speech”? I suppose she could try, but I doubt she would she get as much support as this library worker is getting.

Lori Basiewicz has written an interesting and useful USAmerican take on what free speech and censorship are and are not. Basiewicz blogs that while it is possible that the author may find a lawyer to take on a wrongful termination suit (depending on what the exact reasons for her termination were), the library has done nothing to prevent publication or dissemination of the book (which could be considered censorship, although probably would not technically infringe on the author’s First Amendment right to free speech), and her claims that the book is fiction make the whistleblower argument pretty weak. I tend to agree.

The Profession

Some of this muddle relates to our confusion as to the role of libraries. Are library workers trusted professionals or information waitresses? Is our job to check books in and out, or is it to build and protect free information infrastructure for the public? The profession cannot fully resolve these questions internally, so it should come as little surprise that the public doesn’t know how to regard us either.

You don’t have to be a MLIS-type librarian to run a library, and you don’t have to believe in the ALA Code of Ethics to be a librarian. Library assistants and other “para-professional” or non-MLIS library staff are integrated and accepted in a very spotty manner, into the ALA-type library world. These are core professional issue that we seem thus far to have been unable to resolve, despite being a fairly ancient profession.

That said, the ALA Code of Ethics is generally seen as setting best practices and standards for libraries in the US, and it seems pretty clearly violated by the book at the centre of this current storm. The first three items are clear enough:

· We provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests.

· We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.

· We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.

that it seems almost unnecessary for me to also add in item #6:

· We do not advance private interests at the expense of library users, colleagues, or our employing institutions.

So…

For me the question is one of our profession and coordinated messages. Maybe the author involved in this brouhaha knew she would likely get fired for the book, and didn’t care. Maybe she saw her mission to expose the “characters you never dreamt were housed at your public library” as important enough to risk the job. If so, that’s her choice to make (much as some might wish she would not make it), and all choices in life have consequences. However, if she is really as uninformed about free speech and the library’s role as she appears in the sound bytes, I have a concern about our profession.

After working in a library for 15 years one would expect a better grasp of the concept of intellectual freedom. Some might argue that she was “only” a library assistant, but that’s who most of the public has the most interaction with, in many libraries – it is essential that such library workers are educated in core professional ethics. We need to act on two things if we want to reduce such confusion:

  1. Hit more clearly on our core value messages; make sure all library workers understand and can teach the public what intellectual freedom is, and
  2. Better integrate non-MLIS library workers into our professional organizations

– Greyson

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Filed under censorship, Intellectual freedom, LIS education, Other blogs, privacy, public libraries, The Profession

The Vancouver Sun parody & SLAPP

When I moved to Canada, I was shocked to learn that parody is not a specially protected form of speech here. It is in the US, and I like to think I made pretty good use of that principle over the years. You may already be aware of some of the freedom of expression lawsuits media company CanWest has been involved with. Here’s another for the list: CanWest is suing Vancouver activist Mordecai Briemberg for a parody of the Vancouver Sun newspaper – a parody Briemberg maintains he had no hand in creating.

The parody is well done, with high production values, although I doubt anyone could mistake the four-page
parody for the actual newspaper being spoofed. The parody focuses on the alleged pro-Israel bias of the Sun and the Asper family (owners of CanWest). While the suit documentation from CanWest discusses at length Briemberg’s “anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian media activities,” the part of the suit that has actual potential legal grounds is trademark infringement. You see, the parody paper creators used the actual title “The Vancouver Sun” and mocked it up to look just like the real newspaper header. However, I daresay that CanWest will be hard pressed to show any actual damages done by reprinting the trademark.

What is most outrageous about this lawsuit is that it is a prime example of a “SLAPP” – a strategic lawsuit against public participation. Such suits are aimed at, well, shutting people up, to put it bluntly.

Briemberg maintains that he had no hand in the creation of the parody paper. Briemberg admits to picking up some copies at a public meeting at the public library and handing them out. Briemberg is a well-known activist who has been critical of the State of Israel and supportive of the Palestinian people. The best I can figure is that CanWest was pissed off about the parody and shot in the dark at a likely suspect who also irritated them, figuring that even if it wasn’t Briemberg, at least maybe the SLAPP in the face would shut him up.

In solidarity with Briemberg and/or out of anger toward this kind of lawsuit and intimidation tactic, several individuals and outlets have been posting copies of the parody paper both in print and online. Great idea!

Here’s my contribution:

Sun Parody frontpage

Feel free to print it out and put it on your office door, post it in your neighbourhood or your own blog! Better copies of front page and a PDF of the full text (no images) are also available elsewhere.

For ideas of what else you can do/more background on Briemberg and this case, see the recent post from We Read Banned Books and the Seriously Free Speech Website. Or look at the BC Library Association resolution on the issue from the recent AGM. Seriously Free Speech is coordinating many efforts in support of Briemberg, from a Facebook group (go there for details; Facebook is too evil for me) to petition to briefing notes you can use.

-Greyson

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Filed under censorship, Intellectual freedom, IP, media democracy, Other blogs, publishing

POPLINE kerfuffle follow-up

The good news of the day is that Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH, Dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has released a “Statement Regarding POPLINE Database.”

In the statement he says he was just informed this morning about the blocking of searches for abortion in POPLINE, and that he “could not disagree more strongly with this decision.”

His explanation for what happened is a bit puzzling:

USAID, which funds POPLINE, found two items in the database related to abortion that did not fit POPLINE criteria. The agency then made an inquiry to POPLINE administrators. Following this inquiry, the POPLINE administrators at the Center for Communication Programs made the decision to restrict abortion as a search term.

Don’t you wonder what those items were?  (Also, how exactly the “inquiry” was made?)

Interesting.  Comments on Rachel Walden’s blog are tracking the return of records.

Wired has an article discussing the stopword decision and a bit on the Mexico City Policy as background here.  In that article, ALA president Loriene Roy states her concerns over the policy:

“Any federal policy or rule that requires or encourages information providers to block access  to scientific information because of partisan or religious bias is censorship,” she said. “Such policies promote idealogy over science and only serve to deny researchers, students and individuals on all sides of the issue access to accurate scientific information.”

I love it when my reproductive health, social justice, and librarianship worlds come together.  Librarian/Information kindred should absolutely be up in arms about the Mexico City Policy.  But I never saw any library affinity groups at any of those “pro-choice” Marches on Washington (maybe they were there, but in my pre-librarian life they were not apparent to me).  This should change.   I love that the ALA president is connecting reproductive rights and intellectual freedom.  Can we keep doing this, always, please?

Back on POPLINE in particular, hooray for everyone who wrote, called, and spread the word about this mess.  As my partner said when I told her about Dean Klag’s statement today, “Wow.  Librarians do rock.”

Now, why did this making a fuss work pretty well with POPLINE and not so well with the CHN?

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Filed under censorship, government, Health, Intellectual freedom, Other blogs, The Profession