Link: Measuring a library’s holdings based on its “uniqueness”

Here’s a Monday morning link for all y’all. Dan Cohen notes an interesting way to measure a library’s holdings : by evaluating the collection’s “uniqueness.”

This may be an interesting metric that could be useful at the local-consortial level? I’ll let the Collections Librarians answer that, though.  Read it here:

Dan Cohen: Visualizing the Uniqueness, and Conformity, of Libraries

Budget cuts to libraries, archives, and information centres jeopardize access to Canadian government information

This has not been a good spring for Canadian librarians and archivists, especially those who work at federal libraries and archives, which are being de-funded and dismantled by federal budget cuts. These information centres sustain government and public research capacity. Their ability to create, preserve, and provide access to public information in our country is at risk.

These cuts, and the centres and programmes in jeopardy, include:

I’m missing some announcements since I was away when so many of these cuts were announced, but this list nonetheless clarifies the seriousness of the situation. In the space of a few weeks, the federal government has severely hampered the nation’s ability to gather, document, use, and disseminate government and cultural information.

You can learn what many of these cuts mean in clear, practical terms by reading this post written by my archivist friend, Creighton Barrett, at Dalhousie University’s Archives and Special Collections.  Creighton explains how these cuts negatively affect the university’s ability to collect and maintain the records used by scholars and citizens in one community alone, and rightly notes that they are a “devastating” blow to information access in Canada. Now, consider how Creighton’s list grows when you add to it the ways in which these same cuts affect the libraries and archives in your own community, and then all other libraries and archives in Canada. And we haven’t even touched what these broader cuts mean for LAC’s programming and resources, StatCan programming, and the research capacity of federal departments and agencies. “Devastating,” may well be an understatement in the long run.

These budget cuts are a knock-out punch to how public information is accessed and used across the country. The cuts not only affect the library community and possibly your civil-service-friend who lives down the road. They will affect the manner in which our society is able to find and use public information.  If public data is no longer collected (see StatCan), preserved (see LAC, NADP, CCA), disseminated and used (see PDS/DSP and cuts at departmental libraries), then does the information even exist in the first place? There will be less government and public information, fewer means to access this information, and fewer opportunities to do so.

Take a moment and recall the freedom you have been afforded to speak freely in this nation.  The utility of that freedom is dependent on your ability to access the information you use to learn, to criticize, to praise, or to condemn.  If knowledge is power, then a public whose national information centres and access points are ill-funded is a weakling. Libraries and archives provide Canadians with direct access to key government information, and for that very reason, they should be funded to the hilt.

This is where I get to my point: We are now facing a situation in Canada where government information has suddenly become far more difficult to collect, to access, and to use. The funding cuts that Canada’s libraries and archives face is an affront to the proper functioning of a contemporary democratic society. These cuts will impede the country’s ability to access public and government information, which will make it difficult for Canadians to criticize government practices, past and present.

I mentioned on Twitter that these cuts show us that the work of librarians and archivists are crucial to the nation’s interest. We are not mere record keepers, and neither do we spend our days merely dusting cobwebs off of old books. We are the people who maintain collections of public information, and we are the people who provide and nurture access to information. Many of us see ourselves as guardians of the public’s right to access information.  If we take on that guardianship, then we must defend and protect these collections and access points. I’m not talking about a Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 job. I’m talking about advocacy, which doesn’t have an on/off switch. Either you do it or you don’t.

So, what should you do? Get informed, speak up, and act.  Write letters to the editor. Write to your professional associations and other like-minded organizations; lend them your support, and when needed, tell them to add force to their own statements. Write to your MPs, to other MPs (especially to MPs who sit on government benches), to cabinet members, and to the PMO. When you’re socializing with friends who aren’t librarians and archivists, mention how our work affects their work and their personal lives. Massive cuts to the nation’s libraries and archives do not serve the public good. These cuts may help balance the financial books, but they create an information deficit that inhibits research, stymies dialogue and criticism, and makes government more distant from the people.

Why we must be apprehensive about DRM and digital locks

This little piece of news hasn’t yet got much coverage in the popular press, but it should. It shows why Canadians (and everyone, really) must be concerned about digital locks.  Librarians and lawyers are the ones taking note of it right now, but it’s an issue we should all worry about:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/librarybazaar/status/139008379023667201″]

 

Yes, that’s right – as Michael Geist reports, if you are Canadian and have ever purchased music through Napster Canada, then you run the risk of losing access to content you have paid for:

These downloads are DRM-encoded WMA files and can be backed up by burning them to audio CDs. Doing this will allow you access to your music on any CD player and generally have a maintenance free permanent copy. If you do not back up your purchased Napster music downloads by burning them to CD and you later change or reinstall your computer’s operating system, have a system failure or experience DRM corruption, then the downloads will stop playing and you will permanently lose access to them.

(Source: Napster Canada PR via Geist’s blog)

Let’s put this into perspective:

  • Customers have purchased items (music, objects, widgets, whatever) from a company with the assurance that these items can be accessed.  But the use of these music files are limited by a lock that the company will no longer support now that it has pulled out of the market and been bought by a competitor.
  • Customers have been advised by the company to effectively circumvent their digital locks if they want to continue listening to their music.  

I suppose that Napster Canada/Rhapsody is acting in good faith when they explain to Canadian customers how to ensure that the content they have already purchased will always be accessible. Napster/Rhapsody has informed customers that all they need to do is copy the data to audio CDs to ensure that the music can be played even if the digital lock on the file is ever corrupted. But does anyone else find it a tiny bit illogical that a company that normally espouses the use of digital locks is now effectively telling its customers to break the law and circumvent the lock in order to make sure they will always be able to access this music?

Digital Rights Management is something we must be wary of.  DRM limits the consumer’s rights to the content he or she has purchased; it “manages” rights by taking them away from the consumer. This is of particular concern in Canada, when so many organizations are subsidiaries of larger companies located elsewhere. If Napster pulls out of the Canadian market, will the digital locks that limit access to the content you purchased still be supported? It seems not. If Amazon were ever to pull out of the Canadian market (which is an unlikely scenario, but a worthy point to make), would its digital locks that limit access to the content you purchased still be supported? That would be up to Amazon to decide.  Digital locks keep your purchases at the mercy of the vendor, which is reason enough to oppose them.

Copyright is a mess, especially in Canada.  The law is antiquated and it does need an overhaul to actually work in our digital landscape.  But DRM and digital locks place an undue burden and risk on consumers (be they individuals, families, or libraries), most of whom are law-abiding citizens, respect intellectually property and rights, and do not copy content.

 

Post script: Am I suggesting we back out of all e-content on account of DRM?  No, I’m not. What I’m trying to show, like so many others, is that the system is out of balance right now and will remain so in the future.  Advocacy is required to fix this.

#CLA2011 Google Map

Are you coming to #CLA2011 (or #CLA11) in Halifax, Nova Scotia?   Then this Google Map may come in handy.   I created a Google Map to help a few librarian-friends from across Canada decide on some things to do in Halifax and then decided to share it with the world.       Enjoy, contribute, and share and share alike.

And since you’re coming to CLA 2011, make sure you visit and say Hi! during Saturday morning’s Technology Lightning Strikes! panel at 8:30 (Session G49).  I’m going to be speaking with a bunch of excellent librarians (read: absolute tech superstars who know so much more than me!) about emerging technology trends and how to integrate them into your everyday work with little fuss and hardly any muss.   I’ll post more details on this in a later post.

At any rate, come say Hi, or tweet me on Twitter – I like meeting people and showing them about this town – Halifax is a great town to visit.

-mike.

Remembering Norman Horrocks (1927-2010)

Norman Horrocks, 1927-2010
Norman Horrocks, 1927-2010

Norman Horrocks passed away yesterday, October 14, 2010.  He was a scholar and gentleman.  He was a recipient of the Order of Canada.  He was a professor, teacher, librarian, publisher, and all-round good guy.

I’m not going to list off everything that Dr  Horrocks has done in his life since you can find those details elsewhere.  There are some important things we should recall, such as his work with the LA/CILIP, the ALA, and the CLA; his war service for Britain; his unsurpassed knowledge of government documents collections and organization in several jurisdictions, and his work with the School of Information Management at Dalhousie University.  It’s this work with SIM that matters most to me and to so many others today.  What matters is the way this man has affected so many people’s lives.

This afternoon, after a reference meeting at Dal’s Killam Library, word got out amoung my fellow librarians that Dr Horrocks had passed on.  I looked around the office, and as the most recent hire (and as Dr Horrocks’ last student amoung my colleagues), I realized that nearly everyone I worked with had themselves either worked with or been taught by Dr Horrocks.  And as for the few people in the office who had not had the occasion to shake this man’s hand, they surely have been touched by his work with so many of our professional associations and standing committees.

We all have our favourite moments to remember Norman Horrocks by.  For me, it was a chance encounter at the 2009 CLA Conference in Montreal.  I attended on a scholarship but had to remit my expenses after the fact, so I chose to stay at an inn which was not a conference hotel in order to save a few dollars.  On the second day of the conference, I bumped into Dr Horrocks and we exchanged pleasantries.  How was the weather, how I was enjoying my first CLA conference, etc.  He then he asked me how I was enjoying my stay at this hotel.  I told him I liked it very much and that I had a really decent sleep the night before.   That’s when I realized I hadn’t yet told anyone where I was staying.  I called Dr Horrocks on this and asked him how he found out which hotel I booked with.  He smiled and winked his eye at me, and then he walked away, quietly chuckling at my expense.  To this day, I still don’t know how he found out where I was staying that weekend.  But that’s Dr Horrocks for you and that’s how he rolls.

It was a quiet, rainy, Friday afternoon today in Halifax.  The city is silent and grey, but it’s not completely on account of the weather.  Godspeed, Dr Horrocks.

Zeds Library News, August 8, 2010

Last week I decided to start compiling interesting news stories in Tech and Library Science together in one weekly post as a way to share links with other librarians and to build stronger communities.  This is this week’s version: The Zeds Library News, August 8, 2010:

  • Right off the top, Tiffini Travis takes her iPad for a test-run at Immersion 2010 and finds that it’s a viable laptop replacement.  Tiffini had to download one or two affordable apps and did work with a wireless keyboard, but I don’t think this is too different from purchasing MS Office and using a mouse with your laptop.  Is the iPad  a laptop killer?  Maybe not yet, but Tiffini makes clear that this kind of tech is what the future classroom experience is made of.
  • Bobbi Newman offers a lecture and Q&A on libraries and Transliteracy.  This hour-long presentation, offered by the Nebraska Library Commissions’ NCompass Live, is worth watching if you’re involved at all with information literacy.  Transliteracy is “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.” Bobbie shows how this ought to be squared off in several forms of librarianship. (I know this is something I’m going to write more about in the future.)
  • On the (information) literacy front, The Chronicle puts the spotlight on academic blended librarianship by interviewing Mark McBride, at SUNY’s Buffalo State.  Blended Librarianship “combines traditional reference skills with hardware and software know-how and [has] an interest in applying them to curriculum development and teaching”; the threads between transliteracy and IL are all over the place. (Check out the Blended Librarian website here.)
  • Rupert Colley wonders how e-books traffic is properly measured today.  What can gate counts actually account for when we encourage more and more people to access library materials online?   This is food for thought since I’m considering how to measure library tutorials beyond website click-through’s right now.
  • Peter Godwin links us to the Research Information Network (RIN) report on academic researchers and Web 2.0, which studies in part how information professionals should mediate research and researchers in a Web 2.0 landscape.  (Godwin’s blog should be required reading for anyone working in information literacy, by the way.)

Zeds Library News – 1 Aug 2010

I’m trying something new this weekend – each week I’m going to post a recap of pertinent news in librarianship.  It will only be a short list of links with one or two lines of editorial attached, but it should be enough to accomplish my two goals:

  1. To make better use of my feed reader. I’ve grown tired of the wayward reading and bookmarking that happens with RSS feeds.  Hopefully, I can increase my ‘uptake’ from site feeds, on a more-regular basis, once I start typing up a few thoughts on the posts I come across.
  2. To share what I’m reading with others. Like most of us out there, I like blogging and I like reading blogs.  But sometimes I don’t think we’re as connected to one another as we let on.  Even with all the social media we use to create communities, I often feel like we’re all stranded on our own desert islands; every now and again something washes up on our shore that had washed up on someone else’s shore previously.  Maybe by posting a weekly “best of library science blogs” post, I’ll be able to bring more people together.  We’ll see if it sticks.

So here we are: a Zeds Library News recap for Aug 1, 2010!

  • Wired magazine reports on Penguin Books’s 75th Birthday. Of note: Penguin’s success was built on the idea of making books of all sorts – fiction, literature, histories – affordable to all people. Penguin Books “democratized literacy by making good books as accessible as the daily newspaper.”
  • LISNews aggregates the press release that kept us buzzing late this week: III/SkyRiver’s antitrust suit against OCLC.  Monopoly? Non-for-profit consortium?  A Systems Godzilla?  You Decide.  (K.G. Schneider offers a good POV, noting that OCLC may be a behemoth, but at least “OCLC is our behemoth – yours and mine . . . [rather than a] for-profit behemoth in it for itself.”)
  • The Library of Congress tells us it’s okay to jailbreak our iPhones.  The Chronicle reports that the The Copyright Office has completed its triennial review (what a word..) of what should have DMCA exemptions and has determined that wireless phones may be jailbreaked, and DVDs may finally be lawfully be copied for educational, noncommercial, or documentary use.  Read the entire LOC press release here.
  • The summer political season in Canada has been more than just barbeques and rodeos.  The Conservative government’s decision to throw away the mandatory long-form census has put the entire nation up in arms, and our Chief Statistician resigned when gov’t leaders suggested he approved such a measure. In the mean time, the National Statistical Council of Canada, a government oversight body of sorts, has been trying to reach a compromise before it’s too late.  Tracey Lauriault at datalibre.ca has done some digging for everyone else so we can look behind the curtain at the NSCC.
  • Does anyone still use Ask.com?  CNN Money reports that the search engine is rolling out an “Ask the Community” feature where your questions are answered by real live human beings.  Kind of like a library reference desk, eh?   (Thanks to Points of Reference for connecting the dots on this one.)

{n.b.  It would be incredibly wrong of me not link to my friend, Jhameia, whose regular rounds of links in a different field inspired me to give it a shot for LIS.]

On Tories, Politics, and the StatCan Crisis

I’m not going to speak much about the Long-Form StatCan fiasco that the Tories have created this summer because so many other people and news organizations are covering it so well. David Eaves and Datalibre.ca have strong commentary and lists of organizations against it.  The Globe and Mail and The National Post have both kept their attention on the issue, too.   Aside from the fact that great resources already exist on this file, I haven’t offered my thoughts on it yet because so much of the issue lies in rhetoric, ideology, and politics.

Munir Sheikh, speaking truth to power. Click for details.

The Conservative Party of Canada, in its role as government, can if it so desires tell Statistics Canada to ditch the long form.  And Munir Sheikh, as the former director of StatCan, protests the only way he could by tendering his resignation.  Sheikh, like a proper civil servant, spoke truth to power and should be commended for it.  On these points, most people will agree.

If the Conservatives really do believe that the Long Form issue is about compelling citizens to offer information to the government under threat of a prison term (as PMO spokesman Dmitri Soudas keeps saying, as wannabe PM Maxime Bernier keeps suggesting, and as Tony Clement, I suspect, has been ordered to continually argued), then all the government must do to rectify this is change the StatCan Act so that individuals would be rewarded instead of punished for filing the long form.   I won’t take credit for this idea, since I’ve heard it several times in the media in the past week: Offer a $20 tax credit upon completion and submission of the long form. Anyone who has filed income taxes will appreciate the idea of a tax credit, and anyone who has filed income taxes also knows that a $20 credit does not equal $20 in tax savings, either.  This incentive could be a win-win for all parties.

As for the second-most argued point of contention about the long-form – whether or not the government should collect what might be privileged, personal data, e.g., what time you go to work in the morning, how many bedrooms are in the house, I think the CPC is making political hay.  What’s important is not how many bedrooms I, Michael Steeleworthy, possess (2), whether I rent or own (rent), or what time I go to work in the morning (between 8 and 830, depending on the time I wake up).  What matters is the aggregate data that comes of it.  No one is ever going to look at my own data to compromise my privacy – the government has not enough time on its hands to snoop into such arcane matters and has more important things to do.  And frankly, StatCan data is closely guarde  Its data is not freely available to the public, and its original files are kept under lock and key; not even Misters Harper, Soudas, Clement or Bernier could access my census form.  Really, if the government is keen on turning themselves into libertarian ideologues instead being the administrators of representative governance when it comes to the issue of data collection, then it should also stop collecting income taxes at CRA, and as Dan Gardner noted in the Ottawa Citizen, it better bow out of FINTRAC as soon as possible, since if there was ever an Orwellian “spy-on-your-neighbour organization out there”, this is the one.

What’s more, if the CPC is bothered by the collection of information, it may as well shred its own database of party members, which is a storehouse of information that their grassroots base would presumably disagree with (if the current CPC rhetoric about data collection is to be believed) in the first place.  Dear Stephen Harper, I’ve heard that teaching by example is the best way to give a lesson, so let’s start this Data Collection Disruption at home and send the CPC’s own files to the great Shredder in the sky.

Former Ontario Minister Snobelin, famous for wanting to create a "useful crisis" to promote political aims. Click for details.

Snarky comments aside, the long form issue is a political issue, and I don’t see the CPC moving back from it.  I may be wrong – I’m not a seasoned political observer, I’m only a fairly bright fellow living on the east coast.  But one thing is clear: in the tradition of one-time Ontario PC Minister of Education John Snobelin (cf. Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution; Snobelin served alongside Ministers Clement and Flaherty, I might note), the best way to create change in government is to create a crisis.  And that’s what’s happened with the Long Form.  The CPC has created a crisis.  Even if Stephen Harper, through Tony Clement, were to suddenly make peace and reach for consensus, they will have shifted the status quo closer toward their own political ideology.