“Outside the Lines” at ICMA

Photo of David Singleton, Director of Libraries for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, with Public Library Association (PLA) Past President Carolyn Anthony, PLA Director Barb Macikas and PLA President Larry Neal after a tour of ImaginOn.

(From left) David Singleton, Director of Libraries for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, with Public Library Association (PLA) Past President Carolyn Anthony, PLA Director Barb Macikas and PLA President Larry Neal after a tour of ImaginOn.

This week, many libraries are inviting their communities to reconnect as part of a national effort called Outside the Lines (September 14-20). Since my personal experience of new acquaintances often includes an exclamation of “I didn’t know libraries did that,” and this experience is buttressed by Pew Internet Project research that finds that only about 23 percent of people who already visit our libraries feel they know all or most of what we do, the need to invite people to rethink libraries is clear.

On the policy front, this also is a driving force behind the Policy Revolution! initiative—making sure national information policy matches the current and emerging landscape of how libraries are serving their communities. One of the first steps is simply to make modern libraries more visible to key decision-makers and influencers.

One of these influential groups, particularly for public libraries, is the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), which concluded its 100th anniversary conference in Charlotte this past week. I enjoyed connecting with city and county managers and their professional staffs over several days, both informally and formally through three library-related presentations.

The Aspen Institute kicked off my conference experience with a preview and discussion of its work emerging from the Dialogue on Public Libraries. Without revealing any details that might diminish the national release of the Aspen Institute report to come in October, I can say it was a lively and engaged discussion with city and county managers from communities of all sizes across the globe. One theme that emerged and resonated throughout the conference was one related to breaking down siloes and increasing collaboration. One participant described this force factor as “one plus one equals three” and referenced the ImaginOn partnership between the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte.

A young patron enjoys a Sunday afternoon at ImaginOn.

A young patron enjoys a Sunday afternoon at ImaginOn.

While one might think that the level of library knowledge and engagement in the room was perhaps exceptional, throughout my conversations, city and county managers described new library building projects and renovations, efforts to increase local millages, and proudly touted the energy and expertise of the library directors they work with in building vibrant and informed communities. In fact, they sounded amazingly like librarians in their enthusiasm and depth of knowledge!

Dr. John Bertot and I shared findings and new tools from the Digital Inclusion Survey, with a particular focus on how local communities can use the new interactive mapping tools to connect library assets to community demographics and concerns. ICMA is a partner with the American Library Association (ALA) and the University of Maryland Information Policy & Access Center on the survey, which is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Through our presentation (ppt), we explored the components of digital inclusion and key data related to technology infrastructure, digital literacy and programs and services that support education, civic engagement, workforce and entrepreneurship, and health and wellness. Of greatest interest was—again—breaking down barriers…in this case among diverse datasets relating libraries and community priorities.

Finally, I was able to listen in on a roundtable on Public Libraries and Community Building in which the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) shared the Edge benchmarks and facilitated a conversation about how the benchmarks might relate to city/county managers’ priorities and concerns. One roundtable participant from a town of about 3,300 discovered during a community listening tour that the library was the first place people could send a fax; and often where they used a computer and the internet for the first time. How could the library continue to be the “first place” for what comes next in new technology? The answer: you need to have facility and culture willing to be nimble. One part of preparing the facility was to upgrade to a 100 Mbps broadband connection, which has literally increased traffic to this community technology hub as people drive in with their personal devices.

I was proud to get Outside the Lines at the ICMA conference, and am encouraged that so many of these city and county managers already had “met” the 21st century library and were interested in working together for stronger cities, towns, counties and states. Thanks #ICMA14 for embracing and encouraging library innovation!

Posted in OITP, Public Libraries Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

The Goodlatte, the bad and the ugly…

My Washington Office colleague Carrie Russell, ALA’s copyright ace in the Office of Information Technology Policy, provides a great rundown here in DD on the substantive ins and outs of the House IP Subcommittee’s hearing yesterday. The Subcommittee met to take testimony on the part of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Section 1201, for those of you keeping score at home) that prohibits anyone from “circumventing” any kind of “digital locks” (aka, “technological protection measures,” or “TPMs”) used by their owners to protect copyrighted works. The hearing was also interesting, however, for the politics of the emerging 1201 debate on clear display.

First, the good news.  Rep. Bob Goodlatte (VA), Chairman of the full House Judiciary Committee, made time in a no doubt very crowded day to attend the hearing specifically for the purpose of making a statement in which he acknowledged that targeted reform of Section 1201 was needed and appropriate.  As one of the original authors of 1201 and the DMCA, and the guy with the big gavel, Mr. Goodlatte’s frank and informed talk was great to hear.

Likewise, Congressman Darrell Issa of California (who’s poised to assume the Chairmanship of the IP Subcommittee in the next Congress and eventually to succeed Mr. Goodlatte at the full Committee’s helm) agreed that Section 1201 might well need modification to prevent it from impeding technological innovation — a cause he’s championed over his years in Congress as a technology patent-holder himself.

Lastly, Rep. Blake Farenthold added his voice to the reform chorus.  While a relatively junior Member of Congress, Rep. Farenthold clearly “gets” the need to assure that 1201 doesn’t preclude fair use or valuable research that requires digital locks to be broken precisely to see if they create vulnerabilities in computer apps and networks that can be exploited by real “bad guys,” like malware- and virus-pushing lawbreakers.

Of course, any number of other members of the Subcommittee were singing loudly in the key of “M” for yet more copyright protection.  Led by the most senior Democrat on the full Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers (MI), multiple members appeared (as Carrie described yesterday) to believe that “strengthening” Section 1201 in unspecified ways would somehow thwart … wait for it … piracy, as if another statute and another penalty would do anything to affect the behavior of industrial-scale copyright infringers in China who don’t think twice now about breaking existing US law.  Sigh….

No legislation is yet pending to change Section 1201 or other parts of the DMCA, but ALA and its many coalition partners in the public and private sectors will be in the vanguard of the fight to reform this outdated and ill-advised part of the law (including the triennial process by which exceptions to Section 1201 are granted, or not) next year.  See you there!

Posted in Library Advocacy

Free webinar: Helping patrons set financial goals

Image of credit card.On September 23rd, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Institute for Museum and Library Services will offer a free webinar on financial literacy. This session has limited space so please register quickly.

Sometimes, if you’re offering programs on money topics, library patrons may come to you with questions about setting money goals. To assist librarians, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Institute of Museum and Library Services are developing financial education tools and sharing best practices with the public library field.

The two agencies created the partnership to help libraries provide free, unbiased financial information and referrals in their communities, build local partnerships and promote libraries as community resources. As part of the partnership, both agencies gathered information about libraries and financial education. Their surveys focused on attitudes about financial education, and how librarians can facilitate more financial education programs.

Join both groups on Tuesday, September 23, 2014, from 2:30–3:30p.m. Eastern Time for the free webinar “Setting money goals,” which will explore the basics of money management. The webinar will teach participants how to show patrons to create effective money goals.

Webinar Details

September 23, 2014
2:30–3:30p.m. Eastern
Join the webinar (No need to RSVP)

  • Conference number: PW8729932
  • Audience passcode: LIBRARY

If you are participating only by phone, please dial the following number:

  • Phone: 1-888-947-8930
  • Participant passcode: LIBRARY
Posted in Events, Webinars Tagged with: ,

Celebrating Constitution Day the advocacy way

 “Dear Congressional Leaders –

We write to urge you to bring to the floor S. 607 and H.R. 1852, the bipartisan Leahy-Lee and Yoder-Polis bills updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Updating ECPA would respond to the deeply held concerns of Americans about their privacy. S. 607 and H.R. 1852 would make it clear that the warrant standard of the U.S. Constitution applies to private digital information just as it applies to physical property….”

… So said ALA today and more than 70 other civil liberties organizations, major technology companies and trade associations — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — in a strong joint letter to the leaders of the House and Senate calling for the soonest possible vote on bills pending in each chamber (S. 607 and H.R. 1852) to update the woefully outdated and inadequate Electronic Communications Privacy Act.  To reach every Member of Congress and their staffs, the letter also was published as a full page advertisement in Roll Call, a principal Capitol Hill newspaper widely read inside the Beltway and well beyond.

When last discussed in DD in mid-June, H.R. 1852 (the Email Privacy Act) had been cosponsored by a majority of all Members of the House.  Today, 265 members have signed on but the bill still awaits action in Committee.  With literally two work days remaining before the House and Senate recess for the November election, ALA and scores of its coalition partners wanted to remind all Members that these bills deserve a vote immediately after Congress returns in November.

Add your voice to that call too as Election 2014 heats up where you live!  Attend a “Town Hall” meeting, call in to a talk radio show featuring a campaigning Congressperson, or simply call their local office and demand that Congress protect your emails, photos, texts, tweets and anything else stored in the “cloud” by voting on and passing S. 607 and H.R. 1852.  Politics doesn’t get any more local and personal than the privacy of your electronic communications, which authorities don’t now need a warrant to pore over if they’re more than six months old.

Tell your Congressional Representative and Senators to update ECPA by passing S. 607 and H.R. 1852 as soon as they get back to Washington.

Posted in Library Advocacy, Privacy & Surveillance Tagged with: , ,

Getting on the same page

Image of a bookIt can be difficult to respond to a question asked by a Member of Congress at a hearing when that person is talking about a different subject than you are and doesn’t know it. One observes a lot of talking past one another and frustration. One wants to stand up and say “wait a minute, you guys are talking about two different things,” but this kind of outburst is not appropriate at a Congressional hearing.

That happened today at the hearing called by U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. The topic was Chapter 12 of the copyright law and in particular, an administrative process conducted every three years by the U.S. Copyright Office called the 1201 rulemaking. But some thought the topic was digital rights management, and things got a little tense near the end of the hearing. Watch it for yourself.

There is a connection, and for clarity’s sake, let’s explore. The 1201 rulemaking was included in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) as a “safety valve” to ensure that technological protection measures (also known as digital rights management!) employed by rights holders to protect content would not also prevent non-infringing uses of copyrighted works, like analyzing software for security vulnerabilities, for example. Ask anyone, and they will tell you that the rulemaking is brutal. It’s long, convoluted and borders on the ridiculous. During this process, the U.S. Copyright Office evaluates specific requests for exemption from Section 1201’s otherwise blanket prohibition on “circumvention,” e.g., breaking pass codes, encryption or other digital rights management schemes in order to make a non-infringing use of a particular class of copyrighted works. In order to make such an argument, however, one who wants an exemption to the anti-circumvention provision must already have broken the anti-circumvention provision in order to make a non-infringing use of the work because you cannot speculate that a non-infringing use is possible without demonstrating that it is so.

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

The process can last eight months and includes writing detailed comments for submission, a reply comment period, two days of roundtables sometimes held in two or three places in the United States, and finally time for the U.S. Copyright Office in collaboration with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to write a lengthy report with recommendations to the Librarian of Congress what class of works with technological protection measures can be circumvented for the next three years. Whew!

The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) submitted comments arguing that the process certainly can be improved. Key LCA recommendations included that exemptions be permanent instead of lasting only three years, and that the NTIS (which has a better understanding of technology and innovation)administer the 1201 rulemaking process instead of the U.S. Copyright Office.

The good news. A baby step may have been taken. All of the witnesses agreed that some exemptions should be permanent so people do not have to reargue their case every three years. In addition, the Copyright Office already has made a suggestion to improve the rulemaking process, writing recently in the Federal Register:

Unlike in previous rulemakings, the Office is not requesting the submission of complete legal and factual support for such proposals at the outset of the proceeding. Instead, in this first step of the process, parties seeking an exemption may submit a petition setting forth specified elements of the proposed exemption and review and consolidate the petitions naming the list of proposed exemptions for further consideration.

Stay tuned for more news on the Copyright Office’s so-called “triennial” 1201 rulemaking which gives new meaning to the adage that “god (or the devil, if you prefer) is in the details.”

Posted in Copyright, Legislation, OITP Tagged with: , , ,

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