Ky. library advocate receives WHCLIST Award

Advocate Mary Lynn Collins. Photo by State Journal.

Advocate Mary Lynn Collins. Photo by State Journal.

Today, the American Library Association (ALA) named Mary Lynn Collins, a library trustee from Frankfort, Ky., the winner of the 2014 White House Conference on Library and Information Services (WHCLIST) Award. The award, which is given to a non-librarian participating in National Library Legislative Day, covers hotel fees in addition to a $300 stipend to reduce the cost of attending the event.

During this year’s National Library Legislative Day, to be held May 5–6, 2014, hundreds of librarians and library supporters from across the country will gather in the nation’s capital to meet with members of Congress to discuss key library issues. As a champion for libraries, Collins incorporates her first-hand knowledge of the Kentucky legislature into her advocacy strategies. Before Collins became a founding member and current president of the Friends of Kentucky Libraries, she served for nearly 30 years on the staff of the Kentucky legislature as a legislative analyst.

Collins has used her legislative experience to gain support for Kentucky libraries that are facing harmful lawsuits in the past few years. In the future, she plans to lead her library group to increase advocacy efforts with congressional representatives.

“As a member of the Friends of Kentucky Libraries, I have seen advocacy at the state and local level become more important each year,” said Collins. “We have in the last three sessions of our state legislature seen legislation that was deemed detrimental to libraries and through the advocacy of library professionals, trustees and friends, and we have been able to defeat those efforts.”

The White House Conference on Library and Information Services—an effective force in library advocacy nationally, statewide and locally—turned its assets over to the ALA Washington Office after the last conference was held in 1991 in order to transmit the spirit of committed, passionate library support to a new generation of advocates. Leading up to National Library Legislative Day each year, the ALA seeks nominations for the award. Representatives of WHCLIST and the ALA Washington office choose the recipient.

Read the full press statement

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Posted in Library Advocacy, OGR

Libraries: Our story, our future

Author Anthony Chow enjoying Washington, D.C. during the 2013 National Library Legislative Day.

Author Anthony Chow enjoying Washington, D.C. with his daughter during the 2013 National Library Legislative Day.

The article below was written by library advocate Anthony Chow, Ph.D., who is the assistant professor of the Department of Library and Information Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the co-chair of the North Carolina Library Association’s Legislative and Advocacy Committee

Knowledge is power. I have always believed that. As a professional educator and father of three, the gift of literacy is a gift for the future. My wife and I read to all three of our kids every day for years until one day our youngest, Emma, said she did not want to be read to anymore. She wanted and could do it now on her own. Emma and her brother and sister were empowered with the gift of reading—a door to endless possibilities, a pathway towards knowledge about whatever they wanted and needed. This is a wonderful feeling for any parent or educator. This is freedom and independence personified.

Do libraries make you happy? I sincerely hope you will join us.

Both school and public libraries have played a pivotal role in helping build the joy and love of reading in our children. For this, my wife and I will be forever grateful. I am a library advocate and wish the same feeling of joy and empowerment for all Americans. I want to give back what they have given to me.

I am also a professor at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Library and Information Studies Department. My job is to prepare future librarians and a significant part of my teaching philosophy is to lead by example and be extremely active in service as part of my own pathway of life-long learning. This is how I became involved in North Carolina’s library advocacy efforts five years ago.

My passion for libraries and library advocacy derives from my personal and professional conviction that they are indeed an essential part of the American story—past, present, and future. As a member of the North Carolina delegation attending National Library Legislative Day (NLLD) for the past four years, I had the honor and privilege of meeting with our state’s legislators to tell them my story and let them know unequivocally that libraries are a fundamental part of our life and the lives of many North Carolinians and Americans across the country.

The author's 11 year-old daughter Emma with their Morkie Ellie. Emma is already an avid reader.

The author’s 11 year-old daughter Emma with their Morkie Ellie. Emma is already an avid reader.

As a grizzled veteran learning under accomplished mentor Carol Walters, retired director of the Sandhills Regional Library System, and Brandy Hamilton, Regional Library Manager of the East Regional Library in Wake County, I was asked to help lead our 2014 delegation.

As we planned for this year’s NLLD we had two primary goals: 1) Allow our youth a voice to speak directly to legislators about how important libraries are to them personally, and 2) Find unique ways to make a splash and have people pay attention to us and our message of strong libraries for everyone.

The North Carolina Library Association (NCLA) created the NCLA student ambassador program and this year we are bringing 20 K-12 students to personally meet with their legislators and tell them first-hand how important libraries are to them. The creativity, energy, and diversity of their winning entries were refreshing and breathtaking in their depth and breadth. The youth are our future and their support of libraries could not be more authentically stated.

Coinciding with our focus on youth was the emergence of Pharrell William’s academy award nominated song “Happy” and the emergence of “Happy Dances” across the world on YouTube. We decided that doing a “Happy Dance” as part of our advocacy efforts made perfect sense and dancing was the perfect, positive, and fun way of expressing our support for libraries.

Like any large event an idea must be supported by passionate, talented, and brave people willing to dedicate their time, expertise, and pride on the line by doing something different. One of our new faculty members, Dr. Rebecca Morris, was a majorette at Pennsylvania State University and it was her brilliant idea to choose the song “Happy” as our flash mob dance and her willingness to take the lead on the choreography and instructional video that allowed the idea to become a reality. Our idea was quickly supported by North Carolina’s State Librarian Cal Shepard and our movement was born and off and running.

Our initial NCLA video also prompted several schools in North Carolina, West Wilkes Middle School and Smithfield-Selma High School, to film their own videos as well the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library System.

In reserving the location for the flash mob Happy Dance, I was told by the U.S. Capitol Police that just dancing was not a clear enough expression of our First Amendment rights. So, in collaboration with the American Library Association (ALA), our dance turned into a full blown rally, which will take place from 2:30-4:00 p.m. right in front of the U.S. Capitol on Site 10 (across from the Library of Congress at the intersection of Independence and First Street). The flash mob will start promptly at 3:00 p.m. led by Dr. Morris, myself, and the majority of the North Carolina delegation including our State Librarian and many of our Student Ambassadors.

This is not really my story but our story and our future. Library advocacy is one clear-cut way for me to give back in some small way what they have given to me, my family, North Carolina, and our nation. Knowledge is power. Literacy is a gift that keeps on giving. Libraries also do so much more for other people—youth programming, access to technology, work force development, a place for the community to meet, and books—lots of books—in all different formats.

When I asked our State Librarian what was the overarching message she wanted to convey this year, she told me in no uncertain terms that this year is a celebration as North Carolina libraries are booming and we need the continuing support of our legislators to help us keep growing and providing vital services to our communities. Libraries make me so happy that I will dance for libraries. Do libraries make you happy? I sincerely hope you will join us.

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Posted in Events, Library Advocacy, Public Libraries, School Libraries

Library broadband takes center stage at IMLS hearing


Larra Clark of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy speaks on panel.

Larra Clark of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy speaks on panel.

The ongoing digital revolution continues to create new opportunities for education, entrepreneurship, job skills training and more. Those of us with home broadband, smartphones or both can easily take advantage of these opportunities. However, for millions of Americans currently living without personal access to high-capacity internet or who lack digital literacy skills, libraries serve as the on-ramp to the digital world. With a growing number of people turning to libraries to avail themselves of broadband-enabled technologies, library networks are being strained more than ever before. Yesterday, the Institute for Library and Museum Services (IMLS) held a public hearing to discuss the importance of high-speed connectivity in libraries and outline strategies for helping libraries expand bandwidth to accommodate growing network use.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Thomas Wheeler’s opening remarks set the tone for the day: “Andrew Carnegie built 2,500 libraries in a public-private partnership, defining information access for millions of people for more than a century,” he said. “We stand on the precipice of being able to have the same kind of seminal impact on the flow of information and ideas in the 21st century…That’s why reform of the E-rate program is so essential. The library has always been the on-ramp to the world of information and ideas, and now that on-ramp is at gigabit speeds.”

The hearing convened three expert panels, each of which discussed a different dimension of library connectivity. The first panel propounded strategies for helping libraries procure the resources they need to build network capacity. Chris Jowaisas of the Gates Foundation urged libraries to underscore the ways in which their activities advance the goals of top giving foundations. “[Libraries should]…package their services to meet foundation needs,” Jowaisas said. “With a robust and reliable broadband connection, libraries and communities can move into more areas of exploration and innovation. The foundation hopes the network of supporters of this vision grows because we have seen and learned first-hand from investments in public libraries that they are key organizations for growing opportunity.”

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Following his remarks, Clarence Anthony of the National League of Cities stressed the need for the library community to ramp up its efforts to make government leaders aware of the extent to which urban communities rely on libraries for broadband access.

The second panel analyzed current library connectivity data and identified areas where the data falls short in assessing broadband capacity. Larra Clark of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy drew on 20 years of research to illustrate that the progress libraries have made in expanding bandwidth—while meaningful—has generally not proven sufficient to accommodate the growing needs of users. About 9 percent of public libraries reported speeds of 100 Mbps or greater in the 2012 Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study, and the forthcoming Digital Inclusion Survey shows this number has only climbed to 12 percent. More than 66 percent of public libraries report they would like to increase their broadband connectivity speeds. “Libraries aren’t standing still, but too many are falling behind,” Clark said.

Researcher John Horrigan also gave the audience a preview of forthcoming research looking at Americans’ levels of digital readiness, which finds significant variations in digital skills even among people who are highly connected to digital tools. Of the 80 percent of Americans with home broadband or a smartphone, nearly one-fifth (or 34 million adults) has a low level of digital skills. “(Libraries) are the vanguard in the forces we bring to bear to bolster digital readiness,” Horrigan noted. “Libraries will have more demands placed upon them, which makes the case for ensuring they have the resources to meet these demands compelling.”

The final panel built on the capacity-building strategies offered by Jowaisas and Anthony by providing real-world examples of successful efforts to expand library bandwidth. Gary Wasdin of the Omaha Public Library System discussed ways in which his libraries are leveraging federal dollars to engage private funders in efforts to build broadband capacity, and Eric Frederick of Connect Michigan described how public-private synergies are improving library connectivity in his state. The final panelist was Linda Lord, Maine state librarian and chair of ALA’s E-rate Task Force. Lord discussed ALA’s efforts to inform the FCC’s ongoing E-rate modernization proceeding. “ALA envisions that all libraries will be at a gig (1Gbps) by 2018”, Lord said. The E-rate program provides schools and libraries with telecommunications services at discounted rates. Linda went on to clearly articulate ALA’s commitment to updating the program to help libraries address 21st century challenges.

Libraries and library users can add to the IMLS hearing record on the urgency and impact of library broadband by submitting comments by April 24. View C-SPAN coverage of the hearing.

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Posted in E-Rate, Events, OGR, OITP, Public Libraries

Indexing the internet and searching for “free”

The Botnet

The Botnet

“If we can put a man on the moon and we can transplant a heart, we surely can say when something shows up ‘free’ and do something about that.” Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA).

In March, the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held a hearing on Section 512, the provision that provides protection for internet service providers from liability for the infringing actions of network users. The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) submitted comments (pdf) in support of no changes to the existing law, holding that this provision helps libraries provide online services in good faith without liability for the potentially illegal actions of a third party.

Though libraries were not specifically represented in the hearing, one line of questioning directed at both Google and Automattic Inc.—owner of WordPress—stands out as relevant to both present and future methods of delivering content and services to library patrons: “free” as the opposite of “legal” or “legitimate.”

Several representatives focused on witnesses Katherine Oyama, senior copyright policy counsel for Google, and Paul Sieminski, general counsel for Automattic Inc., expressing significant confusion about how Google creates and modifies indexing and search algorithms, as well as the nuances of copyright protection on a blogging platform. “Free” was the watchword, and many subcommittee members expressed the same basic concerns.

copyright pirate imageRep. Judy Chu (D-CA) asked about autocomplete results in Google that include “free” and “watch online,” saying that such results “induce infringement” on the part of searchers. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) further echoed worries that unsophisticated Internet users like his grandmother would be “induced to infringe” by seeing an autocomplete result for “watch 12 Years a Slave free online.”

But the most colorful exchange began with Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) expressing disbelief that Google could not simply ban or remove terms such as “watch X movie online for free” from the engine.

Oyama rightly pointed out that “we are not going to ban the word ‘free’ from search…there are many legitimate sources for music and films that are available for free.” She also promoted YouTube’s ContentID software as an effective answer to alleged infringement, though there are certainly reasons to remain wary of the “software savior” in addressing takedown notices (more on ContentID coming soon).

As libraries begin exploring ways to deliver legally obtained and responsibly monitored content to patrons, we will have to offer a counterpoint to the concept of “free” as the automatic enemy of rights holders. While we know that it is anything but free to provide these services (no-fee or no-charge is perhaps a better description), the public often perceives it as such, and simply banning phrases like “read for free” or “watch for free” from the world’s largest Internet index will not reduce infringement. Instead, it removes a responsible and reliable source from top page results, which is the exact opposite of what the lawmakers above support.

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Posted in Copyright, OITP

Appeals court decision undermines free speech, misinterprets copyright law

Last week, the American Library Association (ALA) joined an amicus brief calling for reconsideration of a 9th circuit court decision in Garcia v. Google, case where actress Cindy Sue Garcia sued Google for not removing a YouTube video in which she appears. Garcia appears for five seconds in “Innocence of Muslims,” the radical anti-Islamic video that fueled the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi. The video was uploaded on YouTube, exposing Garcia to threats and hate mail. Garcia did not know that her five second performance would be used in a controversial video.

Garcia turned to the copyright law for redress, arguing that her five second performance was protected by copyright, and therefore, as a rights holder she could ask that the video be removed from YouTube. While we empathize with Garcia’s situation, the copyright law does not protect performances in film—instead these performances are works-for-hire. This ruling, if taken to its extreme, would hold that anyone who worked on a film—from the editor to the gaffer—could claim rights, creating a copyright permissions nightmare.

On appeal, the judge agreed that the copyright argument was weak, but nonetheless ruled for Garcia. The video currently is not available for public review. This decision needs to be reheard en banc—the copyright ruling is mistaken, and perhaps more importantly, the copyright law cannot be used to restrain speech. While the facts of this case are not at all appealing, we agree that rules of law need to be upheld. Fundamental values of librarianship—including intellectual freedom, fair use, and preservation of the cultural record—are in serious conflict with the existing court ruling.

Read more on the case.

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Posted in Copyright


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