Washington Office’s copyright expert, puzzle master recognized

Carrie Russell is being recognized by her alma mater the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee this weekend at their 50th Anniversary Gala.Here’s something you may not know about the Washington Office’s in-house copyright expert Carrie Russell: Carrie loves puzzles.

On the first floor of the Washington Office, Carrie always has a jigsaw puzzle in progress. And, in her office on the second floor, she’s spent the last 18 years trying to untangle the field’s bigger knots.

Carrie — who is being recognized by her alma mater the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UMW) this weekend at their 50th Anniversary Gala — thinks there is no better feeling than completing a puzzle.

“When I was a student at UWM, I worked in the library and loved cataloging,” said Carrie. “I remember we had to carry around these huge Sears List of Subject Headings manuals everywhere and I loved it. To me, cataloging was a puzzle that’s a lot like the public policy I work on now.”

Carrie joined the Washington Office in 1999 as a copyright specialist, developing copyright education programs for librarians and analyzing the expansion of copyright law in the digital environment. Carrie’s work broadened in 2007 when she became director of the Program on Public Access to Information, covering international copyright, accessibility, e-books and more.

“This honor is certainly well-deserved given Carrie’s many contributions to the field,” said Office for Information Technology Policy’s Director Alan Inouye. “She has been a driving force behind ALA’s involvement in big copyright issues like the Marrakesh treaty, the Google books lawsuit, HathiTrust, the ongoing Georgia State e-reserves case, Section 108 study group and our work with LCA and the newer Re:Create coalition. We are grateful for her vision, dedication and partnership these significant areas.”

UWM is honoring Carrie alongside 49 other alumni — including ALA’s Kristin Pekoll, assistant director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom — who, through their lives and careers, have exemplified UMW’s focus on critical inquiry and leadership to address the needs of a diverse and global information society.

Carrie didn’t start out thinking she would become an international copyright expert. When she graduated from UMW in 1985, she took a position as a serials cataloger in the library at the University of Arizona Tucson. There she progressed from serials to media.

“After I graduated from UMW I became really interested in the concept of information as a commodity,” explained Carrie. “I started to spend time with the political economists in the University’s Media Arts Department.”

Carrie, who studied film (ask her about Italian neorealism!) during her undergraduate years, was no stranger to Media Arts—and brought a unique perspective.

“To me, serials pricing was the perfect political economy puzzle. Each journal title publishes unique research findings and, as a result, creates these unique commodities,” explained Carrie. “But, at U of A, rising subscription costs often prevented us from being able to afford certain subscriptions. We had to try to contain costs while simultaneously maximizing access for our users.”

After getting her second master’s degree, Carrie moved into a position as the University’s Copyright Librarian, consulting faculty regarding curriculum-related copyright issues and developing an advocacy program for faculty on scholarly communication and alternative publishing models.

Today, Carrie continues to work directly with librarians on copyright, hosting training and webinars, analyzing legislation, presenting at conferences and writing books. Through her work with ALA’s Copyright Education Subcommittee, she became known for her creative communication on copyright, creating the spinner, the slider, the “foldy thingy” and Fair Use coasters. She was the recipient of the 2013 ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for Best Book in Library Literature for Copyright Copyright: An Everyday Guide for K-12 Librarians and Educators. She also is the author of Complete Copyright: An Everyday Guide for Librarians, now in its second edition.

“I know that all of my colleagues at the Washington Office and ALA broadly join me in applauding both Carrie and Kristin for this impressive acknowledgment of their outstanding leadership and commitment to the library field,” said Associate Executive Director Kathi Kromer. “ALA is fortunate to have such talented issues experts on staff to help us serve members and the public and we look forward to their future contributions.”

About Emily Wagner

Emily Wagner is the Information Manager for ALA's Washington Office. She earned her B.A. in Literature from Mount Holyoke College and her M.S.L.I.S. from The Catholic University of America. She can be reached via e-mail at ewagner@alawash.org.

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