Now’s the time to stand up for libraries

Library Advocacy Day

Librarians at Library Advocacy Day, 2011

With all that’s happened in Washington in the past year—threats to eliminate the federal agency that administers funding to libraries, legislation to stifle open access and the government shutdown—now is the time, more than ever, to stand up for libraries. If you appreciate the critical roles that libraries play in creating an informed and engaged citizenry, register now for this year’s National Library Legislative Day (NLLD), a two-day advocacy event where hundreds of library supporters, leaders and patrons will meet with their legislators to advocate for library funding.

NLLD Logo

May 5 & 6, 2014

National Library Legislative Day, which is hosted by the American Library Association (ALA), will be held May 5-6, 2014, in Washington, D.C. Now in its 40th year, National Library Legislative Day focuses on the need to fund the Library Services and Technology Act, support legislation that gives people who use libraries access to federally-funded scholarly journal articles and continue funding that provides school libraries with vital materials.

As part of the event, participants will receive training and briefings to prepare them for meetings with their members of Congress. Participants who register for National Library Legislative Day will connect with their state’s coordinator, who then arranges the meetings with legislators, communicates with the ALA Washington Office and serves as the contact person for the state delegation.

Advocate from Home

Advocates who cannot travel to Washington for National Library Legislative Day can still make a difference and speak up for libraries. As an alternative, the American Library Association sponsors Virtual Library Legislative Day, which takes place on May 6, 2014. To participate in Virtual Library Legislative Day, register now for American Library Association policy action alerts.

For the next month, the ALA Washington will share National Library Legislative Day resources on the District Dispatch. Keep up with the conversation by using the hashtag #nlld14.

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Posted in Legislation, Library Advocacy, OGR, Washington Office News

Two billion for E-rate provides “2-for-1” benefits”

Today, the American Library Association (ALA) called on (pdf) the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deploy newly identified E-rate program funding to boost library broadband access and alleviate historic shortfalls in funding for internal connections. In response to the FCC’s March Public Notice, the ALA seeks to leverage existing high-speed, scalable networks to increase library broadband speeds, improve area networks and further explore cost efficiencies that could be enabled through new consortium approaches.

ALA proposes:

  • Supporting school-library wide-area network partnerships to better leverage local E-rate investments and support community use of high-capacity connections during non-school hours;
  • Providing short-term funding focused on deployment where libraries are in close proximity to providers that can ensure scalable broadband at affordable construction charges and recurring costs over time; and
  • Advancing cost-efficient library network development with new diagnostic and technical support provided at the state level.

“ALA welcomes this new $2 billion investment to support broadband networks in our nations’ libraries and schools so we may meet growing community demand for services ranging from interactive online learning to videoconferencing to downloading and streaming increasingly digital collections,” said ALA President Barbara Stripling. “This infusion can provide ‘two-for-one’ benefits by advancing library broadband to and within our buildings immediately and continuing to improve the E-rate program in the near future.”

Read the ALA press release

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Posted in E-Rate, Funding, OITP, Public Libraries

Reminder: Last chance to apply for Google summer fellowship

Google Fellows visit the ALA Washington Office for a luncheon last year.

Google Fellows visit the ALA Washington Office for a luncheon last year.

The American Library Association’s Washington Office is calling for graduate students, especially those in library and information science-related academic programs, to apply for the 2014 Google Policy Fellows program. Applications are due by Monday, April 14, 2014.

For the summer of 2014, the selected fellow will spend 10 weeks in residence at the ALA Washington Office to learn about national policy and complete a major project. Google provides the $7,500 stipend for the summer, but the work agenda is determined by the ALA and the selected fellow.

The Google Washington office provides an educational program for all of the fellows, such as lunchtime talks and interactions with Google Washington staff.

The fellows work in diverse areas of information policy that may include digital copyright, e-book licenses and access, future of reading, international copyright policy, broadband deployment, telecommunications policy (including e-rate and network neutrality), digital divide, access to information, free expression, digital literacy, online privacy, the future of libraries generally, and many other topics.

Jamie Schleser, a doctoral student at American University, served as the ALA 2013 Google Policy Fellow. Schleser worked with OITP to apply her dissertation research regarding online-specific digital libraries to articulate visions and strategies for the future of libraries.

Further information about the program and host organizations is available at the Google Public Policy Fellowship website.

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Posted in OITP, Washington Office News

Jim Neal represents libraries at House Judiciary subcommittee copyright hearing

Yesterday, the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held a hearing entitled, “Preservation and Reuse of Copyrighted Works.” The hearing convened a panel of witnesses representing both the content and user communities to discuss a variety of copyright issues, including orphan works, mass digitization and specific provisions of the Copyright Act that concern preservation and deteriorating works. Representing the library community on the panel was Jim Neal, Columbia University librarian and vice president for Information. Neal’s statement discussed fair use in the context of library preservation, the relationship between fair use and the library exceptions language of Section 108 of the Copyright Act, and the issue of orphan works. His statement was endorsed by the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), which includes ALA, the Association of Research Libraries and the Association of College and Research Libraries. LCA also submitted a statement to the Subcommittee.

Video streaming by Ustream

The Importance of Fair Use to Library Preservation Efforts

In his statement, Neal used examples of some of the preservation efforts currently underway in the Columbia University Library System to illustrate how fair use is essential to helping libraries confront preservation challenges specific to the digital age. He argued that without fair use, libraries would not be able to digitize information stored in antiquated formats or salvage content from now-defunct websites.

“Digital resources are not immortal,” said Neal. “In fact, they are in formats that are more likely to cease to exist, and must be transferred to new digital formats repeatedly as technology evolves. Libraries charged with this work require robust applications of flexible exceptions such as fair use so that copyright technicalities do not interfere with their preservation mission.”

The Relationship Between Fair Use and Section 108 of the Copyright Act

In his written testimony, Neal argued that the specific library exceptions language contained in Section 108 of the Copyright Act provides additional certainty to libraries as they work to preserve their collections:

Library exceptions in Section 108 of the Copyright Act supplement, and do not supplant, the fair use right under Section 107…Congress enacted Section 108 in 1976 to provide libraries and archives with a set of clear exceptions with regard to the preservation of unpublished works; the reproduction of published works for the purpose of replacing a copy that was damaged, deteriorating, lost, or stolen; and the making of a copy that would become the property of a user. Over the past 38 years, Section 108 has proven essential to the operation of libraries. It has guided two core library functions: preservation and inter-library loans.”

The existing statutory framework, which combines the specific library exceptions in Section 108 with the flexible fair use right, works well for libraries, and does not require amendment.

Neal used the example of the Authors Guild v. HathiTrust case to rebut arguments that the protections provided to libraries under Section 108 represent the totality of copyright exemptions and privileges for which libraries may qualify. He asserted that Judge Baer’s district court decision in favor of the Hathitrust Digital Library, as well as the plain language of Section 108 itself, suggest that just because a specific exemption or privilege is not listed under Section 108 does not mean it cannot be claimed under the doctrine of fair use. Neal devoted an entire section of his written testimony to praising the digitization efforts of Hathitrust and expressing his hope that the Second District Court would uphold Judge Baer’s decision.

Neal also argued against the need for additional orphan works legislation. He suggested that recent judicial decisions clarifying the scope of fair use and eliminating the automatic injunction rule, as well as the lack of legal challenges to recent library efforts to engage in mass digitization of orphan works, illustrate that current law is sufficient to address the orphan works issue.

Neal was a passionate and articulate voice for libraries at yesterday’s hearing. Nonetheless, when asked whether there was any hope for resolving the most hot-button copyright issues of the day, he expressed hope that libraries and rights holders could engage in a substantive, cordial discussion on fair use, mass digitization, orphan works and other matters moving forward.

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Posted in Copyright, Events, OITP

How libraries are expanding the frontier of digital technology


The American Library Association’s (ALA) Program on America’s Libraries for the 21st Century (AL21C) monitors and evaluates technological trends with a view to helping libraries identify ways to better serve their patrons in the digital world. In the interest of supporting AL21C’s mission to scour the technology horizon and share these trends in a library context, I recently attended a panel discussion at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. on the future of the innovation economy. The panel, which was comprised of six tech industry leaders, spent a great deal of time talking about the transformative power of “smart” technology. Their discussions highlighted the fact that everywhere we look, some ordinary human tool is being “animated” by digital processes. This trend is important because it means that a growing number of tools we have traditionally used to interact with the world can now also help us make sense of the world.

As all of us in the library community know, libraries are getting “smarter.” New broadband-enabled video equipment in libraries can virtually transport students to museums and other educational institutions located in other cities, states and countries; new printing technology can help innovators bring their designs to life; and new computer software can provide jobseekers with interactive skills training.

The longer the digital frontier continues to expand, the more tempted we may feel to embrace the notion that it is our manifest destiny to live in an ever “smarter” world. In reality, however, we can only sustain our current rate of progress if we take steps to ensure that young Americans are being furnished with the skills they need to become the digital innovators of tomorrow.

During this week’s discussion at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Weili Dai, president and co-Founder of Marvell Technology Group, suggested that the key to preparing our students to take the reins of the “smart” revolution is to rethink the traditional roles of computer science and math in American education. She called high-level computer code “smart English,” and “the language that facilitates our lives,” and advocated for making computer science education universal.

As policymakers debate the merits of curricular reforms, libraries are creating more opportunities for our patrons to gain coding skills, in addition to other 21st Century digital literacy competencies. Recently, the Denver Public Library’s Community Technology Center participated in the Hour of Code, a nationwide program that offers instruction in JavaScript, Puzzlescript, Arduino and more. The Chattanooga Public Library ran a four-week summer camp last year which offered students an introduction to HTML, Python, CSS and the science of robotics. Children’s and school librarians also are exploring ways to bring coding skills to ever-younger audiences.

The ALA is excited about the role of libraries in America’s digital future. If, as Dai says, computer code is the language of 21st Century progress, then libraries are already taking steps to ensure America’s continued leadership in the global innovation economy.

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Posted in Digital Literacy, OITP, Public Libraries

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