Celebrating the National Student Poets Program

White House PhotoLast week, I had the pleasure of attending a dinner to honor the National Student Poets. Each year, the National Student Poets Program recognizes five extraordinary high school students, who receive college scholarships and opportunities to present their work at writing and poetry events across the country—which includes events at libraries.

To qualify for the National Student Poets Program, one must demonstrate excellence in poetry, provide evidence that they received prior awards for their work, and successfully navigate a multi-level selection process. The program is sponsored and hosted by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and several other groups, with the dinner hosted at the fabulous, new Google Washington Office—altogether an interesting collaboration.

The students began the day at the White House, and they read their poetry in the Blue Room, hosted by the First Lady. Then they met with a group of White House speechwriters to talk about the creation of a different kind of “poetry.” At the dinner, I sat next to one of the incoming (2014) National Student Poets, Cameron Messinides, a 17-year old from Greenville, South Carolina. He, as well as the other honorees, exhibited impressive, almost intimidating ability and poise in their presentations and informal conversation.

The advent of the digital age does not, of course, negate important forms of intellectual endeavor such as poetry, but does raise questions about how these forms of traditional communication extend online. And for the American Library Association (ALA), there are further questions about how libraries may best participate in this extension. Then there is the question of how to convey such library possibilities to decision makers and influencers. Thus, under the rubric of our Policy Revolution! Initiative as well as a new Office for Information Technology Policy program, we are exploring the needs and opportunities of children and youth with respect to technology and libraries with this eye on engaging national decision makers and influencers.

Well, OK, the event was fun too. With all due deference to our Empress of E-rate (Marijke Visser, who is the associate director of the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy), one cannot spend all of one’s time on E-rate and such matters, though even so, admittedly one can see a plausible link between E-rate, libraries, and poetry. So even at this dinner, E-rate did lurk in the back of my mind… I guess there is no true escape from E-rate.

Score one for the Empress.

Posted in Events, OITP Tagged with: , , , , ,

Copyright Office under the congressional spotlight

Last Thursday, the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet held a hearing to gather information about the work of the U.S. Copyright Office and to learn about the challenges the Office faces in trying to fulfill its many responsibilities. Testifying before the Committee was Maria Pallante, Register of Copyrights and Director of the Copyright Office (view Pallante’s testimony (pdf)). Pallante gave a thorough overview of the Office’s administrative, public policy and regulatory functions, and highlighted a number of ways in which the Office’s structure and position within the federal bureaucracy create inefficiencies in its day-to-day operations. Pallante described these inefficiencies as symptoms of a larger problem: The 1976 Copyright Act vested the Office with the resources and authority it needed to thrive in an analog world, but it failed to anticipate the new needs the Office would develop in adjusting to a digital world.

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Although the Office’s registration system—the system by which it registers copyright claims—was brought online in 2008, Pallante describes it as nothing more than a 20th century system presented in a 21st century format. The Office’s recordation system—the process by which it records copyright documents—is still completed manually and has not been updated for decades. Pallante considers fully digitizing the registration and recordation functions of the Copyright Office a top priority:

From an operational standpoint, the Office’s electronic registration system was fully implemented in 2008 by adapting off-the-shelf software. It was designed to transpose the paper-based system of the 20th century into an electronic interface, and it accomplished that goal. However, as technology continues to move ahead we must continue to evaluate and implement improvements. Both the registration and recordation systems need to be increasingly flexible to meet the rapidly changing needs of a digital marketplace.

Despite Pallante’s commitment to updating these systems, she cited her lack of administrative autonomy within the Library of Congress and her Office’s tightening budget as significant impediments to achieving this goal. Several members of the Committee suggested that the Office would have greater latitude to update its operations for the digital age if it were moved out from under the authority of the Library of Congress (LOC). While Pallante did not explicitly support this idea, she was receptive to suggestions from members of the Subcommittee that her office carries out very specialized functions that differ from those that are carried out by the rest of the LOC. Overall, Pallante seemed open to—if not supportive of—having a longer policy discussion on the proper position of the Copyright Office within the federal government.

In addition to providing insight into the inner-workings of the copyright office, the hearing continued the policy discussion on the statutory and regulatory frameworks that govern the process of documenting a copyright. As the Judiciary Committee continues to review the copyright law, it will be interesting to see if it further examines statutory and regulatory changes to the authority and structure of the Copyright Office.

Posted in Copyright, Government Information, OITP Tagged with: , ,

FCC highlights library proposal in net neutrality article

FCC building.In a blog post published yesterday by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Wireline Competition Bureau Chief Julie Veach recognizes net neutrality proposals submitted by the American Library Association (ALA) and a coalition of library, college and university organizations. The coalition called on the federal agency to adopt strong, enforceable net neutrality rules and set the bar higher than the “commercially reasonable” standard the agency proposed—whether using Title II or Section 706 of the Communications Act.

Veach reports that the FCC received over 3.7 million comments from the public on ways to protect an Open Internet. Veach wrote:

The Commission has been presented with a number of variants on the use of Title II. Tim Wu and Tejas Narechania have made an important proposal of this kind, as has the Mozilla Foundation, which suggested in its reply comments that Title II be used to create a presumption that all paid prioritization arrangements are unlawful.

Some parties also have spoken positively of the benefits of both Section 706 and Title II. For example, a coalition of library and higher-education institutions has made proposals that build on these sources of legal authority—suggesting, among other ideas, a finding that paid prioritization arrangements presumptively violate the law under a standard of “Internet reasonableness”.

The FCC will continue to explore net neutrality policies in the weeks ahead. ALA and higher education network neutrality counsel John Windhausen will further discuss the “Internet-reasonable” standard at a FCC-hosted roundtable on October 7, 2014.

Posted in Network Neutrality, OITP, Telecommunications Tagged with: , ,

Lebanese librarians visit ALA Washington Office

ALA staff with the Lebanese librarians.

ALA staff with the Lebanese librarians.

Last week, the American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office hosted librarians from Lebanon who are visiting the United States to learn about library practices and futures. Our visitors, May El Okaily Ep Riad Hassan (Baakleen National Library) and Carole Sahyoun (Library of the Municipality of Zahleh), are participants in the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. Through short-term visits to the U.S., foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience our country firsthand and cultivate professional relationships.

The visitors’ agenda was wide-ranging with particular interest in digital content and technology. Topics included ebooks, online databases, webinars, digitization, maker spaces, 3D printing, and libraries as publishers. Also discussed were library advocacy and various aspects about ALA.

Adam Eisgrau, Carrie Russell, Charlie Wapner, and I represented ALA. Hosting visitors from abroad is a regular responsibility of the Office, and we’ve met with librarians from many other countries around the world.

Posted in OITP Tagged with: ,

“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: , , , , , , ,

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