Will this plan help to reduce the digital divide? How can we make broadband Internet access available to families who already struggle to make the monthly bills? Efforts to increase the capabilities of networks “toward one gigabit to every community in America, through libraries, schools and community colleges” may help to extend access, but I suspect many libraries are going to need more computer terminals to really make a difference in the lives of the lower class. And maybe more libraries in rural and impoverished areas. Perhaps a LaptopMobile?
Posts Tagged ‘libraries’
Transformative works, such as fan fiction and fanvids are a sticky subject for librarians. Should librarians provide access to and market these resources the way we market other library resources? If fair use can be confirmed, there’s no problem, but what of resources in the gray area? Certainly comsumer demand for transformative works exists—look at the success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Yet some brilliant transformative works sample proprietary works that are not in the public domain. What do we do about these? Case in point: Here’s a transformative work that reimagines The Big Lebowski, if it had been written by Shakespeare.
Brilliant? Clearly. Hilarious? Obviously! Cultural value? I think so!
What’s an ethical librarian to do?
Is society becoming bound and gagged by overzealous licencing? Will our culture be hamstrung by copyright? There’s cause for concern…
Thanks to my friend Catherine Wilson for sending me a link to this article by Lawrence Lessig:
On October 12, the Tulsa City-County Library (TCCL) was closed for Columbus Day and held their annual Staff Development Day at the Hardesty Library. I have been subbing at various TCCL branches when staff are sick or on vacation, so I was invited to attend Staff Development Day.
The schedule for the event was as follows:8:00 am – Registration and breakfast 8:30 am – Opening Ceremonies 10:00 am – First Breakout Session 11:20 am – Open Booth and Activity Period 12:00 pm – Lunch 2:20 pm – Second Breakout Session 3:40 pm – Closing Ceremonies 5:00 pm – Dismissed
Breakfast was purchased with budgeted funds and catered by Jason’s Deli. Lunch was underwritten by the Friends of the Library and provided by Arby’s. A number of valuable classes were offered during the breakout sessions, and staff could receive continuing education credits by attending. Classes included topics like where and how to enroll in Library & Info Studies Master’s programs, how to provide library programming for teens, disaster preparedness, how to host a murder mystery program at the library, etc. During the Open Activity Period, library staff toured booths and displays created by other library staff. In touring the booths, I learned about TCCL’s proposed floating collection, the many responsibilities of the Collection Development Dept., the many nifty features of various Gale online databases, the activities of the TCCL Staff Association, and the resources of the Beryl Ford Memorial and Oklahoma Collection. In addition, staff could give blood, receive a free health screening, play video games, attend a yoga class or talk an Urban Wildlife Walk during the Open Activity Period.
I thought the catering for this event was well done in terms of set-up and the vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Having the Friends help off-set the cost of food was a smart way to leverage resources and keep the event budget down. The use of Hardesty Library facilities for booths and classes was well-thought-out. The Staff Development Day guide was very cleverly designed, and the inclusion of maps for event locations, descriptions of events, and an evaluation form made this publication very helpful. The theme for Staff Development Day was “Everyday Heroes,” and I thought this theme was very well-chosen in the interest of showing staff appreciation. Staff were given royal blue t-shirts with a modified superman logo on the chest to wear to the event. A number of staff wore capes, too! Decorations included various superhero themed items and were very cleverly arranged. Staff achievement awards were announced during opening and closing ceremonies, and I was very impressed by the number of hard-working and highly creative staff recognized through these awards. I think this is another great way of showing staff appreciation by publicly recognizing their achievements.
I believe a few elements could have been improved in the organization of this event. Hardesty Library is in the process of expanding its parking lot due to space shortage, so a lot of parking was blocked off due to construction. This caused there to be insufficient parking for staff attending the event. Perhaps efforts could have been made to encourage carpooling or to identify locations for overflow parking ahead of time. Possibly such efforts were made, and I was simply unaware of them. Additionally, I heard a lot of feedback from staff attending the event that the Open Activity Session in the middle of the day was too long. Apparently this large span of free time was provided to allow staff ample time to view all the booths, give blood and do the health screening. However, those who did not take advantage of the time-consuming health screening were left with too much time and not enough to do. Perhaps additional optional classes could have been provided during this period.
Another small issue was that subs like me that work few and sporadic hours were unable to browse and choose from the list of classes posted on the intranet in order to enroll ahead of time. Thus I really didn’t get to know about all of the opportunities available at the event–only the activities I stumbled into on my own. Granted, I may have been the only sub who attended, so this was a very isolated problem. Having a full list of classes that could be emailed to subs like me ahead of time would have been very helpful. Of course, it’s easy to identify problems like these after the fact. It’s far more difficult to predict them ahead of time.
All in all I was quite impressed with the organization and promotion of this event.
In my Community Relations & Advocacy class, we are currently analyzing and discussing ethical dilemmas. One of the problematic situations is this:
“A parents’ group, concerned with recently publicized accounts of children being stalked in the library by pedophiles, requests that the Children’s Department of the library be off-limits to everyone except children under the age of 12 and their biological parents.”
The moral dilemma of this situation involves the necessity of choice between either protecting child library users from harm or providing equitable access to library resources and upholding the right to read. We want children to be safe in our libraries, but limiting access to the children’s department to everyone but children under 12 and their biological parents limits access to numerous people with legitimate needs for children’s resources. Children may be accompanied by grandparents, older siblings, step-parents, foster parents, legal guardians, teachers, day care providers–must these people be denied access? What if these adults come to the library alone to check out children’s materials for their grandchildren/younger siblings/step-children/students? What about adults who are learning to read, or mentally challenged adults that can only read and enjoy children’s materials? What about grad students who want to be children’s librarians and need to study children’s resources?
From the deontological perspective, allowing potentially harmful individuals to come into proximity with children might be considered evil. Another deontological perspective might be that denying taxpayers access to public resources and curtailing customers’ right to read is evil.
The parents who have proposed restricting the children’s department may be operating from the teleological theory of ethical egoism: restricting adults from the children’s department would best meet their needs and desires. However, those holding with the teleological theory of utilitarianism would favor the action that guarantees the most good for the most people. Since most people are not pedophiles, protecting intellectual freedom by allowing equitable access to the children’s department would provide the most good for the most people.
My professional stance is that restricting equitable public access to any library resources purchased with tax dollars is against the ALA code of ethics and the Library Bill of Rights. Customers who are following library rules cannot be denied access to public resources. Librarians should not be acting as the Pre-Crime Dept. in Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report. The ALA code of ethics states that librarians will provide equitable service policies and equitable access; librarians will uphold intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources; and librarians will not advance private interests at the expense of library users. The Library Bill of Rights states that a person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background or views. These fundamental principles of librarianship are diametrically opposed to the proposed restriction.
Besides, the proposed restriction is not guaranteed to protect child library users. Some pedophiles are parents. Some children molest other children (usually because they have been/are being molested themselves). Children could be attacked in any area of the library–not just the children’s dept. Children are more likely to be safe and protected if their parents/guardians supervise them at all times. To show the parents proposing restriction of the children’s dept. that the library does care about their children’s safety, the library may institute a rule or a strong suggestion that children should be accompanied by parents/guardians at all times. The library could have a security guard walk through all areas of the library periodically, or if this is not financially feasible, librarians could rove through the library to offer customer assistance and keep their eyes peeled for suspicious behavior.
Another ethical dilemma posed is this:
“When a library customer overhears a librarian waiving the fines and charges of another customer, he asks that his fines also be waived. His request is refused based upon the fact that he has the resources to pay his fines while the first customer did not. The offended customer files a grievance with the Library Board of Trustees, claiming that the collection of fines by the library is arbitrary, subjective, and capricious. He demands that the policy be enforced in an all-or-nothing manner, with all customers held to the same standards.”
Clearly this is a very difficult ethical situation, and it doesn’t help that we don’t have all the information we need to understand it. We know that patron 2 overheard the librarian waiving the fines of patron 1. We know that the librarian refused to waive patron 2’s fines “based upon the fact that he has the resources to pay his fines while the first customer did not,” but we do not know how the librarian determined that patron 2 can afford to pay fines and patron 1 could not. If the librarian simply made an assumption about the financial status of each patron, clearly this is not right. But perhaps the librarian knew patron 1 well–perhaps patron 1 is a repeat customer who talks to the librarian often about their life and their difficulty finding a job… Perhaps the librarian also knew patron 2 well as a repeat customer. We don’t know.
We do not know exactly what the librarian said to patron 2 about patron 1’s resources. Obviously if the librarian disclosed anything to patron 2 about patron 1’s financial status, this would be highly unethical and a violation of privacy. We do not know if the librarian was following a clearly defined library policy for waiving fines in certain circumstances, or if the librarian did not follow policy, or if a policy exists in this hypothetical library, or if the librarian just made an arbitrary decision.
We do not know the amount of each patron’s fines. We do not know if each customer’s fines are simply for late fees or if either customer is being charged to replace items that were never returned. Waiving late fees is not a big deal, but waiving replacement fees is more serious.
We can make recommendations about what should have been done in each situation. Certainly library policies should be in place about when it is proper to waive fines. Policies should also be in place as to how to deal with irate customers. If a policy was in place, and the librarian really did have knowledge about the financial status of both customers, and the librarian was following library policy in waiving one customer’s fines and denying the other, then the next appropriate step would be to explain to patron 2 the library’s policy about waiving fines in certain extenuating circumstances.
But here’s a problem: how can you explain to patron 2 that the library waives fines for customers who cannot afford to pay them without disclosing private information about patron 1’s financial status? Even if you don’t refer specifically to patron 1, by saying that it is the library’s policy to waive late fines for customers who cannot afford to pay, you have revealed private information about patron 1’s financial status. I don’t have an answer for that one.
If patron 2 is unhappy with the librarian’s explanation of policy, the patron should be given the opportunity to discuss the situation with the manager. The manager should be able to smooth things over with the customer while the librarian is freed up to continue helping other customers.
If the manager cannot convince the patron of the fairness of the library’s fine-waiving policy, and assuming patron 2’s fines are simply for late books and not replacement of lost books, I think it would be better to waive patron 2’s fines than to allow the situation to continue to escalate and become a nasty PR issue.
My understanding of this sort of situation comes from a public library perspective, so what works in a public library may not work as well in an academic, school or special library. I know that in the Tulsa City-County Library, fines for late items do not add up to much money, even if you add up all the late fines paid in all 25 branches in a year’s time. Waiving a fine now and then is not depriving the community of library materials. However, fine collections might be a lot more important in a smaller library, so this deserves some consideration. I think there are legitimate reasons for waiving late fees, such as when a customer has lost his or her job and needs to use library resources to find a new job, create a resume, etc.
Maintaining good customer relations may also be a good reason for waiving fines. If a mother is going to stop taking her kids to the library because she can’t pay the fine on her card, maybe it would be better to forgive the fine or part of the fine in order to keep the customers? I once served a very elderly, hard-of-hearing lady who had a 15 cent fine on her card for some late books. She was adamant that she had returned the books on time. I figured it was possible that the library made a mistake, and even if we hadn’t, 15 cents is no big deal to the library, but it was clearly a big deal, perhaps a matter of honor, to this lady. It seemed more important to me to preserve the library’s good relationship with this woman than to wring the 15 cents out of her. I also didn’t want to potentially damage the reputation of the library by having a loud discussion with this hard-of-hearing lady about such a miniscule amount of money. We don’t want the library to be seen as wringing the desperately needed social security money out of someone’s little old grandmother. Certainly customer privacy and the library’s image is at stake when fines must be collected in a public place, and I’m not sure how to resolve this problem.
Maybe fines could be deferred, so that customers who can’t pay now could be allowed to use library resources in the mean time, and asked for payment again in 6 months? In terms of public libraries which are most needed by those with limited financial resources, I think flexibility is imperative.
Posted in Graduate Assistantship, tagged blogging, Facebook, information literacy, libraries, OLISSA, OU Tulsa, outreach, OUTSA, portfolio, technology, Web 2.0, webpages on August 27, 2009| Leave a Comment »
New LIS/KM student orientation wrapped up on Saturday, August 22. Dr. Stewart Brower was thankfully present in the flesh to provide a much-needed infusion of life and enthusiasm Saturday afternoon. He gave an overview of the new OU-Tulsa Library, showed off the cool new laptops and cameras available for student check-out, and gave a tour of the present library facility. I think Dr. Brower was just the breath of fresh air that the students needed after watching professors on a TV screen for three 8-hour days. If I one day learn how to give a presentation with just a quarter of Dr. Brower’s energy and charisma, I will consider myself a very successful presenter.
Dr. Brower also let the new students know that the OU-Tulsa Library is available to provide information literacy assistance. I think some of the new students struggling to figure out the Desire2Learn platform will find this helpful, if they aren’t too shy to ask for help. I assisted a couple new students with some D2L navigation tips, and I’m glad that at least one of these students was not afraid to ask for guidance at the library as well. I hope I was of some assistance.
I gave a bit of a pitch for OLISSA and OUTSA on Saturday. I think my delivery needs some work, but I tried to explain to the new students that this LIS/KM program is what you make of it. If the students want to make the program meet their needs, the best way to do this is to get involved with the student associations–advocate for the changes they want, earmark funds for more useful tools and technology in the library, etc. We may not be able to change everything or get everything we want, but we won’t get anything if we don’t ask. I hope my message got across.
In other news, I’m exploring the idea of creating a facebook page for OLISSA. Afterall, the OU-Tulsa Library is on Facebook now. Might be a good way to get the word out about upcoming meetings. We could post past comps questions in the notes section, share URLs for the portfolios of students who have successfully defended, LIS/KM student blogs, student-created comps preparation wikis, etc.
OLISSA also has an ancient blog that could be updated. A blog would be accessible to everyone, even students without facebook accounts. But since so many students are on facebook, it seems useful to go where the students are, and have important postings appear on a webpage that students are already looking at. I think a webpage, a blog and a facebook page would all be useful to their niche audiences.
A Facebook profile and/or a blog would be easier to update than the OLISSA webpage. I think we should still have a webpage, but if you’ve looked at it recently, you can see it’s out of date. Unfortunately I don’t know how to update it at the moment. It can only help to have up-to-date information about our organization out there–how else can students find us? How can students think OLISSA is relevant if we’re outdated?
Creating a facebook page and/or blog for OLISSA could serve as one of my accomplishments/artifacts for my portfolio I’m working on.