29 Sep 2013

Copyright and the question of fair use in academic and research libraries

The doctrine of fair use (or fair dealing) is deliberately a flexible one and, as a result, interpreted differently by academic librarians depending on local risk management strategies and actual application in the field. Essentially, fair use ensures that copyright owners do not hold a monopoly over transformative uses of their works: fair use represents a general user right. Without the opportunity of fair use, critical discourse in education would be severely affected.  By default, protected material available to the public is open to fair use.

Take for example this generic statement about fair use under the Irish Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000:

“fair dealing” means the making use of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, film, sound recording, broadcast, cable programme, non-electronic original database or typographical arrangement of a published edition which has already been lawfully made available to the public, for a purpose and to an extent which will not unreasonably prejudice the interests of the owner of the copyright” (Section 50 (4))

This sort of semantic “clarity” makes it difficult to interpret and apply fair use with certainty. Different user communities are affected in equal measure including broadcasters, historians, artists and publishers among others. One of the core roles of research and academic libraries is providing patrons with access to copyright material. For that reason, we must be able to comfortably argue our legal position with as much certainty as possible in the event that particular copyright material is singled out for re-purposing or re-contextualisation.

Against the backdrop of this scenario ARL developed a practical best practice code in fair use. Despite being wrapped in the United States Copyright Act (copyright law is of territorial nature), it’s perfectly usable if appropriately tweaked and re-applied within the context of Irish copyright rule.

The ARL code of best practices in fair use considers eight common library situations:

  1. Supporting teaching and learning with access to library materials via digital technologies
  2. Using selections from collection materials to publicise a library’s activities, or to create physical and virtual exhibitions
  3. Digitising to preserve at risk items
  4. Creating digital collections of archival and special collection materials
  5. Re-producing material for use by disabled students, faculty, staff, and other appropriate users
  6. Maintaining the integrity of works deposited in institutional repositories
  7. Creating databases to facilitate non consumptive research uses (including search)
  8. Collecting material posted on the Web and making it available
Take the example of you being tasked to secure at-risk analogue materials through a process of digital conversion, preservation and making available online (e.g. a legacy thesis collection going back 20 years or so): scenario 3) applies. The principle under scenario 3 states that “it is fair use to make digital copies of collection items that are likely to deteriorate, or that exist only in difficult-to-access formats, for purposes of preservation, and to make those copies available as surrogates for fragile or otherwise inaccessible materials”.

Thus, within the specific context of the above example, I can “arguably” argue my case better – if necessary – by beefing up my interpretation of current Irish legislation under Chapter 6, Acts Permitted in Relation to Works Protected by Copyright and in particular Sections 65 and 66.

For the specific limitations and enhancements of principle three see pp. 17-19 (principle 3) in the ARL codes of best practices in fair use.

See also: 

18 Sep 2013

Could this be a best practice template for library-shelf signage?

I spotted this interesting case study by Amy F. Stempler discussing shelf-signage issues in a circulating book collection at CSI Library, a four year college library. Inherently, every library’s physical layout is uniquely different. Some places are purpose built; others are born out of recycled space with some walls knocked through. No matter what the conditions on the ground, Stempler reckons that her approach to shelf signage may well serve as a generic best practice framework for other libraries out there. I agree with her. Below follows a brief description of CSI library and an overview of Stempler’s signage approach.

The library at CSI resides in a three-floor building and is comprised of four quadrants hugging a dome. Its collection of 240,000 books is housed on the third floor and spreads over 191 double-sided bookshelves. The same is arranged in three of the four quadrants and organised by the Library of Congress Classification System.

Stempler’s literature review indicates that most studies to date revolve around library-shelf configuration, informational and promotional materials as well as general wayfinding signage, rather than advice on creating precise search and retrieval strategies and related signage. It is suggested that specific signage – such as locator signs and navigational maps – will create more self-sufficient students when it comes to subject browsing and locating targeted books. Arguably, this translates into more independent library users with the knock-on effect of freeing up reference staff time.

Since the physical layout at CSI library proofed to be a challenge for effective wayfinding, Stempler devised a new signage strategy that directly tackles book retrieval challenges two particular user types face: people searching for a specific book and people wanting to browse for books on a particular subject.

The re-design approach:
First of all, a colour-coded scheme was devised that visually sections off library-shelf areas in support of basic spatial orientation. The colour themes were then rigorously applied to all related signage, which in turn created a unified wayfinding theme. Five types of signs were created using the same font, format and label type:
1) Aisle number signs:
Double-sided perpendicular card holders indicate the isle number; all cards are colour coded. Knowledge of the aisle where particular books reside in addition to the class number can speed up retrieval time. Users can receive aisle numbers via the reference desk, shelf lists located in strategic locations or from an online map.

2) Class number range sings:
All signs are appropriately colour coded and contain the phrase “Class Numbers” on the first line, followed by the first three components of the class number for the first and last book in the isle. 

3) Directional signs:
Three directional sign types apply. The first indicates the appropriate colour section, the second includes an arrow pointing to where a colour section is located, and the third specifies where class numbers continue. The first two types are printed on plain paper and, where appropriate, on the colour paper to which they refer. The third sign uses the same language where possible. Directional signs are placed at navigational decision points.

4) Subject area signs (for browsing):
Provide the title “Find Books by Subject Area”, briefly define the relevant classification system and describe how books are grouped by subject and arranged together on the shelves. Signs are printed on corresponding colour paper. Maintain consistency in font and format with all other signs.

5) Shelf list signs:
The reference desk maintains a colour coded shelf list indicating aisle number and related class number range. This is used as a wayfinding tool when assisting users at the desk. Shelf list signs are also mounted in strategic locations to aid targeted book retrieval and subject browsing.

In addition to analogue library signage, CSI developed a digital map version which hyperlinks from the location and class number in a given catalogue record. The map indicates where a particular book is located. See screenshot examples below.

The re-design effort in shelf-signage at CSI partially contributed to the fact that circulating book transactions have increased by 71% (as identified by the 2008/2009 annual report).

15 Sep 2013

Discovery Services and the Information Literacy Challenge

Image: Jocelyn Wallace: http://www.flickr.com/photos/red11group/4869913259/
This blog post was partly prompted by another one, as well as my own reflections on discovery platforms of late. I am a big fan of the idea of such platforms - after all, anything that makes things easier for our users is a good thing. Discovery services remove a lot of the barriers that libraries and publishers have inadvertently created: if students don't understand all our fancy library terminology (databases, subject headings, filters...) it doesn't really matter; users don't have to know the often-unwieldy and confusing names of our products in order to find information; and perhaps best of all, they are fast and reasonably intuitive. From an instructional point of view, these tools allow librarians to focus on the bigger and deeper issues and concepts involved in using, evaluating and managing information by freeing up traditional "database teaching" time. A great tool for first year undergrads for a lot of reasons.

However, one concern I do have is how we manage the teaching transition from the discovery service to more complex information-seeking. Our students may become so comfortable with and reliant on using our single-search interfaces that they become (understandably) reluctant to relinquish their grip on Summon, Encore or Ebsco Discovery Service. As information literacy librarians, how do we persuade our users that the speedy and seamless tool they have experienced success with, is not enough after all, and really they need to move beyond it? How do we encourage our students that the more time-consuming and cumbersome process of wading through individual resources separately is sometimes needed and actually pays off? On paper, this is not an easy sell. At the same time as promoting our discovery services, we clearly need to keep developing how we package and provide access to our individual products. Libguides and other subject portals are one example of how we can simplify this process for our users by bringing our resources together thematically or by subject, but it doesn't solve other problems, such as those concerning interdisciplinary research.

The real challenge remains how we can support our students in managing the leap from our discovery services to databases as they progress towards final year projects, dissertations and postgraduate research. It requires helping them to understand the difference between both approaches, and explaining that each can be successful for different purposes and contexts. For those that teach information skills primarily (or solely) using discovery services with early undergraduates, it would be interesting to follow these students through and examine their behaviour at the end of their degree programmes or beyond. Are they overly reliant on these tools when a more sophisticated approach is required? It may be too early to expect this kind of study right now, but I'm already awaiting the results on this one.

6 Sep 2013

Eight useful librarian webinars in September

On the back of the five webinars in July, here is another set of suggestions fluently merging with the kicking off of the new academic semester.

Source: architexts
All librarian webinars listed below are free of charge and cover the areas of digital content creation and collection development, technology challenges in the library, Google Analytics, practical Apps, practical application tips for that library job, embedded librarianship and, finally, a session on how library patrons can derive value from WorldCat.org.

Going Digital
Monday, 9th September, 4pm – 5pm (GMT)
Briefly introduces the critical components of digital content creation and collection development.

Up Next: We Talk Databases with Marshall Breeding and an Expert Panel
Thursday, 12th September, 5pm – 6pm (GMT)
- How libraries are addressing databases and electronic resources in the wake of budget cuts
- How discovery services impact databases
- The current state of database-related products and vendors
- How librarians are affected when vendors consolidate or go out of business
- The differences and similarities in the public and academic library worlds regarding databases

Google Analytics for Nonprofits
Thursday, 12th September, 8pm – 9pm (GMT-Dublin)
This overview is for anyone that wants to know the value of using Web analytics.

There's an APP for that
Friday, 14th September, 7pm – 8pm (GMT-Dublin)
This session shows some of the best apps for education across multiple types of devices. It doesn't matter if you use an iPad, Android device, or even Google Chrome, more often than not, there is in fact an "app for that".

Cover Letter and resume tips to get an interview
Wednesday, 18th September, 7:30pm –  9:00pm (GMT-Dublin)
Geared towards library students and recent graduates. Participants will learn to match their cover letter and resume to job descriptions; show their skills, not tell; and make a good impression in the application process.

Everyday Technology for Learning Differences: Use the Tools You Already Have
Thursday, 19th September,  kick-off at 11.30pm (GMT-Dublin... a late show)
Highlights include:
- Underutilised features in Microsoft Word and other popular programs
- Learning supports built into the Mac and Windows operating systems
- Apps that turn mobile devices (Apple iDevices, Android) into portable learning assistants
- Alternative uses for consumer electronics (MP3 player, camera, voice recorder, smartpen)
- Add-ons, Web resources, and cloud drives to configure an Internet browser as an online study tool

Frontiers of Embedded Librarianship
Tuesday, 24th September, 9am – 10.30am (GMT-Dublin)
This webinar explores new approaches to reference that embed the librarian in the community, answering questions at the point of need, and growing community connections.

Maximising the value of WorldCat.org
Monday, 30th September, 10am – 11am (GMT-Dublin)
This course provides a brief introduction to the Worldcat.org platform and illustrates how libraries can help patrons derive maximum advantage from the service.
Posted on Friday, September 06, 2013 | Categories:

Only Connect … the beginning of an unbook

Only Connect … Discovery pathways, library explorations, and the information adventure is an 'unbook' about information literacy. Its flexible and innovative format is a great example of sharing information and research in new ways. The (un)book is available freely online, and is also available in print on demand. Here, Emma (@Libgoddess) explains how the idea for the project came about between herself and Andy Walsh (@andywalsh999).

Guest Post by Emma Coonan, Cambridge University Library

As the worksheets were being passed around and the hum of the interactive exercise grew to a chatter, Andy and I continued our covert discussion.

“So what did you not like about the traditional way of publishing?” he muttered.

“Really, the whole idea of having to write in an academic way,” I whispered thoughtfully. “The fact that our authors couldn't use informal language, speak in their own voices, use their own preferred spellings. The way all the chapters had to be the same length!”

Andy nodded. “I hate how everything’s pushed into being textual. Why can’t there be room for people to express themselves not in words? Why can’t you publish academic stuff in the form of a video, or a Prezi?”

“And I hate signing away copyright!” I fulminated quietly. “I got so embarrassed asking authors to sign away their right to do anything with their own work.”

“Yeah,” he hissed intently. An arm came between us, distributing handouts. We ducked underneath. “Like, a Creative Commons licence would let authors get their work out there but still do whatever they want with it. They could put their chapters in institutional repositories, on blogs ... Hey, you could just put a whole book online electronically and make it completely free to access, why not?”

I made the ‘ohmahgard’ face. “Wow. If you had it all online, people could write exactly how they wanted - or they could not write, actually, at all! They could do like you said and use any kind of multimedia format they liked!”

“You could do a print version too if you wanted,” he said, thinking aloud. “Use something like LULU, a print on demand service - it’s so cheap now, and it works internationally ...”

“You could do your own marketing, at conferences and on JISCmail lists ... On Twitter ... “

“You can buy ISBNs, you know! Even if you’re not an official publisher!”

“It would be ... an unbook,” I said slowly. He nodded again. “An anarcho-narrative approach to information literacy.”

Our worksheets still completely blank, we looked at each other with a wild surmise.

5 Sep 2013

Turning open access polemic into publications

I came across a blog post recently (Open access is the only way to publish like a Prius is the only car to drive) that highlighted what is perhaps the biggest barrier to publishing open access right now - and it's not the article processing charges levied by many publishers:
"There's more to "affording" something than the dollars. Like practically anything, academia is a hierarchical system. There's the obvious hierarchy that can be seen in career stage, but there's the sometimes less obvious divisions that exist."
In spite of the increased focus on opening up research of late, this hierarchicial system still often dominates when it comes to scholarly publishing preferences, with researchers and authors being pressurised into publishing in a subset of 'top-tier' high impact journals. These same journals are often subscription titles, which lock up the authors' ideas inside a paywall, limiting access to, and the potential impact of, their work.

One would think, a priori, that publishing research openly should lead to more citations, ceteris paribus. However, this correlation is often not borne out in reality, largely because a lot of the most important papers and most significant research are still being published in traditional, closed access journals, because the prestige and impact factors of such publications lend obvious benefits to an academic CV. Consequently it is very understandable that open access may not be a priority for many researchers, particularly when some studies find that there are low citation gains for gold open access articles. This is of course because many open access publications are relatively new, without the prestige, tradition and JCR-indexing of many subscription titles, and thus may represent a risky choice of venue for authors.

Research assessment at the institutional and even national level often fails to take account of other forms of impact, so there is no real incentive for researchers to publish open access. Indeed, in some cases they may even be penalised for it. It is axiomatic to say that good research is good research, no matter where it is published. Similarly, high quality journals are high quality journals, whether they are open access or subscription-funded. Many researchers claim that they will happily publish in OA journals - as long as these publications are viewed as equally valid venues by the scientific and academic community. Yet this will not happen by itself, somebody has to make the first move, and the second move and so on to realise the change. Sandra Schmid from UT Southwestern makes this point in her analysis of the DORA declaration from the employer's perspective: "our signatures are meaningless unless we change our hiring practices". Schmid describes how the Department of Cell Biology is changing their recruitment strategy to:
"identify future colleagues who might otherwise have failed to pass through the singular artificial CV filter of high-impact journals, awards, and pedigree. For example, we encourage applications from candidates who are ready and eager to launch their independent careers, but might feel sidelined because their paper has yet to be, or perhaps won't be, published in a high-impact journal."
This is exactly the kind of step forward that I believe can help encourage more people to publish their work in open access venues, and not harm their career by choosing to do so. Until this happens, it is unfortunately likely that we will continue to see studies which show a limited, if any, citation advantage to publishing open access.

The theme of next month's Open Access Week is Redefining Impact. For more information visit http://www.openaccessweek.org/