Posts Tagged 'busy librarian guide'

Busy librarian guide to the Research Works Act

I did an informal survey at MPOW and was a bit surprised to learn that very few librarians here know much about the Research Works Act (RWA) (PDF). Some had heard of it, but had only a vague sense of what it is — “It’s the anti-Open Access bill, right?”. (Not to single anyone out, but our awesome new International Government Docs librarian did know about the RWA, had strong opinions, and rushed off the find the full text of the bill).

I think the Research Works Act, and especially the debate that it has engendered, is an important part of the context in which we (librarians) operate; and we need to be aware of the conversations. So, I hope folks at MPOW and elsewhere will find this round-up of the basics helpful. To fully grok the debate, you really should follow the links and read more.

The Research Works Act is intended to place limits on the actions of federal agencies, such that:

No Federal agency may adopt, implement, maintain, continue, or otherwise engage in any policy, program, or other activity that (1) causes, permits, or authorizes network dis- semination of any private-sector research work without the prior consent of the publisher of such work; or (2) requires that any actual or prospective author, or the employer of such an actual or prospective author, assent to network dissemination of a private-sector research work.

The American Libraries Association came out in opposition:

The ALA has been a long-time, ardent supporter of increasing access to information of all types, including federally funded research. This latest bill, the Research Works Act, would act in direct contradiction and therefore the ALA vehemently opposes the bill.

Perhaps not surprisingly, The Association of American Publishers supports the Act, claiming it is necessary “to ensure freedom from regulatory interference for private-sector research publications.”

The Copyright Alliance is likewise supportive, arguing that “Providing a federal grant to fund a research project should not enable the federal government to commandeer and freely distribute a subsequently published private sector peer-reviewed article.”

The ever insightful Barbara Fister does a marvelous job of spelling out the connection between the Research Works Act and the Elesevier boycott, noting that the furor over the RWA seems to have awakened more scholars to the open access cause.

For a rather nuanced take on the RWA and associated issues, check out David Crotty’s piece at the scholarly kitchen, where he asks:

Can we express strong support for open access publishing while at the same time taking care not to destroy the funding we generate, which is used to directly support the research community and research itself?

Crotty further argues:

For the not-for-profit publisher — the research society dependent on its journal, the research institution that uses a journal to fund research — extremism in either direction makes no sense. If one truly believes in one’s mission, then both the seemingly contradictory ideas of expanding access and preserving revenue streams are necessary and compatible. The goal should be to find ways to expand access while at the same time continuing to fund the important activities a society or institution provides.

For more information and opinions on the Research Works Act, see:

Note: I decided to make this the first in what I hope to make into a regular series of posts tagged “Busy librarian guide”. I’ll tackle and try to summarize key issues that I think librarians (especially academic librarians) ought to be aware of. I’ve retroactively tagged a few old posts as well, so it actually looks like a series. Please feel free to suggest topics in the comments below.

2/7/12: Edited to add John Dupuis’ Around the web: Research Works Act & Elsevier Boycott, which is chock-full of links.

Update on What’s happening at Harvard

First, the meta stuff. My blog post summarizing What’s happening at Harvard was originally intended as an email to a colleague who missed all the hoopla because she was on a plane heading to ALA MidWinter in Dallas. On a whim, I decided to post it on the blog as well. Apparently, the interwebs love a good summary–that post got more hits (and more comments) in a few hours than the entire blog usually gets in a month. A similar thing happened when I wrote a Round-up on Authors Guild vs. HathiTrust.

(Note to self #1: Don’t be shy about posting something that is “just a summary”. Note to self #2: Whenever you wonder whether to share something with a broader audience than originally intended, just do it.)

Since Thursday, lots of additional summaries, information, and analyses have hit the internet.
Perhaps the most important thing published was The Transcript of the actual Town Hall Meetings.
The transcript contains the actual remarks made by Mary Lee Kennedy, Senior Associate Provost, and Helen Shenton, Executive Director. It does not include any of the Q & A after the remarks. Much has been made of the fact that very little new information was actually shared at these Town Hall meetings, and the transcript seems to confirm that. As far as I can tell, Harvard Library staff have known since 2009 that downsizing of various distributed technical services operations was coming. The first recommendation of the Report of the Task Force on University Libraries was to “Establish and implement a shared administrative structure”. It seems to me that the town hall meetings served to make official that “the Library workforce will be smaller than it is now.” I suspect that the frustration and anxiety felt by many Harvard staff after the Town Hall meetings was the lack of new details. They have known for 2 years that something was coming, so an official reminder that “the ax is still hanging over their heads” was not particularly well-recieved by many. In addition, Shenton’s announcement that “all Library staff are invited to state job preferences, to articulate skills and to provide a resume by creating and submitting an Employee Profile” was interpreted by some to mean that all staff would have to effectively re-apply for employment with the Harvard Libraries. It is clear from subsequent information that is not accurate, but I can see how staff who are already stressed and hungry for some detailed information might interpret it that way.

Let me pause here to say that it is not my intent in any way to second-guess Kennedy or Shenton. They are in an incredibly difficult position. It would be easy for me to speculate on how I might have handled this differently, but the truth is that I do not have all of the information about the constraints, pressures, and mandates they are likely facing. At any rate, I do applaud them for posting the transcripts of their remarks, and encourage all of us who are following along at home to read them.

Equally important were insights from those who were actually at the town hall meetings including:

  • The Great Librarian Massacre (and Other Episodes in Harvard Cultural History)*: Tom Bruno, Head of Resource Sharing at Widener Library, Harvard, provides an excellent first-hand account and reaction to the Town Hall Meetings. Tom writes “So while a lot of what’s been said on the Internet has bordered on hysteria, I hope you’ll at least forgive those of us Twittering from the epicenter of yesterday’s announcements for our gut reactions to the endgame of a very long and painful reorganization process.” No need to ask forgiveness, Tom — I hope the outpouring of on-line support for you and your colleagues is evidence enough that we are with you in spirit and with as much empathy as we can muster.
  • The Crimson Thursday: Michael Bradford, cataloger with the Harvard Divinity School, provides another first-hand account and reaction. Most telling was his admission that although “we all knew that with a massive reorganization like the one taking place, that there were going to be reductions. It was still a shock to see the words on the screen and coming out of Helen Shenton’s mouth.” The words he refers to were “the library workforce will smaller than it is now.” Bradford echoes others who indicate that the town hall meetings served only to “ratchet up the anxiety, fears, and trepidation amongst the library staff”‘ without providing any new details.

Other blog posts tackling the story include:

  • The Harvard Libraries Reorg: What’s the Takeaway?: “Harvard’s radical reorganization is not akin to the day the music died, but it is a harbinger of things to come for many libraries of all stripes.” I beg to differ. My sense is actually that what Harvard is doing now (in terms of downsizing and centralizing) is actually what many of us have already done. I think this is a case of Harvard emulating its peers, rather than a case of the rest of us eventually following in Harvard’s footsteps.
  • Reformat and reinstall approach to organizational change rarely works: Edward Bilodeau, a librarian at McGill University, claims that “it is clear that they (Harvard Library Administrators) have decided to bring about the needed organizational change in a short amount of time, and the impact on their people, their careers, and their personal lives is not very high on the list of priorities.” I think that is a particularly harsh and cynical interpretation of the situation, without much (if any) evidence to support it. In my opinion, those directly affected get to grumble, speculate, and engage in as much hyperbole as is useful to them. I would like to see the rest of us avoid speculating on motives and casting aspersions.
  • Harvard U. Libraries, Reorganization, and Transparency: A Note for Leadership: Colleen, academic librarian and author of this blog, notes “I still cannot decide what about transparency frustrates leaders so much that they will not engage in its practice.” We don’t know exactly why the Harvard Library leaders have not revealed more details about the reorganization at this time, so I’m not sure it is fair to speculate that they are deliberately avoiding transparency. We do know that the lack of more detailed information right now has caused some significant anxiety for staff, and (thanks to social media) for the wider library world. I do think the issue of transparency and leadership is really important. Frankly, it is one of the top struggles I have had since moving into an AUL position in 2009. As a colleague recently said to me “the higher up you move in an organization, the more secrets you have to keep.” Sometimes you have to keep secrets to protect individual privacy, sometimes to protect financial information, sometimes because your boss asks you to, and sometimes for any variety of other reasons. I have given quite a bit of thought to how to be as transparent as possible in a leadership position — I actually have a draft blog post on the topic. Guess it is time to dust it off, flesh it out, and get it posted soon.
  • The Library Loon on Restructuring: The Loon essentially says she saw this coming, it is coming to other libraries, it is needed, and research librarians better be ready for it. Being the Loon, she says it with eloquence and a delicious level of snark.
  • Of Anxiety and Reorgs – Harvard Libraries Today
  • …What it is ain’t exactly clear…

And, some straight-up press accounts:

This story is far from over. Stay tuned.

What’s happening at Harvard?

The twitterspere (at least my corner of it) was all abuzz today about the Harvard Library Town Hall meetings (hashtag #hlth). Harvard Libraries have been in a “transition” for some time now, and it appears that the meetings today were intended to provide library staff with some updated information on the transition. Judging from the tweets, it was not particularly effective — more questions than answers apparently.

I have absolutely no insider knowledge at all, but as far as I can tell from trying to keep up with the tweets all day:

  • An initial tweet claiming “All of Harvard Library staff have just effectively been fired” was re-tweeted often, as was a Google+ post written by a former Harvard University Library staff member.
  • Later tweets clarified that no staff were laid off … today. Layoffs are imminent, however, and more details will be available next month.
  • The layoffs will be in areas that are “Shared Services” — such as technical services, preservation, and access services; not collection development, research librarians, or special collections.
  • Some jobs will be eliminated, some restructured, some new jobs created.
  • For restructured and new jobs, internal candidates will be solicited first.
  • All library staff are being encouraged to fill out employee profiles (with skills, interests and a CV/resume), which will factor into decisions about restructuring (and presumably who stays and who goes, and where the stayers go …). It looks like the deadline for completing profiles is only 1 month away, and workshops on how to do so are already full.
  • The general sentiment on twitter is that the senior administrators at Harvard Libraries handled this very poorly — that the town hall meetings produced more questions than answers. Rather than serving to keep staff informed, they served primarily to create significant anxiety.
  • Plenty of folks are worried that as Harvard goes, so go other academic libraries – in other words, if massive layoffs can happen at Harvard (with its huge endowments), then no academic library is safe.
  • An official Harvard Library Transition Update was posted publicly on January 17. More official Harvard Library Transition stuff on the Harvard University News site.
  • Excellent first-hand accounts and analyses from @mpeachy8 and @oodja.

I know a least a few folks who actually work at Harvard occasionally read here, so I do hope they will correct anything I have wrong, and chime in with any additional information. I hope they also know that I wish them well in what is obviously a super difficult and stressful time.

Round up Part 2: Authors Guild v HathiTrust

An update to yesterday’s Round Up on Authors Guild v HathiTrust:

  • HathiTrust Statement on Authors Guild, Inc. et al. v. HathiTrust et al., which includes this bit clearing up the very important distinction between orphan works and public domain works:

    It is worth noting that the Authors’ Guild complaint propagates a common but incorrect assumption that all US works published between 1923-1963 are in copyright. Our Copyright Review Managment System has reviewed nearly 200,000 of these works, and found more than 50% of them to be in the public domain. The same will be true of many works published outside of the United States. How many among the 7 million volumes that they wish to sequester might also be in fact works that no one—including the plaintiffs—has the right to restrict from the public?

  • University of Michigan Library Statement on the Orphan Works Project, in which mistakes are admitted, scrutiny welcome, improvements promised, and rights-holders reassured that

    And as a result of the design of our process, our mistakes have not resulted in the exposure of even one page of in-copyright material.

  • Statement from Paul Courant, university librarian and dean of libraries, including this lovely statement of who research universities are and what libraries stand for:

    As a research university, we are a community of authors, and we have deep respect for copyright law and for the rights and interests of authors. Our digitization efforts simply reflect the library’s continuing legacy of prudence in curating the world’s scholarly and cultural record.

  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation weighs in with No Authors Have Been Harmed in the Making of This Library, with this clear statement of their position:

    Simply put, it appears that the Guild is dead set on wasting time and money addressing imaginary harms, whether or not its efforts might actually benefit either its members or the public.

Updated to add Kevin Smith’s Open Letter to J.R. Salamanca; which brilliantly explains how and why the HathiTrust orphan works project will help books find readers and therefore benefit authors.

Round-up on Authors Guild v. HathiTrust

Plenty of folks are writing about the Authors Guild’s suit against HathiTrust (actually, against 5 universities who agreed to make orphan works available to their communities via HathiTrust). Below are my picks for the most informative, interesting and/or provocative so far, in roughly chronological order:

  • On September 1, 2011, 11 days before the Authors Guild files suit, Duke copyright expert, Kevin Smith makes a prescient fair-use argument on behalf of libraries providing access to orphan works via HathiTrust.
  • The Authors Guild blog announcement, posted September 12, 2011: Authors Guild, Australian Society of Authors, Quebec Writers Union Sue Five U.S. Universities
  • Excellent summary and analysis from New York Law School Associate Professor James Grimmelmann
  • Another excellent summary, this time from Jennifer Howard at CHE, complete with quotes from Paul Courant (of “elfin whimsy” fame) and John Wilkin.
  • An open letter to author Judy Blume (VP of the Authors Guild), titled Say it ain’t so Superfudge, captures many librarians disappointment with the Authors Guild approach:

    …now you say that you don’t trust the same librarians who dutifully preserved these books for decades to make a fair and honest determination of orphan work status? I understand that you believe that Google crossed the line, but the HathiTrust is not Google. Libraries are not Google.

  • After the Authors Guild gleefully announces that they Found One! (One = an orphan author), Grimmelmann declares HathiTrust Single-Handedly Sinks Orphan Works Reform
  • Kevin Smith again, this time answering the question Is it all about the Orphans with “…I think this is the next attempt by the content industries to sell what they do not own on behalf of parties they cannot identify, and then keep the money.”

In defense of Google Books: A round-up

Some recent writings and key quotes in defense of the Google Books settlement:

Forbes–In Defense of Google Books:

By scanning the books, Google took us to a real-world discussion of how to get these volumes into the digital world in some way that we can live with. It is questionable whether we would have gotten there without such a bold move.

Slate–Save the Google Book Search Deal:

The critics’ premise is that the monopoly that the settlement creates is invaluable—and that without the settlement, we can create a competitive market for putting out-of-print books online. But I fear that’s a fantasy that misrepresents the options.

Wired–A Writer’s Plea: Figure Out How to Preserve Google Books:

I’m also working on a book about the history of (what we now call) green technology… And without Google Books, I’m not sure it would have been possible to write it. At the very least, my contribution to the book world would have been smaller and shallower.

The searchability, accessibility and breadth of the Google Books collection do not just portend some future best-ever digital library. It’s already the best resource for research that exists.

And a full round-up of filings in the Google Books case:
The Google Books Settlement: Who Is Filing And What Are They Saying? (PDF)

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Summary of DOJ filing on Google Books

The Department of Justice has filed a Statement of Interest (PDF) in the Google Books case. The DOJ statement concludes with a recommendation that the Court reject the current proposed settlement, and encourage Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers to continue to negotiate modifications to the settlement. Although the first page of the statement acknowledges the many potential benefits of the Proposed Settlement, the bulk of the statement outlines significant concerns in the areas of:

(1) claims that the Proposed Settlement fails to satisfy Rule 23; (2) claims that the Proposed Settlement would violate copyright law; and (3) claims that the Proposed Settlement would violate antitrust law.

Rule 23 requires that the “class” in a class action suit “be defined in terms of commonality, typicality, and adequacy of representation”; which is not clear in the Google Books case, especially in the case of rightsholders to “orphan works” and foreign rightsholders. The DOJ statement further notes concern with provisions of “the Proposed Settlement that authorize the Registry to license Google to exploit the copyrighted works of absent class members for unspecified future uses.” This is of particular concern, because “it is difficult to see how any class representative could adequately represent the interests of all owners of out-of-print works (including orphan works).” The DOJ statement also raises concerns that the provisions and execution of the “opt-out” notice are not adequate.

In urging the parties to renegotiate, the DOJ suggests changing the “opt-out” provision for out-of-print rightsholders to an “opt-in” provision. Other suggestions include that “unclaimed profits could be devoted entirely to the search for rightsholders of orphan works” or “to appoint persons to the Registry to serve as guardian representatives of orphan works owners.” The DOJ suggests that the problem of representativeness of foreign rightsholders could be addressed by “by adding foreign owners of in-print and out-of-print works to the class representatives, to provide some assurance that the interests of absent foreign rightsholders have been accommodated.”

In terms of the anti-trust issue, the DOJ statement notes that “the United States cannot now state with certainty whether the Proposed Settlement violates the antitrust laws in any respect,” but then goes on to note 2 serious concerns. The 1st concern is that “the Proposed Settlement appears to give book publishers the power to restrict price competition.”  The 2nd concern is that “other digital distributors may be effectively precluded from competing with Google in the sale of digital library products and other derivative products to come.”

The conclusion of the DOJ filing is that:

This Court should reject the Proposed Settlement in its current form and encourage the parties to continue negotiations to modify it so as to comply with Rule 23 and the copyright and antitrust laws.

For a summary of press coverage of the DOJ filing, see Resource Shelf’s Press Review+: U.S. Department of Justice Would Like to See Changes to Google Book Settlement.

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