Roger Answers Your Questions, Demeur

Demeur asks:

Okay I’ll bite. I’m not exactly sure what type of librarian you are (ie school, public or corporate)

Well, let’s deal with that first. I work in what one would call a special library. The New York State Small Business development Center helps people who want to start or expand their business. It is a free service, and there are like programs in every state of the union, plus, DC, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. The NYS SBDC has five librarians that form the Research Network, which find research that SBDC clients ask of their advisors.

but my question. Have you noticed any major changes in the library system in the last eight years?
For us, actually, the biggest issue has been electronic delivery of information. This means copyright issues. We struggle almost weekly with this. You know when you go to the library and copy a page, or indeed, the whole book, the library will have a notice about the rules of copyright, but it is largely the responsibility of the patron. Not so with digital data, particularly since we digitized it by making a PDF. We have to be cognizant of balancing educational use with frequency and spontaneity, plus the possible harm to the copyright holder.

I know the government has been trying to put controls like net filters and accessing computer caches to follow users surfing habits, but have there been any actual laws that you must follow?

Well, no, but I’m not in a public library. Now, I am involved in a public library as Vice-President of the Friends of the Albany Public Library. By and large, APL is not using net filters, to the best of my knowledge. This means that the librarian, who can generally see the computers, at least in the main branch, might theoretically make a determination that something is inappropriate in a public setting, if someone complained; I’ve never seen or heard of it happening. Since APL endorses the principles adopted by the American Library Association in the Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read Statement, it seems that the library goes out of its way not to be the thought police.

What is your attitude about this?
About filtering software, which I think you’re alluding to, the literature I’ve read suggests it generally doesn’t work. It tends to block the word “breast” and miss the articles on breast cancer or “sex” and block out things about gender. Spam blockers I favor, but not subject blockers. Part of the reason that the governor of Alaska worries not only me but other librarians

But the most virulent thing that’s come down in the past eight years is the so-called USA PATRIOT Act, which, among other things, is supposed to allow the government to find out what library patrons have been treading. Libraries have subverted that by deliberately not knowing what their individual patrons are checking out once they’ve returned them. Here are other ways to protect against the ‘knock on the door’.

Interestingly, I can tell you that I’ve never been involved in a PATRIOT Act situation, but if I had, I supposedly could not; there are ways to subvert that too, and I’m in favor.

I don’t know that most librarians are liberals, though I suspect they are. I DO know that most librarians have a libertarian streak in them, thinking that the government, in most cases, ought to butt out.

Stop USA PATRIOT Act Renewal

What’s the point of having a blog if you can’t agitate occasionally?

The e-mail I got today read: “I know you have been sent several action alerts on this topic, but this one is probably the most important to which to respond. This is the beginning of the end for reform of the USA PATRIOT Act and it is vital that you let Congress hear your voice. Please act on this alert as soon as you can. Thanks.”

I happen to think that the so-called USA PATRIOT Act is pretty vile, and one of my Senators is on the Senate Judiciary Committee, so I’ll need to contact him tomorrow.

So if you’re interested in the topic, go here.

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