A Librarian’s Thanks

More than ever, author John Scalzi is a personal hero to me. Not only because he’s one of my favorite authors, not only because he’s smart, hilarious, and—by all accounts—a kind man, but because he expresses the value of libraries better than I could ever hope to:

A Personal History of Libraries (posted on his blog, Whatever, on February 23, 2013; accessed via Library Journal on November 27, 2013)

Honestly, between Mr. Scalzi and Neil Gaiman, I’m just going to sit back and point people to them when I feel compelled to try and express the value of libraries.

Whenever people like Terry Deary or MG Siegler proclaim the end of the library and insist that libraries no longer serve a useful function in our communities simply because they themselves no longer use them, we should all respond with this quote from Mr. Scalzi:

I don’t use my local library like I used libraries when I was younger. But I want my local library, in no small part because I recognize that I am fortunate not to need my local library—but others do, and my connection with humanity extends beyond the front door of my house. My life was indisputably improved because those before me decided to put those libraries there. It would be stupid and selfish and shortsighted of me to declare, after having wrung all I could from them, that they serve no further purpose, or that the times have changed so much that they are obsolete. My library is used every single day that it is open, by the people who live here, children to senior citizens. They use the building, they use the Internet, they use the books. This is, as it happens, the exact opposite of what ‘obsolete’ means. I am glad my library is here and I am glad to support it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I’m grateful for all the libraries in my life and in all the communities in which I’ve found myself, whether I personally used those libraries or not. I’m grateful for vocal supporters of libraries, like Mr. Scalzi and Mr. Gaiman, and everyone in my community who makes the library an essential part of their lives.

More than anything, I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve my community and make my living as a librarian. My connection with humanity extends beyond the front door of my house and I’m happy to dedicate my life to this fact.

Google Wins!

US Circuit Judge Denny Chin ruled in favor of Google in their long drawn out suit with the Author’s Guild over copyright and the Google Books project. Judge Chin cited Fair Use as the primary reason for his ruling. He also emphasized the difference between commercial and non-commercial use of works.

Google wins book-scanning case: judge finds “fair use,” cites many benefits by Jeff John Roberts (posted on gigaom.com on November 14, 2013)

I hope that this sets a tone for the importance and relevancy of Fair Use in this country’s attempts to wrangle and reform copyright law. The ruling establishes the public good as a crucial consideration, which addresses one of my major concerns over attempts to rewrite copyright law.

This ruling could prove to be a major influence for libraries and other institutions which benefit the public. I’m quite happy with this result.

Copyright: Not an Authors' Rights System

The American Library Association tweeted this article today:

Copyright doesn’t make sense to everyone. Here’s why it should. by Carrie Russell (posted by District Dispatch on November 12, 2013)

It’s a good article. It’s important to acknowledge that, despite the challenges we currently face regarding copyright, our system in the United States is far less restrictive than authors’ rights systems in many other countries.

By the same token, though, this article highlights quite well the problems that I have with many of the changes made to U.S. copyright law over the past decades. Namely:

All the major evolutions of copyright law in this country over the past decades have been attempts by commercial interests to change it into a restrictive authors’ rights system.

If these changes continue, then copyright law won’t make sense anymore.

More Thoughts on Makerspaces in Libraries

Make It @ Your Library logo
Make It @ Your Library is an initiative of ILEAD USA, in collaboration with Instructables and the American Library Association.
Thinking more about makerspaces in libraries:

My caution about makerspaces is rooted in my sense that we’ve turned to them largely due to this ubiquitous fear that libraries will become irrelevant. The fear that if we don’t change, if we don’t innovate, if we don’t disrupt, then we’ll go the way of the dodo. We latch onto all sorts of ideas that promise to prove our continued relevancy and adaptability to people.

But this fear of irrelevancy is unfounded. For the past decade and more, pretty much every public library in the country has seen their usage rise. The data is clear – door counts, circs, and the use of library resources across the board are going up. More people use public library systems now than ever before.

Why are we so concerned about bending over backwards to prove that we’re relevant? It’s clear that we’re more relevant than we’ve ever been. The data is there for all to see.

Makerspaces serve useful purpose in our communities (absent more formal vocational training opportunities) and that’s great.

But I worry that we’re jumping on the makerspace bandwagon mostly because we’re depending on them to keep us relevant. And that’s the wrong reason.

Libraries change by their very nature. Culture and society evolve and the needs of our communities change. Makerspaces are an innovation that offer useful services to patrons and we should explore that.

But I worry that we’re turning to them—along with other innovations—because we’re in a panic. That’s not a solid foundation on which to build a successful service.

Library Makerspaces

Make It @ Your Library logo
Make It @ Your Library is an initiative of ILEAD USA, in collaboration with Instructables and the American Library Association.
I understand why makerspaces are all the rage in library-land lately. They present an opportunity to educate members of our community in a range of useful hands-on and productive skills.

So why am I wary of them?

Too often, I see library makerspaces that are really nothing more than glorified carpentry or mechanic shops.

Too often, I see patrons using 3D printers and other technology to make nothing more than trinkets and tchotchkes. I have to question the long-term value of this.

In all such cases, though, these makerspaces let the library teach useful skills to people. And that’s the point, isn’t it?

So what’s the problem?
Continue reading “Library Makerspaces”