Look Ma, I’m on YouTube

The recording of my short talk from Access 2012, New Mean to New Ends, is finally online.

I’m amused by the list of related videos YouTube pulls in on the right side of you visit the actual video page. I don’t know if they’re customized for me, but I see half other Access talks […]

New paper: Practical Limits to the Scope of Digital Preservation

As has been noted in some far-flung corners of the internet, I have a paper in the next current volume of ITAL.  It’s currently available on ITAL’s preprint archive here.  I’m reasonably satisfied with it, considering it’s my first.  There was a period there, when I was completely immersed in everything published on the topic in […]

Ethics Paper: On Intellectual Freedom

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Intellectual Freedom is “[t]he right under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution of any person to read or express views that may be unpopular or offensive to some people, within certain limitations (libel, slander, etc.)” (Reitz, 2010). The other notable legal limit on free speech is obscenity, defined as a work that, taken as a whole, includes offensive sexual content (according to community standards) and lacks serious literary or other merit (Preer, 2008). A few seminal American Library Association (ALA) and Canadian Library Association (CLA) documents define intellectual freedom in libraries. The application of intellectual freedom in libraries has been, and continues to be, a source of tension.

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Ethics Paper: On Service

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No matter the profession, “the essence of profession is service to society” (Preer, 2008, p. 3)—for the library profession, service has always been central, but the understanding of how best to serve society has evolved.  Furthermore, while service is the most important ethical precept governing librarians, it is not the only precept, and other precepts inherently conflict with service.  Professional codes define the meanings and practice of ethical precepts and help arbitrate when precepts conflict.  An examination of the ethical codes of the American Library Association (ALA) and the Canadian Library Association (CLA) reveals the meaning of service in their constituent institutions.

The changing information technology available to society and shifting missions and institutional settings of libraries combine to determine the character of library service. Primordial librarians were bookkeepers for academic, religious, or political institutions (Rubin, 2004).  The first ethical obligation in libraries was that of stewardship, protecting the collection from harm.  Because the information technology of the time did not yet allow cheap printing and distribution of materials, the ethical precept of service, while existent, was necessarily subservient to that of stewardship (Preer, 2008).  The invention of the printing press marked a fundamental shift in information technology, though it would take centuries before relatively inexpensive books became the norm.  This new norm provoked the rise of new types of libraries in the United States (Rubin, 2004).  In the 18th century, social libraries—formed “to assist self-improvement and the search for truth” (Rubin, 2004, p. 275)—and circulating libraries—with a mission to earn profit by distributing popular works—introduced the service models of education and meeting the public demand for entertaining materials, respectively (Rubin, 2004).

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The Changing Nature of the Catalog : A Response to Calhoun, Mann, and Yee

The Changing Nature of the Catalog – A Response to Calhoun, Mann, and Yee (PDF)

The central premise of Calhoun’s report is that technology has “created an era of discontinuous change in research libraries—a time when the cumulated assets of the past do not guarantee future success” (2006, p. 5).  Calhoun’s perspective is that this notion applies directly to traditional library cataloging.  Yee argues that traditional cataloging is fundamental to the value of libraries (2007).  Mann makes the case that research libraries’ primary mission is to serve the specific needs of serious scholarship (2006).  Each is right in their own way.  Mann and Yee, though, fail to recognize the changes that the coming of the Information Age has wrought on the world outside libraries.  Far too much valuable information is outside the reach of traditional catalogs.  Libraries must embrace technology to extend the grasp of catalogs beyond local holdings.

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