Copyright Law Impacts How Libraries Provide Access to E-Books: During a Pandemic, Should It?

Today’s Read:
Congressional Research Service (CRS), COVID-19 and Libraries: E-Books and Intellectual Property Issues (Apr. 28, 2020), https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/LSB/LSB10453

This topic has been on my mind a lot since we all went on lockdown and couldn’t access physical books anymore.  The pandemic has not stopped research, of course.  There are still deadlines to be met.

My focus, as always, is on supporting our LLM students.  They cannot graduate without submitting a research paper, and some of them were still doing research as late as April (the original deadline for LLM papers this year was April 25, although many students got extensions).  To have their access to our print collection blocked by circumstances of fate was very unfair, and I felt so badly for them.

Not to make light of what is a very serious global health pandemic, but there are, of course, a few not-negative ways to spin this.  It wasn’t as if only some of the students could not access print books — the restriction affected everyone equally.  Furthermore, LLM theses are not graded on a curve, at least not as far as I know.  The students do not compete against each other.  When you are writing an LLM thesis, the goal is to do the best and most thoroughly-researched paper you can possibly do under the circumstances you find yourself.

When I was writing my own LLM thesis, I had about 6 weeks to do the bulk of the work because, in Germany, you are not permitted to begin work on your thesis until you finish your LLM coursework.  My leave of absence was nearly over by then, and I really needed to get back to my job in the library (where I had a quick look at some relevant resources in Harvard’s library collection, in addition to wrapping up the writing and editing).  I made it work the best I could.  Could my thesis have been better?  Absolutely, if I hadn’t felt so rushed to gather and process sources, and then pound it out.  But it got done, and it got a decent grade, and I was able to finish my LLM.

I tell that story to show that I really feel for the students, in whatever circumstances they find themselves.  And where they were finding themselves during the final few months of this academic year was locked out of the library, with no access to print books unless they’d checked them out beforehand.

Duplicating print and electronic resources in a sustainably cost-effective way is a conversation that we have been having in our library for a very long time, and restrictions on lending e-books is always a primary element of the discussion.  So I was glad to find the CRS report that I am discussing today, which frames this conversation against the backdrop of the current situation.

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Equitable Information Access and Librarianship Praxis: Let’s Get Critical

Today’s Read:
Lauren Smith & Michael Hanson
Communities of Praxis: Transforming Access to Information for Equity
The Serials Librarian, v. 76, nos. 1-4, pp. 42-49
DOI: 10.1080/0361526X.2019.1593015

I recently submitted a proposal to write a chapter on Critical Legal Studies for a new library science textbook, and it was accepted.

In the proposal, I used the Critical Legal Studies research guide I created for our library to create a framework for the future book chapter. Basically, I want to get the content of this guide into some kind of written form, since library research guides have a bit of an ephemeral quality.

While the chapter will be primarily about critical studies in law, it will also include some basic information about critical librarianship. I want to encourage future law librarians consider issues of disproportionate representation and information access in their own professional practice. Or, put another way, I hope that they will choose to incorporate praxis into their practice of librarianship.

For this reason, this recent article from The Serials Librarian caught my eye, and I decided to blog about it. The article is based on a presentation given by Lauren Smith at the 2018 NASIG (formerly the North American Serials Interest Group) conference. In her talk, Smith discussed three themes that are necessary to “democratize” information, which means making sure that all people are empowered to exercise their right to access it: power, praxis, and privilege.

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Blogging as an Exercise in Control; Ethnography in Libraries

Citation:
Donna Lanclos and Andrew D. Asher, “Ethnographish”: The State of Ethnography in Libraries, Weave: Journal of Library User Experience, Volume 1, Issue 5, 2016, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/weave.12535642.0001.503

So I think I am already getting the hang of how blogging will ebb and flow, in terms of the quantity of blog posts that I can reasonably manage at various times of the year. Late July and early August are, obviously, prime for daily reading of articles and blogging about them — it is right after the AALL annual meeting, and I am pumped about new ideas and scholarship. However, as mid-August approaches, we start preparing for the beginning of the academic year, and I have to cut back, which is OK.

I expect I will be back to daily blogging sometime in November, but even then it is too far in the future to worry about today. At least I am managing to do something today, which is good.

What did worry me today is that I noticed that a number of my previous blog posts had had their text replaced with an hyperlinked advertisement. WHAT?!?!?!?! I pay money for this blog and was very unhappy that this could happen. The poor person on the WordPress end of a support chat this morning got an earful from me. (An eyeful?) But they took it like a true pro, and showed me how to revert to previously-saved versions of posts, which I did. They also suggested I change to a stronger password, and I did that as well.

So three cheers for WordPress User Support. I am often on their end of our library’s chat reference, and I hope I handle difficult people as nicely as they handled me.

(Also, maybe I could have been a little less difficult, although I thought that HOURS of work had been deleted forever and I was not happy about it, so I am going to cut myself a little slack.)

Anyway, today’s article continues on the theme from last week: ethnography. I found an article written by two ethnographers who work full-time in academic libraries, and found that they had some very interesting things to say on this topic.

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Conducting Fieldwork While Female, or “Is Crit Always Legit?”

Citation:
Sandra M. Bucerius and Marta Urbanik, When Crime is a “Young Man’s Game” and the Ethnographer is a Woman: Gendered Researcher Experiences in Two Different Contexts, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 2019, Vol 48(4) 451-481, DOI: 10.1177/0891241618785225

Of all of the articles I have chosen to read during the early days of this experience, this one was far and away my favorite. Perhaps I missed my true calling as an ethnographer!

The authors are female ethonographers who conducted separate research projects that involved studying the behavior and experiences of certain types of men. The participants in Bucerius’s study were young, immigrant, “second-generation Muslim” men who were involved in selling drugs and other criminal activity in the German city of Frankfurt. Urbanik’s research project involved studying young men residing in a public housing project in Toronto, almost all of whom were racial minorities and who lived a “hip-hop” or “gangsta” lifestyle.

These two researchers collaborated on this article to explore the many ways in which the fieldwork required for this type of research can be difficult or dangerous for women. Looking through a gender-specific lens, the authors observed that the men who participated in this study, who were in certain ways socially disadvantaged, felt compelled to engage in “boundary work,” which means that they “increase their self-perceptions by relegating women into even more subordinate positions than they themselves occupy.”

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