Saturday, December 29, 2012

Book Love - Wil Wheaton Edition

Just some book love in the words of Wil Wheaton, I strongly recommend reading his entire post, but the last few paragraphs just hit me as beautiful.

Excerpt from the quietest and most constant of friends,

"I love my eBooks. I love the convenience of having a book sync across all of my various devices, always at my fingertips wherever I am and whenever I need it (unless I’m on an airplane; a stupid and pointless rule that really needs to be changed). I love the instant gratification that comes with buying a book and reading it within minutes after hearing about it, without ever leaving the chair I was already sitting in. As an author who exists primarily on the Internet, I’ve made a very good living due in no small part to eBooks.

And yet.

And yet there is a romance and a power and a beauty and a permanence and a sense of reality that actual printed books have, which also does not translate to electronic format for me.

I haven’t read nearly as many books this year as I wanted to, partially because I’ve been very busy, partially because I discovered Minecraft, partially because I spend more time creating than I do consuming … but I have to admit it’s all mostly because an eReader sitting on a nightstand doesn’t say “pick me up and read me” the same way a book does … which is exactly what this book next to me is saying right now."

Wheaton, W. the quietest and most constant of friends. Retrieved December 29, 2012, from

Introducing First Sale Doctrine

Whether we realize it or not, we've all likely made use of the First Sale Doctrine.  In simple terms the First Sale Doctrine is what makes it legal for us to resell objects without permission from or making payments to whomever owns the copyright (sales after the "first sale").  This copyright limitation is why it is legal for students to sell their used text books, families to hold tag sales, and for libraries to lend books and other media.  Long story short, the First Sale Doctrine is a Big Deal.

This Big Deal is also under threat, which is sadly nothing new.  We regularly encounter digital purchases where the product is licensed, not bought.  Ebooks can be removed from your e-reader, or removed from your account, or you can have access to your ebook account taken away.  You cannot properly lend a favorite ebook to a friend, though at least you will always get the book back (note: I am aware of websites to facilitate lending of ebooks, but even those that work within the parameters of LendMe or Kindle Lending Library have faced legal challenge).

Of particular interest right now are two court cases, Kirtsaeng v Wiley & Sons and Capitol Records v ReDigi.

In Kirtsaeng v Wiley & Sons the defendant purchased textbooks at a cheaper price in his home country and resold them in the US using the proceeds to pay his college tuition.  The case has escalated to higher levels of appeals, with a resolution to the current round expected in June.

"Defenders of Wiley’s position are quick to denounce those concerns as overblown. It's curious, then, that Wiley’s own lawyer, former Solicitor General Ted Olson, was hard-pressed to explain why. Justice Breyer asked about specific examples — buying a book overseas to give to your wife in the U.S., or reselling a Toyota manufactured in Japan with numerous individually copyrighted components — and  did not seem impressed with the answers he got. And when Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Roberts questioned Olson about the "parade of horribles," raised by Kirtsaeng and supporting amici (including EFF), he asserted that, yes, indeed, sales of foreign made goods might require approval from the copyright holder, whether the seller is a Toyota distributor or a university library."

The Association of American Publishers' statement on the case says that the case will not effect library lending:
"No. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about this case. Libraries have continued to buy and lend books for over three decades under US copyright law without any interference from publishers, notwithstanding these exclusive rights of copyright owners. Since publishers are simply asking the court to uphold their rights under existing law, libraries’ longstanding practices will remain unchanged."

However the fear most of us have isn't that the purpose of the case is to target library lending or tag sales, the fear is the precedent this may create and the potential avenues of attack against perceived abuse of the First Sale Doctrine.  The AAP states that Wiley is simply looking for "the court to uphold their rights under existing law," but the whole issue here is in fact what the letter of the law is in this case.  The First Sale Doctrine does not specify geographic location of the copyright.  My personal knee-jerk reaction is to wonder why this doesn't fall under import/export or international trade, but I don't have enough knowledge of international trade law to know how valid that reaction is.

The ReDigi case deals with the reselling of mp3's, and is quite interesting (also here).  The premise of ReDigi as a service is to facilitate the resale of legally acquired MP3s, the process of which uploads files from a seller while deleting it from their hard drive.  The argument against ReDigi largely centers on the definition of file transfers, whether a file transfer can be viewed as a transfer of the original or as a copy and deletion of the original, as well as a claim that the record label has exclusive rights to all digital creation, reproduction, and sales of the relevant licensed works.  The decision does have immediate implications as to the applicability of First Sale Doctrine in regards to the currently fuzzy realm of ownership of digital files.  The First Sale Doctrine has been the subject of court cases in the past, including over the right of stores to sell used books, and it will be again in the future.  The fact that we can resell our CDs and books is a direct result of court decisions, so I'm continuing to root for this Big Deal to come out on top.

Additional reading:
EFF - First Sale Doctrine Under Siege - on the two court cases by EFF with links to other sources
US Copyright Law - Title 17 in its entirety
Copyright (Wikipedia) - this is a good overview of Copyright, and is reasonable cited.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dress Code

So, I had this post as something I was working on, but was sitting around unfinished... and then I saw this and it brought my mind right back to the issue of dressing appropriately for work.  Not because of any danger of being fired over dressing sexy, but because dressing nicely is expected in my field (after all, I do need to look respectable), while at the same time also dressing for the work expected.

In simplest terms, I dislike dressing up for work.

This sentiment is not inspired by a lack of concern for my appearance or laziness, nor is any reflection on my ability to dress myself properly (even if my sense of style may be at times absent).  I do like to present myself as a hygienic and responsible person, possibly even an attractive one of my confidence is high that day.

My dislike is both practical and personal.

To the disappointment of many adolescent fantasies I'm sure, generally librarians don't emulate the iconic pin-up images that many conjure when hearing about our profession.  When I was first considering going from my MLS the top response from anyone I mentioned it to was "Librarians are sexy," including from friends who are non-readers and those who have (to the best of my knowledge) no sexual attraction to me at all. 

Given the right circumstances, I enjoy dressing nicely but I do have practical limitations on what I wear.  A distinct portion of my job involves crawling around under desks figuring out what came unplugged or moving around dusty machinery.  I dress the nicest on days where I'm likely on the Reference desk all day or in meetings and know there is the least chance of me being able to take the time to fix something that would involve the mentioned activities.  I've had to wear a snug skirt (with a thigh high seam slit) as part of a work uniform when I had reach under tables, highly inconvenient and at times embarrassing is the short result of how well that worked out.

Elvgren, Gil.  Rare Edition.  1962
Cute factor aside, Gil Elvgren got it right - that get up just gets in the way!

The irony of this is that I actually do like the aesthetic of the "classic" librarian look, including the blouse and pencil skirt (and while I often do wear my hair up, no, I do not wear glasses).

The bigger reason why I do not like to dress up for work is attention.

The attention that I want to garner in my workplace is respect for what I do.  I want to satisfy my patrons and coworkers through the various aspects of my job.  However for whatever reason, working as a Librarian marks the first job I have worked where I have had to deal with inappropriate remarks and approaches by patrons/customers.  Every time it happens I am caught off-guard and never really sure how to react.  I always fear that I am misinterpreting the comments and so then often say nothing except do what I can to create physical space between myself and the patron, and cut off the interaction as politely and quickly as possible.  Patrons giving me compliments have cornered me, have asked me such questions as "How are you wearing your hair today?" on the phone, and generally invaded my personal space.  I tend to wear my hair up instead of leaving it down since the latter seems to attract odd amounts of attention.  High necked sweaters don't stop patrons from having entire conversations with my chest instead of me.

I am not the only staff at my library who has had issues with patron advances, and there is a bit of a feeling of "it happens to everyone." We make jokes and laugh about it, but when I sit back to think about it, I find it a bit unsettling.  We are a bit too accepting of it as something that just happens, and demonstrably a segment of the population sees nothing wrong with exhibiting this behavior.  If you are involved with a librarian its fantastic to let her (or him) know you find her sexy, otherwise treat the librarians in your life as people and professionals.  I promise we'll be a lot happier to help you.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Obligatory Introduction Post

As of starting this blog I work full time as a Technology Services Librarian.  There is a whole variety of similar jobs out there with different names, but what it really boils down to is I work with technology in the library.  I leave the statement deliberately broad because it needs to be; I may teach basic computer skills, rebuild a old computer, do many many things related to ebooks, edit the library website, figure out why the server just died, etc.  I am a professional "friend who is good with computers," but sadly I'm not allowed to wear this shirt at work.  Since in theory the computers aren't always breaking down (and patrons will ask anyone for help regardless of desk signage), I also work as a Reference librarian which not only involves finding answers, but allows me to interact and develop areas of our non-fiction collection.

The irony of my job is I never imagined I'd be working IT in any respect.  I keep surrounding myself with friends and family who always end up knowing way more than I about computers and related technology, which leaves me judging my skills against theirs and assuming I don't know much.  Then I stumble into a position which I look at the qualifications and go "I can do that, easy!" and discover perhaps I was judging myself against a skewed metric when looking at knowledge levels over all, regardless of the various gaping holes I still see in my skill set.

I completed my MLS in December of 2010, at which point I had been working full-time as my library's Technology Assistant for several months (the promotion to Technology Services Librarian only came 10 months ago).  My Masters is with a concentration in Archives, so similarly to my expectations, not what I'm doing now.  I started my college career going for Engineering (as it turns out, I love Calculus but just don't get along with Physics), and variously ended up with a non-engineering degree, after which I continued supporting myself as I had through most of college, as a cook.  Just goes to show that sometimes we go all the wrong ways to end up where we want.

So why the hell am I writing a blog?  I used to write regularly, then at one point I stopped.  This is an attempt to write with some consistency, to improve my writing, and it turns out working in a library is treasure trove of material to muse and ramble on about.  My intent is to mostly write about library related things, but I will get side tracked, and some topics of particular interest to me my not seem on the surface to be library related but are actually connected.

I want to give a nod to Michael R. Underwood's Geekomancy, and of course Jim Hines' Libriomancer for giving me word play material when my other ideas for blog names were taken, too similar to existing names, or just horribly pretentious sounding.