The Week in Libraries: March 22, 2019

Library supporters, it’s time to kick it into gear again, as FY2020 federal library funding is on the line. In an advocacy alert this week, ALA officials urged library supporters to contact their representatives in the House and ask them to sign this year’s “Dear Appropriator” letter in support of federal library funding. The letter is now circulating in the House, and a March 28 deadline for reps to sign is fast approaching.

“We are counting on ALA adovcates to let your representative know how important libraries are to their constituents,” the alert states, while conceding that Trump’s proposal to kill library funding feels like déjà vu.

As we reported last week, the Trump administration has again proposed the permanent elimination of the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and with it virtually all federal library funding. It’s the third straight year Trump has proposed cutting the agency, along with a host of valuable education programs, and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities.

The details of the proposed cuts, meanwhile, were released this week. Speaking of déjà vu, the FY2020 budget uses the same language they’ve used in previous years to justify the cuts: “it is unlikely the elimination of IMLS would result in the closure of a significant number of libraries and museums.”

But this too should feel like déjà vu: library funding has actually increased each of the last two years, despite Trump’s proposals to eliminate it, thanks to the good work of library supporters. So, if you haven’t yet contacted your local rep, why not do it today?

By the way, you can check if your local representative has signed via the ALA’s appropriations letter tracker.

Reserve Reading

PW Library columnist Sari Feldman made it official this week: she’ll be retiring from the Cuyahoga County Public Library in August, after 16 years on the job. Cleveland.com has a great Q&A with Sari this week, well worth checking out. I won’t list Sari’s many accomplishments here (I’d run out of space!). But I’m happy to amplify what Sari mentions in the the above-referenced article: she will continue as a columnist for PW. Congratulations, Sari, on this next chapter! And, you have a deadline coming up. Just saying…

Speaking of rock stars, The New York Times has a piece on the New York Public Library’s new archive dedicated to Lou Reed.

Also from The New York Times European regulators have fined Google $1.7 billion for violating antitrust rules by “imposing unfair terms on companies that used Google’s search bar on their websites.”

One of the country’s top media scholars, Siva Vaidhyanathan (who is frequently cited in this column) is now a regular columnist for The Guardian. Vaidhynathan has written books about Google, and Facebook in recent years. His first column for the Guardian appeared this week, discussing why Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal is a “privacy Chernobyl.”

Meanwhile, in the “defend free speech” category, Vox reports on Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA), who this week filed a defamation suit against Twitter for being, well, Twitter. He also sued Republican strategist Liz Mair. The cases are surely losers as long as the U.S. has a First Amendment. But, as Vox explains, the suits are clearly part of a larger messaging battle. “Many people on the right believe that social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are biased against conservatives and should be regulated by the government into being fairer.”

Via The Washington Post, Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a set of bills that will punish the distribution of information that “exhibits blatant disrespect for the society, government, official government symbols, constitution or governmental bodies of Russia.” Perhaps this is more what Devin Nunes has in mind?

And, the Nunes suit comes a week after a federal court dismissed a wide-ranging $1 billion suit against Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Apple, alleging that the tech giants conspired to suppress conservative speech, via TechDirt.

Not coincidentally, President Trump this week signed an executive order supposedly protecting free speech on campus. From The Atlantic: “Thursday’s executive order instructs 12 federal agencies to ensure that the universities receiving research grants ‘promote free inquiry.’ What this means in practical terms was left unspecified.”

Some fascinating copyright news this week: Via Eriq Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter, a federal judge has found that ComicMix’s awesome, crowdsourced mash-up between Star Trek and Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! not only is protected by fair use, but is “highly creative.” It’s the second victory in court for ComicMix, whose parody, Oh the Places You’ll Boldly Go! also defeated a trademark suit brought by Dr. Seuss Enterprises last year.

Meanwhile, a major vote looms next week in the European Parliament on a controversial, sweeping copyright reform bill. Over at Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow, one of the legislation’s most vocal critics, rallies opponents to pressure their MEPs to vote no. A public protest is scheduled for March 23, and will be worth watching. The battle is eerily reminiscent of the SOPA/PIPA battle in the U.S. in 2011 and 2012, with tech companies and the public lining up against the bill, and publishers and news organizations supporting it. Via The News Media Coalition, more than 240 media groups have signed a letter of support. The Association of American Publishers also supports the bill.

Via Gothamist, comes this look at how copyright claims can go absurdly overboard. A new art structure in New York dubbed the Vessel debuted recently. And upon entering the structure, a posted Terms & Conditions clause grants the Vessel a license “to use your content however they see fit in perpetuity.”

ALA this week announced today that it has opened (well, reopened) its search for a permanent executive director, via corporate executive search firm Isaacson, Miller.

In addition, ALA announced that the 2019 ALA elections are underway. According to a release, between March 11 and March 13, ALA sent e-mails to voters, providing them with their unique passcodes and information about how to vote online. The polls will close on Wednesday, April 3 at 11:59 p.m.

Are you an ALA member not sure who to vote for? Here’s Library Journal’s Q&A with the ALA presidential candidates, Julius C. Jefferson Jr., section head of the Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service, and Lance Werner is executive director of Kent District Library, Comstock Park, Mich.

The local Centre Daily Times (Penn.) has a piece this week on how patrons can borrow digital books and audiobooks from their public library, and how expensive the service is. “For example, Brady Clemens, district library consultant for Schlow, said the newest John Grisham book could cost $16 for print but $55 to license digitally. ‘It’s huge. It’s a big difference. And we’re not just going to buy one copy of the John Grisham book, Burchill said. ‘We’ve got to buy multiple licenses. We could spend $200 (on one book).'”

Open Educational Resources have become a hot trend in the education space. And this week, the University of Kansas Libraries, in collaboration with the Shulenburger Office of Scholarly Communication & Copyright, announced the launch of a program called Textbook Heroes,which will spotlight “KU faculty, staff, instructors and students who advocate for textbook affordability.”

Washington D.C. is s city of monuments, but this week, The Washingtonian reports that “new public libraries are some of the best buildings in D.C.”

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