The Scholarly Clampdown

The hubbub started two weeks ago (6 December) via the blogsphere and twitter and grew into articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education and The Washington Post. The scholarly publisher, Elsevier, had asked to remove final version editions of Elsevier publisher articles posted by scholarly authors to the social media site. In the ensuing backlash, Elsevier released a statement about why the takedown notices were issued, reiterating that takedown notification was an ongoing practice, and providing alternatives for scholars to use for posting articles such as utilizing the final author draft pre-print copy. In the various social media venues where this action was debated and discussed, one statement was made again and again, that the takedowns from ™ were probably just the beginning of takedown notification. Indeed, this week, the University of Calgary received a takedown notification for Elsevier content posted within their domain. Following this announcement, TechCrunch (TC) noted on 19 December that takedown notifications had now been sent to start-ups, Harvard, and individual researchers. Peter Suber followed up on this post by TC with a Google+ posting giving further information regarded the notifications sent to Harvard. In response to these notifications, the full legality of the takedown notifications has been called into question.  As noted by Mike Carroll, Washington College of Law, on the LIBLICENSE  discussion list:

“in the United States, you can’t transfer the exclusive rights under
copyright without signing a written agreement to that effect.  In the
absence of a signed writing, the author retains the exclusive rights and
the publisher is said to have been granted an implied non-exclusive
license to publish.  In the absence of a signed writing, a publisher that
asserts that it owns the copyright in a misleading copyright notice is
itself legally problematic.”

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) sent a memorandum out to the ARL Directors and this email in turn has been distributed out to ALA-ALCTS leaders. Here is a paraphrase from the ARL memorandum:

–Takedown notices are being sent to the designated DMCA agents at universities accompanied by spreadsheets of the articles that Elsevier claims are infringing. It is recommended that librarians communicate with your campus DMCA agent regarding these notices. Copyright should be respected when the claim of rightsholder is clear, but articles do not need to be removed if the author did not sign a copyright transfer agreement. In the case of these DMCA takedown notices, Elsevier bears the burden of proof that there is a signed agreement by the author(s) of the article transferring their rights to the publisher.–

The question of whether the copyright transfer agreements are really in place for all the takedowns being requested is a very real one.  Academic institutions are not involved in copyright transfer agreements and whether an agreement was signed or not was left up to the authors. In addition, academic institutions do not make any effort to centrally warehouse these agreements as a common practice. Authors often forget to sign these documents or refuse to sign them but see their work published nonetheless. In many cases, authors signed the agreement but did not keep it or forgot about performing that step when submitting their articles. Librarians have realized that this is a very opportune moment to educate faculty on what it means to sign a copyright transfer agreements, suggest alternatives to publishing with Elsevier, as well as capturing their research within library repositories. One response to the takedown notifications has been that librarians are developing online  messages such as this web site from Canadian Academic Research Libraries (CARL).

Lastly, in a comments exchange by Stevan Harnad with Tom Reller on the Elsevier web site, one practice is agreed upon:

December 17, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Stevan Harnad: Tom, I wonder if it would be possible to drop the double-talk and answer a simple question: Do or do not Elsevier authors retain the right to make their peer-reviewed final drafts on their own institutional websites immediately, with no embargo? Just a Yes or No, please… Stevan
December 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm
Tom Reller: Hello Dr. Harnad. I don’t agree with your characterization of our explanation here, but nevertheless as requested, there is a simple answer to your question – yes. Thank you.
December 20, 2013
Stevan Harnad: Tom, thank you. Then I suggest that the institutions of Elsevier authors ignore the Elsevier take-down notices (and also adopt an immediate-deposit mandate that is immune to all publisher take-down notices by requiring immediate deposit, whether or not access to the immediate-deposit is made immediately OA)… Stevan “


#ICanHazPDF vs. #ICanHazLibrary: Where Librarians Need to Rise to the Occasion

At the end of last week, a blog post by  Alex Bond, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Saskatchewan, on the blog: The Lab and Field caught quite a bit of attention on Twitter.  The blog post is entitled: “How #icanhazpdf can hurt our academic libraries.” The post describes a twitter stream based on this hash-tagged phrase where researchers, academics, students, and other interested parties basically ask one another to share PDFs of articles to which the originator of the post does not have access but hopes to gain free access via someone who does have access to the content. Librarians jumped to attention and re-tweeted the blog post throughout the next couple of days pointing out that Inter-Library Lending (ILL) through libraries could also supply PDFs or articles for free. Some researchers countered that ILL takes too long (up to two weeks still at many institutions) and is still delivered at many institutions in print form as opposed to sending an electronic file to the requestor. In some cases, the researcher/academic wrote they were invited to come into the library to find the content they needed but either couldn’t because of time constraints placed on their research or due to wanting to access content when libraries were closed and unavailable. For a sense of the growing use and development of #icanhazpdf, I recommend the blog post by Jean Lui at AltMetrics entitled: Interactions: the Numbers behind #IcanHazPDF.

In the information glut society in which we now reside, librarians have opportunities to expand services and provide more content at the point of need. First, we need to insure that all open access content is made readily available through our discovery systems, include all OA articles and do not “not include” resources within our library catalogs/discovery systems because they do not represent a complete journal issue or journal run. There are times when access does trump ownership and open access content is one specific situation we can readily remedy by providing broader access through our current systems. Secondly, we need to explore how to provide context sensitive content delivery when possible and make it happen. This means document delivery. Build into your service and/or collection budget a fund for rapid supply of article delivery to the desktops of faculty and graduate students. It has to be article delivery that is useful to the end-user, it cannot just be a PDF that can only be used for a short period of time or not printed-out. It has to be full on article delivery to the end-user. There are service providers, some from within our very own community, who can make this happen. This type of service may in fact, be more important than the addition of more journals or journal packages. Lastly, establish a 24 hour article delivery option of print resources to faculty and graduate students by offering to scan and deliver to desktops, content that reside within your stacks or storage facility. It is worth the staff time and resource commitment to do this as this type of service will be greatly lauded by faculty and researchers on campus.

Librarians cannot fully compete with Twitter but we can improve both access and availability to the content we’ve collected and the content our end-users demand.


Innovation Abounds with the Electronic Resources & Libraries Annual Conference 2013

First off, I must admit bias when it comes to ER&L since I’ve been involved with this group since their inception. That said, the folks that own and run ER&L (Bonnie Tijerina & Sandy Tijerina) are doing some really nifty things in 2013. First and foremost, in conjunction with ProQuest & DLF, they’re hosting this super groovy #ideadrop House at SXSWi (South by Southwest interactive). Checkout some of the great streaming videos that have already been captured by this event and see what your colleagues are up to in promoting libraries. Also learn why “zebra” is the new pattern for librarians!

ER&L’s annual conference starts on 17 March and runs through 20 March. It’s not too late to join into this year’s conference! You can register to be part of the online conference experience, still sign-up to attend in person, & find out where online viewing parties are happening near you! This year’s conference is made up of great keynote speakers, fascinating programs, interesting tracks of content and even features a library publishing unconference.

ER&L is unlike any other library conference you attend. It provides a wonderful networking space to meet engaged and enthralling colleagues. There are multiple opportunities to become involved in the overall conference from simply participating in open discussions at the sessions held, joining in on the lightening talks, participating in the unconference, participating in any of the meet-ups happening or joining in online. There’s something for everyone at ER&L.

If you can do nothing else, just follow the forthcoming twitter streams at #ideadrop and #erl13. It is hard not to share the excitement that this conference generates each year and we hope you’ll join in on all the fun stuff happening this year!


It’s time for productivity not publicity

I’ve written here a time or two about apps developed by libraries to highlight unique collections. Three prominent examples:

All of these are well-designed and effectively promote their respective libraries to a readership that is increasingly online and mobile. As a first step to demonstrate, at least partly, what is possible in the mobile world, they are impressive.

Suddenly, however, I begin to have issues with these sorts of library products. Part of my misgiving about them is that they are demonstrations. They are tools for promoting the library collections but they are not the library collections themselves. They are surrogates and even billboards for tangible collections sitting on library shelves.

Obviously, a great deal of the digitizing that libraries have done to date has been focused on unique and valuable collections. Digitization has always been advertising for what was great and special about any particular library. It has been a means of creating online exhibits, as it were. But it is precisely that goal that makes library digitizing and app development of limited value to library users. Advertising and exhibits can be interesting, informative, and motivational, but, in the end, they do not take the place of actually using the library. They do not even especially aid or enhance use of the library in any immediate sense.

Part of what makes the Google Book project so interesting is that it has the audacity to digitize the entire library (many libraries, in fact). It is the library in a way that most library digital projects and products are not. Aside from lacking a collection scope that would serve more user needs, most library digital products are also short on functionality. They are not intended to enable users to do things with information. I think it is time that we start to build apps that will help users do things with information.

Some of what I envision has, up to now, been left to vendors and commercial interests to develop. Some may be beyond the financial means of libraries. Some is just plain hard to do. I think we shouldn’t let those things stand in the way of trying. Collectively, we ought to be able to push the envelope more than we have thus far.

Some of the things library mobile apps ought to enable:

  • Discovery of library collections across all kinds of formats
  • Authentication for and use of licensed digital collections
  • Annotation and note taking
  • Citation management
  • Sharing and conversation via social media
  • Remixing and mash-up of content

We can talk a lot about the digital library, the virtual library, but until the tools we offer to users actually enable use, we are only advertising for the physical library and hypothesizing about a digital future. It’s time to give users real productivity tools and make the digital library a reality.

Tweet Connections

So, I’m talking up social media as a collection development tool. It would be appropriate, then, that I share a few links that will help you use Twitter in the service of your collection development duties.

The first of these was mentioned by one of our readers. (Thanks, Lucy!) It comes from Early Word, a blog hosted by Nora Rawlinson, editor of Library Journal. The first Tuesday of each month at 4:00 p.m. EST, Early Word hosts “Galley Chat” on Twitter. You can follow it with the hashtag #ewgc.

Two other useful tools are directories of bookfolk on Twitter compiled by Jennifer Tribe, co-founder of Highspot, a consulting firm:

These, of course, should not be considered comprehensive lists. There are other bookfolks out there, for sure. But they are good spots to get you started following a lot of great publishing tweeps. Tell us about other good Twitter and social media resources for books, libraries, and collection development.

Provocative Statement Number One

As we kick things off here at Collection Connection, we want to make sure to keep things provocative, just to stimulate interactions with the library collections community. Maybe push your buttons a bit.

Thus, here is provocative statement number one: collections librarians, especially directors or heads of collection development, just don’t do social media. As we think about the most notable bloggers out there, the most unique voices on Twitter, the must-see Facebook pages, none of these is coming from the collection development community. You’ve got a lot of IT folks in that category, directors of innovation or emerging technology, user experience librarians, school media specialists. But where are the voices of innovation for library collections?

Maybe we are thinking about this all wrong. Maybe technological innovations ARE where the exciting collection questions are coming from. Maybe collection development librarians are totally wedded to traditional media such as professional journals. Maybe they are just too busy reading license agreements and balancing budgets to worry about Tweeting. Maybe the social media world is too extensive and fractured for us to even know about the interesting voices out there.

Whatever the case, we think it is a shame that the collection development community doesn’t have a larger presence in the social media landscape. Certainly, scholarly journals, trade publications, and monographs continue to have their place in our discourse. There are, however, a lot of cutting-edge discussions in librarianship and other fields happening in social media. We think library collections should be a big part of that discussion, and that those involved in collection development processes should be engaged in the conversation. The social media realm doesn’t negate more traditional media venues, but it can add a degree of immediacy to topics that are in constant flux.

We hope you’ll join us in this conversation about library collections. Start right now by commenting on this post. Let us know if you agree or think we are totally off the mark. Tell us about those important social media voices for library collections. And tune in here often to see additional provocative statements.