STEVE THOMAS: Hi, this is Circulating Ideas, the library interview podcast, hosted by me, Steve Thomas. My guest today is Bobbi Newman. She blogs at Librarianbyday.net, and she founded and coordinates the semi annual “Library Day In The Life” project.
I wanted to have you on the show to talk about several things, but the main thing is the “Library Day In The Life” project which is coming up in a couple of weeks. Can you tell me about what that is, and how you got started doing that?
BOBBI NEWMAN: Sure, the Library Day In The Life project started in July of 2008, and sort of on a whim. I hadn’t been blogging at Librarian By Day very long, and I used to, I think like a lot of new bloggers obsessively look at my stats for hits to the blog and how people were finding it. And at that point I came across a search that brought somebody to my blog that basically just said “what is a librarian’s day like?” And at the time, especially Twitter and social networking was really starting to kick off for libraries, so I thought wouldn’t it be a great idea if a bunch of us would blog what our day is like. The average sort of day, and share it out there, and it really took off from there. There was a couple, I posted the blog, and a couple of other people got excited about the idea, and we created a Wiki, it’s a, PB Works it now, Wiki which has sort of grown into this monstrosity that needs a better solution, but I can’t come up with one. And so, it just sort of took off, and when the project was first going for, gosh I think the first couple of rounds, the project happens twice a year in July and in January, and people either document a regular day, or a couple of days, or a week, and they can do it in whatever form they want. The original was to write a blog post, but obviously Twitter has really kicked off since then, and people, a lot of people tweet their day with the hashtag. It will be #libday8 this time, so just libday and the round after that, but I don’t think we added the hashtag option even until, gosh I want to say round 5 or 6, I’d have to go back and look to be sure. And people do videos, Ned Potter from the UK did a wonderful video the time before last documenting his day. You certainly don’t have to do anything of the caliber that he did. People do photos, I’ve done photos, and do slides, I’ve done them in the past just to mix it up. And so, we created this Wiki and people add their information to it, and when it first started I was actually, I actually read every post that everybody wrote, the first, I don’t know, probably three or four rounds, and then it just sort of started to grow so big that it became impossible for me to keep up with everybody.
Have you got a lot of good feedback from it, from other librarians or other people who are library students or anything like that? That it is actually helpful to them, just seeing what other people are doing?
Yeah. I have actually gotten a lot of feedback over the last couple of years. One of the things I did starting in round 4, so really we’re talking about the end of the second year, was break out a separate page in the Wiki for people to sign up, so that people could see the most recent posts. And, based on that feedback we’ve done a couple of things. One is to have individual pages for sign up for the thing, and then start adding additional columns to the sign up sheets. So, I don’t know how familiar you are, the listeners are, with the sign up page, but basically we’re asking for the name, your title, name or type of library, the location, and a link to your blog, Twitter etc, and a direct link to the post. And, what I’ve had to do over the last couple of rounds is start making changes to the Wiki. One is that obviously it’s being hosted on what is now PB Works, which a free Wiki platform, and it really isn’t meant to hold pages as large, as even the individual round sign up pages are. I start getting error messages, or warnings telling me that we’re exceeding the limit for your recommended page size. Which is a kind of a problem because people continue to sign up, which is wonderful, but the other thing is that we’re just trying to get a little bit more information out of the project to make it more helpful for people who are using it. And one of those things is to add a couple more fields into the sign up sheet, and one of them is one specific for the type of library. So, public school, academic, special, law, or other types of work. We had somebody sign up that works at Zappos last time, which was really cool. So we start getting vendors then contributing. So then the other thing we’re doing is adding another field for location, so that if we send out more specifically, right now there’s just a few, I guess I say we, it’s me, I’m doing it by myself, [laughs] Right now there’s a location for just, just the location, so people are putting whatever they want in there. Their country, their state, the providence, or whatever the other divisions are in other countries. So what I’m going to do for the next round is kind of break it out and put country in one field, and then city, state or whatever additional information, but so it’s much more clear what countries are participating. For people who are looking through it, and you asked me about people who are looking through it, and I’m going to talk about that in a minute. But, I also want to point out, just like some stats, because I’m a librarian, and I’m in research mode right now [laughs]. But we did have over 250 bloggers sign up on the Wiki last time, and then there were almost a thousand people participating on Twitter, and then we actually have 14 countries, there are 14 countries that are, people from 14 countries participated this round, and so I’m just going to list them US, Wales, Israel, Australia, England, Denmark, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, Finland, France, Sweden, and Singapore. And so, I mean this has gotten to be, it’s just fascinating to me that this thing that started out as a whim on my part, one morning I got up and wrote this blog post, and then I went to play video games for two hours, and I come back and I’m like “oh my gosh it’s taken off,” and now here we are three years later, and it’s an international, a true international grassroots project. And the whole point of it was that people could share, yeah it’s been just amazing, and it’s getting to the point where it’s such a monster for me to handle that I’ve been looking for a potential solution other than PB Works, and I can’t really find one because I do want people to be able to edit it themselves, but it gets a little Wiki with people stealing the lock from other people, and people who aren’t used to using Wiki to create entries, and so I have to constantly go in and clean it up. And approve users, and so it’s very time intensive on my side each time we do a round. But, the whole purpose was that people could see what, even in just public libraries, that I think people working the reference desk don’t always talk to the catalogers. The people that are working in tech services, so even within the same type of library there’s not always a lot of communication between staff members, and that was really the point of doing this.
And I’ve heard from a number of people over the years, Lauren Pressley wrote a book about librarianship, and she actually links to the Wiki, and uses it for an example when she’s talking about the kind of thing. And Meredith Farkas wrote a really great post about why she participated in it a couple of rounds ago, and I can send you those links Steve if you want to post them when you post the interview.
Yeah, I’ll put them in the show notes.
Yeah, if people are really, people are using it, and the stats are available actually. There’s a site meter stat on the front of the Wiki, and I’ve made them publicly available so anybody can go in and take a look at it. The thing is that, like anything during the, while the rounds are happening, it’s much, much higher. But it still gets pretty good stats, and I get some emails, and I get, I mean even now when I go out to present, or at conferences people will talk about the project, and it’s still getting out there. I was really hoping sometime this spring, or maybe even this summer, to actually interview some people who have gotten some use for it, and I’m trying to put out a call for that. But, obviously it’s been this semester for me right now, so I’m a little crazy, but it’s in the back of my mind that I want to start getting out and actually talking directly to people and asking them specific questions about how it’s being used.
Have you heard anything from non-librarians who have, besides I guess the Zappos person you said posted on there, which I’m sure thrilled you since you love shoes. [laughs]
[laughs] Yes, I was very happy.
But, have you heard from any other non-librarians, if they’ve gotten any use out of it? Or is mostly just within the library community right now?
Well I know that last, I think it was in round 7, that Emma Craig and Katie Burkewood from the UK wrote an article for The Guardian about the project, well, information about the project was included in an article they wrote for The Guardian, and it was part of a larger scheme of the echo chamber effect. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Ned Potter’s work. He’s really the one that got me started talking about, thinking about this echo chamber, and actually I think some of us tweet about it on Twitter sometimes with the hashtag #echolib. And just sort of the idea that it’s great that we’re all having these conversations online, or whatever, but we really need to get outside of the echo chamber, and that it’s great that we have this way to communicate, and talk to people, but if all your readers are librarians, are you reaching? I mean, what’s your audience? And maybe that is your audience. But in the case of this project, one of the other goals absolutely was to make other people be aware what a librarian’s day is like, and sometimes it’s hard to gauge. Because unless somebody chooses to contact me directly, I don’t have any way to know if they’ve gotten any use about it. Unless they call or email me for a quote, or they email to say thank you, I got some great information about this, there just isn’t any way to know. And because it’s the Wiki versus say a blog or some other format, I don’t even really get to see any incoming links to it. So if people are referencing it in posts or articles, there’s no stats for that unfortunately. One of the other, I mean that’s one of the other problems of doing it on this PB Works site is it’s great that people can be able to edit it, but you miss out on a lot of potential comments and feedback, and things like that.
Right, yeah this project and other stuff that Ned has written over the years, that’s what sort of inspired me to do this podcast as well as trying to get, and just like you I don’t know for sure who’s listening, I assume it’s mostly librarians, but I don’t know, and my mom I guess, probably, but I don’t know. I can see how many people hit the site, how many people download the file, but I don’t know who that is.
But you’re not getting stats from iTunes, is that right? Is that correct? You don’t get.
It’s sort of a lot of [laughs], but I think that it’s one of those things for social media’s great, but on the other hand it’s sort of like you’re just throwing stuff out there, you’re not sure even what’s sticking. Once in a while you get, I’ve gotten phone calls or interviewed about blog articles, or blog posts that I’ve written, and you know that someone, somewhere is reading it. But, other than that, and I’ll say my mom doesn’t even read my blog [laughs] I don’t know who’s reading, it’s the same thing, I don’t know who’s reading it or how it’s being used. I can say that people are doing it, and I do hear maybe that’s what I’ll do, each round I try to sort of collect and gather information about it. I was using what the hashtag to collect the tweets a couple of rounds ago, but they’ve gone away. So I wasn’t able to do that this last round, and I just really need to be able to take those tweets and put them into a worker cloud and see what was coming up as the biggest words over and over again. Also, showing me who is tweeting the most, and so been collecting some ad hoc statistics about it as we go along because one, I don’t know that anyone cares about statistics other than me, because it’s my project, but, yeah maybe what I need to do this round is sort of collect the feedback type thing. And I do get a lot of tweets, and there are a lot of posts during the rounds when it’s happening, but again, it’s grown to sort of this monstrous size where it’s almost impossible for one person. I really did use to read all the blog posts, and I can’t even imagine trying to read one post from each of the bloggers now. [laughs]
You said it was like, what 250 you said last time participated.
Over 250 signed up on the Wiki, yes, and the thing is that not everybody, because it’s sort of a grassroots thing, that one, you see often people tweeting about it that don’t even know the origin. You see people tweeting with the hashtag, and I try to watch the hashtag, and answer questions, or anything like that that happens during the round, but you see people tweeting who have no idea where the idea originated. They don’t know about the Wiki, and of course in this day and age I think in the last, I don’t know maybe year or two years, I think we’ve seen a shift for a lot of people more towards having a twitter account versus having a blog. I mean there’s a lot of, I know because I write a blog, there’s a lot of work involved with writing a blog and keeping up with that kind of thing, and so it’s sort of easier to just participate via Twitter.
Yeah, I’ve thought about using the site for this show as a blog of, to start writing stuff as well, and I just keep thinking of how much work that would be on top of doing the podcast, and my regular full-time job, and the family and everything else. I don’t have time to add blogging on there as well. [laughs]
Yeah, if I had not been blogging, blogging has gotten to be such a habit for me, it’s almost second-nature in fact. As you know, this last 6 months for me have been huge life-changing events with some family problems, and one of the things I keep saying is that I got to stop blogging as I don’t really have time for it, but I just almost can’t quit. [laughs] It’s just a second-nature to me to blog at this point.
You’re addicted to blogging. [laughs]
Yeah, I guess.
So, how long have you been doing your blog? When did you start doing Librarian By Day?
I started, I think the first posts that are on the blog now are from July 2007. But, I always confess to people that I actually started blogging before that, and I actually deleted the posts. And it’s one of those things that I really regret now, but I had started blogging, and then kind of fell away from it. So maybe just a year before, but I had fallen away from it, and then picked it up again, and sort of looked at those early posts, and cringed, and thought “I’m just going to get rid of them.” And now I sort of wish they were there because even when I look back to my posts from 2007, I cringe sometimes. And I’m sure that will continue to happen so, yeah I only really, I guess about 4 years now, not even, well over 4 years.
Yeah well, I mean, I think everyone continues to become a better writer, and you look back at your old work, even if it was the best work you could do at the time, and just kind of, ugh! [laughs]
I think too that when people want to start blogging they always feel like, Librarian By Day has sort of grown into this thing where it gets its own name recognition outside of my name sometimes. And when I started blogging my goal was not to write a blog for other librarians, it was to keep track, and I think I even say this in one of my original posts. I had a new job, a new position, I just sort of wanted to document how that was going for my own sake, sort of an online journal if you will, and then it sort of has just grown into what it is today, and so, what your blog is when you start out, it certainly can and will evolve into something completely different, and it may evolve again.
Yeah, I’m sure your graduate school experiences will shape it to be something different. [laughs]
Yeah, this first semester has been interesting to the extreme, but definitely a lot of a challenges, but the other part of that is that, yeah, I think it is going to change also my focus. If you look back over the last couple of years, I started blogging at will about anything that I think is important or relevant, from management to time issues to time management issues, to anything, not necessarily related directly to the libraries, social media stuff, Facebook privacy issues, anything I thought was important and what I’m hoping to do is certainly narrow that down over the next year. Grad school’s obviously going to contribute to that because my focus is narrowing. But, what, the things that I’m really interested in obviously are the digital divide issues, e-books keeps coming up in part as part of that, but it’s also hard not to get sucked into the e-books thing, and then the transliteracy type stuff, and I’m hoping once things really get settled, and it seems like there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the family issues right now, that I’m hopefully going to get my focus back onto that, my work in grad school is tying into that. I’m actually really excited, one of my classes this next semester is about digital electronic democracy, digital democracy, so that will be interesting to go through.
And, can you talk about what degree are you getting, and what are your end goals with your degree?
[laughs] Yeah. I have been wanting to go back for, gosh, over 3 years now, and the degree I’m getting is a Masters in Public Policy and Public Administration. And it was really important to me to have that public policy aspect in there, and not just be a public administration degree. And, don’t get me wrong, those are great, and I think really important, but I care very much about the public policy side of that. And so, I think that public policy really ties into and we look at a lot of the issues facing libraries, and right now that the public policy obviously affects very much where we stand. We’re talking about, if you look at the recession, the funding problems we’re having, if you look at the e-book issues, and the discussion around them, if you look at the digital divide issues, and the FCC and some of their recent announcements with the national broadband plan, all of that ties I think back into public policy, and I guess that the truth is that that’s, those are the things that I care about. And, so I felt like, to be better prepared or better able to contribute to those conversations, and understand what was happening, that I needed to go back and get this degree. So, we’ll see, it’s my first semester [laughs] and I guess by the time this airs I will know what my grades are, but at this point it’s finals week so I’m a crazy person. But, I am enjoying it a lot, and I think I’m getting a lot of really great stuff out of it.
Well, I’m sure you’ll do great in your grades. [laughs]
What kind of other stuff, I know you’re part of Library Renewal and, what other kinds of things like that are you doing like that? And getting your degree to sort of focus libraries on the public policy issues.
Oh my gosh. Well, let’s see my rundown of my bio. [laughs] I do Library Day In The Life project, which we’re obviously getting ready to kick off, we talked about that. I used to call in more frequently to the T Is For Training podcast, but I haven’t been doing a lot of training these days and so I’m not going in quite as much as I used to for Maurice. And then I also am, as you said, a contributing editor and an advocate for Library Renewal, and I co-chair the Transliteracy Interest Group within LITA with Tom. And then I also write for the Libraries And Transliteracy project which was a project I again co-founded with a couple of other people to focus really on libraries and transliteracy, and I was recently invited to be a contributor to the Transliteracy Research Group which is actually sort of for, where all the information and research about transliteracy came from, it’s that group out of the UK. And, gosh what else do I do? So then within ALA I serve on the OITP, that’s the Office Of Information Technology Policy advisory committee for them, and I also serve on their digital literacy task force, and I am an ALA Councilor At Large.
So you are busy, busy, busy. [laughs]
I have a lot of emails. [laughs] Yeah, it’s one of those, I didn’t set out to do that but it just sort of happened. I guess maybe I should just say no more often. [laughs]
Yeah, I remember when you were running for Councilor For Large, you mentioned a couple of times on Twitter that “Oops maybe I shouldn’t have done this with everything else I’ve taken on.” [laughs]
You know and I did, I was encouraged to run, and I thought about waiting for a year, and several people were, very strongly encouraged me to go ahead and run last year, and actually those election results I think came in right around the same time you are nominated for the OITP Advisory Committee, and for the Digital Literacy Task Force. Those nominations came in about the same time and both of those things were such wonderful opportunities, I didn’t feel like I could pass them up even though I had already, I was running for council, and I think all of that really placed them together. I don’t know if you’re a member of ALA, Steve, but it is a very large.
Yeah, it’s a very large organization, and I think because of the size of it that sometimes it’s hard to know what’s happening across the areas, and so being involved within OITP and the ALA council really, I think, is a great experience. I think it’s giving me a nice breadth of knowledge.
And, do you have a lot of conferences you’re going to be attending coming up? Do you have a lot of speaking engagements? Or, I assume ALA In MidWinter, you’re going to council duties.
I will be, yes, I will be at Mid Winter, for sure, absolutely, and I will be at Annual of course because as a Councilor, you need to be there, I, other than that though, as you know I’ve had a lot of, not a lot but some significant family issues the last six months, and I am, part of the reason why I’m back in Iowa is to help out with those things, and I’ve actually been turning down speaking engagements. And probably, depending, I would be, I would start accepting them again, but with school, it’s a little harder to travel, and be gone the way it is when you can just take a vacation from work, and go to conferences and present and things like that. I don’t have a lot scheduled, and I think that’s kind of nice. [laughs]
It’s a nice change from things.
Yeah, you know I spent the last two, four, two to four years really, really heavily focused on libraries and doing a lot presenting, and doing a lot of conferences, and I love that, and that’s part of the reason it’s been really hard to cut back, is that I enjoy that so much. I love going to conferences, and getting to talk to people, and seeing other presentations, and of course, I always enjoy the opportunity to present about topics that people are doing. It’s funny you get invited to go be, I was invited to go to Michigan earlier this year to do a keynote on e-books, and so it’s a whole, it was a whole day conference on e-books for these libraries in this area, and so then you get exposed to all this information, and hear about these programs that people are doing that just, you know none of those people that are there are writing a blog, or are on Twitter, and so it’s sort of a great way to find out what people are doing in their own little niche that maybe you hadn’t heard about or that nobody else is doing yet, and that is something I absolutely miss.
I wanted to ask you about a couple of things that you had written recently on your blog. One of them was your newest entry about why publishers should stop acting like libraries are the enemy.
Why do you think publishers had that in their brains? That’s kind of been, that’s not a new thing, it’s just sort of now it’s coming to a head with e-books again. Do you think they just, there’s never been a study until that most recent one that’s really sort of shown that libraries increase overall buying? What do you think the root of that is?
You know, I think one of the problems of going back to school is that I think everything deserves a research paper and so it’s hard for me to answer that question in a couple of sentences. In fact I, for one of my classes I designed a problem based learning exercise, so, I mean, it was me basically an exercise that I would give students if I was teaching that has them investigate basically what you’re talking about. I think that you have to look at the publishing industry as a whole, and what their goal is organizationally. The obviously have some goals, and speculating obviously profit is one of those goals, getting good authors and continuing their work, and protecting the rights of their authors probably are others. And so I mean I don’t, I think the thing to remember is there are no villains in this scenario, I mean maybe a couple, but the truth is there are no evil people, even publishers, even Amazon, or whatever are not nefarious criminals. What we are talking about is just different priorities, and different organizational structures, and different goals, and they all have a different end game than libraries do. And I think that it’s really easy to see a book in a library that is circulating, and to see each one of those circulations as a missed sale, a missed profit opportunity, and I think that there are no, I mean there’s no hard way to prove that if that book wasn’t available through the library that those people would or would not have bought it. Now, I have said, and I know this from a lot of people, if it weren’t for public libraries I would have read less, not bought more. I buy a huge number of books, but there’s no way I could afford to buy everything I read. And the other thing is that a lot of people aren’t willing to take a risk on a new author as far as that goes. You know, they may go read a couple books from the library and then start, decide they don’t want to wait on the waitlist for the newest book from that author to come out and start purchasing them. And that still happens, there’s a blog by an author that I do occasionally read because we email back and forth, and one of his posts recently was talking about the e-book situation, and the potential solution. And he did start it out as a quote from a fellow author, and I’m obviously paraphrasing because I don’t have it in front of me, but the premise was that this author was upset that their publisher had just made a deal with Amazon to allow the e-books to work in public libraries. The public library e-books to work on the Kindle, and this author was upset that this had happened, and now their book was going to be available in 11,000, which is actually not an accurate number, but that’s the one I think they used, public libraries, and that the publisher had not talked to them and they were going to lose all this money. I mean the idea was that now that this deal had been made, that they were going to lose all this money. So here’s an author who does not understand that one, libraries purchase the print books they have, but two, that whatever deal your publisher made to allow library lending of your e-book, we’re paying for those books too. And that it’s not all, it doesn’t immediately mean that all libraries across the country got access to your book. Actually there are over 16,000 public library buildings I guess in the U.S., and so I think part of this is just not understanding how things work. And I don’t honestly, I don’t know what the solution to that is other than to try and explain when the opportunity arises, to have those conversations where you say “actually, libraries pay for our books, for your book, we pay for the print, and we pay for the e-book, and here’s, we introduce people to new books, and that these are, help with sales,” and it’s just basically what I said in the post, but we have to be really careful how we do that. My blog is really for librarians, but obviously if I were having a conversation with publishers, or with authors, that I would try to carefully word that in a very non-confrontational, more informative way.
Right, I mean the publishing industry and libraries both kind of now in a big state of flux, and everybody’s trying to figure out the future together, and they don’t necessarily have the same, I think we both want to be at the same place at the end, but it’s how do we get there, and.
We do, we do in some ways, yes, we want there to absolutely be a publishing industry. But, the publishing industry also wants to make money, which is obviously not the library’s goal. So there is a little bit of a conflict in there, and I think, again speculation on my part is that you have an industry, publishing, who takes a look at what happened to the recording industry over the last 10 years or so, and has good reason to be scared. The way people purchase music, and listen to music has changed. Even publishers don’t like change, so they’re very much trying to hang onto an old model, and maybe make some new rules.
Right. They see what Apple did with the music industry, and they’re afraid that Amazon is going to do the same thing now with the e-book. It will be the big gorilla in the room kind of, force changes on them like the whole fight that they had with the agency models, of pricing things.
Right. You know the hardback would come out, gosh I think they’re up to $30 now, and then a little while later they release the trade paperback, and then later they release the mass market paperback, and that. With the e-books, e-books changes that, and even without the aspect of public libraries things are changing for them. And we won’t even get into the whole piracy thing.
Right. [laughs] Well talking about that a little bit, with the piracy thing, you have a little graphic somewhere that I hope you can post, or give me a link to, like of how piracy is not theft, how they’re different. Piracy is making a copy of something, and theft is taking away the only copy of something.
Yes, I have that, and I can, I didn’t do it, but I have the attribution for it as well. Yeah, I think that one of the things too that comes up when you start talking about piracy is that one of, piracy is not theft, and that. So let’s say I go to, one, if I’m stealing, people always want to equate digital content with print content, and they say how is downloading a book off a torrent site different than walking into a bookstore and taking a book. Well, one, if you walk into a bookstore and take a book you’ve taken, that bookstore no longer has that book, but if you download a digital copy, the original copy is still there, so you have not physically taken something away from someone else. The other part goes back to that presumption that had you not downloaded that additional copy, you would have purchased the item. That is an interesting presumption, people all the time will take or use stuff, oh gosh, you’ve been to library conferences. People take free stuff that they’re never going to use when they get home from the vendor. [laughs]
Right. People take huge bags full of things.
Because it’s free. Yes, all those tote bags, and all the other swag that people take that then goes home and goes in their desk drawer or whatever. Once stuff is free people will take it that they would have, nobody’s going to spend money for those pens, or that tote bag. But, if it’s free people will take it, and so the presumption is obviously by publishers and anybody else that if you go to a pirated site and download a pirated, and I wanted to talk about, remind me that I want to talk about just the idea, the use of the word pirated. That if you go to a site and you download that, that you’re, it’s a lost sale. But, there’s no guarantee of that. Now, we’re not talking about also the legality of the fact that someone has stripped the DRM off a title, and uploaded it to a website, because even though you are legally allowed to make a copy of something for your own personal use, it is illegal for you to break the DRM, even for that purpose, never mind uploading it to a torrent site. Thanks to the Digital Money And Copyright Act, but part of what I have done with my public policy classes in school is tie some of that back in to librarianship and the things that I care about. And one of those things is DRM, and so I was doing some research on DRM for a class, and I came across this great article, and I can send you the citation for it. But essentially it’s a whole scholarly article looking at just the fact that the industry has chosen to use the word pirates and piracy to describe people that do that. And there’s a whole lot of implication about the type of person who does that. And historically pirates are people who loot and kill. So now we’re equating someone who downloaded a file with someone who pillages and rapes?
Probably not the equivalent. So just the language that is being used by people having this debate or this discussion has specific implications. Right, again, there’s legalities involved in this, and the question should be should it even be legal or illegal not to download these files. The other thing you need to look at too, and obviously, Cory Doctorow has a great collection of works in this content if anybody’s interested in understanding some of these issues I would point them towards, but you need to start considering why people pirate. Again, there are no villains here, that people, yes there maybe are some people who are doing it for that purpose, but the other thing is, one of the essays that Cory Doctorow has in this book, talks about this example of a mother who buys a DVD, who takes it home and wants to record it onto a VHS tape so that her children can watch it, and then she can put the original away so they don’t get their sticky little fingers on the DVD. And that doesn’t work, the technology between the DVD and the VCR prevents that from happening. There’s a lot of aspects when you start talking about DRM. More than just the piece where it doesn’t allow you to loan it to people, or copy the file. But one of those is, for example, the DVD and the VCR don’t work together, and that prevents that from happening. We don’t want people copying that. So she goes online, this mom, and she goes to Google and she does a quick search because, hey it’s Google and how hard is it, and quickly figures out here’s a site where she can download this movie. Now she didn’t do that because she’s a bad person, what she wants is a simple solution to her problem. So you start looking at the reasons people download illegal files, and there are some studies out there, most of them focus on college age kids that really, realistically it’s not just college age kids that are doing this, and start looking at the reasons. They’re talking about price, obviously is one of them,one of them is just the ability to use the book or the video or whatever on their preferred device. That if you buy a video, videos are a little different, there’s not a lot of places that you can buy digital videos from, Amazon obviously, and Apple. But, they want people to watch it, or read it, or listen to it on their preferred device, and so you can go online and someone else has already broken the DRM for you, and you can just listen to that. And so I think that what we’re looking at really here is a new level of supply and demand, not one that people are comfortable with, not one that people want, but if your consumers are demanding something at a level that you’re not willing to give them, we are talking about is supply and demand. The other problem with DRM is that, so there’s the DRM that prevents you from making illegal copies, there’s the DRM that prevents you from making illegal copies of your book, and handing them out to your friends. But, there’s also the DRM that prevents you from reading a book you purchased from Amazon on a Barnes & Noble Nook, and that is a level of DRM that has nothing to do with preventing the rights of the author, or the publishers, that has to do with protecting Amazon’s bottom line. And Barnes & Noble is just as guilty of it, as is Apple. And so you have all these different levels where you have DRM that is theoretically supposed to be protecting the publishers, or protecting the authors, or the content creators, and then you’ve got DRM issues that are related to the profits at the end of the vendors. So, I think that it’s important to understand all of that because I think if we’re going to have intelligent conversations, if we’re going to hope to get these things changed, we have to be able to have informed conversations about it, and you have to understand where the other side is coming from.
Right, I think you have to understand, especially in a public library setting, or anywhere you’re lending to the public, like with the e-books, or in schools I guess to the students, you have to be able to explain to them, it was really hard to explain to people before the Kindle anything of why this wouldn’t work on your Kindle without them understanding what DRM was. That was a really difficult conversation to have with just normal people.
Yeah, I used to do a lot, I haven’t done anything obviously recently, but I used to do a lot of classes and workshops for the public, the public library and then also for public library employees, so staff, and the patrons, and then I also do some conference presentations. But, yeah, one of the most basic things you have to get people to understand is what DRM is, and how it works in a way that they can understand. They don’t have to understand all those aspects of it, but yeah, you’re right, the classes I would teach about e-books started out with this is what an e-book is, it’s an electronic file, here’s what DRM is, and that kind of thing before you start talking about then how you can use your library. And the other thing is too that’s part of that is that people don’t understand the level of difficulty, and things have obviously changed now with the Kindle edition too, the devices. But, before that Adobe Digital Editions was like the bane of my existence. People did not understand why it had to be so complicated, and complex, and that you had to have the software. In trying to explain to them that this is not put in place by libraries, but by the publishers, and just the sort of level of, how people would come into my classes who had bought a Nook, and not realize that they have to have a home computer, broadband Internet access, and a home computer capable of running the Adobe Digital Edition. And then, when Adobe Digital Editions worked, it did work well, but if a problem went wrong, it was just a nightmare because generally your average front line staff person doesn’t understand how to troubleshoot it, especially over the phone. And some people have a desktop so they can’t bring it into the library. And then just getting things reset with Overdrive. Patrons aren’t allowed to email Overdrive support, a staff member has to do it. It’s been a very, you know this, I mean you work in a public library, how time consuming it can be. [laughs]
Have you heard anything about Barnes & Noble trying to work on any kind of thing like Amazon has, a more simple, not quite one click, but much less clicks, model for the Nook?
No, but I don’t think we’re going to hear about that until it happens. Really, what’s burning, their big announcement is going to be that it does work if they are working on it, because we already know the Nooks work with public library e-books. So, I have to say as a consumer, do you have a Kindle?
No, I don’t.
Okay. So I should just confess upfront as a, I’m pretty up front where my prejudice and my bias lie, I do have a Kindle. I have what is now, I guess, the Kindle Keyboard. It was a Kindle 2 back in the day.
And I also have an iPad 2 that I got for grad school, which has saved my sanity.
Yes, my wife has an iPad 2 so that’s what we use for e-books.
For the books. Before, prior to this, I had a couple of different e-readers that I had purchased when I was teaching classes at the library, and when I was giving, the library did not have the budget to buy the devices, and so I actually personally owned several of the popular devices that worked with Overdrive e-books. And so, I’ve done the process, and I have to say as a consumer, as a user, that the Kindle processes is like magic. It’s like somebody sprinkled fairy dust all over the thing, you just click a couple of buttons, and yes you have to sign into your account, and Amazon has your information, well let’s face it the average consumer doesn’t care, or isn’t even really aware of that.
Right, because Amazon has their buying information, so what do they care if they know what they get from the library.
Right, and people already rate stuff on Amazon, they’re already doing all that stuff, and people give away information all the time, and I think only librarians care about this. So, the process is great, so it would be wonderful if there was a competition for the Kindle in that aspect, for sure, because I mean honestly as a public library employee you can’t necessarily recommend one device over the other, but if you’re going to be honest about it, really the Kindle is probably the best one just because for ease of use.
Right, and even people like Sarah Houghton, who is so far at the other end of hating DRM, she’s got a Kindle, but I mean she she broke into it, and [laughs] everything.
But, it’s clearly the best device out there.
Absolutely. And that’s why I bought mine, I knew, I felt I made an informed decision. Last year for Christmas, last year or the year before? No, last year for Christmas my sister and I bought my parents, each one, and got them set up, and this year we got my grandfather one of the new Kindles, and got him set up. And again, for ease of use, that was the easiest one to use, and of course now their public library has e-books, which I have to say, to you and me, that process seems very simple, but my grandfather does not have an Amazon account already, and he was not using e-books in the library, and so showing him how to use that is a very long process to explain all the steps.
Yeah, I was explaining it to a patron the other day, and I was saying “Oh, it’s so much easier than it used to be,” and I was going through it, and I could just see her eyes were just rolling as I went through. It was so much easier when you just click here and then here and then here and then here, and then you go to there, and then you click here, and then you click there, and she’s like “What? This is easy?”
Yeah, being on the front and that for so long really brought it home to me, that things that you and I consider easy because we’re tech savvy is really not for the average person, and it’s very, there’s all kinds of studies that show this, but it’s very hard to get outside of your own bubble, take that huge, giant step up to the right unless your perspective is total skewed ,based on your past experience, your job, your access to technology. You and I both obviously have some ability to buy a device that a lot of people don’t have. And, what is easy for us really can be much more complicated. That ties into also my interests obviously with the digital divide stuff, that it’s really easy for middle-class or people of a certain socio-economic status if you like, these things just save print instead and things like that, they just don’t have any concept of the real divide that’s out there.
The last thing I wanted to talk to you about was another thing that you wrote about recently, was your response to the ALA statement about the Occupy Wall Street library getting taken away. You wrote a piece about what exactly a library is. And you used the old Supreme Court definition of “I know a library when I see it.”
Right, right [laughs] Uh huh.
It took me as interesting because I had just interviewed David Lankes for another interview for this show, and he was talking a lot about, he didn’t put it in this way, but through an identity crisis that librarians are going through of what exactly is a librarian, and what should we call ourselves. And, then I read your post about what is a library, and it just seemed like that the two things came together, we’re trying to figure out what we are as a profession.
Yeah, I think that that, it’s funny that you say what is a librarian because that’s, I’m not working at a library right now, I’m just going to school full time and so am I still a librarian? And the answer I came up with myself is yes, obviously. Yeah, well this whole statement came about from ALA. If people aren’t familiar with it Molly Rafael issued this statement regarding the destruction of the Occupy Wall Street in New York, and I tweeted a link to it on Twitter, and there was some back of forth with a couple of people on Twitter who basically were saying “well how is this a library? What qualifies this as a library?” And to me it was like, “well duh, obviously it’s a library” moment. But, I felt like if I want to, as obviously an ALA Councilor At Large and a person who engages in conversation, that I needed a better definition of just like “well duh.” And so I started looking [laughs]
“Well duh” is an interesting statement from ALA.
No [laughs] And probably not from anybody, and in fact this has been discussed on the Council list about how we define this, because one of the problems that came up, and this is in my post, but one of the things that came up over and over again was that we, that there was no, anything in the definitions that excluded like a home, a personal library, I have a lot of books and while it’s definitely not cool, and probably illegal for somebody to come into my home and destroy them, that doesn’t necessarily warrant a statement from the ALA President. So, how do we distinguish my personal library from a library like the Occupy Wall Street library.
And you may even lend your books to your friends, but that still doesn’t make it necessarily the library. [laughs]
Right, and I definitely don’t lend my books to my friends [laughs]. I have, I don’t lend anything [laughs]. I am terrible librarian. I only, I begrudgingly lend things on very rare occasions. But I feel that once you loan something out, you better plan to not get it back. And so, anything I don’t want to see.
You have a special collections library. [laughs]
Yes, yes, I’m a special collections. I give away books all the time that I don’t expect to come back, that I’ve read and don’t want returned, but generally anything I think I want to keep I don’t lend. Yeah, and I’m sure David covers this, but then you have some libraries that maybe aren’t a private collection, so then how do we include digital context? I think photo libraries are even, let’s think music libraries, or that kind of thing that obviously the destruction of those things would be a huge loss to one, society, to the groups that are accessing them, and how do we make that definition of what qualifies as a library.
I think I saw a slide that Lane Wilkinson used in his transliteracy presentation that he posted this week on our blog. It was a quote from David and I think it said something to the effect that a room of books without a librarian is just a warehouse, but an empty room with a librarian in it is a library. Essentially, equating there’s more involved with a library than just a collection of material, there’s a certain level of knowledge and ability involved. Especially when you look at some of the new libraries or learning centers that may not necessarily have a lot of print material.
Yeah, I’ve seen that quote, that’s one of my favorite new quotes. [laughs]
Yeah, and one of the things I talk about my posts that you start getting into then too is what constitutes an information professional and I’m sure you’ve seen those discussions online, or maybe not, but what does it mean to have a Masters in Library Science, to have that certificate, and what does it mean to not have it because I think we’ve all worked with people who maybe didn’t have that certification but were wonderful librarians, and I think we’ve all worked with people who have that certificate that were not so wonderful librarians. And what constitutes the librarian, then that obviously lends us into what constitutes a library. But, I think it’s something we need to be thinking about, and it especially ties back into our conversation earlier about the echo chamber. That if you want to be able to have a conversation with someone outside of librarianship, you need to be prepared to define what you’re talking about in a way that they can understand succinctly.
Yes, exactly. Well, Bobbi, thank you so much for talking to me for the show.
Oh you’re welcome, I’m glad I could finally be on.
I appreciate the support you’ve given, and blogging about it, and everything like that.
No problem, I’m glad I could help.
Well, thanks a lot, Bobbi.
Thank you, have a great day.