Recap of Triangle Research Libraries Network Annual Meeting 2012

Printer-friendly versionSend to friend

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you already know the Triangle Research Libraries Network (TRLN) includes libraries at four universities in North Carolina: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Central University and Duke University. As library consortia go, TRLN is far more than just a buying club and its members share a common discovery layer to their catalogs, but they do not share an ILS. TRLN also hosts numerous events throughout the year, including the TRLN Management Academy, Research Forum and—the topic of today's post—an annual meeting.

The annual meeting on Friday explicitly did not include discussion of each member library's annual report, which we in the audience were directed to find on the TRLN web page. Instead, this is one of many opportunities in the Research Triangle to attend a library conference with compelling programming. The entire meeting agenda is here. I'll recap the keynote and one breakout session (Librarianship in an Evolving Legal Environment) here.

Gary Marchionini, Dean of the School of Information and Library Science at UNC (SILS), delivered the keynote address, in which he discussed a wide range of information issues and libraries' opportunities to shape the evolving information environment. He described the current state of information as “messy” and said that messy isn't something librarians like, which drew a few chuckles from the audience. Most kinds of information are ubiquitous; information is no longer as scarce as it once was: libraries therefore need to expose their unique collections to a broader audience and librarians need to find new applications of our expertise in managing information. The former case is exemplified by digitization projects (today's “retrospective conversion”) to share manuscripts and other unique resources in our collections. In the latter case, Dr. Marchionini cited a number of examples.

He asserted that librarians are doing a good job of teaching and that we as a profession have to do a lot of it. He advocated for our inserting ourselves into the research process more assertively, by managing research data, and mentioned that decreasing resources and increasing external competition compel libraries toward investigating simple, countable initiatives, conducive to return on investment (ROI) reporting. This argument echoes the findings of a recent report commissioned by SAGE, Working Together: Evolving Values for Academic Libraries, by Claire Creaser and Valérie Spezi. (A summary of that report is here.)

Dr. Marchionini's other call to action for librarians is to get involved in the personal information management game, but asked whether the personal digital library is an opportunity or an unfunded mandate. Our skills in indexing and archiving, coupled with our professional mission to honor the privacy of our constituents, position us well to assist people with managing their own personal, digital histories across documents, photographs, sound recordings and so on. As individuals face decisions to share—or not to share—preserve and organize their digital personal effects for posterity, librarians' skills can come into play. Libraries are “memory institutions” and have the expertise people need. Furthermore, personal libraries “blend” into local history and cultural memory, which are already under libraries' purview. Storage of all this information is another service libraries could offer, and which SILS is offering its alumni, on the order of 40 terabytes so far. SILS is also offering a 30 credit hour, post-master's certificate of advanced studies in data curation.

“Librarianship in an Evolving Legal Environment” encompassed three separate presentations by Will Cross, Director, Copyright and Digital Scholarship Center, NCSU; Anne Gilliland, Scholarly Communications Officer, UNC; and Kevin Smith, Director of Scholarly Communication, Duke, respectively.

Cross's presentation, “Where do We Go From Here?: Fair Use after Georgia State” updated and contextualized the recent Cambridge University Press v. Becker decision, which I've previously touched on here and here. According to Cross, librarians are justified in considering this decision something of a victory for our institutions, though the case will in all likelihood be appealed by the plaintiffs. This case was primarily an attempt by some big publishers to apply a license model onto U.S. libraries where copyright, especially the Fair Use clause, already prevails. Cross asserted that one important interpretation of this ruling could be, when applying the fair use framework's four factors in a given situation (such as putting a particular book chapter on e-reserve), and the library “wins” the first and fourth factors (“purpose and character” and “market harm,” respectively), it is a clear-cut example of fair use. However, Cross also cautioned, citing UNC law professor Lolly Gasaway, against looking for a simple equation to determine fair use, which is rather like soup: you put in all your ingredients and taste it. If it “tastes like fair use,” it is.

Among the chief takeaways from the Georgia State case, Cross highlighted that, on 94 of the 99 instances the plaintiffs included—the worst offenders, according to the plaintiffs, of GSU's e-reserves copyright violations—Judge Orinda Evans found in favor of GSU. Also, the ruling is “not binding” and involves “persuasive authority,” which means that it does not change the law of the land, but applies only to these parties, in this case. This ruling would therefore not dictate, but rather be a piece of future fair use rulings.

Cross also mentioned the development of The Association of Research Libraries' (ARL) Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries. He believes this is an important step toward future use by libraries of the fair use assertion, saying “where community norms track reasonably well with legal considerations, they are often considered relevant by courts.” For e-reserves in particular, the principle that “it is fair use to make appropriately tailored, course-related content available to enrolled students via digital networks,” which is articulated in the Code, strengthens libraries' standings should their e-reserves practices be challenged on copyright grounds.

Anne Gilliland announced that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to look at the case, John Wiley & Sons Inc v. Supap Kirtsaeng, which I have covered here and again here. There isn't much to update on the case itself, but there was some discussion among the three presenters about how the Supreme Court might rule. If the ruling became law, first sale could largely be replaced by licensing of content (sound familiar?), but the implications would be very broad, beyond libraries: secondhand booksellers, eBay, and even yard sales, etc. could be greatly curtailed in the U.S., as re-selling of any items manufactured outside of the U.S. and which include any copyrightable content—even a logo—could be prohibited by this outcome. For U.S. libraries, if the Supreme Court upholds the lower courts' ruling, we could be moving toward micropayments to lend and differential costs across libraries to purchase the same book, like we do with licensed digital content, which is undesirable in a democracy.

Kevin Smith abbreviated his talk, “The Open Access Wars,” as time was running out on the session. In brief, Smith mentioned four “skirmishes” in OA: the Elsevier boycott, the Research Works Act (RWA), the White House initiative Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) and Gold vs. Green OA. He didn't have time to go into great detail on any of these subjects and my note-taking also suffered from the rushed presentation. My key takeaway was that the boycott of publishing in Elsevier journals, on to which many faculty on college campuses have signed (see http://thecostofknowledge.com/), signifies that researchers have taken up the mantle that libraries have been carrying: for-profit publishers charge exorbitant and ever-increasing prices for journal subscriptions and support legal initiatives to restrict the free flow of information, especially scientific research. This boycott provided a look into the ongoing fight in U.S. government over the NIH mandate that federally-funded research be publicly available rather than behind a paywall. Smith also briefly updated the audience on the Green and Gold OA models. Peter Suber maintains a web page devoted to OA here.

The lunch buffet was late to be served, but otherwise fantastic as always at the Friday Center. After lunch, mystery writer Margaret Maron talked about her literary characters and the research she conducts to inform her fiction writing, which involves the assistance from librarians, who have played a major role in her life as a writer.

Overall, this was another excellent local professional development opportunity for librarians lucky enough to live in the Research Triangle.