Wikipedia is a proven model for openly and effectively creating and distributing high quality information in a way that users can easily access it. Its success provides lessons for the library profession to learn and challenges some of our assumptions about how we might address the mission of providing free and open access to everyone. Wikipedia is a platform for librarians to put their professional skills to work adding content and improving the quality of the entries while addressing the gender imbalance of the male-dominated group of contributors that are currently doing this work.
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Computer algorithms, the logic and code that power automated decision-making programs, increasingly dominate many aspects of modern society. There are already many examples of institutional biases – including ideological bias, racism, sexism, ableism – being solidified in algorithms, causing harm to already underprivileged populations. This article explores library-specific and society-wide examples as well as efforts to prevent the implementation
of these biases in the future.
Every once in a while I get a call from someone with an idea they want to explore that just makes no sense at all. At least not at first. The latest zany idea a client brought to me is a concept they dubbed, “pure central processing” and although my first response was, “You can’t be serious” it is definitely growing on me. Their idea was to eliminate check-in at each of their branches entirely by letting people return things but instead of checking them in there, the items would be taken elsewhere for check-in and then brought back later. They weren’t talking about moving from a staff check-in experience to a self-service check-in experience. They were talking about eliminating the check-in transaction and associated workflows from public service library staff and the library environment entirely.
If we are truly committed to an informed citizenry, the job of the public librarian today is more akin to an activist than an archivist. Teaching media literacy, acting as fact-checkers, facilitating community conversations, collaborating with teachers and other organizations in the community – these are action steps. It isn’t enough to organize a collection and wait for people to come use it. As representatives of a trusted profession and a trusted public institution committed to our American democracy, we are duty-bound to do as much to leverage that trust as we can.
Our commitment to protecting our patron’s intellectual property is a guiding principle in the ALA Code of Ethics stating that librarians “protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received, and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired, or transmitted." The ALA Code of Ethics was originally adopted in 1939 before MARC records, the integrated library system, and definitely before the Internet. It is much more complicated to protect our patron’s privacy today than it was in 1939. However, it is timely to revisit the issues around patron privacy as we embark on our journey with the new administration. According to the ACLU Trump Memos (http://bit.ly/2gJvdok), and now confirmed by Executive Orders, we are dealing with an Administration that uses religion to justify surveillance, is threatening to deport large numbers of members of our communities, and has redefined accepted definitions of freedom of expression and libel. It is more important than ever to know how to protect our patron’s privacy.
Library communities today are not just melting pots, they are roiling stews of people moving in and moving out. Sometimes it seems like our communities are changing almost as fast as technology! So how do we get a handle on serving that dynamic community? How can we identify the services they need if we don’t really know who they are?
The good news is that there is data and expertise out there to help a library understand more about the people living in the shifting neighborhoods that make up their service area. Using data in the library system combined with census data, and other spatial data, a library can learn who is and who is not using the library. They can identify areas of growth and plan for a new library and they can learn who lives in that growing area to ensure the collection and services reflect their needs. https://digitalcommons.du.edu/do/search/?q=author_lname%3A%22Ayre%22%20author_fname%3A%22Lori%22&start=0&context=7293930&facet=
Over the last year, I’ve been working closely with consortia in my home state of California. I’ve participated in something of a “listening tour” to hear what is working and what isn’t working at the consortial level and to find out what they really need that the consortium could provide.
What I’ve learned is that it is very hard for get beyond the basics: shared e-resources, shared delivery and networking with their peers. Initiatives much bigger than that, strike them as beyond the realm of possibility. What I would love to see is some “hive mind” where the members suddenly become aware of their ability to address many of the challenges that hold them back with one big change – moving to a shared library system.
The shared library system is the holy grail of library automation. It’s awesome and yet so difficult to acquire. For libraries lucky enough to have gone down this path years ago, it might not seem so magical, but the shared library system has many wondrous qualities.
The ALA Libraries Transform campaign communicates that libraries are more than places where circulation transactions take place, libraries can be transformative. And technologies like RFID, automated materials handling and self-service technologies are the tools that increase opportunities for libraries to provide enriching experiences to their communities. Although RFID projects involve technical hurdles, they can be a fantastic opportunity to transform library services! If libraries only install the technology without changing how they use staff, they miss the chance to change the dynamics of patron-staff interaction.
There’s something great happening in California, Arizona, and Virginia and it’s all about summer reading. It began when Maricopa County Library District (MCLD) developed the first ever open source summer reading program (SRP) software. Their software, The Great Reading Adventure, (http://greatreadingadventure.com/), was the brain child of an MCLD staffer who garnered support from his library and received a nice infusion of IMLS grant funding. Their software was hugely popular. For one thing, what a great name! And for another, the kids loved it. They earned badges for reading and other activities -- and it was fun! Another reason is that The Great Reading Adventure (GRA) was the first opportunity for many libraries to deliver a web-based summer reading program. Though there are other products available to libraries, those products are commercial products requiring subscriptions that many libraries cannot afford. The Great Reading Adventure was something any library could afford.
After that first year, the California Library Association began working with the folks at MCLD and brought in my company to support California libraries that wanted to use the GRA software. With LSTA funding and our help, even more libraries were able to use a web-based SRP.
My consulting practice seems to go in phases and lately I’ve been in the consortia phase. It’s a gratifying place to be. In each case, I see the power that comes from libraries coming together to do something better than any one library could do on its own. In some cases, it creates opportunities that would be completely beyond a library’s capability due to lack of resources (be they human or financial or both).
Initiatives that require costly technology or costly technology experts are particularly good projects to handle at the consortial level. The integrated library system (ILS) is one of those big, complicated, costly technologies that can be leveraged in many ways. There’s the underlying platform (server and operating system), the application (the ILS itself), and there are the people involved in managing the system (ILS Administrator) plus the staff using the system. Some, or all, of these components can be shared across libraries.
For example, a group of libraries can use the same server and application yet operate as independent libraries. That’s what a group of libraries in Northern California is doing. They are each part of a shared Koha system hosted by a service provider. Each library administers its own system and has its own patron records and collection. But they save a lot of money by sharing that platform and that vendor contract, and by not having to manage the operating system and deal with backups and software updates.