Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Back to the Basics

I spend a large proportion of my time thinking about pretty advanced library-type systems, and how we can always go one step farther in providing better access to our materials for our users. But every once in a while I hear someone talking or experience something that makes me step back and think about the basics, why we do this in the first place.

I've been an avid reader from a very young age. My biggest relief in finishing graduate school was that I could read books for fun again, without feeling like I should be reading something else (OK, well I still do this a bit because I'm always behind on my professional reading, but you get the idea…). The recent release of the film version of C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe pushed me to re-read the Chronicles of Narnia series. I haven't read these books since I was something like 10 or 12 years old. Reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe again was nothing short of a magical experience for me. I'd long forgotten the details of the story or even perhaps the major themes. But every page I turned while reading brought back a flood of memories and an overwhelming nostalgia. I did know what was coming next once I dove in. I did remember meanings behind the actions as I came close to them in the story. I completely lost myself in the book and read it through in two short sittings.

What fun it was to simply sit back and enjoy a book for its own sake. Information of any sort can be this enlightening to the right user. I'm going to remember that.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Copyright for Sound Recordings

I've been catching up on reading I've been meaning to do while traveling recently. I found the CLIR report on Copyright Issues Relevant to Digital Preservation and Dissemination of Pre-1972 Commercial Sound Recordings by Libraries and Archives to be very interesting. Like discussions of copyright issues often must be, this report tends towards scenarios, likelihoods, and trends rather than absolute conclusions. I think that's OK. Even if there are no easy answers, knowing more about the issues involved is certainly beneficial.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this report is the discussion of how state copyright laws still affect audio preservation activities in libraries. The report's appendix summarizes state laws in California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Virginia. Each of the states examined include language in the criminal statute cited by the report indicating that reproduction for profit or commercial gain is illegal. Some, but not all, include specific exemptions for educational or non-profit use (under which library preservation activities would presumably fall?), but all specifically say what's illegal is profiting from the copying. This is a very different tone than today's discussions of copyright issues, where intent rarely enters into the argument. I wasn't previously aware of this shift, and wonder if state laws such as these could help serve as models as federal copyright law undergoes future revison.