Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Not a huge surprise, but still...

A link to a recent Pew Internet report (April 2009):

Summary: An April 2009 survey conducted by the Pew Research
Center's Internet& American Life Project asked respondents whether
they had used a variety of devices - laptops, cell phones, game consoles,
and more - to go online using a wireless network. Altogether, 56% of
Americans said they have at some point used wireless means for online access.

The study breaks down the usage by type, and the increasing popularity of accessing information from cell phones is included. It still does not look to me like a huge number of people spend hours surfing the web on their phone, but an increasing number of pople are using them to find quick facts (plenty of anecdotal evidence for movie times, addresses, and increasingly directions for GPS-enabled phones or smartphones with a GPS app).

Lots of folks think that libraries are dead because books are - or will soon be - online and free (apparently, they haven't read the Google Book Search settlement yet). But so far, the numbers really don't seem to bear out the doom-and-gloom prophecies, especially in public libraries. While book circulation has certainly suffered in most academic libraries, the use of database services has continued to be strong. E-book fans are still in a pretty small minority. Lots of buzz about the Kindle and Sony readers, but they don't seem to have hit the tipping point - yet? Ever?

A frustration from a librarian POV is that information seeking behavior is not well-defined. I'd love to see questions that follow up on what kind of information people are using their wireless devices - especially cell phones - to retrieve.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different...

... a post that has nothing to do with the impending move, but with an interesting (YMMV, of course) story involving e-books, copyright, and the concept of ownership.

Recently, there was a flurry of interest over a story that Amazon had been selling illegal copies of 1984 and Animal Farm for the Kindle reading device. As it turns out, Orwell's works are in the public domain in some countries, but not in the United States. It appears that Amazon didn't know this and was selling Kindle copies of both works for $.99 each, assuming they were in the public domain. When the copyright owner got on Amazon about it, Amazon tracked down the American purchasers of the books on Kindle, deleted the book files from the customer's Kindles without warning, and gave them a credit for the purchase price.

The most interesting part - and the most troubling - is that the move essentially equates the purchase of a "book", an item previously treated as the customer's property after purchase, with the purchase of computer software, which is typically issued as a lease (Microsoft, among others, makes it very clear that you do not own their software, you own a revocable license to use it under their terms; if you don't accept those terms, then return the software to get your money back).

I wonder what the reaction would be if you told the average e-book "purchaser" that they are only buying a license for the book, not ownership, and that the company could delete (or even more insidious, change the written text of) an item retroactively. Let's say that a government had decided that x book is obscene or contains passages that are offensive - Do they then have the right to go into your reading device and remove or alter the text? Do they have to wait for a court decision, or can an overzealous administrator order the changes to be made anticipating a potential lawsuit or complaint? What, if any, rights do you have as the reader / owner / lessee?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hurry Up and Wait...

I had hoped to have some more solid information for you by now on the details of our move. However, but to circumstances beyond the control of many, we really don't know much more than we did two month ago.

What we do know:
1. When we move, the Library will be moving into NE116 and 118;
2. One room (probably 118) will be closed to all but library staff, and will house the library stacks. The reason they will be closed that, due to space constraints, we will only have 24" aisles between the shelving ranges, which does not meet ADA requirements for public access. We will have to pull materials for all requests, which we will likely do every hour during the day (possibly more often) while we are open. We will NOT be able to accommodate requests to pull materials on demand. So folks will need to plan ahead a bit;
3. A rudimentary Circulation Desk and the Reference Desk will be housed in NE 116, along with some high-demand collections (videos, best sellers, new books);
4. We plan to take the FAX machine, the Scantron, and the staff copier with us when we move, and will work out where they will go;
5. Tim will still be available to do library instruction sessions. However, he will need to take his sessions to instructor's classrooms while we are out of the building;
6. AV will be working out of the Field House during the renovations.

What we don't know - the very abbreviated list:
1. When the move will start happening - as soon as we do, I will let folks know;
2. Our hours - when we are in the present building, it will be possible for us to have weekend hours. When we move, that may not be possible/practical, but the issue has not yet been determined. Again, stay tuned...;
3. How the move will affect all services - access to databases should not be affected in any way. And we believe that we will still have access to materials that we borrow through LINC and through other libraries. But we don't know how the closed stacks will affect research, as many patrons browse to find items that they were not looking for initially. We will make the best of it, and try to do everything we can to help the patrons find what they need;
5. When we will return - that depends in large part on when we move out. It is also affected by the scope of the renovations that are planned - and they are significant. If everything proceeds along schedule, we should be back by or during the Summer of 2010.

As always, more information when it becomes available. Until then...