Saturday, September 22, 2001

The Association of Research Libraries statement on post-9/11 threats to patron privacy was issued 9/17/01:

As our Nation and, indeed, the World move forward during this time of mourning and recovery, libraries continue to serve a diverse array of communities across our Nation with information and library services that celebrate the freedom of speech and access to information that we all embrace. By maintaining, on a daily basis, the balance between access to information for all, the privacy rights of our users, and the responsibility to cooperate with law enforcement agencies, libraries continue to be cultural and living symbols for the freedoms that we enjoy.

As stated so eloquently by Abraham Lincoln in a letter to an old friend in Illinois during the final days of the Civil War, "freedom is not some arbitrary right that is bestowed upon us because of the virtuous nature of our national character. It is a right we must protect and defend in both times of promise and peril if we are to remain in the future what we are in the present -- a free and honorable people."

The library associations listed below support the efforts of our Nation's leaders to protect and preserve the freedoms that are the foundation of our democracy. Libraries serve as critical resources for communities, individuals, institutions and those concerned about the important need for access to information. We welcome the public's continued use of public, academic, research, special and school libraries.

Given Congress' current leanings re: civil liberties, something more substantive would seem to be necessary. The complete ARL statement is here.

Rob Casson, electronic information services librarian at Miami University, is offering RAKIM - a software package he has developed that enables live, online, chat-based reference service - for free downloading. An excerpt from his 9/21/01 posting to the DIG_REF listserv:

Here is a brief rundown of features:

*unlimited number of operators/librarians
*librarian-patron chat
*shared queue of patrons
*ability to refer patrons to other librarians (personal queue)
*shared/personal bookmarks
*email transcripts to patrons
*audible alert to librarian when new patron arrives
*audible alert to patron when their call is answered
*editable preferences for librarians
*browser-based - no plugins (except to play alerts, and this can be turned off)
*needs frames/javascript/css; right now, this means Netscape 4.X and IE, but
-support for Mozilla (and its offspring) . . .
*relational database backend . . . any relational database that PHP can connect to
-can be used to run the software . . .
*its Free software....Free, as in speech, and free, as in beer.

I thought people on this list might be interested in a Free alternative to the LSSI's of the world . . . it may not have all the features
of some of the commercial products, but its also a very young project, and the source code is available, just waiting for others to tear it apart, fix it, add to it, or ignore it and write your own . . . ;)

For more information, see the RAKIM home page.

Friday, September 21, 2001

The Canadian Library Association has spoken out against proposed modifications to the Copyright Act:

The Canadian Library Association (CLA) has stepped up to voice its disapproval of what experts are calling a Canadian version of the United States' Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)--new copyright legislation that would among other things outlaw the circumvention of technological restrictions put in place by copyright holders. Margaret Law, president of the CLA, expressed concern about the lack of balance between the rights of information users and creators as shown in Canada's recently announced digital copyright reform agenda. "Canada's copyright legislation must provide fundamental rights to Canadian citizens to allow them to access information for research and private study." wrote Karen Adams, CLA's Copyright Committee chair. "If not, these rights, which are taken for granted in the print-on-paper world, may disappear."

More from Library Journal (registration required.) The complete CLA position paper is here.

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is leading an effort to document public opinion concerning last Tuesday's attacks:

Exactly one week after terrorism struck the country, Rory Turner places his mini-disc recorder and microphone on a counter as construction workers, firefighters, cops, mothers with young children and business professionals grab lunch at the Cross Street Market in South Baltimore.

Turner, a folklorist and program director for the Maryland State Arts Council, finds a relatively quiet corner behind a Chinese food and barbecue stand. He turns to customer Douglas H. Strachan, pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Curtis Bay, and asks how he responded to the attacks. Strachan is happy to share his feelings with a stranger . . .

In the background, vegetables sizzle on the grill and an employee rinses a large colander of noodles. The clanging commotion of the lunch spot is absorbed by Turner's recorder, as are Strachan's words, so that listeners 100 or 1,000 years from now will know the sounds of lunch in the early 21st century as well as the pastor's impressions.

Turner's interview with Strachan and others having their noon meal is bound for the permanent collections of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington . . .

More from the Baltimore Sun . A Real Audio file of "The Day After Pearl Harbor," a radio documentary compiled from similar recordings made by the Library of Congress in 1941 (and mentioned in this article) is available here.

Thursday, September 20, 2001

ALA Social Responsibilities Round Table coordinator Fred Stoss reports via the SSRT listserv that:

Again, I have been "assured" by ALA that a statement on security issues
related to access to library records is forthcoming. I know that several
of you have been or soon anticipate having to address these issues

A few background articles on the use of library computers by the 9/11 attack conspirators and the implications for patron confidentiality can be found here (from The Australian,) here (from the Washington Post,) and here (from the Miami Herald.)

The University of Utah's Marriott Library is allowing folks not affiliated with the institution to try out their virtual reference desk for a limited time. Reference and Web Services Librarian Dale Askey writes:

If you would like to see how the 24/7 Reference software works, please feel
free to visit our service and ask a question. It is available Monday-Friday
from 11 am to 4 pm, Mountain Standard Time. Also, when you ask a question,
please identify yourself as a librarian so that should we have a "real"
question at the same time, we know that your question is merely a test and
can be set aside. Please do not ask any questions after September 26.

More information about the 24/7 Reference software is here.
Book Forager is search engine designed to translate your reading preferences into personalized, sophisticated suggested reading lists:

Software that can simulate the word-of-mouth recommendation of an intelligent, well-read and empathetic friend is the holy grail of the literary web, and an initial test drive is promising. Fancy a book that is unpredictable yet gentle, with bleak elements and lots of sex? Book Forager recommends Eating Cake by Stella Duffy, New Boy by William Sutcliffe or Dream Children by A.N. Wilson. A request for demanding, unpredictable and repulsive humour, meanwhile, points the reader towards the demanding, unpredictable and repulsive Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys by Will Self . . .

More from The Guardian. The engine is the product of a collaboration between librarians and psychologists underwritten by the British government.