From Michigan to the Capital

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This week, we say farewell to University of Michigan students Claire Abraham and Jonathan Davidson, two graduate students who traveled to the American Library Association’s (ALA) Washington Office for one week to learn about information-related fields as part of the university’s School of Information Alternative Spring Break program.

While in D.C., Abraham and Davidson conducted background research on ebook lending policies, and developed short, educational “elevator speeches” on the challenges libraries face as they work to provide digital content to the public. Abraham is working to earn a master’s degree in Information, while Davidson is working to earn a master’s in Information, with a focus on information policy in Open Source and Open Content.

The University of Michigan Alternative Spring Break program creates the opportunity for students to engage in a service-oriented integrative learning experience; connects public sector organizations to the knowledge and abilities of students through a social impact project; and facilitates and enhances the relationship between the School and the greater community.

In addition to ALA, the students are hosted by other advocacy groups such as the Future of Music Coalition as well as federal agencies such as the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Archives. The students get a taste of work life here in D.C. and an opportunity to network with information professionals.

“We are pleased to host students from the University of Michigan’s excellent spring break program,” said Alan S. Inouye, director of the ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy. “It’s important that we work collaboratively with colleges and universities so that students are aware of the public policies that affect libraries.”

Library Copyright Alliance Submits Reply Comments to Copyright Office on Orphan Works

Library Copyright AllianceOn March 5, the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA, of which the American Library Association is a member) filed reply comments (pdf) to the US Copyright Office in response to the office’s October 22, 2012, Notice of Inquiry about the current state of play with orphan works and mass digitization.

LCA reviewed the comments filed to date and concluded that

the significant diversity of opinion expressed in the initial comments submitted in the response to the Copyright Office’s Notice of Inquiry Concerning Orphan Works and Mass Digitization indicates that it will be extremely difficult to forge a consensus approach to these issues…In light of these fundamental disagreements, LCA recommends that the Copyright Office pursue non-legislative solutions such as continuing to make the Copyright Office records more accessible. Moreover, the Office should seek to bolster fair use in both judicial and international fora. If the Copyright Office does decide to recommend a legislative solution, the only approach likely to achieve consensus is, as we suggested in our initial comments, a one sentence amendment to 17 U.S.C. § 504(c)(2) that grants courts the discretion to reduce or remit statutory damages if the user conducted a reasonably diligent search prior to the use.

For more, see LCA’s original comments (pdf) to the Copyright Office.

Also see the full list of comments on the Copyright Office’s website.

House Ed and Workforce Committee Reports a Workforce Investment Bill

Yesterday, the House Education and Workforce Committee marked-up (reported out of committee) H.R. 803, the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Life Long Skills (SKILLS) Act, on a 23-0 vote after the 18 Democrats serving on the committee walked out mid mark-up and did not vote on the legislation.  This legislation would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, which has been up for reauthorization since 2003.

The American Library Association, Washington Office sent a letter to the committee thanking Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) for their leadership by ensuring libraries are included in this critical legislation.  H.R. 803 includes the following provisions for libraries:

  • Ensures the state plan includes a description of the actions that will be taken by the state to foster communication, coordination, and partnerships with non-profit organizations – including public libraries;
  • Ensure the local plan includes a description of the strategies and services that will be used in the local area to better coordinate workforce development programs with employment, training, and literacy services carried out by non-profit organizations – including libraries; and
  • Authorize public libraries that carry out employment, training, and literacy services as additional one-stop partners.

The Democrats on the committee released the following statement after they chose to walk out of the mark-up.

“We didn’t come to this decision lightly. Unfortunately, we viewed boycotting this proceeding as our only alternative after many months of repeatedly requesting bipartisan negotiations and being rebuffed by committee Republicans. The Republican bill has scant support and has garnered significant opposition. Democrats can only come to the conclusion that this bill is being advanced for political reasons, not to make the workforce investment system work better. It would have been a dereliction of duty to continue to participate.”

Because the Democrats chose not to participate in this mark-up, Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) was unable to introduce an amendment that would further help libraries in this legislation.  Representative Holt’s amendment would have allowed states to also have the ability to support employment resource centers in public libraries.  It is unclear at this point if Holt plans to introduce this amendment on the floor.

Thank you to all ALA members who called their representatives to support the Holt amendment.  We will need your help again when this bill is on the House floor, which should occur sometime within the next few weeks.

Last Week to Apply: ALA Google Policy Fellowship

Google Policy FellowshipThe American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy is seeking applicants for the 2013 Google Policy Fellows program. As part of the annual summer fellowship, the selected fellow will receive a $7,500 stipend and spend 10 weeks in residence at the ALA office in Washington, D.C. to learn about national policy and complete a major project.

Applications are due by Friday, March 15, 2013. ALA encourages all interested graduate students to apply and, of course, especially those in library and information science-related academic programs. Apply now: http://www.google.com/policyfellowship/index.html

The fellows work in diverse areas of information policy that include digital copyright, e-book licenses and access, future of reading, international copyright policy, broadband deployment, telecommunications policy, open access to information, free expression, digital literacy, online privacy, the future of libraries generally, and many other topics.

The Google Washington office will provide an educational program for all of the fellows, such as lunchtime talks and interactions with Google Washington staff. The day-to-day work agenda of the fellowship will be under the full control of ALA and the fellow.

OITP began its participation at the program’s founding in 2008. Last year, Derek Attig of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign served as the 2012 Google Fellow. Further information about the program and host organizations is available at the Google Public Policy Fellowship website.

House members move to recognize today’s digital literacy divide

public_libraryYesterday, Representatives Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) along with six of their colleagues introduced a resolution (H. Res. 81) designating March 21 as National Digital Literacy Day. March 21 is also the launch of a three year national Ad Council campaign “3.21 EveryoneOn” to promote the importance of digital literacy. ALA, along with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, has been actively engaged with this campaign to showcase the work libraries do with digital literacy on 3.21 and the other days of the year.

The Digital Literacy Day resolution recognizes the tremendous service public libraries and schools provide their communities with access to technology and the Internet, primarily through the E-rate program, which has supported these institutions with over $30 billion since the beginning of the program in 1997. It notes the dedication to promoting broadband use and adoption across the country by the investments in the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the subsequent National Broadband Plan. Though these initiatives have resulted in positive outcomes in many of our communities, the resolution also notes we still have significant challenges before access – including the necessary infrastructure, technology, and skills – is within the reach of all people regardless of how rural their life may be, what their income level is, or their abilities.

Identifying digital literacy as the specific barrier for nearly one third of non-adopters (people who do not have broadband at home), Congressman Markey and his colleagues help raise this problem to the level of urgency it deserves. Without Internet access it’s nearly impossible to get a job. It’s extremely difficult to stay on top of a child’s homework assignments or for the child to finish a school project. It’s virtually impossible to apply for college financial aid and it’s a challenge to file your taxes without being able to go online.

Libraries – whether school, public, or academic – all have a vested interest in providing digital literacy programming for their patrons. From a library point of view, access to online information is a fundamental component of equitable access to information, a core library value. Whether learning from scratch, building beginning skills, or experimenting with the latest collaborative digital tool, libraries help patrons and students alike locate the best resources and help them navigate our online reality. Over the past two years, OITP has focused on promoting libraries as key partners in providing digital literacy support and programs. Its Digital Literacy Task Force prepared a report that gives an overview of digital literacy in the context of school, public, and academic libraries. A set of recommendations on future digital literacy initiatives and building library capacity in this area is forthcoming.