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Stevens Bill: Banning Wikipedia? February 16, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Libraries, Political Technology, U.S. Congress.
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The Congressional response to the problem and the pseudo-problem of online predation via social networking sites has reached a new nadir. Ted Stevens introduced Senate Bill 49 last month . The putative legislation requires that “any school or public library that gets Federal Internet subsidies would have to block access to interactive Web sites, including social networking sites, and possibly blogs as well.

Here’s the newest from Sen. Ted Stevens, the man who described the Internet as a series of tubes: It’s time for the federal government to ban access to Wikipedia, MySpace, and social networking sites from schools and libraries

Source: computerworld.com

The new bill is closely related to DOPA ( HR5319) a bill that passed the House. But Marianne Richmond, among other commentators, rightly states that the bill goes well beyond that previous piece of censorious legislation. One part requires that sites distributing adult content excise the adult content from the homepage and to publish a warning on the homepage. The real menace comes in title 2, the subsidies section. This section also appears to require that schools monitor the net activities of students when not supervised by faculty.Such a duty would cause no end of headache and heartache for parents, school administrators, and teacher, even if , as would probably be the case, the more onerous duties were removed through a series of court cases. Who needs this expense? Who wants to generate this much confusion?


Zappa Memorial Fund Fights Censorhip December 22, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Libraries.
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The American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read Foundation have been designated by the Frank Zappa family as among the organizations to receive contributions made in his memory.”

Don Wood, Library 2.0

Don Wood’s Library 2.0 is one of the more substantive library blogs around, and he has just posted this notice that the Frank Zappa family has established a Frank Zappa Memorial Fund to receive contributions to benefit the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read Foundation. The OIF provides information to librarians regarding censorship, maintains a database on censorship, and publishes a newsletter . The Freedom to Read Foundation, founded by the ALA in 1969, is a legal defense fund, supporting First Amendment freedoms for librarians, authors, and other concerned parties.

Frank Zappa was a tireless advocate of freedom of expression, an innovative rock musician, and political satirist without parallel. His heirs have done his memory honor,

Tags: Organization | Memory | incidents | established | designated | CONTRIBUTIONS | Censorship | Zappa | Politics | library | intellectual | fund | freedom | Frank | Foundation | American

Google Books: Evil or Not? December 20, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Coporate Policies, Information policy, Libraries, Technology.
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Already facing a legal challenge for alleged copyright infringement,
Google’s crusade to build a digital library has triggered a
philosophical debate with an alternative project promising better
online access to the world’s books, art and historical documents.

Michael Liedtke, AP

Google has made tremendous inroads in scanning books from several libraries, including Harvard and the University of California. Google will not say how many books it has scanned so far, but admits to scanning about 3,000 books per day. The problem, according to a new coalition called the Open Content Alliance, is that Google wants the books to appear only on Google’s search engine. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has just awarded the Internet Archive, a leading member of the Open Content Alliance, a $1 million dollar grant to create digital copies of items owned by the Boston Public Library, the Getty Research Institute, and the Johns Hopkins University Library. Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle has been critical of Google’s restrictions on scanned books, and the grant represents the culmination of efforts to call attention to the situation.

Google says that its scanning arrangements are a fair deal because agreements with providers do not restrict them from entering into other digitizing arrangements. And to make matters more complicated, Microsoft and Yahoo are both members of the OCA, and Microsoft recently launched its own scanning initiative, marked by its own exclusivity deal.

The OCA ‘s Kahle is disappointed by Microsoft’s move, but he is more worried about the aggregate power of Google, as well he might be. Google, as its present corporate arrangements with publishers show, is not entirely evil, but it does represent an accumulated clout that will probably outlast the ideals of its founders. An organization such as the OCA, as long as it plays no favorites, is better placed to ensure the future availability of a world wide library than is any corporate entity simply because at the end of the day, a corporate entity is strictly responsible only to share holders, while an alliance of publishers and librarians can hold and maintain a less restrictive charter. In view of Microsoft’s creation of its own exclusive book search, the company’s participation in the OCA is a kind of PR exercise at best.

And of course, there are dozens of other digitizing projects that have been well underway for years: the most important and the most open of these is Project Gutenberg, alibrary of free e-books with expired copyrights. Perhaps the ultimate answer is to divide and conquer, but in that scenario the corporate behemoths will eventually control the information, with truly open source projects picking up the remnants. It is true that politics remains too important to be left to politicians,and it is probably true that the future world library is too important to be left in the hands of one or two corporations, even if they aren’t evil.

Tags: livraries | digitizing | Project Gutenberg | Open Content Alliiance | Kahle | SCANNING | books | Yale | Yahoo | Microsoft | Harvard | Google

Library Blocks My Space December 15, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Libraries, Uncategorized.
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Cole’s favorite communication tool is the popular social networking Web site MySpace.com. But when he went to the library Monday, he found that he could not sign on to his personal page on the site.


The Manatee County Public Library System (Florida) has taken upon itself the duty of blocking access to MySpace pages in the public libraries. Administrators reviewed “behavior problems” associated with the use of the popular social networking site and decided that MySpace does not fit in with the library’s educational mission.

This is a bit of shortsighted censorship, to say the very least. The public library may indeed have an educational mission, but education and information can come from a variety of sources, including social networking sites,. The administrators are supposedly concerned about MySpace users who employ pretexting to lure under age patrons into risky situations. The whole internet can be used to do that, and if the Florida librarians are worried about it, they can easily restrict access to patrons under a certain age by turning filters off. This article gives one example of a man who uses MySpace as his main communication portal with his relatives in another state. There are many more like him, who use the site for compelling personal reasons, or in other benign ways. The Manatee librarians should rethink their position.

Tags: Venegas | Jonathon | Site | program | networking | library | helps | Girlfriend | favorite | Computer | communication | MySpace | Monday | manatee | Ivan | ESPINOZA | Cole | clifford

Information War: Feds Close Science Libraries December 12, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Health and Science Policy, Information policy, Libraries, U.S. Congress.
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The NASA library in Greenbelt, Md., was part of John C. Mather’s daily routine for years leading up to the astrophysicist’s 2006 Nobel Prize for shedding new light on the Big Bang theory of universal origin. He researched existing space hardware and instrumentation there while designing a satellite that collected data for his prize-winning discovery.

So when he learned that federal officials were planning to close the library, Mather was stunned.

Tim Reiterman

Last week, I blogged about the EPA libraries closing, but it turns out the story is more complicated- and more menacing. Tim Reiterman of the L.A. Times calls the recent shuttering of federal research libraries a “quiet war on information.” And the story is changing. The explanation for the EPA libraries last week was that some libraries were being shut down as an attempt to modernize them-specifically, to digitize their holdings in the name of greater access.This week, America is waking up to find that not only were the pesky EPA libraries closed, but that the General Services Administration headquarters library , where investigators explore real estate, communications, and aspects of government finance was closed earlier this year, along with the Department of Energy headquarters(!) library.

The Bush administration has a lukewarm attitude to scientific research of all kinds, apart from weapons research, and most scientists knew that a long time ago. It takes some doing, however, to evoke the ire of the American Library Association. Emily Sheketoff, head of the ALA’s Washington office, claims that “crucial information generated with taxpayer dollars is now not available to the scientists and the public who need it.This is the beginning of the elimination of all these government libraries. I think you have an administration that does not have a commitment to access to information.”

The hardest hit agency, the EPA, has asked the GAO to investigate the reduction of its $7 million library budget by $2.5. The EPA claims that all EPA generated documents would be online by January, and that the other 51,000 reports would be digitized in two years. A copy of each book would be kept for interlibrary loan purposes.

Critics say that research will be slowed and perhaps prevented . Book dispersal problems, lost inventory, the high cost of or impossibility of digitizing some copyrighted items all loom as possible obstacles, just as the nation prepares for what is certain to be the most vigorous debate in several years about climate change and alternative fuels.

Members of Congress have voiced their opposition to the closure of the EPA libraries in the form of a letter to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson signed by ranking members of several legislative committees, including the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Committee on Science, the Committee on Government Reform, and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

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Christmas appeal provides 67000 books December 8, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Good Works, Libraries, Literacy.
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The generosity of Observer readers a year ago has put 67,000 books into the hands of people in the developing world. That is the result of last year’s Christmas appeal, which raised more than £100,000 for Book Aid International.


Book Aid International has a simple, but powerful message: literacy matters, in ways large and small. Books are necessary for the quality of lives, for education, for economic development. And readers can be generous, when they rally around a good cause.

Book Aid International is a small London based charity with a long reach. The organization operates in 18 sub-Saharan African countries as will as Palestine, and provides over half a million books and journals each to libraries, hospitals, refugee camps and schools. While some big name writers , including J.K. Rowling and Alexander McCall Smith provided support and the benefit of their celebrity status, the ordinary readers who opened their wallets last year , including the 2500 who responded to a series of articles in The Observer were the silent armies of this great campaign. Among the partners last year was the Kenyan National Library Service , which helped Book Aid celebrate its 25 millionth book donation. That’s 25 million books, folks. And in Kenya, many of the books were delivered by camel. to rural areas plagued by an illiteracy rate of 85%.

This Christmas, think of Book Aid International. And think of the power of inspired readers: to educate, to liberate, to change the world for the better, book by book.

Tags: reinforced | Readers | raised | provides | literacy | libraries | hands | global | generosity | developing | battle | appeal | Zimbabwe | Palestine | Observer | malawi | London | Kenya | Culture | Christmas | Cameroon

Closing the EPA libraries, or modernizing them? December 4, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Environmental Policy, Libraries.
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WASHINGTON — As the Environmental Protection Agency closes some scientific libraries around the country, EPA scientists and other environmental advocates worry that it might be harder for the public to find out about pollutants spilling into local rivers and streams.

The Boston Globe

With Democrats set to attempt revisions of major environmental policies, the Environmental Protection Agency has decided that now would be a good time to modernize some of its libraries- by closing them. The EPA has closed branches of its regional libraries in Dallas, Chicago, and Kansas City, Mo., but claims that the move will save the agency money, and that scientists and citizens will be able to access the information during the interim on the agency’s web site and through interlibrary loans. Francesca Gifo, director of scientific integrity at the Union of Concerned Scientists, says .. we don’t see the digitization. We just see the libraries closing.”

Other regional branches will remain open, although some will operate with reduced hours. It is especially difficult to understand the rationale of this latter move, since no modernization impetus explains it adequately. A cutback is a cutback, and EPA has either chosen a particularly inappropriate moment, or mild obstruction during a period of critical policy debate is on the agenda. Let us hope that this is just political clumsiness, rather than something more sinister.

Tags: irks | worry | Spilling | SCIENTISTS | SCIENTIFIC | Rivers | POLLUTANTS | libraries | harder | digitized | Closes | backers | advocates | Washington | protection | EPA | environmental | agency

Library investment returns $4 to $1 December 4, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Libraries.
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A new study released November 29, 2006 shows that nine public library systems in Butler, Clermont, Hamilton, and Warren counties in Southwest Ohio create an annual economic impact of nearly four times the amount invested in their operations. The report from Levin, Driscoll & Fleeter in Columbus concludes that, using a conservative measure of value the libraries’ cumulative expenditure of about $74 million returned a quantifiable direct economic benefit of $238.6 million, or $3.81 for each dollar expended in 2005. The study also recognizes that these libraries add significant value to their users and communities that cannot be assigned a dollar value including, “improved economic prospects and an enhanced quality of life.”

9 Libraries

Wondering whether your city or county should invest in a sports stadium or amusement park? Unless they can provide a return of investment of $4 to $1, the answer is probably none of the above. Your municipal entity would be better off investing its money in the public library system

This study sought to err on the side of underestimating the return on public money, if anything. For example, the analysts from Levin, Driscoll, and Fleeter used the libraries’ actual discounted price for book purchases, rather than the list price to calculate the rate of return to the community of circulating items. Computer usage, events and classes, and especially business reference services all showed a high rate of return. Still , there are some aspects of public library benefits that cannot be assigned a monetary value, and the auditors added 19 cents to the solid $3.81 to come to a figure of $4.00 returned for every invested dollar.

Too often, investment in public infrastructure is not quantified, even when its rate of return can be counted and is better than the short term yield of , say, Microsoft stock. We are content to reallocate public money toward items that either appear to be easily counted, or actually are. For instance, there is a whole industry devoted to making sports stadiums look as if they bring some community benefits, and doing so is , to put the matter politely, an art form, since the benefit usually turns into a liability as soon as real accountants replace the spin doctors. So when your city or county is trying to decide what to do with some extra general fund money, or trying to decide which public services might bring the greatest benefit to your area, think of the library first, and urge your city officials to spend their due diligence funds on a study such as the one performed by Levin, et.al. If the current study is any indication, that public money will be well spent.

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