This month we have two articles on the topic of interlibrary-loan practices for electronic information. While the practice has become common for individual articles or book chapters, libraries have been blocked from circulating eBooks for a number of reasons.
As Jennifer Jenkins mentions in her recent C&RL News article, Last sale? Libraries’ rights in the digital age, libraries are permitted to loan purchased physical copies of works under the “first sale” doctrine, an official part of copyright law. However, this provision does not apply to electronic works, and most publishing contracts actually specify the transaction in terms of a license of the material, rather than a purchase. Under these types of licences libraries have even less control over their electronic collections. Until recently, no academic institution has been ambitious enough to attempt a method of “lending” entire eBooks to consortial partners.
The gridlock over eBook lending may change if a new pilot program from Texas Tech University and the University of Hawaii-Manoa is successful. As reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education (Library Consortium Tests Interlibrary Loan of e-Books), the Greater Western Library Alliance partners have successfully recruited major academic publisher Springer to allow them to test a newly developed system for loaning eBooks via ILL.
The developers came up with a straightforward, frills-free solution. Using the web-based Occam’s Reader software, a lending library takes a stripped-down version of an e-book and loads it onto a secure web server. (Publisher metadata is removed in the process, Mr. Litsey says, to keep the feel of a print-book loan and—more important from a marketing perspective—as a compromise to preserve the potential sales appeal of publishers’ enhanced versions.)
The fact that universities and publishers are willing to work together to tackle the thorny issue of inter-library eLending is encouraging, since it has been a debacle from the moment the first eBook was created. And the approach is intriguing – as noted, the Occam’s Reader software passes only the raw content of the book to the inter-institutuion borrower, thus removing tools like bookmarking, note-taking, and citation management interoperability. The “owning” library is able to lend the whole book, and the publisher maintains a proprietary hold on the financial incentives that make eBooks more attractive to purchase (or subscribe to) in the first place.
As a media librarian at an institution that is moving to subscription-based acquisition of online streaming media collections, I have to wonder if a similar model could work for eLoaning videos. Like the Occam’s Reader model, there should be an easy way to serve a stripped-down video stream, without the fancy publisher features like interactive transcripts, clipping tools, playlists and annotations. Would Alexander Street Press, Docuseek2 contributors, or heavyweights like Swank be willing to negotiate contract terms so that we could lend individual films to partner institutions? Given the restrictive terms currently present in these licensing agreements, I have my doubts. But someone has to start the conversation in order for it to gain momentum.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how the Occam’s Reader project influences policies and actions for other institutions and publishers. Ideally, libraries will be able to retain some kind of right-to-lend, even if the context justification happens differently than outlined via First Sale. After all, lending is what we are here for, and without the ability to lend between institutions, collections budgets will not be able to keep up with user needs. As much as voluntary cooperation is useful, without the rule of law to back up our actions, most institutions will be hesitant to break new ground into legal grey areas.
Speaking of inspiration, here are a few new guides and pages that I found to supplement the coding skills I’m learning.
Digital Inspiration: tech à la carte – Amit Agarwal gives you useful snippets for doing a variety of tasks, from automatic mail-merge in Gmail to capturing screenshots on dynamic web sites.
Although not interactive like the CodeAcademy tutorials, w3Schools has a nice set of browsable exercises and examples. For those of you who know what you’re doing this is helpful for finding a snippet that you can customize to whatever task you need.
Five Life Jackets to Throw to the New Coder – next step challenges to try after I complete some of these tutorials and courses.
Other answers to this question on Ask MetaFilter are also helpful.
Well now, it’s been a while hasn’t it? I have a number of draft posts from events last year that I’ve been meaning to publish, but just haven’t been motivated to continue talking about the same old stuff. I’ve been feeling…uninspired at work. Too much administration and busy work (some of it my own doing, admittedly), not enough action-packed fun projects.
Having worked at one institution for seven years now (my longest stint with a single employer), I notice that it’s easy to slip into a daily routine that doesn’t present much stimulation or challenge. After the grueling review of 2013 (a process that our professional staff complete every 3-4 years) and the challenge of organizing my first big event on campus (more about that in another post), I was experiencing some level of burnout combined with that odd sense of ennui that I’ve felt after completing other major projects.
Of course, my efforts to learn these new skills are dependent on being able to put them into practice in a meaningful way. I will probably post some practice exercises here to document my progress and remind myself of the techniques I’m learning. However, eventually I’ll need a peg to hang continued learning on. The good news is that my job (and my supervisor) allow for flexibility to develop new projects on my own, as long as those efforts fit within the general mission of our library. The difficulty, at times, has been to have the tools, resources, or authority to be able to create something new or make significant changes to an existing system or service. It is impossible, for example, to make progress towards the goal of an online media collection of college-produced materials when we are still using an ancient QT media server and have not, over multiple conversations in the past three years, been able to implement technology that is up to the modern standard. (On the bright side, it appears we might be able to skip over Flash video entirely and head straight to an HTML5-complient platform!)
Here are some goals I have for this year:
2. Brush up on HTML (particularly new features in HTML5) and CSS.
3. Develop workflow for digitizing videos and putting them into an online repository and media playback system.
4. Learn enough about Flowplayer and Wowza playback options to be able to recommend a way to implement these and/or related technologies. Include options for transcript sync and closed-captioning for college-produced video collection.
Depending on institutional purchasing and implementation, I might even be able to pilot ideas from #3 and #4 later in the year. Here’s to getting (and staying) inspired and challenged.