One of the things that I like about TypePad is its draft posts feature. If I see something worth writing, I can paste in the reference from Net NewsWire and jot down a few ideas. If I don’t have the time or energy to make it into a full post, I can save it as a draft. Then nobody can see it except for me. It’s easy to locate in case I want to revisit the topic later.
The following is from something I read in September on the Virtual Chase.
The problem mentioned in that Scientific American article is just one symptom of a greater disease. Our academic libraries are becoming less open and friendly to people who are not in the inner circle of patrons. Libraries, usually coerced by their vendors and campus IT departments, are under pressure to lock down all their electronic collections and equipment so that they can only be used by that academic institution's students, faculty and staff.
This means that photocopying, printing and even public access terminals for searching the online catalogue and viewing online subscriptions can be difficult or impossible to use for “non-customers.” I dislike using this term in the context of libraries – but I also dislike what’s happening here and this is the most appropriate term which reflects this trend. Libraries are under pressure to drastically limit what we can do for non-customers.
I am not so naïve that I think that academic libraries, especially ones at private universities, should not give their primary constituents the highest service and consideration. It's just that up until now, it was possible to do this while also providing basic services to the general public and wider community.
But if it’s not possible for a member of the public to enter a library and do any of the following, then I don’t think we are providing even a basic level of service to that person
- find things in the library using the online catalog
- photocopy portions from the library’s books and journals, remembering that these people usually don’t have borrowing privileges (for a reasonable, cost recovery fee)
- access the library’s collections of electronic journals, books and databases
- print out from electronic books, journals and databases (for a reasonable, cost recovery fee)
The library where I work does provide all of these things, although we recently had a battle with the university’s IT department to preserve non-customer photocopying and printing. The key to get IT to work with us on this was to emphasize that otherwise our alumni would be disadvantaged. We enlisted allies in the Alumni Office and had the Assistant Dean argue that the university did not want to alienate these potential donors.
Supposedly 2004 is the year where all the library’s public terminals will be locked down and will require a login to be used. I won’t be around when this happens, but if I were, I would fight to have a small number of terminals exempted from these changes. I think that patrons should be able to do something as simple as search a library catalogue without needing to ask a librarian for a guest login. That could be intimidating – and given the vulnerability of library records under USAPATRIOT Act, there are also privacy implications of individual logins. I am pessimistic that any of these arguments would be successful. In this case my fallback would be to seek a large number of guest logins and display the usernames and passwords on the actual terminals, not keeping any record of who uses them.
If sacrifices must be made, as is inevitable when it is IT not libraries who are driving these changes, I guess that printing would be the most expendable function. Viewing the online catalogue and electronic collections would be the most important functions. Photocopying would lie somewhere in the middle.