The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte
 Tuesday, April 01, 2003

The No-Longer-Free Public Library

Unpublic Domain

"It was a very strange experience. I’ll admit that it had been awhile since I’d visited my local library, so I was totally unprepared -- even after our recent discussion about books vs. software -- for how much it had changed....

'Great!' she enthused. 'I’ll just need to see a photo ID and a major credit card.' As I handed them over, she was not amused by my little joke about how the library must be taking overdue fines pretty seriously to ask for a credit card. She proceeded to have me sign an array of Terms of Service, Acceptable Use, and Privacy Policy documents.

'Just one more,' she finally said. 'Initial this here and here to show that you agree your use of all lending library materials will be governed by the appropriate Microsoft End User License Agreement.'

She must have misunderstood, I said. I wasn’t there to get any software. I just wanted to borrow a few books for springtime reading. Why would I need to agree to a Microsoft EULA for that?...

That’s when it hit me: She’d said earlier that I got one free book rental. Weren’t most book rentals at this library free? Of course not, she said, handing me a rate card. One glance told me I’d better choose that free book wisely because I surely couldn’t afford many more.

But why was it so expensive to borrow a book? 'Do you want to deprive the authors of all incentive to write?' she asked rhetorically. 'They have to be fairly compensated for their work.'

I was tempted to ask why writers had been writing for so long in spite of free libraries, but then I had an idea. OK, I wouldn’t want to shortchange any living authors of their livelihood, but surely works in the public domain would still be free. Couldn’t I check out a volume of Shakespeare gratis, for example? Presumably he’s already had his just rewards.

'Oh, I’m afraid Shakespeare is particularly expensive,' she answered, explaining that after the Supreme Court ruled that copyright could be extended indefinitely into the future, Congress couldn’t see any reason why it couldn’t be extended indefinitely into the past as well. 'Naturally, those who’ve contributed the most to keeping his works alive have the strongest claim on current royalties....'

It's hard to argue with that, so I hurriedly chose one of my wife’s favorite mystery authors as my free book and started to leave. On the way out, I noticed a group of preschoolers gathering in the children's section. The sign announcing a reading session of Brothers Grimm fairy tales included 'All rights reserved' by the Disney Corp., of course, and 'Microsoft Passport Account' required for admission.

In closing, I should clearly point out that the e-mail version of this column will be distributed on April 1. But who are the bigger fools -- those who think my little tale could be true or those who think it could never happen?" [InfoWorld, via LISNews.com]

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InfoToday Articles about Online Reference and Wikis

The current issue of Computers in Libraries is covers everything you ever wanted to know about virtual reference but were afraid to ask, with one of the major articles available online. It's called We Jumped on the Live Reference Bandwagon, and We Love the Ride!, and it's written by two librarians at the Memorial Hall Library. You may recall previous TSL posts about the MHL because they have a fabu Audible program. All they need now is a blog with accompanying RSS feed! ;-)

My Web Librarian organizers should note the article "Managing a Statewide Virtual Reference Service: How Q and A NJ Works," which starts on page 26 (sorry, it's not available online).

Then there's the new issue of Searcher, which includes David Mattison's article Quickiwiki, Swiki, Twiki, Zwiki and the Plone Wars Wiki as a PIM and Collaborative Content Tool. I'm still trying to understand the whole Wiki thing, so this will be most helpful. [via Peter Scott's Library Blog]

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Google World Domination Now Complete

I'm not sure where he got this, but Brad Spry sent me the following announcement. Since I can't find it on the web, it must be true.

Google Build's World's Largest Academic Database of Journal Articles

"MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - April 1, 2003 - Google today announced a revolutionary academic library product, enabling patrons complete access to every subscribed article in existence.

'Google is committed to doing an end run around librarians, permitting complete patron self-service,' said Eric Schmidt, Google's chairman and CEO.

Through superior relevancy and simple design, Google will revolutionize academic libraries around the World.

Google Academic will be free for academic library use, effectively smashing any state budgetary barriers, which exist in these poor economic times.

Article targeting technology, born from Google's award-winning search engine, will deliver articles automatically using a single search box; patrons just input a subject or topic, press search, and instantly receive a listing of relevant articles.

Patrons who become confident in Google Academic's highly relevant results, can enter a subject or topic and press the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button, and be taken directly into the most relevant article, bypassing hours of traditional catalog searches, and lengthy explanations from librarians.

For more information on Google Academic, visit http://www.google.com/academic"

And Rick Klau reports that Google has officially taken over the blogosphere:

Google Acquisitions Create Movable Bloggerland:

"Mountain View (CA) April 1, 2003 (Routers) - In a move that surprised citizens throughout Blogistan, Google continued its acquisition spree today. Spokesmen for Google confirmed the acquisitions of Seven Together (makers of the popular weblog application Movable Type) and Userland (creator of Radio Userland). Plans are to combine the operations of the two companies into the existing Blogger operation. The combined entity will be known as Movable Bloggerland....

The post, made while Williams was a panelist on a session at the CDExpo weblog conference moderated by Robert Scoble, created a stir in the audience. Within minutes, rumors were confirmed. A press release from Google explained the motives behind the purchases. 'Since these companies are decidedly not evil,' said Google founder Sergey Brain, 'it seemed an appropriate next step. We are folding the Movable Bloggerland operation into a new division within Google, the Axis of Non-evIL apps.' Sources close to Brain indicate that Google's ANIL group will be headed by none other than well-known blogger (and presumably non-evil) Anil Dash. 'With Anil on board, we'll be even less evil,' continued Brain. 'Evil evil evil....'

Asked whether this was a shot across Microsoft's bow, VP of Microsoft's Platform Group Jim Allnose said "Absolutely not. People are already blogging with Microsoft software. You just download the .NET framework, install some service packs, grab a few things from MSDN, install Sharepoint Team Services, and upgrade everything to Office 2003. Once you do that and upgrade to Windows Server 2003 which ships in the next few weeks, you're ready to go. It's simple, and we think it represents the future of consumer-based blogs."

Details of the transaction were not disclosed. Representing Google in the transaction was the law firm of Russell & Tate, a firm that rose to prominence when it represented Visa in its acquisition of The Internet in 1999."

So I guess you can pack up your bags and go home unless you're an academic librarian blogger!

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Library Stuff IPO Now Cancelled!

LISNews To Purchase LibraryStuff

"LISNews, LLC. is acquiring LibraryStuff.net, Inc. Corp., a Long Island NY, provider of information technology, Tape Dispensers, and Library Blogging products to Librarians in a $56 million deal.

The purchase is expected to close before the end of time, said officials with LISNews of Key West, FL.

About half of the deal is for cash, and rest is to be paid by IOU note scribbled on a dirty napkin, due in January. LISNews will fund the purchase from cash on hand and its $50 million revolving credit facility, from the bank of Dowee Cheatem & How....

Founded in 1969, LISNews' customers include the Office of Naval Research, The English Department of Boiled Meats, The Canadian Beer Authority, and The American Association of Gun Toting, SUV Driving Right Wing Radicals, and Limp Wristed Liberal Librarians Everywhere...." [LISNews.com]

Wow - I'm shocked and awed because the rumors I had heard said Library Stuff was being bought by Divine!

Addendum: check out librarian.net for more April Fool's Day fun!

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