Friday, September 18, 2009

What's in a Certification?

As I look at various credentials used by other professional fields, I can't help be a little cynical about ALA's recent announcement of their Library Support Staff Certification Program (LSSCP). Described as a means of creating standardization in a field where more than half of library workers are not librarians holding a MLIS, this certificate is voluntary for library support workers.

I had the apparent nerve to ask organizers at IFLA in August 2008 whether this might lead to standardized education in the field and I got the strangest reaction. They were afraid to comment. I was floored as I saw it as a simple question - yes or no. As it turns out, Canada is in a very unique position, having a significantly smaller number of library training programs, to offer a more standardized educational practice. Currently, we try to abide by a profoundly outdated CLA set of guidelines but we should be looking at the question of accreditation. Like librarians, would it not be valuable to techncians and libraries who employ them, to offer accredited diplomas that must adhere to specific guidelines? Indeed, accreditation would very likely mean that techs could demonstrate their professional committment through recognized professional development after graduation. Their positions would have more value and recognition, as well.

Getting a certificate that acknowledges competencies that one has acquired over time, like the LCCSP program, might help some employers understand and recognize the abilities of their staff but it does little to force educational institutions to deliver standardized education. Yet, the most successful professional programs: nursing, education, accounting, etc. require accreditation - a process that forces educational programs to adhere to set guidelines, undergo regular reviews, and site visits by accreditation teams. There is rigor to the process.

We have the opportunity to provide that rigor in Canada.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Canadian Copyright and the threat to our intellectual freedom

Once again, the Canadian government is attempting to tackle its elusive copyright laws. Until Sept. 13, there is a "public" (and I use the term very loosely) consultation process.

You should be shaking in your boots.

"As an instrument of public policy, the Copyright Act has two primary objectives: to encourage the creation and dissemination of original works, and to promote access to knowledge for the benefit of Canadian society as a whole."
-- Canadian Library Association, 2008.

As Micheal Geist, Canada research chair in internet and e-commerce law, clearly states we need, "...copyright laws that look ahead, rather than behind." Yet, the current consultative process shows that the deck is stacked tightly in favour of corporate interests.

On August 28th, Now Magazine, an independent weekly from the streets of Toronto, publishes a story, "The town hall that didn't invite the town," that questions a recent town hall meeting that included chair and industry minister, Tony Clement. Discussion was clearly focused on the interests of the music industry and seemed suspiciously rigged to favour conservative views (view the meeting here).

On August 27, Geist suggested that the electronic copyright consultation process (that we are ALL invited to participate in) (CCER Submission Form Service) may be tampered with. For more information see Geist's August 27th blog entry.

So where is our national library leadership in all of this? Today, as a write, I comb the Canadian Library Association website and see nothing dealing with the issue of copyright reform. This matter should be FRONT and CENTRE this month, considering that our ability to consult ends on the 13th. Meetings have been slow to manifest and the library community has been somewhat quiet on this front.

As a "library" person, I have some concerns...

1. There would be a three strikes and you ar OUT rule. Guilty until proven innocent. If an external agency accuses you of "stealing" copyrighted material electronically, you can be shut down by your ISP without an option to prove your innocence. Right now, you can be warned but the onus is on the accuser to prove your guilt before the "plug" can be yanked.

Just think of how easy it would be for an organization to get rid of "pesky" people.

2. Fair Dealing - there seems to be a more constricted interpretation in the new Bill. This means that rather than expand the nature of research and creative exploration, fair dealing is more limited.

3. The Bill says: "The patron receiving the electronically transmitted material could not make permanent copies, digital or otherwise, other than a single print copy, and could not distribute it further. Electronic access to the material would terminate after five business days. The library must ensure that only the intended recipients receive the protected material and that they abide by other conditions set out in the provisions."

This means libraries would have to:
a) ensure that the correct recipient gets materials
b) ensure that the protected material be eliminated after 5 business days
c) ensure the patron can not make duplicates

In addition, the act states that it will have a regulation that will tell libraries how these points will be dealt with.
Worried yet? OK, how about this one:

4. There will be a blanket clause preventing anyone from circumventing ANY digital locks.
How does this enhance innovation????

Last year, the CLA outlined many more issues that are well articulated in their statement. So have a look, if you are interested. Unlocking the Public Interest.

It is a quagmire of legal-speak when trying to sift through the legislation and much of the debate around it. Be careful at the resources you look at and cast your net far and wide to get a feel for the potential ramifications of copyright change.

For instance, extending copyright protection might seem like a simple and helpful change for creators but is it? The ability to extend copyright ownership protects corporate ownership and diminishes our chances of things ever becoming public domain. Look at the "Happy Birthday" example. This melody was written by two sisters in 1893 and words later appeared in 1912 with no designated writer. In 1935 the Summy Company registered it and in 1990 Warner Chappell bought the rights when it bought Summy. Copyright expires in 2030. (see Robert Brauneiss' paper, "Copyright and the World's Most Popular Song").

Without permission (and a cheque) and you publicly perform the song, you are in violation of the law. So, in such cases, who's creative interest is protected?

Click here to request a license to use the song. You might need it someday. In fact, you will probably need it sometime in the next year!

So, where does it all end? It doesn't. However, our freedoms might so speak out, read up on it and talk about it!

As one astute CBC member says, "after i get paid to build you a staircase i cannot charge you every time you let a friend use them."

Side note: Don't believe everything you hear from the Conference Board of Canada. They had to retract their support of tighter copyright laws when Micheal Geist publicly accused them of plagiarizing their support statement from the International Intellectual Property Alliance.

Ahhh...the irony.