Unlike Ted, I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist. Except the idea of a conspiracy is that it’s happening in secret—this isn’t. Corporations act in their own best interest; net neutrality and broadband access do not work in their favor.
This Slate article discusses Verizon’s CEO lying outright to reporters that the U.S. is number one in adoption of broadband—contradicting reports from the FCC showing that Europe and industrialized Asian nations are far ahead of the U.S. on this issue: http://www.slate.com/id/2252141/. Broadband is more expensive here than abroad and that is keeping people from accessing it—and all that is possible with technology, education, and access.
The economic stimulus and broadband article led me to further research and I saw that broadband was included as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—but the last of those funds have been distributed, according to the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/27/AR2010092706503.html. It remains to be seen what these efforts resulted in as the implementation is ongoing.
Libraries are one of the very few places that level the playing field for those without the funds to access technology. Access is important for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is finding jobs (particularly in this economy). I found the last three jobs I had online. I haven’t gotten a job from a newspaper ad since 1999. This conversation ties in with the previous one: without regular access to emerging technologies you can count yourself out of a great many jobs in a wide variety of fields. What if I didn’t have the funds to access the internet? And high-speed internet is essential to access all that the web offers in terms of entertainment, education, and empowerment.
Additionally, libraries should be pushing hard for net neutrality because of issues of access and censorship.
Ultimately, net neutrality and broadband access are about the ability of the United States to continue to compete on a global level. If rural citizens don’t have access to broadband it stifles creativity, innovation and small business. The same goes for the outrageous premium urbanites pay for access.
Being comfortable and experimenting with new technology is so important in the working world today regardless of your field. I’m a writer and an editor, and nearly every job posted in my field demands familiarity and a level of comfort in delivering content in ways I wouldn’t have dreamed of just a decade ago. You have to keep a consistent message across a broad scope of websites and devices including blogs, Facebook and Twitter—with new ones cropping up every day. If you don’t have a background in writing specifically for these channels you will be eliminated before the HR person finishes your cover letter.
And technology is creeping up fast in ways you wouldn’t expect. Recently, I helped a friend complete a virtual interview—she had to use my webcam to answer a set of questions in order to qualify for an in-person interview. Where recruitment is increasingly global this is likely to become more common. Surely it was awkward to talk to my webcam but if she hadn’t been confident in her use of the technology she would have self-selected herself right out of a job.
I was excited to see jobs listed for librarians that are steeped in technology—I wasn’t as excited to see the salaries. I know it’s not polite to talk about money but the idea that you need an MLIS and web development experience as well as A+ certification but the compensation is just $14 an hour (part-time, no less) is ludicrous, in my opinion. And A+ certification is for techs, not web developers so the implication is that the person hiring doesn’t understand the skill set they need or they also want you to fix computers on top of everything else!
That (supplemental) post about the Villa Park position alone is one of the reasons I’m nervous about the future. It seems librarians with technology leanings are best served by heading into academia. The only technology-based job I could find for librarians was at Penn State: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/psul/jobs/facjobs/rhyet.html. It looks like a very interesting position—and I’m going to assume those kinds of jobs will continue to crop up, which means that those who want a foothold on relevant jobs of the future need to keep up.
I’m not as optimistic about public library positions as am other kinds of MLIS-related jobs. I recently read of a disturbing trend in the New York Times: privatization of public libraries. The article is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/27/business/27libraries.html. It’s an uncertain future for librarians and I’m hoping negative trends will reverse as the economy recovers. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
I think one of the biggest threats to libraries today is the ridiculous expenses they will incur from the way in which the owners and distributors of information will seek to control it via licensing and the like. Also, the idea of stealing web design is a new one to me–it didn’t really occur to me you copyright, if that makes sense.
That said? I’ve stolen just about every kind of digital media there is to steal. Music, audio books, PDFs, MPEGs. You name it.
I’m not saying it was right. But it didn’t feel wrong. I’d already purchased some of that music on vinyl—why not just snag a digital version? I missed an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer because my affiliate bumped it in favor of basketball—I didn’t see how it was a big deal that I downloaded it from a newsgroup. I felt self-sufficient.
When I heard people were being sued on an individual level I mostly cut it out—who needs that level of hassle over a TV show? It didn’t occur to me that people would use the data for anything but personal use—as Lessig suggested in the NPR interview, at most somebody would use it to create something new (a form of creativity I am very much in favor of).
It wasn’t until recently that I started to think about how that applied to libraries. I don’t think it’s the librarian’s job to act as a data cop; particularly as it’s his or her duty to make data accessible. I recently read that small academic libraries (and others, I’m sure) have taken to getting Netflix subscriptions in order to provide streaming movies and TV shows to users. The idea first surfaced back in 2008 but it seems to have caught fire actually got big enough to catch Netflix’s attention. So far, they are disinclined to go after libraries but certainly if it becomes a bigger issue libraries will force the Netflix corporate hand. And, weirdly, I found myself on the side of Netflix. This is a clear violation of their terms. But what about lending? And streaming? And remix and copyright? I’m just not sure. It seems like I’m okay with individuals using their internet wits to free up a few episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which you can watch on Netflix streaming now) but I’m against it at an institutional level. I feel hypocritical.
A topic touched on in the readings that I hadn’t given much thought to before is the idea of copying web design as an infringement of copyright—it’s an interesting idea. And one I should have considered before since I had a craft business online—and a copycat who lifted my designs and sold them as her own (she even went so far as to plagiarize the copy on my website but she didn’t lift the design—I’m a good crafter and bad web developer, it turns out). So I’m familiar with the frustrating feeling of having your creative ideas ripped off and badly reinterpreted.
I think, much like Lessig, that the rules need to be revised when it comes to copyright. We need to set up guidelines that allow for experimentation and creativity without truly damaging individual innovation and creativity. I liked many of the ideas he broached in the interview with Terry Gross (I also enjoyed his pacifying of her fear/outrage that Things Are Changing and She Does Not Understand).