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Archive for the ‘Rant’ Category


This was originally published in a slightly different format on my personal blog.

There’s been another development  in the discussion about socially conscious library futures.

It started with Matt’s discussion post about e-books in libraries with Connor Tomas O’Brien. Connor’s comments in A very quiet battle: librarians, publishers, and the Pirate BayThe public library, in other words, is nowhere near obsolete. In some cases, it’s more important than ever” prompted Matt to ask him “What do you think a public library should be doing in 2013?” Connor offers the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne as an example. It looks like an amazing space with lots of exciting events. Great for people who live in the city. Which was the theme of Matt’s next comments about rural libraries and the concerns he has around equity of service for people who choose to live there.

I storifyed the resulting Twitter discussion. I left out a few tweets that were related to the original question about ebooks as they broke the flow of the main discussion. I refrained from adding too much editorial comment as I believed that the tweets would speak for themselves.  Matt thought up a way that author visits could expand into Melbourne suburbs while still delivering foot traffic into the Centre.

Connor has responded.

His response made me furious. It’s the same attitude that I saw in the ALIA Futures discussion paper (1 May 2013) – omission of any comments regarding their indigenous population; convergence to large urban centres – plus it’s got some weird arguments in it.  (Read Smarter than you think by Clive Thompson and in the first 50 pages it tells us that more people are writing than ever before. We’re blogging, tweeting, writing fan fiction, writing emails, commenting on Facebook status updates, RANTING  etc etc.  Not “When you’re writing in a regional area, that culture can be lacking, making it infinitely more likely that prospective writers will never open their word processor in the first place.“)  It seems to me that Connor’s piece is written with a narrow definition of who is a ‘writer’. It makes me think that he works towards the funders, not towards the community. The ALIA document at least had an excuse – their paper was “intended to engage, excite, and provoke.” I have no idea what Connor is trying to build – except maybe arguments to keep the status quo.

And all this on a day when I was pointed toward Sometimes The ‘Tough Teen’ Is Quietly Writing Stories by Matt de la Peña which has one of the best arguments for taking authors and events to under-served areas whether it be schools, suburbs, or regions. This is who I want to be working for, and with for my library future.

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Who’s the enemy here?


I received an email from LIANZA last week saying that I might be interested in a event. It was being organised by a coalition of library supporters concerned about budget cuts to Wellington Libraries. So far – fantastic! A group from the community who “coordinate efforts against the steady deterioration of library services in Wellington, advocates for users and staff of public libraries and brings together groups” (who also support libraries). The teams looked like an interesting mix of people with a variety of experiences. They looked like they would be very entertaining.  Brilliant.

Then it all went horribly wrong.

The moot was “Are libraries worth saving?

I was unequivocal about my reaction on Twitter.

No. I am not interested in a debate on “Are Libraries Worth Saving?” Thanks though. #FarCough

— librarykris (@librarykris) August 27, 2013

I am ashamed to say that I didn’t send this to LIANZA. I’m telling myself that it was best that I step away for a few days because it made me so MAD. Both the moot, AND that a professional library organisation would send it round to their members thus legitimising the debate. As someone said “May as well just ask: “is culture worth saving?“” What I’m interested in doing now is unpacking one of the opinions expressed by the affirmative team and how they might have come to those conclusions.

Here’s a tweet from @wizzyrea reporting on those arguments from the affirmative team. There are a few more on her account regarding the debate.

Focus on a library as a physical space, warehouse, not as a community learning centre or gathering place.

— Liz Rea (@wizzyrea) September 3, 2013

Further discussion with Liz indicates that the lack of focus on the library as a community learning space or gathering place was more by omission than statement. She had to leave early, so the concept of library as ‘third place’ may have come up later in the debate. Extrapolating wildly from this  comment, I think that the affirmative team regards the public library as a giant bookshelf for physical books.

Is that all Wellington City Libraries is?

Maybe…of course not. Every time I go in I see people sitting at desks and chairs. Their laptops are open or they are reading books – to themselves or to others. I don’t know how long they stay there to assess whether they are using the library place as anything other than somewhere to pause. However, they are there, using the space as a place. So how does the idea of ‘library as warehouse’ persist?

Library circulation stats were reported in the paper recently (they’re rising, as is the percentage of active library members) but there wasn’t anything about foot traffic. The library blogs are heavy on promoting books, with different formats thrown in occasionally. A couple of recent exceptions to this are the winter game night and Amanda Palmer ninja gig posts which describe how the space is being used. (That’s as far through old posts as I got before being overwhelmed by the book-iness of them.) The sheer number of book synopsis posts reinforces the notion that libraries = books. I know why they’re blogging like this, I get that… Sometimes I think we’re our own worst enemy. We don’t demonstrate all the facets of our operation.

I’ll be at #LIANZA13 if you want to chat further about this. I’ll welcome you with open arms because I need to learn how to articulate the ways in which libraries are essential to a healthy community without getting inarticulate with rage over misguided events from library supporters.

In the meantime I’ll be reading Why are New Zealand libraries letting their enemies write “the final chapter”?* by Matt to remind me why libraries need to be ubiquitous in our communities, educational institutions, and businesses.

*tl;dr “Libraries are about helping the public to explore the world of knowledge and culture on their own terms.

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It would be inaccurate for me to say I don’t get angry; it’s just takes a lot for me to really let rip. The following situation makes my blood boil so much that in writing this I am having to be very careful steps not to break a lot of my self imposed rules around rants. Please feel free to add appropriate swear words and angry gesticulations while reading.

Joann from Horowhenua has put out the following call:

Plea for help from Horowhenua Library Trust

Horowhenua Library Trust is the birth place of Koha and the longest serving member of the Koha community. Back in 1999 when we were working on Koha, the idea that 12 years later we would be having to write an email like this never crossed our minds. It is with tremendous sadness that we must write this plea for help to you, the other members of the Koha community.

The situation we find ourselves in, is that after over a year of battling against it, PTFS/Liblime have managed to have their application for a Trademark on Koha in New Zealand accepted. We now have 3 months to object, but to do so involves lawyers and money. We are a small semi rural Library in New Zealand and have no cash spare in our operational budget to afford this, but we do feel it is something we must fight.

For the library that invented Koha to now have to have a legal battle to prevent a US company trademarking the word in NZ seems bizarre, but it is at this point that we find ourselves.

So, we ask you, the users and developers of Koha, from the birth place of Koha, please if you can help in anyway, let us know.

For those of you who don’t know [which can’t be many] the background, in the late nineties the Horowhenua Library Trust decided not to go down the traditional path of changing their LMS and developed open-source product called Koha. This was given to the world and is now used widely internationally. A few years ago a company in the US called PTFS/Liblime attempted to hijack Koha and turn it into their proprietary LMS. They have also sort sought to claim ownership of the name Koha.

Sadly it looks like they are going to be successful. Now we have the ridiculous situation that they will deny the very people who originally developed Koha the right to use that name. What is even more stupid is that the Maori Advisory Board to the Trademarks people has approved this. Yep, they are happy to give a Te Reo term to a US company as a trademark.

UPDATE: Your can donate to HLT’s legal funds here. Link removed as no longer seeking funds.

UPDATE 2: You can also send cheques to Horowhenua Library Trust, 10 Bath St, Levin. re: Koha Trademark Fund..  See above.

UPDATE 3: This will be featured on Radio NZ tomorrow.

UPDATE 4: Liblime response;

PTFS/LibLime Granted Provisional Use of Koha Trademark in New Zealand

News

Bethesda, MD – November 23, 2011 PTFS/LibLime, a provider of software and service solution to libraries, has been granted provisional use of a trademark for the use of the term Koha as it applies to Integrated Library Software (ILS) in New Zealand.

When PTFS/LibLime purchased LibLime in March, 2010, one of the assets acquired was the trademark on the term Koha as it applies to ILS software in the United States. PTFS/LibLime has held that trademark in trust, purposefully choosing not to enforce it in order to insure that no individual, organization, or company would be prohibited from promoting their services around Koha in the United States.

Another one of the assets acquired in the purchase of LibLime was an application for the trademark of the term Koha as it applies to ILS software in New Zealand. That application has now been accepted. PTFS/LibLime will hold that trademark in trust as well, and will not enforce it in order to insure that no individual, organization, or company will be prohibited from promoting their services around Koha in New Zealand.

PTFS/LibLime is prepared to transfer the trademark to a non-profit Koha Foundation with the provision that the Foundation hold the trademark in trust and not enforce it against any individual, organization, or company who chooses to promote services around Koha in New Zealand. PTFS/LibLime encourages a direct dialog with Koha stakeholders to determine an equitable solution for the disposition of the trademark that serves the best interests of the libraries who use Koha.

About Koha Koha is an open development ILS application first conceived in the late 1990’s in New Zealand. In the twelve years that the source code has been available, the application has been enhanced by hundreds of individuals, organizations, libraries, and companies around the world. With all of this enhancement, much of it in the last five years, the application has evolved into a fully-functional ILS capable of supporting most of the workflow needs of a library. The Koha software is owned by no company and various versions of the application are freely available to libraries throughout the world.

About PTFS/LibLime PTFS is an industry leader in content and knowledge management solutions, deploying its ArchivalWare digital content management system to institutions throughout the commercial and government sectors. Founded in 1995, PTFS provides software and service solutions to libraries through the LibLime Division, and offers complete content conversion solutions from analog to digital. PTFS also specializes in meeting library personnel staffing requirements and metadata keying services. For more information, contact us at http://liblime.com or http://ptfs.com or http://archivalware.net

UPDATE 5: Joann posted this update;

Update on NZ Koha trademark.

Who would have thought that one little blog post on a Tuesday morning would have generated so much interest and debate and support.

Horowhenua Library Trust have been bowled over by the generosity of a global community who are as concerned as we are at the PTFS New Zealand trade application to register the mark Koha in relation to software.

We have received hundreds of emails offering support for fighting the ‘good fight’. I haven’t quite replied to them all yet – but I am trying . The press have provided balanced coverage with Radio NZ, TV1 and TV3 all reporting the story pretty accurately here, generating much discussion in Maori and mainstream media forums.

We have accumulated donations of about $12k, mostly through $20 and $50 donations from individuals around the globe (including many Americans) and the generosity of the legal profession offering free representation is amazing.

We have accepted the services of Sacha Judd, Andrew Matangi & John Glengarry from Buddle Findlay, assisted by Rochelle Furneaux, who have agreed to work pro-bono for us (bless them all I say). They have been guiding us for the last few days and are busy preparing a objection to the PTFS / Liblime application should one be necessary.

We believe we are well placed now to mount a strong legal challenge and we think we have enough in donations to cover filing fees, document costs and other disbursements. While It goes completely against my nature to turn down donations to Horowhenua Library Trust, in all conscience we should stop the fundraising drive at this stage. Rest assured if is necessary to challenge the PTFS application all the way to the High Court then we may well be coming back cap in hand!

PTFS have issued a press release saying they are willing to hand the NZ Koha trademark over to a non-profit representing the Koha community. That organisation is the Horowhenua Library Trust, elected by the Koha global community, and we would be delighted to accept that offer and add the NZ Koha trademark to the store of other Koha community property we currently hold in trust ie domain names and trademarks. It would be a very simple matter for PTFS to assign the existing application to Horowhenua Library Trust and we invite PTFS to do so. The Library Trust has never stopped any Koha user or developer or vendor from carrying out their business. Our track record over the last 12 years of releasing the Koha code and supporting the Koha community to go about its business unimpeded is exemplary and we have no intention of ever changing that approach.

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