I’m kinda sounding a little passionate, aren’t I?

Realizing that not every detail of my life needs to be publicly logged online, I haven’t written in a little while.  I have, however, been making some progress.  As regards the entire career-search, there is still a lot to be done — probably more than I can, or should, think about — but some headway has begun.  In particular, I’ve successfully opened communications with someone I used to work with, who has also worked in Digital Services.  I don’t quite know what to expect from Digital Services right now, so hopefully she will be able to give me some insight as to what to expect on the technical end of things.

I have also been highly encouraged by my regular counselor to re-open my case with the Vocational program which helped me, before.  This would include career counseling.  Intake for this program takes a while (and I have the time now while I’m not in school); and in the case Library School doesn’t work out, I will have something to fall back on.  If Library School does work out, I might be able to get help with tuition.

I’ve also been reading in a book which I probably should not name, as of yet, for my own security purposes — but it is an anthology made up of short essays by people in the LIS field as to what their work is like.  It’s been really helpful.  I’ve started to realize how much of the options which first spring to mind for me (Metadata Specialist; Information Architect; Database Librarian; Cataloging Librarian; Technical Services) are very analytical.  Although my dream job is in this book (managing an Art Library serving a Museum), it isn’t doable from my position without further training in Art History.

Ah, but I already went into that, didn’t I?

Anyhow…it’s suggested by my reading to take Beginning Cataloging as soon as possible, which would be in Spring 2017, after I’ve completed my Technical course.  This is if I am interested in being a Cataloger — pretty much a back-end position (yeys), but one which I could work at in a normal Library environment.

I’ve just checked the Index of this book; it was printed in 2007, and apparently there was no such thing as Digital Services at that time, or it wasn’t called Digital Services.  I hear that when one works in Digital Services, it is fairly normal to have to negotiate service terms on a case-by-case basis where it comes to “loaning out” digital content.  This has been the biggest “uh-oh” sign for me where it comes to considering a career under this job title.

Really, “loaning out digital content” sounds kind of anachronistic…we will probably need a new model coming up as regards digital content to ensure that publishers and authors are fairly reimbursed for their work, while enabling their work to be viewed and consumed by those who are interested in it.  Right now, the situation…is weird.

With a paper book, there are a set number of copies bought and distributed; each person reading a copy has that book in their possession for a set time, during which — well — it remains only one copy, and then returns to the library to be loaned out to someone else.  The number of copies in circulation, then, can be easily managed; as can usage statistics (though I wouldn’t think it would be that much more difficult for e-books).  If someone destroys a book (not so much an issue with digital work), you know who it was, and they reimburse the Library for it.  Things are just a lot more concrete.  They’re physical.

When you’re dealing with digital information, though, it can be reproduced much more easily than copyright infringement can be done with a Xerox machine.  How much more (or less) does it cost a publisher to create an e-book, as versus designing and printing and binding a physical rendition of it?  I would think the setup costs (including the reader and/or computer through which one would arrange the loan) would be high (mediated to some effect by free computer access at the Library — some Libraries even loan out tablet computers), but with fairly low ongoing fees.

And although e-books never have the physical problems (to my knowledge) that paper books have (weak binding, vulnerability to water damage, daily wear, getting mauled by a puppy, etc.) — causing a good number of them to regularly go out of circulation and need replacement (which causes some issues when a book is out of print) — what happens when their format becomes obsolete?  Or when the book — if not “born digital” — is converted in such a way as to cause an e-reader to glitch, or crash?  (This happened with my last Art History textbook, and it’s not uncommon; at least from my experience.)

What does it mean to buy “a copy” of a book, digitally?  What does it mean when a library buys “a copy” of a book to loan?  How are loans transferred between Patrons?  How do we stop illicit copying and free distribution of the file, which shorts everyone who put their work into making that file?

Case in point;  if more than one “copy” is bought of a particular book, are we just really buying the rights to more efficiently distribute the information?  Does it particularly matter if I have two copies of a data set (like an e-book) for my own personal use?  It wouldn’t seem to:  the data set is still the same data set; to have a duplicate of that set is not in my best interest, save having one backup copy.  It’s not like it helps, unless one file becomes corrupted.

Does it matter if I have two copies of a data set, and then start loaning out one of them to someone else, let alone multiple “someone else”s?  YES, that matters — at least to the people who want those other people to buy their work.

There are programs like the one Amazon has in place to allow the sharing of e-books for a limited time, and there are loan programs through the Libraries (for e-books and not) — both of which, in my experience, have encouraged me to buy those books that I liked enough to read, and pass on the ones which were for me (in particular) a waste of money for whatever reason (generally, because they don’t contain the information I seek, or because they don’t say much of anything useful).  This, in turn (or at least in theory) should also help boost quality standards.

(I should note that my e-book borrowing with the library has not been particularly voracious as of yet; however, I have purchased e-books that I liked, or needed, to the extent of buying a physical copy.  There’s just something ephemeral about it when you can’t flip through the pages.)

But in the middle of this, we get into contracts and contract negotiations — which, in this case, have to be taken care of by intermediaries.  To the best of my knowledge, most contracts for electronic books are written with an End User in mind, not with a Library in mind.  This means that someone at the Library — as I’ve heard it, possibly (?) whoever is taking care of Digital Services — has to contact the publisher and re-define the terms of the contract in such a way that the item in question becomes viable to share in the Library.  If this is not so, I would love to hear it — but I’ve not yet met with the person I know who has experience in this position in my County.

The issue is how to regulate borrowing so that it remains in a publisher’s best interest to keep publishing, and a writer’s best interest to keep writing — without walling off consumer access to the same desired materials that the publisher wants to share.  (If I hadn’t taken Microeconomics, I might not have gotten to this understanding so soon.)  The question seems to be how to make this a trade that benefits everyone, rather than discouraging writers and publishers by taking away what little economic incentive I’ve seen to be had in the publishing world.

And how loan periods are managed, right now, for electronic works…this is probably going to have to change, pretty soon.  We are still working off the model of an outdated system and causing electronic works to behave like physical works — but there has got to be a better solution.  A digital-native solution.

It could be very interesting to be one of the people who works on creating it.


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Haru ("Codey") is a third-year Master's student in Library and Information Science, hoping to find a way to fuse their desire to make the world a better place and to finance their art.

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