Library Hi Tech News

ISSN: 0741-9058

Article publication date: 1 August 2004



Falk, H. (2004), "E-currents", Library Hi Tech News, Vol. 21 No. 7. https://doi.org/10.1108/lhtn.2004.23921gae.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Library visits are up

Between 2001-2002 and 2002-2003, the number of patron visits to UK libraries increased by 5 million to a total of 323 million, according to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA). The increase followed investment of £1 billion in the library system. Some 32,000 new computers have been installed in the libraries and almost all of them are freely available to the public. Talking books, language packs, CD-ROMs and music have also been purchased by the libraries.

In 1996, 28 percent of all US libraries had computers for public access to the Internet. Now, 95 percent of the libraries offer Internet access. A year after computers are placed in a typical library, attendance increases by 30 percent. Over the past six years, visits to the nation's 16,500 public libraries have increased more than 17 percent. The Gates Foundation has accelerated this upward trend in attendance by providing more than 47,000 personal computers to libraries in low-income and remote areas since 1998.

Internet availability serves to increase book reading as well as providing e-mail services, information lookup and online games. For example, at the Westchester County library system in New York State, reserve requests have increased from 4,000 per month to 80,000 per month since Internet-based reserve service was made available to patrons. Books and other library materials throughout the USA are in greater demand than ever.

Library provides ebook downloads to cell phones

Patrons now use their cell phones to read new ebook titles available from the Cleveland Public Library. With free Mobipocket Reader software, patrons can download and read the titles on Motorola, Samsung and Nokia cell phones. Using the CLEVENET Digital Library Connection (http://dlc.clevenet.org) patrons browse the library Web site and download ebook titles to be read on their phones or computers. When the lending period expires, their copies of the titles are automatically erased, and use of those titles becomes available to the next library patron.

Use of filtering software spreads

The Children's Internet Protection Act, which makes use of filtering software a precondition for receiving federal funds for Internet connectivity, has been ruled constitutional by the US Supreme Court. The law is now causing many US libraries to install this type of software.

In Minneapolis, although the Public Library Board believed that filtering software would let through inappropriate material, and was likely to block non-pornographic sites, the board voted in May 2004 to install filtering software on the library system's public-access terminals. The board president characterized the law that forced this decision as &#34"extortion&#34". Use of the filters was approved for only one year, after which complaints from patrons will be weighed against the estimated $150,000 received each year from the federal government. Notices on library computers will inform patrons 17 and over that they can have their filters turned off.

In Salt Lake City, the library board had refused to filter any computer. However, following the Supreme Court decision, the board voted to use filtering software in the children's sections of its six libraries and to issue cards to adults advising that they can decide whether they want filters when they use library computers. Board policy now states that users who seek out &#34"obscene, pornographic or child pornography&#34" sites will lose their computer privileges, might lose library access and could be prosecuted. Parents are urged to supervise their children's use of the Internet. Utah lawmakers have passed a Children's Internet Protection Act that requires use of filters. Libraries that do not comply will lose state funds (some $22,000 for Salt Lake City). Outside the city, in Salt Lake County libraries, adult patrons decide when they apply for a library card whether they want filters. If they later opt for unfiltered access, they have to ask for it.

In Delaware, public library patrons currently swipe their library cards through an electronic reader to access library computers and the Internet. Patrons younger than 18 need written permission from a parent for Internet access. The Delaware State Assembly has passed a Children's Internet Protection Act, and the act is being considered by the State Senate. This act calls for special card-controlled computer database access for public library patrons under 18, and more severely controlled access for sixth to 12th grade students. Delaware libraries have opted to compile online databases designed to meet the research needs of these two age groups. No Internet filters will be used, and parents can decide whether their children will be allowed access to the Internet. Delaware does not use federal money to pay for library Internet access or to buy new computers, so it is not required to use filters. The Delaware Internet act does not apply to computers in college and university libraries.

In Ohio, current Fairfield County District Library policy requires that every adult using a library computer must sign an agreement not to look at inappropriate sites. Patrons who violate the policy could lose their library privileges. Every parent has to give permission if their child is to use a library computer. Library officials are now considering installing filtering software. They hope to allow Internet access to be set at one central location. They believe that the proposed filtering scheme will allow the library to continue to provide open Internet access for adults. Filters would cost about $25,000 to start up and $1,200 a year to maintain. The district is considering grants and a fundraising campaign to cover the costs.

In Washington State, Sno-Isle Regional Library System patrons type their library card number when they start to use a library computer. The system automatically filters Internet content for patrons under 18. There is no filtering for adults, but the computer screens are lowered into desks to provide privacy. By July 2004, all libraries in the Sno-Isle system will meet the requirements of the federal Children's Internet Protection Act. Patrons 17 and older will be able to choose to have unfiltered access.

San Francisco board adopts RFID technology

After careful consideration, San Francisco Public Library commissioners decided in May 2004 to use radio frequency identification devices (RFIDs) to track books and other library materials. The plan calls for the technology to be fully in place in six years at a cost of $6 million or more. To start the process, $300,000 of city budget money plus another $100,000 from the library's own gift fund will be required. The RFID system is expected to speed circulation procedures and also to reduce repetitive stress injuries. In the past three years, such injuries have led to $265,000 in staff compensation claims. The main objection to RFIDs has been that they are not secure against invasion of privacy. Devices installed in books remain active after patrons leave the library, opening the way to track patron's movements, their reading habits and possibly other personal information. Library commissioners have pledged to work with the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups to ensure that the technology is used cautiously.

Archiving for individuals

Kepler software is designed to allow individuals to make their own archives and still provide open access to other archives and users. The software complies with Open Access Initiative (OAI) rules and the Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (PMH). Kepler users can publish reports and other documents on the Internet as easily as posting them to a Web site. With Kepler, individual users can become part of communities that wish to share archive materials by using compatible publication and data management practices.

Elsevier permits archiving by article authors

Elsevier, the world's largest publisher of scientific and scholarly journals, now permits authors to provide access to the final editions of their full-text articles. The authors are permitted to display these articles on their personal Web sites and to post them to institutional repositories. However, Elsevier authors may not deposit these articles in other repositories. The accessible materials must not use Elsevier's formats, and must include a link to the Elsevier journal home page or an identifying DOI. This new policy removes some barriers that have prevented access to authors' work. It thus provides some competitive advantage for Elsevier, compared to other traditional publishers, in its ability to attract authors to its journals. However, it is unclear whether the access Elsevier allows for these materials is entirely open. For example, there is no indication that users who gain access to these materials are allowed to make and redistribute their own copies. If not, the Elsevier rules would be inconsistent with typical use policies of institutional repositories.

Too many Government Web sites scrubbed after 9/11

According to a new Rand Corporation study, the US Federal Government took too much open-access information off government web sites after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The study indicates that most federal Web sites that carry information about airports, power plants, military bases and other potential terrorist targets need not be censored because similar or better information is easily available elsewhere. Advocates of information availability expressed the hope that the study will encourage restoration of open access government information.

University archive search via Google

The contents of archives at 17 universities in Australia, the USA, Canada, Italy and Hong Kong are being made available through Google. These universities all use MIT DSpace software to archive research papers, technical reports, theses, and other scholarly materials. DSpace archives use metadata codes that facilitate searching. Access to the DSpace archives will be available on the Google advanced search page. By restricting Google searches to specific collections, such as these archives, users can expect to access high-quality data. Unfortunately, many of these university archives have only recently begun to collect material, and only a limited quantity and range of materials is yet available.

Search interface for Project Gutenberg

The Mazarin (http://open.palary.org/mazarin) Web site provides search of author-and-title, or full text to locate ebooks among Project Gutenberg's more than 10,000 titles. A tutorial at the Mazarin site explains the operation of the site. Users can select preferences, including Spanish or English display and number of titles per display page. Clicking on a book title in the search results will display the selected ebook.

Elsevier abstract search service

Elsevier recently announced the launch of Scopus, a search engine for abstracts from 14,000 scientific journals. Scopus aims to compete with existing databases such as Web of Science, run by Thomson ISI of Philadelphia. Web of Science covers fewer journals, but it has an archive of papers going back 60 years and also provides citation statistics.

Digital Media Consumer Rights Act proposed

The Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act would reduce the use of the DMCA (a 1998 law that broadly restricts any bypassing of copy-protection technologies used in DVDs, music CDs, ebooks and software programs). Congressional hearings on the proposed act are currently underway. The act would permit technologies that provide &#34"fair use&#34" of digitally recorded material. Selling unauthorized copies of that material, and other forms of copyright infringement, would remain illegal. Passage of the new act is supported by librarians, consumer groups and technology firms. It is opposed by the entertainment industry, including Hollywood, major record label companies and business software producers.

Nation-wide open access in Finland

All universities, polytechnics and research institutes in Finland have become members of BioMed Central. The membership agreement, which covers some 25,000 publicly funded researchers and teachers in Finland, covers their costs for publishing papers in any of the more than 100 BioMed Central journals. All BioMed journals are open access, available on the Internet without charge to all readers. The membership agreement was made through FinELib, the National Electronic Library of Finland. FinELib acquires Finnish and international resources to support teaching, learning and research; 86 institutions from the consortium will take part in the membership arrangement.

No renewal for Science Direct journal package

Following the lead of many US colleges and universities, four Minnesota private colleges (Carleton, Gustavus Adolphus, Macalester, and St’Olaf) have decided to discontinue Elsevier Science Direct service. During the past three years, these colleges used the Science Direct bundle for access to the full text of over 700 ejournals. The colleges have become convinced that current scientific journal prices are much too high. The amount they have been spending for a few very expensive scientific journals was preventing them from acquiring the liberal arts journals they need. By declining the Science Direct offer they can now cancel high-price/low-value journals. The college faculties support this decision because they understand that it is in the long-term interests of their colleges to reassert control over journal collections. The Minnesota colleges feel that open access journals are a clear alternative to the unsustainable bundling of journals.

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