What the library is about: the four C’s

Since the 1970’s when the library world developed computer-readable metadata to the 1980’s when Tim Berners-Lee created the web at the CERN, the role of a library has evolved with and beyond network technologies in the last 30 years. As a dynamic institution, it will undoubtedly continue to change in the next decades. Its current role can be summed up by 4 C’s:

  • Conduit.  Computing and network technologies have become essential utilities as basic as wiring and plumbing. Necessary but not sufficient, they are the pipes through which libraries communicate with users and provide them with digital information.
  • Content.  Libraries scour the vast universe of information for a limited subset and organize it for access to meet their users’ needs. All libraries are indeed local.
  • Context.  Decontextualized information can quickly atrophy to noise. Libraries help their users evaluate and contextualize information in a framework–critical, academic or personal–relevant to them. A library’s ultimate business is not information but transformative knowledge and learning behavior.
  • Community.  Libraries provide a site–physical and electronic–in which social and learning communities take place. In the best of worlds, the two are interrelated, for learning is essentially a dialogic process.

For more information on the evolving library, see Library as Place: Rethinking Roles, Rethinking Space.

Entrepreneurship, small business, and the library

As BusinessWeek Online notes, the library is the next best thing to an MBA. While the article discusses the help and resources available at public libraries, Bailey Library has plenty of resources for those interested in starting their own business.

There is a custom, constantly updating list of library books, e-books and audiovisual materials from the library in the Library Catalog. Look in the “Library Info” box in the upper right hand corner of the Library Catalog, choose the “MORE” link, and then click on “Small business and entrepreneurship.”

A new series of guides, Entrepreneur magazine’s Step by Step Start Up Guides for specific small businesses such as lawn care, restaurants, and automotive detailing, will be available soon in the reference section.

If you need help with finding resources at the Bailey Library, stop by the Reference and Research Assistance desk during open library hours, call 734-973-3431, or use the Research Help Now live chat reference service.

In order to borrow books from the Bailey Library, you need to be a current student, faculty, or staff member (yes, and current does mean registered for the currently active semester). However, anyone may use materials within the library during open library hours.

Patriot Act and Libraries: The Connecticut Four

Barbara Bailey, Peter Chase, George Christian, and Jan Nocek, four librarians of Library Connection, a non-profit cooperative serving 26 libraries in Connecticut, were served with a National Security Letter (NSL) under the Patriot Act in 2005.

National Security Letters allowed law enforcement officials to obtain business clients’–in this case, library users’–records without a judge’s approval, as well as enforce a gag order under which the letter recipients were forbidden to discuss the matter except with their attorneys.

Although NSLs trump state privacy laws, such as the Michigan Privacy Act, the four Connecticut librarians, believing in the sacrosanctity of users’ privacy as codified in their professional creed, filed suit against the Justice Department based on First Amendment constitutional grounds.

In September 2005, a Connecticut district court judge decided in favor of the plaintiffs, ruling that their First Amendment rights had been violated and revealing their identities would not harm any ongoing investigation. It was not till March 2006, when the Justice Department decided not to appeal, that the librarians could publicly identify themselves, although they still could not discuss their NSL.

According to an ABC News report, in 2005 alone, 9,254 NSL’s were issued. As revised in March 2006, the Patriot Act, originally allowing NSLs to be issued to any library, can now only do so to libraries that also act as Internet service providers; and it permits federal authorities to decide on a case-by-case basis if the letter recipients’ anonymity is necessary. That NSLs can still be issued without a judge’s approval remains in effect.

For more information on the case, see the American Library Association press release; the four plaintiffs’ statements (Bailey, Chase, Christian and Nocek) on the ACLU’s Library Case portion of their website, and the NY times article (registration may be required) — or you can get the article online through the library research databases (you may need to log in with your WCC ID number from off campus).

Update: The Department of Justice has dropped the request for the library records, according the this entry in the Law Librarian Blog.