Thursday Threads: Alternative to SOPA/PROTECT-IP, Costs of Resource Sharing, Communicating with IT Staff

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In this week’s news we still have activity on legislation before the U.S. Congress on measures to protect intellectual property on the internet. This is serious stuff with serious people trying to make this go quietly into law. Well, it may not go quietly into law, but it has enough money-enabled lobbyists behind it that the legislation might become the law of the land. Closer to the profession is the publication of costs associated with various forms of resource sharing at Ohio State University. Finally, tips for communicating well with IT staff.

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Proposed Alternative Legislation to SOPA/PROTECT-IP

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) have released a draft of OPEN: Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, intended as an alternative to SOPA/PROTECT-IP. (See my prior posts opposing SOPA and linkwrapping the discussion.) Unlike SOPA’s disgustingly blatant rent-seeking, which was such an over-the-top abuse of the legislative process that it did not (and could not) support a principled or even intelligent conversations about it, OPEN provides a useful starting point for a sensible conversation that could actually lead to acceptable compromises.

For that reason alone, I think Congress should immediately stop all work on SOPA/PROTECT-IP and redirect that energy towards vetting this proposal. Having said that, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment, I continue to believe the assumptions underlying SOPA/PROTECT-IP and OPEN are misguided, meaning that forging a compromise from OPEN’s more sensible proposal may be tricky.

I’ve written here opposing SOPA and opposing PROTECT-IP, two measures before Congress now that would (in my humble opinion) inflict harsh measures on suspected intellectual property piracy activity with insufficient judicial oversight. A champion for the anti-SOPA/PROTECTIP activity is Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and, along with Representative Darrell Issa of California, has introduced an alternative called OPEN: Online Protection & ENforcement of Digital Trade Act on a website that invites public comment on the text of the bill. As Eric points out in the above article, it isn’t great but it is significantly better if legislation on the topic is deemed necessary.

This is important stuff, and I encourage you to get educated and make your opinions known to your members in the House and Senate.

Cost Averages for Resource Sharing: Interlibrary Services, Circulation paging and OhioLINK

The cost areas of the study include Circulation services where a user pages a book and chooses to pick it up at a library ($2.03) or have it delivered to their campus office/dorm ($2.78) i.e. zmail. OhioLINK PCIRC data is costed out as well: both borrowing for our users ($3.06) and lending to OhioLINK patrons ($3.84). For Interlibrary Services, the study examines document delivery ($7.83) as well as borrowing ($8.63 for copies; $18.85 for loans) and lending ($0.47 for copies; $2.70 for loans).

This study offers some real numbers on the cost of circulating physical and digital copies to patrons at a major university. The PCIRC system, for those that aren’t familiar with OhioLINK lingo, is the patron-initiated librarian-unmediated inter-institution system pioneered by Ohio academic libraries and Innovative Interfaces. The reason the costs are dramatically different from typical ILL is that the requests and circulation transactions (paging slips, item routing, and checkout/checkin) are handled as close as possible to normal circulation transaction. The goal was to make the workflow as close to a local circulation as possible, thereby driving down the cost per transaction. It looks like there is one cost not factored into the OhioLINK portion — that of the software maintenance costs for the Innovative Interfaces system. For the OhioLINK central server, that cost is borne by a biannual state appropriation to the OhioLINK offices.

As one of the technologists that helped push the early OhioLINK PCIRC system along, it pleases me immensely that the payback to Ohio libraries is still so clear.

How to get a (better) response from your Systems Librarian / Sys Admin / Helpdesk Support Elf

After about 10 years supporting IT in libraries, I feel the festive need to spread some goodwill and have tried to scrawl down a few tips to help Librarians and their systems support folk better work together.

I’ve tried not to patronise, all of the below is based on personal experience in several roles. I know we as help providers can often do better, but equally, things can go much more smoothly if we get useful information upfront and some effort to manage expectation is made.

Ed’s post is the most complete, concise, and appropriately-humored description of what staff can do to support IT and what expectations they should have of IT staff. Print this out, post it to your wall, follow its advice, and we’ll all be more happy as well as productive in the end. Seriously.