Daily Archives: January 11, 2006

Dear ALA – Set This Newletter Free

I was pleasantly surprised to find something new in my e-mail inbox today. As a “keeping up” enthusiast I’m always on the prowl for new publications offering recent news and developments to add to my keeping up regimen. AL Direct, from the American Library Association, is a new weekly e-newsletter that “features news stories from American Libraries Online, ALA- and library-related news, and other items of interest from the ALA website.” It’s graphically well designed, slick, easy-to-read, links to full text, and is generally informative – lots of things I like. And to top it off, they even included a link to one of our ACRLog blog posts. Great idea! So what’s not to like. Just this item from the description:

“sent to ALA personal members by e-mail as a perquisite of membership”

Come on ALA, this is a good resource that can help members of the library profession to improve their personal professional development. Why restrict it to ALA members? Here’s the text of an e-mail message I sent to the newsletter’s feedback department:

I would encourage ALA to make this a free newsletter service that is available to any member of the library profession – or other disciplines – who would like to be on the mailing list. It’s nice to offer members a premium service, but librarians are challenged enough to keep up with the field, and this could really help them. Perhaps you could be like other industry newsletters and offer the newsletter for free, but make some of the links available only to members. This way librarians who are non-members could get a feel for the value of being a member and it might encourage them to join. Keeping them off the mailing list ensures they’ll never have an opportunity to explore the value of AL Direct.

To their credit I quickly received a response from American Libraries’ Senior Editor, George Eberhart (a nice guy with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working). He was open to my suggestion, but acknowledged that being this was the first issue they are still considering how to develop the newsletter. He did suggest that all of the newsletter content was available in free sources, but that for now ALA members would get the convenient digest – a member’s perk. Fair enough. I hope it will eventually become freely available, and when it does I’ll add it to the Keeping Up Web Site.

If you are a current ALA member, enjoy your issue of AL Direct. If not, consider joining to take advantage of this new benefit of membership – or hang in there until ALA sets it free.

Study Shows Students Favor Privacy Over Enhancing Library Collection and Services

Privacy is an inherently complex and challenging topic to get a handle on made even more complicated by the almost daily changes in technology, legislation, and government activity that surround the issue. (It was recently revealed that the government is now opening private mail.) Adding to the confusion is trying to understand the extent to which people actually value their privacy. Although librarians have in general been steadfast in their support of user privacy as a core principle, personal blogs and complacency in the face of corporate use of personal information has led some to declare the the concern for privacy is dead or in at least in a coma. Recently, however, there have been some signs that the patient is waking up.

A 2005 study by Steven Johns and Karen Lawson provides some hard numbers to gauge student attitudes about privacy and the library. In the debate between personalization and privacy only 23% of students at Iowa State University felt that “developing student profiles for the purpose of enhancing the Library’s collection and services constituted justifiable use.” So before you go bibliomining your circ database or developing a user community around archived email reference questions, you may want to check out “University undergraduate students and library-related privacy issues” in Library & Information Science Research, 27 (Sept 2005) 485-495.