Perspectives from the Frankfurt Book Fair: 1 attendee’s impressions

Thanks to Heather Moulaison for this report from the Frankfurt Book Fair.

For me, “book fair” brings to mind rows of vendors with stale candy trying to hawk their wares under unforgiving fluorescent lights. That’s what I was expecting when I left for the Frankfurt Book Fair roughly two weeks ago. ACRL has been sponsoring a booth at the fair for years, and this time, I was one of the recipients (through WESS, the Western European Studies Section) of a small stipend to attend the Book Fair (from Oct. 18-23) and staff the ACRL booth. Unfortunately, it looks like funding for the ACRL booth and the stipends is going to be cut entirely next year.

After having been there, “Everyone goes to the Frankfurt Book Fair because everyone goes to the Frankfurt Book Fair” rings true; I was involved with a fantastic group of attendees and made great international contacts. Surprisingly, though, the Book Fair programs were most definitely worth attending and describing here.

First I saw a presentation by Google. Thinking back on last year’s OCLC Environment Scan that, to paraphrase, said patrons want to search OPACs the way they search Google, I was pleased to hear finally what Google claims to be about: focus on positive user experience, never detract from that experience, insure the purity of the search, act first and refine later, function as a switchboard between user and content. The bulk of the presentation covered the two aspects of the Google Print program: the Publishers program where publishers voluntarily submit works, and the Library program where libraries open their stacks to Google. Google Print did seem to make sense from the publisher point of view. Even the Library program didn’t seem quite so villainous after it was clear that small snippets are shown on the results screen and the entire work is not ever revealed. If it’s used as a supplemental tool to helps patrons to find things, my cataloger’s mind tells me this can’t be a bad thing. The copyright/intellectual property issues weren’t addressed. I left thinking for the first time like Google Print is probably a good thing for libraries and patrons, but despite the “public good” aspect, I still wasn’t convinced that the Library program is a fair use of copyrighted material according to the law.

Perhaps the most interesting session was the one on electronic publishing. I wasn’t able to stay for the entire program, but saw quite a lot. The head of the French National Library, Jean-Noël Jeanneney, began by presenting a short talk on the impact of electronic publishing. He followed the structure of the traditional French lecture: 1) discussing convictions that a digital divide is being created, that books will outlive the web, and that there is a necessity for cultural diversity with the creation of new technologies; 2) addressing the problems and dangers Google presents if they establish a monopoly on digitized information and if only English language results are available; 3) responding with the notion that other possibilities exist, that government should lead organized ventures and that democratic projects like wikipedia were valuable. He didn’t discuss concretely any of the French or European digitization plans. During the presentation, Jeanneney reasserted that his position on the matter of Google’s projects does not stem from an anti-American stance. It seems to me this was in response to articles in the Anglo-American press; I remember some in the Chronicle of Higher Education alluding to his chauvinism, in the French sense of the term.

After questions from the audience, Jim Gerber from Google gave his presentation; he used roughly the same PowerPoints as the one I’d seen the day before. Gerber took a couple of shots at Jeanneney; for example, his introduction included the fact that the two had something in common: Gerber, like Jeanneney, was not anti-American. Google’s stated mission is to organize all the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Librarians of the world, snicker in unison? Audience questions tried to get at the legality of the Print program and the need for licensing and contracts, but those questions were brushed aside. Archiving seemed to be on the minds of those seated around me – and the problem of what would happen to the digitized versions in the future. Were we all to trust Google blindly? They are, nevertheless, trying to make money. These were the questions that didn’t get asked officially, but were mumbled amongst the librarians in the group.

Did this whet your appetite for information about the Book Fair? Look for more coverage in an upcoming edition of C&RL News.

–Heather Moulaison, Cataloging/Modern Languages Librarian, The College of New Jersey

Report from ACRL-NJ: Quarantine the Plagiarism Plague

I recently attended an all day ACRL-NJ conference on plagiarism. NJ librarians have really taken the lead on this issue, spurred on by Rutgers University librarian Vibiana Bowman’s book of essays, the Plagiarism Plague. Previously I hadn’t thought too much about plagiarism, conceding the issue to disciplinary faculty and wondering what the librarian’s role could be. Librarians at least need to begin to inform themselves on the various issues surrounding plagiarism, such as defining what plagiarism is, gauging if it is on the rise and if so what are the causes, and then figuring out what we can do about it. Plagiarism seems to be on the rise throughout our culture, not merely among college students. Librarians can provide information about citation, develop tutorials, and be part of an overall culture that discourages academic dishonesty. In giving an overview of the legal issues of plagiarism detection services, Luis Rodriguez (Montclair State) made a point that stuck with me: he connected plagiarism to student learning. This seems to me a fruitful possible way to tie together plagiarism with information literacy.

Right And Wrong In Cyberspace

EDUCAUSE ended with a lively session about ethical behavior in the digital world. It could have gone on for hours – and I would have listened to the four experts for that long. Clearly, we are in unknown territory, and the experts covered the spectrum from defending censorship and banning resources when it is for the greater good to allowing a free for all in cyberspace environment to allow for a “re-norming” of ethical behavior. While the discussions about the new nature of public information (we need to realize that so much of our lives is now publicly accessible – what’s on your web site?) and privacy/security of information were good, I think the most challenging issue for the panelists was their discussion of plagiarism. Clearly, cheating is never right, but the real issue debated was the use of detection software – there are many ethical issues here. As one speaker asked, “Why do we treat students as potential criminals?” Unfortunately, other than a comment from an audience member, little was said about plagiarism avoidance as a solution to the “countermeasure” war. The most salient point I heard was from the speaker who said that with respect to the ethical issues discussed, we have already lost the current generation (I assume he means millennials) – they are set in their ways. We could debate that but I think you know what he means. If they think it’s all right to plagiarize, illegally download, or practice other ethically questionable behavior, no faculty member or librarian will likely change their attitudes. He said we need to start educating the next generation, or at least have an educational system in place so that we can begin to create the necessary cultural change that will perhaps instill more ethical behavior in cyberspace. Hmmm, offer user education to create cultural change. That sounds like a familiar theme with respect to the changing culture of student research. Is it too late to reach the current generation with user education? I think not, and maybe that’s a debate for another day. The complete post is not there yet, but it appears someone will be blogging this session at the EDUCAUSE site – should you want more details.

Academic Libraries As A Source Of Dynamic Stability

Dynamic stability was the theme of Karen Holbrook’s, OSU President, keynote address this morning at EDUCAUSE. She emphasized that as IHEs grow more sophisticated in their technology they must retain and be guided by their core values. I think academic librarians have heard that message before in our own literature and conferences. In many ways the talk was complimentary in many ways of academic libraries – without specifically mentioning them. There were many examples of ways in which the academic library can contribute to and further the realization of core values on every campus. However, at the end of her talk, Holbrook became direct about the enduring value of libraries. She finished her talk with a great tribute to the OSU libraries and OhioLink. It was great for all of the IT folks to hear librarians be described as “leaders in creating a digital future.” But Holbrook pointed out its about much more than digital assets. She mentioned that OSU is renovating their library and said, “We want our library to be a place that pays tribute to books and the pursuit of human knowledge – and we still need books. We want a library that brings people together. Libraries are the best example of dynamic stability – constantly changing but always a stable source of help within our institutions.” (note – I had to get that quote quickly so it may not be quite exact – but it’s close). What a great way to start the day!

“Every Campus Library Is At Risk To Google” Says McNealy

I attended the first keynote address at EDUCAUSE this morning. Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems, had some interesting things to say. His themes illustrated how interconnected the higher education and computing industries are, and that globally these two can advance education. He said we have moved from the information age to the participation age. It’s no longer about retrieving information on the net, but about everyone and everything happening in a participative community. He said “It’s about contributing via social networks.” This resonated with me because I’ve been thinking that academic libraries need to figure out where we fit into this participation age. Sure, we’re blogging at our libraries, but how do we create communities in which our faculty and students participate. For the most part, I doubt they even read academic library blogs or contribute to them. We need to get integrated into the blogging and wiki activity that is happening in the classroom. We are already doing this to some extent within courseware, but we need to explore these frontiers further. What didn’t resonate with me was McNealy’s statement that “every library on every campus is at risk to Google. The digital natives are on Google so fast that they don’t even know there is a library.” I wish I could have handed him a copy of the Chronicle’s special report on libraries from a few weeks ago – they are giving them out at the Chronicle booth in the exhibit hall. Like many IT experts, I don’t think he has a real clue about what’s happening in academic libraries – but let’s not deceive ourselves that we have no competition. My favorite – his top ten list of excuses for not handing in homework in the digital age. It included, “My cut and paste keys on the keyboard are worn out” and “I plan on open sourcing my homework from the kid next to me” – good stuff. If you want to follow more of what is happening at EDUCAUSE (beyond my occasional posts) there is lots of conference blogging and podasting to be found on the EDUCAUSE site.