Why you’re not allowed to hear most old recordings




The U.S. Constitution empowers Congress “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” In 1976, Congress set the limit at 75 years or the life of the author plus 50 years. In 1998, it extended both terms by 20 years. At least that’s true for most of what comes under the copyright law. For some reason, sound recordings do not fall under the federal copyright law. Instead, they fall under, and are crushed by the weight of a tangle of federal … Continue reading






Foreclosures in San Diego and what libraries are all about




Led by the San Diego County Library (SDCL), a few libraries in Southern California and Nevada are helping homeowners threatened by foreclosure. At least, my source for this post does not indicate that the effort is any more widespread than that. But it beautifully illustrates how libraries struggle to meet the needs of their community. At first glance, libraries don’t seem to have much to do with the housing crisis. At second glance, people who see their homes slipping away have no idea where to turn for information. Providing information is a core library function. Building community is another. The … Continue reading






Libraries, immigrants, and digital literacy




Immigrants to the US generally come with some skills and resources, but not necessarily everything they need to succeed here. For example, many arrive with limited or no facility in the English language. Many also lack adequate computer skills needed to get and perform jobs. Libraries offer both language instruction and computer instruction, but helping patrons with limited English learn digital literacy presents new challenges In the days when most immigrants arrived by ocean, they arrived in major ports and tended to stay there. If very many of a particular group of immigrants left the port of entry, they usually … Continue reading






Library robots




Libraries have always been at the forefront of adopting new technology, but their innovations usually have something to do with organizing and retrieving information. The online library catalog is a good example. Now some libraries are borrowing technology from manufacturing: robots that shelve and retrieve physical books. It may come as a surprise to some people that printed books are still such a big deal to academic libraries. After all, much of formerly huge reference collections has been replaced by online databases. Long runs of many important journals and other periodicals are likewise available as full text online. Ebooks have … Continue reading






Research for ordinary people




Scientists in their labs or historians poring over manuscript collections and archives are researchers. Many of them become well known in their profession, and maybe even with the general public. People who search the web for sites that they then pass on to a writer are also researchers, very likely making $2 an hour somewhere in Asia. They are at the low end of status and responsibility for Internet work. What does either kind of research have to do with most people? Everyone does research. Not everyone does it professionally. For most people, that research is not likely to result … Continue reading