DVD fee a barrier for library users at the Winnipeg Public Library

The following article I wrote was published by the Winnipeg Free Press on May 17th, 2017. 

When I mention to my friends it’s frustrating the Winnipeg Public Library (WPL) charges a fee for DVD loans, I’m always surprised by the response: “Wait, you mean other public libraries don’t charge for DVD Loans?”

Unfortunately, Winnipeg is a glaring exception to the practices of similar libraries. A look through the policies of other public libraries shows it is the only major library system in Canada that charges for borrowing regular material. In fact, most provincial Public Library Acts forbid their public libraries from charging patrons for borrowing material. Continue reading

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What is going on with the number of Open Access Journals indexed in Elsevier’s Scopus?

Here is a table of the minimum number full/gold open access journals that Scopus has claimed to index for each month in the last year. This is taken right from the archived Scopus Content page from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. (Missing months are because the page wasn’t archived that month).

Date (Based on Web Archived Dates) Minimum OA Journals Indexed
January 21, 2016 3,800
From February 15, 2016 to January 3, 2017 4,200
February 1, 2017 4,470
February 19, 2017[Most recent archived page] 3,476
May 5, 2017 [Date of this blog post] 3,476

From these numbers it looks like Scopus added around 400 open access journals after January 2016, then another 270 after January 2017, and finally removed around 1,000 after February 1st, 2017.

Removing around 1,000 open access journals is big deal. That’s almost a quarter of all the open access journals Scopus has in their collection. Why didn’t we hear anything about this mass removal of open access journals? Why didn’t Scopus put out a press release? Removing this many open access journals from one of the top research tools should not be treated lightly. Continue reading

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How to talk about “Predatory” Publishing: Reclaiming the Narrative

A few weeks ago someone urgently shared on the Summon ListServ that a keyword search for the word “Transgender” on Summon produced a obscene and pseudo-science article as the first search result. The community immediately echoed this frustration when many of them discovered they got the same result.

Summon, echoing the community’s outrage,  immediately scrambled to get this article removed from their search results and reached out to the Vendor hosting this article to see if they could remove it from their end as well (Summon aggregates its search results from a knowledge base of resources hosted by third-parties). This Vendor quickly responded that they were shocked how this Predatory Journal managed to get through their indexing process and that they would remove it from their database completely.

Algorithmic bias and its affect on search terms is a serious issue. It’s frustrating how these incidents keep happening with our search tools and terrifying to think about the affect these kind of findings have on our users.

There is a lot happening in this situation that would benefit from a critical analysis (e.g. Who is more responsible here? The librarians who activated it this resource? The search tool provider? The Vendor? The Journal?), but I just want to focus on one particular bit for this blog post. Namely, that the Vendor immediately responded to this problem by calling the journal predatory.

You see, I don’t think this journal is predatory. Yes, this article and others published by this journal are mostly offensive, incorrect, and non-scientific. However, this is because this is a bad publisher, not a predatory one.

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Protect Fair Dealing – Canada’s Upcoming Copyright Act Review

I’m starting to get a little worried. The Canadian Government is set to review the Copyright Act at the end of 2017 and it looks like – despite a large number of evidence-based court rulings supporting it – that there is a chance that the user right of fair dealing might be severely limited.

Most recently we’ve seen a column in the Globe and Mail arguing that Fair Dealing encourages piracy and takes revenue away from writers. Before this there was a Public Policy Report, Shattered Mirror, about we can help news media survive in the digital age. This report recommended tightening fair dealing provisions in favour of creators. Before that there was an Open Letter to Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly from the who’s who of Canadian writers, artists, and publishers, who (rightful) ask for more funding and support from the Government. While they don’t make any direct claims about how this support can be provided, they do strongly hint that the Copyright Act Review can be used to change the act to “divert the flow of revenue back to the hands of the idea generators”. The Copyright Act is a balance between users and creators. Money money to creators will be at the expense of user rights like Fair Dealing.

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Open Access: The Half-Revolution Continues

Wiley recently announced that is launching a pilot of what appears to be the exact same article sharing feature, SharedIt, that Springer-Nature put in place about a year ago. This is after a pilot using only Nature journals was judged successful. Wiley’s pilot and SharedIt both allow  authorized users to share a copy of an ‘enhanced’ PDF of any article through Readcube. This article can’t be downloaded or printed, but it can be read online and once you have a “shared link”, you can share that link with anyone else. Here is a nice little video summary from Springer-Nature that shows how it works.

I wrote a blog post about the launch of the SharedIt last year. In it I mostly expressed  my worry about these Readcube enhanced, DRM restricted, PDFs becoming the standard way articles are used and shared. I also worried about how SharedIt will affect inter-library loan and this just being another way we are moving from owning content to just having access to content. Graham Steel also wrote a good blogpost about this, discussing some of his issues with finding/using these shared links (which seem to be resolved now) and some similar concerns to mine about these Readcube enhanced PDFs.

It’s  a bit interesting how these shared links work. For instance, try and access the full-text of this article. Unless you are under an institution’s network with an subscription to this journal, you can’t access it. There are no open access pre or post prints in repositories for it either. (At least at the time of writing this).  So if you want to read this article…Nope. Not happening. You can empty out your wallet to purchase it, or you can wait a couple days for an inter-library loan.

But wait! Try this link! You can now see the full article!

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In Defense of Discovery Tools

About two months ago I made a twitter poll to try and get an idea about how Librarians currently feel about discovery tools:

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So you want to purchase a Scholarly eBook for your Library?

A patron requests a newly published book that your library doesn’t have a copy of. You, as the Librarian, could maybe inter-library (ILL) loan them a copy? Unfortunately, as more and more libraries are choosing to purchase books only in eBook format, it has become harder and harder to get a ILL of a print book published after 2012. There are some attempts to solve this ILL eBook problem – like the exciting Occam’s Reader – but nothing that has yet broken into the mainstream and has been widely used by libraries.

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Image Credit: Tina Franklin

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