An end of an era? More like just the beginning

So we’ve come to an end of the LAPIS and I have to say it has been the module that’s caught my attention most over the last two years…so much so i’ve decided it’d be a good idea to focus on copyright and digitalisation for my dissertation. Ask me if i’m still engaged once that beast has been completed.

The last session introduced us to Alastair Horne and his blog of ‘Ten ways to get ahead in publishing‘ was a perfect way to end LAPIS, summarising for us what we can do professionally going forward. We shouldn’t be reliant on our employer to push us forward but instead make our own way, join CILIP and make use of the opportunities through it, volunteer at your local library (especially if they have zombies!) and keep learning. If there’s one thing i’ve learnt through LAPIS and CityLis in general is that there is so much to learn and information science is forever changing especially as we move further into the digital age. I know i’ve developed a particular passion for copyright (my colleagues think i’m insane!) and that’ll drive me forward in finding a solution for my company’s current digitalisation problems and also be a driver for any future career plans I might have….who knows in a decade I might be reading any future offspring I may have copyright stories instead of bedtime stories. God help them.

What I took away from Alastair is that you get back what you put in. Like with our essays and our dissertations, if we put in 100% then we’ll do well, likewise with our career. If we make our own networks, learn, practice, review and above all say yes to things then we’ll go far in publishing and librarianship. LAPIS has given us the foundation and now we can build on it for the rest of our professional development (or personal development if you’ve got a thing for irritating bits of legislation).

This isn’t the best blog i’ve written in the series and is a bit gushy but I have thoroughly enjoyed LAPIS because it has made me frustrated, excited, indignant, curious and I always left the lecture with a smile on my face. Books are my future, publishing maybe not but copyright compliance certainly is so for me this is not the end of an era but the start of my whole career.

Digitalising our collection will cost how much?!

So I was convinced I was going to be having a huge rant this week as Ernesto mentioned the dreaded C word (copyright people, mind out of the gutter). But actually, I find because I rant about copyright to myself at least once a day i’m going to try and keep this short.

Copyright is a bone of contention in my workplace, we’re currently trying to move our catalogue forward into the 21st century and offer more electronic documents to our customers but we’re continuously coming up against copyright restrictions on what we can and can’t do. It’s beyond frustrating. The problem for us is the majority of our collection was created in hard copy rather than created as a digital. By digitising our hard copy collections we are essentially copying them and so we break copyright law but how else can we make our collection electronically accessible to our customers?!

The CLA have been helpful in some respects. We used to send out journal articles (we’re mostly online request library) through the post so customers would wait 24hrs before receiving their document, not great. So the CLA suggested LockLizard which is a DRM software, it helps us at least send out our journal articles at the time of request with certain restrictions such as only being able to view it for a specific time period, not being able to forward it on, limited print etc. The condition for us though is we still aren’t allowed to keep digital copies, if a customer requests an article we have to physically scan it and then lock the pdf before sending it. It’s still not instant access. Currently the CLA will not allow us to hold permanent digital versions of our hard copy collections. But that’s okay at the moment, they are working with us to come up with a sensible solution and in the meantime we have some sort of electronic delivery. Not ideal but fortunately our customers have appreciated the effort (it helps we’re in one of the last industries to go digital).

However, that’s not the half of it. LockLizard has only provided us with an answer to our journal collection. We have a vast amount of books as well as British Standards and it is that collection that is the issue. We currently own over 3000 standards in our collection worth an estimated £300,000 that we can only send out via the post for a loan period of a month. Speaking to BSI about trying to convert our hard copy collection into an electronic collection has so far proved fruitless, one suggestion was we buy our whole collection again…..yes, because we can afford not to pay a large chunk of our staff to do so.

Unfortunately digitisation of existing physical collections is a bit of a grey area, CLA do have a specific scheme for it that publishers can sign up to and agree for their works to be digitised but there is no requirement for them to sign up. It’s choice, which is great because it does offer control to publishers of their content but it does nothing to help libraries.

In the situation where publishers have not signed up the CLA says it should be negotiation on a case-by-case basis. Negotiation is difficult and a tedious process, something we as a company have only started to understand. We’re in talks with both CLA and BSI; CLA are trying to be as helpful as possible while at the same time asking us to cough up more money for our transactional license. BSI are understandably hesitant, they want control of their collections and they don’t want to lose customers through us.

As a publisher, as well as a library, I can definitely understand that but all we want to do is provide easy access to our members and not risk losing our very expensive standards in the post!  Libraries are still important in today’s world and therefore should be making the effort to move into the digital world but it becomes impossible if publishers aren’t willing to be flexible with their content.