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Weekly News Digest

January 20, 2022 — In addition to this week's NewsBreaks article and the monthly NewsLink Spotlight, Information Today, Inc. (ITI) offers Weekly News Digests that feature recent product news and company announcements. Watch for additional coverage to appear in the next print issue of Information Today. For other up-to-the-minute news, check out ITIís Twitter account: @ITINewsBreaks.

CLICK HERE to view more Weekly News Digest items.

The University of North Carolina Gets Grant to Use Machine Learning to Identify Racist Laws

The University of North Carolina (UNC)–Chapel Hill announced that it has received a $400,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to use machine learning to identify racist laws from North Carolina’s past. UNC–Chapel Hill’s University Libraries have been working on this project since 2019, and this grant will help them extend it to two more states and “fund research and teaching fellowships for scholars interested in using the project’s outputs and techniques.” The project, On the Books, saw researchers creating “machine-readable versions of all North Carolina statutes from 1866 to 1967. Then, with subject expertise from scholarly partners, they trained an algorithm to identify racist language in the laws.”

As part of the grant, “[r]esearch fellows will pursue their own projects, making use of On the Books products: laws, workflows, scripts and the project website. [Teaching] fellows will develop and deliver college-level instructional modules featuring materials from On the Books.”

For more information, read the news item.

ALA Calls on Info Pros to Observe the National Day of Racial Healing on Jan. 18

ALA announced the following:

On January 18, 2022, the sixth annual US National Day of Racial Healing, the American Library Association (ALA), the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and the Society of American Archivists (SAA) call upon our collective memberships—comprised of several hundred thousand archivists, librarians, and other information professionals, and thousands of libraries and archives of all kinds—to observe the day with reflection and action. …

On January 18, ALA, ARL, and SAA call on our members to take the following actions:

1. Devote time for a Healing Hour in your organizations and departments for discussion, education, and reflection using the resources here.

2. Share your organization’s learning in pursuit of racial justice and healing with your colleagues and users, on your websites, and in your communications.

  • Download and use the banner graphic “Libraries & Archives Observe National Day of Racial Healing.”
  • On social media, use the hashtag #LibrariesAndArchivesForRacialHealing along with #HowWeHeal.

3. Review SAA’s resourcesALA’s resources, and ARL’s resources to spark your thinking. Share with your colleagues and users in your displays or website, or on social media using the hashtags #LibrariesAndArchivesForRacialHealing and #HowWeHeal.

For more information, read the press release.

Urban Libraries Council Creates Business Value Calculator for Member Libraries

The Urban Libraries Council (ULC) introduced the Business Value Calculator, a new member resource that was “developed specifically for public libraries to measure, quantify and communicate the impact of their business services to their local communities.” This will help them “learn new ways to communicate their economic value to city/county leaders, community partners and other local stakeholders.”

ULC has been piloting the Business Value Calculator with 10 member libraries. The savings figures they reported were millions of dollars for 1 year of business services. For example, despite “changes imposed by the pandemic, ULC member Pima County Public Library was able to provide over $1.3 million in value to their local business economy in 2021” (emphasis in original).

“Our local economies depend on the success of the entrepreneurs and small businesses in our communities, yet starting and growing a business is a major feat particularly for those who do not have ready access to start-up networks and resources. That’s where public libraries come in,” says Susan Benton, ULC’s president and CEO. “Entrepreneurs can meet one-on-one with business experts, attend skill-building workshops, use valuable databases, access free Wi-Fi and technology, and use the library’s co-working spaces. ULC’s new Business Value Calculator enables the library to measure and evaluate its contributions to economic development.”

For more information, read the press release.

'The Streisand Effect Wonít Save Us From Censorship' by Danika Ellis

Danika Ellis writes the following for Book Riot:

The Streisand effect is a term used to describe when a group or individual attempts to suppress or ban something (usually a book, movie, album, or some other creative work, but it can also apply to information) and ends up making it more popular. …

While book challenges are nothing new, they increased dramatically in 2021, especially targeting LGBTQ books, sex education books, and books by and about people of color.  Whenever we report on these book challenges, we’ll get responses that—whether they use the term or not—refer to the Streisand effect. Nothing makes kids want to read a book more than banning it, comments will say. I understand this response, and there is some truth to it, but it hides the real risks of censorship and book banning.

For one thing, sales of a banned book will only increase if it gets a lot of media coverage. For every scandalous story that makes national news, there are many more that are happening in school board and library board meetings that aren’t being reported on. …

Then, of course, there’s the inequity of only measuring book sales. Even if a book sells tremendously well after it’s been removed from a library, that doesn’t mean the readers who wanted to access it now can.

For more information, read the article.

Internet Speeds and COVID-19: What's Changed in the U.S.

Moe Long writes the following in “Here’s How (and Why) Internet Speeds Have Changed During COVID-19” for WhistleOut:

There’s good news for internet speed demons: 2021 saw an average internet speed increase across the board in the U.S. However, some states experienced greater gains than others. Alaska leads the pack with an impressive 170% increase in average download speeds thanks to a state-sponsored push to bolster its internet infrastructure. Additionally, Oklahoma and South Carolina stretched above 100Mbps, with Oklahoma’s 104.6Mbps average download speed and South Carolina reaching 111.7Mbps. …

Only West Virginia saw a decrease in download speed in 2021. This is an improvement over 2020, where at least five states fell. West Virginia’s average download speed dipped a total of 17.6%—from 59.2Mbps pre-pandemic to 48.7Mbps now. While that’s a modest decrease, 48.7Mbps is still enough bandwidth for about two 4K Netflix streams. …

The national average internet speed shot up 40.1% from pre-pandemic to 2021. Before COVID-19, the United States averaged 84.5Mbps. Since then, speeds further rose to a respectable 118.4Mbps average.

For more information, read the article.

IFLA Rolls Out 2021 Update to Its Trend Report

IFLA augmented its Trend Report series with an official update, which aggregates ideas from library leaders that were collected ahead of the organization’s latest World Library and Information Congress. IFLA’s Trend Reports were started in 2013 and updated in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

This 2021 update features a foreword from IFLA president Barbara Lison and an introduction by secretary general Gerald Leitner. Itshares 20 different suggested trends—some complementary, some contradictory—that the people who will be leading our field in ten years felt would mark their professional lives. For each one, a short section highlights key questions and aspects, as well as potential responses for the library field.” The trends include “tough times ahead,” “the comeback of physical spaces,” “the rise of soft skills,” “diversity gets taken seriously,” and “search transformed.”

For more information, read the news item.

NoveList Offers Tips for Libraries to Communicate About COVID Guidelines

Jen Heuer Scott writes the following in “Communicate Changing COVID Guidelines” for NoveList:

With the surge of the Omicron COVID-19 variant across the world, we at NoveList have noticed an uptick in libraries posting (hopefully very temporary) returns to curbside-only services. It is crucial to communicate clearly and effectively with your staff and community during these quick changes. Whether your doors are open, closed, or somewhere in between, we are here to help. …

LibraryAware customers can find professionally designed templates about service updates and library policy changes that are ready to edit and send, print or post! Just type covid or coronavirus in the LibraryAware homepage search bar. …

NextReads is another effective tool for promoting all kinds of resources. Email open rates have been up throughout the pandemic, so why not optimize those eyeballs and cross-promote?  

For more information, read the blog post.

How EBSCO Information Services Supports Equity in Research

Research Information posted “Not Just Semantics: Supporting Equity in Research,” an article from EBSCO Community by Tamir Borensztajn, VP for SaaS and open strategy at EBSCO Information Services. Borensztajn writes the following:

Not every user—be it a researcher, a student, a faculty member—anywhere in the world enjoys the same opportunity to take advantage of published research. While the reasons are complex and multifold, I will address how we, at EBSCO, look at inequity in the research process and our role, as a provider of research information platforms, to ensure fair access to diverse information for any user. …

[W]e firmly believe that the library is the expected destination for trustworthy content in all its different formats and manifestations. EBSCO therefore considers the many different users, the journeys they take, and the trustworthiness and diversity of content as we remove barriers to equitable access to information.

In essence, we focus on three key areas: the trustworthiness and diversity of content that we index on our platforms; the search technology and its ability to return meaningful results for any user; and the user experience, which must accommodate the many different use cases and user behaviors.

For more information, read the article.

' Reaches a Milestone and a Reckoning' by Daniel Garisto

Daniel Garisto writes the following for Scientific American:

What started in 1989 as an e-mail list for a few dozen string theorists has now grown to a collection of more than two million papers—and the central hub for physicists, astronomers, computer scientists, mathematicians and other researchers. …

When submitting to traditional journals, authors frequently wait half a year or more to publish; papers typically appear on arXiv within a day. Authors often submit manuscripts to arXiv and then subsequently publish them in a peer-reviewed journal, but increasingly, papers are released on arXiv alone. …

Is it closer to a selective academic journal or more like an online warehouse that indiscriminately collects papers? … [S]ome researchers are concerned about arXiv’s moderation policies, which they say lack transparency and have led to papers being unfairly rejected or misclassified. At the same time, arXiv is struggling to improve the diversity of its moderators, who are predominantly men based at U.S. institutions.

For more information, read the article.

EFF Aims to Get Appeals Court to Reverse Decision in DMCA Case

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) requested that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia “block enforcement of onerous copyright rules that violate the First Amendment and criminalize certain speech about technology, preventing researchers, tech innovators, filmmakers, educators, and others from creating and sharing their work.” Specifically, EFF wants the court “to reverse a district court decision in Green v. DOJ, a lawsuit [EFF] filed in 2016 challenging the anti-circumvention and anti-trafficking provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) on behalf of security researcher Matt Green and technologist Andrew ‘bunnie’ Huang. Both are pursuing projects highly beneficial to the public and perfectly lawful except for DMCA’s anti-speech provisions.”

Green is working on a book about his project making “Apple messaging and financial transactions systems more secure by uncovering software vulnerabilities, an endeavor that requires finding and exploiting weaknesses in code.” Huang’s company, Alphamax, LLC, is “developing devices for editing digital video streams that would enable people to make innovative uses of their paid video content, such as captioning a presidential debate with a running Twitter comment field or enabling remixes of high-definition video.”

“Section 1201 [of DMCA] makes it a federal crime for our clients, and others like them, to exercise their right to free expression by engaging in research, creating software, and [publishing] their work,” says Kit Walsh, EFF’s senior staff attorney. “This creates a censorship regime under the guise of copyright law that cannot be squared with the First Amendment.”

For more information, read the press release.

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