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Weekly News Digest

November 1, 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.

'Startup Helper Systems Aims to Help the Information Industry Thrive'

November 1, 2022, Helper, Utah—A motley crew of library and publishing industry experts and aficionados, musicians, artists, vintners, Ukrainian freedom fighters, engineers, firefighters, and robot builders have launched Helper Systems and aim to change the information landscape forever. Their goal is to make the world’s information easier to find, manage, and comprehend, and a lot more fun to use.

Since co-founding ebrary, one of the first ebook companies, in 1999, Helper Systems’ CEO Christopher Warnock has been working with friends and colleagues to innovate a software application that enables people to create highly interactive databases of multimedia files stored on their cloud or local hard drives, ensuring privacy. Called kOS (pronounced chaos), the new software provides tools for unprecedented indexing, searching, annotating, and managing information, along with other features that enable faster and easier comprehension of large data sets. Helper’s first products, which will launch this winter, are focused on PDF files and will initially be for macOS users only.

“PDF has some interesting capabilities that are unknown and not being leveraged,” said Warnock. “When used to its full potential, the PDF file format can provide some really big gains in terms of creating, finding, presenting, and navigating information, with the added benefit of preserving the heritage of the printed document.”

“I use PDFs a lot, and most of the applications that I use for PDFs are cumbersome at best. kOS makes a lot of intuitive sense to me. I’m very intrigued.”

—Dr. Kevin Wehr, professor of sociology, CSU Sacramento

“I want KOS now! Every student in America will want KOS.”

—James Wiser, dean of library services and educational technology, Abilene Christian University, and doctoral candidate at University of Texas

Helper is debuting kOS at the Charleston Conference, Nov. 1–3 in Charleston, S.C. The team believes its software will greatly benefit both librarians and publishers and create synergies between them. Helper is seeking input. Anyone interested in participating in a focus group or demo should visit helpersystems.com.


About Helper Systems (helpersystems.com)

Based in and named after Helper, Utah, we are a motley crew of library and publishing industry experts and aficionados, musicians, artists, vintners, Ukrainian freedom fighters, engineers, firefighters and robot builders who all have the same goal: Making the world’s information easy to find and manage, quick to comprehend, and fun to use.


Media Contact: Tish Wagner (tish@helpersystems.com)

Takes on the DOJ vs. PRH Decision

Publishers Weekly’s Andrew Albanese announced the verdict of the trial between the Department of Justice and Penguin Random House (PRH), stating, “A federal court has blocked Penguin Random House’s acquisition of rival Big Five publisher Simon & Schuster [S&S]. At press time, Judge Florence Y. Pan’s opinion was not yet public as the parties still need to agree on redactions to protect confidential information, but in a brief two page order Pan enjoined the merger. … The parties now have until November 4 to file proposed reactions, after which the court will issue a public version of Pan’s Memorandum Opinion. … PRH officials said they ‘strongly disagreed’ with the decision and would be requesting an ‘expedited’ appeal, (although in later comments by PRH and S&S officials an appeal appeared less certain).”

The New York Times’ Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter report, “A judge blocked the largest publisher in the country from absorbing a rival, thwarting further consolidation in an industry that has been deeply reshaped by mergers in recent years. But the decision brought little clarity about what lies ahead for the companies involved, or for the publishing world. … Some analysts speculated that the ruling would put a damper on major mergers and acquisitions, making it unlikely that other big publishing houses would escape antitrust scrutiny if they acquired [S&S].”

NPR, via the Associated Press, calls the ruling “a victory for the Biden administration’s tougher approach to proposed mergers, a break from decades of precedent under Democratic and Republican leadership. … Pan’s finding was not surprising. … But it was still a dramatic departure from recent history in the book world and beyond. The publishing industry has been consolidating for years with little interference from the government, even when Random House and Penguin merged in 2013 and formed what was then the biggest publishing house in memory.”

Vox’s Constance Grady writes, “Most of us are familiar with the idea of a monopoly and how such a selling market can drive up consumer prices, but with this case, the DOJ was arguing that PRHS&S would form a monopsony—an unfair buying market that would drive down the money paid to authors. Such cases are historically rare. The DOJ’s success here sets a major precedent for the way the US prosecutes corporate giants. … Over the course of the trial that ensued, publishers would continue to insist on their existing public image as helpless incompetents at the whims of larger companies and an irrational market. The government, meanwhile, stuck to the narrative that the publishers were savvy operators who knew exactly what they were doing with their billion-dollar companies. Their story has now won—and it will help decide the future of American antitrust law.”

Elsevier Looks at Pandemic-Era Mental Health

In “Tracking Mental Health Over the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Elsevier shares the following:

When the world shut down in March of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people the world over experienced profound psychological stress to varying degrees. Now, a new study takes advantage of the unique situation and longitudinally studied the demographic, neurobiological, and psychological factors that contributed to individuals’ risk or resilience to mental health disruptions related to the stress.

The study appears in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, published by Elsevier. …

The researchers assessed data from over 2,000 participants collected as part of the Barcelona Brain Health Initiative. They analyzed the change in participants’ anxiety and depression symptoms from two years before to during the first year of the pandemic. The researchers analyzed the data to identify participants with resilience, which they defined here as the lack of development of anxiety or depression over the pandemic.

For more information, read the press release.

LLRX Publishes Exploration of Tech Companies' Ability to Handle Midterm Election Misinformation

Dam Hee Kim, Anjana Susarla, and Scott J. Shackelford write the following for LLRX.com:

The 2016 U.S. election was a wake-up call about the dangers of political misinformation on social media. With two more election cycles rife with misinformation under their belts, social media companies have experience identifying and countering misinformation. However, the nature of the threat misinformation poses to society continues to shift in form and targets. The big lie about the 2020 presidential election has become a major theme, and immigrant communities are increasingly in the crosshairs of disinformation campaigns—deliberate efforts to spread misinformation.

Social media companies have announced plans to deal with misinformation in the 2022 midterm elections, but the companies vary in their approaches and effectiveness. We asked experts on social media to grade how ready Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube are to handle the task.

For more information, read the article.

The Latest News From ALA

ALA has shared several press releases in recent days.

On Oct. 31, the association announced, “Newly published research from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) peer-reviewed online journal, School Library Research (SLR), examines school librarians’ involvement during the move to online teaching and learning context during the COVID-19 pandemic. Articles can be accessed for free at www.ala.org/aasl/slr.”

On Oct. 27, ALA relayed some congressional news: “Led by Reps. Andy Levin (D-MI-9) and Adriano Espaillat (D-NY-13), [a] letter [was sent to the House of Representatives asking for support of federal funding to modernize library buildings nationwide, which] comes as Congress prepares to negotiate the fiscal year (FY) 2023 funding bills before current stopgap funding expires on Dec. 16. The letter urges the House to agree to the Senate’s proposal of $20 million for Improving Library and Museum Facilities in the final FY 2023 funding bill, passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 28. The funding would be distributed by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and would be the first such funding in 26 years. The Senate funding was requested by Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Jon Ossoff (D-GA).” 

On Oct. 26, ALA published a report, “Leverage Libraries to Achieve Digital Equity for All, which illustrates libraries’ longstanding work to advance digital equity and makes the case for policymakers to draw on the expertise of library professionals in designing state and local digital equity plans required to receive the influx of federal funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to support digital inclusion for all.”

Elon Musk and Twitter News Roundup

Writers for The New York Times share that “Elon Musk’s deal to buy Twitter may have closed, but his battle with the company’s board and executives seems to be barreling forward. … Musk is taunting Twitter and the law firm it worked with in its lawsuit against him, Wachtell Lipton, with the prospect of litigation, while trying to avoid paying top executives the golden parachutes they’re owed. It appears that fraught legal battles lie ahead, and it’s unclear whether Musk’s aim is to win or simply punish.”

Lora Kolodny writes for CNBC, “New Twitter owner Elon Musk has pulled more than 50 of his trusted Tesla employees, mostly software engineers from the Autopilot team, into his Twitter takeover. … He fired the company’s CEO, chief financial officer, policy and legal team leaders right away, and has also dissolved Twitter’s board of directors. … [E]mployees from Musk’s other companies are now authorized to work at Twitter. …”

Mitchell Clark and Jay Peters from The Verge state, “Elon Musk has announced that a new version of Twitter Blue will include some sort of verification accessible for $8 per month in the US, with the price ‘adjusted by country proportionate to purchasing power parity.’ He announced the shake-up of the premium service by saying that ‘Twitter’s current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark is bullshit.’”

Naomi Nix reports for The Washington Post, “Elon Musk pledged … that Twitter will not reinstate banned accounts for weeks, meaning users including former president Donald Trump will not have the ability to rejoin the social media site before the midterm elections.” Musk held “a Zoom meeting with representatives of civil rights group where Musk discussed the content moderation council that he told the group would guide decision-making on user bans and policing of the platform.”

Springer Nature Reaches Milestone of 2,000 OA Books

Springer Nature announced that it has published its 2,000th OA book, “less than 2 years after the publication of its 1000th OA book. Springer Nature has pioneered OA book models since the launch of its dedicated OA books programme in 2012.” In 2018, the company’s OA program featured just 500 OA books. The 2,000th book was Past, Present and Future of a Habitable Earth: The Development Strategy of Earth Science 2021 to 2030, which offers a roadmap of how to achieve harmony and sustainable development between human society and nature through the lens of cutting-edge research and recent advances in geoscience.”

For more information, read the press release.

GPO Shares an Update for Five Preservation Steward Libraries

The U.S. Government Publishing Office announced the following:

Merrill Cazier Library at Utah State University has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) to become a Preservation Steward, and four other libraries are adding materials to their current Preservation Steward collections. To help libraries meet the needs of efficient Government document stewardship in the digital era, GPO has established Preservation Stewards to support continued public access to U.S. Government documents in print format. Preservation Stewards contribute significantly to the effort to preserve printed documents.

‘GPO thanks these five libraries for their help in realizing GPO’s vision of an America Informed,’ said GPO Director Hugh Nathanial Halpern. ‘The preservation of these historical and modern Government materials in libraries across the Nation supports American democracy now and in the future.’

For more information on what each library is adding to its collection, read the press release.

Reuters Reports on Elon Musk Buying Twitter

Joseph Ax writes the following in “With U.S. Midterms Ahead, Musk’s Twitter Takeover Raises Fear of Misinformation Wave” for Reuters:

With the U.S. midterm elections less than two weeks away, Elon Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of Twitter could unleash a fresh wave of election misinformation just as voters are casting ballots that will determine control of Congress for the next two years, political and media experts say.

Musk, the CEO of electric car maker Tesla, says he is a free speech ‘absolutist’ and has vowed to loosen the reins on chatter within the social media app, which in recent years had striven to limit toxic content it viewed as dangerously false or discriminatory even as its global influence has widened. …

Musk has also criticized the site’s moderation policies in the past, and his plans to make major cuts to staff could hamstring the site’s ability to police its content, which it has struggled at times to do in the past.

For more information, read the article.

PLOS Adds Climate Change Collection to ScienceOpen

ScienceOpen announced the following:

ScienceOpen is committed to enriching its network of 81+ million publications further, on topics that matter, and with an innovative infrastructure that facilitates scientific exchange. PLOS has just joined our network with a great new collection on Climate Change and Human Health.

[The] PLOS Climate and PLOS Global Public Health [journals] are seeking submissions for a new collection titled ‘Climate Change and Human Health.’ The journals welcome research submissions that address all aspects of the intersection of climate and health, from the changing burden of communicable and non-communicable disease to the effects of extreme events on health systems, as well as research that evaluates potential adaptations to build healthier and more resilient societies.

For more information, read the blog post.



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