How Libraries Can Create Communities (Through Video Games)

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I recently read several interesting articles exploring the sense of loss that communities and neighborhoods have felt in the rise of the modern west. The ‘leave-it-to-beaver’ style 1950s neighborhoods are largely non-existent in today’s society (if they ever existed at all). In discussing this with others I came to realize that most people I had spoken with hardly knew their neighbors beyond the acknowledgement of one another by a spoken hello or a wave in passing.

Abandoned Playground

In reflecting on my youth, growing up in a small suburban neighborhood I remembered how the local children would inevitably run wild between houses and parents would routinely phone one another to find where we were hiding that day. That same community, two decades later, found itself home to my sisters. Growing up among a new generation of children they often found that parents (in my case the same parents who had raised me) were more restrictive about where and who the children could play with. This anecdotal evidence is not expected to be taken as gospel, or even as the norm, especially considering that the change in reaction may have been because of a perceived notion of expectations for raising boys and raising girls. Regardless, I found these experiences reinforcing the change that authors had been noting. A change that say doors locked, property chained up to prevent theft and communities beginning to lose a sense of shared identity.

Anyone who reads my blog probably realizes my passion for all things video games and may even know where I intend to take this discussion. I have always believed in the possibilities that this oft-maligned media presents and today’s segment will discuss community building via the merging of the real and virtual worlds.

Library Gaming

The local library has always played a role in the larger community development process, whether it be by holding events, welcoming everyone or simply by existing in a capacity to serve. Communities have been built and sustained around these venerable buildings often noted as the ‘last bastion of the public sphere’. With the rise of digital media and the information era libraries have had to cope with new and changing information needs but have at core remained centers of community development providing unrestricted access to everyone equally. The changes within the library have included adding more technology like computer stations, E-Book readers, assistive reading equipment and the like. Libraries have also included E-Books, DVDs, CDs, and even video games. As time passes the role of the library has changed from a prescriptive institution which sought to educate the masses to a more passive institution which offers choice and respects information and media of new and different formats. Things like comics and graphic novels are becoming more pronounced in collections and offer a glimpse of this changing view of librarianship and collections development.

These changing views come about at the same time as new generations see libraries as dated, inadequate, or even obsolete. Changing views of the library itself have created stigma which leads it to represent a place for the impoverished, poor, or socially outcast. Children and teens can more frequently be found hanging out at the mall or the movie theatre than the library. The library has become passè or un-cool. The addition of new forms of media will help to alleviate these views only if they can find a receptive audience for which to deliver them. In addition, the library as a community hub can only be said to be as effective as the community by-in it receives.

All of these changes and problems have come about in my lifetime and seem to be a continuing problem that is echoing changing in society at the same time. The shrinking sense of community and the deteriorating view of librarianship, libraries and their role in communities needs to be tackled head on by an aggressive campaign of re-branding, marketing genius and strategic investment. The solution to all of these issues? The gaming librarian.

International Game Day

Libraries have begun to invest in other media but have never embraced the possibilities these new medias have for re-inventing the image of the Public Library. My solution would entail a pilot project developed and funded via a crowd-sourced investment campaign ala Kickstarter. Securing the funding would only be the tip of the iceberg as securing popular opinion and government by-in would require even more public pressure. Assuming these hurdles can be done and the funding and support is established, a large urban center would have to be chosen. The location would depend largely on where the funding and government support can be found but requires an urban center to effectively translate into a potentially viable sample population size.

Gaming with Will Wheaton just makes it better...

Gaming with Will Wheaton just makes it better…

The funding would then be used to secure a space large enough to accommodate the needs of the project and close enough to existing public facilities. For example, in many urban centers campaigns of revitalization have focused on the core by connecting art galleries, museums, libraries, theatres and more into a cultural hub of sorts. This allows patrons to travel to a single location and encourages them to explore multiple venues. The space would require some larger multi-purpose space with long tables and chairs set up, temperature controlled computing labs, areas with couches and TV screens and an arcade space with room for patrons to easily find seating, eating and gaming needs met.

Gaming Space

This digital media library would require the arcade space for a free gaming experience with others that could help develop friendships and allow youth a respite from the boredom or tedious nature that is often cited as the cause for acts of youthful violence and criminal activity. The conference room style area would be a multipurpose facility to accommodate gaming in other formats like Dungeons and Dragons style pen and paper RPG’s or card based games like Yu-Gi-Oh or Magic the Gathering. The space could be used for birthday celebrations or rented space for other such gatherings helping to offset the costs of running the facility. All of these areas can be separated by spaces that offer large couches and big screen TV’s or projectors which can play video games with different areas devoted to different systems. The computing labs could have computers pre-loaded with MMO’s, many of which are free-to-play and could allow those who cannot afford to game to find the space and place to do so.

This entire concept sounds ludicrous and fiscally irresponsible if not for this next part. The entire space would serve to bring communities together. The gaming experience is becoming a more pronounced aspect of many children’s lives and those left out of the latest and greatest experiences can be subject to ridicule and isolation. Libraries have begun to combat this by incorporating games into the catalog but it can be brought this next step further in order to create a binding social experience within the community. Anyone who has ever played a video game will note the large efforts the industry has gone to in recent years to incorporate online and multiplayer support for just about every experience in order to draw users together. This facility would serve as a real life merger to the virtual gaming space to alleviate feelings of isolation and to create real bonds between gamers. LAN, local-area-network gaming has been around for more than a decade and serves as an example of the type of shared gaming experience that elevates user enjoyment and promotes feelings of unity and togetherness. Growing up in the 1980’s I knew the joy of the local arcade where all the children seemed to be drawn to as a new digital playground. This experience would allow that sort of bonding to come about again, but this time removing the added expenses that come with it by not charging users.

Ultimately this plan has many issues needing to be addressed.

kidsafety

 

Safety and security. The decline in community has often been related to the perceived change in the level of safety and security for youth in society. Anyplace that aspires to create a welcoming environment for children needs to have plans in place to help guarantee that sexual deviancy or child predation is not an issue. In the construction of such a facility these ideas would need to be taken into account at every opportunity. Vetting for all staff through police clearances would need to be a requirement, as well as paired staffing positions of opposite genders. Precautions like these and others would serve to create a more stable and secure location which would reflect the goals of the program more thoroughly.

Taken from the Simpsons, Season 7, Episode 11, Marge Be Not Proud.

Taken from the Simpsons, Season 7, Episode 11, Marge Be Not Proud.

Theft. Whenever gathering such sought after media there will be those elements of society who will seek to attain them in less than legal manners. The policies and procedures utilized would need to take this into account. In many cases having systems secured behind locked cases and having content stored on hard drives or ‘the cloud’ could assist in preventing opportunities for theft. New incarnations of gaming devices are often seeking direct download capabilities which would allow content to be stored directly on the Playstation 4 or Xbox One for example rather than requiring a disc be changed out to play a new game. In addition, if this pilot project became more commonplace the gaming industry might begin to market units to libraries for such purposes with built in features.

divided-we-fall

Community Buy-In. With the economic hardships experienced globally it is hard to justify any expenditure of public capital on un-necessary or seemingly fruitless pursuits. Libraries remain cash strapped even while their collections see more use. The pilot project would be more easily established by turning to the more mature gaming users of today who grew up on these devices and remember the shared experiences of playing with one another. Beyond the initial start-up costs there would remain the costs of upkeep, internet access, new collections etc. and these would have to find either continuing community support, industry support or government support. I do not feel like this would be an impossible task but it would surely dominant much of the time and energies of managing the venture.

Access. Setting this up as a public access facility requires that all patrons receive the same fair treatment which is a continuing problem in urban centers with the accommodating the needs of transient populations and those of the objecting public who may protest for various reasons. Libraries deal with these issues on a daily basis and there are no ready answers. It may be the case that this facility may market itself to a younger audience and require that those patrons represent a certain age range, but this is not in keeping with free and open access which librarians have traditionally upheld. The solution to this issues may require more inventive minds than my own, but either way, these are issues that face libraries everyday regardless of the content of their ‘shelves’.

The possibilities for what sorts of events and functions could take place here to draw in patrons from all walks of life are nearly limitless. The functions of the place could also grow to include archives of preserved and conserved video game content. Patrons might ask for other related media like comics or graphic novels and the spaces to read and enjoy these materials. If sufficient money was raised this space could even incorporate a theatre of sorts and have gaming tournaments and movie nights. Patrons might range from the very young to the extremely old, as games have found acceptance in nursing homes and childcare facilities. Professionals like myself who are approaching middle age grew up on gaming and may attend the location in order to experience the nostalgia of revisiting past digital realms. Ultimately, such a venture could start to solve a variety of inner city issues as well as provide the basis for more integrated and tight knit communities.

On a separate but related note, lately there has been a focus on video games and the benefits they can bring so I figured I would add a link to some videos I found to be especially interesting for this, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy!

TED Talks on Gaming.

 

Abandoned but Not Forgotten: Providing Access to Degrading Digital Media Under Orphan Copyright

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Preamble:           

The long awaited post is here, albeit with terrible formatting. I am unsure why the post is not allowing me to alter the structure of the text but I hope that you either disregard these elements or download the attached file to read it in word format. The Abandoned but Not Forgotten attached file also contains the bibliography, and although seemingly completed in this form I plan on altering the structure and content significantly in the future to not have to respond to the requirements of an assignment. This will allow me to explore the parts of the issue I find most interesting. I hope you find this discussion informative and fun, as far as copyright discussions go. Anyways, hope you enjoy this rough draft, and offer some discussion as to areas you would like more fleshed out or explored. Thanks for reading!

Abandoned but Not Forgotten: Providing Access to Degrading Digital Media Under Orphan Copyright          

          As time passes all things wither and die. The rise of the video game industry through to the first home consoles saw the explosion of cartridge based code which, although aging well, will indeed cease to function in time. The preservation of such works depend largely on the commercial viability of the game itself to be translated into other digital means by the holder of the copyright. In cases where there is no identifiable copyright holder, what is often termed ‘Orphan Works’ in the United States or ‘owners who cannot be located’ in Canada, these works are unable to be transferred from their original medium and thus cannot be preserved past the lifespan of the medium in which they are stored. This work will focus on cartridge based video games from the mid to late 1980’s through to the mid 1990’s, before many of these forms were stored in more easily transferable digital content. This is also an interesting time period to study because many of these same works were subject to strict censorship and the finished product is not always the one intended, resulting in multiple copies and degrees of copyrighted and un-copyrighted material in existence.This work will identify the legislation that affects these works, the challenges in preserving them created by the laws meant to safeguard them, current policies meant to assist in preserving this content and how these can be improved in the future. This work is of special importance to librarians seeking to preserve this content and provide access to future generations of patrons who may wish to view these historically, artistically and culturally.

                        Orphan Works and Unlocatable Owners:

In Canada and the United States when a copyright holder is unable to be found or inaccessible it may be the case that uses of these works are liable to be held accountable for infringement. Such cases are termed “Orphan Works” in the United States or “Unlocatable Owners” in Canada. “Unlocatable Owners” is a term that de Beer and Bouchard state derives from the French term, “titulaire introuvable” and represents a different context than “Orphan Works” as it focuses on the status of the owner rather than the status of the work (de Beer & Bouchard, p. 6). The lack of an identifiable source to which copyright can be said to be held can result in difficulties when arguments for fair use and fair dealing are not applicable. In their work, de Beer and Bouchard state, “The user can proceed without permission, infringing copyright. This deprives the owner of compensation, puts the user at risk of civil and criminal liability and undermines respect for the law. The alternative is to refrain from using the work. This in turn deprives the owner of an opportunity to earn royalties, frustrates the user and could ultimately stifle economic or social progress” (de Beer & Bouchard, p. 6). Before continuing it may be interesting to provide a context for why this is of particular import for video games which exist on a time sensitive lifespan when code is stored on cartridge based mediums.

Collapse of the Industry Wipes Out Companies:

The video game crash of 1983 resulted in many of the companies making video games ceasing to exist. In many of these cases the back catalogues of games produced were not purchased due to the lack of perceived commercial viability and interest. Stating that the market was saturated in the lead up to 1983 does not convey the extent for which this was the case. Games like ET from Atari which produced 5 million copies and sold only 1.5 million at a $500 million loss begin to detail the scope of the market collapse (Guins, 2009). With the market saturated beyond what it could bear and too many choices in systems and games available to a consumer base that then was split over the rise in popularity of the home computer, it was only a matter of time before the industry collapsed and many companies had to close their doors forever.

From the Ashes, New Forms Left Behind:

Following 1983, the rise of giants like Nintendo began to place more stringent controls and resulted in a more monopolized market. In this market a select few companies held the hardware and third party publishers were forced to bring their content to companies like Nintendo for licensing. This resulted in many games being subject to strict censorship and often the finished product was very different from the original concept. This has sometimes resulted in fortunate cases where originals surface which had been created before censorship and copyright had been enacted, allowing reproductions of the works to take place, such as in the case of Monster Party (Caruso, 2013). This game had an uncensored original found after more than two decades which was promptly sold and its new owner released the code in an emulator for the public to enjoy, prompting a resurgence of its popularity and a wider discussion about the possible existence of other such works which could be transferred into a new format for consumption and preservation (Caruso, 2013). Efforts to market such games have been underway for years and have recently seen renewed commercial interest on platforms like Nintendo’s Wii which featured a shop containing re-released original games which Nintendo owned or could license rights to. Efforts to re-release this content have been underway and offer solutions for many of the more successful games and franchises to be preserved. This is an example of selective preservation that only benefits media of commercial viability in the current market and do not reflect other areas that may be excluded from falling into this spectrum. This means that the risk of being liable for copyright infringement keeps individuals or organizations from digitizing content, from the degrading formats it is stored within, to more durable or lasting versions. Yeh writes, “[M]any works that are, in fact, abandoned by owners are withheld from public view and circulation because of the uncertainty about the owner and the risk of liability” (Yeh, p. 41).

The Problem in the Eyes of the Law:

The concern is real enough that both the 109th and 110th Congresses have debated acts regarding “Orphan Works” in the United States. In Canada, legislation has been accepted and a report was funded jointly between the Copyright Board of Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage in 2009 to address this. In this Canadian report de Beer and Bouchard state, “[I]ndeed, orphan works are one of the key copyright issues where nearly all stakeholders would agree that a significant policy problem exists” (de Beer & Bouchard, p. 6). In order to understand the role of both “Orphan Works” and “Unlocatable Owners” in terms of the respective countries copyright law I will need to explore existing legislation and proposed changes and amendments such as that of the two Congresses.

In U.S. Law:

Yeh describes how the original act tabled in 2006 was not finalized by the adjournment of the 109th Congress and the subsequent ‘watered-down’ act tabled in 2008 which passed the Senate, did not make it out of the House Judiciary Committee (Yeh, p. 42). Both acts brought forth legislation which would place restrictions on the allowable fines for copyright infringement of “Orphan Works” for which a “reasonably diligent search” had been done in order to find holders of copyrighted material.

This statement, “reasonably diligent search” was part of the debated concept which held up the 109th Congress as they tried to establish what this entailed. Currently there exists no universal registry of copyrights which can be consulted in order to ascertain ownership of a particular copyright or even if one exists. Yeh writes, “Although registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is most authoritative, there is no universal copyright registry. Various registries or databases exist to allow identification of copyright holders in various industries or mediums, but they are essentially voluntary, so checking with a database may not be dispositive regarding copyright status and/or ownership” (Yeh, p. 43). This means that while the threat of being liable may withhold action from being taken to in terms of “Orphan Works” it also means that these searches are lengthy and costly (Yeh, p. 43).

In Canadian Law:

In their report, de Beer & Bouchard state that Canada has enacted some of the most lenient of all the approaches to dealing with “Unlocatable Owners” and the problems this presents. He writes, “Arguably, Canada has implemented one of the most advanced attempts at addressing the problem anywhere inthe world. Section 77 of the Canadian Copyright Act empowers the Copyright Board to issue a non-exclusive licence to an applicant whose reasonable efforts to locate a copyright owner have been unsuccessful” (de Beer & Bouchard, p. 7). The section of the Copyright Act that de Beer and Bouchard are describing, reads as follows;

77 (1) Where, on application to the Board by a person who wishes to obtain a licence to use

(a) a published work,
(b) a fixation of a performer’s performance,
(c) a published sound recording, or
(d) a fixation of a communication signal

in which copyright subsists, the Board is satisfied that the applicant has made reasonable efforts to locate the owner of the copyright and that the owner cannot be located, the Board may issue to the applicant a licence to do an act mentioned in section 3, 15, 18 or 21*, as the case may be.

(2) A licence issued under subsection (1) is non-exclusive and is subject to such terms and conditions as the Board may establish.

(3) The owner of a copyright may, not later than five years after the expiration of a licence issued pursuant to subsection (1) in respect of the copyright, collect the royalties fixed in the licence or, in default of their payment, commence an action to recover them in a court of competent jurisdiction. (“Unlocatable copyright owners,” 2001)

Video game content falls under “fixed communication signals” and this section entitles individuals on a case-by-case basis to pursue before the Copyright Board of Canada licenses to utilize such works. For audio-visual material, de Beer and Bouchard state that the common practice is to provide a license until the work enters the public domain (de Beer & Bouchard, p. 23). This seems to solve the issue that video games in cartridge form have and the role librarians have in preserving this content and promoting access, except that such appeals to the Copyright Board require significant investments of both time and money that it becomes prohibitive to do so when dealing with such a large body of works which have fallen into such a state.

The Problem of Numbers, Quantity, Time and Cost:

With hundreds of gaming titles potentially subject to such considerations individuals or groups would need to petition on a case by case basis. One may be able to group titles when they were made by the same developer but even this can be problematic as the creators of copyrighted material are not necessarily the last holders of the copyright. This is complicated further by the notion that such lots of copyright are not necessarily kept together during sales and might be parceled out to potential buyers. If librarians seek to preserve this content they must expend considerable resources which are not normally available to secure decisions from the Copyright Board.

In cases where time is the issue, de Beer and Bouchard detail, “Section 66.51 of the Copyright Act provides that the Copyright Board may, on application, issue interim decisions…. the Board has taken the view that the wording of subsection 70.7(2) of the Act is wide enough to allow the Board to address the situation promptly, while reserving its final decision on some of the details raised by the application” (de Beer & Bouchard, p. 23). Such decisions have usually been used to justify going to print on time for example, and are not necessarily ‘carte blanche’ to appeal for expedited interim licensing for software while the court debates the degree to which the individual or organization has sought out the owner of the copyright (de Beer & Bouchard, p. 23).

Librarians Seek to Provide Access to Information:

Attempts at dealing with these issues stay in line with librarian’s efforts to promote access and attempt to keep information readily available to the public while respecting the role of copyright law and the rights of copyright holders. With the current model that Canada employs, which is argued to be among the best in the world for dealing with such cases, it is still extremely unlikely that librarians will be able to secure such rights and provide access to this body of works before time literally erasing them from memory. As champions of preservation and access to information librarians have made it their duty to secure the legacy of past media and information and many seek to continue this trend in regards to this precarious element.

Libraries the world over have begun to recognize the need to preserve this content and have made efforts to do so. The Library of Congress has been collecting video games for a number of years and now receive copies of every title released in America in every format by the publishers as a courtesy. Stanford University boasts a previously unsurpassed collection of interactive media content and initiatives like the Preserving Virtual Worlds project  have sought to develop strategies aimed at preservation and conservation of the media. While Stanford and the Library of Congress have developed imaginative means of keeping hardware operational despite aging and obsolete technology, they have not had to tackle the problems related to the reproduction of such content and what this means in terms of copyright infringement.

The Preserving Virtual Worlds project report of 2010 did explicitly deal with this issue. They state the challenges faced by libraries clearly,

Copyrights held by corporations endure for up to 120 years, and under the DMCA cultural heritage institutions enjoy no special privileges. A video game console generation typically lasts less than a decade. We are currently in the 7th generation of consoles, and personal computers have evolved in equally dramatic ways since Apple II and Commodore 64 began saturating the home PC market. Given the difficulty of identifying and obtaining permission from the current rights holders of older video games, this translates into libraries risking fines of $200-150, 000 per game were they to migrate their collection of classic software from 3.5″ floppy disks to images stored on hard drives, an act comparable to rebinding a book or creating an access copy of a manuscript (McDonough & Olendorf, p. 52).

Problems with Patents:

The report goes on to explore the issues with patents on hardware which limit access for the protection of intellectual property that has long since been obsolete in the traditional marketplace. For instance, the report cites the Vectorex console released in 1982 which was very unique in its use of vector graphics and was first to market a 3D peripheral (McDonough & Olendorf, p. 53). The console itself had an extremely limited time on the market and even less so for its 3D peripheral resulting in a rarity of hardware with which to access any surviving software. Luckily the 20 year patent ran out and an enterprising individual managed to construct hardware for sale to allow collections to have access to his landmark piece (McDonough & Olendorf, p. 53).

Troubles with Trademarks:

Beyond this, truly iconic characters are often trademarked, and trademarks are able to subsist as long as it is used and protected (McDonough & Olendorf, p. 53). This is not an issue for “Orphan Works” since the very fact that it has been orphaned implies it is no longer protected or used, and often such profitable characters and stories are carried forth by their companies in re-releases like those available on the Nintendo Wii shop. This is not always the case though. One need only look to the successful Legend of Zelda series to see an example of works that contain trademarked material but will never be resurrected. The series began on the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES for short, and was an immediate success prompting a number of games which carried on the story of the characters in that universe. These classic tales have seen resurrection on the Wii shop, on handheld gaming devices like the Nintendo DS or in special limited edition re-release bundles. The stories that have consistently been left out of the equation are those that were produced on the Phillips CD-i system in 1993. These forgotten siblings will never see a reproduction because Nintendo gave the rights for their use to Phillips as a concession when they wished to break a contract they had held with Phillips (Gametrailers.com, 2013). As such, their use in a reproduction would have to negotiate between these two parties and the terms of the original contract. Such instances of licensed use become a problem unto themselves that then require renewed contract negotiations and expense that will likely prevent them ever seeing reproduction, especially when it is not commercially viable like in the case of the Phillips CD-i series of the Legend of Zelda games. Librarians and curators seeking to preserve such games are forced to hope that the obsolete formats for which the content is contained last as long as possible so that they can remain accessible to patrons in the only format they will likely ever be in.

Technology Can Provide the Answer, But May It?

Issues of copyright, trademark, and patents stand as obstacles to the preservation efforts of those interested in providing access into the future, not to mention trade secrets and licensing regulations. Librarians have made efforts to collect and preserve content like at Stanford or the Library of Congress, but are often stymied by the laws that exist to protect Intellectual Property holders rights. Due to the considerations of the mediums in which this media exists, efforts to promote access by librarians and others are forced to fight against the clock to save what can be saved. A great triage is taking place in terms of what content can and should be fought over to secure the licensing requirements to transfer this media. The most common form of transfer is a form of reverse engineering which is termed emulation.

Creating emulators to allow access to video games is a tricky legal proposition which has generally fallen under fair use provisions but always runs the risk of overstepping into some form of infringement of copyright, trademarks, patents or other such intellectual property laws. The Preserving Virtual Worlds final report details fair use cases like Sega Enterprises Ltd. v. Accolade Inc. and Sony Computer Entertainment v. Connectix Corp. in which emulation was deemed to be a legal activity and was analyzed via the four factor test for fair use provisions (McDonough & Olendorf, p. 54). Due to the precarious legal nature of emulation and the risk that any emulation could result in court cases this still does not solve the problem of wanting to legally preserve this content and promote its access for future generations.

            What Can Librarians Do?

For librarians seeking to promote access to these works many options now present themselves. Librarians can perform searches as master searchers and fulfill the due diligence requirement in attempting to locate the respective owner of the work. Librarians could spearhead efforts to reform existing legislation to include exemptions expanding the fair use/fair dealing allowances for such works as culturally, historically or educationally significant. Librarians can take the lead in acting as the agents of users in providing access to these works, and, if need be, ride out the legal fallout like what was done in cases like CCH Canadian Limited v. Law Society of Upper Canada. Librarians can petition for individual cases to be seen before the Copyright Board of Canada to slowly gain access to the body of works with “Unlocatable Owners” in time at great expense of time and money. Currently legislation around the globe often tries to address the issue by; reducing risk of infringement when due diligence has been performed in searching, exempting users entirely if they have performed an adequate search, or, to represent “Unlocatable Owners” in some form of collective which can then extend some form of collective licensing agreement on behalf of the absent owner (de Beers & Bouchard, p. 7). Ultimately any change is going to be hard fought, as with anything in Copyright Law reform, to win access for patrons and to preserve the cultural, artistic and historical elements of these works.

Social Media Presence

I know my next was supposed to be focused on Video Games but I have opted to put that aside will I finish up some research and write several papers based on that research of this topic. I do promise that at the end of this post there will be something fun for your to explore, so stay tuned! In the mean time I would like to address another question that is often raised, is it appropriate to use social media in a professional setting like on a blog?

This site deals with professional issues in a (hopefully) fun atmosphere exploring issues I think are interesting. While serving as a jumping off point for my own interests and research I also try to maintain a professional discussion and my social media devices are utilized with these ideas in mind. The social media that I have connected to the blog are Pinterest, Goodreads and Twitter. I would like to explore why I choose each of these and then discuss some that were not chosen.

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For those who do not use Pinterest this site is basically a collection of pictures, videos and links to other media that can be ‘pinned’ to your ‘boards’ to start to build collections and to share with others. I was introduced to the utility of the site when my Fiance began to plan our wedding through a careful perusal of the service’s content. Pinterest was chosen because it can be useful for organizing ideas and showcasing my interests. I did not link an account to the blog as of yet, although there is one in the works, but I have allowed users to share my blog posts via Pinterest to reach another area of potential readers. With something like Pinterest it becomes difficult at times to justify its presence in a professional setting because it lacks many of the more advanced networking tools, is not recognized as a professional site and often has other content far outside the niche that this blog is designed to fill. These weaknesses are apparent but they are easily circumvented for professional use. Pinterest is often linked to various individual’s Facebook accounts and can allow you to add another area of inter-connectivity with the powerful networking tool that is Facebook without actually utilizing Facebook itself. Pinterest can be used for this blog to illustrate examples of video games and other media that I will discuss from time to time and through careful collection development within the site can remain informative, on point and professional.

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Goodreads is a site which can serve as a powerful readers advisory tool. You begin by selecting works that you have read, want to read or do not want to read and a taste profile is built around your specific interests. The site allows you to read reviews and summations of the works and can be very informative for someone in this field who wants to become exposed to a wide array of books but does not have the time to read them all. By adding Goodreads to my blog it showcases to others where my own interests lie, what background I may have in certain areas and can also serve to help me find more information in the constantly evolving and changing field of readers advisory. 

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Twitter is a site that allows for you to ‘tweet’ broadcasts with no more than 140 characters but that can include links to articles, photos, documents, videos and more. Most professional organizations have a Twitter account as it has become more commonplace to utilize the device to get information out rapidly to large sections of the population via their ‘newsfeed’. Recently the power of Twitter used responsibly was shown during the Calgary floods. Naheed Nenshi, Calgary’s Mayor, utilized the service to great effect to broadcast warnings and updates reaching large sections of the population. (For those who are unaware of this story the three links in the previous sentence barely scratch the surface of the outpouring of support for the man.) Twitter has gained in popularity because it has taken hold of large sects of the population and allowed organizations to advertise, broadcast and inform those that care to follow them. Cutting advertising budgets and reaching new demographics where they already operate it is a powerful tool in the hands of the right operator. The weakness of the site remains that people have to take an interest in you in order to seek out what you have to say and it is often used as a grounds for verbal debasement and ridicule. In choosing this social media I had to consider how often I would use the service, who I would want to follow myself and how I might deal with ridicule, harassment or otherwise unproductive comments. My plan going forward is to merely block those that seek to debase the service and embrace those that add to the quality of the discussions that take place there. 

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Facebook, LinkedIn and other such networking sites can often become a maze of personal information and privacy concerns, resulting in trying to seek a balance of exposure when you wish to embrace it and privacy when you do not. While there are tools they provide to accomplish this task I find that I can use services like Pinterest or Twitter to accomplish nearly the same result with far less hassle. Recently I did an evaluation of LinkedIn as an employment resource and found that simply in creating an account I had to provide several means of verifying my identity that I did not feel comfortable sharing with the service. Beyond that I found that far too few people who I would prefer to network with avoid the site. 

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Facebook, like LinkedIn, allows for networking but is often used for more of a personal nature. It can be handy to keep in contact with people who are far flung and disparate, and in my personal life I utilize it for this, but on a professional level I prefer to steer clear of openly utilizing it. Often people speak about having to remove photos and to clean up or hide content so that others do not see it and these ideas exist because the site is so heavily polluted with personal content. Often, if a profile allows you to see it, it has been staged in such a manner that it serves as a self promotion tool or vanity project. Some people may find that this is useful for their ends but I prefer to avoid the entire issue itself and use my other services to fulfill my needs. 

 

 

And now to fulfill my promise, I introduce you to the wide world of book carving art! Follow the links for more pictures and information!

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Work by artist Guy Laramee.

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Both works taken from Guy Laramee’s Great Wall series.

A great article on Book Carving can be found here. Hope you enjoyed this little reward for reading through my discussion of the merits of social media use in professional blogs.

 

More Video Games!

The feedback I have received so far indicates my most popular post is the one related to Video Games and Digital Preservation efforts. I have extended my discussion to include some literature about efforts underway, challenges faced and what librarians can do to help! Beyond that I have also stumbled across several watershed moments in copyright law including one substantial case dealing with fair use within the industry (hint: Stubborn Ape… for those of you who know their gaming lore). On top of that I would like to talk about some of the rarest games in existence and how such cases have been resolved or not in terms of preservation into the future. All this and more coming in next weeks post!

And now for something just too awesome not to post, sorry its so far after Halloween!

Be careful what you wish for Cimmerian!

Be careful what you wish for Cimmerian!

Doctor Who fans out there? The 23rd can not come fast enough!

Doctor Who fans out there? The 23rd can not come fast enough!

 

1947 Vocational Guidance Film On Librarianship

I found this video intriguing for its historical perspective on how librarianship has developed as a profession and the hang ups that have been developed over the years.

In watching this you are immediately struck by its age and lack of what we would now say is professional behavior. Obviously this view of librarianship doesn’t qualify the vocation as one of professional standing, but that whole argument is tired and overdone. Instead I believe people like Roma Harris understood the real source of hang ups that have followed librarians around forever.

Enough with the stereotype already.

Enough with the stereotype already.

Women. Because of the professions association with being a woman’s trade it has often been devalued in society as women too have been devalued. It is not surprising that a video released in 1947 would have a man speaking about what it means to be a librarian to an audience which would have been mostly women. Women of that era had grown up with so many male voices directing their behavior and claiming to understand more about women than women themselves.

An ironic statement coming from a man? Maybe. Nevertheless, I believe that as society has changed so too have the roles of women and traditional disadvantaged positions in society have diminished. Clearly we haven’t corrected the situation to the point where we can talk about women as if disadvantaged positions are a thing of the past. I don’t see that resolution coming within my lifetime, but I do hope for true equality with all my heart. No, the changes we have seen have been mostly for in your face blatant sexism. Women can vote and choose how to control their bodies and have equal status in society, homes and families, at least under the eyes of the law (Remember my caveat that although I address change I do not consider this process finished or even nearing completion) Some things that haven’t changed are the hang-ups that associate diminished positions within an organization with feminized trades. (Again, this is inspired by Roma Harris and not my own theory, but I would like to discuss it anyways, but buy her book if you like the discussion)

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In what follows I will be speaking about traditionally held female dominated positions within the workforce. I am in no way implying that women are solely meant to work in this capacity or that such positions cannot be held by men or any such ridiculous and outmoded thought.

In every position which society has attached the connotation of femininity it has also subtlety undermined its authority, prestige and allure. If one looks to nurses, they are seen as subordinate to doctors. The belief that women are caring, maternal figures became attached to nursing in such a way that those traits became desirable, much like in the video in regards to Librarians. For secretaries there was an association with the domestic duties of household management and the duties of organizing an office. These traits have embedded themselves so deeply within the profession that they become a permanent fixture in how society thinks about these positions. Entering library school as a man I would often be asked why I would go down this path and wasn’t that normally the job of women? Blinded with rage I might have replied or I might have went Hulk Smash, who knows.

Actual image of me, I work out and eat my green veges.

Actual image of me, I work out and eat my green veges.

Is it important that we address the feminization of the field someone might ask? Traits like caring for other human beings and loving working with children and whatever role-driven associations the mind can create for librarianship as feminized, they are not negative traits. In fact many are extremely positive, so where is the problem? The problem is that the feminization of the field has resulted in disparities and inequalities. Until extremely recently, the vast majority of public library upper management positions in the US had been held by men, while the field is predominantly women. These demographics have still not equalized in terms of the proportions of genders doing the job of librarian and upper management and those in the positions. Further, pay discrepancies exist between genders doing the same work, with men making more than women on average. These trends are not what one would expect if comparing two samples that held no previous or underlying bias/discriminatory practices.

How do we change this? Well for one, we need to stop talking about the discrepancies and begin to address them. If two people are doing the same job they deserve the same wage, no arguments. Further, admissions to upper management should be based solely on merit, skill and education. This needs to be regardless of gender. I truly believe that the ratios of men and women in the field will improve in time, as those of nurses have, with male nurses making headway into becoming a norm. Further, I believe that the management principles which are being used in the institutions need to be appraised for their accuracy and legitimacy. Any management principle which seeks to differentiate the ways in which men and women are viewed in the workplace needs to be thrown out and discontinued, regardless of its entrenchment in the organizational culture. We need to appraise the ways in which we are educating the Librarians of the future. If Librarians are trained to think critically and with an open mind about these issues they will often make the right choice, and if they don’t well then I believe the society of tomorrow will uproot them like a bad weed and cast them out. We should have no time or patience for such thinking.

I believe the professions’ long history of feminization is not a bad thing in and of itself, but when it is used to justify or support inequality we must recognize the distinction and oppose that inequality.

Lest We Forget

Today I would like to take the time to thank all those currently serving and who have served in the past. I know this is cliche but I do feel it is important. It is on days like this that I wish I was again there beside my loved ones currently serving. All the best to our men and women of the Armed Forces, may we never again see wars as we have in the past.

I think this is obligatory to reflect on:

In Flanders Fields by Lt. Colonel John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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Digital Preservation Efforts at Library of Congress

I came across an interesting blog which dealt with an issue near and dear to my own heart, video game preservation. The Library of Congress, through a new copyright deal as of 2006, now receives a copy (sometimes multiple copies if on different platforms) of new released video games. They also have a back catalog of video games dating to 1990. The article listed here, was actually an interview between a blogger, Trevor Owens, and a Moving Image technician with the Library of Congress, David Gibson.

I have begun my own collection of video games starting in 1985 and moving forward, securing platforms and accessories to complete the collection. My biggest challenge with this collection is the means by which I can ensure that this digital media continues to work into the future. I have stored the games in a temperature controlled environment, I have kept them free from dust and dirt as best as is possible and I routinely clean them with a non-alcohol based cleaning product to ensure no damage to the electronics. Even still as time wears on things inevitably break or become so increasingly difficult to use that they might as well be broken.

My personal goal is to find a way of backing up this information that does not violate any copyright infringement but rather seeks to ensure the preservation of the games for historical significance into the future. David Gibson speaks to the need for game companies to have the foresight to offer up their source code to the LOC as a means of digital preservation for the back catalog of games. This would have to be highly secured and only accessible by the developer themselves or whoever owns the rights to the game at the given time. In such a chaotic world when markets can drive developers out of business and these materials can be lost forever, I feel its only prudent that measures be taken so that we can be playing Pong in the year 2100.

The world of video game collections is often not simply about the preservation of the electronic media but also about acquiring the rare art or rare released versions of the game. These are less likely to offer different game play, especially the farther back in time one goes, but they do offer something significant nonetheless. Examples of this can be seen in the Original Mega Man for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The north american version has a man holding a pistol on the label of the front of the game box where the japanese version depicts a more realistic portrayal of the 8 bit incarnation inspired by anime artwork.

Box inserts are often also nearly as valuable if not more so. The original Legend of Zelda released in 1985 on a gold cartridge came complete with a map of the game world to help users orient themselves. This insert was often lost and in many cases damaged or destroyed.

The box that games came in are every bit as valuable as well, offering some special artwork that exists nowhere else or that has labels and stickers of the day with special meaning to collectors and enthusiasts. My own collection has started to reconstitute as much of this extra material as possible.

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Something I found interesting about the Library of Congress was that they have been saving Video Game Strategy Guides as well. These books still exist today but they have lost much of the power they once had. When Nintendo first released the NES there were no internet cheat codes or strategy tutorials available. Often gamers would have to discover hidden secrets themselves and then word of mouth carried these secrets around social groups. As print media began to be released to accompany the works there was an increased interest in getting the edge from these gamer guides to tackle the often very difficult games of the day. One example of this can be linked to The Legend of Zelda and naming your character Zelda, which would automatically change the location of all the levels in the game and increase the difficulty.

It is a thing of beauty isn't it?

It is a thing of beauty isn’t it?

In Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, later re-released as Punch Out due to legal issues with the name usage, gamers would receive a password upon completing a level. Accompanying many of these old game guides are scribbled alpha numeric codes like some sort of lost secret language.

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The challenge in trying to preserve this content is also that many of the older works especially utilized different technologies, often in a trial format, or with a short expected lifespan. The Legend of Zelda for example used a battery backed save feature as opposed to the password style of other games. This was a requirement for the game because of the individualized elements of an RPG (collecting items in game was done independent of the dungeon levels oftentimes and wouldn’t have saved these additions) That battery backed save feature means that any of those games today cannot possibly work with the original battery, as its charge has long since drained. It is possible to open the cartridge and change the battery, but it can be damaging to the game and could result in it failing to work ever again.

These challenges are just the ones, largely, facing NES products from 1985. If I were to discuss the issues facing my PC games I would have to break those down into collections of years launched and for what Operating System they were intended, as many will not work due to no longer being supported on new systems. Others no longer have the proper drives commonly available, as floppy disks and hard disks have fallen from use.

Disks

In the interview with David Gibson he details how the Library of Congress does not keep any video game platforms on site but rather just the games themselves. The challenges of merely attempting to keep the video game collections together is challenging enough without the platforms maintenance as well.

Library of Congress has selected their catalog from those materials received prior to 2006 around two general lines; educational and controversial materials. My own collection seeks to be built around the entertainment offered by the games rather than the educational or controversial, although holdings which represent these fields are rather common as well.

In developing and building my collection I began with the idea of reconstructing a collection which contained those games which I had found entertaining as a child. From there I began to include those materials which I did not personally own but had wanted to play but didn’t have access for one reason or another. Then I began to incorporate those works which I had found to be upheld as ‘classics’, ‘iconic’ or which began or represented a prominent series.

I often wax poetic about the ‘good olde days’ of gaming when I was a child and try to introduce the youth of today to the roots of many of the franchises they love to play. I feel that there is something that can be learnt from the lessons that these games teach us about the evolution of the market and of the culture.

So I will keep collecting and keep hoping that David Gibson and the good work that is being done at the Library of Congress continues my own private mission. I would like to see game companies volunteer their source code their back catalog to LOC as a means of digital preservation to be stored under lock and key, but this is most likely a pipe dream.

(Further reading on the history of video games, with special attention paid to console games, see http://thegaminghistorian.com/)

Value Statements

We have spent a lot of time discussing the core values a librarian should have and what the statements of organizations like the ALA, OLA and IFLA all stress in this regard. In reflecting on this I have created a value statement which will be attached to this post. Before getting to that I would like to collect my thoughts and maybe detail some of the topics that we have covered which have inspired the creation of this document.

Our classes have tackled seminal issues and turning points within the history of librarianship. In reading about these ideas, notions and events I began to conceive of librarianship as composed of various facets.

The students in my cohort have explored the debates about what it means to be a profession for example. In discussing this there seemed to be much disagreement still as to what constituted a profession or whether that term had any real meaning anymore. From this I internalized the need for a fixed ethics which is entrenched.

Reading Habermas and exploring the notion of the public sphere I came to believe that the public library has an obligation as the last true bastion of the public sphere to provide free and open access to all. Further, the library should embrace the purpose for which it was originally intended, as a means to educate and inform the electorate. I think I should temper this statement by stating that I do not believe it is the role of librarians to tell people how to vote or to influence them to vote one way over another. I believe that instead libraries should offer their space and materials to provide the means for others to seek government office, for grassroots movements to begin, for discussion to take place.

After reading Birdsall and others on neutrality it spawned discussion among the students about the nature of neutrality and the role of libraries and staff. The works all failed to even explain what they believed neutrality meant. I came away believing that true neutrality is not an option and that it does not even exist. Everyone has a context they find themselves situated within and it becomes impossible to remove oneself from it. That does not mean we cannot try. John Rawl’s argued that the individual could imagine themselves behind a veil of ignorance. I think that as library professionals we must often recognize our own bias, our own contextualized situation and then we must make a conscious effort to combat this. In order to strive to be fair, balanced, just or whatever word we use for it we must first make the effort to recognize our own situation and then to try and imagine ourselves from another’s perspective as Rawls suggests. In this we are not true neutral, but rather we are consciously trying to recognize bias and to fight it.

Other discussions and classes swirled about in my thoughts. I thought about the rights afforded to not only every citizen, but rather every human being as such to have free and open access to educational materials. I thought about the need to embrace diversity and to seek out other perspectives. I thought about the restrictions of age, gender, race, creed, sexual orientation or whatever it may be and how these need to be abolished and thrown down. I thought about how that view is itself a particular biased perspective. I thought about how my own moral compass tends to drive my sense of equality to one broader than a cultural or social context, but rather based in a true equality of human beings as such.

The work became an amalgamation of various ethical beliefs and precepts that I hold myself and my profession to. It represents a piece of my own ethics made manifest and driven by the discussions of those around me. It is highly idealized and optimistic, but then again, so am I.

Without further adieu, my value statement.

Value Statement

Unsaid in those value statements is any discussion about the joys of reading and of instilling those in others. I believe that those are so firmly entrenched in the very fabric of what it is to be a librarian that they can go without being said but I place this disclaimer because that will most likely be the first comment detraction. If a librarian does not have a joy of reading and if they cannot instill that in others, then they have entered the wrong field and no amount of professional development or commitments to excellence can ever change that.

FIMS at UWO Gets a New Home

News came out today that the University of Western Ontario’s FIMS will be moving to a new location. While speculation had been flying about where that location would be it now seems as though firm details have been established. Below is a picture of the new location under construction where FIMS will share its home with the Nursing program rather than its current neighbors, Biology.

Looks pretty breezy...

Looks pretty breezy…

Looking forward to our new home! I will update with new pictures as the building continues.