Recently, one of our teachers inquired about the copyright legality of using Netflix in the classroom. I queried my twitter network to see what the general librarian consensus was as well, because I suspected it was probably against Netflix terms of service (which it is) for reasons I couldn’t quite explain, so I turned to my network for help.
The discussion that ensued demonstrated yet again how nebulous and confusing the whole notion of copyright is in regards to schools anymore. For one thing, I wish Netflix did provide for corporate accounts or the ability to use it “legally” in schools, but I have no doubt that soon it or a service like it will offer that sort of subscription service. (Librarians and teachers–time to lobby Netflix for just such a thing?)
But out of the conversation rose an even more concerning/challenging question in my mind. The rapidity with which what it means to be called a library is changing is stunning. In the year it took to build our new library, for example, nonfiction reference went into sharp decline. Kindles and Nooks appeared, then iPads, changing the notion of what it could mean to “lend” materials; e-books have made a comeback after the earlier successes of Netlibrary. And then services like United Streaming (education) and Netflix (commercial) became more available over the web, through new iPad apps….and then the burning question to me becomes–
What does “collection development” (a librariany term) even mean for a school librarian anymore?
It’s a deeply challenging, complex, and somewhat troubling notion that can strike at the heart of our librarian identity.
So perhaps it is time we turn the notion of “collection development” into “connection development.” And wasn’t that always really the point anyway?–not the collection itself, but the connections it allowed our customers(students, teachers) to make; although the focus has too often been more on the collection than on the people involved. (Consequently decisions are made to preserve libraries but cut staff, expend money on things instead of professional development, and to teach collection development in isolation in MLIS programs.)
But if we move the focus to what the materials allow our students and staff and patrons to do–things begin to make more sense.
Librarians are connectors in many ways. We connect, as I’ve said before, people with ideas, people with people, people with creativity. We connect people and ideas across time and space and geography, just as we always have, except now we can do it “in real time” via Skype or Twitter or Facebook.
Even now that many resources are digital, we do serve as sort of “connection experts”–knowing as many resources as possible to help people more easily find what will serve their needs, whether the resources are print, or increasingly, online.
Even the discussion about Netflix demonstrates the “connection development” role we play–teachers look to us for clarification on issues that these rapid “format” changes bring to their classrooms, and we connect to others to find answers or deepen our own understanding.
Even knowing that, I sometimes get troubled by the complexity of that answer, which isn’t an excuse or justification of libraries or a rationalization, but my real belief in the function that we provide in our schools. Because people don’t like complexity, and particularly policy makers don’t. It’s easy to see everything become digital and ask, somewhat legitimately, what are our libraries for?
A glance into a library, an afternoon spent with a class, a morning spent watching students interact with information explains what libraries and librarians are for, but that takes time and understanding that the complexities of grappling with digital information is just as complex as grappling with print information.
But again, understanding all those complexities takes critical thought and deeper understanding (ironically something librarians endeavor to teach our students), rather than the quick quip about digital learners and a “sink or swim” attitude as far as students go.
And even sitting here, myself a librarian, thinking about the possibility of Netflix streaming into classrooms, about students browsing Google, about the information explosion–I don’t wonder if we are needed, but I wonder how our “mediating” role or connective role changes when the information flows from the source directly to the classroom. It’s a complex question.
I know what we do is needed. But what becomes ever more important is our connection– our connection to our staff and students, our ability to “hook people up” with what they need, our connection to resources of all kinds, and providing others an ability to connect with us in both digital and physical spaces.
We have to break through that barrier where consumers think we are just the purveyors of “stuff”–because it never was really about the “stuff ” anyway. It was about access to ideas–about finding answers–about learning and connection–connection to our present and to our past as a culture.
But we can’t help others see that if we don’t really understand it ourselves.
To see connecting at work, here’s the twitter conversation from Tuesday–(in backwards order):
khokanson @technolibrary that’s why I mentioned license license terms trump fair use I don’t use netflix so dnk their terms
Our Env. Science teacher was using a documentary, for example. @khokanson I tend to agree w/you on the fair use. If instructional…
@technolibrary they are encouraged to use the educational videos available through MediaCast, Facts on File, and Discovery Streaming. about 1 hour ago via TweetDeck in reply to technolibrary buffyjhamilton
@technolibrary If nothing else, I would think these restrictions apply http://dmcordell.blogspot.com/2010/11/copyright-caution.html #tlchat about 1 hour ago via web in reply to technolibrary buffyjhamilton
@technolibrary @joycevalenza @buffyhamilton @khokanson will see if I can find my email about it–not sure if I still have it, but I called. about 1 hour ago via TweetDeck in reply to technolibrary buffyjhamilton
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sliceofdelight/5171549713/sizes/s/in/photostream/