Event Recap: Why Trust a Corporation to Do a Library’s Job?

Although people are increasingly turning to Google to search for information, a corporate search engine is not the same as a trusted librarian. And while libraries are used to buying and preserving books, they are now often unable to buy and own digital materials because of publisher licensing restrictions.

The tension between the interests of business and the public was the focus of a conversation hosted by the Internet Archive and Library Futures on April 28. Wendy Hanamura moderated the event with guest panelists Joanne McNeil, author of Lurking: How a Person Became a User; Darius Kazemi, an internet artist and cofounder of Feel Train, a creative technology cooperative in Portland, Oregon; and Jennie Rose Halperin, executive director of Library Futures.

A recording of the event is now available:

Doing an online Google search can feel private because you are doing it alone at home, but corporations are accumulating your information and using it, said McNeil. The tools involved are imperfect and there are trade-offs involved.

“The experiences that a user has on the internet can be quite profound, creative, and very human,” McNeil said. “But to participate with a lot of the social media and websites, especially nowadays, you are dealing with corporations and you don’t have the elements of control.”

In Lurking, McNeil traces the evolution of the internet and how it has profoundly changed the way people communicate. She also examines concerns that people have online including privacy, safety, identity and anonymity. In the book, McNeil contrasts the short-term memories of companies with the preservation mission and public accountability of libraries.

Kazemi noted that working with librarians on research there is an understanding of privacy—something that is lacking when engaging online. “It’s a totally different accountability chain,” he said.

Rather than giving your personal information away on a social media network, Kazemi advocates having individuals or even libraries maintain small, independently-run online communities (see https://runyourown.social).

“Facebook can’t understand norms of what passes for civic discourse in every location on the planet. It’s impossible,” Kazemi said. “Libraries already spend time thinking about the norms of their communities,” making it natural to have content moderation at the local level.

Halperin said it’s important for public libraries to have autonomy to be able to fulfill their mission. Her work with the nonprofit Library Futures centers on advocacy for an equitable publishing ecosystem that serves authors, users and communities.

“Artificial scarcity that’s put on digital objects—as a way to create a market for digital books—is really hurting the public,” she said. “I think it’s one of the most important consumer protection issues right now.”

McNeil said the best thing to happen to her, as an author, is for people to read her book. Whether buying or borrowing from a library (in print or electronically), she wants to reach the largest audience.

The panelists said by working together, libraries can provide tools that reflect the public’s values and teach users smart digital citizenship. When corporations control what people have access to in searching, they are embedding bias into the distribution of information, said Halperin. “Libraries must engage in more than just individual information seeking needs, but also in the information seeking needs of communities.”

4 thoughts on “Event Recap: Why Trust a Corporation to Do a Library’s Job?

  1. Adam S Yik

    “The tension between the interests of business and the public was the focus of a conversation hosted by the Internet Archive and Library Futures on April 28.”
    “Artificial scarcity ”

    It’s Capitalism. I’ve seen this happen a LOT in the games industry. Jim sterling, YongYea and many others have pointed out their questionable, anti-consumer practices:

    -Microtransaction and loot boxes. They are even advertised to children, EA’s FIFA series, for example, were rated E for everyone and pegi rated 3+. The hugest one was 2017 with that star wars game. A lot of times these “create a problem and sell the solution”.

    Nintendo’s behavior:
    -Controversial business practice: Limited releases. Since Super Mario 3D all stars was questionable because they pulled a Disney vault, for BOTH the physical AND digital versions of the game. It is unreasonable because the digital version does not require labor to make additional copies unlike the physical cartridge.
    -Advertising on Lego Mario. On a recent update, this electronic toy device that resemble an iconic mascot of the company started advertising kids to get a Luigi version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOqLwh97PkU , on top of their mobile games are straight-up a cash grab.

  2. kazi foysal alam

    If you are doing any research, search engines become an option. However, this can lead to problems. The use of a corporation for your library needs can turn things around. Here, we discuss; why trust a corporation to do a library’s job.
    For anyone who decides to focus on a corporation to help in library work, privacy is enhanced. The team hired ensures your work and anything else stays private. Clients can rely on the corporation for accountability when things go wrong. For online searches, you are exposed to anyone out there.
    The corporations will ensure your private information does not find its way on social circles. The systems employed will ensure only a few individuals helping get your info.
    If you outsource your library needs to corporations, you access different tools that are vital to your needs.

  3. Arsadul

    The library has been a source of information and knowledge of people for a very long time. But nowadays the corporation like google are taking over the place as a source of information. But nowadays Google has taken over as not only a search engine but as a sole provider of information to the people. Which is not good for any corporation to do so. Google or any corporation can take advantage of this situation and can manipulate the information according to their easement which shouldn’t occur under any circumstances. So library provides the feeling of closeness in the society along with the free flow of ideas and information. But the library has to act according to the time to interact with more members, library can create an online forum for its members where they can ask the librarian or can discuss among the members, which will be more beneficial and reliable than the corporation.

  4. Presh

    I understand the concern about the sweeping of copyright Reform Proposal

    But all I can say is that since DMCA will change rules that govern the internet, and this might have some consequences for the internet information ecosystem the only answer to this That important of sweeping proposals like this cannot be passed just like that.. it will most definitely will affect big tech and big content but although the rule help internet user. Let’s just wait and see how everything plays out in the future

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