Recent recommended reads: governance, geography, feminism

In an era of disinformation, educating yourself and others is an act of resistance 🙂 Here are my recent highly recommended reads:

The Blunders of Our Governments by Anthony King and Ivor Crewe [publisher | WorldCat] – gives an overview of some examples of bad government decision-making, and then outlines the circumstances which allowed these blunders to happen.  There are lessons here for all organisations – for example:

  • Brainstorming Murphy’s Law – think about all the things that can go wrong, and plan for them.
  • Objection is often misconstrued as obstruction – listen to criticisms and pay attention to potential pitfalls.
  • Ensure that the people responsible for the idea are accountable for the outcome.
  • Rather than just focusing on lauding innovations, which may be poorly thought-out or badly delivered, reward those whose initiatives are still in place several years down the line.

Prisoners of Geography: ten maps that tell you everything you need to know about global politics by Tim Marshall [publisher | WorldCat] – a fascinating tour of how physical geography influences borders and nations.  “Strip out the lines of nation states, and the map Ivan the Terrible confronted is the same one Vladimir Putin is faced with to this day.”

Men explain things to me by Rebecca Solnit [publisher | WorldCat] – I would particularly recommend this 2014 edition, with its beautiful paintings by Ana Teresa Fernandez.  Seven essays on the theme of gender and power – essential reading for everyone.

Licences for e-resources

I made these notes from Essential law for information professionals by Paul Pedley (3rd edition) – it’s great, buy your own copy!  See also this post on other things I learned from this book.

Key issues to consider when negotiating an e-resource licence

  • Applicable law – preferably the national law of where your organisation is located
  • Ensure that statutory rights are recognised – licence should include a term like this:

This agreement is without prejudice to any acts which the licensee is permitted to carry out by the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and nothing herein shall be construed as affecting or diminishing such permitted acts in any way whatsoever

  • Perpetual access to the licenced materials – check for “on termination of this licence, the publisher shall provide continuing access for authorised users to that part of the licenced materials which was published and paid for within the subscription period”.  Nature allows post-cancellation access rights subject to the payment of an annual access fee
  • Warranty and indemnities – the licence should contain a clear warranty that the publisher/licensor is the owner of the intellectual property rights in the licenced materials and/or that they have the authority to grant the licence.
  • End-users – the library should not incur legal liability for each and every infringement by an authorised user
  • Non-cancellation clauses – e.g. no penalty for cancelling print in order to sign up to the electronic version of an information source
  • Non-disclosure clauses – if the licence contains a non-disclosure clause, it needs to be clear what information is subject to the obligation of confidence and you need to decide whether this is reasonable.  Public authorities need to bear in mind their obligation under the FOIA, and vendors need to recognise that public authorities can’t simply ‘contract out’ of their FOIA obligations
  • Termination clause – which sets out the mechanism or circumstances in which the licence terminates
  • Reasonable endeavours’ and ‘best endeavours’ clauses – these are ambiguous and should be avoided.  The difference: ‘reasonable’ = probably requires the relevant party to take one reasonable course; ‘best’ = probably requires the party to take all reasonable courses they can.  If these phrases are used, make sure that the contract expressly spells out a specific set of steps that the person subject to the obligation is required to do as part of using their reasonable or best endeavours to perform the obligation

If 3 months’ notice of cancellation is require for e-resources licences, consider handing in the notice of cancellation with signed contract, to ensure maximum flexibility when the licence agreement is due for renewal.

The British Library carried out an analysis of 100 licences that had been offered to them, and compared them using the following criteria: archiving, printing, downloading and electronic copying, fair dealing, visually impaired, inter-library loan and legal exceptions.  It includes the wording used in the contracts, which makes for interesting comparisons!

IFLA’s licensing principles which should prevail in the contractual relationship and written contracts between libraries and information providers.

It’s important for both sides to be clear about what they are trying to achieve and be upfront about what is non-negotiable.

Factors that can make or break a deal

  • Applicable law
  • Warranties and indemnities
  • Remote access
  • Price
  • Access by walk-in users
  • Inter-library loan
  • Fair use
  • Archival access/perpetual rights
  • Adequate definition of authorised users
  • IP access
  • Definition of university/campus as a single site

Bear in mind usage data.  Do you get automatic admin rights to this info and in a format you require?  If not, put a clause in the contract requiring the vendor to supply you with usage data on a regular basis.  This will help you spot patterns including suspiciously high use from one particular user.

Essential law for information professionals

I’ve recently enjoyed reading Paul Pedley’s book, Essential law for information professionals (3rd edition).  Best read a chapter at a time, it gives a practical introduction to the many areas of law you may encounter in your work in an information context.  I particularly liked how he used examples of real cases to illustrate how library staff have become embroiled in legal action and what the outcomes and learning points were.

Here are some of my gleanings:

  • Do you know the difference between R and TM? ® is a registered trade mark and ™ is an unregistered trade mark
  • You can search the Data Protection public register here
  • An escrow agreement is recommended if using cloud computing services – it is an agreement to require the service provider to deposit their source code and related materials with a neutral third party.  If release conditions are triggered (e.g. service provider goes into administration) the customer can access the application, their own proprietary data and intellectual property which supports the software as a service solution [SaaS].
  • And finally, a separate post about e-resource licences

When preparing notes for this post, I was worried that I might be infringing copyright law (how ironic) but decided in the end that since I have given full attribution and that I have only referred to a few short sections of the book (less than a chapter or 5%), it would probably be ok.