Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Harry Potter versus the Librarians

Via LIS News I read this article about J.K. Rowling, the author of a series of children's novels that have somehow become the touchstone of what passes for culture in this country. I haven't read any of them, because I read only grownup books, but other librarians seem to gobble them up like chocolate, of which they might be the literary equivalent. During the annoying lead up to the release of the final (it is to be hoped) volume of the series, one couldn't escape from morons speculating on, well, whatever it is morons speculate about regarding Harry Potter. And the librarians were the worst.

Now I hope the love affair is over for all you Pottery librarians out there, because Rowling has declared war on the mainstay of our profession--the reference book. She's suing a publisher over a Harry Potter lexicon that she claims violates her intellectual property rights. I guess writing anything about Harry Potter at all is a violation of her property rights, so I hope she doesn't run across this blog and try to sue me. This reference book was written by a librarian, naturally, because who else would think anyone wanted another reference book.

As librarians, we can't tolerate this sort of behavior from mere authors. Doesn't Rowling know that the reference book is sacred to all real librarians? That we think reference books are the most important kinds of books? That if there's no reference book on the subject then as far as we're concerned the subject doesn't really exist?

It was bad enough inflicting so many tedious children's novels upon the world, but now she's gone too far! Librarians should rise up against the oppressive, anti-reference book regime that Rowling would like to see enforced. I expect the ALA to make a stand on this, to put Rowling in her place. After that, I expect librarians to boycott other Rowling works, to toss those Potter books off the shelves and into the pulp machine. We'll teach her not to mess with the librarians.

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ms Rowling has some of the most powerful beings on Earth on her side: her legion of Lawyers from the Dark Side. Voldemort tried to get into that clique but couldn't handle the initiation. He was determined to be too weak and not evil enough. Cross Ms. Rowling and you will feel the wrath or her legal wraiths.

Anonymous said...

AL,
Not surprised you would be attracted to this story - everybody knows anyone who is smart enough to attend library school is also smart enough to get into law school.In fact, in my experience lawyers, former or prospective, make excellent librarians. I disagree on the superiority of reference books over other books - in our library our patrons take out DVD's and use the internet and leave books where they belong, gathering dust on the shelves.
Thanx

Reference Book Reader said...

Given the international dissemination of Ms Rowlings books: I doubt whether this is just a case for ALA: IFLA definitely should be involved too!

We need a world wide campaign in defense of reference books.

Praise and thanks to you, AL, for starting it!

Anonymous said...

We don't need reference books anymore, we have Google. At least that is what my administrator tells me whenever I approach her about increasing our book budget.

Anonymous said...

Shorter AL:

In my day children recited Shakespeare to each other while doing chores and sitting with their hands folded in their laps.

Except ... those ... kids .. GET OFF MY GODDAMN LAWN!

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:33,

Your administrator is more right than you think.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should find out the whole story before commenting that JKR is out to get librarians. The WB and JKR already have many reference and commentary books out there, and they look over/approve about 20 a year; the only reason the WB and JKR are going after this one is because the publisher won't let them see a copy and is claiming 1st Amendment rights. Regardless, you should be one of the first willing to defend an author's right to defend a copyright.

The Topiary Cow said...

Rowling has made an indecent amount of money off her books, and is rewarding the purchasers by:

-forcing us to look at her elderly cleavage in every photo of her

-suing dedicated fans who write books about her book (okay, try to cash in themselves for a teensy piece of the pie)

After people amass a certain amount of riches, they shouldn't be able to make public comments anymore, sue anyone, appear in public at all, and should have the decency to buy some Carribbean Island or something and just go the heck away.

Anonymous said...

Baloney, Anon. 10:20 AM - the only reason JKR is going after THIS particular publisher is because *she* has planned to write a very similar "world-of-Harry-Potter" kind of reference book. Libraries don't have to worry. It's not an intellectual property issue as much as a financial issue. Other books (reference books, even!) have been written about Harry's universe, and not by JKR. The one that she has planned may prove to be the most authoritative, it's true.

But the overriding point is that it will also prove to be the most lucrative. For her.

Reference Book Reader said...

The administrator mentioned above may or may not have a point, but Ms Rowling et al. are not targeting Mr Vander Ark's website (they just give some not very nice judgements concernig it), but they want to prevent the publication of a refernce book printed on paper, suitable to be bound in leather, an item that might be put on the real and ancient shelves of a real and ancient library.

And, yes: in the old days "children recited Shakespeare to each other while doing chores and sitting with their hands folded in their laps." But depending on the edition from which they learned their Shakespeare at heart, wnd on who listened: this might have been a case of copyright infringement even then. Just having their hands folded in their laps didn't make public recitals fair use of protected editions even back then!

Margaret Hurtubise (Ms.) said...

Dear AL: If you haven't already, please direct your full fury at this site: http://pimp-my-library.blogspot.com/

alex said...

I don't know that might be a little too easy and therefore not to satisfying.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...I think the whole Harry Potter thing has pretty much run it's course, I saw the first movie out of curiosity, never felt the need for the sequels or the books.

I think legions of Star Trek fans might disagree on the merits considering the multitudes of Trek reference/fan books out there.

Anonymous said...

In light of the highly positive and profound impact subject guides have on world events as well as the important role a subject guide plays in the lives of "the people", I encourage all of you to construct one for Mr. Harry Potter in wiki.

I also think it's time to get the ACLU in on this one, 'cause Harry is getting jammmed way too often in these here blogs. I believe it's a human rights issue now.

--soren faust

Anonymous said...

Snape Kills Dumbledore!

Anonymous said...

Wow, you're really reaching here. Try finding out the facts before forming an opinion. Here's a great explanation of why Vander Ark's actions are illegal and JKR is basically obligated to defend her intellectual property, for anyone interested in actually finding out what's going on rather than reading AL's uninformed garbage.

Anonymous said...

I see no reason to let facts get in the way of a good rant.


yours truly,


Dahlia Ebbets

The Hag said...

I see many of the people commenting left their sense of humor at the door...not to mention pontificating about things they know nothing about.

Also, I take issue with the idea of 'elderly cleavage' now starting at age 41. When did this happen?

Kevin Musgrove said...

It can't possibly be a *real* reference library book. It isn't twenty years out of date and doesn't cost the equivalent of an emergent nation's annual turnover.

AL said...

Since "Shorter AL" seems to be a frequent commenter, I suggest a challenge. Perhaps "Shorter AL" could occasionally actually provide a shorter AL. It doesn't matter to me, but I just feel embarrassed for librarians with such poor summarizing skills. Perhaps you should write some Choice reviews or something for practice.

As for the great explanation of what's really going on, why would you think I or anyone reading this blog would care? Lighten up, buttercup.

On Tu Luong said...

Returning to the gravity of copyright and intellectual freedom I must say that as a "new 40's" librarian I would consider the "elderly" cleavage of a 41 year old absolutely marvelous. We don't spend all our times with our eyes gooning reference books.

The Topiary Cow said...

Cow apologizes to any 40-something librarians showing their cleavage.

She had no idea Ms. Rowling was only 41---why, she looks so much older!

And, Cow doesn't object to said not-so-elderly-cleavage, it is when said cleavage pops out at public events.

Link to be forthcoming.

Moo!

The Topiary Cow said...

Here's the link to the plunging neckline fiasco:
JK Rowling

Now, that's happened to Cow many times, but you'd think someone with her millions could get a dress that fits.

Moo!

Brent said...

AL,

You should consider emoticons to suggest sarcasm, mood, anger, or whatever.

But I know you are against that, so maybe just endnotes at the end of a post.

Cadzanova said...

Here's the link to the plunging neckline fiasco:
JK Rowling


"...it appears she has attended Hogwart's School of Witchcraft, Wizardry and Wonderbras."

AL said...

Brent, people either get it or they don't. Not every post can be a winner.

Anonymous said...

Dear Annoyed Librarian

I can't seem to find the proper place to send you a message, so this will have to do. After you read this, please, cut it out and use it for

"Dear Annoyed Libraria 13"

You need a little background to understand my point of view. I have a B.S. in Geology. You may ask why on earth I am getting a Master's in L.S., but in no short of terms it is to take advantage of low interest rate student loans to refinance my high interest credit card debt left over form my last semester of undergraduate work. It also means I don't have to get a "Real" job yet.

During my undergrad I spent two years in the cataloging department of a big old "since 1888" institution in the Southwest. That experience taught me that I am very good at cataloging and a whole lot of people in Ohio literally suck. I was the poor soul who had to deal with the lack of a clear, clean set of rules for dealing with things such as author fields. Yes, I assure you the rules are lacking and most people don't follow them even if they exist. The vendors out there will send you the incorrect file. You change it. Next month you get the same incorrect record again, their copy once again deleting your perfect corrected record while leaving a dupe record in the system.

But I learned other things. First, we may be getting peanuts from Ohio to give them newly updated bib records, but they are taking pistacios from us so we can have the privelege to use them as well as things like MARC and DEWEY. Thank God DEWEY is on the way out. The newspapers aren't ALWAYS truthful!

So they have 50 million or so records that need to be properly cleaned up, they expect us to do it and they will charge us more when we get done. I may not be a monkey yet, but I still just don't like someone else putting a hand on my banana like that.

Since then I have discovered some things. First, The databases suck for searching for information. What is this BS that I must enter the exact title into the search field to pull up a list of potential hits? Google has taught us well, I think, searches need to be able to cover the full field.

The second thing I have discovered is the wonder of Amazon. Corporate capitalism at its finest, this site has more inforamtion in their database then the OHIO people do, and what more, anyone can use it and anyone could buy a book if they wanted it. Google seems to be working on similar book projects taht also makes those people in OHIO unnecessary.

Here's where I need your help. Somehow, we need to convince Amazon.com that it is a good idea to add the LC call numbers to all of their records. Once they do this, Amazon will be capable of creating a single client for handling all of our library catalogs.

There are reasons for doing this. First, amazon allows pictures of the books, user reviews of the books, and connects those people who want to BUY the book rather then CHECK OUT the book with people who want to SELL the book. Libraries could use this as a method to sell off their withdrawn junk. All of these things are not done nor allowable in MARC records.

Amazon will be happy to produce a nice easy to use interface because this will allow them to sell interfaces and connect them better to potential customers. And I am sure many Librarians would love to imaging themselves being Amazon Warriors as the sit out their lonely watch on the dark, dripping, foggy reference desk, flanked by no less then three or four of their feline children and armed with a book, a bow and a quiver of arrows in place of those stupid little useless excuses for pencils!

The Amazon layout is Lightyears ahead of OHIO and even WORLDCAT. Yes, this will put some librarians in the world out of a job, but cataloging was overdone to beginwith. This lingering behemoth dinosaur just doesn't want to get that the smoking crater is already in the ground and the world is now owned by mammals. Time to bring the house of cards down!!

I must sign this anonymous due to the nature of this note. OHIO would murder me in my sleep if they found out about my malicious intentions.

I am
The Library Mercenary Kat

[as In, I go where they offer the best tuna, the sweetest bed, and the best handplay - library typism need not apply!!!]

Anonymous said...

Hey Mercenary Cat: Have you ever tried to use Amazon's metadata to build a library catalog?

I have, and I found that Amazon's metadata are completely at odds with the needs of our users.

Librarians create metadata so information can be found.

Amazon creates metadata so information can be sold.

Big difference.

Anonymous said...

HOW CAN jk rOWLING POSSIBLE TRY TO SUE SOMEONE FOR NOT REFERENCING HER BOOKS, WHEN SHE DRAWS ON SO MANY ANCIENT MYTHS AND LEGENDS FOR HER STORY IDEAS?

Reference Book Reader said...

Kevin Musgrove said...
"
It can't possibly be a *real* reference library book. It isn't twenty years out of date and doesn't cost the equivalent of an emergent nation's annual turnover.

"

Good points, both of them, I guess. Thus I retract my proposal to bring IFLA in on this issue. As it's no reference book after all: No need to collect signatures for petitions in its favour, and no need to collect funding to support the autrhor and the publsiher in this lawsuit.

Now we can wait relaxedly (only 20.900 hits for "relaxedly" on google, alas) for the Annoyed Librarian's next blog entry.

Anonymous said...

re : The Library Mercenary Kat

While you make a few interesting points, I don't think an alliance with Amazon would be all that great an idea.

First of all, Amazon wouldn't have much commercial incentive to start doing the work libraries are slagging behind on.

Second, one of the major problems with libraries is innovation being done outside the library world, it would be better off for Worldcat/OLIN to start using some of the things Amazon is doing, providing nobody's going to start screaming abut patents.

Lastly, as one of the other posters pointed out, Amazon is geared towards selling items, library catalogs are for finding things. However, your point about how Google and other databases are offering better searching is a very good one.

The Ohio catalog was revolutionary--for the seventies. And it was only a few short years ago I was stilling doing ILL by telnetting into Worldcat and having to remember all the arcane keystrokes for a command line system. And an even shorter time before that, ILL required dialing in on a modem.

However, it's just like how in library school we were taught how to do Dialog searches, and the incredible importance of planning out each search as you could quickly run up an astronomical bill.

And yet in the real world I've never used Dialog, not even once. I used most everything else; Lexis-Nexis, the usual Psychlit/Chem Abstracts/whatever.

A catalog that showed pictures/samples of the books in question, had genuine full text searching of all fields, and short reviews of the books as opposed to some Dublin Core metadata blah-blah would be a great idea, but that's about as likely as me working in a library again.

Sincerely,

The Infernal Confabulator

The Topiary Cow said...

"..."...it appears she has attended Hogwart's School of Witchcraft, Wizardry and Wonderbras."

Heh.

Anonymous said...

JKR may well have it in for librarians. The Hogwarts school librarian is pretty much of a mean, shushing, non-character. Could have been a very helpful person in the libary scenes, but JKR painted the librarian as someone to hide from. Which I thought was sad.

Maybe if there had been a coffee shop and some 'Dance, Dance Revolution' available in the Hogwarts library, their librarian wouldn't have been so nasty.

---Kurt

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Librarians create metadata so information can be found.

Amazon creates metadata so information can be sold.

Big difference.
11:23 PM
================
No difference: Information Cannot be Sold if it Cannot be Found!

Yes, it would be WISE for Worldcat to plug into Amazon.

Amazon already has the incentive to make a more complete catalog then OCLC and they did it - they do it so they could sell Book! And...well, everything else too!

Amazon has already done much of the WORK. All that is left is to create the clients that takes their commercial web data and turn it into nice public Library software.

Do we REALLY need Metadata in the first place? A "google" type search over all the user reviews, for example, could substitute for this search altogether. Do we really need "controlled Language?" Google doesn't think so and neither do the billions of people who use it. You know waht? I DON'T use Subject searchs at my library. You know why? IT'S INEFFECTIVE because there is so much that is incomplete and even worse, in an OUTDATED format. When will we just let the end pass and claim the future?

This tlittle project would let Amazon tap a new market altogether, and in about ten years, become the Google or the Microsoft or the Yahoo only in the world of Libraries...Yes, I know, great contention about if this is a good idea or not.

But then, how was life before Google? Google has really made life pretty nice. If Amazon took over, it couldn't be that bad. I mean, maybe our librarians would sell all the really expensive books in their library because they discover the market for them, or all our expensive favorites all get locked up in Special Collections where they belong, but asside from a little commercial muscle, our field is well known for dealing with Socialistic policies, and we ARE in a capitalist society. And like I said, it would give all our librarians a Good excuse to dress up as Amazon warriors everyday they man the reference desk...ok, that might be a little scary, children might be more scared by that then by the actual "bad stuff"
so widely available on the internet.

I hope our Highly Esteemed AL will put this into its own blog it deserves! Harry Potter is three day old fish sticks stuck on a fork to this Chicken Finger!!!

~Mercenary Kat

Brent said...

You are always a winner in my heart, AL.

Lucille said...

Anonymous at 12:49 needs to learn about a little legal concept called "public domain".

Anonymous said...

"LibraRvolution"

Don't you know
They're talkin' about a revolution
It sounds like whisper
Don't you know
They're talkin' about a revolution
It sounds like whisper

While they're standing in the bookstore lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those libraries of salvation
Wasting time in the one minute past midnight sales lines
Sitting around waiting for a free library Internet station

Poor librarians gonna rise up
And get their share
Poor librarians gonna rise up
And take what's theirs

Don't you know
Rowling better run...
Oh I said you better
Run
run
run...

--Taupey, stealin' a fast car and not apologizing to Tracy Chapman

Anonymous said...

Shorter AL should watch it. AL's minions are everywhere, not to mention her evil henchmen. Plus, n.b., "Shorter" infers petite, which may be cute but simply cannot compare to our leggy martini imbibing maximum leader.

--Taupey, still here for the Irish bottoms

Dances With Books said...

First off, I do not object to "elderly" cleavage, though, I would not consider 40-something elderly. It can pop anywhere as far as I am concerned, haha. Now, JK, let's just say that is a category by itself. Anyhow, second the motion that people like her once they are done with the books and made the money, should just go quietly away with some dignity. Somehow, every time she opens her mouth for some new "edict," it seems to lessen her image and the books' mystique (if they ever had mystique, but you get the idea).

Anonymous said...

Wow, there is a lot of tl;dr going on here. Lighten up people.

Anonymous said...

The Hag said...
Also, I take issue with the idea of 'elderly cleavage' now starting at age 41. When did this happen?


This happened when "cleavage" started happening around 15 or 13. Naturally, yes, its always happened that early for some, its just now become more common for it to be on display at these younger ages after years of being "unacceptable."

"Elderly" cleavage has always been actually happening down around the mid to late thrities, though some get lucky and don't have it until the 40s or even 50's. You can check this fact by flipping through about 50 years worth of fashion magazines or playboy, look for the issues on "looking great over xx," where xx is any age that is supposedly high.

Age is not that important, my girl has elderly cleavage, and she's only 30. The part that is different now is that it has become more common for this elderly cleavage to be on display as well.

When this phenomenon starts is a bit easier to define then why, a two part question in itself. I can figure out the first part of why this is done, it's done to both attract a mate as well as intimidate the competition.

The second part of why makes no sense though, that part about why are girls doing this so young, and why girls doing this so old. I still can't figure out why girls who have no need to attract a mate nor any need to intimidate the competition STILL want to show me and every other person in the world their cleavage. You can say you are doing it to "look good," but honestly, you are foiling yourself.

While in the old days, older cleaveage was put along side middle aged cleavage, and when set so, its not noticeale. but when young cleavage and Even Younger Cleavage, enters the scene, things just get bad for the older crowds. Its all elderly. We'll just have to live with it. A girl's persoanl worth, afterall, has absolutly nothing to do with her cleavage. If you personally want great cleavage at 40 and 60 but you weren't born with longevity in this area, there are surgeons trained in this art.

"Why are you showing me your cleavage?" I sometimes wish I could say that up front to girls, but then they would call me a pervert. But then I suppose this whole issue is pretty perverse in the first place.

I hope this clarifies that issue.

Merc Kat

Anonymous said...

I don't know, if I were her, I'd hate librarians too. Many librarians are neurotic, schizofrenic, and spinsters. And they'll never be rich. I can see why that American boy got jealous. In my days, librarians would follow us around in the library, wheezing down our necks, muttering under their breath about fingerprints on their--their!--books. Because books aren't supposed to be used. Fingerprints were the least of your worries, lady! I ripped out all the nude pictures.

Reference Book Reader said...

RDR linked here, apparently claiming that it shows that libarians support their case (see
http://rdrbooks.com/lexicon_info.html
). But they didn't update at
http://rdrbooks.com/books/lexicon.html
that by now perhaps some consensus has been reached here not to bring in IFLA and the UNESCO, as their book is no real reference book after all ... .

Amai said...

You can't serious be angry at someone for defending their intellectual property can you? That's like saying, because she's rich she should allow random people off the street to use her house as a hotel as they see fit. Nipping it in the bud is a better idea. And yes, she's making a reference book. It's her pie. Not everyone deserves a pieces because she's made more than she can eat. No this thing isn't dieing, it's picking up strength. If it makes you that bitter to hear about, try humming when it comes up in conversation. And she's not such a tyrant. There are some authors who will sue anyone writing fanfiction. She only seems to care if you try to publish it. And if you think that's not fair because she clearly was influence by earlier writer, be influenced by her, write your own slightly different stuff, and hope you're the proverbial lottery winner.

Oh, and whether she has wardrobe malfunctions has no bearing on her right to defend her property.