After Hearing, Marrakesh Treaty a Step Closer to Reality

After an unusually harmonious hearing on April 18 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Senate is poised to pass the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (S. 2559), which supporters say, if passed, will make hundreds of thousands of books accessible for the blind and print disabled.

The treaty, which was negotiated and ultimately adopted by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2013, requires countries to enact copyright exceptions that would allow the creation and distribution of accessible format copies such as braille, audio, or digital files.

The treaty is supported by both the publishing and library communities—and Allan Adler of the Association of American Publishers, and Jonathan Band, representing the Library Copyright Alliance, both spoke in support of the legislation at the hearing—an unusual (although welcome) sight when it comes to copyright issues.

“The Marrakesh Treaty was a monumental accomplishment five years ago, and libraries were central to its architecture,” said ALA president Jim Neal, in a statement last month, calling it a “turning point” in global information access that will “allow U.S. libraries to create and share accessible format copies of books and other materials across borders to persons with print disabilities—something that 36 other countries are already able to do.”

Librarians Push for Budget Support on Capitol Hill

In other news on Capitol Hill, the ALA Washington Office this week reported a record number of senators signed onto this year’s “Dear Appropriator” campaign in support of library funding in the FY2019 federal budget. In all, 46 senators signed this year’s Dear Appropriator letter, which calls for at least $189 million in federal funding for libraries through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). Meanwhile, in the House, 136 representatives signed on, the second highest total yet.

The news was solid, although not quite as good regarding support for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) campaign, which calls for level funding for IAL at $27 million. Some 35 Senators signed the IAL letter this year, one short of last year’s total, while in the house, just 98 signed, compared to the 146 who signed last year. The IAL is a modest but key program administered by the Department of Education to support and improve literacy skills for students.

In its District Dispatch report this week (if you don’t get this newsletter, you should, and you can sign up here) ALA Washington Office officials said the drop in IAL support in the House was not because of a lack of effort by librarians and their allies, but likely due to potential policy shifts. “There is some sense that the focus of school programs and school libraries has shifted to the Title IV program, authorized under the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act,” the report says, noting the $700 million increase in Title IV funding in the recently passed FY 2018 budget.

Appropriator letters are an important tool, ALA officials point out, as they let legislators know which issues have strong support among their peers—and therefore what programs must be funded when budget negotiations heat up. And though the library community's strong engagement with lawmakers continues to pay dividends, skyrocketing deficits after the Trump tax cuts will likely make the FY2019 budget a particularly tough budget battle. ALA officials are urging library supporters to stay engaged.

Technology is Changing How We Think About 'Community'

Algorithms and digital platforms are changing our notion of “community.” This point writer Carina Chocano makes clear in her brilliant First Words column appearing in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine.

“Our sense of community is less and less about being from someplace and more about being like someone,” she writes while acknowledging that the two types of communities—relational and geographic—have and do simultaneously exist. The problem occurs in when digital platforms conflate the two types, which Chocano gets at in her column:

The digital platforms …[present] the communities they host as rich, human-built spaces where we can gather, matter, have a voice and feel supported. But their promise of community masks a whole other layer of control — an organizing, siphoning, coercive force with its own private purposes.

It’s a must read as is her equally insightful essay collection You Play the Girl, which won this year’s National Book Critics Circle Award.

Library One-Liners

Dream Job Alert: Cataloging Prince’s Archive at Paisley Park.

Ars Technica: The strongest state net neutrality bill in the nation passed a key test yesterday when a California Senate committee approved it over the objections of AT&T and the cable lobby.

TPL seeks RW for WIRP: The Toronto Public Library is seeking a romance writer for its very cool Writer in Residence program.

PBS announces its list of America’s 100 most-loved books brought to you by The Great American Read.

At Wired, Natasha Tiku writes that Facebook Is Steering Users Away From Privacy Protections

The Daily Californian: UC librarians begin contract negotiations for higher salaries.

Another sad reminder of the crisis we face in local journalism, via Poynter: a photojournalist won a Pulitzer for an image he made on his last day in the newsroom.

New York Times: Reading Aloud to Young Children Has Benefits for Behavior and Attention.

Neiman Lab reports former ProPublica investigative journalist Julia Angwin and data scientist Jeff Larson are launching a newsroom to cover the impact of technology on society.

NYPL announced the five finalists for 2018 Young Lions Fiction Award including PW’s own Gabe Habash.

Via the Authors Alliance, a Q&A with "librarian extraordinaire" Jessamyn West, who successfully reverted rights to her book Without A Net, and released it under a CC-BY license on

This Woman Studied a Million Photos at the Library of Congress, via The Cut.

At the Daily Beast, Lloyd Grove profiles the Gordon Gekko of Newspapers: A Vulture Capitalist Kneecapping Journalists.

UnDark explores what happens when concerns about the "reproducibility crisis in science" get picked up by political activists.

'Facebook for scientists' resolves copyright row with some publishers.

Arizona State University is excited about its new "Science Hub" initiative, led by Nobel Prize winner Frank Wilczek, and Nathan Newman...but they may want to rethink the venture's nickname: SciHub.

Jordan Peele's fake Obama video has gone viral, but a great story from the Washington State University libraries shows how fakes have always been with us.

The 6 most beautiful new libraries in the U.S., via Business Insider.