Carla Myers and the Literacy Impact of Copyright Conferences

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Copyright chat is a podcast dedicated to discussing important copyright matters. Host Sara Benson, the copyright librarian from the University of Illinois, converses with experts from across the globe to engage the public with rights issues relevant their daily lives.

Sara:  Welcome to another episode of copyright chat.  Today I have with me Carla Meyers. She is the assistant librarian and coordinator of scholarly communications at Miami University Libraries.  Welcome Carla.

Carla:  Thanks Sara. I’m so excited to be here.

Sara:  Carla –I really wanted to have you on the show because I know that you are the mastermind behind some wonderful conferences on copyright including the Kraemer copyright conference and I know you also have developed another conference at your home institution of Miami University Libraries.  We’re talking about Miami Ohio not Miami Florida for those of you who are wanting to get to the sun.  There are some sunny days in Ohio, too. And I know that you are planning a music copyright conference which I’m really excited about so I wanted you to talk about the reason you developed these interesting conference opportunities.

Carla:  Sure, so I think the primary reason is to help get good quality copyright information out to the library and educational community. When I first started working with copyright about fifteen years ago I was told go and learn about this—to make sure the library practices are in compliance with copyright law. So, I started looking around online and I started looking in books and it took me a while to realize how much bad copyright information is out there. And one of the places where I first found myself engaging with really great copyright information and really great presenters was the Ball State copyright conference that Dr. Fritz Dolak coordinated for Ball State University for about twelve years I think.

So when I went to Colorado to take a librarian job there realizing that it was hard to get back to Indiana to attend that conference or that other people in the West might not be likely to travel there I asked my dean at the time Terry Switzer if we could create something similar for people in the West and she supported that idea and it took off. So it was a combination of wanting to make sure people could get connected with good copyright information, but that we could also connect them with the presenters who are putting out this good information or with other people who are struggling with those frontline issues and dealing with copyright.

Sara: That is really a wonderful idea because copyright literacy is so key to information literacy especially in the digital age and I really appreciate that myself teaching and iSchool course to young enthusiastic librarians and information professionals So, what do you see as what are the challenges with providing this information at these conferences.

Carla:  So I think one of the challenges can be people getting there. We all know that librarians tend to have very limited travel budgets. Kraemer is established in the West it’s off and running I hope it continues to go on for a long time. Coming back to Ohio, unfortunately Fritz Bolak retired, which I’m very happy for him, but unfortunately that meant that they discontinued the conference there for the time being. So that’s why we looked to resurrect a conference or to start a conference here at Miami University to help fill that void for people on this side of the Mississippi. So hopefully they could afford to travel here. But I think also something too is just connecting with the information the valuable opportunity to hear directly from the presenters and to ask questions of them. For both conferences we do try to share as much of the presentation materials online as we possibly can, but I think there is a very special value added in sitting in the audience asking questions as they come up and sharing the situations that we’re dealing with at our institutions and getting that presenter expert feedback on that or again just even the value of connecting with other people who are doing this and starting to develop a network of people who are knowledgeable about copyright who are struggling with the same issues who that these librarians and educators can reach out to to get information or advice on what to do when they have a copyright issue.

Sara:  I think that’s so important—that live feedback that you mention—I also really appreciated that the Journal of Copyright in Education and Librarianship made a special issue of the Kraemer conference last year.  I was fortunate enough to be able to be a recorder for one of those events and I think that also provided a huge service to those who could not attend because they could still get a lot of the information.  So, have you considered video recording or audio recording of the presentations at these conferences?

Carla: Yes, we have considered it for both conferences. I think the problem we run into is unfortunately finances. So, one of the hallmarks of the Kraemer copyright conference in Colorado is that there is no registration fee—again trying to make it as affordable as possible—we have wonderful sponsors who help us cover operating expenses so participants have to just get themselves there. We did look into what it might cost to audio record or video record the sessions and unfortunately that cost too much money to get it done professionally in order to help support accessibility and get it transcribed that it’s something we just couldn’t work into our budget. At Kraemer we continue to offer the conference for free which is one of the reasons we decided to do a conference issue of JCEL last year so that we could have those write ups of each session and our contributed papers so that people could access the information that way. It’s the same situation with Miami University. We’ve had requests to record. We’re very interested in doing it. We’re just in our second year right now and as we slowly grow this conference we are looking at ways that we can integrate that into the process.

Sara: Well I appreciate that you have taken that into consideration and I know having been there at Kraemer what a wonderful experience it is to really be there and engage with all of these important people doing this work and also with educators in the K through twelve and college levels who are just looking to learn more about copyright. I think it’s so important to bring copyright literacy to the masses so to speak and that’s part of the reason I have this podcast is to be able to reach people far and wide and I’m so glad to have you on the show so that we could highlight some of these opportunities for learning and literacy that you are bringing to the public. But, also, I wanted to switch gears a bit and I know that you are one of the copyright librarians that I know that is not a lawyer as well many of us are. And I wanted to see if you would talk a little bit about that and what challenges you’ve faced and what you bring to copyright librarianship and how you would tell others to follow in your footsteps because I was on a panel at Kraemer last year where we decidedly said no you don’t have to have a law degree to be in this field. So, could you share your wisdom with other folks who are maybe considering this as a field?

Carla: Sure, and I agree completely with the conclusion of the panel there are many benefits to having a law degree but this job can certainly be done by not having one. And I think the most important recommendation I would have for people who do not have a legal background but are interested or find themselves kind of forced by nature for a boss to start working with copyright is a look around identify what are the reputable sources—who are the knowledgeable experts—and read everything you can to engage with quality information in every way you can and get yourself to any type of session or opportunity where you can learn more from these experts.

As I mentioned earlier, when I first started working with copyright I was reading everything I could find online and one of the first key resources for me was Dr. Kenneth D. Crews’ book Copyright for Librarians and Educators. I remember getting that buggy and not only is it very, very readable but Dr. Crews is one of the top experts in this field one of the top experts when it comes to library copyright law in the world. And so I knew it was a quality resource and it was written in a way that was very understandable and it really targeted the issues that had to do with libraries and educational institutions.

So I started following the work that he did when I attended the Ball State copyright conference I met other experts like Dwayne Butler or Kevin Smith and Donna Ferullo. So getting things they had written and following up on resources they had recommended. So using those people who are true experts in the field to learn about the law to identify what are other quality resources.

And then I think any copyright librarian whether they have a law degree or not will tell you that you never ever stop learning. Copyright law is so huge that there’s always some new part of the law to investigate or to learn about and there are also specialty areas like music copyright law—which is why Miami is that conference this year—which are so in-depth a large into itself that you’re constantly learning about it. And then there are always case law decisions that influence what we do as well.

So if you’re not an attorney or even if you’re an attorney who is new to the field of intellectual property or copyright I would recommend that you identify who are the quality reputable resources again all the access and information to them that you can. And then, especially if these responsibilities have been foisted upon you, I would encourage librarians to say to their administrators—I am willing to learn more about this, but I need the support from you in order to be able to do this effectively. Copyright X is another great thing that copyright librarians can participate in. It’s put out from Harvard I think it’s about a fifteen week commitment so saying to the supervisor I would like to do Copyright X. I need support from you to be able to prioritize time to actively participate in this. I’m willing to learn about copyright, but if you really want me to do this can we find funding to send me to the Kraemer copyright conference or one of the other copyright conferences that are out there so making sure that they are supporting you in that mission if they are foisting that mission upon you.

Sara:  That’s a really great point.  I think a lot of folks are kind of put in this position there are other folks who find out that they just love copyright. And even for lawyers—I have a law degree and a Masters a law degree but I knew very little, if nothing, about intellectual property law until I got into this position. And I had to learn on the ground from the experts just like you are describing. Just don’t be afraid to reach out to people. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. What I have found is that the copyright librarian community is so welcoming and so friendly and really helpful and not judgy at all. And so if you have questions you can always reach out to any of us, myself included, and just send usan e-mail and ask what are some sources I should be looking at or I have this question. We have a lot of forums like this there’s a forum through the ALA where you can ask a copyright question and many of us including myself and Carla respond to those questions. So it’s a great place if you want to ask in a less formal way, but you can reach out to people individually as well and I think people are really friendly has that been your experience, too Carla?

Carla:  Absolutely I remember hearing Kenneth Crews and Kevin Smith speaking at Ball State and going back and processing all the information they shared and then reaching out to them and they were both so gracious and so willing to spend time with me to help answer my questions. And I would say that anybody who has been a copyright librarian has been where people new to this field once we’re starting off trying to learn about the law and trying to identify the quality information. And I feel very lucky to be a copyright librarian because the people I work with love what they do and to a person I think the vast majority of copyright librarians if somebody reached out to them and said, “Can you recommend some resources; can you help me work through this question; can I take some time to ask you about policy development?” I would be shocked if you got the answer “no.”

Sara:  I would, too.  And I just want to plug another resource that will be coming out soon—I’m editing a book called “Copyright Conversations” and one of my chapter authors Alison Estell is writing an entire chapter about how you can self-learn about copyright and what some reputable resources might be and how she did it and how she would recommend others do it. So there are there are a lot of resources out there including including Kenny’s book. A lot of friendly librarians. So, I really encourage you to get into this field it’s a really thought field and it changes all the time and so it’s never boring. Any other words of final advice for someone looking to get into copyright library and Carla.

Carla:  Sure, I think be bold and remember our mission. I say be bold because I remember when I first started working with copyright I was scared to death that I was going to do something that would get the library sued. And you know as with any type of legal situation you can put yourself at risk but being bold in saying let’s step let’s use these exceptions in a law like fair use and the TEACH Act where they’re relevant. Let’s recognize there’s times when we need to get a license and let’s make sure that we’re remembering our mission. Let’s not say, “Oh we’re not going to offer a research service because we make it and Stead think about our mission is to connect our students and faculty our patrons with information how can we do that within the scope of the law smartly and you can find out that smartly part by reading the law in reading those resources out there by experts to help you understand how to apply to your institution.

Sara:  That’s a great point and I agree completely about not being so risk averse that you are actually shutting down resources to your population because the mission of the library is to open up as many resources as we possibly can. And of course we want to do that within the bounds of the law, but a lot of times the law is misunderstood and that’s why copyright librarians are such advocates for open access and we have those tools that allow us to help others to be open.

I just personally wanted to thank you Carla because I have so much enjoyed the Kraemer copyright conference and I know that you are really the mastermind behind it and I know it takes you so much work to put that together. So just thank you from the community because I know you’re doing such good things for copyright librarians and those librarians who are new to copyright I think that it’s really important that we connect with the public and we actually disseminate this information not just among ourselves so I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that service.

Carla:  Thank you and I will say it’s my absolute pleasure and it’s a little bit of a labor of love and part of it is because there are so many wonderful people who helped me when I was first getting started and so many copyright librarians like you Sara are some of the other ones that we know they continue to help me to this day. I see it as a way that I can give back to our community by helping provide these educational opportunities and helping people make those connections.

Sara:  And I hope to see some of you listeners at Kraemer or at another conference maybe at Miami of Ohio. Or just reach out to us on email we’re always happy to chat about copyright and the name of this podcast thanks for being here Carla.

Carla: Thanks so much Sara.

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