The final plenary session of the VALA conference was presented by Eli Neiburger from Ann Arbor District Library speaking on the topic, ‘Access, schmaccess: libraries in the age of information ubiquity’.
Neiburger contends that in the current web culture the value is provided from the users of the information rather than those who produce the information for the server. Information on the web is growing at a rapid rate with little time to look for it. When searching he argues that young people type words using probability to locate the item while older people phrase search.
Placing media online is inviting it to be remixed. In his opinion every transmission is a duplication and once material is online you cannot control what will happen to it after it has been posted. An example demonstrating this was the Nyan cat - a picture of a cartoon cat that moved across the screen not really doing anything. Three people discussed the idea for the cat and one person created the final product and put it online. Nothing much happened until another person provided a sound track of a remixed Japanes tune to the piece and it then took off. Other people use versions of the cat in their projects - just do a search on Google for 'Nyan cat'. The question posed by Neiburger is who owns the cat? with the answer being 'no-one. The full story of the Nyan cat can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyan_Cat. View the YouTube clip. The Nyan cat also has its own website.
Neiburger argues that unauthorised duplication of material online is not stealing or piracy as the original material is still there and supply is unlimited. Installing a pay wall will only drive away legitimate customers. When content is released for free, musicians may be rewarded with promotion, publicity and greater attendances at concerts plus sale of other products.
He also commented on the inflated prices of e-books and argued for open educational resources.
Libraries should produce content that would not be available if not created by the library. They should focus on local product such as digitising the local newspaper, podcasts of talks etc. Libraries can also encourage local musicians and writers to make their material available online.
Creators of web products should be prepared to share the code. Fair dealings rights need revision.
This session provided a thought provoking and entertaining end to VALA 2012.