Wednesday, 9 December 2009

No Cameras in the Library...

One of the things that has got me in trouble a couple of times during my stint as Arcadia Fellow is using my phone as a camera within the confines of University Library (cameras, along with bags, are most defintely not allowed inside the Library). As the Library rules puts it:
18. Overcoats, raincoats, and other kinds of outdoor clothing, umbrellas, bags, cases, cameras, photocopying devices, and similar personal belongings shall normally be deposited in the locker-room adjacent to the entrance hall during each visit to the Library.

Which is not to say that photocopying, per se is not allowed in the University Library, because it is... either using self-service machines or via Imaging Services (UL: Photocopying). So the problem is presumably guarding against Library users photographing/photocopying works that they shouldn't? But from what I can tell, those works are accessible only in the Reading Rooms, so presumably a ban on photogrph/copying works in those areas would suffice? (If the books that may not be copied can be taken out of those rooms, then they can easily be copied in thre photopcopier room...)

Or maybe the photocopiers log and scan everything, so the Library knows exactly what copies have been made...?! (I think not...)

The photocopiers are modern ones, after all (I'd post a photo but I might get caught again...) which is to say that they are also scanners, capable of scanning books etc and emailing the scan to a supplied email address. Email addresses need to be entered manually (rather than being identified automatically from a scan of a Library card, or entry of the shorter CRSID for example) so it's user beware in terms of making sure you enter the correct details. (I know, I know, not every user will have those details... so in those cases, they could choose to enter their email address...)

Hmmm, so I wonder: what if I'm in the photocopier room when I take a photo/scan of a book title page, for example, using my phone rather than on of the photocopiers? Will I get shouted at if anyone sees me?!

But so what if a "no cameras" rule is enforced?

- no cameras means no scope for exploring services like the use of QR codes in the library.

- no cameras means no scope for exploring the use of cameras for grabbing universal bar codes using apps like BookMobile or SnapTell (Note that the Cambrdge University Library bar codes don't seem to be resolvable using the bar code readers I have on my phone (not that I've tried using that camera based functionality inside tjhe library, of course...;-), though with a few tweaks of the bar code reader code that could probably be addressed...)

- no cameras means no opportunity to explore personal photocopying services:

- no cameras means no opportunity to explore self-service checkout; I'm guessing that the UL currently uses magnetic strips to check whether or not a book is being taken from the library when it shouldn't be, and I also guess that RFID tag enabled books use the RFID tag and a record lookup to perform a similar role... which means that if the UL was to go with RFID, it would presumably be possible for patrons to scan out books using a client on their own phone that was linked to the UL book checky outy service (can you tell I've started picking up on library jargon?!;-)

- and no cameras means no chance of exploring what sort of role the toy of the moment, Google Goggles, might play in a research context*:

*I originally wrote "library context", rather than "research context" (or "study context") there... Hmmm... a symptom of it's our Library and we make the rules maybe?

If the Library wants to engage in the mobile revolution, then I would humbly suggest that it needs to think about its camera policy. According to a small, informal and what I guess should be best described as anecdotal survey - Mobile Phone Internet & Camera Usage - it seems as if it's only the minority of mobile phone users who aren't in the regular habit of using their mobile phone as a camera... More elaborate surveys (e.g. Global survey shows cell phone is 'remote control' for life) seem to come to a similar conclusion...


Owen said...

Libraries are almost certainly trying to abide by the CLA licence which requires(?) the display of notices advising what can be copied under licence.

Although I think (at least privately) librarians would admit that what happens when they aren't looking is a different matter, they are (or feel they are) obliged to do everything they can about what happens within the bounds of the library.

My criticism would be, as in other areas, rather than warning against the specific issue, a blanket technology based ban is implemented. This was the case with mobile phones in general where many libraries banned the use of mobile phones when the problem they were really trying to control was the noise created by people using phones. I'm happy to see many libraries now ask phones to be switched to silent and accept that other uses (e.g. watch, calculator, internet device) are compatible with library usage.

John said...

Perceptive post, Tony. I've been thinking for a while that the phones issue will be a test for how serious the UL is about modernising. What's needed is an updated rule which says that phone conversations are banned (except perhaps in the tea room), but that other uses are acceptable. having written that, however, I can just imagine the steam emerging from the meeting of the Library Syndicate that discusses the change!

Unknown said...

Owen said: "Libraries are almost certainly trying to abide by the CLA licence"

Ys... bit why should my walking a book over to the photocopier room and copying it there be any different to scanning/photographing it with my phone when sat at a desk?

I appreciate that there may be plates in books that for whatever reason the Library doesn't want copied (though even then they may generate a copy for me - for a fee - via imaging services) but restricting personal imaging services within certain areas, such as reading rooms, could be used to control that behaviour.

One problem with the 'no cameras' rule is that it (presumably?) assumes that cameras will be used for copyright infringing services and therefore must be banned. The reality is that phone cameras can be used photos, capturing note taking images, or implementing optical (rather than keyboard) interfaces.

Anonymous said...

Just to confirm that the UL does have an updated rule to some extent in that texting is now permitted anywhere in the Library and calls can be made from specific areas.

Really interesting post about camera phones. I would note that some of the restrictions re. photography relate to visitors using flash photography which may disturb the study environment of others.