Friday Footnotes

While Day 1 of the Conference was a bit hectic, Day 2 has left me feeling more acclimated to the Conference experience. More familiar faces continue to emerge (both people I know in the San Francisco Bay Area and people I met at the 2009 Conference), and of course I’m looking forward to the Welcome Party at the Walker Art Center this evening.

Case Studies I

I could only attend part of this session, but was fortunate to catch fellow Stanford librarian Anna Fishaut’s presentation “Rethinking the Reference Collection”. She spoke about Stanford’s Art and Architecture Library’s print reference collection in terms of evaluating each item held. Of course, a main issue involved thinking about what print reference sources patrons would still use when there are many online resources that can fulfill their needs. Fishaut noted that historically, the library had mainly been open to professors and curators, with little access for students, and that this affected what was in the print reference collection. Interestingly, the library recently made the choice of allowing reference books to circulate for up to a week, potentially encouraging the use of these materials. In making changes to the Art & Architecture Library reference collection, the goal was (and is) to increase relevance, visibility, and cohesiveness.

Opening Plenary

Moderator Elisa Lanzi from Smith College introduced speaker Jule Sigall, an Associate General Counsel with Microsoft. Sigall asserted that copyright management is currently a major issue across campuses in the U.S. One of Sigall’s main concerns is “orphan works”, mostly Web-based copyrighted materials whose creator or owner cannot be contacted for a variety of reasons. In 2005, Sigall got in touch with four U.S. senators about orphan works copyright issues and was told to study the topic for a year. His work led to the creation of H.R. 5439: The Orphan Works Act of 2006, which ultimately did not pass either the House or the Senate. In 2008, S. 2913: Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act passed the Senate, but not the House.

Sigall noted at one point that there was very strong and heartfelt opposition to the S. 2913 bill from illustrators and photographers, and that this was a major reason it died. He understands their point of view — for example, so-called “amateur” photographers who put images up online can fulfill the needs of people who need to use photographs for educational or research purposes just as well as the photographer, which makes the latter group feel as if they can’t make a good living selling their products. He closed by saying that he remains a “cynical optimist” regarding resolving the disconnect between the interests of copyright owners and users.

The Semantic Web, Libraries, and Visual Resources

While I am generally familiar with the concept of the Semantic Web (a good education can be found here:, I won’t go into detail here. This was a very good session because the three speakers (Christine Cavalier, Tufts University; Amy Lucker, NYU; and Greg Reser, UC San Diego) shared distinct attitudes about, and experiences with, using tools such as schemas, ontologies, and vocabularies for visual resources purposes. Christine Cavalier has worked with Tufts University’s Visual Understanding Environment (VUE): (, a site on which “faculty and students can map relationships between concepts, ideas and digital content”. Greg Resor, who wore a “Metadata” t-shirt in the style of the classic Metallica logo, pointed out during his talk that the speakers were not advocating the Semantic Web, but merely trying to explain it. Indeed, Reser, a co-chair of the VRA Embedded Data Working Group (, described a project he was involved in where combining metadata schemas for describing art images proved more limiting than originally thought. And ARLIS/NA Past President Amy Lucker gave a very detailed overview of controlled vocabularies while wondering out loud how to get these vocabularies to “play nice” together. Perhaps if they could consistently do so, libraries and librarians would be able to immediately make serious contributions to the Semantic Web ideal.

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