Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Library as Aquarium, or, The SOPA Post

Over the weekend I went to the Baltimore Aquarium. One of the things that struck me was how well the aquarium has integrated conservation into its exhibits, its building, its mission. The dolphin show has a message about littering in the ocean; the shark exhibits have interactive games concerning bycatch and the evils of shark fin soup; there’s an entire exhibit about the relationship between jellyfish and human activity; and the cafeteria has locally-sourced food and biodegradable or reusable utensils and plates. It wasn’t always like this, of course. Twenty-five years ago none of this would have been included in the aquarium. It was a place to look at fish.

And that brings us to libraries. And the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. And the Research Works Act, or RWA. Libraries have not integrated our equivalents of conservation into our shelves, computer labs, exhibits, buildings, or missions. That needs to change.

What forms will resistance to SOPA and RWA, and their future spawn take? For starters,

  • in the stacks concerning banned books and censorship;
  • QR codes with links to contact local, state, and national representatives on issues important to the library and its patrons;
  • near computers and in computer labs, reminding patrons of the importance of net neutrality.

Also, programs, events, and blog posts that address the importance of net neutrality, open access, and a copyright system that strikes a balance between rewarding creators and society writ large.

The integration of conservation into the aquarium is natural, and organic, not tacked on. We need to do the same in libraries.

This is a woefully incomplete start, but it’s a start all the same. What would you do? What will you do?

*Image via blackoutsopa.org. Do visit them.