I have the greatest respect for authors, artists, musicians and creative souls who make my world a beautiful place in which to live. To read a book, listen to music, or to look at stunning photography can often turn a bad day into a better one. From an early age, we are taught to share, and it is an ethos which has served us well on the World Wide Web.
Which is why this article just left me wondering if the world has gone completely mad. A Belgian rights group SABAM have been contacting local public libraries to inform them they will be claiming fees for the reading of books to children. Storytime at the library, a way in which to engage and create young readers, is under threat because reading aloud to children in the library is considered a breach of copyright. SABAM, through its hardline approach to protecting the creative output of its members, is effectively limiting their future income stream for a short-term grab for money.
This seems to be the extreme end of what is occurring elsewhere for those who hold the copyright and publishing rights to books, songs, articles, films, and TV programs, but if organisations keep on restricting creative content, this may be a sign of things to come.
Librarians have often played a role in helping protect copyright. Through being aware of what can and cannot be done with the information we have in our library’s collections, we advise our users, and hope that we are not infringing copyright. Librarians are generally very nice people and don’t really like getting in trouble with the law. We also have a role in fostering new readers, to providing quality information for them and guiding them into finding information by themselves. We like to share our knowledge and our own love of information and reading with other people. I want to connect people to the right information and the best books.
So when the sharing of information and the protecting of information are at odds with each other, what do you do?
A recent article in Brain Pickings on the inscriptions found on the margins of illuminated manuscripts by monks helped answer my question. One inscription stood out:
Let the reader’s voice honor the writer’s pen
Literally, words written are often meant to be spoken, and there can be no greater pleasure than reading aloud to another person. Public libraries’ most popular programs involve big people reading to little people. Half my time at kinder is spent reading books to four year olds, who LOVE IT.
The phrase also had another meaning for me. What is the point of writing something if there are no readers to honor it? Even the private act of writing a journal has an initial readership of one and a potential readership of many. The very act of restriction only serves to dishonour the creator in the first instance.
I will share my information, read my books out aloud and be damned.