We’re off to a great start here in Denver at the LITA 2017 Forum.
Casey Fiesler set the mood for the afternoon with a provoking discussion of algorithmically-aided decision-making and its effects on our daily lives. Do YouTube’s copyright-protecting algorithms necessarily put fetters on Fair Use? Do personalized search results play to our unconscious tendency to avoid things we dislike? Neither “technological solutionism” nor technophobia are adequate responses. Fiesler calls for algorithmic openness (tell us when algorithms are in use, and what are they doing), and for widespread acknowledgment that human psychology and societal factors are deeply implicated as well.
In a concurrent session immediately afterwards, Sam Kome took a deep dive into the personally identifiable information (PII) his library (and certainly everyone else’s) has been unwittingly collecting about their patrons, simply by using today’s standard technologies. Kome is examining everything from the bottom up, scrubbing data and putting in place policies to ensure that little or no PII touches his library systems again.
Jayne Blodgett discussed her strategy for negotiating the sometimes tense relationship between libraries and their partners in IT; hot on the heels of the discussion about patron privacy and leaky web services, the importance of this relationship couldn’t be more plain.
Samuel Willis addressed web accessibility and its centrality to the mission of libraries. He detailed his efforts to survey and improve the accessibility of resources for patrons with print disabilities, and offered suggestions for inducing vendors to improve their products. The group pondered how to maintain the privacy of patrons with disabilities, providing the services they require without demanding that they identify themselves as disabled, and without storing that personal information in library systems.
The day screeched to a close with a double-dose of web security awareness: Gary Browning and Ricardo Viera checked the security chops of the audience, and offered practical tips for foiling the hackers who can and do visit our libraries and access our libraries’ systems. (Word to the wise: you probably should be blocking any unneeded USB ports in your public-facing technology with USB blockers. )
And that’s just one path through the many concurrent sessions from this afternoon at LITA.
Looking forward to another whirlwind day tomorrow!