In Other Words
By Lauree Padgett
It's May. Or as Queen Guenevere refers to it in the
Lerner and Loewe musical Camelot, "the lusty
month of May, that lovely month when everyone goes
blissfully astray." You needn't be sitting at a round
tableor any kind of table, for that matterto
read this month's picks from Computers in Libraries, CyberSkeptics
Guide, and Searcher. And the choice of whether
you go astrayblissfully or otherwiseis
entirely up to you. Tra la!
Checking Out Library Security
How much emphasis you place on library security depends
on two main points:the kind of library you have and
who yourusers are. So says Kyle Banerjee in his article "How
Much Security Does Your Library Need?" (Computers
in Libraries, May 2003, p. 12).As he points out,
librarians shouldn't set up security measures merely
to prevent attacks, but "to make hardware, services,
programs, and data available to those who need them,
when they need them."
What makes libraries a prime target for hackers?
Even the basic desktop PC can provide them with disk
space, processing power, and network bandwidthnot
to mention a platform from which to do more hacking.
Any high-speed connection will allow hackers to access
or distribute anything from illegally copied music
to all types of illicit material. Banerjee says, "A
compromised desktop machine can collect passwords,
probe other machines for weaknesses, distribute files,
and perform other tasks that undermine security."
Without a knight in shining armor ready to fight
off attacks, there are precautions to take. Think of
a firewallthe modern-day castle moatas
your first lineof defense. Installing reputable antivirus
software is like giving your computer a vaccination.
The risk of becoming infected isn't entirely eliminated,
but the odds are greatly reduced. Monitoring network
activity is the key to troubleshooting problems. Use
encryption to prevent data from being monitored or
You can also take a number of steps to thwart unwelcomed
intrusions. Don't create world-writable server directories.
Be wise when setting up passwords and group accounts.
Always back up valuable data. In addition, automating
routine monitoring tasks will make your system safer.
So will conducting regular check-ups and learning about
some of the more detailed aspects of your system. Lastly,
Banerjee reminds us what the winningest coaches have
always known:The best offense is a good defense. He
says, "The best ways to maintain security are to observe
common-sense practices and to educate users."
The Virtual Chase
Need a reliable and extensive legal research Web
site? Marylaine Block ("Virtually Chasing Information," CyberSkepticsGuide,
May 2003, p. 4) has uncovered a real gold mine:
law librarian Genie Tyburski's site, The Virtual Chase
TVC provides guides to entire bodies of law, including
case law, regulatory law, state law, criminal records,
and legal subjects. Rather than just offering links
to online documents, Tyburski explains the Web resources,
how to use them, and what their benefits and limitations
TVC isn't just for lawyers or law librarians, even
though Tyburski receives rave reviews from both groups.
Block notes, "Law has a nasty way of affecting almost
everything we do." From trying to locate standard business
forms or searching for adoption records to figuring
out if an image you want to put on your Web site is
copyrighted, we all regularly find ourselves on the
outer to inner fringes of the law. That's why TVC is
such a find for researchers. Specialized guides are
great starting points for tackling any number of legal
questions that are bound to pop up from time to time.
For fact-checking, the Factual Resources section
is impressive, offering language and online reference
tools, alerting services, topical resources, and statistics.
Need to get people out of the Dark Ages and up and
running on the Internet? Tyburski's got this area covered
too, with articles such as "Pick a Search Engine," "Tips
for Conducting Internet Research," and "Deceptive Facts." Internet
trainers will most definitely want to check out the
Internet Trainers' Stop & Swap. There you'll find
the outline for an Internet Research Skills seminar
Tyburski teaches. Or you can review Hypothetical Research
Scenarios to see how good you are at choosing the best
Tyburski's daily Web log, The TCV Alert, is the place
to go for a wide range of information, including news
on legislation and court cases, search engine updates,
research tips, and Web resources. Block says, "By her
own standards, we can trust Genie Tyburski because
she's smart, honest, thoughtful, and knows her stuff,
but also because she's a librarian and Web research
There's a war going on in Hollywood that isn't taking
place on a soundstage at Paramount or Warner Brothers.And
you're not going to see trailers for it at your favorite
multiplex (although the saga could turn up on E!
True Hollywood Story). Clueless? Check out Carol
Ebbinghouse's Sidebar column in the May issue of Searcher(p.
18). The aggressors in this far-from-fictional battle
are the big guns in the entertainment industry, including
the Recording Industry Association of America and the
Motion Picture Association of America.
As Ebbinghouse explains, from pending legislation
on Capitol Hill (HR 5211) to a massive letter-writing
campaign, the "Creative Content Community stands vigilant
in its battle against services and technologies that
would liberate music, movies, games, media, etc., to
all takers." Basically, if passed, the legislation
would help content providers "to combat peer-to-peer
piracy," i.e., unauthorized downloading of copyrighted
materials on networked computers. However, as the Association
for Computing Machinery countered, this legalese could
be interpreted as allcomputers connected to
the Internet. This would result in degradation of service
and/or service disruptions for millions of law-abiding
Internet users, many of whom would not even be using
In October 2002, the above-mentioned associations
joined forces to send letters to Fortune 1000 companies
and 2,500 college and university presidents. The corporations
were asked to prevent employees from taking copyrighted
material off the Web while at work. Likewise, the collegiate
letter addressed the problem "that a significant number
of students are using university networks to engage
in online piracy of copyrighted creative works." The
letter then suggested a number of bandwidth-management
tools that are available to assist the schools in monitoring
There's no question that copyrighted material is
being downloaded and no money is being channeled to
the proper copyright holders. However, Ebbinghouse's
article argues that the way to deal with copyright
breaches is not by passing laws or pushing tactics
that pose a threat to privacy rights. The Electronic
Privacy Information Center, in its own letter to college
and university presidents, expressed concern for the
effect such computer monitoring could have on "the
marketplace of ideas," contending that it's "incompatible
with intellectual freedom."
Is there a happy medium between Internet users' freedom
to download copyrighted material and the entertainment
industry's attempts to protect that content? Ebbinghouse
quotes an article by Tim O'Reilly (http://www.openp2p.com/lpt/a/3015): "Why
would you pay for a song that you could get for free?
For the same reason that you will buy a book you could
borrow from the public library or buy a DVD of a movie
you could watch on television or rent for the weekend.
Convenience, ease of use, selection ... the sheer pleasure
of owning something you treasure."
Clearly, this is a copyright issue that's far from
over. And to borrow an old DJ phrase from when there
was still such a thing as a 45, catch you on the flip
Don't Let It Be Forgot ...
As for me, I'm all spun out for the moment. Hopefully, "before
you drift to sleep upon your cot" tonight, you'll have
stored up a few choice tidbits from these articles
to serve you well in the months to come. In the meantime,
don't spend all your time readingeven ITI publications.
Get outside and enjoy May! Before you know it, winter
will be here again!
Lauree Padgett is Information
Today, Inc.'s manager of editorial services. Her e-mail
address is firstname.lastname@example.org.