Confessions of a Travelling Digital LIbrary Officer by Beth Delwiche


As I approached the UK Border Agent peering down at  the long line of travellers bearing non EU passports ,  I hoped  that I wouldn’t be held up for long.  The journey  from  Nassau, Bahamas to Birmingham was long and tiring.  My annual leave would soon be a thing of the past like warm sunshine, palm trees, and the azure waters of the Carribbean.

It was my turn to come up to the desk to hand over my travel documents  and the landing card filled out with my  name, address, occupation, and other sundry details.  I said a cheerless ”Good morning” to the civil servant  and gave him my card and passport.

Mr. Border Agent replied “How long how you been out of the country?”  “One week” I said.

Mr. Border  Agent nodded his head  like the Churchill advertising dog.  He then asked a second question that I never wouldn’t have anticipated  in a million years.  “ I see you have written on your card, Ms. Delwiche,  that you are a  Digital Library Officer.  Hmm what exactly do you do? “  I wished  all of a sudden that I was a nurse or a fireman as everyone  knows  that they save lives and wouldn’t be asked this question in the first place. But instead, I said, “I’m glad you asked me that” and replied with the following.

“I have been working for the past nine years on the Digital Library, known as UCEEL.   It contains all sorts of interesting collections, namely, book extracts, journal articles, images, audio, video, and exam papers.  These are bespoke materials which means that it isn’t like other commercial electronic resources but people still get confused and think we are part of Athens or another elearning objects repository.”

“When the lecturer sends out the form, I carefully analyse each request and  make sure it complies with the various licences that the university holds such as the CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency) ,ERA (Educational Recording Agency), or sometimes it can qualify as an exception to the Copyright Act.”

“If the request  exceeds what can been done,  I contact the lecturer or librarian involved and suggest other ways of obtaining the materials either through the purchase of an ebook,  or arranging permissions with publishers directly, or clearing chapters through a copyright  clearing service called HERON. I represent the university on the HERON User Group and attend meetings where I keep up to date on copyright and other relevant intellectual property law developments. “

“Recently, I have begun twittering about copyright on eCopyLite  and working on developing  ways of informing other members of staff about copyright with my line manager, Damyanti, and, my digital library officer colleague, Nikki.  I would like to think that my job is to act as an advisor on these issues”.

“ Nikki, the other digital library officer, and myself are a rare breed, as there are only two of us that have this role. Each day is different (for me that is Wed-Fri).  Not all I do is copyright, I am interested in repositories, developing  workflows, knowledgeable of metadata, user interfaces, and  working on special projects  with other members of the elibrary team.”

Mr. Border Agent’s eyes began to glaze over and then he quickly stamped my passport. As I moved onto the baggage claim, I could swear I heard him say under his breath, “ I hope the next one is a  firefighter.”


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