Despite Weather Delays, An Upbeat PLA Conference in Philadelphia

Attendance figures have yet to be released, but judging from a fairly busy exhibits hall, and a jam-packed opening keynote with former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, the Public Library Association conference in Philadelphia this week was an upbeat, well-attended affair, despite some inclement weather.

Is it me, or is it beginning to feel like ALA can’t catch a break? After a poorly attended ALA Midwinter in Denver in February, PLA was set up to be a much needed bounce back—PLA is popular meeting, and Philadelphia conferences are always well-attended. And then came the fourth nor’easter in three weeks on the east coast, which snarled travel plans for many.

By Tuesday night, many librarians learned that their trains or flights were canceled. But luckily, the opening day speakers arrived in Philadelphia before the storm hit, and despite a few scattered session cancellations, the conference has not disappointed. And, to accommodate those librarians whose travel was canceled, PLA live-streamed the opening session online.

Among the highlights so far, Sally Yates’s delivered a powerful opening keynote and chatted with PLA president Pam Sandlian Smith.

And Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the bestselling Eat, Pray, Love offered librarians three new words to help relieve their anxieties: “Priorities, boundaries, mysticism.”

And of course, the conference is still going, and with author and Net Neutrality pioneer Tim Wu set to speak Saturday morning. And Hasan Minaj will deliver the closing keynote.

New Law Raises Online Censorship Concerns

Despite good intentions, critics say Congress has made a bad law that threatens free speech online.

The Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, or FOSTA (H.R. 1865), was approved by a vote of 97-2 margin in the Senate this week, and is now headed to President Trump. The law removes safe harbor liability protections from hosting sites that foster or facilitate prostitution or sex trafficking (for example the kind of classified ads on Backpage.com). But the law is so broadly, badly written, critics say, that it will force tech companies to police, and ultimately censor their networks.

“Facing the risk of ruinous litigation, online platforms will have little choice but to become much more restrictive in what sorts of discussions—and what sorts of users—they allow, censoring innocent people in the process,” explains the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Elliot Harmon.

Already, Craigslist has reportedly removed its personals section.

About That Whole Stealing of the Data Thing, Mark Zuckerberg is Sorry…

By now you’ve surely gotten word of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica debacle making headlines this week. Last week Facebook posted a statement acknowledging the misuse of private user data by Cambridge Analytica, the data analytic firm behind “Brexit” and the Trump Campaigns. Also Zuckerberg apologized.

The move by Facebook to go public with this information came the day before the publication of an investigation by the New York Times and the Observer of London revealed the extent in which the Cambridge Analytica relied on private user data.The firm, which is backed by wealthy conservative investors, worked with researcher Aleksandr Kogan to build a personality quiz app to harvest the user data. Kogan got his app approved by Facebook citing academic purposes for the data collection and failing to disclose the connect with Cambridge Analytica. Some 270,000 people installed the quiz app but Facebook’s API allowed access to 50 million people in the app users’ friend network.

Data and privacy protection has been a hot topic in the library world for years. And surely libraries can do more to help, especially in terms of educating citizens about about how their data is vulnerable.

Friday One-Liners

Regina Anderson, the librarian at the center of the Harlem Renaissance, finally gets her due.

Bill Gates reads a lot. This is his new favorite book.

An illustrator turned to Twitter to help ID mystery woman in old photo and pretty soon the Smithsonian archivists got involved.

LibraryThing acquired Litsy, you know, the Instagram for books.

Uh oh, Canada: Canadian Publishing revenues dip.

What’s the first step to protecting your privacy on Facebook? Use the “kill switch” in the app settings.

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