Proposal for Allocation of Electronic Intellectual Resources Jeffrey Shallit, Department of Computer Science, University of Waterloo March 24, 1995 1. The Problem. Because of historical reasons and the rapid pace of technological change, we are faced with a problem. The Library, which has a mandate to support "lifelong, self-directed learning; equitable access; and intellectual freedom..." , is *not* the organization currently charged with the responsibility for many types of electronic media on campus. Instead, that responsibility currently lies with a myriad of different computing organizations on campus: the Department of Computing Services (DCS); the Mathematics Faculty Computing Facility (MFCF); the Arts Faculty Computing Office, etc. While they are very capable technically, none of these organizations have formal training in the principles of selection and intellectual freedom which are a fundamental part of the librarian's craft . One unfortunate consequence is that a few decisions have been taken to eliminate certain topics from our electronic media without the same regard for intellectual freedom that is afforded more traditional media at this university. This amounts to what most people would certainly recognize as censorship if similar rules were applied to books, for example . Perhaps it is because some still do not recognize the new electronic media as providing a valuable intellectual resource that attempts to demonstrate that this censorship is unacceptable in a university community have fallen on deaf ears . Electronic intellectual resources (such as Usenet) continue to be treated, in a sense, like orphans. Despite their increasing usefulness to the community, there remains no formal, specific commitment from University administrators or departments to provide these resources on an equitable basis to all students. It may be partly due to historical accident that no group has officially "adopted" the responsibility for our orphan electronic resources, but as long as our top administrators remain divorced from this technology, there unfortunately seems little prospect for change . Thus, we are compelled to address this issue, at least within the Mathematics Faculty. It would clearly be more desirable if a broader policy was developed for the whole university and the Faculty's Computing Committee should express its concern in a letter to the President. Nevertheless, the increase in the flow of Usenet News , and the limited ability of the Mathematics Faculty's computing resources to handle that flow, have necessitated a temporary change in how Usenet newsgroups are subscribed to. This may only be a temporary state of affairs, as it may be that newsgroups will in the future be distributed in a manner analogous to the "DynaFeed" proposal of Brad Templeton. Nevertheless, unacceptable delays in posting of messages  require action to be taken in the short term. 2. The Principles I believe that the Mathematics Faculty must state unequivocally that it supports both Usenet News and Internet access as an intellectual resource. This support is based on the recognition that more and more material which has been traditionally distributed through the print medium (including books, newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals) is now being distributed electronically. The electronic media are valuable both for the teaching and research missions of the Mathematics Faculty, and the general intellectual and social climate of the University community. Support for this view can be found in the Report of the Advisory Committee on Network News . That report advises, among other things that: 1. "...it is important that the University of Waterloo consult its user community when decisions must be made about the use of resources which are committed to E-mail and news." 2. "The University's primary news-server continue to receive all newsgroups generated internally and all newsgroups which arrive over the networks to which the University is connected." 3. "The contents of these newsgroups continue to be made available to all lower service levels." 4. "When decisions are to be made re the consumption of computing resources for newsgroups, those responsible for such decisions should widely and formally consult with the full user community. In the case of the primary server, it should be the responsibility of the University Computing Committee to see that such consultation takes place. In the case of lower level servers, a well-defined consultative process, approved by the University Computing Committee, should exist." Support can also be found in the statements on intellectual freedom from the Canadian Library Association (CLA) and Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL). For example, "All persons in Canada have the fundamental right, as embodied in the nation's Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to have access to all expressions of knowledge, creativity and intellectual activity, and to express their thoughts publicly. This right to intellectual freedom, under the law, is essential to the health and development of Canadian society. "Libraries have a basic responsibility for the development and maintenance of intellectual freedom. "It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee and facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity, including those which some some elements of society may consider to be unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable. To this end, libraries shall acquire and make available the widest variety of materials. "It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee the right of free expression by making available all the library's public facilities and services to all individuals and groups which need them. "Libraries should resist all efforts to limit the exercise of these responsibilities while recognizing the right of criticism by individuals and groups. "Both employees and employers in libraries have a duty, in addition to their institutional responsibilities, to uphold these principles." [Canadian Library Association] "All persons in Canada have a fundamental right, as embodied in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Bill of Rights, to have access to all expressions of knowledge, creativity, and intellectual activity. "It is the responsibility of research libraries to facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge, opinion, intellectual activity, and creativity from all periods of history to the current era including those which some may consider unconventional, unpopular, unorthodox, or unacceptable. "To this end research libraries shall acquire and make available, through purchase or resource sharing, the widest variety of materials that support the scholarly pursuits of their communities." [Canadian Association of Research Libraries] Yet more support for this view can be found in the American Library Association's draft of a new policy ACCESS TO ELECTRONIC INFORMATION, SERVICES, AND NETWORKS: AN INTERPRETATION OF THE LIBRARY BILL OF RIGHTS; see the Appendix. 3. Possible Solutions One possible solution to the problem of the increasing volume of Usenet News is to allocate more resources. Indeed, this is solution is implicitly recommended by the Report of the Advisory Committee on Network News , which recommends that the "contents of these newsgroups continue to be made available to all lower service levels", which, presumably, includes MFCF. However, in a world of shrinking resources, it may not always be possible to dedicate yet another machine and yet another hard drive to exponentially-increasing Usenet News. Therefore, another possibility is selection. Selection is not censorship. Selection has a long-established history with librarians, and is based on intellectual freedom principles. Selection may be used to identify those newsgroups which are of the most value to the university community, and the Mathematics Faculty in particular, and choose to subscribe to those. Selection must *not* be used to censor, inhibit discussion, or enforce a partisan or doctrinaire viewpoint. When selection is done, it is imperative that a narrow understanding of the Mathematics Faculty's mission be avoided. In particular, selectors should strive to copy the Library's mission to support "lifelong, self-directed learning; equitable access; and intellectual freedom..." . In view of this, selectors should not select simply those newsgroups dealing with mathematics, statistics, and computer science, but also newsgroups improving the general intellectual life of the community. Hence newsgroups dealing with politics, the arts, science, human sexuality, etc., should also be selected. Since there are currently over 5,000 newsgroups, I do not feel it is practical to rank each of these newsgroups in terms of value and then drop (say) the lowest-ranked 500 groups. Such a ranking would, for one thing, be very time-consuming. Second, new newsgroups are created at the rate of 5-20 a day, and it would consume much time to evaluate each newsgroup (which necessitates reading the newsgroup over a not insubstantial period of time) for its value. Furthermore, considering that one of the great values of Usenet News is that it is able to handle fast-breaking stories through newsgroup creation (the recent Kobe, Japan earthquake and the Jake Baker story being just two examples), I believe it is important the *default* continue to be that the Mathematics Faculty continue to provide all new newsgroups as they are created (or at least all such newsgroups whose traffic exceeds a certain threshold). Whatever selection process is eventually developed, it must take into account intellectual freedom principles. In particular, decisions to stop carrying a particular newsgroup must be appealable. A well-defined appeals process must be set up. Because the content of some newsgroups is controversial, it must also be possible to appeal the decision *anonymously*. For example, gay students that are not "out of the closet" may find it difficult to object to unsubscribing to a newsgroup that deals with gay issues. This point is in sharp contrast to the proposed policy, which states : Math Faculty users who wish to have particular newsgroups restored can request restoration; such requests should be accompanied by a recommendation from a faculty member (in the case of a student request), a manager (in the case of a staff request), or the department chair (in the case of a request from a faculty member). No policy similar to this exists for the library. Students, faculty members, and staff members are free to recommend subscriptions to magazines (for example) without having to obtain recommendations from supervisors. The library also accepts anonymous recommendations. I believe that the issue of expire times must also be addressed. Expire times specify the length of time that a particular message can be accessed before it is deleted. When expire times are shortened to just a few days, valuable information can be missed by some people whose schedules do not allow them to read Usenet News on an almost daily basis. This obviously limits the usefulness of this resource. Furthermore, when expire times are shortened to a matter of hours, this clearly approaches a situation indistinguishable from explicit censorship. Carefully chosen expire times can, however, be used to manage the quantity of news residing on MFCF disks. The same principles used to identify those newsgroups as valuable intellectual resources should be used to set appropriate expire times, and there should be reasonable efforts made to change expire times as the user community requests. None of these recommendations, by the way, should be construed to somehow prevent MFCF staffers to remove newsgroups on a temporary, emergency basis to remedy problems, such as those previously mentioned . 5. A Proposed Interim Solution. Until the University administration decides to commit itself more fully to the widespread distribution of and equal access to electronic intellectual resources, I propose the following temporary solution: a. A committee be established to determine how best to provide access to Usenet News, subject to the constraints of our limited resources; b. This committee will determine appropriate expire times for different newsgroups, and select which newsgroups are subscribed to (or unsubscribed to); c. This committee will determine expire times and select newsgroups using well-established intellectual freedom principles; d. This committee will select newsgroups that support both the teaching and research missions of the Mathematics Faculty, but also support the general intellectual and social life of the community; e. Newsgroups should be selected without regard to partisan or doctrinaire disapproval of their contents, or because some find the material "offensive"; f. The default should be, in accordance with the 1991 Advisory Committee report, that *all* new newsgroups be automatically subscribed to (or at least all new newsgroups whose traffic exceeds a certain threshold); g. The committee members should be chosen to fairly represent the users of the resources. For example, the committee could include a faculty member, an undergraduate, and a graduate student; h. The committee should include someone whose professional training includes selection and intellectual freedom principles--for example, a University librarian; i. All decisions about what groups to remove from the Mathematics Faculty's server should be widely publicized; j. A well-defined appeals process should exist for all decisions made by the Committee; k. The Committee should meet (perhaps electronically) on a regular basis to revise expire times and to revise the list of currently subscribed newsgroups; l. Newsgroups identified as candidates for removal should not be unsubscribed without public consultation; m. The committee should accept and consider comments from members of the community, including those submitted anonymously; n. Any finalized list of newsgroups to be dropped again should be publicized well in advance of the actual unsubscription. These recommendations were formulated solely as a strategy for coping with the current limitations of the MFCF news server, and not out of a desire to eliminate certain topics from electronic media that have been determined to "inappropriate". Therefore, any research lab, or even student group (such as the Computer Science Club) with adequate computing resources should remain free to establish their own news server and carry any newsgroups they might choose to -- in accordance with the principles of intellectual freedom and without being subject to any sort of "approved list" developed for the MFCF news server. Indeed, it could be part of the process that such alternative resources be notified well in advance, so that they might decide whether they wish to pick up the dropped groups. One specific suggestion is the following: every three months or so, the committee could ask for a list of the top 200 newsgroups by volume. This list is easy to provide, and these are the newsgroups the have the largest impact on MFCF resources. Of these, some number of newsgroups could be chosen as candidates for removal, according to the principles given above. These candidates could be publicized, and suggestions accepted for retention of particular newsgroups. After a sufficient warning period, the newsgroups could be dropped. They could be reinstated later, if computing resources are improved. References  University of Waterloo Library, Task Group on Non-Traditional Media, Final Report, July 1994. Available via WWW using the URL http://www.lib.uwaterloo.ca:80/Non-traditional_Media.txt  See, for example, the American Library Association's _Intellectual Freedom Manual_. Excerpts from this can be found on the World-Wide Web at http://www.intac.com/~kgs/ifc/ifm.html  See, for example, the three-part series "Censorship: The Libraries, the Internet, and the University", _FAUW Forum_, January, February, and April 1994. Also available on the WWW at http://www.cs.uwaterloo.ca/~shallit/forum.html  Repeated requests to the Ethics Committee to clarify the *specific* criteria used for deciding which newsgroups may be "banned" on-campus have gone unanswered.  Neither the President nor the Provost had an electronic mail address as of December 1994, and both had expressed an unwillingness to acquire one.  Some estimates run as high as an increase in Usenet traffic of 20% per *month*.  Professor A. Lubiw reports that important messages posted by her to the class newsgroup uw.cs.cs360 recently did not appear for more than a day.  Report of the Advisory Committee on Network News, University of Waterloo, May 30, 1991.  E-mail message from Jay Black, March 22, 1995. Appendix. DRAFT DRAFT DRAFT DRAFT Draft Version 1.1 3/5/95 ACCESS TO ELECTRONIC INFORMATION, SERVICES, AND NETWORKS: AN INTERPRETATION OF THE LIBRARY BILL OF RIGHTS Freedom of expression is an inalienable human right and the foundation for self-government. Freedom of expression encompasses the freedom of speech and the corollary right to receive information. These rights extend to children as well as adults. Libraries and librarians exist to facilitate these rights by providing access to, identifying, retrieving, organizing, and preserving recorded expression regardless of the formats or technologies in which that expression is recorded. It is the nature of information that it flows freely across boundaries and barriers despite attempts by individuals, governments, and private entities to channel or control its flow. Electronic technology has increased the speed and universality of this flow. Although we live in a global information village, many persons do not have access to electronic information sources because of economic circumstances, capabilities of technology, and infrastructure disparity. The degree of access to electronic information divides people into groups of haves and have- nots. Librarians, entrusted as a profession with the stewardship of the public good of free expression, are uniquely positioned to address the issues raised by technological change. Librarians address intellectual freedom from a strong ethical base and an abiding commitment to the preservation of the individual's rights. The American Library Association has expressed these basic principles of librarianship in its CODE OF ETHICS and in the LIBRARY BILL OF RIGHTS and its Interpretations. These serve to guide professional librarians and library governing bodies in addressing issues of intellectual freedom and the rights of the people they serve. The constant emergence and change of issues arising from the still-developing technology of computer-mediated information generation, distribution, and retrieval need to be approached by librarians from a context of established policy and constitutional principles so that fundamental and traditional tenets of librarianship are not swept away. In making decisions on how to offer access to electronic information, each library should consider its mission, goals, objectives, cooperative agreements, and the needs of all the people it serves. The library should address the rights of users, the equity of access, and information resources and access issues. THE RIGHTS OF USERS All library system and network policies, procedures or regulations relating to electronic resources and services should be scrutinized for potential violation of user rights. User policies should be developed according to the policies and guidelines established by the American Library Association, including GUIDELINES FOR THE DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION OF POLICIES, REGULATIONS AND PROCEDURES AFFECTING ACCESS TO LIBRARY MATERIALS, SERVICES AND FACILITIES. Users have the right to be free of interference and unreasonable limitations or conditions set by libraries, librarians, system administrators, vendors, network service providers, or others. This specifically includes contracts, agreements, and licenses entered into by libraries on behalf of their users. No user should be restricted or denied access for expressing or receiving constitutionally protected speech. No user's access should be changed without due process, including, but not limited to, notice and a means of appeal. Users have a right to full descriptions of and access to the documentation about all electronic systems and programs they are using, and the training and assistance necessary to operate the hardware and software. Users have the right of confidentiality in all of their activities with electronic resources and services provided by the library, and the library shall ensure that this confidentiality is maintained. The library should support, by policy, procedure, and practice, the user's right to privacy. Users should be advised, however, that security is technically difficult to achieve and that electronic communications and files are safest when they are treated as if they were public. The rights of users who are minors shall in no way be abridged. EQUITY OF ACCESS Electronic information, services, and networks provided directly or indirectly by the library should be readily, equally, and equitably accessible to all library users. Once the decision is made to use library funds to provide access to electronic information, the user must not be required to pay to obtain the information or use the service. When resources are insufficient to meet demand, rationing service may be necessary to provide equitable access. All library policies should be scrutinized in light of ECONOMIC BARRIERS TO INFORMATION ACCESS: AN INTERPRETATION OF THE LIBRARY BILL OF RIGHTS. INFORMATION RESOURCES AND ACCESS ISSUES Electronic resources provide unprecedented opportunities to expand the scope of information available to users. Libraries and librarians should provide material and information presenting all points of view. This pertains to electronic resources, no less than it does to the more traditional sources of information in libraries. (See DIVERSITY IN COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT: AN INTERPRETATION OF THE LIBRARY BILL OF RIGHTS.) Libraries and librarians should not deny or limit access to information available via electronic resources because of its allegedly controversial content or because of the librarian's personal beliefs or fear of confrontation. Information retrieved or utilized electronically should be considered constitutionally protected unless determined otherwise by a court with appropriate jurisdiction. Providing access to electronic information, services, and networks is not the same thing as selecting and purchasing material for a library collection. Libraries may discover that some material accessed electronically may not meet a library's selection or collection development policy. It is, therefore, left to each user to determine what is appropriate. Parents who are concerned about their children's use of electronic resources should provide guidance to their own children. (See FREE ACCESS TO LIBRARIES FOR MINORS: AN INTERPRETATION OF THE LIBRARY BILL OF RIGHTS; ACCESS TO RESOURCES AND SERVICES IN THE SCHOOL LIBRARY MEDIA PROGRAM; and ACCESS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE TO VIDEOTAPES AND OTHER NONPRINT FORMATS) Just as libraries do not endorse the viewpoints or vouch for the accuracy or authenticity of traditional materials in the collection, they do not do so for electronic information. Libraries must support access to all materials on all subjects that serve the needs or interests of all users regardless of the user's age or the content of material. Libraries and librarians should not limit access to information on the grounds that it is perceived to be frivolous or lacking value. Libraries have a particular obligation to provide access to government publications available only in electronic format. Libraries may need to expand their selection or collection development policies to reflect the need to preserve materials central to the library's mission as a retrievable copy in an appropriate format to prevent loss of the information. CONCLUSION By applying traditional tenets of intellectual freedom to new media, librarians provide vision and leadership in an arena where it is so clearly needed. Our services have never been more important. James Madison wrote, "A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."