This blog post originally began as a “brief” response to Doug Johnson’s post, “It’s not just AASL…”, but as I began writing this afternoon, it morphed and took on a life of its own.  I have cross posted my response here in case you may not follow Doug’s Blue Skunk blog.  This post was difficult to write as I normally agree with Doug!  Many thanks for my friends in my PLN for helping me think this one through.

July 22 Response to “It’s not just AASL…”

I must respectfully disagree with Doug’s position and with the comment from Debbie Stafford.

My Response to Doug

Doug, you state in your post, “It’s OK for my professional organizations to [be] fiscally prudent as well as cuttin’ edge and socially responsible.”

Are we developing standards merely for profit?  Should standards not be developed first and foremost with the purpose of improving education for students and not as a vehicle for making money?   How are we exemplifying cutting edge practices if an organization, whether it be AASL, ISTE, or any of the organizations you identified above, is not modeling 21st century practices by licensing content for use under one of the Creative Commons licenses?

The original wording on the permissions page for use of the standards (which apparently has changed since my blog post on July 15 at ) implied  room for interpretation by using verbiage indicating permissions were needed to even link to the PDF document.  Seriously—telling people (AASL members or not) they need permission to drive people to your document and your organization’s website? Standards that are the very heart of what we try to teach?   How is that cutting edge?  Instead, the appearance is given that control is the driving concern, not innovation.

The original permissions (as well as the examples you have quoted above) are not a “cutting edge” way of providing liberal and unencumbered use of the standards.  Instead, that kind of wording is 1.0; it is the old model of protecting one’s content.   Yes, we can claim “fair use”, but I think everyone knows there are always shades of gray and debate as to whether or not something falls under fair use.   In addition, fair use rules typically are limited to face to face interaction, not public presentations or other means of public sharing via print or digital medium.

The argument, “Everyone else is doing it this way” and “nobody, nobody, puts their work into the public domain, free of any restrictions” also holds no weight with me—at a time in which I see the clout of  our profession declining in the testing and standards driven climate of NCLB, I care about being able to put those standards in as many places as possible with as few restrictions as possible to show the value of what I do every day as a school library professional.  At least with a share alike non-commercial CC license, users would have more confidence that they were not violating copyright or have to wonder if their use fell under fair use.

AASL of course has every right to protect its intellectual property, which no one disputes, but the original permissions wording, which as I noted, has seemingly quietly changed to some extent to be “kinder and gentler” (see July 14 cache of the same page at ) sometime in recent days, was overly restrictive.  The original wording included several references to “could be”, “must be”, and “may be charged a fee.”   Let organizations market conferences, journals, membership fees, and other services as a means for making profit, but let us not pin our financial hopes on the marketing of ideas and standards that should be produced and shared in the spirit of educational progress.

My Response to Debbie Stafford

Ms. Stafford, if you go back and reference the posts from Chris Harris and Joyce Valenza that I link to in my blog post, I think you will see that no one “went off…without thinking it through.”  On July 18, even Doug himself had this to say about the situation:

“Judging by the tenor of the discussion on various library lists, the ill-will being generated by the controversy is costing AASL a lot in lost membership and good will. A quick (oh, I forgot that that quick is not in AASL’s vocabulary) policy reversal, placing a share-alike, non-commercial use Creative Commons license on the standards would show it listens to its membership. (#FreeTheStandards ) AASL and ALA will need to move into the 21st Century someday, whether they want to or not.”

As for the “one person” you reference in your response, Chris Harris merely pointed out some of the legitimate problems with the original permissions wording and shared those concerns with the school library community.  Not only did he point out some of the problems, but he also provided a reasonable solution that met the interests of AASL and practitioners.  Joyce’s concern in her July 13 post, “I get the need for profit, but I wonder if we are looking at profit in a very small picture way in these times.  I wonder if our field is seriously misrepresented by our especially conservative approach to dissemination” reflects a serious and very real philosophical question about the purpose and mission of our library organizations.  In Joyce’s July 14 post, the esteemed David Loertscher shared a thoughtful analysis of the model “Return on Investment” and concluded with these thoughts:

How can our voice get heard? Are we insular or promotional? Are we a business or a professional organization? A reminder, the intellectual content of the standards was given freely by volunteers. What is our intent?”

Obviously, more than one blog post shared similar concerns, and I don’t classify other library professionals debating and exploring those concerns in a methodical manner as going off “without thinking it through.”  Clearly, a great deal of thought was put into these posts if you read them in their entirety.

What can be learned from the #freethestandards debate and dialogue?

In her June 29, 2009 review and analysis of David Lee King’s book, Designing the Digital Experience, Valeria Maltoni ( breaks down the three steps for “mapping a customer’s journey.”  Maltoni identifies the first step:

“Connect the dots between internal preparedness and external needs – the moment of truth in this step is literally overcoming communications barriers, internal bureaucracy, disbelief, and misconception stalls. When you do that, you’re taking your business from a position of unattractiveness, to one of interest in figuring out the points of interaction and staying focused on customer needs.”

If we posit ourselves as “customers” of AASL (or substitute any of the organizations mentioned by Doug above), then perhaps this situation with standards is an opportunity for AASL and other organizations to be “cutting edge” and “socially responsible” by focusing on the needs of its “customers”, the people who want to embrace and integrate these standards as seamlessly and as pervasively as possible.  While it appears the wording for acceptable use has been clarified on the permission page in recent days, why not go a step further and add the Creative Commons license?  Let us draw inspiration from George Bernard Shaw who said, “Some look at things that are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?”  Why NOT free the content?  What does AASL have to lose except the confidence of its members?

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, it seems fitting that our organization could blaze trails for others by taking the bold leap of licensing this important content with the CC license and setting a precedent for idea sharing.   Should we really let how everyone else has approached the marketing and sharing of standards dictate our approach?  By doing so, AASL would be modeling Maltoni’s second step in mapping the customer’s journey, “Integrate what you say with what you do.”  Let us, AASL, be an organization that practices and incorporates the very principles of 21st century digital citizenship.

Finally, Maltoni identifies the third step of mapping the customer experience:

Innovate at each touch point – whenever you offer a customer something, do you think through the implications of delivering it to them, or them getting it however they find it easiest? What process or tool have you not updated for a long time and needs revisiting, for example? The moment of truth in this one is if your innovation is you-centered, in other words easy for you, or customer-centric, something that will make their experience better.”

This #freethestandards issue is the perfect opportunity for AASL to “innovate at each touch point” by rethinking how content may be “delivered” to its members and those who will want to use its intellectual property.  Is having to email or make a phone call to get written permission to use the standards the easiest way to share that content?  Absolutely not!  Why not “update the process”? Had the CC license been initially applied rather than the original permission wording, confusion and discontent could have been avoided on the part of those who want to reference and integrate the standards on a regular basis.  The experience of the AASL member at this particular “touch point” could have been better had intellectual profit been a priority over monetary profit.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, I call upon AASL to be a leader in the educational realm by being innovative and offering the CC license that users can easily embed when they are using the standards in print or digital medium.  As we practitioners in the field attempt to redefine ourselves and bring innovation to the ways that school libraries can make a difference in schools, so too should our organization strive to practice the three steps of mapping the AASL member’s journey to build membership, support, and growth through creative customer service rather than business models that are becoming increasingly irrelevant in today’s culture.