Copyrightlaws.com is excited to share Emilie Algenio’s article on becoming a Copyright Specialist and her tips for librarians who deal with copyright issues and answer copyright questions. Ms. Algenio is the Copyright/Fair Use Librarian for the Texas A&M University Libraries.
This article helps a Copyright Specialist get started, after the copyright education process ends and securing such a position. Whether it is the acceptance of a newly-minted job or the recipient of additional responsibilities, the following are practical suggestions to ease into the transition.
Prioritize and Organize
Start by discussing with your supervisor, and referring to the job’s Position Description, what role the Copyright Specialist plays. Reach a consensus, and document what is specific, what is broad, and, of those, which ones correspond to the organization’s strategic goals.
Develop your own method of organizing and documenting your work. As the point person for answering copyright questions, keep a Log with the date, time, and method of first contact, how to reach this person, status (pending, answered, etc.), and requested deadline for your response. Integrate the values of your organization; for example, your supervisor wants you to measure your impact. Within this Log, note the number of people and questions you receive.
Connect with Your People
Take the data points from your documentation, and fashion your own narrative. Talk, write, blog, Tweet, and email about your story, about your work. Clarify and characterize what your work looks like, which target population was served, who your collaborators were, and the number of people you helped.
Find avenues to report out, during all-staff meetings, as a host for your department’s Open House, or submit a news piece to the internal newsletter. Initiate opportunities to report up, sharing success stories with your supervisor and administrators during their open office hours. The goal is transparency, and to demystify what a Copyright Specialist does, on the ground.
Rehearse Your Elevator Speech
Prepare to not only discuss what the front lines of your service looks like, but also the view from a 10,000-foot level. Explore the reasons why your profession cares about copyright. Once you have answers, use them as a springboard to consider and articulate your own reasons for caring. For librarians, here is a statement from a former Executive Director of the American Librarian Association’s Washington D.C. Office.
Customize your elevator speech, with a version ready for a 10-year old, and another one for the high-ranking administrator who consistently hits the treadmill at the same time you do. Aim for the story of what you do in plain English, void of library and legal terms, in thirty second or less.
Start Local, Then Think Global
Monitor news about copyright at the local, state, federal, national, and international levels. Consider hosting an open forum, inviting everyone in your organization, as an occasion to discuss significant news developments. Hold these forums twice a year, provide snacks, and offer it in multiple locations, should your business cover 5,000 acres (2,023 hectares).
For these forums, focus on news that is relevant to the day-to-day operations of your organization. Other helpful filters are what affects everyday business in the short term and news that is germane to your colleagues’ actual work. During the forum itself, make points that are plain spoken and in conversational English, and read your audience for signs of cognitive overload.
Where appropriate, consider offering these forums to your administration. Another route is to make a presentation for a governing body; for example, library directors in consortial arrangements who meet in person.
Take advantage of national and international celebrations to promote copyright awareness in your business or organization. Tie your efforts into the larger events: Public Domain Day in the United States, Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week, Open Education Week, World Intellectual Property Day, and Open Access Week.
Practice Patience and Compassion as a Copyright Specialist
A person who needs your help may ask during their eleventh hour of need and want answers immediately. Draw upon your customer service ethic, crafting and practicing collegial phrases and explanations why you need more time. Alter these phrases and explanations as necessary for a telephone conversation, for an email reply, and for in-person appointments.
Keep your proverbial Log, mentioned previously, nearby. Use that Log as a ready reference, to manage this urgent request in relation to other pending requests, and to accurately gauge your availability to meet it. Then notify the patron when they can expect an answer to their question.
This is a guest post and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Copyrightlaws.com or its CEO Lesley Ellen Harris.