Earlier this year, I wrote about changes to the YALSA website, here and here. In a nutshell, a change was made in YALSA policy so that now some information (specifically current and historical book awards and booklists) can only be accessed if one is a member or if one fills out a form each time one wants that information.
YALSA recently posted an update post at their blog, talking about the status of the current changes.
I appreciate YALSA using their blog as a means to update membership on information relevant to membership.
I also appreciate that YALSA included an apology for how information on changes was previously shared.
YALSA was then very transparent in explaining what was happening and why.
While you should read the entire post, the nutshell is this: yes, this information is still accessible only by providing information via a form or by being a member; the form has to be filled out each time you go to access the links, unless you bookmarked what you wanted the last time you filled out the form; and this protected information is seen as the equivalent of a commercial database that is limited to library patrons and requires a library card and PIN.
Again, I appreciate and am thankful and glad that YALSA has provided information in a timely manner and been transparent.
I have the right, though, to disagree with them; and while I applaud this post, I still disagree with the content.
My personal opinions:
If ALA website technology does not allow easy member logon (and it does not), or the ability to fill out a form once (which it does not), changes could have waited until the technology was available to make these procedures as smooth and seamless as possible.
The form, while streamlined, does not allow for teens (or those under 13) to opt out or not fill in personal data.
The post mentions the number of email addresses obtained through the use of the current/previous form. I’m not sure if its possible to know if these are unique email addresses; remember, the form has to be filled out multiple times unless one bookmarks the information or gets to it another way. Another issue — valid email addresses. I’ve seen some people on Twitter mention how they either use made up emails for these types of forms, or accounts they use just for this type of thing so they can ignore the resulting emails.
Book award lists and book/media lists are not the equivalent of databases.
There is debate about whether, when, or how such lists should be members only: only current lists? only historical lists? only annotated historical lists? (My personal vote is that the last is members only, but I’ve seen a lot of disagreement to that.)
Regardless, a database is something the library pays for. A database is not something the library or its staff or its members created. The reasons for log in information is driven by the database owners, not the library. For example, library created content is typically easy to access without logging in: I can see library catalogs, book lists, or curated links without needing a card or PIN. That, to me, is the comparison here: These lists are created by YALSA members, members who have already paid YALSA dues, as well as ALA dues, as well as costs associated with conference travel, as well as their own personal time. Arguably, under the current logic, if I have to stop paying for membership for financial reasons next year, I no longer can access those award lists I helped to create without jumping through a hoop.
So, yes, that argument doesn’t persuade me. It didn’t persuade Kelly at Stacked, either.
I’m not saying there isn’t a persuasive argument for what is or isn’t members/form only. The reason I see annotated historical lists as being such member/form only (assuming there was smooth, easy log on and only one form to fill out), is that YALSA can then have its cake and eat it, too. Current information and historical lists which may be of use to casual readers or for programs, workshops, and educational uses are still easily available and a constant, low cost marketing tool of YALSA. Those who want the annotated lists, which provides more value via the annotations, are more likely to be wanted by the more serious reader or for more in-depth study, so is limited to those more serious about teen literature: YALSA members and those interested in being on a YALSA membership list. Heck, I may even be persuaded that any list more than 10 years old, annotated or not, should be so limited.
Again, I appreciate that YALSA is communicating and being transparent.