I just finished answering some interview questions via email for a future LIS student’s graduate school application essay, and then moved on to reading my feeds. Before my library feeds I like to dabble in my entertainment feeds, and came across Joss Whedon‘s “From the Front Lines!” comment at Whedonesque on the WGA strike. Since I had just written a rather ramble-y but passionate response to the LIS hopeful about the challenges facing libraries, this bit of Whedon’s comment really struck me.
Let me be clear on one point: I know I have it easy. I’ve done well, and I’m grateful that I can weather a long winter. Compared to what the studios have made off me my share is tiny and cute, but I’m in no position to complain. But take that differential, apply it to someone who’s just getting by when they deserve better. Now take it and… well, just take it, ‘cause when it comes to the internet and the emerging media there’s nothing there for the artists. There’s no precedent; these media didn’t exist the last time a contract was negotiated. We’re not just talking about an unfair deal, we’re talking about no deal at all. Four cents from the sale of a DVD (the standing WGA deal) sounds exactly as paltry as it is, but in a decade DVD may have gone the way of the eight-track. We have to protect the rights of the people who tell the stories, however they’re told.
Some of us are okay, but know that others aren’t. Trying to manage media that didn’t exist when the deal was made. Fears that our current formats may become obsolete. Protecting our rights for the future. Telling the stories however they’re told.
Sounds like libraries, to me. Sounds like where we are, trying to figure out the new media and information environment. Trying to learn to handle format-neutral content. Trying to preserve the past and plan for the future. Sounds like we’re all struggling with closely related issues.
I’m about as far from Hollywood entertainment writers as you can get, but we’re all fighting similar battles. And I think that’s a good reminder to pay attention to what happens outside librarianship, outside academia, outside whatever your small but vital world is. These issues are about our culture, our world, and our lives, not just our jobs. And the solutions may be out there somewhere — who knows what kind of deal the Writer’s Guild of America will strike in their next contract — and who knows… it might contain the seed of an idea that can solve a problem for us, too.