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The Voice of the Library of Congress Professional Guild

May 9, 2005

The Library Needs a Full-Time Staff Interpreter

by Alex D. Richey, Jr.

The Library of Congress Deaf Association was founded in 1993 to serve as a resource for deaf and hard-of-hearing employees in their efforts to identify and amend existing discriminatory policies at the Library. We work with Library officials and with the labor organizations to increase awareness of deaf and hard-of-hearing issues and to promote career-related opportunities and diversity.

The Association includes deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing staff members and it is on their behalf - as well as deaf and hard-of-hearing visitors to the Library - that I make this plea: the Library needs to hire a full-time permanent Staff Interpreter to support the needs of its 20 deaf employees, its deaf student interns and the visiting public.

On Sept. 8, 2004, we met with the Director of the Office of Workforce Diversity to discuss complaints from deaf employees and to express our concerns about deterioration in the Library’s Interpreting Services Program. It was at this meeting that we learned that the position of full-time Staff Interpreter had been abolished and that services were now provided by contract employees on a limited basis.

We were deeply disappointed that we were not consulted regarding this significant change in our working conditions. It took years of effort by many concerned employees to convince the Library to establish a permanent position of Staff Interpreter. We view this position as equivalent to that of police officer, nurse, emergency medical technician, firefighter or other specialist who may be needed at a moment’s notice. It is no wonder that, with contract interpreters we have had the unfortunate experience of tardiness, no-shows because of forgetfulness or misunderstandings, no responses to our email or phone requests, rescheduling of appointments, canceling “low priority requests,” and determining what is best for deaf and hard-of-hearing employees without regard to their own preferences.

The Director of Workforce Diversity listened to our complaints and, on Dec. 20, 2004, responded directly to the Association. He stated that the Library intends to maintain the level of support necessary to provide equal access to services and programs of the institution for all people with disabilities. He explained that the Library must balance the needs of persons with disabilities who are researchers, visitors, and applicants for Library employment.

He explained that his office was undergoing a transition and would undertake a cost and functional analysis as soon as new managers were in place to decide between providing full-time, permanent on-site interpreting services or contract services. He agreed to provide more hours for contract interpreters so that services were available at least during core hours three days a week.

After much thought and consideration the LC Deaf Association renews our call to reinstate the position of Staff Interpreter. A review of the requests for interpreting services will show that many requests come from supervisors who wish to fully include deaf staff members in meetings, training, and other work functions. A Staff Interpreter understands the institution - its work environment and its nuances. Such an interpreter learns the specialized language of our profession and builds relationships with fellow staff members, which facilitates the work of everyone - deaf and hearing staff, and even the interpreter. Thirty years of working with interpreters at the Library has taught us that a Staff Interpreter is key to a program of excellence. Being part of the institution and committed to its mission, a Staff Interpreter can enhance the scope of communications to assure that deaf staff and visitors are full participants in the work of this great Library. Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the LCRs, and the Collective Bargaining Agreements with the Library’s unions (AFSCME Local 2477, AFSCME Local 2910, CREA, and LC-FOP) is best attained with a full-time Staff Interpreter.

We appreciate that there are financial challenges to the Library of Congress in coming years due to fiscal shortfalls. However, a Staff Interpreter enables all deaf employees to meet challenging productivity goals, thus making the Library’s resources available to every citizen.

We call upon the Library to do the right thing. Heed the call of the LC deaf community. Reinstate the position of Staff Interpreter at the Library of Congress.

(Alex Richey is the President of the Library of Congress Deaf Association)

A Warning from Your Supervisor Is Serious Business!

by Melinda K. Friend

Usually we don’t see an employee in the Guild office until after their supervisor has proposed an adverse action against them. With papers in hand, they hurry into the office agitated, stressed out, demanding to see a Guild representative, and wondering how this could have possibly happened to them. When asked if their supervisor had given them an oral and/or written warning previous to this action, the usual reply is, “Yes, but I didn’t take it seriously.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that warnings are serious business and you need to contact the Guild immediately upon receiving one. Don’t think to yourself, “I’ve been here 20 years, received excellent and outstanding ratings, and have never been disciplined so nothing will happen to me.” Believe me, years of service, good performance ratings, and a squeaky clean past record will not save you from an adverse action.

What exactly is a warning? According to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, a warning is the giving of admonishing advice. So it is your supervisor’s way of letting you know there is a problem. In effect, he or she is putting you on notice. A warning, however, should not come as a total surprise. Your supervisor should have been telling you all along that your performance was wanting.

The usual procedure in performance cases is to call you aside to discuss the ways in which you have failed to meet the job requirements and the ways in which you can improve. At that time, your supervisor will also tell you that this discussion constitutes an oral warning of the need to improve. He or she will then prepare a written memorandum of the discussion and present you with a copy. If, after receiving the oral warning(s), you still fail to meet the requirements of your position, your supervisor will then issue a written warning. That warning will advise you of the ways in which you have failed to meet your job requirements and will point out the ways in which you can improve. The warning will further state whether you have 30, 60, or 90 calendar days in which to improve your performance, and that the time period will begin on the date of receipt of the warning. During that period of time, your supervisor will keep you informed as to your progress. If you still don’t improve your performance, your supervisor can then propose an adverse action for reassignment, transfer, demotion, or separation from the Library.

So you see, warnings are serious business. They are the first steps toward progressively harsher discipline that can lead to your removal from the Library.

(Melinda Friend in Chief Steward for the Guild)

Guild Launches Website

Are you ready for something new and exciting? The LC Professional Guild now has a website all its own! Come see it at We are very pleased to offer this new source of information about the Guild and its activities.

If you have some skills in HTML and would like to help add to and maintain the website, please let us know. We will definitely need some help as the site gets bigger and better! Call us at 7-1304.

Officials Visit Culpeper

In February Saundra Smith, president of AFSCME Local 2477, and Saul Schniderman, president of AFSCME Local 2910, visited the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center (NAVCC) in Culpeper, Va. The Union and the Guild participate in a MBRS labor-management consultative group working on reassignment and relocation issues.

Catalogers ponder their future

Copyright Office Guts Bibliographic Data from Public Recordby

Margaret Holley

For approximately five years the Copyright Office has been planning a reengineering effort to become more efficient and responsive to the public. The Cataloging and Examining divisions will combine to form the Registration Division, so that copyright deposits and applications will stop moving back and forth from the 4th floor to the 5th floor to resolve discrepancies. Electronic filing by copyright owners and scanning of information from the application will eliminate the need for typing by the new registration specialists or "examalogers." Catalogers in other parts of the Library and the Copyright Office have anticipated being able to share bibliographic information, avoid duplication of effort and realize a long dreamed of goal.

In an August memo to Jim Cole (Chief of the Information and Reference Division), Robin Coreas (Coordinator of the Copyright Office Online Public Access Catalog Group, or OPAC), expressed the hope that with these newly reengineered processes, the trend of downsizing the bibliographic portion of the record which began in the 1990s might be reversed. She mentioned that researchers (from the public) often have in hand only the copyright deposit (e.g., the book, piece of music, etc.) and not the copyright application, and that the bibliographic data on the deposit often varies from that on the application. A more complete record taken from both sources is needed by users, Ms. Coreas said.

But Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters, has decided that the copyright records should contain less bibliographic information, not more. Among her reasons, in a March 14 memo to Ms. Coreas, are that much of this information is available on the Internet by doing a Google search or by looking in other databases, and that giving too much information from both the deposit (also known as the copy) and the application can be confusing. For example, the claim to copyright on the application reflects the facts of a work as they are known at the time of first publication, yet the Library is entitled to the best edition of that work, which may be different. Other pressing factors include cost, a huge backlog, reduced staff and the need to provide a timely record.

Ms. Peters stated that "we deal with claims to copyright in works of authorship," that this authorship might exist in many different formats, and that in the age of Google, a particular embodiment of a work may become irrelevant. Including a complete physical description of the deposit may not be needed, she indicated. But Ms. Coreas's memo noted that searchers (employed by the Library) use the physical description in the record to help locate deposits not selected by the Library for its collections but stored in the copyright depository warehouse.

The Register stated that only authors listed on the copyright application should appear in the catalog record as authors. She later indicated that names appearing as authors on the deposit may be included in the bibliographic portion of the entry in some instances but should not be indexed as authors. In the case of an employer for hire, the person who actually prepared the work is not considered the author in the legal sense, and so should not be indexed as an author, the Register stated.

Our primary aim, she said, is to give a statement of the copyright facts in a clear and consistent fashion and that "no statement taken from a copy of the work should cloud or cast doubt on the copyright facts as reflected in the application." The copyright certificate, which is made from the application, constitutes prima facie evidence in court.

As an author who has registered some of my own writings, I sympathize with the sentiments expressed in the preceding paragraph. However, as a copyright cataloger who occasionally does research, I am aware that many remitters don't fill out applications in detail and that information on the deposit is often needed to adequately identify a work and distinguish it from similar works or from other editions and formats of the same work. For example, some applications include only authors of the current copyright claim and not authors of preexisting material that the work is based on.

Imagine a researcher seeking information about a trombone arrangement by John Fumasoli of "Sonata no. 1," originally written by Johann Sebastian Bach for solo violin. In the copyright browse file, the researcher finds 200 pages of works that begin with the word “Sonata,” written by many different composers including 348 titles consisting of the word “Sonata” alone. The name Johann Sebastian Bach appears as an access point for 2,446 items. The researcher looks under Fumasoli and locates a more reasonable number of access points, including a “Sonata no. 1" arranged for trombone. However, if Bach is not listed as an author of the preexisting material on the copyright application and catalogers are no longer allowed to include authors from the deposit in the public record, the researcher won’t know for sure that this is the “Sonata” he is looking for.

Now imagine that someone is searching for unpublished, early works by a famous author, such as recently deceased playwright Arthur Miller. Perhaps the only known copies of these works are in the copyright depository warehouse, but were registered as "works made for hire." According to the Register's decision, the creator of such works may not be indexed as an author. Only the person or company for whom the work was prepared will be identified or indexed as an author, because this is the only author in the legal sense!

The Register stated that an imprint "is not a copyright fact," and that "a case has not been made for including it in the new world." Besides revealing something about the character of a work, imprints can help identify different editions and distinguish among works with nondistinctive titles, such as "Collection of poems." Titles themselves are not copyrightable; for example, 428 works called "Love story" are indexed in the copyright database. A researcher who doesn't remember the author might get a clue from the imprint as to which "Love story" he is seeking, as well as where he might obtain a copy of it.

When a cataloger looks at and takes bibliographic data from both the deposit and the application, this provides a system of checks and balances which can identify and correct problems, such as when the wrong deposit is matched with the wrong application, because both were erroneously given the same registration number.

Ms. Peters indicated that a small working group will be set up to determine what information from the deposit will enable a user with only a copy of the work in hand to locate the copyright record. We urge Ms. Peters and this working group, as well as Guild members and others, to carefully consider the consequences of omitting bibliographic information from the public record. We strongly urge the Register to reconsider her decision.

Think of an unknown author in rural Minnesota, who pays taxes and scrapes together $30 to register his life's work in poetry, as well as a powerful record company in Nashville, which pays the same fee to register a popular new CD. Both expect and deserve that the online public record will provide an adequate bibliographic description of and index to their creative efforts, as well as a clear statement of the legal facts.

In order to serve the public, copyright information specialists, bibliographers and searchers require an online catalog that will enable them to answer questions, prepare reports, and locate deposits as well as applications; both may be needed someday in court, or for other reasons. Copyright catalogers, who work hard to do the best job they can, should be given the opportunity to create a bibliographic and legal tool that will truly serve the copyright community, the Library and the public.

NOTE: As we went to press, catalogers were directed to catalog all types of material from the application only, beginning Monday, May 1, in order to clear out a backlog to prepare for a temporary move offsite during the redesign of their work area.

(Margaret Holley is a copyright cataloger on the Performing Arts team of the Arts Section. Co-worker Martha Reza contributed to this article)

Credit Hours: Q & A

by Nan Thompson Ernst & Melinda K. Friend

Credit hours have been around at the Library since August 1997 yet many of us (including managers) do not fully understand the rules about earning and using them. In this article, we will address some of the frequently asked questions.

(Chief Steward Melinda Friend & Nan Ernst, Steward in Library Services, collaborated on this essay)

Labor Cares—Labor Shares!

Chief Steward Melinda Friend and Kathleen McKirchy, Executive Director of the Community Services Agency, load up donations in front of the Madison Building for the House of Ruth.

Last December AFSCME Locals 2477 and 2910, in partnership with the Community Services Agency of the Metro Washington Council, AFL-CIO, collected personal care items for the House of Ruth, a Washington, D.C., shelter for homeless and battered women and their children. As you can see, the drive was a success.



Community Service

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