Many Paths to Librarianship Profile: Kait Jackson, Reference Librarian

Here’s another entry in the post series “Many Paths to Librarianship Profiles,” this time featuring my friend and former coworker Kait Jackson.  Kait and I worked together for a few years in the intellectual property (mainly patent) information field, and today Kait works as a reference librarian with a focus on patent information.

Reference librarian Kait Jackson.

1. How did you originally become interested in librarianship as a career?I first remember admiring librarians in middle school while doing a research paper on The Beatles for English class. This was before the internet really blew up, and I was doing searches by hand in the card catalog. I remember thinking how cool it must be to be the lady at the front desk, who knows where everything is, or at the very least knows where to find it. Later on, in college, I started working at my university’s library and became truly hooked on helping people find information that they needed.

2. How would you describe your library field niche? 

I studied and worked with intellectual property laws and concepts at my college library, and then again when I went to graduate school, while working in interlibrary loan and document sharing. In graduate school I took classes on copyright law, and my first real job out of school was working at an intellectual property firm dealing with patents, trademarks, and occasionally copyright. Currently I work in the US Patent and Trademark Office’s public search facility, where I help users get acquainted with and navigate our search systems, locate documents in the print and microfilm collections, and direct them to more specific resources like the Office of Innovation and Development and the Trademark Assistance Center. Right now we’re also preparing a microfilm collection of Patent Gazettes going back to 1790 for cataloguing!

3. What types of skills that wouldn’t generally be considered “traditional library work” have you learned during your career as a librarian? 

All the libraries I’ve worked in have been so varied it’s hard to tell where the “traditional library work” line is anymore. This week I’ve plugged computer monitors back in and rotated displays, helped translate a request from Spanish into English, spot-cleaned microfilm machines and reels, and re-spooled a few reels of microfilm by hand after cleaning or repair. I also have a bit of working knowledge of the patenting process and getting documents ready for filing in other countries, which you probably aren’t going to need to know in a day-to-day library setting.

4. What learning/networking resources do you regularly use to stay up-to-date on the news and trends in your particular niche of the library field? 

Most recently I’m using the USPTO weekly blast that’s sent out to inform employees of what’s going on within the organization; additionally my coworker is an author of several books about librarianship in different contexts and so I pick her brain when things outside my expertise come up. There are patent and trademark searching experts here as well who are a wealth of information about the systems we have, and their predecessors (as well as long-awaited successor systems).

5. What technology trends do you think will have the biggest impact on librarianship in the next decade? 

I really hope to see RFID implemented for faster, easier checking out of books for patrons; I also think that e-books are going to continue to pick up. With traditional hard copies the library can only lend as many physical copies as are on the shelf – with e-books that changes completely, with the right licensing. Another big thing I’d love to see is for Google Books (as originally envisioned) to be brought back and given over to its full potential.


Libraries Promoting Their Public Domain Content

Artists, academics, and students often want quick access to images and other forms of media for use in projects, and anyone online may want an image to include on social media or in a blog post.  Normally, you’d need to worry about copyright restrictions and licensing fees when re-using images or media, but some content falls under the public domain.  According to Stanford University Libraries, public domain is defined as “creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist.”  Works can fall into the public domain for a number of reasons: because the copyright has expired (in the US, works published before 1923 or if the copyright owner fails to renew the copyright), if the copyright owner purposely dedicates the work to the public domain, or if copyright law doesn’t cover that type of work.

How can you quickly find these works in the public domain, though?

Some major libraries have created portals to publicize their public domain digital collections, and these portals can be a helpful way to quickly find interesting images and media that can be freely shared and re-used without copyright restrictions.

  • Library of Congress (LOC): The LOC recently announced the creation of a  Free to Use and Reuse page, which “features themed sets of content (such as travel posters, presidential portraits, Civil War drawings) that are all free to use and reuse.”
“Free to use and reuse” digital collections from LOC.
Public domain collections highlighted from New York Public Libraries.
Albums from the British Library Flickr page.

If you want to learn more about finding public domain works, check the following guides from university libraries:

February 2018 Library News Round-Up

I’ve found a few interesting odds and ends from the websites and blogs I regularly check for library news, ranging from a new copyright search resource to a really, really neat online collection of medieval manuscripts from the British Library.

Before I go into list mode with the news items, I first want to highlight a great library news website that a coworker introduced me to: Library Technology Guides, a site run by Marshall Breeding.  I’ve added the news section of Library Technology Guides to my morning news check, since it lists daily announcements from major library service and database vendors.  The site also has a wealth of information about database/library service vendors, such as a database of library automation companies and a collection of guides related to industry trends and products.

Now on to library news that caught my eye from the past few weeks:

      • Farewell, PubMed Commons:  The NCBI Insights blog announced on February 1 that comments would no longer be accepted through PubMed Commons after February 15, and comments from PubMed Commons will no longer be visible after March 2.  PubMed Commons always seemed like a really interesting idea (allowing researchers to comment on PubMed articles), but it unfortunately sounds like usage of the feature was too low to justify (“comments submitted on only 6,000 of the 28 million articles indexed in PubMed”).
      • Virtual U.S. Copyright Office Card Catalog: In late January, InfoDocket described a new Virtual Card Catalog proof of concept website released by the Library of Congress (LOC), where users can browse through almost 18 million scanned images of cards in indexes from 1955-1970 and 1971-1977.  The site isn’t very practical for fast, easy searching, but it sure beats actually going onsite to the Copyright Records Reading Room.  I’ve written in the past about what a pain in the neck it can be searching for pre-1978 copyright registrations, so I’m very happy to see that LOC is finally making the digitized versions of the catalog cards available online (even if the viewing options are a bit clunky).  To celebrate, you can browse through Walt Disney copyright registrations from 1955-1970.
Exploring Walt Disney copyright registrations from the 1960s on the new Virtual U.S. Copyright Office Card Catalog.
    • Medieval Manuscripts Online at the British Library: Information Today posted an announcement that the British Library “made 50-plus rare medieval manuscripts and early print editions freely available via its Discovering Literature: Medieval resource”, including “the single surviving manuscript of Beowulf, the first complete translation of the Bible into English, an illustrated print edition of The Canterbury Tales, and the first English-language work written by a woman.”  You can also read fascinating articles analyzing the works, such as a look at Monsters and heroes in Beowulf and an incredible article describing the evolution of Old English.


Sir Gawain and the Green Knight c. 1400 from the Discovering Literature: Medieval resources on the British Library website.

So much library news (and amazing digital collections to explore), so little time.

New Database Linking Research Articles to Grants, Patents, and Clinical Trials: Exploring New Dimensions

While browsing Twitter last week, I came across an article in Nature describing an interesting new database called Dimensions.  The article “Science search engine links papers to grants and patents” by Richard Van Noorden explains how “Dimensions not only indexes papers and their citations, but also — uniquely among scholarly databases — connects publications to their related grants, funding agencies, patents and clinical trials.”  The database, launched January 15th by Digital Science, offers both free and subscription versions.  I wanted to explore in a bit more detail the different versions of Dimensions, learn about the data coverage, and try a few test searches in the free version of the database.

Dimensions Versions

The Dimensions website offers a comparison chart of the features for the different versions of the database (Dimensions, Dimensions Plus, and Dimensions Analytics).

  • Dimensions: The free version of the database offers access to more than 89 million publications, with information on linked grants, patents, and clinical trials.  This version of the database also includes 20 million researcher profiles (currently in beta) and includes citation based metrics and article-level Altmetric data.
  • Dimensions Plus: This subscription version of the database includes “fully interlinked database with publications, grants, patents, clinical trials with more than 124m records”, access to additional search, filter, and data aggregation options, and access to the Dimensions Search API.
  • Dimensions Analytics: This subscription version includes all features of Dimensions Plus, as well as a reviewer identification tool, portfolio reporting functionalities, additional research classification systems, and private instance or custom integration of the database with client systems.

Dimensions Coverage

Dimensions provides documentation on its data sources and an overview of how the data is cleaned, organized and linked.  Here are a few highlights from the document:

  • Dimensions uses full-text indexing, research categories based on New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC) system (and applied at an article level using AI/machine learning), institution disambiguation using the GRID database, and author disambiguation (using ORCID data) to improve retrieval.
  • Publication metadata comes from “openly-available databases together with those with permissive content licenses, such as PubMed, PubMed Central, ArXiv and CrossRef. “
  • Grant data was originally collected by “ÜberResearch (one of the six businesses in the Digital Science portfolio creating Dimensions)” in an effort to create a grant database, and the grant data has now been integrated into the broader Dimensions database.  The documentation also states:

    Grant data should not be taken as a complete view on all research related funding, as we pointed out in a recent report. It covers project-based funding from different types of funders (government, multinational, charities etc.)

  • Dimensions includes Altmetric data for each article, displayed on the article details page.
  • Clinical trials data comes from eight registries, including
  • Patent data is provided by “the Digital Science portfolio company IFI Claims” and currently covers about nine patent authorities.

Testing the Free Version of Dimensions

I did a quick test search on the free version of the Dimensions database, where you can search across about 89 million publications. Users can conduct a keyword search across full data or title/abstract only, or the user can paste in a document abstract to find similar articles. No advanced search fields seem to be available in this free version, although the help center does describe how basic Boolean operators, parentheses and quotes can be used in the keyword search form.

Search results list on the free version of Dimensions.

The results list includes filtering options like publication year, researcher name, field of research, publication type, source title, journal list, and open access.  Results can be sorted by relevance, publication date, RCR, citations, or Altmetric Attention Score.

An “Analytical Views” tab on the right side of the results list displays top fields of research, a graph of publications by year, and top source titles.

Analytical Views beside Dimensions search results.

After selecting a publication title from the results list you can view:

  • Citation and abstract data.
  • Publication references.
  • Supporting grants (no links to grant records provided in free version of database).
  • Publication citations.
  • Patent citations (no links to patent records provided in the free version of the database).
  • Linked clinical trials (no links to clinical trial records provided in the free version of the database).
  • Publication metrics (total citations, recent citations, field citation ratio, relevant citation ratio, Altmetric score).
  • Assigned research categories.
  • Links to external sources, such as publisher sites and PubMed.
Publication metrics, research categories, and external source links for an article on Dimensions.

Options to view the PDF (if open access) and to add the article to your library (if logged into a ReadCube account) are also available on the article details page.

Final Thoughts

I’m always excited to see linked research objects, and Dimensions takes a large step forward with linking a variety of research output, ranging from publications to patents and clinical trials. I hope government-funded databases like PubMed and PubMed Central can take a pointer from Dimensions and eventually include more linked content, such as links to related USPTO patents and applications, clinical trials from ClinicalTrials,gov, related federal grant information, and access to full research data sets.

Strange Copyright Questions – Who/What Can Hold Copyright?


Copyright law may not come across as the most exhilarating topic (although searching for old copyright registrations is more exciting than you’d think), but many copyright cases make pretty bizarre headlines. Read about the infringement claim that J.K. Rowling stole the word “muggle” or the copyright dispute over the Mike Tyson-style tattoo in The Hangover Part II, and you’ll begin to unearth some outlandish questions raised by copyright cases.

One of the copyright issues I find most interesting is the basic question of who/what can hold copyright for works they’ve created.  Of course an adult human can hold copyright, but can children hold copyright?  How does copyright law apply to works created by animals, or even art created by artificial intelligence?

Can children hold copyright?

Short answer, according to Yes in the US.

Minors may claim copyright, and the Copyright Office issues registrations to minors, but state laws may regulate the business dealings involving copyrights owned by minors. For information on relevant state laws, consult an attorney.

Kristin Keller at describes potential copyright issues that may arise at schools “when schools have the potential to profit from student-produced work, when schools prohibit students from profiting from their own work, or when the rights of other students may be infringed upon when student work is reproduced.”

Can animals hold copyright?

Now we start to get into weirder territory about whether non-humans can hold copyright.  The most well-known case about animal copyright ownership is probably the monkey selfie case filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) back in 2015, where “Judge William H. Orrick dismissed the claim on the grounds that the Copyright Act does not authorize vesting copyright ownership in nonhumans.”  PETA appealed the ruling but later dropped the appeal after a settlement with the human photographer who had originally posted the monkey selfie.

The Copyright Office clarified in September 2017 that it will “not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants. Likewise, the Office cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings, although the Office
may register a work where the application or the deposit copy(ies) state that the work was inspired by a divine spirit.”

So in short, it seems like animals can’t hold copyrights in the US.  (Neither can ghosts.)

Can artificial intelligence hold copyright?

WIPO Magazine recently published a fascinating article by Andres Guadamuz, examining how copyright law may apply to artistic works created by artificial intelligence.  Guadamuz explains:

There are two ways in which copyright law can deal with works where human interaction is minimal or non-existent. It can either deny copyright protection for works that have been generated by a computer or it can attribute authorship of such works to the creator of the program.

It seems, at least for now (until the robot uprising occurs) that artificial intelligence can’t hold copyright.

So to sum it up:

What can currently hold copyright: Human adults and children

What can’t hold copyright: animals, plants, ghosts, robots

Evolution of Library Technology Told Through Patents: Card Catalogs and Microfiche

Sometimes with all of the new technologies to learn about in the library field (Big Data, AI, LibGuides, etc.) we can take for granted or relegate to dusty closets the equipment and older technologies that were used in libraries for decades. Patents can offer fascinating insights into common technologies, with drawings and descriptions illustrating how an object is assembled and citations to earlier patents showing the development of the technology.  Here are a few patents for traditional library equipment like card catalogs and microfiche, found through Google Patents, just to give a quick look at what goes into the creation of the tools librarians used once on a daily basis.

Card Catalog

US 3495731 A, Card catalog drawer.

Maybe we don’t use card catalogs on a daily basis anymore, but 30 years ago many libraries still used card catalogs for indexing and exploring their collections. Here are two patents that improve upon the design for card catalog drawers:

  • US 3495731 A, published February 17, 1970, describes “improved construction for a card catalog drawer particularly adapted for use in libraries where these drawers are subject to continuous manipulation, and are often removed from the cabinet to provide access to the catalog cards contained therein.”
  • US 5257859 A, published November 2, 1993, describes a drawer with “a smart mechanism to facilitate removing or discarding the catalogue cards by easily removing the metal rod passing through the hole located at the bottom of catalogue cards.”

If you want to learn more about the evolution of library card catalogs, read this post from The Library History Buff describing the history of card catalogs back to 1789.


US D211414 S, Microfiche viewer

Microfiche has been largely replaced by online digitization, but many academic libraries still have a microfiche viewer hidden somewhere in a dark corner to view old periodical  collections. Check out these three patents to learn how microfiche is produced and viewed:

  •  US 3690762 A, published September 12, 1972, describes a method for producing microfiche that “includes the steps of exposing a series of image areas on a film strip, leaving blank areas at predetermined locations on the film strip, processing the film strip to produce image transparencies thereon, arranging the film strip in the form of a helix with portions of each of the blank areas aligned, securing the blank areas to one another, cutting through the film strip in the blank areas to form the image areas into a matrix having the form of a parallelogram, and positioning the matrix to project selectively the images thereon for viewing purposes.” (Yes, patents can have very, very long sentences.)
  • US 3409361 A, published November 5, 1968, describes a microfiche positioning apparatus with a holder that can be “manually positioned within the projection apparatus to selectively scan one or several images and to reset the holder so that additional images may be reproduced without repositioning the microfiche.”
  • The design patent US D211414 S, published June 11, 1968, describes the ornamental design for a spiffy microfiche viewer.

You can find an entertaining and in-depth history of microfiche in the article Honey, I Shrunk the Page by Ernie Smith.

National Networks of Libraries: Biomedical, Patent/Trademark, and Government Publications

Sometimes a person can’t find the information they need online, so they may actually need to go to a local library for research assistance, print and digital resources, and training opportunities.  Unfortunately, many people in different parts of the country can’t afford to travel all the way to the National Library of Medicine (NLM) for biomedical information or to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) headquarters for intellectual property information.  That’s why many academic and public libraries across the US are part of specialized library networks for sharing different types of information:



Overview: The NNLM is funded and coordinated by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, and the mission of the NNLM is to “advance the progress of medicine and improve public health by providing U.S. health professionals with equal access to biomedical information and improving individual’s access to information to enable them to make informed decisions about their health.”  Learn more through the About NNLM page.

Where they are located: The NNLM is made up of eight regions across the US, with a Regional Medical Library coordinating NNLM programs within each region.  Members of NNLM include “libraries, information centers, or other types of organizations,” and organizations can easily submit a form to request free membership.

What they offer:  NNLM offers many funding opportunities and free training opportunities ranging from consumer health to systematic review skills.  Membership within the network offers benefits like access to “free educational and printed materials” and “opportunities to request an NLM Traveling Exhibition to visit your library or organization.”


Overview: PTRCs are “a nationwide network of public, state and academic libraries that are designated by the USPTO to disseminate patent and trademark information and to support the diverse intellectual property needs of the public.” Learn more about PTRCs through their History and Background page.

Where they are located: PTRCs are located at public, academic, state, and special libraries across most states in the US.  To become a PTRC, institutions must meet a number of requirements defined by the USPTO, and the institutions will then receive ongoing training and assistance from the USPTO to help staff at the PTRC understand patent and trademark protections and and search tools.

What they offer: All PTRCs provide patrons with access to a core collection of US patent and trademark information, and they also offer “patent and trademark training as well as provide reference assistance and outreach to the public.”


Overview: The FDLP is administered by the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), and “FDLP libraries collaborate on a local and national level to provide informed access to both historical and current Federal Government resources distributed through the FDLP.” Check the FDLP Basics page to learn more.

Where they are located: Federal depository libraries are located across the US in all 50 state, and institutions can be designated as Federal depository libraries by either congressional delegation (“each member of Congress may designate up to two qualified libraries”) or by-law designations.

What they offer: Federal depository libraries must have access to a basic core collection, and the libraries also have no-fee access to agency subscription databases.  There are a number of other collections and databases related to federal information that depository libraries may also offer access to. The FDLP offers many useful training resources for librarians and information professionals through FDLP Academy, such as webinars, training videos, events and conferences, a training assistance center, and more.  I suggest subscribing by email to the News and Events bulletins sent out by FDLP (you can learn about some great free webinars).

These are just the federally-funded library networks that I’m currently aware of, but I hope to learn about other networks for different types of specialized information in the coming years.