Member of the Week: William M. Cross

William M. CrossWilliam M. Cross is Director of the Copyright and Digital Scholarship Center at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. William has been an ACRL member since 2012 and is your ACRL member of the week for September 9, 2013.

1. Describe yourself in three words:  Making information accessible.

2. What are you reading right now (or listening to on your mobile device)? As is always the case for me, I’m working my way through several books at once, but never making as much time to read as I’d like.  I’ve just started Charles Yu’s latest book of short stories, Sorry Please Thank You, I’m halfway through David Byrne’s How Music Works, and have bought but haven’t opened yet a new book on the history of early “phone phreaks” and social hacking called Exploding the Phone. My primary focus has been finally finishing up The Knockoff Economy, an excellent discussion of creativity and the incentives that drive creators.  In traditional copyright theory, the copyright monopoly is justified as means to the end of incentivizing creativity, but standup comedians, football coaches, and fashion designers all work in thriving fields where copyright protection is minimal and rapid copying is the norm.  As someone who works in the world of scholarly publication – another area where the financial rewards play only a tangential role in incentivizing creation – I am learning a lot from this examination of creativity in different contexts.

3. Describe ACRL in three words:  Supporting collaborative engagement.

4. What do you value about ACRL? Librarians have so much energy and expertise, and the ACRL is instrumental as a vehicle for bringing librarians together, organizing their efforts, and providing a platform for engagement to solve problems across the profession and make our voices heard at the national and international level.  As the profession continues to evolve and encompass increasingly diverse roles, the collaborative networks developed and fostered by the ACRL are critical for librarians as we work to meet new challenges and continue to fulfill our traditional missions of facilitating learning and cultural enrichment.

5. What do you, as an academic librarian, contribute to your campus? Although my role as an “attorney in the library” is a bit nontraditional, my contributions are very much in line with the values that all librarians provide.  I bring expertise to bear so that knowledge can be shared more broadly and efficiently in service of personal enrichment, professional development, and social advancement.  Specifically, my campus benefits from legal expertise that can help guide practice, support informed decision-making, and empower faculty, students, and staff to confidently assert their rights as they do the important educational and scholarly work of the university.

6. In your own words: Growing up I was a First Amendment nut and, by age 12 I was (mis)reading Supreme Court cases and shouting about the evils of prior restraint.  From my first job out of college as a 22-year-old kid negotiating copyright with lawyers for giant international publishers I’ve been confronting the question of how to make sure the law is a tool to put information in people’s hands, not to keep it locked away.

Access to information is the most powerful resource we can provide to students as they explore and prepare to find their place in the world.  Putting that information to use in service to society through scholarly and scientific research is the key to economic development and a vibrant democratic culture.

I’ve been so fortunate to be able to build a career dedicated to removing barriers to access, particularly where complex and intimidating legal rules can leave librarians afraid to do the good and necessary work that keeps society functioning.  I think my 12-year-old self would be pleased and I know my 22-year-old self wishes he could have asked me for some legal advice.

Editor’s Note: Are you an ACRL member? Would you like to be featured as ACRL Member of the Week? Nominate a colleague? Contact Mary Jane Petrowski at for more information.