Wednesday, September 25, 2013

This just in...

After the backlash from the recent banning of Invisible Man from the shelves of Randolph County high school libraries, the Board of Education has voted to return the book to the shelves. The members voted 6-1 to make the novel available in school libraries once again, and board member Matthew Lambeth said he thought he "came to a conclusion too quickly". It's exciting to know that with voices protesting loud enough, banned books may not always stay off the bookshelves for too long.

Gagging the Canadian Military

The Ottawa Citizen reports that the Canadian Forces is requesting that its wounded members sign a form prohibiting them from criticizing the military on social media. The request comes from the Joint Personnel Support Unit (JPSU), which oversees support centres across the country with the aim of helping wounded soldiers. Their policy is intended to provide education to its "members and personnel on what constitutes the appropriate and inappropriate use of social media and the possible ramifications for a CAF member" (Pugliese).

Critics contend that the policy stifles freedom of speech and may "intimidate those who were injured and prevent them from speaking out about ill treatment," and that while military personnel are not required to sign the form, "most would feel compelled to do so . . . [and] if they step out of line and make controversial comments about how they have been treated by the Canadian Forces, the signed form would be among the first items introduced at their court martial" (Pugliese).

In its defense, the JPSU argues that "inappropriate use of social media has serious ramifications for the Canadian Forces as it can erode public trust and 'destroy team cohesion'" (Pugliese).

One question here is whether there has already been an erosion of trust between the Canadian Forces and its members.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Silencing Dissent

Stephen Harper's government continues to come under fire for its measures that have silenced scientists on a number of important issues, not least of all the environmental impacts of projects such as the Alberta oil sands. A recent editorial in The New York Times is very critical of the restrictions on academic freedom in Canada, pointing out that:

Science is the gathering of hypotheses and the endless testing of them. It involves checking and double-checking, self-criticism and a willingness to overturn even fundamental assumptions if they prove to be wrong. But none of this can happen without open communication among scientists. This is more than an attack on academic freedom. It is an attempt to guarantee public ignorance.
As the article notes, scientists across Canada have organized public protests against the actions of the Harper government, but this is an issue that has implications for everyone whose work may conflict with government policy, and as such, it is an issue that is too important to ignore.

Practice of Banning Books Still Going Strong

Just in time for Banned Books Week in the United States, there have been attempts to both ban books from school libraries and remove them from reading lists. Recently, Ohio Board of Education President Debe Terhar has stated that she wants to have The Bluest Eye, written by Toni Morrison, removed from state guidelines for schools. This book was also targeted in Alabama at the end of August when Senator Bill Holtzclaw sought to have Morrison's novel removed from school reading lists. Additionally, he has offered support to have the book removed from school libraries. He describes the book as "completely objectionable, from language to the content".

Even more distressing is the recent ruling by the Randolph County board in North Carolina to ban the Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison from school libraries, not just from reading lists. Regarding the novel, board member Gary Mason said that he "didn't find any literary value".

Books are great avenues for creating discussion about important issues. Who, if anyone, should be able to tell you what you can and cannot read? Sound off in the comments.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Outsourcing History

On June 17, 2013, SLIS assistant professor Michael McNally and Carolee Pollock from MacEwan University appeared on Alberta Primetime to discuss Library and Archives Canada (LAC)'s recent decision to outsource its digitization project to, a private company. According to Canadiana, the project is a:

10-year initiative to digitize and make accessible online some of Canada’s most popular archival collections encompassing roughly 60 million pages of primary-source documents.

 In the wake of the decision to outsource the project, questions about access to the archival materials abound. Given that Canadiana is a for-profit business, what are the implications for Canadians who want access to the digital archives? How much validity is there in the claims that taxpayers will be paying again for something they've already paid for? Does outsourcing this project raise the possibility that the digital artifacts will only be available to those who can pay for access?

McNally and Pollock share their thoughts here.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sometimes You Have to Hold Your Nose

Recent controversy over the parodying of the "Don't Be That Guy" posters against sexual assault have found their way into the Edmonton Public Library. The group claiming responsibility for the "Don't Be That Girl" posters, Men's Rights Edmonton (MR-E) has been called into question for the campaign in recent days. It recently caught the attention of some Edmontonians using Twitter that MR-E plans on hosting a lecture on boys in education at the Stanley Milner branch of the library.

In response to concerns expressed on Twitter, EPL cited the Canadian Library Association (CLA)'s Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom:

The ensuing conversation debated whether or not MR-E can be defined as a hate group, which would make it exempt from coverage by the CLA's statement. Certainly, this is debatable; however, at present, MR-E has not been designated as such in Canadian law. Thus, the group is still afforded protection under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and by extension by the CLA.

Whether you agree with the group's message or not, regardless of how offensive you may find it, part of the library's mandate is to provide a space where there is freedom to speak -- and the room for debate.

Monday, May 06, 2013

World Press Freedom Day and Freedom of Expression in Canada

World Press Freedom Day was observed on Friday, May 3 2013. To mark this day, UNESCO condemns killing of journalists and dedicates a page to journalists who were killed in the exercise of their profession. This is a tribute to remember their contribution to freedom of expression, democracy, and peace.  The 2013 theme, "Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media" brings attention to an increasing concern for online safety, safety for journalists, and the state of press freedom throughout the world. Freedom of expression is not an isolated right but requires securing  protection and promotion of all other human rights, such as the right to speak freely and freely without reprisal.

It is important to create an environment where journalists can seek information and express themselves freely. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case in Canada. Canadian Journalists For Freedom of Expression (CJFE) launches the Review of Free Expression in Canada, 2012-2013, to highlight some discerning trends in respect to freedom of expression for journalists and citizens. CJFE reports the systemic delay of access to information for journalists, the muzzling of scientists, some government surveillance of activists, (in particular Aboriginal activists), an autopsy of Bill C-30 or commonly known as the Internet surveillance, the legal action taken to prevent police from posing as Ontario Provincial Press journalists to investigate activists, denying citizens the right to assembly, citing the Quebec student protests and many more cases. Very thought provoking!

Additional information to consider, Reporters Without Borders For Freedom of Information released Press Freedom Index for 2013 in which Canada is now ranked 20th, falling 10 spots from the previous year.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Wikipedia and Gender Bias

Over the last few days, a startling trend on Wikipedia revealed a gender bias. The page, American Novelists has been consistently edited so certain names were removed from this category and placed under a sub category, "American Women Novelists." Apparently, women novelists are being removed alphabetically, including notable writers such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ayn Rand, Ann Beattie, Djuna Barnes, Emily Barton, Jennifer Belle, Aimee Bender, Amy Bloom, Judy Blume, Alice Adams, Louisa May Alcott, V. C. Andrews, Mary Higgins Clark, and numerous others while obscure male writers remain. This recent attention to such practice led to a newly created page, "American Men Novelists" on April 27th, 2013. However, immediately on Wikipedia is a notice that this new category is now "considered being merged to American Novelists".

Amanda Flipacchi, who exposed this trend in The New York Times article, "Wikipedia's Sexism Toward Female Novelists" had soon afterwards faced a backlash on her Wikipedia page. There were 22 changes to her page within 24 hours to discredit her. While Wikipedia indicates that editors take a neutral stance in sharing information, there is hardly anything neutral about the removal of women novelists or that 91% of the contributors are male. Inherently, most entries will have a biased perspective. 

Gender Gap Stories offers anecdotes to why women do not edit or contribute on Wikipedia. This is highly discerning. Additionally, PCMag published an article on Wikipedia's gender gap, as illustrated in Knock Twice's infographic below:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Free Speech Debate

An interesting website, Free Speech Debate has proposed ten draft principles:
  1. We - all human beings - must be free and able to express ourselves, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, regardless of frontiers.
  2. We defend the internet and all other forms of communication against illegitimate encroachment of public and private powers.
  3. We require and create open, diverse media so we can make well informed decisions and participate fully in political life.
  4. We seek openly and with civility about all kinds of human difference.
  5. We allow no taboos in the discussion and dissemination of knowledge.
  6. We neither make threats of violence nor accept violent intimidation.
  7. We respect the believer but not necessarily the content of the belief.
  8. We are all entitled to a private life but should accept such scrutiny as in the public interest.
  9. We should be able to counter slurs on our reputations without stifling legitimate debate.
  10. We must be free to challenge all limits of freedom of expression and information justified on such grounds as national security, public order, morality, and the protection of intellectual property.
  11. What is missing? What would you propose? Join the global conversation...
Two Canadian cases were considered for the debate:
Cyber bullying that led to suicide and The importance of Braille literacy.

Sadly, the cyber bullying that led to Amanda Todd's suicide is not an isolated event. The recent suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons has reignited concerns of social media use and cyber bullying. Similar cases in the United States have also emerged, bringing a critical need to address such forms of bullying hidden within freedom of speech.   

The case study of Braille literacy poses an interesting question, "If depriving the visually-impaired of access to Braille makes them less literate – and thus, conceivably, less expressive – can this dispute over library funding be cast as a free speech issue?"

International cases of free speech are also examined in this debate, illustrating a global concern for issues in intellectual freedom. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Petition: Don't Muzzle Librarians and Archivists, Part II

Thanks again for signing our petition, Don't Muzzle Librarians and Archivists! Please continue to promote, support, and share this petition, we are almost half way there!

Courageous members at Library and Information Studies Students Association (LISSA) have signed a letter to Dr. Caron, cc Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister Moore.  It is important to speak up about Library and Archives Canada's new Code of Conduct, as this impacts our future: 

As students, we suffer a deep loss when librarians and archivists at LAC cannot speak publicly in any conferences, institutions, and teaching engagements. There are no risks when LAC librarians and archivists share their knowledge and experience with a new generation. There are great benefits to bridging the gap from rhetoric to practice for students. Such knowledge should be transferred with scholarly activities to maintain, sustain, and preserve our national heritage and collective memory for future use.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

10th Homeless Connect Event

Thank you to all of the FLIF volunteers who helped to make the Homeless Connect event a success this weekend! Homeless Connect is a bi-annual event hosted at the Shaw Conference Centre that provides homeless and at-risk individuals with access to many important services at no cost. FLIF has traditionally taken part in Homeless Connect by setting up a “library” of sorts containing free books. This would not be possible without the help of our volunteers, so thanks again to everyone who was able to volunteer at this busy time of year!

A special thank you as well to AP!RG and EPL for their generous support in helping us to take part in this event.

CTV News is reporting that over 1,000 individuals were able to access the 65+ services provided by approximately 400 volunteers at this event.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Deconstructing the LAC Code of Conduct

Thanks to those of you who have signed the Don't Muzzle Librarians and Archivists petition on Please take a moment to look at this petition if you have not yet had a chance to.

It is discerning that the LAC Code of Conduct was created by Dr. Daniel Caron, the Librarian and Archivist of Canada. It is notable that while Dr. Caron holds this title, he is not qualified or educated as a librarian or archivist as he does not hold an MLIS degree. The LAC has seen sweeping changes under Dr. Caron's direction which will have a detrimental impact on all Canadians.

It is important to consider the implications these changes may have down the road with respect to our nation, national bibliography, potential censorship, and control in terms of the collective identity and memory of Canada. For example, a legal deposit of all expressions are now being selected according to a narrow view of our history. The Toronto Star has an informative article on this issue. Further information on the state of Library and Archives Canada is available from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) at

The LAC Code of Conduct has a section outlining the political activities which staff members may engage in:
“4.4.3 Political activities
Public servants have the right to engage in political activity as long as it does not impair and is not perceived to impair their ability to perform their duties in a politically impartial manner. LAC employees who are considering involvement in political activity should seek the advice of the LAC Delegated Political Activities Representative before taking any action. The Delegated Political Activities Representative will assess the file and liaise with the Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC) as necessary to ensure that the employee’s request is processed for the PSC’s approval. PSC approval is required before an employee undertakes any activity relating to political activity and/or seeks nomination for or is a candidate in a federal, provincial, territorial or municipal election.” (p. 17)
Does this mean LAC staff should give up any hopes of being a Liberal, PQ, or NDP candidate as this nomination is directly in conflict of values and ethics? This seems unconstitutional and highly imposing on our freedom  of thoughts and political affiliations. Please share any thoughts in the comments section of this post.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Petition: Don't Muzzle Librarians and Archivists

Q with Jian Ghomeshi's opening essay on Library and Archives Canada is a wake up call for us to take action. We cannot talk about the muzzle on scientists anymore. It is a done deal. We need to sign this petition, Don't Muzzle Librarians and Archivists, on before it is too late.

An Open Letter to The Honourable James Moore

March 23, 2013

The Honourable James Moore, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
15 Eddy Street
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0M5

Dear Minister Moore:

We are deeply concerned and surprised by the directives in Library and Archives Canada’s new “Code of Conduct: Values and Ethics”. This Code infringes on the civil liberties of our fellow librarians and archivists as embodied in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as their national professional codes, values, and ethics as stated in Canadian Library Association’s position statement on Intellectual Freedom.

While you have stated that the responsibility for introducing this code rested with Dr. Caron, the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, this code is clearly driven by and derived from the “Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector” that your government introduced in 2012. While the government claims to operate at arms length from Library and Archives Canada, this code is a clear imposition of government policy on this institution.

Librarians and archivists are citizens, having the fundamental right to freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media communication, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association. They are also scholars who make important and significant contributions to research and the body of knowledge. The new Code, under the contentious Section 4, Conflict of Interests and Ensuing Terms of Personal Activities, denies Library and Archives Canada employees the fundamental rights to express themselves, to engage with associations, to teach, and to speak at conferences.

If the same values and ethics were to apply to all civil servants, such as politicians, it would therefore be impossible for any civil servant to comment or speak publicly in any conferences, institutions, press, and various platforms, as these, under the conditions of the new Code, would also be considered as potential high risks and conflicts of interest.

This new Code is directly in opposition to the federal “Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector” that Prime Minister Harper espouses: respect for democracy, people, integrity, stewardship, and excellence. The government’s blatant lack of respect on all points is apparent in this draconian new Code, which implies mistrust for this noble profession.

Librarians and archivists follow the Canadian Library Association code and have the “basic responsibility for the development and maintenance of intellectual freedom. Both employees and employers in libraries have a duty, in addition to their institutional responsibilities, to uphold these principles”. This core value in librarianship is an indication of its integrity. This is a profession that serves the public good in an effort to support a healthy and open democratic society for all Canadian citizens. Librarians and archivists cannot complete such responsibilities without intellectual freedom themselves.

They cannot exhibit respect for democracy and people when they are denied this respect. They cannot uphold integrity, stewardship, and excellence when sweeping government policies prevent them from doing so.

As you publicly stated in the media, you practice “at arm’s length” to Library and Archives Canada’s policymaking. As specified in the “Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector”, we urge you to play a “critical role” that your position as a minister precludes, “… responsible for preserving public trust and confidence in the integrity of public sector organizations and for upholding the tradition and practice of a professional non-partisan federal public sector.” We urge you to engage in a dialogue with Dr. Caron, and revise the Code.


Future Librarians for Intellectual Freedom

Are librarians the new threat?

Last week, Munro's article exposed a chilling new Code of Conduct for Library and Archives Canada (LAC) employees. LAC identified librarians and archivists as "dedicated professionals, ...seeking and sharing knowledge" in their statement of principles. However, the treatment of such committed staff is not aligned with these principles. LAC employees are restricted from teaching and presenting at conferences as these are considered "high risks" activities.

Are librarians and archivists the new threat and in need of muzzling? Will demanding a "duty of loyalty" mitigate this perceived threat? Interesting concerns raised in this video:

Andrew Cash, Member of Parliament for Davenport and NDP Deputy Heritage Critic, asks Heritage Minister James Moore about the muzzling of civil servants at Library and Archives Canada during Question Period on March 18, 2013

Listen to Myron's critique on As It Happens on the chilling effects or follow his blog, Bibliocracy for further insights to LAC Code of Conduct.

More information:

British Columbia Library Association's Press Release - March 20, 2013.

Canadian Library Association's statement urges revisiting LAC Code of Conduct.

Wojtek Gwiazda of Radio Canada International interviews James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (14 minutes and 11 seconds). James Turk discusses the problematic sections of "duty to loyalty" and "high risks"in the code.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Chicago Public Schools Remove Copies of Graphic Novel Persepolis

Many news outlets have reported on the removal of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis from Chicago Public Schools (CPS). According to American Libraries, though the CPS CEO initially asked for copies of the graphic novel to be removed from both classrooms and libraries, the decision was quickly revised to include just classrooms. Even though the school libraries may retain their copies of Persepolis, some library organizations have criticized the decision to remove the graphic novel from schools. Barbara Jones, the Director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom and Executive Director of the Freedom to Read Foundation, has written a letter to the decision-makers, urging them to reconsider their decision. In addition, the Freedom to Read Foundation has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information from the CPS regarding the removal of Persepolis.

The Chicago Public Libraries has published a press release regarding this issue, explaining that the title has been singled out for “strong” content including torture.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Toronto Public Library to Introduce Ads to Back of Due-Date Slips

A move by the Toronto Public Library (TPL) connects with the discussion of issues concerning library funding, particularly concerning sponsorship and advertising in libraries, as well as library neutrality. According to the Toronto Star, library due-date slips will feature advertisements on the back of the paper by the end of the month or early next month. This is a six-month pilot project that will save the library approximately $20,000.

Only a handful of advertisers have committed to the project, including “a newspaper, a continuing education institution, and a cultural production”. It is noted that advertisements targeting children will not be permitted. The full TPL Advertising Policy is available online.

Nonprofit Quarterly has produced an article which contains more information on the TPL initiative as well as the advertising initiatives of other public libraries in the United States.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Freedom to Read Week Events in Edmonton

Today is the first day of Freedom to Read Week! See the event listing below to find out about the events taking place this week in Edmonton:

Sunday February 24
  • The Edmonton Public Library (EPL) and the University of Alberta Libraries are hosting a talk with Chris Hedges, who will speak about his newest book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.
  • The EPL Woodcroft Branch is having a Banned Books Café.
Monday February 25
Tuesday February 26
  • FLIF will again be promoting the Freedom to Read at the Jasper Place High School Global Café Living Library event.
  • The EPL Stanley A. Milner Library is having a Freedom to Listen event.
Wednesday February 27
Thursday February 28

To find out more about the EPL events, see the EPL Freedom to Read webpage.

Thanks to the FLIF Global Café Radical Bookshelf team for putting together FLIF’s Freedom to Read event this year! Watch this blog for more information about the Jasper Place High School Global Café Living Library event.

Update: The Jasper Place High School Global Café event was erroneously first posted on this blog as a closed event. We are happy to report that it is actually open to the public!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

NCAC Winning Short Films Announced

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) is made up of about 50 not-for-profit organizations and associations. A full list of the organizations making up the coalition is available on the NCAC website. Though the various organizations do not all agree on all aspects of opposing censorship, all support the NCAC Statement of Concern:
“Freedom of communication is the indispensable condition of a healthy democracy. In a pluralistic society it would be impossible for all people at all times to agree on the value of all ideas; and fatal to moral, artistic and intellectual growth if they did.
Some of the Coalition's participating organizations reject all barriers abridging access to any material, however controversial or even abhorrent to some. Others reject barriers for adults, so long as their individual right of choice is not infringed. All of us are united in the conviction that censorship of what we see and hear and read constitutes an unacceptable dictatorship over our minds and a dangerous opening to religious, political, artistic, and intellectual repression.”
The winners of the 2012 NCAC Youth Free Expression Project film contest have recently been announced. NCAC has given youth 19 years of age or younger who are living in the United States the chance to participate in this contest since 2004. The theme for 2012 was book censorship - You’re Reading What?!?.  The 1st place winning entry is a four minute film called “Waking” created by Eden Taylor Ames, which features a life-changing visit to the library. All winning entries are available on the NCAC website.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Providing Library Services to Inmates

Library Journal has recently released an article on library services for inmates. Though it does focus solely on the United States context, it provides an overview of a variety of resources and programs currently offered to inmates by public, prison, and jail libraries. Some of the services being offered include programs on the topics of self-employment, financial literacy, and Shakespeare (for more information on this initiative, see this video from Indiana State University). The article concludes with suggestions on how libraries can better serve inmates and released inmates, most of which are focused around building stronger partnerships between public and prison libraries.

In a more local context, members of the Edmonton library community (including some FLIF members) are currently involved in a number of projects at the Edmonton Institution for Women. The GELA (Greater Edmonton Library Association) Women’s prison subcommittee has a blog where readers can learn more about these various projects and find out how to get involved.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Ancient Texts Saved from Timbuktu Library

The BBC, Time Magazine, and Wall Street Journal are reporting that though militants in Timbuktu did burn a number of texts at the Ahmed Baba Institute early last week, the majority of ancient manuscripts were saved. The destruction of the texts occurred as French and Malian forces closed in with the aim of retaking the city.

No information is thought to be lost, as all of the material burned is believed to be digitized as a result of a partnership with the University of Cape Town. Other ancient manuscripts were reportedly removed before the militants took control of the city last year. The Wall Street Journal has described how a number of texts were more recently removed from the library: history professor/acting library director, Prof. Abdoulaye Cissé , and security guard, Abba Alhadi, moved approximately 28,000 texts to safety in early January by hiding them in burlap sacks and taking them out of the city by donkey cart and boat.

More details on this story will likely become available over the course of the next week.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Human Library Events Recap

Local libraries and other centres across Canada, in partnership with the CBC, hosted a number of Human Library events on Saturday January 26. Events took place in Yellowknife, Surrey, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Windsor, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, and St. John's. In Edmonton, the event took place at the Stanley A. Milner branch of the Edmonton Public Library. The Edmonton Journal has written an article about the event and includes the perspectives of the “books” as well as the “readers.” An associate manager of Stanley A. Milner was also quoted, describing the purpose and importance of the event:
“An event like this provides people with the opportunity to have a conversation with a person they might not otherwise meet and to help them understand the world, maybe, in a different way.”
The CBC hosted live webcam chats with a variety of Canadians: Susan Ormiston, Measha Brueggergosman, Robert Munsch, Shad, Grace Park, Margaret Trudeau, and Tammy Marquardt. A recording of the sessions is available from the CBC.

Sweater Vest Sunday

Today is also Sweater Vest Sunday! Raise awareness of the need to report challenged material to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) by wearing a sweater vest. Visit the OIF Blog to find out more about Sweater Vest Sunday and how you can show your support.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

MLK Video Removed on Internet Freedom Day

Internet Freedom Day was celebrated worldwide on Friday January 18th. A website was created to provide suggestions on how to promote the occasion and spread awareness of the need for an open and accessible Internet. One of the actions suggested on this site is to share a copyrighted video on the Internet:
Engage in a small act of civil disobedience and share this video of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech. Dr. King’s call for racial justice is as relevant today as it was in 1963. Because this speech is copyrighted, if SOPA had passed, entire websites could have been shut down just for linking to it. This speech is too important to be censored by broken copyright laws. Please share it today.
As an article by the Washington Post has pointed out, Internet activists posted the video of the speech to Vimeo. However, Vimeo removed the video after only a few hours. Digital Trends has reported that the video was removed because it violated the Vimeo terms of service. The footage contained in the video is currently owned by EMI Publishing.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Remembering Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz was found dead at his Brooklyn apartment yesterday in an apparent suicide. At only 26, Swartz has a long list of achievements. A Wired article outlines his chief accomplishments:
When he was 14 years old, Aaron helped develop the RSS standard; he went on to found Infogami, which became part of Reddit. But more than anything Aaron was a coder with a conscience: a tireless and talented hacker who poured his energy into issues like network neutrality, copyright reform and information freedom.  Among countless causes, he worked with Larry Lessig at the launch of the Creative Commons, architected the Internet Archive’s free public catalog of books,, and in 2010 founded Demand Progress, a non-profit group that helped drive successful grassroots opposition to SOPA last year.
A section of the Official Statement from his partner and family reminds us of his profound impact on promoting social justice and intellectual freedom:
Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He was instrumental to the defeat of an Internet censorship bill; he fought for a more democratic, open, and accountable political system; and he helped to create, build, and preserve a dizzying range of scholarly projects that extended the scope and accessibility of human knowledge. He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place. His deeply humane writing touched minds and hearts across generations and continents. He earned the friendship of thousands and the respect and support of millions more.
Swartz was facing a federal jury trial to begin on April 1, 2013 for 13 felony charges. The charges stemmed from his alleged actions related to downloading four million JSTOR articles from MIT. The prosecutors called these actions stealing and believe that he intended to share the articles on file-sharing sites and peer-to-peer networks. If convicted of the charges, Swartz could have been fined up to $1 million and faced up to 35 years in prison.

To learn more about Aaron Swartz, see the recent CBC News and New York Times articles. Information about the Internet activism he was involved in can be found at the Demand Progress website.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Human Library at EPL on January 26

The Canadian National Human Library Day will be taking place this year on January 26. According to the CBC Edmonton Human Library event page,
National Human Library Day is a one-day event hosted by CBC and local libraries across the country, that provides an opportunity for one-on-one conversation between people who may have never meet otherwise in an effort to facilitate understanding and help dispel stereotypes. People from various walks of life, including CBC personalities, will volunteer their time as “living books.” Members of the public will have a chance to “check out” a “book” and ask questions to learn about the person and his, or her, unique or inspiring life.
The Edmonton event will be taking place at the Edmonton Public Library (EPL) Stanley A. Milner branch from 10 AM to 6 PM on Saturday January 26, 2013. At last count, 16 individuals from a variety of backgrounds had volunteered to be living books. However, 2 of the living books are “bestselling” in that they have already been fully reserved due to high demand. Living books may be reserved at the EPL website.

For more information on the Human Library initiative and other Human Libraries across the globe, visit the HUMAN Library website.