Blog

Budget cuts to libraries, archives, and information centres jeopardize access to Canadian government information

This has not been a good spring for Canadian librarians and archivists, especially those who work at federal libraries and archives, which are being de-funded and dismantled by federal budget cuts. These information centres sustain government and public research capacity. Their ability to create, preserve, and provide access to public information in our country is at risk.

These cuts, and the centres and programmes in jeopardy, include:

I’m missing some announcements since I was away when so many of these cuts were announced, but this list nonetheless clarifies the seriousness of the situation. In the space of a few weeks, the federal government has severely hampered the nation’s ability to gather, document, use, and disseminate government and cultural information.

You can learn what many of these cuts mean in clear, practical terms by reading this post written by my archivist friend, Creighton Barrett, at Dalhousie University’s Archives and Special Collections.  Creighton explains how these cuts negatively affect the university’s ability to collect and maintain the records used by scholars and citizens in one community alone, and rightly notes that they are a “devastating” blow to information access in Canada. Now, consider how Creighton’s list grows when you add to it the ways in which these same cuts affect the libraries and archives in your own community, and then all other libraries and archives in Canada. And we haven’t even touched what these broader cuts mean for LAC’s programming and resources, StatCan programming, and the research capacity of federal departments and agencies. “Devastating,” may well be an understatement in the long run.

These budget cuts are a knock-out punch to how public information is accessed and used across the country. The cuts not only affect the library community and possibly your civil-service-friend who lives down the road. They will affect the manner in which our society is able to find and use public information.  If public data is no longer collected (see StatCan), preserved (see LAC, NADP, CCA), disseminated and used (see PDS/DSP and cuts at departmental libraries), then does the information even exist in the first place? There will be less government and public information, fewer means to access this information, and fewer opportunities to do so.

Take a moment and recall the freedom you have been afforded to speak freely in this nation.  The utility of that freedom is dependent on your ability to access the information you use to learn, to criticize, to praise, or to condemn.  If knowledge is power, then a public whose national information centres and access points are ill-funded is a weakling. Libraries and archives provide Canadians with direct access to key government information, and for that very reason, they should be funded to the hilt.

This is where I get to my point: We are now facing a situation in Canada where government information has suddenly become far more difficult to collect, to access, and to use. The funding cuts that Canada’s libraries and archives face is an affront to the proper functioning of a contemporary democratic society. These cuts will impede the country’s ability to access public and government information, which will make it difficult for Canadians to criticize government practices, past and present.

I mentioned on Twitter that these cuts show us that the work of librarians and archivists are crucial to the nation’s interest. We are not mere record keepers, and neither do we spend our days merely dusting cobwebs off of old books. We are the people who maintain collections of public information, and we are the people who provide and nurture access to information. Many of us see ourselves as guardians of the public’s right to access information.  If we take on that guardianship, then we must defend and protect these collections and access points. I’m not talking about a Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 job. I’m talking about advocacy, which doesn’t have an on/off switch. Either you do it or you don’t.

So, what should you do? Get informed, speak up, and act.  Write letters to the editor. Write to your professional associations and other like-minded organizations; lend them your support, and when needed, tell them to add force to their own statements. Write to your MPs, to other MPs (especially to MPs who sit on government benches), to cabinet members, and to the PMO. When you’re socializing with friends who aren’t librarians and archivists, mention how our work affects their work and their personal lives. Massive cuts to the nation’s libraries and archives do not serve the public good. These cuts may help balance the financial books, but they create an information deficit that inhibits research, stymies dialogue and criticism, and makes government more distant from the people.

An Online Instruction manifesto: technological challenges and people-driven solutions

Recently, I’ve joined a small project at my place of work that is considering our online instructional goals and our ability to meet them. The project isn’t large or groundbreaking: it’s an inward-looking analysis of our library’s use of online learning projects and the manner in which they meet the needs of our users, and it’s the sort of analysis that many of us have taken part in over the years. And while the project could more appropriately be considered a “task force” since we’re only a small group and our considerations (I hesitate to call them recommendations) will be written to stimulate debate instead of making transformational change, we’re still taking on the task knowing that our efforts today might facilitate new decisions and perspectives tomorrow.

At issue for me are three things in general: the nature of online instruction, our recent goals in this area, and governance. Our readings and discussion have helped us realize that for too long now, tech-savvy librarians (at libraries in the developed world, generally) have focused too much on the development of online instructional tools at the expense of figuring out how these tools can best work alongside “regular” instructional programming. And perhaps more important, we don’t give enough thought to where online instruction sits within our internal governance structures. In short, for the most part, we’ve built our own online instruction silo.

The academic literature and the blogs show this loud and clear: too much of our scholarships and too many of our conversations are based on “how to” make the greatest tutorial, “how to” use X, Y, or Z software, or “how to” attract our students’ attention by using a particular social tool. There is literature that moves beyond these topics, of course, but I’m not sure if there has been enough. I’d like us to think and debate more about the nature of online instruction and its tools, what it actually means for our users, and what online instruction’s long-term implications (positive and negative) are for libraries. (A good example of what I think we ought to be discussing can be found in this text, which Dean Giustini recent contributed to and mentioned in his blog.)

In the mean time, I’m putting forward 3 contentions about online instruction in academic libraries. They aren’t profound, but they are assertions, nonetheless. Answer them in response to this post or on your own blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Plus streams.  Let’s get a discussion going.

Steeleworthy’s Online Instruction Contentions for 2012:

1. There is no Online Instruction.  There is only Instruction.

  • Online instruction’s tools, aims and media differ drastically from “traditional” instructional methods, but it is instruction nonetheless, and it should be afforded as much importance as all other kinds. It is fair to consider the differences between online instruction and classroom one-shots or integrated term-long coursework, but the time came long ago to normalize it and make it an equal partner in our information literacy programmes. No more adjectives and qualifiers: online instruction is instruction, plain and simple. It can’t only be a special project that is taken on by our adventurous colleagues or offered to our interns and junior librarians to explore. Instead, we must find efficient ways to reduce its learning curve, help train our colleauges, and make it a core part of our IL programming.

2. There can only one instructional group or committee.  

  • This group develops instructional programmes and policies at the library, whether they are online or in print, in the classroom or in a virtual chat room.  Let there be task forces devoted to online or classroom initiatives, but keep them part of the same governance structure. Let’s keep our focus on the means we have at our disposal to improve information literacy levels and critical thinking skills on campus by fully integrating online instruction into our existing instructional framework.

3. There must be an online instruction coordinator.

  • I may have just declared an end to adjectives and qualifiers in Contention No. 1, but on this point, I stand firm: an online instruction coordinator is needed in order for libraries stay ahead of the technological curve.  So much about online work requires specific, technical knowledge and skill sets. Each library should have a coordinator who manages instructional content on the website, promotes web-based instructional tools, liases with university online learning services, and leads training programmes for new technology-based instructional tools. Let this person sit on instructional committees and web committees, and let this person work in concert with the web publisher to seamlessly integrate instructional content with the website’s directional and informational content.

Above all else, online instruction can no longer be the purview of only a few individuals in academic libraries. I speak these words to like-minded librarians who are already tech-savvy and willing to try new projects and ideas: it’s time that we shift our focus from integrating online instructional tools into our individual practice to blending them into the library ethos. We can do this by concentrating not on programmes and apps but on the people we work with and the people we serve. We must find the means to make online instruction accessible not only to our users, but to our fellow librarians and content producers.  What is a technological challenge must have a people-driven solution.

 

The Circumlocution Office

Happy Spring! Although I don’t post so often to my LIS site at the moment since I’ve recently drawn some of my time to creative writing pursuits, I do have some news to share, and this space is as good as any.

This past February, I took on a new limited term position as Government Information Librarian at Wilfrid Laurier University, in Waterloo, Ontario. As well as being the liaison librarian and subject selector for Political Science, I’m responsible for maintaining and promoting the Government Publications collection, as well as handling requests for socio-economic data from organizations such as Statistics Canada and ICPSR.  When the position was posted in the fall, I jumped at the opportunity to take on the role: even as far away as Halifax, Laurier had a name for itself in terms of GovDocs, thanks to the efforts of their people at the helm. I expect this year to be a great experience for me to really get behind the wheel with government documents and help drive the role they can play in the academic library. Electronic publishing and permanent URLs have radically altered our understanding of a government documents “collection,” which is why I believe that it’s as imperative today as it was X, Y, or Z years ago to have a government documents librarian maintaining the file. Selection has in many ways been simplified over the years, but the acquisition of government publications (fugitive or otherwise) is a less exact and more murkier science today than it was in the past.

Homard the Lobster

So, if ever you’re in Waterloo (e.g., at CAIS during Congress this summer), stop in and say hello. My office is on the 3rd floor of the library, and it’s hard to miss since I brought along a lobster from the east coast to keep me company.  Homard is a good guy: since he’s a bobble-head, he tends to agree with everything I say.

And finally, in case you’re wondering, “The Circumlocution Office” is a reference to Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit.  It was Dickens’ satiric jab at the stifling bureaucracy that was the 19th century British public service. Dickens was no fan of government paperwork and disorganized public departments; he may have appreciated a good GovDocs librarian..

Welcome to the Circumlocution Office

Why we must be apprehensive about DRM and digital locks

This little piece of news hasn’t yet got much coverage in the popular press, but it should. It shows why Canadians (and everyone, really) must be concerned about digital locks.  Librarians and lawyers are the ones taking note of it right now, but it’s an issue we should all worry about:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/librarybazaar/status/139008379023667201″]

 

Yes, that’s right – as Michael Geist reports, if you are Canadian and have ever purchased music through Napster Canada, then you run the risk of losing access to content you have paid for:

These downloads are DRM-encoded WMA files and can be backed up by burning them to audio CDs. Doing this will allow you access to your music on any CD player and generally have a maintenance free permanent copy. If you do not back up your purchased Napster music downloads by burning them to CD and you later change or reinstall your computer’s operating system, have a system failure or experience DRM corruption, then the downloads will stop playing and you will permanently lose access to them.

(Source: Napster Canada PR via Geist’s blog)

Let’s put this into perspective:

  • Customers have purchased items (music, objects, widgets, whatever) from a company with the assurance that these items can be accessed.  But the use of these music files are limited by a lock that the company will no longer support now that it has pulled out of the market and been bought by a competitor.
  • Customers have been advised by the company to effectively circumvent their digital locks if they want to continue listening to their music.  

I suppose that Napster Canada/Rhapsody is acting in good faith when they explain to Canadian customers how to ensure that the content they have already purchased will always be accessible. Napster/Rhapsody has informed customers that all they need to do is copy the data to audio CDs to ensure that the music can be played even if the digital lock on the file is ever corrupted. But does anyone else find it a tiny bit illogical that a company that normally espouses the use of digital locks is now effectively telling its customers to break the law and circumvent the lock in order to make sure they will always be able to access this music?

Digital Rights Management is something we must be wary of.  DRM limits the consumer’s rights to the content he or she has purchased; it “manages” rights by taking them away from the consumer. This is of particular concern in Canada, when so many organizations are subsidiaries of larger companies located elsewhere. If Napster pulls out of the Canadian market, will the digital locks that limit access to the content you purchased still be supported? It seems not. If Amazon were ever to pull out of the Canadian market (which is an unlikely scenario, but a worthy point to make), would its digital locks that limit access to the content you purchased still be supported? That would be up to Amazon to decide.  Digital locks keep your purchases at the mercy of the vendor, which is reason enough to oppose them.

Copyright is a mess, especially in Canada.  The law is antiquated and it does need an overhaul to actually work in our digital landscape.  But DRM and digital locks place an undue burden and risk on consumers (be they individuals, families, or libraries), most of whom are law-abiding citizens, respect intellectually property and rights, and do not copy content.

 

Post script: Am I suggesting we back out of all e-content on account of DRM?  No, I’m not. What I’m trying to show, like so many others, is that the system is out of balance right now and will remain so in the future.  Advocacy is required to fix this.

Come to the Halifax Holly Holly!

This post is for all you Halifax Librarians out there. By now, you’ve probably got the e-mail, but I wanted to post it anyway.  This way, I can link to my favourite Christmas song below the fold, which is a decent track no matter where you live. –ms
====

Halifax’s Library and Information Science Holiday Social is back – Join your friends and colleagues for an evening of great food, door prizes, fun, and holiday cheer at our annual Holly Jolly!

Even Santa's elves need a break from cataloguing the toys.

The Holly Jolly costs only $10, or $8 for students. We’ll be taking over Argyle Fine Art at its new Barrington Street location on Thursday December 8, from 6pm to 9pm. There are many door prizes to give away, and once again we’ll have excellent catering from Certainly Cinnamon. In the spirit of the season, we ask that Holly Jolly’ers bring a non-perishable food item(s) to support the Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank.

Please RSVP to hollyjollysocial@gmail.com by December 5, 2011

Date: Thursday, December 8, 2011
Time: 6:00pm – 9:00 pm
Location: Argyle Fine Art, 1559 Barrington Street, Halifax, Suite 102
Price: $10.00 ($8.00 for students)

The Holly Jolly is brought to you by the Halifax Library Association with the support of NSALT, APLA, other and library associations in Nova Scotia.

Contemplations: Marginalia, Texts, and Analog Trails

This morning, I was playing around on Google Books while doing some research on the documentary history of the Province of Nova Scotia. Google Books is not my first choice as a resource since it’s such a difficult beast to break in spite of all its great historical content, but I was curious to see what might be digitized on the subject. That’s when I came across these pages in the front of The Documentary History of the State of Maine (1869), Vol. 1:

The Documentary History of the State of Maine (1869), Vol. 1, Scanned by "David" for Google Books
The Documentary History of the State of Maine (1869), Vol. 1, Scanned by "David" for Google Books

It seems that in the act of digitizing the text, David, our digitizer, has scanned his hand right into the book.  David, his ring, and his tiny-finger gloves have become digitized marginalia. Like a student’s note in the margins or a phone number quickly inscribed in the front matter, David’s fingers are now part of the text, forever.¹

Marginalia has always fascinated me. I owe this to a distinguished professor who held court in one of my undergraduate seminars many years ago.  He once explained to us the pleasure he found when discovering his students’ notes in the margins of texts in the university library.  As he was an older professor and had taught at the school for many years, he knew the library’s collection and his students’ use of texts in his field quite well. He enjoyed discovering hand-written notes in his assigned texts or in books that were pertinent to his subject matter since these notes became “analog trails” (my term, and a pun on “digital trails”, of course) that led back to the discussions held in his seminars and to the knowledge developed in them.

I’ve since come to look upon marginalia as tiny clues that show how a text has linked different people and ideas together. I often wonder, in a nostalgic way, how these bonds will change when ebooks become ubiquitous. We can append and share notes in digital texts, of course. But these notes, which were at one time inscribed in the book or on a piece of paper and left to be discovered by another reader, have been transformed by common fonts and encoding that might link and share thoughts but don’t show significance or meaning in quite the same way. In the e-book cloud and on our social websites, readers and the value of notes are flattened, which, I think, affects the importance and allure of this marginalia.²

It goes without saying that the e-book has altered our relationship to the text and to knowledge. No longer do we have a one-to-one relationship with the physical object in front of us. Now we can potentially have a one-to-many relationship with all of the text’s readers. There are clear benefits to be gained from this, i.e., don’t think that I’m a Luddite and want to turn my back on the new communities of readers that are developing thanks to e-book innovations.  But my thoughts today (and what this post is only scratching the surface of) are focused on how the physical manifestation of a text – i.e. the book, affects our relationship with its content. A book’s marginalia often represents one person’s relationship with a particular copy of a text rather than one’s relationship with a community of fellow readers. Reading marginalia is almost like reading a diary since one is reading notes and thoughts left primarily for personal consumption. When we encounter marginalia, we are discovering secrets and clues left behind by other readers – clues that can alter our interpretations of the text, but only in the copy we are holding in our hands.

Marginalia also individualizes or “makes unique” texts that are published in large volumes. Just as violinists treasure their violin’s lineage from one musician to another, many readers treasure the sign’s of a book’s “borrowing history”: the notes on the pages left behind by previous readers, the dog-eared corners, the discolored, yellowed pages which signify its age and in some ways, its value to the collection. All these marks, notes, dents, and scribbles create a “lineage” of readers for the text. They show the would-be reader the value that others have found in the text, and the added value he or she may acquire upon reading it.  These scribbles and folds haunt a physical book; they create a history of reading, marked in time and place by the thoughts of its previous readers.

We are shifting away from a centuries-old period where the content and its container were inseparable – where the content was signified by the container, and where the container gave the reader clues about the content’s worth. Although it hasn’t been difficult for our culture to make the transition to our new digital period where the container’s role has been diminished, I wonder if we should be paying more attention to how our interaction with texts – whether it is writing marginalia or selecting ebooks from a virtual shelf – affects our understanding of knowledge and the development of “collective wisdom.” That’s not to say that things are worse (or better) off today compared to “time before e-books” so much as it is to suggest that when our interaction with knowledge has for so long been focused on reading the written word with a pen and paper close at hand, it may be a useful to exercise to study how our new tools and technologies affect the ways we think and learn.

I’ll leave these theoretical and literary implications alone for another day when I have the courage to transform these meandering thoughts into a well-sourced argument that might provide understanding. And I’ll end by acknowledging the irony found in writing these thoughts in digital form for a larger community of readers.

1.  For the record, David caught his mistake and re-scanned the page.  The next scans in the Google Books scroll of images are clean digital images of these pages.  Also, my research on early Nova Scotian documents continues.

2.  I am not suggesting that no extra meaning or significance can be found in e-book notes or on social reading websites. Social sites actually do an incredible job at adding meaning to a text, but they do this in different ways, e.g., crowd-sourced discussions and reviews.

Google Reader Takes a Bow as Google Plus Takes the Stage: the death of critical reading on the Internet

The new Google Reader was released this week.  Its UI changes have streamlined its sharing functions in order to integrate it as easily as possible with Google Plus.  At first, I didn’t mind the changes, mostly because the clean white interface has kept distractions to a minimum on the Reader Interface.

But I’ve now changed my mind. I’m not sure I like the Google Reader changes. The new interface’s clean lines means that readability has stayed the same, if not improved, i.e., its look and feel seem to promote the act of reading over skimming. But the changes to its sharing function really is an issue. Sure, I can share things to G+, but clicking on the +1 button is akin to shouting into the din of the Internet.  I can share and share and share as much as I like, but I don’t know if people are sharing their own Google Reader items back into my G+ stream. Furthermore, I don’t know what kind of content they’re sharing anymore.  Are the shared items in my Google+ Stream coming from a valued Google Reader store?  Or are these items just clicks and pages found while surfing the net?  At best, the former Google Reader dialogue is now feigned (it’s now a monologue on G+), and the quality of those shared pages on G+ is indeterminable.  I’m now looking for options.

The changes we’ve seen to Google Reader has got me thinking again about the nature of reading, skimming, and sharing on the Internet. What made Google Reader so great (aside from the emphasis on reading, see above) was the assurance of quality that came with its shared items.  Shared Items on Google Reader were posts that came from blogs and websites that people believed were important enough to read regularly as opposed to mere posts and pages found while they or their friends surfed – and skimmed – the Internet.  People who used Google Reader had a better assurance that the content they found in their shared folder was carefully chosen, was fit for consumption, and required some of their time and attention in order to synthesize.

The fact that blog posts and shared items in Google Reader sat in a folder until the user actually read them shows the importance of the items’ content.  Google Reader’s interface – like all RSS interfaces – demanded the user actually read the content he or she saved to the system: content did not disappear until you at least saw that it arrived for you to read. This premise behind Google Reader, i.e., posts are to be saved for later reading, meant that its users selected content that was not merely ephemeral.  By its very nature, Google Reader asked the user to choose only the best content on the web and to store it in a separate space to read at a later time.  By and large, shared items on Google Reader had a quality assurance label stuck to them: these posts were determined to be distinct from the general “of the moment” nature of the web and therefore should be treated with care. Anything shared on Google Reader required special attention because some one said, “This content came from a valued source and ought to be read, and it is not going away until you at least see that I’ve shared it with you.”

Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, and so many other social sites do not do this.  Social networks promote connections above all else, so the content is almost always “of the moment” (that’s the second time I’ve said that).  Content on social sites is pinned to a moment in time, but the conversation always moves forward. If you log in to Facebook at 2pm, you only see the conversations happening at 2pm; you must look carefully for what your friends shared earlier in the day.  That shared content may have been valuable, but there is no easy way to flag that value on social networks since content is subordinated to relationships and connections as they exist the moment you are online.

I like Google Plus, I really do. But like other social media sites, Google Plus emphasizes shared connections and the constant stream of chatter that arrives on your screen.  Of course, we can stop that stream at any time, click on a link, and fully consume what has been offered to us, but a social site’s design promotes social conversations over thought and analysis. I still believe that the “Internet Age” is an age of skimming. We are living in a time where thorough, critical analysis has been subordinated to the conversation. I’d like to see a balance restored between the two. So long as we aren’t reading well – so long as we aren’t taking the time to think critically about what we visit and read online – we are preventing those conversations from reaching their full potential.

Internet 2.0! Now skim faster and shallower!
Internet 2.0! Now skim faster and shallower!

How to Limit your WorldCat Search Results to Only Books

WorldCat wordmarkIf you work in the humanities, you probably complain three ways to Sunday that WorldCat Local’s default search function includes articles.  These articles are often not peer-reviewed, or are often book reviews. Book reviews do have a place in humanities research, but by and large, most humanities researchers turn to their library’s catalogue when they are looking for books and will use scholarly databases when searching for peer-reviewed material and for book reviews.  The catalogue connects them to their library’s collection of books.  Books are what they want when they use WorldCat.  And books are what they’re searching for when they’re using the catalogue.

If WorldCat Local has become your primary catalogue, then get to know the search operator I’ve used below, “dt=“.  This operator will limit your search results by document type, i.e, it will limit your WorldCat search results to only books:

“oryx and crake” dt=BKS

If you use this search function to look for Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood in your catalogue, as I did above, then WorldCat Local will limit your results only to books.  Articles will not appear in your search results.

The dt= function translates to “document type.”  This search function tells WorldCat to limit your results to a particular document type, in this case, “BKS,” which stands in for “books.”   To limit to articles, you need to type dt=SER, where “SER” stands in for “Serials”, which is librarian’s jargon for “articles.”

Take this knowledge and share it with your colleagues, students, and friends.  Adding this search function to your WorldCat Local searches will improve the search engine’s results for the most basic and essential searches you make in your everyday work in the humanities.

Further Reading: Google Ripples

This post came down my Google+ stream today, which I wanted to share:

Reshare this post so we can test the new Google+ Ripples!
"Reshare this post so we can test the new Google+ Ripples!"

This post is a request to share another post and an invitation to the check out Google+ Ripples.  Google+ Ripples is a Google+ feature that visualizes a post’s activitiy.  It will show you a post’s broadcast potential by visualizing who has shared it:

Visualized Shares in Google Ripples
This is how Google Ripples has visualized the way the original post has been shared

Brad Matthies does a good job showing you how to view a Ripple for any G+ post – check out his blog for more information.

I don’t have much to say yet on Google Ripples – it’s still very new and novel and I think people are playing with it more than they are thinking about what it does, how it does it, and what it might mean (if it means anything.).

One thing did cross my mind as people in my own Google+ stream started to share my own share of the post, though. I’m curious to see how Google+ Ripples will turn out. It may only be visualizing and making public the links we all make to one post on the Goog, but I’m interested to know if there might be a backlash against it.

This is interesting because people, including myself, often become uncomfortable and vocal when information about our relationships between ourselves and the information that actually connects us is revealed on the Internet, so I’m almost expecting a public pushback against Google+ Ripples (even though the information and not the carrier is centered in its graphs).   But once the Info.Corps back down and put the cover back over our social graphs, we stop worrying and carry on with our day on the Internet – business as usual.  The thing that gets to me, though, is that we don’t really think twice about the fact that this information about us has already been collected, and on some social media networks, is being shared with third parties without our knowledge.

Don’t take that to think that I’m being alarmist – I’m not suggesting we shut down all of our accounts immediately. I’m only observing the way we sometimes object to the public display of our social graphs but don’t seem to worry that the information is being collected in the first place.

P.s. I think the + in Google+ is a little silly at this point.  I really want to just call it “Google Ripples.”

A Political Note: Why I believe Brian Topp should not be the leader of the NDP

Why I believe Brian Topp should not be the leader of the NDP.

(Cross-posted to Google+ and to Facebook.)

1. I’m wary of anyone with no legislative experience running for the leadership of a political party. The House requires a very demanding, public lifestyle that isn’t suitable for everyone. I’m not saying that Topp doesn’t fit the type. I am saying that an Official Opposition, just like a Government, should not take on an untested legislator as their leader. It’s foolhardy to do so.

2.  I’m a little offended by the way that Brian Topp talks about wanting to continue Jack Layton’s legacy. All the candidates will want to carry on Layton’s legacy. But what makes things so troublesome regarding Topp is the way that he makes it sound like he is Jack Layton Redux. If Brian wasn’t in the room when Jack Layton thought of any great idea being considered, then it seems like he’s trying to own a policy or platform as his very own when it was either Layton’s or the NDP’s as whole. Topp shouldn’t try to win the leadership by running on our collective memories of Jack Layton – he should try to win the leadership by presenting his own unique case for the leadership.

The first point is a political matter that shows why it makes sense for me, and other concerned NDPers, to vote for some one other than Topp. The second point is a matter of character that resonates with me negatively, which pretty much confirms that my vote will move in a different direction.

Addendum:

One more thing regarding Point no 2.: So long as Topp presents himself as Layton 2.0, there will be nothing unique or individual about his campaign, his motivations for the leadership, or his actual abilities to lead. It’s hard to differentiate his platform right now from the current NDP brand, i.e., I can’t look at Topp and figure out his vision for the future of the party since his vision for the future *is* the party line. You may think this is a good thing since it suggests that his principles are aligned with the party, but I see it as a weakness since it means that his principles are also all of his competitors’ principles. There is little there that actually sets him apart from the rest of the pack. I want love and hope and optimism, but I also want to see fresh ideas that will move forward our party and the values for which it stands.