Category Archives: Analysis

Link: Measuring a library’s holdings based on its “uniqueness”

Here’s a Monday morning link for all y’all. Dan Cohen notes an interesting way to measure a library’s holdings : by evaluating the collection’s “uniqueness.”

This may be an interesting metric that could be useful at the local-consortial level? I’ll let the Collections Librarians answer that, though.  Read it here:

Dan Cohen: Visualizing the Uniqueness, and Conformity, of Libraries

parliamenthill

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.

RSC-1985-C-42_Copyright_Act_Canada

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.

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!

#CLA2011 Google Map

Are you coming to #CLA2011 (or #CLA11) in Halifax, Nova Scotia?   Then this Google Map may come in handy.   I created a Google Map to help a few librarian-friends from across Canada decide on some things to do in Halifax and then decided to share it with the world.       Enjoy, contribute, and share and share alike.

And since you’re coming to CLA 2011, make sure you visit and say Hi! during Saturday morning’s Technology Lightning Strikes! panel at 8:30 (Session G49).  I’m going to be speaking with a bunch of excellent librarians (read: absolute tech superstars who know so much more than me!) about emerging technology trends and how to integrate them into your everyday work with little fuss and hardly any muss.   I’ll post more details on this in a later post.

At any rate, come say Hi, or tweet me on Twitter – I like meeting people and showing them about this town – Halifax is a great town to visit.

-mike.

Know kung fu: rule The Matrix by understanding its architecture

Riffing on Seth Godin: Librarians as Data Hounds

Image representing Seth Godin as depicted in C...

Apparently Seth Godin has ideas about libraries

Seth Godin wrote a great post today – I’m sure you’ve read it by now – on the “The Future of the Library.” It’s a future with librarians who serve as catalysts of digital information access and as collaborators with their patrons. Given the state of the economy and the fact that libraries have always used the latest technologies to collect, store, and diffuse information, the “library of the future” is always a favourite blog topic, even outside of librarianship.  But when some one who works in spheres well beyond what we do, some one like Seth Godin, waxes poetic on our profession, we stand up and take notice.

And take notice we did.  Some of the earliest commenters include:

  • Buffy Hamilton, who draws connections to Lankes’ Atlas of New Librarianship, as well as to the unfortunate situation that Los Angeles teacher-librarians find themselves in this month
  • Bobbi Newman, who lays vendor and wikipedia economics out on the line and shows why it’s the libraries and librarians who are pulling more than their weight when it comes to e-resources; Newman also reminds Godin in no uncertain terms that the librarian’s role as educator should never be underestimated (this is where she always excels)
  • Gwyneth Marshman, who considers how information access is just as important to academic and special libraries as the printed word is to public libraries

I held back on my two cents because I had too many demands on my Monday (like a third cup of coffee to make it through the afternoon), but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have an opinion.  When it comes down to it, I agree with Seth.  Mind you, Godin isn’t saying anything new or profound either about or to librarians.  Seth is saying all the things that many of have said before, that:

[a] librarian is a data hound, a guide, a sherpa and a teacher. The librarian is the interface between reams of data and the untrained but motivated user.

Or, when discussing the pedagogical aspect of our work, that any good librarian will take:

responsibility/blame for any kid who manages to graduate from school without being a first-rate data shark.

Seth likes his animal imagery, for sure:  librarians are data hounds who help our youngsters grow into being data sharks.  I like these metaphors, too, and like them a lot.  What’s there not to like in these statements?  Seth Godin is speaking about the potential and the responsibility that our profession has, and he’s speaking to a general audience.  Godin is speaking to the world and to librarians when he says he foresees a library as a place full of digital and print containers of information, managed by librarians who know where all the information is stored, how to get to it, and how it all fits together.  This is a future where librarians don’t work in dusty offices, don’t work with card catalogues, and don’t shush people.

But wait a second.  Seth has got some great ideas, but I think the future Seth wants is very much here already.  Librarians are at the cutting edge of tech, bringing people and their data and information together.  We help people create knowledge.  Hell, we can make the trains run on time.

Or, that is, a lot of the time, we can help others make the trains run on time.  And here’s my real issue, which doesn’t haven so much to do with Seth as it has to do with ourselves.  I’m glad to see that Seth and I are on the same page and that we both think that librarians need to be tech mavens and data gurus.  But the problem is that a lot of us aren’t. A lot of us are focused squarely on the educational side of the profession.  There is nothing wrong with that.  We are teachers, after all, and we have a crucial role to play in research methods, in critical thinking, and in lifelong learning.  I couldn’t be more serious when I say that since I work in information literacy and know first-hand that some one has got to show these students how to create a research plan, how to mock up a topic and a subject, how to open a database and how to create a hypothesis.  I am dead-serious about this because I’ve met enough students in my short time as a librarian to know that these skills are not taught adequately in all classrooms (this is not the fault of teachers, by the way: it’s symptomatic of poorly funded educational systems at all levels, in my mind).  Indeed, many of us must be focused on our pedagogical role because it is an important and vital part of our professional obligations.  But when so many of us are working in the front of the house on the educational side of things, who is it that’s making sure the gears don’t get gummed up and slow down the system?  Who really is working on information storage, search, retrieval, and organization?

I’m not being willfully ignorant  here.  I know full well that there are plenty of librarians who still work in Tech Services, in Bibliographic Control, and in Systems, and I value their work.  The thing is that I value their so much that I think it’s a subfield of our profession that more of us should be acquainted with.  In my place of work, a mid-sized university with some 600 academic databases from a bevy of vendors, there are very few librarians who know how they all fit together, and there are few others actively working in data collection and storage into local repositories. This is our collective loss and it it’s a disservice to our patrons and to our institutions.  Collectively, we should know more about our systems and our data collection, but we don’t.

Know kung fu: rule The Matrix by understanding its architecture

Dear fellow librarians: don’t take this as a criticism of our work.  Instead, take it as a call to arms.  The world has gone digital, and we were there to guide it through its growing pains.  MARC long ago taught us a lot about systems, authorities, and control, and this is an area we still have strong expertise in.  So, let’s not sit by the wayside as the world steams ahead of us on account of the knowledge we developed and then shared in information systems and retrieval.  It has become more and more apparent that the Internet really does need a strong cadre of “editors” and “curators” who truly understand how to select, store, and retrieve the best information out there;  there is no single search bar to rule them all, but there are librarians who can help others find and then use the information they’re looking for.  Seth Godin is right on the money in his post only because he’s seen the writing on the wall and is parroting what we know already: that the world’s gone digital and it needs some help figuring out what do with all this data.  Let’s use our skills in information literacy, yes, but let’s also use our skills in information organization to fine-tune the systems already.  We can’t be the best teachers of information retrieval, of information literacy and of research skills unless we understand the systems which house the information in the first place.

 

Stephen Harper doesn’t speak for you.

Excuse me for a moment while I inject a hard dose of politics into this blog about librarianship:

Stephen Harper doesn’t speak for you

http://vimeo.com/22754522

And also on Slideshare:

If you’re Canadian, make sure you vote on May 2.  You have your own opinions, and they are informed and valued.  Remind our politicians that there are many more voices in Canada than they like to think.

On Information Literacy, Students, and Syllabuses

I sometimes get terribly annoyed with LIS literature. Often, I encounter articles that use small samples to confirm that librarians are indeed essential to post-secondary education. Given this cynicism, reading Alison Head’s 2008 article, Information literacy from the Trenches: how do humanities and social science majors conduct academic research? was a breath of fresh air. Although Head used a small sample for her research, she crafts a solid argument which shows that student expectations, anxiety, and even information literacy levels are affected by poor guidance in the classroom and from syllabuses.

Let me say before writing further that Head isn’t suggesting that teaching faculty are ghouls living in the ivory tower whose purpose it is to make things difficult for students. Rather, she argues that most students encounter a fundamental information gap between what professors expect of them and how they are supposed to achieve it. Syllabuses do a great job at listing schedules, reading lists, and essay requirements, but they fall short when it comes to explaining how the student is to meet the professor’s research expectations.

Head analyzed 30 different faculty handouts to achieve two goals:

  1. to find out what professors assign
  2. to find out the amount of guidance professors offer students about how to carry out their research, how to evaluate resources, and how to assemble and prepare the paper (p. 431).

The answer to the first question shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone working in the humanities and social sciences: 30% of assignments are argumentative research papers, while another 17% are lit reviews, and 16% are about theory (p. 432). Assignments in the arts, we know, are based on critical inquiry and interpretation – two related competencies that students often struggle with.

Head’s data show that undergraduates feel pressured to be original and creative in their work (p. 433), which is a difficult task when you’re writing on a tight deadline about a subject you know very little about. Her research on what professors assign to students confirms a lot of the things we already know – that bibliographic instruction isn’t always appreciated, that procrastination and time management are large stressors, and that student success is largely dependent on their understanding and grasp of basic IL competencies (p. 434-435).

The article really begins to shine, though, when Head shows that students often feel disadvantaged by the syllabuses that guide their coursework. 12 of 13 members of her student focus group felt that “one of their most serious obstacles is understanding professor’s expectations for assignments” (p. 435), and 48% of survey respondents felt that “a lack of information from the assigning professor stymied them the most, sometimes keeping them from beginning an assignment at all” (p. 435). Head continues:

The [content analysis] data show a lack of detail and guidance in many research assignment handouts. As a whole, the handouts offered little direction about: (1) plotting the course for research, (2) crafting a quality paper, and (3) preparing a paper that adheres to a grading rubric of some kind. (p. 435)

Head’s work identifies a major information gap that stalls the student’s attempts to produce academic research: a lack of guidance about basic research skills. Junior undergraduate students, who often have very low information literacy rates, have got to learn how to research effectively and also understand the professor’s expectations before tackling their topic, but they have been given very little information to help them along in this regard.

I don’t think that Head is trying to start a fire in the academy with this article. She’s identified a significant problem in post-secondary education but follows up by listing three remedies: more information from the professors, more IL instruction, and more proactive intervention on the part of faculty and librarians (p. 438). The article resonates because it clarifies the muddled situation we face at the reference desk when confused students find a helpful librarian, often by chance. Librarians know that a student’s information-seeking skills may not be as great as they could be, but we aren’t always thinking about what kind and amount of guidance the student has been offered before seeing us. Sometimes the student can’t find answers to the research question because they don’t even know what the research question is or how to produce an academic response to it.

Head’s article reminds me that students often have neither the skills needed to research effectively nor an understanding on how to improve those research skills in the first place. The IL help we provide at the Reference Desk is a bit of a bandaid solution for this problem. Yes, we must continue dressing those wounds, but it is imperative for us to raise the importance of basic research skills and IL competencies when we speak to our peers beyond the library. Whether you’re speaking with a faculty member or some one in student services, remind them of what students ought to be learning in basic writing and research courses. Faculty are accustomed to a research culture that has been nurtured by years of scholarship, but their students are only at the start of their own academic journies. This means that more time must be spent on basic research skills in the classroom, in one-on-one situations, and in handouts given to students. Although librarians have taken up the information literacy mantle long ago, we can’t solve this problem on our own. Raising IL competencies requires collaboration with our colleagues in the professoriate and in student support services.

note: If ever you’ve read anything by Gloria Leckie, then you’ll understand where Head is coming from in this article and why I support her argument. I’ve studied under one of Leckie’s own students, which has clearly informed my own opinions about the information seeking behavior and predicament of PSE students.

Head, A. (2008). Information literacy from the trenches: how do humanities and social science majors conduct academic research?. College & Research Libraries, 69(5), 427-45.


Muppet News Flash: Digital Libraries cost a lot of money (but don’t tell the general public)

A recent piece in the New York Times is reminding me why people don’t understand the enormous costs (let alone the time and effort) associated with digitizing a world’s culture.  Natasha Singer’s January 8 article does a great job at helping the public imagine the possibility of a Great American Digital Library, and she even quotes Benjamin Franklin to lend her argument a certain value that is created when ideas are linked to the nation’s forefathers.  What the news piece is real light on, however, are financial figures.  Check it out and see.

The article neatly summarizes the digitization efforts of certain national governments, compares them to the Library of Congress’s American Memory project and then to the Google Books project.  We learn that the LoC project has no formal connections to any public library projects and that several leading figures and organizations would like to collaborate on one giant digitization venture.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could coordinate our efforts, standardize systems and processes, and make it accessible to archivists, researchers, and to the public?  Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

My problem lies with the way the article pays short shrift to the costs of such an effort. After telling us that Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society would like to develop a “digital public library of America,” Singer tells her readers that:

Of course, practical matters — like cost, copyright issues and technology — would need to be resolved first.

“The crucial question in many ways is, ‘How do you find a common technical infrastructure that yields interoperability for the scholar, the casual inquirer or the K-12 student?’” Dr. Billington says.

The New York Times does precious little in this article to break down the costs associated with a digitization project, let alone one of the magnitude to which it alludes.  What we’ve got listed are “copyright issues” and “technology”, which don’t touch the human capital required to develop and then maintain this digital archive.  And when Singer says technology, I don’t know if she means hardware, software, maintenance, preservation, or all of these things together.  And the piece says nothing of the physical plant required to house these servers, because even computers must be stored somewhere.  A digital library on any scale is expensive, but this article doesn’t explain why.

Now consider this second quotation, which considers the value of the Google Books project and then notes that in the future, copyright costs may have to be settled by universities, research facilities, and other PSEs:

People can read out-of-print items at no cost on Google Books, if those works are no longer subject to copyright protection. But if a judge approves a settlement between Google and copyright holders, subscription fees to access scans of out-of-print books still covered by copyright will have to be paid by universities and other institutions.

An American digital public library would serve as a nonprofit institutional alternative to Google Books, Professor Darnton says.

Now we have an example that raises the spectre of “subscription fees” without explaining the burden these fees are to universities.  I have no doubt that when most people read “subscription fees . . . will have to be paid by universities”, they don’t have a sense of the business models and financing at play; for a lot of people, what will really matter is that the buck stops somewhere but thankfully not with them.  As librarians, we know that our electronic resources, as valuable and cost-effective as they are, eat up a large part of our (largely taxpayer-funded) budgets.  These “subscription fees” are not at all like the fees people pay for cable tv or internet connection at home.  PSEs and their libraries pay through the nose to large, for-profit organizations for electronic access to materials that are often funded by the PSEs themselves.  And even in the case of non-profit organizations like JSTOR, the fees remain costly.  So a “non-profit institutional alternative” that seeks to facilitate digitization and access to a nation’s cultural heritage at reasonable rates could still leave a collections librarian bruised.

Digital Preservation is a labor of love: this machine cost nothing to Penn State and this man is happy to volunteer his time and expertise.

We need to get real when we talk about digitization projects to the public, especially when we talk about huge mega-projects like a mass digitization of American cultural history.  Articles like this New York Times piece do nothing to explain the real costs involved in digitization, collections, and electronic access.  And cost is where it counts.  Too often at the reference desk do I find myself explaining to students that material found on Internet is not free and that the dollars they pay for access on their smartphones or at home covers the cost of transmission but not for “content.”   We need to start educating people so they understand that a monthly data plan or Internet bill pays only for the pipes through which content is downloaded to their devices and not for the actual development and maintenance of the content they are retrieving, let alone the infrastructure (human and physical) required to maintain it.

I apologize if I sound like a cranky curmudgeon here.  Like most librarians, I fully believe that information wants to be free.  But that’s only a desire.  Information may want to be free, but right now it isn’t.  And it’s up to people like us to explain to the world the real costs associated in our information landscape.

 

Remembering Norman Horrocks (1927-2010)

Norman Horrocks, 1927-2010
Norman Horrocks, 1927-2010

Norman Horrocks passed away yesterday, October 14, 2010.  He was a scholar and gentleman.  He was a recipient of the Order of Canada.  He was a professor, teacher, librarian, publisher, and all-round good guy.

I’m not going to list off everything that Dr  Horrocks has done in his life since you can find those details elsewhere.  There are some important things we should recall, such as his work with the LA/CILIP, the ALA, and the CLA; his war service for Britain; his unsurpassed knowledge of government documents collections and organization in several jurisdictions, and his work with the School of Information Management at Dalhousie University.  It’s this work with SIM that matters most to me and to so many others today.  What matters is the way this man has affected so many people’s lives.

This afternoon, after a reference meeting at Dal’s Killam Library, word got out amoung my fellow librarians that Dr Horrocks had passed on.  I looked around the office, and as the most recent hire (and as Dr Horrocks’ last student amoung my colleagues), I realized that nearly everyone I worked with had themselves either worked with or been taught by Dr Horrocks.  And as for the few people in the office who had not had the occasion to shake this man’s hand, they surely have been touched by his work with so many of our professional associations and standing committees.

We all have our favourite moments to remember Norman Horrocks by.  For me, it was a chance encounter at the 2009 CLA Conference in Montreal.  I attended on a scholarship but had to remit my expenses after the fact, so I chose to stay at an inn which was not a conference hotel in order to save a few dollars.  On the second day of the conference, I bumped into Dr Horrocks and we exchanged pleasantries.  How was the weather, how I was enjoying my first CLA conference, etc.  He then he asked me how I was enjoying my stay at this hotel.  I told him I liked it very much and that I had a really decent sleep the night before.   That’s when I realized I hadn’t yet told anyone where I was staying.  I called Dr Horrocks on this and asked him how he found out which hotel I booked with.  He smiled and winked his eye at me, and then he walked away, quietly chuckling at my expense.  To this day, I still don’t know how he found out where I was staying that weekend.  But that’s Dr Horrocks for you and that’s how he rolls.

It was a quiet, rainy, Friday afternoon today in Halifax.  The city is silent and grey, but it’s not completely on account of the weather.  Godspeed, Dr Horrocks.