Category Archives: information activist

Please Give to the Robbins Public Library

Many of you may have heard about the air conditioner being stolen from the William Leonard Public Library in Robbins, IL (note this library doesn’t even have a website but a wordpress created when they were to close a few years ago).  This library proudly serves in one of the most under-resourced communities in Chicagoland.  This community, who just three years ago would have closed if not for a generous donation from an NBA player, plays a vital role in the community.  This week we are experiencing another round of 90+ and even 100 degree days.  This library and its community need an A/C unit.  Please make a donation here.  Every penny counts!!!

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Filed under digital divide, information activist

Chicago Information Deserts

You may have read my post over at Libraries and Transliteracy where I introduce the concept of information deserts.  Well I have been conducting some research on information deserts in Chicago, and I thought I would share some of my initial findings:

Of the 843 census tracts considered, 237 are considered information deserts.  The deserts are home to 776,729 residents.  In other words, about 27% of Chicago’s population lives within an information desert.   The southern part of Chicago has the vast majority of information deserts.

Some racial and ethnic groups are far more likely to live in an information desert.   African-Americans are the most likely to live in an information desert compared to whites or Latinos.   467,373 African-Americans live in an information desert compared to the 72,515 whites.

I still have some more research to do, but the study revealed some interesting findings.  I did not think that so many people lived in such information poverty right here in Chicago.


Filed under digital divide, information activist, information deserts

Our Voice

This whole HarperCollins issue along with constant attempts to cut our funds has got me thinking.  Libraries and librarians have been learning to find and use our collective voice over the last few years, but is it enough?  Are we rising to the occasion quick enough, or with enough force and power?  I think about all those who protested recent events in Wisconsin, and while I know that librarians were present, it was not a massive turnout on our part.  We have so avoided politics because of our ethical desire to inpart unbiased information to the patron, but is it time to rethink this method?

Yes we should always provide fair and unbiased information to patrons, but that doesn’t mean that we should just roll over politically and economically.  We have been using our voice, and launching advocacy campaigns that have helped improve some of our funding crises, but is that all we can do?  Is it wrong to educate our public?

We have a story!  We have a voice!  We have pride in what we do!  Now is the time for us to rise up!  If we don’t do it soon we soon could face the realization that the publishers have eliminated us from the growing eBook business.  Moreover, funding may be so drastically reduced that we cannot afford to even purchase print copies.

It’s time for us to stand up.  It’s time for us to take a stand!  If you are in leadership and you are not willing to be human enough to stand up, then now is the time for you to stand down.  There are so many voices in our profession that are worried about their “image” or “brand” that they are not willing to do anything but complain in private and off the record.  It is to you that I say that going silent, turning a blind eye or deaf ear is condoning the behavior.  It is your story that will be lost in history.  To those willing to stand; to those who have been standing for a long time, let us fill the world with our voice; let our story be heard.


Filed under advocacy, information activist

HarperCollins & DRM

As many of you have seen posts at Boing Boing and Librarian by Day the push from HarperCollins to allow only so many checkouts on Overdrive before the book is deleted is an outrage.  Libraries have been weary of licensing content for some time, and this is exactly why.  So we are being punished if patrons actually want to read your material?

Do you plan to treat us the same way with physically materials?  Do you think you will show up at my library and take a book that has circulated 26 times away from me?

Not only is this outrageous, but I’m to the point where I can’t take it from these publishers anymore.  With the closure of retail booksellers, I wonder if publishers realize how much they depend on libraries to support their bottom line?

I know this much, I am now boycotting HarperCollins.  I hope that both librarians, readers, and hopefully even libraries will boycott as well.  You want to take your books away from me?  Fine, but I hope you realize that I have no desire to buy them now in the first place.

Moreover, I am listening to the advice of Cory Doctorow when he says “And that’s why libraries should just stop buying DRM media for their collections. Period. It’s unsafe at any speed.”



Filed under information activist


I haven’t had much time to chime in on the Wikileaks issue but due to a shout-out from the In the Library with a Lead Pipe blog, I feel some reflection is in order.  As the post states:

believe a richer intellectual and historical record that is fuller and more accurate is in itself intrinsically good, and gives people the tools to make intelligent decisions.” While librarians don’t handle classified government documents on a daily basis, there’s a clear connection between the philosophy of WikiLeaks and that of our libraries. Information creates a knowledgeable citizenry, and a knowledgeable citizenry makes better choices.

Yes!  Philosophically we believe that barriers to information should be removed, that censorship is wrong, and that open access is valuable.

Libraries have, for many decades, embraced unfettered and uncensored access to information.  However, we also uphold the values of intellectual property and copyright.  These documents are the intellectual property of the respective institutions.  So we have values, ethics, and codes that are at odds with each other.

What is one to believe?  Do you place the access to information above the intellectual property rights?  I will let you decide.  But consider this, do we remove all secondary materials that are in violation of intellectual property?  By that I mean if a newspaper were to publish a classified document would we or the Library of Congress remove the newspaper?

The two issues, for me, are transparency and a national library.  The transparency of the government is a necessity in our current society.  Perhaps the really issue is why does the government, of the people, refuse to be open to those very same people?  The Library of Congress’ move to restrict access to the site is shamefully, and reminds us that the Library of Congress is not our national library.  One day, perhaps, we will have a national library, but until then, we have no national librarian to speak for the people.

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Hope from Pixar

A friend of mine shared this video from Pixar


This video is amazing, inspiring and instills hope in those who struggle with feeling alone, isolated and hated.  I am in a profession that has openly accepted and welcomed our GLBTQ brothers and sisters.  This video has totally gone viral, with over 34,000 Facebook shares and 8,000 retweets.  Now if libraries would start making videos like these.  We need to let our voice rise up and be heard.

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Filed under cool stuff, hope, information activist

Local First

I spent a few years living in Grand Rapids, MI and working with a bunch of wonderful librarians at Grand Valley State University.  Michigan’s economy has been one of the toughest hit in the recent economic downturn, however Grand Rapids seemed to be booming.  As a non-economist, I am not sure of all the factors causing this, but I am certain that their Local First initiative plays a key role.

The Local First program is plastered all over Grand Rapids.  The idea is simple!  Shop at local and independent sellers and keep money in the local economy.  When you shop local up to 68% of every dollar spent remains in the local economy, however if you shop at a national chain only 43% of the money remains in the economy.

Well, my question is how much should libraries support concepts like this?  As a locally-funded organization, should we try to shop local and keep the money within the economy?  Should we raise awareness of Local First with patrons?  It seems we should be doing both, and leaving yet a another positive mark on the community that the library resides in.


Filed under information activist, Local First