On leadership and remembering Aaron

Most people have heard the news that on Saturday, the two-year anniversary of his arrest, 26 year old Aaron Swartz killed himself. I didn’t know Aaron well though I was lucky to have crossed paths with him a few times, we were on the same team during the MIT Mystery Hunt and we were both involved, him much more than me, in some of the early days of Open Library one of my favorite websites on the internet. Thanks to Aaron, and a short list of other people, that site exists and continues to grow.

Though not an ALA Think Tanker, Aaron had more of a Make It Happen ethos than anyone I knew. This was true even if what had to happen went against the current legal zeitgeist and/or conventional wisdom. I don’t think he was a lonely rebel type, but I think he was often willing to go further than others were comfortable with and we as a culture, and we as a library culture, have gained a lot of good things from that. We need to continue to step up, as many have always been stepping up, to ensure our citizens’ rights to access to the information that they need and want in an environment that is increasingly becoming monetized, silo-ized and just generally commoditized.

It’s a problem; we are now and have always been the solution. Please go liberate a public domain document and leave a wish or a thought in Aaron’s memory. And then let’s get back to work. Here’s a quote from Bibliographic Wilderness’ post about Aaron, linked below.

Librarians and libraries have professional knowledge that portraying Swartz’s activity as a million-dollar-plus profit-movitated larceny, and prosecuting it as such, is ridiculous. And librarians and libraries know that the inequity in access to scholarly content that offended Swartz is a real problem. However misguided his approach to addressing the issue, Swartz was on our side — or at least, we should have been on Swartz’s side, writing the prosecutor and court with our professional expertise that this was not the sort of crime it was being portrayed as.

Articles, tributes and links to other things you might want to read about Aaron.

  1. MIT Tech news: What did Aaron actually get in trouble for doing anyhow?
  2. Alex Stamos, to be Aaron’s expert witness: The truth about Aaron’s “crime”
  3. Library Journal Article: Did Aaron have anything to do with JSTORs decision to make some of their public domain documents available?
  4. Bibliographic wilderness: We should be taking more steps to ensure access the way Aaron did.
  5. Lawrence Lessig: Aaron was bullied by the legal system.
  6. Memorial website including a statement from his family and girlfriend.

Morris Cohen – spitfire legal librarian, RIP

I first became aware of Morris Cohen because he has the same name as my grandfather only spelled slightly differently. We exchanged emails a few times and I finally met him at Yale when I was in town for the Reblaw conference. He went out of his way to find a time we could have coffee and chitchat about quasi-radical librarianship and he made an impression on me as both a deeply principled and interesting person as well as someone who cared about mentoring and passing on his legacy. I was saddened to learn of his passing this week. There are good obituaries available at the New York Times and Library Journal.

remembering Norman Horrocks

Norm Horrocks died last week and I’ve been thinking about him all week. When I told my boyfriend about Norm’s passing, he asked “Is that the guy you introduced me to who yelled ‘Yoo hoo’ at us from the golf cart at PLA?” and I said it was. Norm, always eager to make people feel happy and welcome, had spotted me and wanted to make sure I spotted him. He made quite an impression.

I first met Norm when I was serving on ALA Council where he took me aside and assured me that it wasn’t as confusing as it looked and that I could make valuable contributions there. I was lucky to get to spend time with him at the Nova Scotia Library Association conference in Antigonish a few years ago, where he gave me a Dalhousie pin to wear and we reflected on how much we both loved Nova Scotia. Norm could always make you feel like you were integral to the profession and that he was the profession’s smooth and dashing liason to you personally.

Every time I’d run into Norm at library functions, he was a delight and brightened my day. He was charming and cultured which made a great backdrop for his goofy jokes and wry asides. He deeply cared about libraries, library associations and especially librarians. He seemed to make it his personal mission to be an emmisary for librarianship, to make sure newer librarians had a good “user experience” within the profession.

At the same time as he was charming us all, he was doing the work. His background includes a stint in British Army intelligence the director of Dalhousie University’s library school and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2006. Reading through people’s blog posts about him (1, 2, 3, 4), you can’t help but be struck by the warmth, generosity and kindness that Norm passed to to every single person he interacted with.

People are leaving rememberances of Norm at ALA Connect, CLA Toolbox, and this wikispaces page. ALISE has set up a slideshow. Donations can be made to the Dalhousie-Horrocks National Leadership Fund in Norm’s memory if you are so inclined. As one of the blog commenters said on one of the many memorial posts “He was the best of us” and he will be deeply missed.

Judith Krug, 1940 – 2009 champion of intellectual freedom

We’re starting National Library Week on a bittersweet note with an obit in Library Journal for Judith Krug. Judith Krug was a huge personal inspiration for me since before I even started library school. She had been the head of the ALAs Office for Intellectual Freedom since before I was born. She was a no compromise defender of intellectual freedom, and a very politically minded and savvy woman who showed us all how it’s done. She had to put up with an incredible amount of nonsense and vitriol by people who did not agree with her positions and yet she kept fighting for the rights guaranteed by the Constitution includng the rights of children. Here are a few links to neat things by/about her that you might want to read and reflect on.

Her energy, humor and tireless spirit will be sorely missed.

RIP Allen Smith, librarian and farrier

A very nice obit about Allen Smith, Simmons library school professor.

Allen was a fan of Webster’s Second (the second edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary, published in 1934), bow ties, motorcycles, and sailing. He abhorred exclamation points (one quote I have written in my notes from his class reads “If you were born before 1960, you have three exclamation points to use in your life; if born after 1960, you have six, because of inflation”).

Celeste West’s obit in the SFGate

Celeste West’s obituary is up on the SFGate website with a link about who to contact about the memorial, noting “If you cannot donate, no worries, you can creatively agitate for peace and justice, and follow your bliss.”

An Interview with Kurt Vonnegut – Library Journal April 15, 1973

This interview with Kurt Vonnegut appeared in Library Journal almost 34 years ago, it was nice of LJ to put it on their website.

Vonnegut expressed no surprise, however, at the censorship problems some of his books have run into with public schools in parts of Michigan and Ohio. “It’s the same thing every time. They ban something of mine, the ACLU jumps in, loses the case in the lower court, and wins the appeal. After all,” he stresses optimistically, “they can’t win. What they’re doing is unconstitutional.”

RIP: Edward Weber

Edward Weber was the curator of the renowned Labadie Collection at the University of Michaigan for 40 years and an “outspoken advocate of the underdog.” [thanks michael]

obit: Margaret Osmond, 98; librarian who lived flamboyantly

I can only hope my obituary makes me sound like as cool a librarian as Margaret Osmond. [thanks mom]