Cory Doctorow on the term “intellectual property”

For the few of you unfamiliar with the name, Cory Doctorow is a Toronto-born writer perhaps best known as co-editor of Boing Boing. His recent article about “intellectual property” (which I came across via LISNews) should be a great read for anyone interested in copyright and freedom of information. He argues that the term is a euphemism designed to sway the public’s sympathies in favour of big business, and he goes on to explain exactly why ideas should not be treated as property in the same way that physical objects should be.

I also learned from this article that Doctorow has a new baby girl (who was born earlier this month on the day before my birthday). Congrats, Cory!


IFLA conference in August

Especially for anyone interested in research, a great way to experience the exciting side of the LIS field is to attend a conference. If you’ve already done some interesting research, then submitting a paper is the way to go, but even those of us (the majority in non-thesis based programs) with nothing to present should attend when the opportunity arises.

One of the biggest and most respected library conferences is put on annually by the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), and this year it will be held in Quebec City, which is good news for anyone who will be in the area in August. The theme of the conference is Libraries without borders: Navigating towards global understanding, and although the registration fee is rather expensive (even at the student rate), anyone who volunteers will be entitled to attend some portion of the event for free (from what I’ve heard, volunteers will be able to attend one day of the conference for each day they volunteer).

If you’ll be able to travel to Quebec City in August, I highly recommend that you register as a volunteer. The conference runs from August 10th-14th, but volunteers are needed each day from the 6th-16th. The ILSS will be there (the blogger, not the blog), so drop me a line if you’ll be attending. And don’t delay – the deadline for volunteering is March 1st.

Note: The volunteer registration form indicates that you must be able to speak French to volunteer, but even if you don’t know any French, you might as well fill out the form anyway, and they can decide whether or not they want to take you. Just be honest when they ask about your level of language proficiency.

Freedom to Read – read a challenged book next week

Next week is Freedom to Read Week, which is a lot like the ALA’s Banned Books Week, except that it focuses on content challenged in Canada and doesn’t have an initialism as likely to cause potentially amusing misunderstandings. You can celebrate by learning about censorship in Canada, reading some challenged books (try a classic like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale or Timothy Findley’s The Wars), and spreading the word. Take a few minutes to decide how you feel about censorship and limits to freedom of expression – should people be allowed to publish absolutely anything? If not, where do we draw the line?

Annoyed by the Annoyed Librarian

Today’s tip: whatever you do, don’t read the Annoyed Librarian. When cornered, I’ll admit that I subscribe to the AL, but in the spirit of this blog, I must warn my readers to stay away! Unless you have a high tolerance for sarcasm and pessimism, the AL will affect you in a manner directly opposite to the premise of the ILSS. Today she posted to make fun of people who start library blogs, and I can’t help but feel personally attacked (despite the extreme unlikelihood of her being aware of the ILSS).

She makes four accusations of the top library bloggers: they have no original ideas, they endlessly repeat any original ideas they do have, their word count is low, and they don’t stick to their topic.

In response to the first two, I would argue that librarianship is largely about transmitting the ideas of others; given that, I believe that bloggers provide a valuable service by posting new ideas and encouraging dialogue, even if the ideas aren’t their own. As for the third complaint, I sympathize with the AL: I love writing, and, though I despise unnecessary wordiness, I enjoy blogs that involve a lot of writing. However, I also appreciate the multimedia nature of the Web, and if some bloggers can make their point without using words at all, I completely respect that choice. In fact, I often find text-only blogs to be terribly dull – if I wanted a novel, I’d go to the stacks! Finally, though having a direction is essential to any Web-based endeavour, blogs tend to take on lives of their own, and I, for one, am happy to follow the tangents of any blogger who has captured my interest.

The moral of the story is: don’t let the AL get you down! Don’t be afraid to start a blog because you worry you won’t have enough original content, or enough content that’s on topic. Find out about the latest ideas, and pass those ideas on to others. And if you want to call me, or any other gentleman librarian, a guybrarian, just go for it.


Wow, the responses I’ve received so far have been great – thanks everyone! I really feel like I’m joining a community. Amy is compiling a list of blogs written by students in our program, which I think is a great idea. I’ll post the list on here when it’s complete.

Today’s anti-apathy tip: take any opportunity to meet professionals in the field. Web 2.You was one example of this, but it’s even better if you can attend a session where a dialogue between professionals and students is encouraged. My school’s Special Libraries Association Student Group is holding a networking event on Thursday, and I hope all my classmates attend. It will be a chance to ask questions to the people who do the jobs we’re hoping to do one day, and the networking possibilities could even lead to future careers! So come out, and make your name known. Still not convinced? Fine, I’ll resort to using the magic words for grad students: free food.

What if your school hasn’t organized such an event? Then tell them to hop to it! Email the leaders of your school’s student groups and express your interest. Do it right now – you’re already online, and presumably you’re looking for more ways to put off doing your assignments. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll likely have more success if you offer to help organize the event. But think about it: not only will it make you potentially more employable after graduation, it’ll be interesting. If you don’t want to talk about the AACR2, I’m sure the professionals will be more than happy to pretend it doesn’t even exist. See? Fun.

ILSS Book Club: Straight from the Stacks

A few weeks ago, I was in the Z section of my school’s library (that’s the library studies section, which is invariably located as inconveniently as possible – in my case, on the sixth floor of our six storey library) and came across a stack of books about LIS careers. My interest continued to grow as I discovered, to my surprise, a promising selection of material from the present decade. Despite not yet being the ILSS, it occurred to me that my classmates would almost certainly be intrigued by this discovery, and that, just as certainly, they would probably not come across it on their own. So without further ado, I present you with the ILSS Book Club!

First up is Straight from the Stacks: A Firsthand Guide to Careers in Library and Information Science by Laura Townsend Kane. The book is divided into chapters covering different areas of librarianship:

  • Public librarianship
  • School media librarianship/child and young adult librarianship
  • Academic librarianship
  • Nontraditional librarianship: corporate and freelance
  • Medical and law librarianship
  • Library directorship

The meat of each chapter consists of “spotlights,” that is, personal stories told by information professionals, detailing exactly what they do in their jobs and offering advice for those considering steering their careers in that direction. These professionals tend to hold prestigious positions and always have interesting stories to tell. Each chapter also lists a good number of job titles within the given area and offers detailed descriptions of each position.

I would recommend this book to anyone with any interest in breaking into the information field. If you’re interested in information but don’t know where to start, start here. It’s a quick read at 155 pages (or even less if you already have some idea of which chapters interest you – the author doesn’t waste any time on information that applies to all information professionals), which means you won’t lose interest partway through, but it also won’t answer all of your questions. Additionally, it’s not the freshest information available: published in 2003, it’s more recent than the creation of Wikipedia but older than Facebook. My other minor criticism is that it doesn’t include any salary information.

So, what are you waiting for? Get thee to a library and ch-check it out!

The future of librarianship

Sometimes it’s not just library school that leaves us feeling uninspired. Take, for example, this article from Library Journal (via the.effing.librarian): Blatant Berry: The Vanishing Librarians. As a library school student (and I’m sure any readers who care enough about these issues to read this blog will agree), it’s obviously frustrating that society seems to place so little value on the skills of information professionals. But if we wring our hands and say, “oh well, there’s nothing a lowly student can do about it,” then what we’ll end up with is a generation of librarians who are apathetic and subservient to the whims of managers and that segment of the population that wants libraries to be like a version of Chapters where all the books are free. So let’s keep two things in mind: first of all, there are plenty of library users out there who value our services. And secondly, it’s a lot easier for our profession to be pushed aside if we’re apathetic and offer no resistance. So let’s focus on what we love about information and use that enthusiasm to prove to management and users that they need us.


I was inspired to start this blog by a workshop hosted by my library school on Friday. It was called Web A Workshop for Information Professionals, and, despite not yet being an information professional, I found all of the presentations both interesting and potentially applicable to my future career. Two of my classmates, Amy Buckland (of informing MUVEs) and Jan Dawson (of Jan Dawson’s part of the blogiverse), put a whole lot of work into organizing the event and also gave a tremendous presentation on librarianship in Second Life. I’d never really considered writing my own blog until I saw John Dupuis (of Confessions of a Science Librarian) present a talk called Blogging for Professional Development. He really sold me on the idea of blogging and made me want to share my ideas with the library community. My other major inspiration was Jessamyn West (of, among others), whose enthusiasm for the future of libraries through Web 2.0 gave me hope for my career.

So, what is the ILSS all about? First and foremost, it’s written by a library school student in the hopes of being read by other library school students, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be something for everyone. My message is that providing access to information is exciting, even if library school isn’t always. I don’t mean this as a criticism of library programs or educators – it’s not their fault that the cataloguing rules of the AACR2 don’t make students want to do their happy dance. I firmly believe in the importance of learning about advanced database search techniques and chi-square tests; however, I’ve learned firsthand that it’s easy to become disillusioned without spending a bit of time thinking about the innovative and fun work going on in the field. Some might see this as a distraction from flowcharts and Dialog searches, but I intend it to be a supplement – my hope is that through this blog, we’ll all learn the things not covered by our classes, the things that our classes are preparing us for.