Thursday, December 18, 2008

Geeks wanted

Do you have tech skills and a social conscience? Instead of money, are you willing to donate your time and design, programming, coding, artistic, or other abilities to help NGOs and other organizations with their technical needs?

Reddit.com has created the Feed a Need project, which asks those with a bit of time and energy to help non-profits with some of their IT projects and problems.

Not only can you do good, but there's a chance for some schwag and other cool treats.

ars technica article

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pew "Future of the Internet" report

The third annual Pew "Future of the Internet" report was released today. These annual reports summarize perspectives and offer points of view about advances in technology and the future of the Net from various Internet gurus, activists, and others. The full report is online here.

Of particular interest for IF and SR advocates within LIS are the sections on:

Have a look, and share this with anyone you think might be interested.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Access to government information

Some legal wrangling about whether access to government information is a right or a privilege is happening in the Supreme Court of Canada. The Ontario Criminal Lawyer's Association (the other CLA?) is challenging that province's FOIPP Act.

Some media groups have voiced their support for the challenge.

For more info, some articles: Globe, Toronto Star, Canada.com.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Oh, it's been a while.

This one came to me through the PLG listserv.

A lengthy New York Times article on Google, censorship, the appropriateness of content (eg, on YouTube), and international laws and perspectives.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday Vote-day!

Today is voting day here in Canada, and we're encouraging everyone to go to the polls. Go vote. Now!

Not yet registered? You can register at your local polling stating.
To find your local polling station, use this tool from Elections Canada. The tool will also give you a list of candidates in your riding.

To register at your polling station, you can do a couple things:
  • provide valid ID that shows your name and address

    • on one document, such as a driver's licence

    • on two documents, both with your name and at least one with your address, such as a health card AND a utility bill

  • swear an oath, and have a registered voter vouch for you also under oath

More information on registration can be found here.

Finally, of all the Edmonton-Strathcona candidates we contacted using the CLA's election widget, only Green Party candidate Jane Thrall got back to us in time for election day. She noted that the Greens do not have a specific library policy, but that she herself is library supporter. Ms. Thrall responded to many of those CLA questions, so the rest of her points are directly quoted below.
  • Libraries, along with Universities, are the keepers of public knowledge. Assuch, we have a duty to ensure that they remain open, public, and protected from the attacks of those interested only in maintaining a monopoly on knowledge (read: copyright lawsuits)

  • Libraries should be free to the public. Some jurisdictions in Canada now charge substantial annual fees to obtain library cards (e.g. in Edmonton, it is $12, which is a lot of money when you are on a shoestring). Libraries greatly benefit lower income Canadians, as they prevent knowledge from being the domain of the wealthy, and these are exactly the people least able to afford escalating fees.

  • The Green Party of Canada recognizes that the creators of knowledge need some form of legal protection to ensure that they can profit from their works, but at the same time, we must not allow the pendulum to swing entirely to their side, as this would decimate the library system, and no municipal government would want to take the legal risk of being responsible for such institutions.

  • The Green Party recognizes that many of society's problems can be solved through increased literacy and education, and libraries are crucial to this.

  • Libraries often are the only public places that offer free access to the internet, access that is becoming more and more essential in modern life.

  • Libraries are one of the few remaining "public meeting places" that are physically embodied, rather than some message board on an arbitrary website. As such, they take an essential role in the crossroads of our society.

  • Net Neutrality is an issue that will continue to increase in importance. The government of Canada must ensure that corporate interests to not interfere with the ability of Canadians to communicate over the Internet. The companies that have argued that they must "throttle" internet traffic (Bell, Rogers, Telus) base their arguments around the fact that internet traffic is increasing more rapidly that the Internet's ability to carry it. The Government of Canada has a critical role to play here, encouraging the development of more advanced network infrastructure (communication lines, etc). Canada was an early leader in early days of the net, but government lethargy and inaction has had a definite impact, with Canada's "connectivity" ranking steadily dropping relative to other nations in the developed world.

Thanks for your comments!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

It's still election time, with one week to go until Canadians head to the polling stations to choose a new government.

The Canadian Library Association has created this handy widget that will allow you to easily identify the major party candidates in your riding. Also, it will automatically generate an email for you, asking the candidate(s) to respond to issues of particular concern to libraries and librarians. Provide some basic information, then simply select the candidates to whom you wish to send the message, and submit.

Wondering what our four local major party candidates would say, FLIF sent a message using this widget. Here is the full-text of message sent:

As a student interest group that is actively involved within our library community, FLIF (the Future Librarians for Intellectual Freedom) is writing to you today to find out your position on key issues that the library community is currently facing:

1. The Canadian Library Association (CLA), as well as many Canadians, continues to have growing concerns regarding proposed amendments to the Copyright Act. If elected, will you support the need to introduce copyright legislation that would ensure users’ rights are recognized in balance with the rights of creators and rights holders?

2. Literacy continues to be a top priority for libraries and educational institutions. If elected, will you support the need to implement of a national literacy strategy?

3. The Library Book Rate, a Canada Post service since 1939, provides a reduced rate for mailing library books between libraries and from libraries to their users. If elected, what would you be willing to do to ensure that a reduced rate of postage for library materials is maintained in order to support one million Canadians?

4. Industry Canada’s Community Access Program (CAP) provides Canadians with affordable public access to the Internet and the skills they need to use it effectively. If elected, what would you be willing to do to ensure that CAP stays alive, in order to help Canadians, wherever they live, take advantage of emerging opportunities in the new global knowledge-based economy?

5. Network (Net) Neutrality is the principle that all information or services sent over high-speed internet access should be treated equally, with no degradation or prioritization or privileges based on content, source, ownership or destination of information or service. In 2008, Net Neutrality became a very important issue in Canada. Where do you stand on addressing Net Neutrality?

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to hearing from you soon at flifblog@gmail.com. You can visit us online at flifblog.blogspot.com

Let's see if we get any responses.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Naomi Klein on the Colbert Report

Author and activist Naomi Klein recently appeared on the Colbert Report to promote her book The Shock Doctrine. She discusses the financial crisis in the States, and the role of government in society.

Video for Canadian viewers here.
(US viewers can see the video on the show's site.)

In a time of political and economic uncertainty, it's good to have a prominent Canadian participating in mainstream discussion. Besides, Naomi is a big fan of librarians and information professionals.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Catching the public's eye

One of our local independent newspapers, Vue Weekly, has recently published a piece on book challenges and censorship.

We don't know what prompted author Carolyn Nikodym to write on this topic, but having these issues in the public eye is a good thing, so we'll take it. In case you missed, here's the link.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Banned Books Week

It's late September, and the ALA's Banned Books Week is here!

Similar to the CLA's Freedom to Read Week, this ALA event is used to provide information about book challenges, bans, and the practice of censorship.

For the 2007 year, And Tango Makes Three (J. Richardson and P. Parnell) wound up being the most challenged book. The full list, along with information on previously challenged and banned books, can be found on this page of the ALA website.

While outright bans seem to occur less and less, the fact that books continue to be challenged in our schools and libraries reminds us of the work still to be done in promoting intellectual freedom.

This year Banned Books Week runs from Sept. 27 - Oct. 4.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Librarians and faculty strike at UWindsor

The Faculty Association at the University of Windsor has declared a strike, affecting the work of academic staff, including librarians. The main issues appear to be working conditions and fair wages. G&M article. Information from the perspective of the Association can be found here, and you can find out what the university thinks here.

Needless to say, this affects the university at all levels, particularly students seeking a quality education. It also affects the personal and professional lives of those who are now on the picket lines exercising their right to strike.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Democratic voice [updated]

During the 2006 election, the Green Party of Canada was a national party, and ran candidates across the entire country in all 308 ridings. During the election campaign, the Green Party leader was refused the opportunity to participate in the official leader debates. Despite this, over 600,000 individual Canadians voted for this party, approximately 4.5% of the popular vote.

How can a party with national representation be refused the right to participate in the federal election debates? How is it that a political voice speaking for more than half a million Canadian citizens is stifled by backroom deals and political machinations? And why is is that we're about to see this happen AGAIN?!?

This FLIF member thinks it's wrong that a major party leader has been blocked from the debates. As a librarian, I support freedom of expression and democratic values. As a citizen, I have the right to hear from someone who could be speaking on my behalf in Parliament.

There is a grassroots push happening to protest for Green Party leader Elizabeth May's participation in the upcoming leader debates. The online petition is available at http://demanddemocraticdebates.ca, and only takes a few seconds to submit.

UPDATE: Those of you who have been following this story know that both the opposing parties and the media committee have reversed their decisions. Green Party leader Elizabeth May has been invited to join the televised leader debates. It's a good day. However, I still wonder why this was an issue at all.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Elections

It's election time in Canada again. Over the next six weeks we'll likely be bombarded with a lot of campaign spin on the issues the politicians want you to discuss. Whatever your affiliation and political leaning, no matter where you stand on the issues, we remind everyone to be media savvy, to go beyond the rhetoric, and to be critical about what the various parties are saying.

And get involved! Ask questions. Talk to friends and family. Email your candidates. Attend local debates. Press our representatives on the issues YOU want discussed during this election.

As of this posting, elections Canada has yet to update it's website with new voter information, so we can't yet provide you with official resources. Future FLIFblog posts will include more information on voting in our election on Oct. 14th.

----
Also, it's virtually impossible to ignore the election going on in the superpower next door. One of our colleagues recently shared a resource for those individuals holding dual citizenship who want to vote the the American election. If you hold US citizenship but are living abroad, you still have a right to vote in that election. Visit http://www.votefromabroad.org/ for more information, and to find out where to register.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Newness

Hello again. After a summer-long hiatus, FLIF is back. A lot has happened in our neck of the woods since the last post.

The senior class graduated, sending a new group of talented, engaged young librarians to make their mark on the world. Unfortunately, this means we lost some veteran FLIF members, including our executive. We thank all of them for their efforts.

On the flip side, the new academic year is underway, and FLIF is under new management. We are happy to give a big welcome to the new students who have just embarked on their library studies, and to welcome back our returning members. We have some new things planned for this year, and hope to see you all at the meetings and events.

We want to continue examining IF and SR issues. We want to discuss and engage with the questions and outcomes faced by LIS professionals. We want to strengthen ties to our community. While we work to meet these goals, we want you to be encouraged to do the same.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Bandwidth throttling hits House of Commons

Concerns about bandwidth throttling in Canada won't go away. The issue has been in the news for a couple of weeks now, after it became known that some of our biggest ISPs are shaping Internet traffic, slowing the legitimate flow of information. When asked about the issue in the House of Commons, Industry Minister Prentice didn't have much to say about throttling and Net neutrality, preferring to leave the matter in the hands of consumers and big business.

Naturally, Internet law guru Michael Geist is watching this story unfold, and he can explain the issues much better than this FLIFer. Go check out his blog.

The Campaign for Democratic Media is organizing online, through both their website and a Facebook group. More information can be found here.

Neutrality.ca are also raising awareness and have an online petition, if you're interested.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cubans blocked from popular blog

Ahh, blogs. Some exist solely as platforms for personal rants. Some help change the world.

This Guardian story highlights an interesting case in Cuba, where the communist country's most popular blogger has recently been censored by the government.

Until today the blog had been widely available, or at least available to those lucky few who could afford and find net access. While still available to the rest of the world, Cuban citizens can no longer access GeneraciĆ³n Y. The Guardian story notes that the blog was something of a "litmus test" for dissent in the country.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

CLA Award Shortlists!

In the past two weeks, the CLA has announced a number of shortlists for various awards:

2008 Book of the Year Award for Children Shortlist

2008 Book of the Year Award for Young Adult Shortlist

2008 Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award Shortlist

Thoughts?

Ryerson and Facebook

By now, many of you have probably heard of the controversy surrounding Ryerson University's case against student Chris Avenir for his administration of a Facebook study group. If not, read on!

U of A's Gateway has a very informative article explaining the background and circumstances of the case:


"Chris Avenir, a chemical engineering student, joined to help himself and others study for upcoming test and assignments. The group, called “The Dungeon / Mastering Chemistry Solutions,” eventually gained 146 members.

After a university administrator discovered it, however, Avenir’s professor gave him an F in the course, charged him with academic misconduct, and recommended that he be expelled..."



This case provokes a range of interesting questions: What constitutes cheating and how is it differentiated from studying? Should the activity of regular in-person study groups be approached in the same manner as online study groups? What is the dominion of the university and it's student code of conduct over online activity? Where are the limitations? Do students have any measure of academic freedom?

Ivor Tossell of the Globe and Mail has written a fairly entertaining, but thoughtful analysis of the situation.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Free University Courses and Podcasts Online...

In the area of freeing the intellect, there are a number of very interesting free online University courses--ranging from podcasted lectures to full out text-based reading and inquiry--being offered by a number of universities in the United States, United Kingdom, and abroad.
So far it has been difficult to locate Canadian content in the free university course realm.
If you know of any Canadian universities currently offering free courses online, please leave a comment!

Hosting Company "GoDaddy" shuts down domain name service to controversial Ratemycop.com website...

From Kevin Poulsen at Wired:

"A new web service that lets users rate and comment on the uniformed police officers in their community is scrambling to restore service Tuesday, after hosting company GoDaddy unceremonious pulled-the-plug on the site in the wake of outrage from criticism-leery cops.

Visitors to RateMyCop.com on Tuesday were redirected to a GoDaddy page reading, 'Oops!!!', which urged the site owner to contact GoDaddy to find out why the company pulled the plug.

RateMyCop founder Gino Sesto says he was given no notice of the suspension. When he called GoDaddy, the company told him that he'd been shut down for 'suspicious activity.'

When Sesto got a supervisor on the phone, the company changed its story and claimed the site had surpassed its 3 terabyte bandwidth limit, a claim that Sesto says is nonsense. 'How can it be overloaded when it only had 80,000 page views today, and 400,000 yesterday?'


This is not the first incident in which the GoDaddy company has come under fire for taking down websites that post controversial information and the Ratemycop website is still down at the time of posting.

Kentucky Lawmaker proposes the criminalization of anonymous internet posting...

Ars Technica's Ryan Paul writes:

"Kentucky lawmaker Tim Couch has proposed a bill that would criminalize anonymous Internet posting. Web site and forum operators would be forced to collect and publicly disclose identifying information about all of the visitors who post content on their sites. Failing to do so would lead to a fine of $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.

The bill, which extends Chapter 369 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes, would mandate collection of the complete name, mailing address, and e-mail address of all visitors who post Internet content. Web sites would have to display names next to all relevant content and establish procedures that enable anyone to obtain the rest of the information. The bill stipulates that mailing address and e-mail address only have to be supplied to supplicants in cases where someone has posted "false or defamatory" information."


This kind of legislation seems to be intended to increase accountability in online conduct, especially in areas such as cyber-bullying. The cost to freedom of speech and subsequently to intellectual freedom, however, would be very high indeed. It is not difficult to imagine how the application of this bill would increase individual self-censorship and compromise the privacy of many, whether proven cyberbullies or not. Here we might as well note that on many social networking sites, cyberbullying is already carried out by people who post under their own names! From a political standpoint, it is difficult to imagine how this bill would fit into the admittedly messy and delightfully chaotic framework of healthy democratic discourse. The implications for any kind of online reference service offered by Kentucky libraries are also problematic, at best. As a fellow observer remarked, "This bill would pretty much grind the Internet to a halt, at least in Kentucky."

In fairness, Couch seems to recognize that this bill would likely not stand against the 1st Amendment and has little chance of actually passing. When interviewed by The Herald-Leader, Couch claimed that he was more hoping that the bill would raise awareness about cyberbullying and the posting of other "unkind comments" on the web. But if a half-hearted attempt at raising awareness is truly his motivation, then why go to the expense and trouble of threatening privacy, intellectual freedom, and democratic discourse with the levers of government?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Possible filtering in Royal Oaks, Michigan and more...

Royal Oak's elected officials want pornography-blocking filters added to library computers after the arrest of a homeless man on charges of viewing child pornography at the public library.

City commissioners stopped short of ordering the library to install filters, but they voted March 3 to have the city library board tackle a question faced by nearly every library: Should First Amendment rights to uncensored information trump a need to block obscenity from public computers?
The Detroit Free Press article provides an interesting snapshot of the debate on web-filtering and varying approaches to access as the situation evolves in Michigan. Although many of the librarians interviewed in this article seem opposed or cautious and yet accepting of filtering, there does not seem to be a clear alternative on offer for resolving this issue.

Meanwhile, the staff of Gwinnett County Libraries will now be able to use software to capture the browsing histories of patrons after a change to the library system's Internet safety policy:

"The responses include counseling users on appropriate Internet usage for less serious situations, ordering users to stop viewing obscene materials, or calling police and capturing the computer's browsing history as possible evidence in the case of child pornography."

This policy also raises the age at which patrons can use unfiltered computers to 18.
These changes were effected after a woman complained that another patron was viewing pornographic materials and staff informed her that they were unable to respond.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Many thanks

Freedom to Read Week is over, and it was a great event! Not only did we promote intellectual freedom and the rejection of censorship, but we helped spread the word to the greater university community. There was a lot of interaction with and some great questions and comments from those who visited the FLIF table in HUB.

Kudos to GELA for joining us, and a special thank you on their behalf to those who donated to the book drive. It's ongoing, so see this post for more information.
The UofA CLA Student Chapter partnered with us for this, and we appreciate all of their help. The buttons were particularly fabulous!
As always, LISSA and the students, faculty and staff of SLIS have been great.

Now we have to make it even bigger and better next year.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Freedom to Watch?

Sometimes we focus a lot on books and other printed materials, but librarians also deal with a lot of video and other multimedia. Recent developments regarding tax credits for film productions here in Canada are worth noting, as the potential for censorship on the part of government is disturbing.

"Tories plan to withhold funding for 'offensive' productions" from the Globe and Mail.
"
Artists call Tory plan to vet films 'censorship'" from CBC Arts.
"Evangelist takes credit for film crackdow
n" from the Globe and Mail.

We will watch how this develops with interest.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Freedom to read according to UofA Express News

The University of Alberta's ExpressNews has posted an article about Freedom to Read week. The reporter mentions the Canadian Library Association's Survey of Challenged materials in Canadian Libraries (see previous post for more details) and talks to UofA's own Dr Toni Samek and Dr. Alvin Schrader. There is also a link to a video created by School of Library and Information Science student Tanya Driechel, who looks at literacy and information access issues in marginalized populations (such as those in developing countries). 

Mid-week update

Mid-week, and the FLIF table in HUB has been hopping. There have been a lot of questions about why we're there and what we're doing. Our display is rearranged daily and continues to draw the interest of passers-by. If you're in the area, be sure to come by and say hello, to share your thoughts, or just to check out some of our challenged/banned books. If you're only able to visit us on the web, leave a comment or send us an email.

Also, the CLA has recently released the results of the latest Survey of Challenged Materials in Canadian Libraries (2007). See the press release online here, and follow the links on the page to the downloadable .pdf of the survey results.

Stay tuned for more information.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What's been challenged

Curious to know what books have been banned or challenged? Here are some lists:
  1. Freedom to Read has compiled a list of challenged books in Canada.  It includes reasons why the books were banned and what the outcome was. Some of the books in the list include a book on colour psychology, the popular novel "Snow Falling on Cedars", an award winning French novel based on the author's experiences in World War II, and the classis "To Kill a Mockingbird.
  2. The American Library Association's list of the most challenged books of 2006 (hey, it takes time to compile these lists). It includes the "Gossip Girls" series (now a TV series) and Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eyes"
  3. You can also check out this old post from Bookslut which lists some challeneged books and why they have been challenged. It includes the children's book "And Tango Makes Three", another Toni Morrison book ("The Beloved"), and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. 

Monday, February 25, 2008

Censored news

Books and movies aren't the only things that maybe challenged or censored. Here are the top 25 censored news stories of 2006-2007 according to Project Censored, a media research group out of Sonoma State University that strives to highlight censorship in the news.

This years list includes:
  • #25 Who Will Profit from Native Energy?
  • #20 Terror Act Against Animal Activists
  • #16 No Hard Evidence Connecting Bin Laden to 9/11
  • #12 Another Massacre in Haiti by UN Troops
  • #5 Human Traffic Builds US Embassy in Iraq
  • #2 Bush Moves Toward Martial Law

Fight for your right to read

Here's a great article about freedom to read: Canadians fighting for their right to read. It talks about challenged books and challenges may be resolved in some public library (note that this is not about the Edmonton Public Library and the EPL may handle cases a bit differently).

Book donations for the Bissell Centre and Women's Prison (updated)

Through out Freedom to Read Week, FLIF (partnered with the Greater Edmonton Library Association) will be collecting donations of gently used books at our table in the HUB. The books will be donated to the Bissell Centre, a non-profit organization that helps people with low incomes.

Help make a difference by bringing in a few books!

Update:
Thanks for the comment, Kirsten. The book drive will benefit both the Bissell Centre AND the library at the Edmonton Institution for Women. More on the book drive and contact information can be found on the GELA book drive webpage.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Honouring Freedom to Read Week with art


Students from the Forest Heights Collegiate Institute created sculpted works of art using discarded books and they are being displayed in the Forest Heights Community Library (Kitchener, ON). See here for the full story.

Freedom to Read Week

This week is Freedom to Read Week, a week long event created to encourage us to think about intellectual freedom (which is guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) and censorship. For more information, visit the Freedom to Read web-site.

From the web-site:

"Canadians often take our freedom to read for granted, but it's a right that regularly comes under fire," says Emily Sinkins, Chair of the Freedom of Expression Committee. "Whenever books are removed from school library shelves or journalists are silenced by the threat of legal action, we're reminded how important it is to fight for the free exchange of ideas between writers and readers."

During Freedom to Read Week, the BPC urges Canadians to use their right to choose what they read and to celebrate Canadians who fight to protect that right from would-be censors.


For more information, look for the Future Librarians for Intellectual Freedom table in the Hub this week. Come and see some of the books that have been challenged and learn more about the importance of intellectual freedom.

You can also check out the Facebook event page from Freedom to Read Week.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Freedom to Read Week: Countdown

Freedom to Read Week 2008 is just over a month away, and FLIF is gearing up for our on-campus activities. Stay tuned to what's going on. This banner is clickable:
Freedom to Read Week 2008

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Poor people and libraries

An interesting (albeit brief) look at some issues relating to libraries and their treatment of poor people: Are public libraries criminalizing poor people?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Copyright Legislation in Canada

The above link is a nice overview of the proposed copyright legislation by its most vocal critic, Michael Geist. For more information, visit the Fair Copyright for Canada group on Facebook.