i am not an eloquent writer. i have friends who are, and it is something i genuinely admire. me? i write like i speak. (i was once told that beers with me was basically my twitter feed brought to life.)
this lack of eloquence means i have spent the past week debating how to write about the angry broken heart i have for the death of Aaron Swartz. “ME ANGRY. LIBRARYLAND DO SOMETHING.” is the best i had. (have?)
i have never met Aaron, but he was a huge part of my libraryland. he had a hand in many of the tools i use every damn day (RSS? Reddit? Creative Commons?). he fought against SOPA and PIPA. he helped build the Open Library. he fundamentally believed in access to information. he freed up tonnes of public legal info and gave it to public.resource.org.
and yes, he downloaded a chunk of JSTOR (for which he was charged as though he was some kind of terrorist) and he also wrote a Guerilla OA Manifesto. both of which i adore, because every revolution needs someone willing to push the boundaries when those boundaries are rooted in tradition and blind to the future. (watch Aaron talk about this. now.)
and though i fear this will sound trite, he was one of my heroes.
so i read Jonathan Rochkind’s post about Aaron’s life, and information, and libraries, and most importantly, libraryland’s silence and lack of support for Aaron during the JSTOR lawsuit and i got angry. angry because i feel this is a call to arms, a time to FIGHT (now, now now now) and i fear we will just move on doing as we do – talking and not doing. (and i know that a lot of you do things, but FFS, as a cohesive unit, we’ve not done what we ought to.)
i resolve to start doing. more. anything i can. and you should too. WE MUST.
thankfully the awesome BCLA came up with some ways for us to take action. my faves (as an academic librarylander) are:
TAKE A STAND on political issues affecting access to information, literacy, intellectual freedom, and education. Don’t rely on tried-and-true cop-outs like “this doesn’t affect my work” or “I can’t see how I can make a difference”. High level information policy decisions affect all of us – as citizens, scholars, and human beings. Aaron saw this, and he did what he could – whatever he could – to stand up for what he felt was right. Which takes us to:
Don’t be afraid to have feelings about what is right and wrong, and don’t be afraid to stand up for them. Attempts to disenfranchise and intimidate people should not be tolerated – silence is acquiescence at best and endorsement at worst. Get involved in conversations and advocacy around these issues on Twitter, on Facebook, on Reddit, on your blog, in the press…everywhere. Advocate to your users, to your colleagues, to your friends, to your Board, to your elected officials. Advocate to everyone who will listen – and especially to the people who won’t!
If you work at an academic institution, lobby enthusiastically on behalf of Open Access journals and in support of robust – and binding – requirements for making the products of faculty and student research freely available through institutional repositories. Don’t be afraid to stand up to bullying from copyright and publishing cabals. If somebody tries to sell your institution garbage while insisting it’s lemonade, tell them so – and tell everybody else who will listen.
all this to say… i don’t really know what to say. i am sad and angry and think the best way to deal with this is to fuel it into libraryland projects that expand access to information. i have talked a mean game for too long. Aaron just did it.
if not now, when?
[two posts in a row where i talk about the loss of a hero. grrrrrr.]