(This post supersedes the previous post listing items related to the Aaron Swartz story. That post was from January 20, 2013.)

A few comments.

Aaron Swartz’s story has had a huge impact, it has reverberated far and wide not just through the interlinking worlds of technology and online activism but far into the mainstream. The library world has been no exception, with quite a few of the items below being from our world.

How has the library world reacted? If anything, I would hope that we have been challenged to examine our core values very carefully, to reflect deeply about how we make collections decisions for our communities, how we balance their short term needs with our longer term goals to reform scholarly communications. After all, we’re not trying to create a fairer, more open system purely for our own edification, but because it will ultimately benefit our communities as well. And I define communities very broadly, not just to include the institutions we work at but the larger context in which our institutions operate.

If we have learned anything from this tragedy, it’s that we need to redouble our efforts to make the entire body of scholarly information accessible not only to our institutions but to all the people of the world. We’re getting there but with Aaron Swartz’s inspiration, we can get the job done.

Bohyun Kim asks whether academic libraries have become too comfortable with the status quo:

Too-comfortable libraries do not ask themselves if they are serving the public good of providing access to information and knowledge for those who are in need but cannot afford it. Too-comfortable libraries see their role as a mediator and broker in the transaction between the information seller and the information buyer. They may act as an efficient and successful mediator and broker. But I don’t believe that that is why libraries exist. Ultimately, libraries exist to foster the sharing and dissemination of knowledge more than anything, not to efficiently mediate information leasing. And this is the dangerous idea: You cannot put a price tag on knowledge; it belongs to the human race. Libraries used to be the institution that validates and confirms this idea. But will they continue to be so in the future? Will an academic library be able to remain as a sanctuary for all ideas and a place for sharing knowledge for people’s intellectual pursuits regardless of their institutional membership? Or will it be reduced to a branch of an institution that sells knowledge to its tuition-paying customers only? While public libraries are more strongly aligned with this mission of making information and knowledge freely and openly available to the public than academic libraries, they cannot be expected to cover the research needs of patrons as fully as academic libraries.

*snip*

If libraries do not fight for and advocate those who are in need of information and knowledge but cannot afford it, no other institution will do so. Of course, it costs to create, format, review, and package content. Authors as well as those who work in this business of content formatting, reviewing, packaging, and producing should be compensated for their work. But not to the extent that the content is completely inaccessible to those who cannot afford to purchase but nevertheless want access to it for learning, inquiry, and research. This is probably the reason why we are all moved by Swartz’s Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto in spite of the illegal implications of the action that he actually recommended in the manifesto.

And Jenica Rogers sees a parallel between the circumstances surrounding Swartz’s death and her own experiences with cancelling American Chemical Society journals:

I spent 11 years paying ACS invoices because in my case, at my institutions, my professional responsibility to do right by my users meant I needed to keep paying. Last year I encountered a rare moment in which my professional responsibility and my philosophical beliefs about my profession lined up, and I had the opportunity to not only continue doing my job well, but to do it right. We in libraries don’t have those moments all that often, those moments when we can do it right guilt-free, in a profession in which the rest of academia drives many of our decisions… and the rest of academia has been ignoring the reality Swartz saw and railed against. But maybe they’re seeing it. Maybe we’re all seeing it. Maybe, just maybe, they don’t want to live in that world either.

And so maybe, just maybe, we won’t have to.

Keep on believing. Keep on asking hard questions. Keep on challenging authority. Keep on fighting.

And, this I hope: May no more idealists be driven to suicide by an irrational, over-reactive, and hysterical government and industry response to challenge. EVER.

“Keep on believing. Keep on asking hard questions. Keep on challenging authority. Keep on fighting.”

   
Some general resources.

   

The story:

   
(This is a very long list. There are 263 items in list of posts that tell the story. This update has added 140 items to the previous list. But please do feel free to suggest ones I’ve missed or to point out any errors I’ve made.)

Update 2013.03.03. Added one item from today.

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