Saturday, February 26, 2011

Past weeks in libraryland: Egypt and New Zealand

The citizen uprising in Egypt, which would have some significance to librarians because that's where the Bibliotheca Alexandrina is located (non-librarians might be more familiar with the ancient Library of Alexandria).

What's hearterning was that citizens stepped up to defend the library against vandals and looters.

News of the protests in Egypt started unfolding in late Jan.

On 3 Feb, a message was posted to the IFLA-L list, where it carried a message by Dr. Serageldin (Director, Bibliotheca Alexandrina) to let librarians know the Library of Alexandria was safe:
To our friends around the world: The Events in Egypt

The world has witnessed an unprecedented popular action in the streets of Egypt. Led by Egypt’s youth, with their justified demands for more freedom, more democracy, lower prices for necessities and more employment opportunities. These youths demanded immediate and far-reaching changes. This was met by violent conflicts with the police, who were routed. The army was called in and was welcomed by the demonstrators, but initially their presence was more symbolic than active.

Events deteriorated as lawless bands of thugs, and maybe agents provocateurs, appeared and looting began. The young people organized themselves into groups that directed traffic, protected neighborhoods and guarded public buildings of value such as the Egyptian Museum and the Library of Alexandria. They are collaborating with the army. This makeshift arrangement is in place until full public order returns.

The library is safe thanks to Egypt’s youth, whether they be the staff of the Library or the representatives of the demonstrators, who are joining us in guarding the building from potential vandals and looters. I am there daily within the bounds of the curfew hours. However, the Library will be closed to the public for the next few days until the curfew is lifted and events unfold towards an end to the lawlessness and a move towards the resolution of the political issues that triggered the demonstrations.

Home - Bibliotheca Alexandrina

More coverage from the, "Alexandria youth 'protecting library from looters'" (1 Feb 2011):
The director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina has announced that his building, built in commemoration of the famous ancient library destroyed in antiquity, is being kept safe by Egypt's young people during the current unrest sweeping the country.

... "The young people organised themselves into groups that directed traffic, protected neighborhoods and guarded public buildings of value such as the Egyptian Museum and the Library of Alexandria," he states. "They are collaborating with the army. This makeshift arrangement is in place until full public order returns."
(also see this chronological report from

This week on 22 Feb, over in New Zealand, news of the Christchurch Earthquake caught the world's attention.

I first learned about it from a Facebook friend's status update, where he posted a link to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation news page. I was quite stunned by the video footage.

The New Zealand Library Association's (LIANZA) blog posted updates of news about their library colleagues affected in the quake.

The update on 23 Feb, 12pm:
At this stage I think we need to accept that with limited phone and power facilities, those on the ground in Christchurch are focusing on their immediate needs and those of their family and neighbours. The practicality of this is that people will be conserving battery power on their phones and computer for emergency use and I don’t think we can expect to get any detailed reports for some time.

As of 24 Feb, the LIANZA blog post reports that "all library staff in the Christchurch area were safe, although many are contending with personal property damage. There is no information about many of the libraries which are still closed."

I'm not a religious person. But I'll say a prayer for librarians and people in Christchurch.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

REMIX now ccFree - by Lawrence Lessig

Old news: Discovered this in my blog draft (dated 5th Jan 2009!). Was alerted, by Kevin's tweet, to by Lawrence Lessig.

It's available at!) under a CC-BY-NC-ND license.

Incidentally, the book used to be downloadable from Bloomsbury Academic page under a CC-BY-NC license but it's a broken link now. See why we need a library? :)

I didn't have time to read the book then, and there's a few other books on my read list right now. Meantime, I gathered this much from the following blogs/ online posts (there are mixed reactions, basically):

From Mr Tunes (Dec 2008):
In my opinion, if Lessig cut a bit of repetitive text about the Open Source software industry out of the book, and maybe shaved off about fifty to one hundred pages or so of other fluff content, I think he has a real winner on his hands.

I would recommend this book to any musician, filmmaker, or other artists, as well as to anyone who is interested in copyright law. But for the average person this book might be a little much. 7/10

From The Independent (Nov 2008):
Thankfully (and I'm writing as a rights-holding musician here), Lessig isn't anti-copyright. He only wants it to apply sensibly – particularly in this dynamic new environment, where the circulation of culture is operating at light-speed. Some of his broad solutions are pretty familiar to artists. He wants to take the principle of the "performers royalty" for radio – invisible to the audience who listens for free, but which all stations pay – and extend it to internet service providers as a whole.

Remix brilliantly puts a name to those businesses trying to bridge the gap between the commercial (Amazon) and sharing (Wikipedia) aspects of the web: the "hybrid" enterprise. Their looser, less paranoid approach to copyright allows fans to explore their enthusiasms. Lessig cites many studies – Warner's U-turn around fan usage of Harry Potter is a prime example – to show the commercial benefits this brings.

I don't quite go along with his general enthusiasm for "remixing" as an art form. Musicians who explore harmony, melody and rhythm might ask: is it more important to play and compose a new soul riff, for new times, than just rest on the auratic power of a James Brown sample? But Lessig is surely right that digital culture requires governance that is more subtle and ecological, judging a balance of forces between commerce and community, than precise and draconian. The Democrats could do a lot worse than give the formidable Lessig some work in this area.

From Businessweek (Oct 2008):
It's nice to see Lessig trying to move beyond the mere critique of the system that he offered in previous works. He first stepped down this path a few years ago by helping to found the Creative Commons, a copyright-licensing system that has since become a powerful alternative to America's traditional copyright regime. And for those who have never read Lessig, the new book is a good primer on the shifting debates over copyright in the Digital Age. But Remix is Lessig's weakest effort to date, a derivative essay that rehashes a lot of his older work. Like Martin Scorsese doing another mobster flick, Lessig seems uninspired, groping for a fresh take on familiar themes. Most annoying, he devotes only the last 35 pages of the book to his reform plan, and some of those ideas are not even that new.

From The Complete Review:
Remix is a very approachable read, Lessing laying out the legal and economic issues in most basic style, heavy on the real-life examples. The simplification can get a bit annoying -- though it's good enough as a starting point for discussion -- and the anecdotes tiresome, and Lessig's parenthetical asides, while amusing, make it all seem a bit glib, but the basic point is an important one, and if this makes the books more accessible to a greater number of readers and gets them to think about (or pressure their government representatives !) to reform copyright it's worth it.

Have you read the book yourself?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Singapore International Foundation (SIF) Mobile Library Project in Hanoi, Vietnam

Was alerted to this Singapore International Foundation project, over at the Librarians-In-Singapore list.

The SIF is seeking between 3 to 5 volunteers, at least 18 years-old, for a mobile library project in Hanoi, Vietnam. The six-day project will be from 23 to 28 March 2011.

The mobile library project is in partnership with the Hanoi Public Library. Volunteers will perform storytelling, teach basic computer skills and organise educational activities for children aged between six to 15 years old.

All volunteers are required to pay their way -- about S$1,500 per volunteer, inclusive of airfare, accommodation, travel insurance and local transport. But excludes meals.

Singapore International Foundation - Vacancies Available

From the SIF website (last accessed 13 Feb 2011):
Location: Hanoi, Vietnam
Type of SIV: Direct Service Project
Project partner: Hanoi Public Library
Duration: Six days
Assignment period: 23-28 March 2011

Description of Assignment
The Singapore International Foundation (SIF) will launch its first mobile library project in Hanoi in partnership with Hanoi Public Library.

This mobile library will be equipped with books, computers with access to broadband Internet and multimedia facilities such as educational videos, which will be operated by the Hanoi Public Library.

The library will visit different villages in Hanoi province on a rotational basis.

Apart from providing free usage of library resources, Internet and multimedia facilities, library staff and volunteers will conduct activities such as book readings, storytelling sessions and will provide coaching on the use of Internet and multimedia information tools.

The selected villages were chosen based on the number of households that earn less than S$42 per month and do not have access to Internet, multimedia and library facilities. Working in partnership with local village cultural centres, the mobile library will help local communities develop educational activities and promote a culture of reading and self?learning via the Internet and multimedia facilities. In every village, the library will be parked in the compound of the village cultural centre.

We are looking for a group 3?5 volunteers to attend the official launch of the mobile library and volunteer at the project in Hanoi. Over six days, volunteers will perform storytelling, teach basic computer skills and organise educational activities for children aged between six to 15 years old.

All volunteers are required to finance their own volunteer trips. The estimated cost for a five-day trip is approximately S$1,500 per volunteer. This includes airfare, accommodation, travel insurance and local transport, and excludes meals.

The volunteers must be:
* At least 18 years old and above
* Medically fit for overseas travel involving manual work
* Adaptable and willing to serve in a challenging physical environment
* Able to manage socio-cultural diversity
* Open to sharing and learning
* A team player with good interpersonal skills

Support provided
The SIF will:
* be the liaison between the overseas community and the volunteers
* guide the volunteer team leader in coordinating with volunteers to meet all administrative and logistic needs
* conduct a pre-departure briefing to ensure a safe and enriching volunteering experience
* assign an SIF staff on the actual volunteer trip

BTW, here's a news release of a 2009 related library project, in partnership with the SIF, the Public Libraries Singapore, and SIA Cargo.