On living above Jude Law.

“As long as I’m alive, imma live illegal” – Mobb Deep


Today is International Women’s Day. On this day in post-Soviet Ukraine, my brother was born. On this day, in a Trudeau Canada, my father-in-law died. After months of suffering and an opportunity to say goodbye, he chose medically-assisted suicide. This option was not always available in Canada, and I was surprised to learn that as of 2016, it became legal in Alberta.

One of my favourite quotations from Annie Ernaux’s work keeps coming back to me in this tumultuous time of climate change, crumbling capitalist ideology, and the yearning for action from the global youth. In her slim but powerful work, L’evenement, she notes, “On jugeait par rapport à la loi, on ne jugeait pas la loi.” Yet the law, much like language, knowledge, and money, is an expression of human relations, a social system in which we exist. It does not come down from the Ether, but is historically situated, forever revised and contested.

In an recent OCULA webinar on Critical Librarianship, my friend Sam mentioned interest in the intersection of libraries and the law, and I too have been thinking a lot about what I’m calling ‘the continuum of action’. To what degree are we bound to be silent, complicit, and neutral, and to what extent must we take action in our professional and personal lives, if there is a difference? The University of California took action. Jody Wilson-Raybould took action. Women of Iceland took action in 1975. So with this in mind, I ask: can we have just one major strike, please? I am interested in exploring what withholding our labour for even a day would like provincially, nationally, globally. Who would care, who would notice? Youth around the world are preparing to strike. Why can’t we?

I have always been fascinated by stories of prisons, labour camps, and other spaces that are purposefully designed to confine, restrict, and punish. One of my favourite films, for example, is Steve McQueen’s Hunger, about Bobby Sands leading a no wash protest and a hunger strike in Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison in 1981. (I still think the “wee foal” scene is one of the best in contemporary cinema and captures the ethos of the film, as well as what I’m going on about here. I will write about it someday.) I wonder if my interest in this topic always harboured a secret fear that I too am two steps away from being locked up under the “wrong circumstances.” I have always imagined myself in the cold cell in the unnamed northern gulag rather than Solzhenitsyn’s Shukhov. When Varlam Shalamov wrote of the arbitrary nature of “justice” in Kolyma Tales, I, too, imagined what I would do when sent to Magadan. Would I trade my fellow labourers for a can of condensed milk? Similarly, in a recent episode of No Librarians Allowed, Carla and I talked about the question of values in librarianship and actual cases of individuals facing life and death consequences over intellectual issues. Diego Gomez faced criminal charges, of which he was later acquitted, for sharing research online. In the Twitter War of 2019 that Erin Glass inevitably started, some librarians objected to the idea of the library being open late by recalling cases of librarians have been killed at work in the recent years. Would I go to prison for refusing state power in line of duty?

I am interested in exploring what responsibilities leadership of major public institutions have to each other and to local communities to fund housing for the homeless. I am interested finding out what it means on an institutional level to not be giving our time and labour to those who diminish and dehumanize others.


“For all the talk of freedom in the west, there sure are a lot of rules!” – Slavoj Zizek, basically


We talk about freedom in the west but rarely define it. In many ways, we understand it to be freedom from something – freedom from totalitarianism, oppression, and censorship of expression. But what are we free to do in the west? Am I free to work a 15-hour week, when I materially cannot support myself on this kind of exchange of labour for wages? Am I free to move around the city as I wish when there are no sidewalks designed into neighbourhoods (such as those were my parents live in Nova Scotia) or in the industrial zone where my weightlifting team practices that is not serviced by public transit? Am I free to raise goats and dig a well in my backyard to provide for myself when I live in the city? What if all Canadians applied for hunting and fishing licenses? How soon before the municipal officials would come after the neighbourhood that chose to self-organize and distribute food, housing, and other resources among its members “illegally”?

In other words, when we talk about freedom in contemporary late capitalist societies, we mean very specific kinds of freedoms, and yet are told again and again that ideology exists elsewhere, outside this perfectly reasonable, “balanced”, logical order.  We don’t live in an ideology-free world; there is no such thing as a person living above (Jude) Law. We are born into a society, we are bound to others around us, and we cannot escape obligation and relationship to them. We can only replace one ideology (of oppression, domination, alienation) with another (of sharing, negotiation, and conflict) before the Maldives are under water, the bees are gone, and ash rains from the sky every August in Western Canada. Arguably, it is this very unfreedom that articulates meaning, our relation to others, and that structures our understanding of the world for the brief moment until we go.

On this International Women’s Day, I also think about my grandma, after whom I am named.


Here she is in her lab, in an industrial city on the left bank of the Dnieper river. She has spent over 32 to years in chemistry and applied sciences, making polymers, ethanols, and synthetic oils for a plant that processed iron ore. Was she a feminist before the term was adopted widely? Was she oppressed because her boss put pressure on her to return from her state-funded maternity leave early in order to serve the community because her skill and talent were desperately needed for the plant to continue production? Or was she truly liberated because she attended free education, attaining a certification that allowed her to participate socially and economically in the world, living in a community where she was respected and needed by others? Was she free to receive state-organized housing and occasionally travel to Crimea on her own (while grandpa was with the boys, who attended free daycare)? Or was she a victim of state oppression that only legislated a 5-day workweek in 1967 and did not allow her to ‘do what she loved’? 

What is the truth, in this case? While my father-in-law was still alive, we would often discuss the nature of science the way it is conducted in Canada. He was surprised, for example, to hear me challenge the idea that academic publication rates are unbiased, or rather, that the organization of research replicates the social biases of society more broadly.  For example, we know that individuals from marginalized groups are published less frequently, in less prestigious journals, which has impact on material rewards they receive. After all, scientists are some of the most educated and “objective” people in the world. Surely, they would not perpetuate sexism, racism, ableism, and other forms of discrimination. And in any case,  the work is judged on its merit. But I would remind him about those are not present in the room, those who have been forced to drop out of the game along the way, those who did not have a chance to get to the stage where they have the space to publish and present because of lack of access to childcare, elder care, healthcare, and a liveable wage. I would sometimes ask what science might look like if it was conducted by another species, or in another time. In other words, yes, the findings of science, medicine, and law are great, but how are science, medicine, or law organized more broadly. How do they function in society? It is us, mere mortals, who set up the review procedures, include and exclude members on committees, adjudicate funding, and distribute awards. I was fascinated to challenge the idea of positivist methodology and impartial objectivity of science, so often invoked in everything from journalism to public education systems. In a true Slavic fashion, I can’t help but rely on a joke to think through this idea of the truth:

There is a well‑known, very Hegelian joke that illustrates perfectly the way truth arises from misrecognition, i.e., the way our path towards truth coincides with the truth itself. We are referring, of course, to the joke about the Door of the Law from the ninth chapter of Kafka’s Trial, to its final turnaround when the dying man from the country asks the doorkeeper: “Everyone strives to attain the Law‑‑how does it come about, then, that in all these years no one has come seeking admittance but me?” The doorkeeper perceives that the man is at the end of his strength and that his hearing is failing, so he bellows in his ear: “No one but you could gain admittance through this door, since this door was intended only for you. I am now going to shut it.” (Zizek’s Jokes, 2014, p. 123)

Zizek muses that another ending for Kafka’s story could be invented to make the point clearer. After the long wait, the man from the country brakes out in fury and screams at the doorkeeper: “You dirty rascal, why do you pretend to guard the entrance to some enormous secret, when you know very well that there is no secret beyond the door, that this door is intended only for me, to capture my desire!”‑‑ and the doorkeeper (as if he were an analyst) would answer him calmly: “You see, now, you’ve discovered the real secret: beyond the door is only what your desire introduced there.”

Here we see a ‘reflexivity’ which arguably cannot be reduced to philosophical reflection: the very feature which seems to exclude the subject from the Other (his desire to attain the secret of the Other – the secret of the Law, for example) is already a “reflexive determination” by the Other. Precisely as excluded from the Other, we are already part of its game. In other words, there is no space to stand outside of the nature of experience; there is no objectivity as such.

On this International Women’s Day, I must disagree with Rancière when he reminds us that “there is no such thing as a possible society. There is only the society that exists.” (The Ignorant Schoolmaster, 1987, p. 75). I believe the time to imagine a possible society is now. We know so many wonderful, useful “facts” in science, medicine, and law, but we have not distributed them evenly, equitably,  or justly among humans. What’s worse, is that we are facing a time that materially limits our experience as a species in the natural world. We actually don’t have the time. I reject the notion that journalism, public education, research, and any other human pursuit exists for its own neutral, objective, non-involved sake. We cannot escape being bound to others around us. There is no way to develop as a human being without other human beings. If we do not seek to improve the lives of others, if we pretend to remain on the fence, then why do we get up in the morning? For whom is this entire enterprise? 

“Soudain, ça m’avait intrigué, excité même, que la mort ne fût plus à l’horizon, droit devant, comme le butoir imprévisible du destin, m’aspirant vers son indescriptible certitude. Qu’elle fût déjà dans mon passé, usée jusqu’à la corde, vécue jusqu’à la lie, son souffle chaque jour plus faible, plus éloigné de moi, sur ma nuque. C’était excitant d’imaginer que le fait de vieillir, dorénavant, à compter de ce jour d’avril fabuleux, n’allait pas me rapprocher de la mort, mais bien au contraire m’en éloigner.” Jorge Semprun, L’Écriture ou la vie.

I started something that I couldn’t finish.

And it’s not just this blog.

I am adopting my friend and colleague, Sam Popowich’s, practice of regular writing as a form of thinking clearly through issues, which I hope will help me work toward synthesizing my ideas into research articles in the coming months. However, the very act of writing this post has taken me weeks and I feel less confident about it than ever before.

For now, I am spending time reflecting on my increasing sense of burn-out with the civic technology community, or at the very least, with the concept of civic tech as performed by citizen volunteers. For the past 5 years, I have been a co-organizer for a civic technology group called Beta City YEG. (Except for the year I was in Toronto, where I had the privilege to work with Bianca Wylie and Andi Argast on the ODI Toronto node, but David Rauch, my Beta City partner-in-crime ran the group without me and updated me on the state of affairs in YEG). Started as a response to a gap in the local technology scene, as well as the desire to build a community of like-minded individuals, we have been facilitators of conversations, creators of projects, and prototypers of solutions for city problems. Hosted under the StartupEdmonton umbrella, this meetup has taken me to places I never thought it would. Although I have met some incredible people, appeared in newspapers and on TV for projects we undertook, and learned a lot about community organizing, I find myself no longer supporting the values of the “Civic Tech” movement. By this I mean the neoliberal framing of innovation as carried out by individuals outside of government departments, which is then used to improve city life and save the government money.

In A Brief History of Neoliberalism, David Harvey defines neoliberalism as a theory “of political and economic practices that proposes that human wellbeing can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets and free trade” (2011, p.2). In this sense, neoliberalism becomes an ethic, a “social good maximizing the reach and frequency of market transactions” and seeking to bring “all human action into the domain of the market” (p. 3). And so it is with volunteer labour, framed as social entrepreneurship guided by the logic of market exchange, creating value for the city while also bolstering the skill sets of the volunteers, in order to become ever more competitive in the technology economy. While it is true that projects delivered by civic tech groups like ours do in fact save governments money, rarely is the question posed as to why money must be saved in the first place, or why tsocial benefits must be optimized, or why there is poverty in the richest province in the Canada at all.

The title of this post is also how I feel about Beta City in the recent years. To say I am ambivalent about my commitments is to say the very least. On the one hand, I find myself resisting the thing I am supposed to champion. On the other hand, I feel a great sense of responsibility to the community, to people I have met, to the relationships I have fostered, to Startup, to Edmonton as a place where I live. I now have the critical lens to understand the dissonance I am feeling, though this sense of duality likely began to emerge from the founding of the group. In all media stories as well as in all projects documented on the website, our work has always been framed as citizens solving problems themselves using technology, through sheer will, hard work, and ingenuity. Partnering with skilled and dedicated community members, we have been able to put forward applications, walking tours, oral history collections, maps, and data sets that truly made a difference in people’s lives. The people with whom I worked have been nothing short of amazing, the Edmontonians we met shared their lives with us, and the public servants inherently driven by the idea of civil service. However, the necessity of existence of groups like ours in the context of a wealthy city was rarely put into question. After all, if this work is so valuable and important to city life, why cannot it be undertaken by the municipality?

Furthermore, the “energetic tech-oriented individuals taking solutions into their own hands” narrative is the classic neoliberal ideology, the same one that puts the onus back on the individual who points out social problems in Canadian society: what have YOU done to help? How many databases did YOU build to help the city? This is exactly the reason I feel so torn about the group 5 years in. As a “progressive” civically-engaged tech person, I must ask the same question as Lenin, What is to be done? And, indeed, not much can be done on an individual level. Poverty will continue to exist, social programs will continue to be underfunded, and data scientists will continue to burn out, having gone through their own personal hype cycle (though I feel like instead of the plateau of productivity, I will remain in the desert of alienation).

And yet, perhaps there is a creek of hope somewhere beyond the horizon. Once again, Zizek has prepared a perfect sandwich of clarity and sass in his latest work, Like a Thief in Broad Daylight (2018). Much like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is able to capture the public imagination by daring to speak about the possible and forming a positive vision of the American experience, Zizek too pierces through the same smug cynicism that I have had hurled at me in the beautiful wood-beamed lofts of Startup (“Ugh, young lady, don’t you know how the world REALLY functions?!”). Thus, he explains “the supreme irony” of contemporary age: “as it functions today, ideology appears as its exact opposite, as a radical critique of ideological utopias. The predominant ideology now is not a positive vision of some utopian future but a cynical resignation, an acceptance of how ‘the world really is,’ accompanied by a warning that if we want to change it too much, only totalitarian horror will ensue. Every vision of another world is dismissed as ideology” (p.211). According to Zizek and Badiou, though we live in a society that pretends that freedoms are unlimited, access to ideas is unfettered, and neutrality is the space any thinking person occupies, in fact, “the main function of ideological censorship today is not to crush actual resistance – that is the job of repressive state apparatuses – but to crush hope, immediately to denounce every critical project as opening a path at the end of which is something like a gulag” (p. 211).

Having managed the egos of men for 5 years, laboured affectively, and made little progress in gender diversity of the local civic technology community, I am preparing to walk away from this project. However, I remain naive in believing that this is not all there is. I remain committed to the idea of meaningful inefficiency of civic tech, in the value of such endeavour beyond exchange, in a society that will not need a civic tech to offload labour onto its citizens in order to test innovation before subsuming it into techno-managerial processes of city operations. A utopia is possible, but it requires collective action.

I will have to elaborate on this vision in a future post, if I ever work up the emotional and mental energy for it.

Giving myself up.

I deleted several social media accounts before the end of 2018. Having backed up the data, I first removed the mobile apps on my phone, and then proceeded to deactivate and delete the accounts themselves. I didn’t look back.

Similarly, after this holiday break, I was finally able to articulate my long-held inability to relate to the concept of intellectual freedom. As an information professional, I am supposed to profess my life to this ideal, to be the defender and beacon of justice, at least, according to the shared values of librarianship. However, being an immigrant who did not grow up in the world of liberal worldview, I could never express clearly why I struggled with the thinkers and their ideas we encountered in library school. Even defending my thesis, I felt an odd obligation to be on board with John Dewey and his intentions, but beneath it all, I just could not in good conscience believe that knowledge exists for its own good, in an immaterial, ephemeral, and supposedly pure state, outside of us mere mortals, messing our way through imperfect conversations and decisions. At last, I see now how these much-valorized concepts can only be possible from a position of intellectual liberalism, that presupposes that true freedom can exist. While this somewhat ambivalent statement is not intended to mean that I am somehow anti-intellectual freedom, I am simply acknowledging that I would like to see discussions in librarianship and society more broadly about the material reality of what such concepts entail. 

One person (and local scholar) who has helped me articulate my discomfort has been Adam Gaudry through his work on insurgent research, who argues that most research produced in the west functions as an “extraction methodology”. Speaking specifically about Indigenous researchers in the contemporary academy who must navigate a plethora of structures purposefully designed to constrain the creation of  thought not bound by the shared liberal worldview, he notes that entities like ethics reviews “are explicitly clear that researchers are, above all, “responsible to the university for our research outcomes. Similarly, the finished results in many cases belong to the university as intellectual property, rather than belonging to the people from whom the knowledge originated” (2011, p. 116). This helped me see all knowledge as a form of relation among people rather than some abstract entity that exists on its own. Certainly, that is how information objects such as books, research articles, and websites are framed when we talk about “access to information” in the professional domain. The fact that a single author is typically listed on a monograph rather than all the people whose work went into a creation of such a thing is another example of a larger philosophical commitment. This seems like a pretty radical thing to even articulate – of course knowledge would belong to the university; however, even the concept of belonging and ownership must be questioned. It relies on the privileging of the idea of rights over responsibilities. If knowledge, by virtue of expressing relationships among people, is founded on inherent responsibilities to each other, it must therefore give up its commitment to the supremacy of rights and freedoms. Individuals give up some degree of personal freedom by living in a collective web.

While disagreeing with Gaudry that insurgent researchers can “play the game” but not get lost in it (p. 116), I stumbled on the slim Semiotext(e) volume by Gerald Raunig, who proposes the concept of “desertion” as a strategy for resistance within institutions like the university. In Raunig’s terms, desertion “does not refer to cases such as military desertion or to inner withdrawal and retreat from the world. Rather, it concerns defection from a dead-end situation, so that desertion is always an instituent practice as well. First of all, desertion occurs as the development of precarious form of autonomy within the institution, in the development of little monsters that thwart the structures and institutional antagonisms through their obstinacy. These would be micropolitical strategies such as refusal to pass on institutional pressure from above, at all stages of the institution; awarding credit points for transversal events that transgress the internal logic of the institutional striking against peer reviews and ranked journals, especially on the part of tenured teachers; actively recognizing journals, magazines, newspapers and essays in anthologies that are not peer reviewed and do not belong to any established hierarchy of rankings, but instead try out new forms of sociality in publishing; inventing and defending free spaces for non-conformist thinking and action; and finally reterritorializing the space of the university as a movement of reappropriation, as was experienced in the occupation movements of 2009 and 2010 in wide parts of Europe” (Factories of Knowledge, Industries of Creativity, 2013, pp. 27-28).

Secondly, desertion for Raunig also means “deterritorializing and reterritorializing knowledge production outside the university, drawing a line of flight out of the university and founding alternative formations of knowledge production…At both levels of desertion, we do not have to retreat to a transcendental territory, but can instead imminently start from machine modes of subjectivation, which affirm, even over-firm self-government, self-formation, self-control, until the reforming and deforming of the self is upended, new factories are invented and disobedient modes of knowledge production emerge” (p. 28.). Disobedient modes might be zines or  podcasts, perhaps.

I am not yet convinced that resistance alone can resolve dissonances of practice, but I am grateful to have had an opportunity to reflect on concepts that are crucial to my profession from a new angle. I finally felt that I was not alone in my suspicions, and I hope to use this space to think through concepts at the heart of what I do every day.

3D and interactive software and platforms

  • Touch Designer – visual programming language and visual development platform for real-time interactive multimedia content like graphics, creative code and installations
  • IntuiFace – software for creating interactive digital experiences without programming
  • GameMaker – game creation system for cross-platform 2D and 3D games
  • Omeka – free, open source web-publishing platform popular in libraries, museums, archives, special collections and exhibitions
  • OpenExhibits – multi-touch software development kit; set of libraries for interactive digital content that can be triggered through multiple input devices such as touch screens, Leap Motion, Kinect, TUIO and others; includes gesture analysis engine and Gesture Markup Language libraries.
  • BiblioBoard – digital library platform for accessing ebooks, audio, video and other digital content
  • OpenKinect – community and sets of libraries for using Xbox Kinect with PCs and other devices.
  • Processing – open source programming language and development environment for the digital arts, new media art, visual design, built for learning how to program in the visual context.
  • OpenFrameworks – open source C++ toolkit for creative coding
  • WebGL – JavaScript API for rendering interactive 3D and 2D graphics in the browser
  • Bokeh – python interactive visualization library for modern browsers, graphics in the style of D3 and extend with high performance interactivity for large datasets.
  • Unity – game engine for 2D and 3D games
  • Cinder – free, open source library for creative coding in C++
  • Compendium – software for designing learning activities using a flexible visual interface
  • Lua – lightweight, embeddable scripting language; receiving critical mass in game industry
  • Luna Imaging – Software for scanning digital heritage content
  • VVVV – hybrid visual/textual live-programming environment for easy prototyping and development; handles large media environments with physical interfaces, real-time motion graphics
  • Sketchup – 3D modeling software
  • Vectorworks – software developer for architecture, landscape and entertainment industries
  • Starling – lightweight server for reliable distributed message passing, queuing
  • Autodesk 3DS Max – 3D computer graphics software for making 3D animations, models, games and images
  • Autodesk Maya – 3D computer graphics software for Windows, Mac or Linux.
  • MaxMSP – visual programming language for building complex, interactive programs
  • Cinema 4D – 3D modelling, animation, motion graphic and rendering application
  • Blender – free, open source 3D computer graphics software for creating animated films, visual effects, art, 3D models, video games, interactive applications.
  • Realflow – fluid and dynamics simulation tool for 3D and visual effects
  • Houdini – 3D animation application software
  • Articulate Storylines – software for creating responsive-design e-learning projects, presentations and courses

Design Thinking workshop.

I recently attended the Design Thinking workshop at Startup Edmonton, which combined ideas from the Stanford’s D-School and IDEO’s approaches to design into one hands-on, 3-hour session, where a complete stranger made me a wallet prototype. Design thinking is not a new concept and comes down to empathetic listening to your customers, coming up with ideas based on what they tell you and iterating back and forth until a product or service meets their genuine needs. You may remember Edmonton’s own Ben Weinlick talking about this approach when designing services for social good at the 2014 Netspeed Conference.

As part of the course, we also received handy resources to build on the introduction. Particularly, exploring the Methods at DesignKit.org and Mixtapes from D-School might be useful when proceeding with a new project.

Creative coding/trippy WebGL experiments.

It all started with the Polygon Shredder. Then I discovered a whole community of creative people working with code and artistic expression on the web. I’m viewing this work from the lens of potential digital exhibits for a large touch screen, but they are obviously also incredible demonstrations of interactive technologies and creative coding.

  • Open Processing community: Spark Spray by Gregogy Bush is particularly fun.
  • Jaume Sanchez Elias, working out of Barcelona. Here is paint splatter simulator using Three.js
  • Cabbibo, working out of Oakland, California.
  • Blocky Earth – here is Edmonton’s topography represented in 3D cubes. You can see the river valley accurately reflected.
  • WebGL experiments: Reza Ali
  • WebGL experiments: Felix Woitzel’s Cellular Sparkle

Also enjoyable are:

Keystone DH Conference highlights.

Having recently returned from the Keystone Digital Humanities Conference organized by UPenn and hosted in the beautiful Kislak Center for Rare Books and Special Collections, I thought I would put together a list of a few projects that intrigued me for their innovative approach or problem-solving capacity. The conference provided an opportunity for many scholars, librarians and developers to share their work, and while I met many wonderful and interesting people, the following projects may be particularly relevant to the work at the Digital Scholarship Unit at UTSC and those interested in the digital humanities more broadly. Not all of the following were necessarily presented at the conference; some were cited within talks, for example. However, all are fascinating work happening in this field!


Collections or thematic projects:


  • Hamilton College’s Digital Humanities Initiative – well thought-out, documented and organized approach to generating digital scholarship at a liberal arts college. Amazing.
  • Penn and Michigan State have partnered up to build an open-source open-access collaborative peer-reviewed journal platform for the Public Philosophy Journal. However, once built, the platform can be suited to other disciplines and fields, and has a whole lifecycle of review, collaboration, sharing, etc. I particularly appreciated the inclusion of “collegiality index” as the factor in the review process!
  • DiRT Directory of DH tools and resources

Miriam Kemper’s Keynote address can be found here.

I also went on a couple of tours around UPenn Libraries and Temple Libraries and took some pictures.
1. UPenn Information Commons and Media lab & UPenn Education Commons
2. Temple University’s Digital Scholarship Center

Access 2013 notes: Rachel Frick’s Closing Keynote.

Rachel Frick, the Director of the DLF Forum and a community builder, gave the closing keynote at Access 2013 entitled “Community, understanding, courage, and honesty”. Her diverse skills, experiences and interests clearly reflected in this uplifting talk, which underscored a few recurring themes in the conference program, and also allowed for a deeper reflection on our professional role.

Rachel began by pointing out what an exciting time it is to be in the library community, since so much opportunity and potential to reinvent the profession currently exists. In fact, according to Rachel, we are on the threshold of a new digital age of which we are not even aware. Using Johnny Cash as an icon of staying true to one’s values, she also brought up the notion of the Flipped Library. In other words, whether it is linked data that brings our local knowledge outward or the new ways we think about collection development in the digital age, it is certainly not business as usual in libraries today. While many trends and movements, such as Open Access, DPLA, RDA, Linked Data, MOOCs or Alt-Metrics are currently unfolding in library world, it is crucial for us to remember why we are in this line of work, and ultimately, remember the people we are serving. On that note, Davis Lankes’ reminder that the mission of librarians is to improve society by facilitating knowledge creation in their communities was particularly fitting.

All of these exciting opportunities are not without challenges, and as such, Rachel outlines three: openness, leadership, and courage. For example, while the discourse of openness in library service is easy to uphold, actually demonstrating it through action is often more difficult. In this way, how we digitize, describe, display, market, integrate, collaborate, and preserve our collections demonstrates our commitment to our values and mission. Traditionally, libraries held a social contract to keep cultural heritage safe, thereby acting as stewards of history. Now, however, we send our knowledge out into the wild, and must therefore think about the impact that has on a variety of potential users. Rachel cited the Rijksstudio in the Netherlands as an example of one organization walking the “openness” talk by making 125,000 high-quality masterpieces publically available to users on the web and tracking their creative, and often unexpected, use of this material. Will Noel’s Archimedes Palimpsest project, too, was one of the first to anticipate the need for machine-readable data to encourage accessibility and engagement with cultural digital content. Initiatives like these prompt us to stop and question our philosophies, values, and practices. They remind us to continue to align our actions with our larger mission.

Another key area in the changing landscape of library service is leadership – the intersection of creative ideas and people that makes things happen. Frick sees the library technology community, such as folks who come out to Access, as individuals with the aptitude to combine ideas with action. They understand the necessary questions and have the ability to respond, thereby further pushing on our leaders. Perhaps it is because they adopt what Bess Sadler calls the Hacker Epistemology, a pragmatic, problem-solving mindset, where the truth is what works and small acts of disobedience can accomplish big things.

Finally, courage is a necessity in the often-uncertain digital age. While this may be the time for the creatives, many barriers lie in the way of action. For instance, how do we get over the “big frickin’ wall” (Kathy Sierra) that seems to come between our big ideas and the current way of doing things? Rachel’s advice is:

1. get out of our backyards

2. play with others

3. connect strategic thinking to operational practice

Courage means not waiting for an invitation, but showing up to open meetings. Initiatives such as the LodLam and DPLA summits happen because people who attend them bring their best work and want to be part of the solution. Courage means staying true to a greater social purpose. Historypin, a project that inspires passion and serves a larger community is a perfect example of digital work guided by a larger social purpose. Courage means overcoming the loneliness of being a passionate person doing something new by finding allies, having faith in one’s colleagues, expecting more from each other, and by acting now.

How do we dare greatly? By asking ourselves what’s worth doing even if we fail.




These were the final words of advice from Rachel, and they succinctly capture the spirit of Access 2013 as we address the challenges ahead. What a great way to wrap up a rockin’ good time in St. John’s! Many thanks to everyone involved for putting this conference together.