Friday, July 15, 2016

I work at Canadiana because I believe what they do is important (not other way around)

My article discussing why I believe a Canadiana.org and CRKN.ca merger could be great has received more page hits than my article discussing why "Copyright-free" material is not edging out Canadian educational texts. I consider this to be great news that interest is high.

For anyone dropping in on my blog for the first time, I should clarify who I am.  I've been involved in the Free/Libre and Open Source Software  (FLOSS) movement since 1992 when it was simply known as Free Software. From this I grew to become active in the related Open Access, Open Education, Open Government, and related Open * movements.  I increased my policy work in 2001 due to a consultation on Copyright which included "technological protection measures", and spent more than a decade speaking with fellow authors (software and non-software) as well as some of our political opponents (often representatives of intermediaries who in my opinion falsely claim to represent the interests of authors, etc).

Citizens having access to our history is important -- for personal and family reasons for genealogists, but also for bigger-picture politics and governance reasons.  We learn about ourselves from the digital humanities, and we learn about our past political and societal decisions from government documents, historical newspapers, and other documentation that is held by a variety of memory institutions.  I consider it self-evident that open government isn't only about the current government but historic governments as well.  Learning from past successes and failures requires we have access to that documentary heritage.

As we move to a digital world we need to move our research tools and data with us.  This is something that needs to be done quickly as material that doesn't get referenced may end up being forgotten in the new world of data abundance.  The days of scarcity are over, but that means we need to remove any and all barriers to documentary history -- not allow it to fade away.

My relationship with Canadiana.org

I work at Canadiana.org because I believe what they do is important.  It is not a matter of me believing what they do is important because I work there.  I am a worker bee that does system administration and software development work, and I am not involved in the organisational structure. I am not a manager, not on the executive, not on the board, and not on the working group that is exploring a closer relationship between Canadiana.org and CRKN.  In anything I write publicly I am offering my personal views as an activist and not representing my employer.

If you are a student or staff at a Canadian educational institution then there is a high probability that your institution is a member of CRKN, a subset of which are also members of Canadiana (Along with LAC, BANQ, CARL, Toronto Public Library, and the University of Western Ontario which aren't listed members of CRKN).  If you are at one of these educational and/or memory institutions, then you may want to get engaged with these organisations and the discussion about the relationship they have with each other.

The announcement on July 4 was about setting up a joint Canadiana and CRKN working group to further explore a closer relationship over the next three months.  If you have input into their work, make yourself known.  As someone who isn't staff at either Canadiana or CRKN, but at one of the member institutions, your views will quite likely have greater influence than my own.

I know I'm excited about the possibilities, and hope others will be as well.

My relationship with educational community

I work at Canadiana, my wife is a high school teacher, and many of our friends are in the educational profession.  This includes teaching staff and students that contribute to textbooks and other educational works.

This has greatly influenced the bulk of my writing which has been in the context of copyright.  I have a good idea of how much money the educational sector is spending on royalty-bearing online databases and building Open Access sources of educational and other material, which if why I'm so critical of the nonsense narrative from Access Copyright on "educational fair dealings". Knowing some of the internal organisational problems within the sector is also why I'm sometimes even more critical of the policies of educational institutions.

While I'm a technical person for a living, I'm often thought of as part of the educational community within my policy work.  This became obvious in 2005 when the educational community invited me to join them when they were meeting with Joy Smith and Steven Harper (they were in the official opposition at the time).  My policy work connections with the educational community pre-dates my being hired by Canadiana by more than a decade.

Unglue pages of Canada's documentary heritge

One of the many projects I follow is the Unglue.it project.  The concept is simple: some fans sponsor the funding of books, an author gets paid a fixed amount up front for their creativity, and then the book is made royalty-free for distribution globally.

From before I started at Canadiana there has been a Save A Page (Sauvez Une Page) campaign to encourage people to make charitable donations to Canadiana to help fund the digitisation, preservation and access work.  There is a "Donate Now" button on the left-side of Canadiana's homepage.

I don't know how many donations are made from this campaign, but I believe that Unglue.it and other similar projects have demonstrated that people are willing to offer to pay for work that is then made publicly available.  I am aware of our subscribers to ECO, where individual and institutional subscriptions are a critical part of the revenue stream that allows for new digitisation, preservation and access work to happen. As indicated under "Why these fees?", "As a non-profit and charitable organization, Canadiana.org relies on its supporters – whether individuals or major research centres – to help build this collection and the hardware that preserves it. Our ultimate goal is open and sustainable access to Canadian heritage."

If there is a large community of people who would be willing to contribute (financially or with volunteering metadata creation/enhancement) if the results were made freely available worldwide, then this might be useful for the working group to know as they explore new relationships.

I have made the connection between a closer relationship with CRKN and Open Access.  CARL (one of our founders) participated in CRKN's Open Access working group.  The new working group which will be exploring Canadiana.org and CRKN's relationship may want the report from the OA working group to feed into their discussions.  My linking to OA is more of a wish on my part than a guaranteed outcome.  The OA working group discussed in a context of OA publications being third party organisations, while Canadiana increasing OA publishing with a closer relationship to CRKN would bring CRKN closer to being an OA publisher.

One way or the other the charity aspects of Canadiana and funding models for Canadiana's work (subscription vs OA, etc) will be discussed by the working group.

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