Thursday, March 31, 2005

In Memoriam - Michael Fitz-James

Michael Fitz-James, the founder of The Lawyers Weekly and a frequent legal commentator for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, died March 27. Fitz-James was 54 and succumbed to Lou Gehrig's disease.

Many, many years ago, before becoming a librarian, and before that before becoming a web producer, I had worked in journalism. My first ever job in that field was as a researcher with CBC Radio in Montreal.

One day, I had to dig into a legal story and I hadn't the foggiest idea where to begin but I had seen the name Fitz-James in a very brief newspaper account of the issue I was told to cover. So, naively, I called him up.

First thing he tells me on the phone after I introduce myself is "I think I know your father". Perfect way to embarrass me. "A great lawyer, a great lawyer," he immediately adds in his very loud, very gruff voice. My dad has somewhat of a reputation as a man who knows his way around the Constitution.

Soon, my colleagues are glancing over towards my desk where I am doubled over laughing as Fitz-James launches into a verbal performance that is part learned analysis, part play-by-play description of courtroom theatrics, and part cynical and very funny take on the sometimes twisted thinking of lawyers and judges. I knew within a minute I would call him back as often as I could.

The best thing is that he made me feel smart. I was in my twenties and in way over my head. He probably sensed this over the phone in that first background interview. But he made me feel smart. There are some in and around the legal profession who can make other people feel little, and stupid. Not him.

He was profiled last year in the Ontario Lawyers Gazette:

"Fitz-James (...) is the type of guy that you love or you love to hate and there’s not a lot of middle ground in between. He’s a walking contradiction with a larger-than-life personality. On one hand, he’s pure, old-style journalist – loud, aggressive, blunt and gruff... On the other hand, there’s the soft, gentle side to him, a side that attracts loyalty and dishes it out in equal amounts. He’s very funny, entertaining, a walking encyclopedia and self-effacing about his accomplishments."

He knew how to talk over the phone, he knew how to explain, he knew how to make sense to a young researcher even in those situations when the law and all the lawyers and the entire legal system seemed to inhabit one vast Absurdistan.

That's because he knew lawyers could be weird and wonderful and exasperating and that their shenanigans will always be fodder for a good story. And that's why many consider him the grandfather of legal journalism in Canada.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:16 pm 2 comments links to this post

Ex-Premier on the Politics of Race, Justice and the Law

The Honourable Bob Rae, former premier of Ontario, was the keynote speaker at this year's Law Society of Upper Canada education forum to commemorate International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The event was held on March 22.

"This is not about how people think … It is about the impact of discrimination, it is about the effect of discrimination, it is about what discrimination does to the people who are on the receiving end and ultimately, on the people who are dishing it out. And that is where the law has such a profound effect, and that is when I think of the legal structures we have today: The Charter, the Human Rights Code, the improvements in the Criminal Code. I look at the structures that are in place, I look at the sensitivity, the sensibility, and the leadership, which Canadian jurisprudence is now providing, not just for Canada but for the world. I think that we can be very proud of saying that yes, the law plays an important role, the law has played an important role. The law will set us all free."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:02 pm 0 comments links to this post

Access to Information Reform Worries

The Canadian Press is reporting that federal government commitments to modernize and widen the scope of the Access to Information Act may not be kept.

Critics have been calling for what seems like an eternity for broadening the application of the Act to allow for access to cabinet records and opinion polls, and for bringing Crown corporations under the law.

Justice Minister Irwin Cotler had made pledges that he would introduce a reform package to that effect but this has now been postponed, a development that has made opposition MPs such as the NDP's Pat Martin angry.

The criticisms of the Access to Information Act relate mostly to the broad exclusions of entire categories of information and to the many delays and obstacles put up by government departments.

For background info on the need to reform the Act, see:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:26 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Clear Language and Design Newsletter

In February, the Toronto chapter of CASLIS (Canadian Association of Special Libraries and Information Services) organized a seminar event with Sally McBeth from the Toronto organization CLAD (Clear Language and Design). The topic of the evening was "Reaching More Clients Effectively: Crafting Documentation in Clear Language".

CLAD produces a newsletter and its third issue has just been published.

Contents:
  • Amex Canada Inc. first to be awarded the CLAD Readability Mark
  • Bad Form Dept.: What on earth is going on at Canada Revenue?
  • Plain language in the news:
    • Research into the business impact of introducing plain language in the Canadian private sector
    • Plain Language Consultants Clarify Information the Public Wants -- and Needs -- to Know
    • PLAIN Language Association International meets in Washington DC, November 3 – 6, 2005

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:27 pm 0 comments links to this post

Federal Employment Equity Report Card

The government ministry of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada released its annual report under the Employment Equity Act for the period 2003-2004.

It summarizes the status of the four groups designated by the Act - women, aboriginal people, persons with disabilities, and visible minorities - as reported by 460 employers in the federally regulated economic sectors of banking, transportation, communication, as well as the federal public service, and Crown Corporations.

Few surprises to announce: the average full-time salary for men in the federally regulated private sector is $62,600, compared to $48,600 for women, with women clustered in clerical and retail positions.

Interestingly, visible minorities have been able to improve their relative situation, with a 12.7% employment share in the federally regulated private sector, which is greater than their availability in the labour market.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:57 pm 0 comments links to this post

E-Mail Overload and Attention Deficit "Trait"

We've been passing around the following article at work, Why Don't We Pay Attention Anymore?.

It is an interview with Dr. Edward Hallowell who has diagnosed something he calls "attention deficit trait" in the working world, "the result, he contends, of the modern workplace, where the constant and relentless chatter coming from our computers, phones and other high-tech devices is diluting our mental powers" and making people "increasingly distracted, irritable, impulsive, restless and, over the long term, underachieving".

Since we can be reached 50 different ways, we can be disrupted 50 different ways.

Coincidentally, or serendipidously(?), I also came across this post from LawLibTech on Tips for Mastering E-Mail Overload.

Of course, the best advice would be to "just ignore" most e-mails. I do (just kidding!). Since that wouldn't go down very well in many workplaces, the article offers many hints on how to make sure e-mails make sense and actually facilitate, as oppose to disrupt, the recipient's day.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:40 pm 0 comments links to this post

International Law Expert Named Head of Law Commission

The Vice-Dean of the French Common Law Program at the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Law, Yves Le Bouthillier, is the new President of the Law Commission of Canada.

The Commission is a law reform agency that advises the federal Parliament on how to improve and modernize Canada’s laws.

My younger sister, who will soon be taking up a Crown Prosecutor position in Toronto, received one of her two law degrees from UofO. "He's a brain," is her comment.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:26 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

CNW Wire Service Announces One-Stop Media Monitoring

An announcement sent over the CNW newswire service has been ricocheting around the law librarian community.

CNW (formerly Canada NewsWire) announced the launch of a new service to be called MediaVantage that promises what media monitoring librarians (like little old me) have been dreaming about for years: a single search source for all our news needs.

CNW explains that the MediaVantage service will bring together sources from FPinfomart.ca, Thomson Dialog, NewsStand, RocketInfo, Canadian Broadcast Rights Agency, CEDROM-SNi, as well as from broadcasters including CBC, CTV, CanWest, CHUM, TVA Group, Telemedia, RDI and numerous regional broadcasters; and more than 14,000 Internet based news sources including editorial websites, news/talk radio web sites, wire services, SEDAR, EDGAR, Yahoo! and more. Call it a cornucopia of content, a smorgasbord of news, an embarassment of riches, in French and English, but it had us salivating in the late afternoon.

Almost feels too good to be true. Probably costs a huge chunk of the Canadian GDP for a subscription. But law librarians are all going to be on the phone to CNW for the next few days trying to arrange demos, that I can guarantee.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:45 pm 0 comments links to this post

Canada Post Literacy Awards 2005

"Canada Post is once again inviting Canadians across the country to nominate deserving individuals as well as exceptional educators, organizations or businesses that have succeeded in changing the literacy perspective in Canada. Nominations for the 2005 Canada Post Literacy Awards are now open."

The press release calling for nominations went out today.

Nominations can be submitted on the Canada Post website. The deadline is May 27.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:17 pm 0 comments links to this post

Add "Skeptical Business Researcher" To Your Toolkit

I just recently finished the book The Skeptical Business Researcher by Robert Berkman so I was happy to see it favourably reviewed in the British newsletter Free Pint.

What I found particularly helpful are the many checklists for determining the reliability and trustworthiness of news and business resources.

There is also a very useful companion website that is periodically updated with new material. Quite a few books published by the folks at Information Today come with similar websites, which are part of the incredible added value provided by the collection.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:45 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, March 28, 2005

Statistics Canada PDF Problems

There is an ongoing discussion on government and data librarian listservs about the problems many people have encountered with opening PDF files downloaded from Statistics Canada. Sometimes, the files do not open, or they open to a blank browser window.

Statistics Canada appears to be the only government department with this problem. What drives people crazy is that the problem is not consistent. As one person put it on the GOVINFO discussion list, "not all titles consistently display the problem; for some serials, certain issues or numbers open up just fine, while others for that title open the 'blank page' of death."

Typically, the Statistics Canada help desk people point to their Troubleshooting PDFs web page which makes it out to be a "browser problem". Researchers and librarians continue to be frustrated by the situation.

A participant in the DLI listserv (Data Libration Initiative) wrote recently that while some problems may be related to browser configurations, other important potential causes related to the composition and length of the defective file URLs could only be resolved by the administrators of the Statistics Canada website.

The librarians who sit on the so-called External Advisory Committee will bring up the topic at their next meeting with StatCan in May.

I know I've felt silly on quite a number of occasions having to tell someone at work that I can't deliver a free Statistics Canada document to them because of this.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:13 pm 0 comments links to this post

Trends in Canadian Law Firm Websites

The March 25 issue of Legal Business, a supplement to The Lawyers Weekly, includes an article "Firm websites need to be more informative" that explores some of the things law firms can do to establish a stronger branding message in cyberspace.

Traditionally, law firm websites adopted fairly conservative designs but observers see a new trend, with more firms exploring ways to get people's attention. Leveraging expertise seems to be one technique being increasingly adopted.

Some firms are providing information on new developments in important cases in their areas of expertise. Another example comes from the Orangeville, Ont. firm of Carter & Associates, which specializes in charity, church and anti-terrorism law.

The firm decided to create "niche" websites on each of those themes, for example CharityLaw.ca. These sites are full of content. The people behind them admit that it takes time to prepare everything but that it's worth it: it makes the firm and its lawyers more saleable, establishes their reputation, attracts media requests, generates business.

The basic idea is to provide lots of content and to help users find that content more easily.

According to my experience of wandering on the Web, among the tools different law firm websites have developed to highlight their content are:

  • online sign-up for news alerts and notification of new publications on specific topics
  • tools for saving, e-mailing and/or printing pages easily
  • personalization tools to cut down on page clutter
  • abstracts of firm publications and news highlights right on the home page
  • even RSS feeds

As Gisèle White, whose firm redesigned the Carter & Associates websites, wrote, "when people go to a law firm website, they want to find some substance (...) They're not expecting to see a lot of flash and fluff. A lot of old rules still apply: people still want to find lawyers who look and act profesionally".




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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:58 pm 0 comments links to this post

Former Librarian Now Head of Canada's Largest Film Distributor

The Toronto Star Sunday edition has a wonderful profile about Phyllis Yaffe, chief operating officer of Alliance Atlantis Communications [article no longer available online].

In addition to its film business, Alliance Atlantis is a major partner in TV production and distribution. It owns 50 per cent of the world's most successful television program, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and owns all or part of 12 specialty cable networks as well as Canadian movie theatres. Among the channels it owns are Showcase, HGTV, History Channel, and BBC Canada.

Yaffe started her career in public libraries in Manitoba before switching to publishing and then broadcasting.

According to her, it is the library world that taught her what she needed to know about leadership and business:

"'Right away I learned how to treat a customer. I learned that service is what it's about,' she recalls. 'If a person phones the library and asks a reference question, I worked until I had an answer.' It wasn't simply about doing a good job, she says. It was about persisting until you could give the customer exactly what they want".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:27 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Government Online Report Released

Apparently, online interactions with the Canadian government quadrupled over three years.

It is all part of the Government Online (GOL) project that seeks to put on-line the 130 most commonly used services of the federal government. And Scott Brison, Minister of Public Works and Government Services in charge of GOL, is boasting that it is near completion.

Today, Brison tabled the GOL Annual Report in Parliament, Government On-Line 2005: From Vision to Reality ... and Beyond.

For some background articles, see:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:32 pm 0 comments links to this post

Library Conferences on Acid

Found on Library Stuff, this just has to be the best line of the week:

"ETech was like hanging out with cyber-librarians on acid – really, really good acid that makes you want to change the world".

Etech is the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference.

Not that I would know anything about the subject of dropping acid...

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:27 pm 0 comments links to this post

Help for Vulnerable Workers

This comes from the Weekly Work Report, produced by Lancaster House.

The Canadian Policy Research Network has released two studies of vulnerable workers.

Non-Standard Work and Economic Vulnerability looks at the kinds of employment relationships and the extent of low pay among these workers, essentially part-time and self-employed workers.

The second study, Towards Enhancing the Employment Conditions of Vulnerable Workers: A Public Policy Perspective, discusses ways of ensuring that vulnerable workers are covered by minimum employment standards and receive traditional benefits This could include:

  • broadening the scope of existing laws to include non-traditional employment relationships;
  • providing some rights and benefits on a universal basis;
  • creating "social drawing rights", based on paid or unpaid work that is socially useful;
  • and improving access to collective representation

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:16 pm 0 comments links to this post

Ontario Crown Policy Manual Now Online

The Ministry of the Attorney General has updated its Crown Policy Manual and put it online for the first time.

The Manual includes the prosecution policies and memoranda that together form the Attorney General's instructions as to how Crown Counsel are to perform their duties.

Left out of course are certain confidential legal memoranda to the prosecutors, which are privileged, but everything else is included.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:50 pm 0 comments links to this post

Government Announces Proposed Copyright Amendments

Everyone's been waiting for this.

Earlier today, the Canadian government tabled its Response to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage May 2004 Interim Report on Copyright Reform.

Topics covered include WIPO treaties, ISP liability and educational access issues.

Government initiatives on this front are being closely monitored by the "Copyright Forum", a group of 16 institutional members in the fields of education, libraries, museums and archives. The Forum has been worried for some time that amendments would be unbalanced against the interest of "users".

University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist has posted some analysis of the government response. He suggests that the protests by user groups have succeeded for now in getting the government to reintroduce some semblance of balance between users and rights holder groups and commercial interests.

Geist writes that the federal response "represents a major shift away from the embarrassingly one-sided Canadian Heritage Standing Committee recommendations issued last May. While that report clearly pushed the agenda forward, the government’s response has certainly recognized the need for some balance".

ITbusiness.ca commented that the Canadian proposals are veering away from the totally pro-industry U.S. approach.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:27 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

University of Toronto Library Student Projects

I sit on the board of the Toronto chapter of CASLIS (Canadian Association of Special Library and Information Services) which has developed a relationship with the students at the Faculty of Information Studies (FIS) at the University of Toronto.

At this time of the year, FIS usually organizes a number of events to showcase the talents of its students.

This year is no exception.

Friday, April 1 is FIS Research day. The event will feature student papers, posters, demos, and panels on Biometrics and Digital Identity, Copyright, Community Informatics, Metadata and Cultural Resources, Web Portals and 3D Visualization of Library Collections.

The week after that, on April 6, the Faculty holds its Connecting @ FIS Student Project Exhibition, a day for professionals, faculty and staff to meet students from the course on the Management of Special and Corporate Information Centres. The students will be demonstrating products of 32 practicum projects from across Toronto. Canadian Library Association president Stephen Abram told a recent gathering of volunteers for the upcoming SLA Annual Conference in Toronto that he attended last year's Connecting @ FIS event and came away extremely impressed.

Finally, I just wanted to draw attention to the text by Stanislav Orlov in Inforumed, the FIS blog. It is a report on what Wendy Newman told the students earlier this week about professionalism. She is the former president of the Canadian Library Association and currently the Librarian in Residence at FIS. I particularly liked these two points:
  • Join professional associations
  • As your position grows, so does the ambiguity. Acknowledge and embrace it.
Oh, and never have lunch with a negative person!

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:40 pm 0 comments links to this post

The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances Available for Free This Week

I got this from the French library blog Biblioacid: the publisher Emerald is making available for free certain recent issues of The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances .

Among the articles available for free:

  • Simplifying serials sourcing: A case study in decision support for managing electronic journals access (Vol. 18 No. 1)
  • The Canadian National Site Licensing Project and the logic model (Vol. 18 No. 1)
  • Executive compensation in libraries: an oxymoron? (Vol. 17 No. 4)
  • Measure by measure: assessing the viability of the physical library (Vol. 17 No. 4)
  • Is it working? Assessing the value of the Canadian Data Liberation Initiative (Vol. 17 No. 4)
  • Using the world of blogs for project and financial management (Vol. 17 No. 3)
  • What you don't know about banking could hurt your library (Vol. 17 No. 3)
These free journal offers usually last a few days.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:26 pm 0 comments links to this post

Election Law Reform Rolling Across Canada

The winds of democratic reform appear to be blowing across Canada.

Earlier this month, the Ontario government introduced the Election Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005 and announced its intention to hold a referendum before the next election on a new more representative or proportional electoral system.

Voters in British Columbia will vote in a May 17 referendum whether to adopt a proportional representation system recommended by a Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform.

Late in 2004, the Québec National Assembly recommended changes to how its members are elected, including ideas for a modified proportional system.

New Brunswick quickly followed in December 2004 with a report produced by its Commission on Legislative Democracy. It is recommending a mixed proportional system to be submitted to a binding referendum no later than the next provincial election.

Even tiny little Prince Edward Island will get to vote on a mixed-member proportional system shortly.

There is going to soon be a huge new list of legal and administrative concepts for citizens, political activists and law librarians to learn. To help understand some of the major differences in the various electoral reform proposals, here are some good starting points:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:24 pm 0 comments links to this post

Canada's Non-Profit/Volunteer Sector 2nd Largest in the World

This is a follow-up to the post from a few days ago concerning a Canadian government report on the volunteer sector.

According to new research released this week by Imagine Canada (formerly the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy), Canada has one of the largest non-profit sectors in the world:
  • it accounts for 6.8 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product
  • it employs 12 percent of Canada’s economically active population
  • it engages nearly as many full-time equivalent workers as all branches of manufacturing
    in the country
  • it relies more on the efforts of paid employees than sectors in other countries. However, the absolute amount of volunteer effort exceeds the average for developed
    countries
  • 74 percent of all Canadian nonprofit and voluntary sector workers (both paid and volunteer) are engaged in the delivery of direct services such as education, health, and housing (compared to 64 percent internationally)
The report describes in detail the history and composition of the sector, the organizational and financial challenges being faced, as well as regulatory, legal and policy developments that are having an impact, both positive and negative.

The research is part of a two-year initiative being undertaken by Imagine Canada in consultation with the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civil Society Studies.

It should be pointed out that Imagine Canada has an extensive library collection on all issues pertaining to the non-profit sector: law, taxation, fundraising, governance, management, and corporate social responsibility.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:06 pm 0 comments links to this post

New Open Access FOI Law Journal Launched

An open access e-journal, Open Government: a journal on freedom of information, published its inaugural issue this past Monday.

This international journal is funded by the School of Business Information at Liverpool John Moores University.

The inaugural issue contains material on:
  • The Right to Information in India
  • The interaction between Data Protection and Freedom of Information
  • Procurement and the UK Freedom of Information Act
  • Coordination of Freedom of Information Act requests
  • A report from 3rd annual Information Commissioner's conference
The peer-reviewed journal is available free of charge and will be published on a quarterly basis.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:54 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Consultation Report on "Library and Archives Canada" Available

The Canadian GOVINFO listserv drew attention today to the publication of the wrap-up report that came out of the stakeholders consultation on the new directions for Library and Archives Canada, the institution formed last year from the merger of the National Library of Canada and the National Archives.

Over the past few months, government document and law librarians have been particularly concerned with the distribution of government publications and they have been pushing for better access to government material over the Internet through such things as persistent URLs as well as advocating for reform and expansion of the current Depository Services Program which has problems in getting many departments to comply and contribute material.

Some librarians believe government authorities are reluctant to try to force agencies to comply because some see "Crown Copyright" as a potential source of commercial revenue.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:01 pm 0 comments links to this post

Weekly Updates Available from Business and Human Rights Database

Librarians are used to conducting business research using the traditional commercial tools such as Factiva, SEDAR, EDGAR, and GSI.

But there are other tools out there that focus on the impact of business activities on human rights, the environment and labour. Business research is incomplete without them. The creation of these new research tools is all part of the movement for "corporate social responsibility".

One of the newest tools was launched in January 2005: the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, a collaborative partnership with Amnesty International and leading academic institutions.

The Centre currently tracks approximately 2,000 corporations. Corporate profiles include news stories, items about investigations, lawsuits and enforcement actions, as well as official responses. To give people an idea of what this looks like, here is the Centre's Wal-Mart page.

The Centre has also just introduced a new feature, Weekly Updates, which are e-mail alerts with an interesting twist: companies are invited to respond to reports that criticise them, and the responses are included. This is to help keep the updates balanced and encourage companies to publicly address important labour and human rights concerns being raised by civil society organizations such as labour unions, development associations, Third World NGOs, and human rights organizations.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:32 pm 1 comments links to this post

Monday, March 21, 2005

More ISP Accountability Needed?

In his weekly Law Bytes column, University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist makes the argument that it is time for the Canadian government to re-examine the self-regulatory, hands-off approach to Internet Service Providers.

Geist does not call for content regulation. But he wants greater competition and accountability when it comes to the ISPs' network or carrier function.

He outlines a number of reasons why:

  • the lack of broadband competition leaves most consumers vulnerable to sudden service changes;
  • the potential for "packet preferencing" (ISP oligopolies blocking or slowing data coming from competing sites);
  • the "free rider" problem with some ISPs spending millions to combat spam and viruses and others doing very little;
  • and the imminent arrival of a "lawful access" policy that will require ISPs to implement new interception capabilities and to hand over subscriber information without a court order.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:31 pm 0 comments links to this post

Event Blogging Coming to 2005 SLA Conference in Toronto

According to messages on the listservs of SLA Toronto and TALL (Toronto Association of Law Libraries), SLA is thinking about doing something similar to what happened at the recent Computers in Library conference at the upcoming Toronto SLA conference in June, i.e. "blogging the conference".

Jane Dysart, of Dysart and Jones Associates, is asking "if there are any bloggers out there who are planning on attending the conference and blogging the event".

Any interested bloggers are invited to get in touch with her.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:12 pm 0 comments links to this post

Volunteer/Non-Profit Sector Report Published

The Journey Continues - The Second Report to Canadians on Implementing An Accord Between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector has just been made available through the Canadian Depository Services Program.

Whether one calls it the volunteer sector, the non-profit sector or the social economy, there is no doubt that the non-corporate sector of society plays a major role, not only in terms of providing services and jobs, but also in building equity and in fostering inclusion and democratic values.

The above-mentioned accord is part of the so-called Voluntary Sector Initiative (VSI), an attempt to encourage dialogue and partnership between the state and the non-profit sector. The VSI is looking at all issues affecting the volunteer sector, including training, recruitment and retention, the regulatory and fiscal environment for non-profits, and information technology and management issues, and it has sponsored new research on those topics.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:53 pm 0 comments links to this post

Collective Bargaining Database Soon To Be Free

The federal government department Human Resources and Skills Development Canada announced that its database of collective agreements will be available on the internet free of charge as of April 1, 2005.

Negotech, the database of federally and provincially-regulated collective agreements, has been available to subscribers of certain HRSDC publications for several years, but these publications, (Wage Settlements Bulletins, Collective Bargaining Bulletin, and Workplace Gazette) will cease, effective March 31, 2005.

Effective April 1, 2005, similar information will be made available free on their website.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:46 pm 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Canadian Labour Standards Review Launched

The Canadian government has started a review of the federal labour standards under Part III of the Canada Labour Code.

Earlier this month, the head of the Commission for Review of Federal Labour Standards, labour law expert Harry Arthurs, released a Consultation Paper that will serve as the basis for public consultations on how federal labour standards should be modernized.

The consultation document borrows heavily from the 2004 Law Commission of Canada report Is Work Working? Work Laws that Do a Better Job. That report examines the impact brought about by the 'disappearance' of the standard, full-time permanent job as a norm for Canadian workers, and the emergence of new forms of work arrangements, characterized by a dramatic increase in part-time, term, temporary, self-employed/independent, and casual and on-call employment.

The government task force invites comment on such issues as:

  • the scope of the Labour Code, and whether it should be extended to cover non-traditional types of employment;
  • the adequacy of current enforcement and administrative mechanisms;
  • whether the Code should address family leave, human rights obligations, and the demands for skills upgrading and workplace learning opportunities;
  • and possible responses to the increasing importance of the quest for work-life balance, as well as changing workplace demographics - for example, the emergence of an aging workforce population, the rise in dual earner families and lone parent families

The consultation process is expected to end in a final report and recommendations to the government early next year.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:45 pm 0 comments links to this post

How to interest boys in reading

This is a follow-up to my earlier post entitled Do Boys Really Have a Reading Problem?

In a guest opinion in the April 2005 issue of the Canadian literary magazine Quill & Quire, author John Wilson offers his insights on the topic.

He recounts his experience trying to find "exciting" books for his son at the local library: "Assume that a seven- or eight-year-old boy is reading at his age level or a little above and that he needs an exciting story to hold his interest. There are some suitable titles out there, but you will be able to take all of them home in a good-sized book bag. On the other hand, you would need a pickup truck for the books that will appeal to a girl of the same age and reading level".

Wilson goes into the differences between boys and girls at a young age. Basically, his argument is that boys "live in an immediate world that requires instant gratification" and they won't read pages and pages of background and character development.

Give 'em excitement up front, as exemplified by one of his son's favourite passages, the very first line of Wilson's very own book The Flags of War: "The heavy black cannonball bounced twice over the spongy mat of heather before decapitating the man to Rory McGregor's left".

This pretty much reminds me of what I was like. No, boys are not incorrigible little barbarians. It's just that boys are, as Wilson stresses, "not the failed girls that our school system would sometimes like to view them as".

If you can get boys hooked on reading "exciting" (i.e, gruesome) stuff when they're younger, they'll graduate to the more sophisticated stuff. Well, some of us do.

The youth librarian at my local library branch when I was a kid understood this. I remember the branch was located in a commercial strip building just above a variety/candy store (talk about bloody brilliant marketing for getting kids into a library!). The librarian guided me to history books and by age 10 I had read all the stories about the Battle of Britain, the Normandy landings, the Allied bombing campaign against Nazi-occupied Europe, the U-Boot war, and the Soviet counter-offensive on the Eastern Front.

The books were very graphic, explaining both the "heroism" (which attracts many boys) and the consequences of violence (bombed-out cities, sailors from torpedoed ships drowning in the frigid Arctic waters, Canadian and British soldiers slaughtered at Dieppe or slogging through the corpse-ridden flooded fields of Belgium and Holland on their way to liberate Germany).

Those books were "cool". Let's face it. My librarian knew this. She knew that if I became excited by reading those stories, I would go on to better things later on.

As the Radio-Canada report that I quoted in the other post concluded "...adults need to have a very open mind about the choice of reading material by youngsters and allow them the freedom to like less sophisticated works."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:20 pm 0 comments links to this post

Friday, March 18, 2005

50th anniversary of the Rocket Richard hockey riots

This week marked the 50th anniversary of the Montreal Forum hockey riot that followed the suspension of Montreal Canadiens superstar Maurice "Rocket" Richard.

Many commentators consider the riots to have been a seminal event in the history of Canada, and in particular, in the history of Quebec, since the riots were a symptom of deep-seated frustrations of the French-speaking majority of Quebec. The riots were a precursor to the period in the early 60s known as the "Quiet Revolution", an era of rapid political and cultural modernization in the province.

And since this is a library blog, why don't you check out the hockey resources from the National Library of Canada (now Library and Archives Canada)?

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:18 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Follow-up to US legislative tracking

Earlier this month, I wrote about a new guide on tracking US legislation.

"Raizel Liebler" from the LibraryLaw Blog left me a comment explaining that "(A)nother good source of tracking U.S. federal legislation, especially for the non-lawyer/non-librarian is GovTrack".

The GovTrack service is reviewed in the most recent issue of LLRX.com.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:35 pm 0 comments links to this post

Supersize me or feed me better?

The UK-based SOSIG, the Social Science Information Gateway, has always been one of my favourite digital resource discovery tools, in addition to the Librarians' Index to the Internet and the Internet Scout Project.

Last night, I watched the documentary Super Size Me! on the connection between the rise to power of the fast food industry and the growing obesity epidemic in North America, especially among young people. One of the messages of the movie is the urgent need to take back control over school lunches from the junk food behemoths.

So my eyes were immediately attracted to the item today in SOSIG Subject News about celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's Feed Me Better campaign in the UK. Like the documentary, the Feed Me Better campaign cites the growing body of evidence that the junk food diet has a negative effect on behaviour, with teachers noticing that bad behaviour peaks around lunchtime just after kids have ingested highly processed food.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:07 pm 0 comments links to this post

Chirac launches digitization project to resist Google hegemony

OK, not exactly, but this is a follow-up to the post about the controversy in the French-speaking world over Google's plans to digitize millions of books in the collections of prestigious Anglo-Saxon libraries.

Well, French President Jacques Chirac "told France's national library on Wednesday to draw up a plan to put European literary works on the Internet". French authorities plan on lobbying for cooperation from European countries and claim this is not intended as a counterattack against Google. Rather it is a move to promote cultural diversity on the Internet.

For those who want to read how this is being reported in French:

  • in Le Monde - the headline is "Chirac gives push for creation of digital library"
  • in Le Nouvel Observateur - "Jacques Chirac wants to accelerate digitization of European libraries"
  • in Libération - "Jacques Chirac encourages dissemination of works on the Internet"
  • on TV5 (international French-language TV consortium that includes Radio-Canada) and on TSR (Télévision Suisse Romande - Swiss TV) - "Chirac will make proposals to Europeans to digitize libraries"

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:36 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Liberate your books! They want to be free!

There was a small item the other day in the LibraryActivist blog about a Baltimore service called the Book Thing.

The Book Thing is basically a depository for temporarily orphaned books, run by a former Baltimore bartender by the name of Russell Wattenberg. It contains more than 125,000 books in all subjects collected from libraries, publishers, reviewers, authors and illustrators—as well as individuals.

Sounds like any old book store or collection. What makes the Book Thing different is that it then gives the books away, for free.

Here's the story: Wattenberg the bartender often heard teachers complain that their students had no books, so he began setting aside tip money to buy some for them. People heard about his gifts and started donating their throwaways. Sometimes Wattenberg would pack his van, head out to a crowded bus stop or playground, throw open his doors and announce, "Free Books!"

Wattenberg estimates that his operation distributes up to 10,000 books a week to a diverse clintele that includes university professors and homeless people.

Another cool idea for getting rid of books comes from the book sharing organization BookCrossing.

Anyone can register a beloved book with the service, then "Release it for someone else to read (give it to a friend, leave it on a park bench, donate it to charity, 'forget' it in a coffee shop, etc.), and get notified by email each time someone comes here and records journal entries for that book".

BookCrossing members register their books on the web site. Each volume is given an identification number. That ID number is listed on a tag or label placed inside the book's front cover before the book is left for someone else to find. The tag directs people who find a book to the web site, where they can track the volume's "travels". They can also make an entry on the site so other members know the book's current whereabouts.

The BookCrossing web site has archived much of the media coverage about the project.

Or you can create your own book swapping collective and do what we do in my apartment building's laundry room: people just started leaving books, magazines, CDs, videos, DVDs there for the taking. The unwritten rule is that you should give as much as you take. I have seen people on the elevator or in the neighbourhood coffee shop reading some of "my" books and I have gained a complete free collection of Jimi Hendrix, Oasis, and Cranberries CDs.

Call it "viral marketing" if you want to feel sophisticated but the important thing is that it's fun.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 10:30 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Do Boys Really Have a Reading Problem?

Today's Washington Post explores the controversy over whether boys are really facing a growing literacy crisis or not.

[Site requires registration. To register easily, go to the BugMeNot site which will spit out a valid fake ID and password to enter the newspaper's site]

This is not only a U.S. phenomenon. One UK professor mentioned in the article discovered gender gaps in reading ability in more than 20 countries studied, with boys trailing badly in every one, despite differences in school systems and pedagogical traditions.

The Post offers many hypotheses for the situation: biological differences in boys's and girls' language abilities, boys' greater restlessness at a young age, teaching methods, the kinds of reading materials used in the classroom (which some argue do not appeal to many young boys), boys' lack of interest in books, etc.

Coincidentally, the French-language public broadcaster Radio-Canada has also recently been looking into the subject of boys and reading in a report entitled "Mais que lisent donc nos garçons?" (What in the world are our boys reading?).

There is indeed a gap separating boys and girls, with many more boys than girls dropping out of high school in Quebec, but the Radio-Canada reporters were surprised to find out that many of the boys they interviewed actually enjoy reading and even like receiving books as presents (though not as much as toys). This is contrary to all the horror stories that are bandied about concerning hyperactive and reading-averse boys.

As for why many boys do not read well or do not like reading, the boys interviewed criticized the lists of mandatory books imposed on them by teachers and school boards. This was thought to "kill the pleasure," in the words of one young fellow.

Many did agree however that imposing a minimum number of books to read in the school year was a valid idea, but the number should not be too overwhelming. And the golden rule suggested by the boys was to leave the choice of reading material up to each pupil.

As the Radio-Canada report concludes: "...adults need to have a very open mind about the choice of reading material by youngsters and allow them the freedom to like less sophisticated works."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:59 pm 0 comments links to this post

5th Annual Bloggy Awards

Now in their fifth year of existence, Bloggies - the Oscars of the blogosphere - were awarded yesterday to winners from 30 categories at the South By SouthWest Interactive Festival in Texas.

Among those recognized were Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things, walking away with the overall blog prize, and Dooce, the blog of designer Heather Armstrong, the first person ever to be fired for blogging about her professional work, for the best-written blog.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:35 pm 0 comments links to this post

Expanding blogosphere

I'm fascinated by trend analysis.

David Sifry, the founder of Technorati has been trying to put some numbers on the apparent growth of the world of blogs or "blogosphere".

Well, the universe is expanding at an increasing pace:

"Just as it is important to note the increased growth in the number of weblogs out there, it is as or more important to see if blogging is a fad or if people are blogging at a sustained rate. The chart below shows that posting volume has been growing".

Of course, not all are equal in the blogosphere, which is subject to a "power law" as analyst Clay Shirky has described. The power law refers to the emergence of an "A-list, a small set of webloggers who account for a majority of the traffic in the weblog world".

"Though there are more new bloggers and more new readers every day, most of the new readers are adding to the traffic of the top few blogs, while most new blogs are getting below average traffic, a gap that will grow as the weblog world does. It's not impossible to launch a good new blog and become widely read, but it's harder than it was last year, and it will be harder still next year".

Shirky's analysis makes for eye-opening reading.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:03 pm 0 comments links to this post

University of Toronto ends mandatory retirement for librarians and profs

The University of Toronto is reported to have reached a tentative deal with the university's faculty association under which professors and librarians wishing to work past 65 will be able to phase-in or postpone retirement starting July 1, 2006.

The Ontario government is planning on introducing legislation soon that scraps mandatory retirement, something human rights activists have been pushing for many years.

Other provinces and territories that have banned mandatory retirement include Manitoba, Quebec, Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:43 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, March 14, 2005

What We Do for a Living - A Newspaper Gets It

A Louisville (USA) business newspaper has what I call an accurate description of what law librarians do every day. The article is entitled "Michael French walks the legal maze in role as firm librarian."

I particularly liked the quote from French: "My goal is to make it easy for the attorneys to practice law."

My variant on that is to explain to friends and acquaintances: "I make sure the lawyers get the information they need so they can win cases."

My older brother, a civil litigator in Montreal, and my younger sister, a Crown prosecutor, have a more cynical way of describing what I do: "You pass us the ammunition we need to kill the other side". Not exactly how I would put it, but we have been known to call my sister the "Paratrooper" ("La parachutiste" in French)

I say tomayto and you say tomahto...

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:36 pm 0 comments links to this post

U.S. media hold Sunshine Week to protest clampdown on access to government info

This week marks "Sunshine Week" for our neighbours to the South. As one organizer explained:

"(N)ever has freedom of information been under greater siege. The open hostility to FOI flows from Washington and the Department of Justice. The actions in our nation's capital are mimicked more and more on a state and local level."

According to an article in Sunday's Guardian (UK) newspaper, "In addition to decreasing some types of information released under FOIA, the federal government is increasing the number of documents deemed secret and has pulled thousands of documents and databases off public Web sites... Since Sept. 11, 2001, at least 20 states have proposed new laws to control public records, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures...A new state-by-state study of public records laws by the Better Government Association concluded that the array of legislation is so haphazard that it hampers 'the citizenry's ability to examine even the most fundamental actions of government'."

In parallel, an American student organization, FreeCulture.org, organized BlogShine Sunday to encourage bloggers throughout the U.S. and beyond to spotlight their own experiences with obtaining access to government documents.

You can find a roundup of media coverage on the Sunshine Week web site.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:16 pm 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Ethics and blogging

In the past few months, there has been a very healthy discussion going on about the professional ethics of blogging, including the ethics of blogging by librarians.

A number of writers have tried to come up with rules, usually in the form of lists of commandments.

For an example, Michael Stephens on Tame the Web suggested Ten things a blogging librarian must do (an exercise in common sense). Among his suggestions are: cite your sources, keep your blog active, read other blogs fcor inspiration, do not insult others...

This was followed up a few months later by The Library Blogger's Personal Protocols. These include such things as: respect your organization, don't reveal secrets, blog anonymously or blog proudly.

Over at the Free Range Librarian, Karen Schenider has been posting regularly on the subject: check out her blog section on ethics. It includes a number of thoughtful pieces written in December 2004. Her reflections on the matter started with this comment:

"Too many of us want to be considered serious citizen-journalists, when it suits us, but fall back on 'hey, it's only a blog' when we'd rather post first and fact-check later, present commentary as 'news,' or otherwise fall short of the guidelines of the real profession of journalism (...) We are the standard-bearers for accurate, unbiased information. Blogs filled with typos, half-baked 'facts,' misrepresentations, copyright violations, and other egregious and unprofessional problems do not represent us well to the world".

There is also a proposed Code of Blogging Ethics (described at the end of the PDF document).

For a more academic take on the whole topic, earlier this winter the Law School and Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and the American Library Association hosted a Blogging, Journalism & Credibility conference. The preliminary conference report concluded:

"There are no clear answers about how credibility is won, lost, or retained – for mainstream media or bloggers. It's impossible and undesirable for anybody to set 'ethical standards' for bloggers, but is clear that certain principles will make one more likely to achieve high credibility".

Finally, some have been pushing a "Blogger's code of ethics" derived from that of the American Society of Professional Journalists.The principles can be summarized into 3 broad categories: be honest and fair, minimize harm and be accountable.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:01 pm 0 comments links to this post

ITI InfoCentral - professional literature database

ITI-InfoCentral.com is a recently launched database of 25,000 full-text articles from ITI's archives, from September 1987 to the present. The archives include publications such as Information Today, ONLINE, Searcher, Computers in Libraries, EContent, EMedia/EventDV, and KMWorld. It appears to be a great place to find the professional literature to keep up.

The database gets very high marks from Peter Jacso in his regular column "Peter's Digital Reference Shelf" on the Thomson Gale web site.

The database is a joint effort of ITI and ProQuest. Records include ProQuest's subject and geographic descriptors, classification codes, document type, ISSN, the length of the document in words, and the abstracts (or document summaries) — all provided at no cost.

According to Jacso: "Pay-per-view is the sweetest feature of ITI InfoCentral for those who don't have access to the databases that offer full documents. A few of the databases offering the same documents that are in ITI InfoCentral archive include Expanded Academic ASAP and InfoTrac from Thomson Gale; Academic Search Elite and Master File Premier from EBSCO; Research Library and ABI/INFORM from ProQuest; and OmniFile and Library & Information Science Full Text from H. W. Wilson. There are four pay-per-view options, the most expensive being the non-subscription based $2.99-per-article charge, which gets you the article lock, stock and barrel. There is no other service that offers a better pay-per-view alternative, i.e. one without commitment."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:31 pm 0 comments links to this post

American law libraries discover Canada

The March 2005 issue of the AALL Spectrum (the publication of the American Association of Law Libraries) is devoted to Canada.

For a brief intro to legal Canadiana, read Ted Tjaden's article "Canadian Top 40: Things You Need to Know About Canada's Legal System". And the president of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries, Jeannine Miller, outlines the history of the AALL's northern sister organization.

As the editorial of the issue states:

"Our focus this month is Canada, and some might argue it's about time. Canada is our neighbor and a very important ally. Unfortunately many Americans, probably most Americans, know little about Canada..., and many of us often forget that its' even there. This issue of Spectrum hopes to change that, at least in some small way."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:13 pm 0 comments links to this post

Friday, March 11, 2005

Flurry of new bills in wake of the LexisNexis and ChoicePoint privacy breaches

Tony Ruprecht, a member of the Ontario legislature recently introduced a private member's bill that would require credit-reporting agencies to immediately inform consumers who are linked to a theft of credit data.

The Toronto-area politician argues in the Toronto Star that the issue is now "hotter than ever" given the 2 recent privacy scandals in the United States involving LexisNexis and ChoicePoint.

Earlier this week, a subsidiary of LexisNexis reported the theft of personal data of 32,000 U.S. consumers.

In mid-February, ChoicePoint disclosed that identity thieves had gained access to the personal information of more than 145,000 U.S. residents. The company maintains a 19 billion-item database including Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers and credit data.

Legislative action by the United States Congress is also heating up.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:50 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, March 10, 2005

PC Magazine feature on desktop search tools

I recently finished a column for the CASLIS Toronto newsletter on search toolbars, those free plug-ins that allow you to launch queries in your favourite search engine directly from your browser window (sorry, the newsletter is in the members-only section of the website of the Canadian Association of Special Libraries and Information Services - but if you join, you get the newsletter, the secret decoder ring, as well as the lyrics to many great librarian drinking songs and to a few more or less silly football chants).

I was thinking of following up with something about desktop search tools, another one of those "next big things" the search engine companies are introducing. Desktop search tools are free applications that can index your e-mail messages, documents, spreadsheets, visited web pages and make them searchable.

PC Magazine beat me to it!

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:32 pm 0 comments links to this post

US Legislative Tracking: A How-To-Guide

I'm sure most Canadian law librarians are pretty good at tracking Canadian and provincial legislation as it winds its way through the parliamentary labyrinth.

Less often, we are asked to follow American bills through the (to us) confusing morass of Congressional debates, committee meetings, referrals to sub-sub-committee hearings, and backroom deals.

I found out today through the beSpacific website that the Congressional Research Service has written a handy guide on the topic entitled Tracking Current Federal Legislation and Regulations: A Guide to Basic Sources.

I'll add it to my pile of weekend catch-up reading.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:15 pm 2 comments links to this post

Toronto libel case creates fear for freedom on the Internet

A libel suit initiated in Toronto by a former United Nations official against the Washington Post has a coalition of leading media organizations worried about freedom of information on the Internet.

Lawyers for the Washington Post argue the matter should not be allowed to proceed because the plaintiff did not live in Ontario when the stories were published and the reporters were based in the U.S., Kenya and Ivory Coast.

The group of concerned news outlets including CNN, the New York Times and the Globe and Mail is trying to have the case dismissed arguing that if it were allowed to proceed in Ontario, any news organization could be sued anywhere over material posted on its website.

At worst, some fear the repercussions from the case could force them to block access to their websites and electronic databases from some countries

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:59 pm 0 comments links to this post

Award-winning book show cancelled

Imprint, TVOntario's long-running program dedicated to books and authors, is being cancelled. The show can be seen across Canada on the digital cable network Book TV. TVO is the public educational broadcaster in Ontario.

The decision to cancel the show is being condemned by the book publishing industry.

This is definitely a trend in Canadian broadcasting as we witness the gradual disappearance of radio and TV shows devoted to the world of books.

TVO's move follows closely on the decision last year by the national French-language public broadcaster Radio-Canada to get rid of "La chaîne culturelle" (the equivalent of the English CBC's Radio 2 network) and replace it with "Espace Musique" devoted to music. La chaîne culturelle hosted a number of literature shows, in addition to shows on music, theatre, and the visual arts. Radio-Canada's television network has also eliminated 2 book shows, Jamais sans mon livre ("Never without my book"), and Cent Titres ("100 titles", but also a play on words that means Untitled).

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:45 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

How to Get Rid of Used Law Books

Every week on the law librarian listservs to which I subscribe, there must be 3 or 4 offers of used law books, case law reporters, and/or runs of bound legal periodicals.

It's usually the case that one law firm is looking to dump its surplus material on another law firm (or law librarian).

Fair enough, but couldn't we be more creative?

The American Association of Law Libraries has come to the rescue in the February 2005 issue of The CRIV Sheet, a supplement to its monthly journal AALL Spectrum.

Here are some of the ideas the article on page 5 proposes for disposing of the extra material you no longer want:

  • listservs, of course
  • local restaurants: books on a shelf look good as décor and they help muffle noise
  • local community-access cable TV stations love to use books as backdrops for interviews
  • antique stores, furniture showrooms... again, for the ambiance books provide
  • theatre troupes: books as set props
  • interior decorators: some people will pay big bucks to have "big books" on their shelves
  • used law book dealers
  • E-Bay
  • art classes - turn those Supreme Court Reports into a collage or into "altered books"

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:29 pm 0 comments links to this post

Library marketing newsletter

I was just made aware of a very helpful monthly bulletin called "Marketing Treasures". Here is the most recent issue. It is possible to sign-up for a free e-mail subscription.

Among other library marketing sources I have found useful or inspiring in the past are:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:12 pm 0 comments links to this post

More IT security threats on the horizon

As a follow-up to yesterday's item on Web security, I just read an article in the March 4, 2005 issue of ComputerWorld Canada, No rest for the wicked antivirus war (requires free registration).

According to the 2004 IBM Global Business Security Index report, mobile devices are the new frontier for viruses, and other potential security threats.

As well, IBM has identified instant messaging platforms as likely targets of attack and the company anticipates an increase in "phishing" attacks that use fake Web sites to deceive recipients into divulging personal information.

If that weren't enough, there is another area of concern, of course. The federal government is failing to meet its own standards for IT security, as was pointed out by the recent report of the Auditor General tabled last month in the House of Commons. Sensitive personal data kept by the government is at risk and any failures to safeguard it could "erode the trust Canadians have in the ability of their government to transact business online..."

According to one Canadian CTO interviewed by ComputerWorld Canada, the Canadian government spends less than three per cent of its IT budget on security. In comparison, in its second annual Global State of Information Security study, PricewaterhouseCoopers reports that IT security budgets as a percentage of the overall IT budget in major organizations averaged 11.27 percent in 2004 (survey of 8,100 IT security professionals from 62 countries).

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:21 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Web security update

A new report by Websense Security Labs covers fraud-based web sites, the spread of malicious code on the Internet and how peer-to-peer and instant messaging technologies are being used to attack organizations.

This item about threats to Net security comes from DocuTicker, a daily update of new reports from government agencies, NGOs, and other groups that is produced by the librarians who publish ResourceShelf. Most of the material is US-based but occasionally, Canadian or international material appears.

Happy surfing :)

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:04 pm 0 comments links to this post

We need a central repository for Canadian law firm newsletters and bulletins

This has been on my wishlist for sometime.

Every major law firm publishes newsletters, news alerts, law updates, bulletins, commentaries. Right now, though, users have to make their way to each law firm web site to scan for new releases. Or users have to go through the trouble of signing up by e-mail with each firm that publishes in the area of law they want to track.

Of course, if law firms used RSS feeds... but the only Canadian law firm I can find that disseminates newsletters via RSS is Osler (add RSS dissemination to the wishlist too).

The commercial providers like Quicklaw and Carswell won't bother with dozens of newsletters on the same topic.

Could some service harvest newsletters and make them available from one location? Not doable?

Well, Quebec already does it: check out the La dépêche - Bulletins juridiques newsletter service offered for free by SOQUIJ, the Société québécoise d'information juridique, an agency mandated by the Quebec legislature to disseminate and commercialize Quebec case law and other legal information as widely as possible.

For the "La dépêche - Bulletins juridiques" service, SOQUIJ staff monitor info updates, legal columns, law firm and legal research institute newsletters, and conference texts from Quebec sources. The material is indexed by broad subject area. Since many Quebec-based law firms produce English material, many of the newsletters available on this central site are in English.

This should be on the agenda of law societies and the law library community in the ROC market (Rest of Canada). Our newsletters are the most convenient way to reach and educate the broad public about hot topics in the law. Making the material easy to find through a single repository makes sense.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:29 pm 2 comments links to this post

Monday, March 07, 2005

Government policies may point to more restrictive Internet

In his regular Law Bytes column in the Toronto Star, University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist argues that the days of the Internet as a realm of unlimited access and unlimited possibility are under threat from a number of potential policy developments. The article is republished on Geist's web site.

Among the threats Geist identifies are the federal government's lawful access initiative that would allow for easier interception of private communications, ISP "packet preferencing" (Internet service providers blocking or slowing data coming from competing sites or services), and the idea of an "extended license" that would require schools to pay millions of dollars for content that is now free on the Internet.

Geist's column on the intersection of law, technology and citizens' rights always makes for interesting reading. He is also the author of a daily e-mail newsletter on technology law, BNA's Internet Law News, as well as the editor of a regular updating service covering Canadian privacy decisions.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:56 pm 0 comments links to this post

Hope I die before I get old?

Nothing at all to do with libraries, this one comes straight from the weird news department...

Steve Jones, guitarist for the infamous(?), notorious(?), scary(?), glorious(?) Sex Pistols, is now a DJ for the Walmart of commercial radio in the US, the Clear Channel empire.

Actually, news has it that he hosts an "independent music show" out of Los Angeles on Clear Channel station Indie 103 that allows Jones lots of freedom but still... I almost fainted. I had a vision of Steve Jones intro'ing Britney Spears songs. Don't go there.
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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:23 pm 0 comments links to this post

New international French-language legal portal

People who need to find French-language legal information have a wonderful new tool to test drive.

According to an e-mail announcement I received, Phase3 of Droit francophone was "soft launched" last October (i.e. it went live but with little publicity).

But the organizers of this international portal waited until the search engine had built up an index of more than 1 million pages from thousands of French-language legal and governmental sites before making a big announcement.

The site can be used both in search mode and browsing mode. Browsing can be done by geographical region (Belgium or Quebec or Canada, etc.) or by category (legislation, case law, legal news and commentary, portals, associations, law schools etc.).

Phase3 is a project of the Agence intergouvernementale de la Francophonie, the cooperation agency of the organization of French-speaking states known as La Francophonie, and it was carried out in close cooperation with LexUM, the research team based at the Centre d'étude du droit public (Public Law Research Centre) of the University of Montreal.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:26 pm 0 comments links to this post

10 Best Intranets of 2005 (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)

Love him or hate him, he's hard to avoid. I am referring to the ubiquitous usability expert Jakob Nielsen.

In his most recent Alertbox column, he analyzes the 10 Best Intranets of 2005.

This is of particular interest to me since we are redesigning our Intranet where I work and it is easy to get lost, "dazed and confused".

Among the elements of success that Nielsen has identified are:

  • the of use of video to strengthen the corporate culture
  • tools to connect to workers and employees beyond the office
  • internationalization along with localized portals
  • the increasing use of usability testing methods

What is particulary striking is that Nielsen found that no single technological solution dominates: "most winners didn't even build their intranet from a single, integrated platform. Typically, designers cobbled together widely diverse software using little more than spit, bailing wire, and willpower."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:11 pm 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, March 06, 2005

2005 Special Libraries - SLA conference in Toronto

Last Thursday, I went to the Toronto Reference Library for a meeting of volunteers for the upcoming 2005 SLA conference in Toronto (June 5-8).

Every 10 years, the SLA, whose membership is predominantly American, holds its annual conference in Canada. These conferences attract thousands of library and information professionals.

The volunteer meeting was organized by the SLA Toronto chapter "Local Arrangements Committee" which has prepared online guides to Toronto (what to see and do), and which will be staffing info booths at the conference, telling delegates how to find the CN Tower and explaining to our American colleagues that no, Quebec City is not exactly that close even though it is also in Canada.

One of the most interesting parts of the meeting for the volunteers was a presentation by Stephen Abram on what first time conference attendees can do to get the most out of their conference experience (hey, that means me). His comments were based on an article he wrote in the spring 2004 issue of the SLA Toronto chapter's Courier newsletter.

Abram is President 2004-2005 of the Canadian Library Association and Vice President, Innovation of Sirsi Corporation. He is also a fellow of SLA and has sat on the SLA's international board. OK, let's just say he practically runs everything and knows everyone and everything in the library and information world so I have always trusted his comments.

In his advice to conference first-timers, the main points that stick in my mind are:

1) the top 3 questions to ask vendors

  • What do you have that's new?
  • Can you demo something interesting for me about your new/enhanced/improved products?
  • Are you making (Have you made) any announcements at SLA this year?

2) 'Ice Breaker Questions' when standing in line with people you don't know

  • Hi - I'm yournamehere and I'm from yourtownorlibraryhere. Where are you from?
  • What's new at your shop?
  • See anything new at the conference? Attend any great sessions? Learn something new?

3) Finally, these goals or benchmarks

  • I met one new person every day
  • I learned one useful thing I didn't know in a session every day
  • I had one substantive discussion with a vendor about a new product that I might need
  • I had fun, every day

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:48 pm 0 comments links to this post

Canadian Library Association 2005 conference

I just received the program for the 2005 conference of the Canadian Library Association to be held in Calgary in mid-June.

A number of programming proposals from the CASLIS division (Canadian Assoc. of Special Libraries and Information Services) have already been accepted including: Knowledge Management: An Integration of People, Process and Technology, Managing the 21st Century Library Volunteer, and Leadership Without Power.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:43 pm 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Who owns public space? Lost kitten posters and the Constitution

The lowly home-made poster is once again at the centre of a legal controversy as Toronto's planning and transportation committee prepares to hear deputations on the implementation of an anti-postering by-law.

In the eyes of many city officials, posters are an eyesore, a blight, a form of vandalism. To local musicians, activists and anyone planning a garage sale or looking for a lost kitten, they are an integral part of the urban landscape.

In 2002, City Council considered a by-law recommendation that would have banned postering on 99% of the city's utility poles. Activists were successful in beating back the idea but now some councillors appear to want to introduce the exact same by-law without amendments. Hearings are being held March 7th.

The Supreme Court's Ramsden v. Peterborough decision ([1993] 2 S.C.R. 1084) ruled that any absolute ban on postering on public property was unconstitutional because it was an unreasonable limit on freedom of expression. The Court did argue that some restrictions could be justified, including limits relating to location, size and how long a poster could stay up.

Under the Toronto proposal, posters would be limited to "collars" wrapped around some 4,000 utility poles. There are an estimated quarter of a million utility poles in Toronto.

Leading the opposition to the proposed restrictions is Toronto's very active Public Space Committee, "dedicated to protecting our shared common spaces from commercial influence and privatisation". The Committee is worried that restrictions will sterilize and suburbanize the face of Canada's largest city and that only big, shiny commercial ads and billboards full of happy people will be left.

Mayor David Miller is passionate about his "clean and beautiful city" initiative, but he is also on record as being against anything that would impose onerous obstacles to free speech.

The postering controversy has been an issue in such cities as Seattle and New York.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:15 pm 0 comments links to this post

Corporate governance book more popular in Quebec than Da Vinci Code

One of Canada's best known investment experts and corporate good governance apostles, Montreal's Stephen Jarislowsky, has a book that has roared to the very top of bestseller lists in Quebec.

Barely two weeks after publication, in mid-February, his new book, Dans la jungle du placement (In the investment jungle), had surpassed the Da Vinci Code in the bestseller lists of the Renaud-Bray, Archambault, and Indigo book chains. That's pretty much the entire book retail market in La Belle Province.

The business weekly Les Affaires calls him a "national treasure", Radio-Canada refers to him as "the incorruptible" and the Montreal daily La Presse gave the book 4 and a half stars (its book ratings normally only go up to 4 stars).

Jarislowsky is one of the founders of the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance. Anyone who has had to deal with corporate law or the topic of corporate social responsibility will have heard of him and won't be surprised at the success of his book.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:41 pm 0 comments links to this post

Friday, March 04, 2005

Newsletter issue on "Alternative library careers"

The March 2005 issue of the Info Career Trends newsletter is available. The theme: alternative career paths.

The newsletter is edited by Rachel Singer Gordon, author of The Accidental Systems Librarian, The Accidental Library Manager, The Librarian's Guide to Writing for Publication, and co-author with Sarah Nesbeitt of The Information Professional's Guide to Career Development Online.

You can also subscribe to an e-mail edition of Info Career Trends or choose to receive an RSS feed.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:39 pm 0 comments links to this post

E-Letter on Copyright, Licensing and E-Commerce News

Lesley Ellen Harris, the author of the books Canadian Copyright Law, Digital Property: Currency of the 21st Century, and Licensing Digital Content, produces a newsletter on copyright and licensing issues. You can subscribe by writing to her at lesley@copyrightlaws.com.

The current issue (March 2005) is available from Library and Archives Canada.

From the table of contents:

1. Studies, Legislation and Conventions:
CCC Report Finds Employees Routinely Violate Copyright
U.S. Copyright Office to Examine Orphan Works
Israel to Legalize Private Copying
Collective Copyright Management Introduced into China

2. Legal Cases:
U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Grokster
U.S. Court Finds Linking Violates Copyright
Canadian Court Rules that MP3 Players Are Outside Private Copying Regime

3. Of Interest:
Google & Research Libraries to Digitize Works
German National Library Allowed to Copy Electronic Materials
April 26 is World IP Day

4. Publications and Web sites:
Spring 2005 Online Courses
The Copyright & New Media Law Newsletter
Certified Software Manager Seminar and Exam

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:12 pm 0 comments links to this post

Things You're Not Supposed to Know

One of my longstanding interests is access to government information or "freedom of information" issues as they get called in the United States.

I love this tool: http://track.foi.net is a searchable database of requests for information submitted to federal institutions under Canada's Access to Information Act (ATIA). It is a creation of Alasdair Roberts, a professor at the Campbell Public Affairs Institute, Maxwell School, Syracuse University. He is a Canadian who used to teach at the School of Policy Studies at Queen's University.

Roberts produces an AMBERLIGHT MONITOR, for example, here's the January 2005 edition. ATIA requests submitted by journalists and Members of Parliament are tagged by federal agencies for "special attention", which may cause delay in the processing of requests. In some agencies, these requests are said to be "amberlighted." The amberlighted requests deal with issues we are not supposed to find out about too quickly - but if you track them, you might be able to guess what will be appearing on the front page of your newspaper some time soon.

There was a time perhaps 10 or 15 years ago when one could feel that government secretiveness was gradually being eroded thanks to better access legislation. Are we regressing? Amberlighting seems to be part of a trend to restrain or even block public access.

In late 2003, the Toronto Star published a lengthy series that concluded that "the public's right to access government information is often subverted, delayed and denied by politicians and their advisers".

Not a good sign.

There are some interesting US sites that deal with the damage to freedom of information down there under the Bush administration. For the truly nosy among you, I would recommend Memory Hole, the National Security Archives and the Project on Government Secrecy.

The Memory Hole collects and publishes elusive records and documents that have been withdrawn from the public domain. It also features a blog and an XML-based news feed.

The National Security Archives is funded by the Carnegie Corporation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Ford Foundation. The Archives are "simultaneously a research institute on international affairs, a library and archive of declassified U.S. documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, a public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information through the FOIA, and an indexer and publisher of the documents in books, microfiche, and electronic formats."

The Project on Government Secrecy is run by the Federation of American Scientists.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:08 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Law firm RSS feeds lacking

In my somewhat random web wanderings, I have come across many law-related blogs.

But what strikes me is what appears to be the lack of use of RSS feeds by law firms as a mode of efficient information dissemination.

In Canada, the only law firm I am aware of that uses RSS feeds to push its newsletters is Osler. Visitors can get the XML links on the Osler site.

At the moment, people who would like to receive newsletters produced on a topic of interest by a variety of law firms have to sign up to each and every one by e-mail and thus face the problem of filling up their e-mail inbox, or they have to visit each and every web site.

Here's my rant of the day:

Rule #1 of information management: make it easy for the user. Rule #2: there is no rule #2.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:37 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

4th Colloquium on Legal Professionalism

Another interesting conference from the legal world, happening March 3 in Windsor, Ontario, this is part of a series on legal culture, legal history, legal ethics and the responsibilities of lawyers in Canadian society.

The papers from previous colloquia are available on the site of the Law Society of Upper Canada. I assume that the papers from the 2005 colloquium will be made available very soon.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:49 pm 0 comments links to this post

Canadian Law Librarians invade St.John's

I won't be able to attend the 2005 conference of the Canadian Association of Law Librarians in St.John's, Newfoundland but the program is definitely worth checking out.

And what are Canadian law librarians interested in these days? Everything of course, from the use of forensic science before the courts to blogs, and from chat reference to the digitization of court records.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:39 pm 0 comments links to this post

ShelfLife shelved for good

One of the weekly newsletters I regularly followed for in-depth summaries of trends and innovative projects in the infoworld, ShelfLife, has called it quits after 195 issues.

ShelfLife was a publication of RLG, the not-for-profit corporation of universities, national libraries, archives, museums and other information institutions.

Their amazing archives are available for browsing. From museum digitization to open source software debates, from discussions on how to cope with information overload to the use of the Web to save the heritage of the Maoris, from the disappearance of government information from databases in the wake of the Sept 11 attacks to the pros and cons of metasearching, it was all at my fingertips via ShelfLife.

Wow. Gonna miss you.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:22 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Homelessness and memory

I'm not sure what the next item has to do with libraries or information. Or maybe it has everything to do with the impulse behind this profession. It's about the meaning we give to words and the meaning words give to a life.

I read about this in a French newsmagazine. An association, "Les morts de la rue" (Those who died on the street), decided to give homeless people in the Paris region a proper funeral with a literary twist. Supposedly, some 450 people have died on the street in the past decade, from the cold, from disease, from injury, or just from despair.

These people are buried in unmarked paupers' graves, without a headstone, usually without any witnesses or ceremony. "Les morts de la rue" tries to find out from morgues and hospitals when the burials happen and send 2 volunteers to the gravesite to recite a poem, anything, perhaps just a few lines from Khalil Gibran or maybe an excerpt from an amateur in a writing workshop signed only with a first name or with the simple mention "A companion".

Won't change much but it got me thinking - the association is actually onto something really radical here. Perhaps those few words said by anonymous volunteers embody the true meaning of literature: the quest for memory, the quest for ritual which are at the foundation of any culture.

Words that separate humans from beasts, memory from nothingness, that commemorate in even a small way people who were certainly not born to die one day alone and abandoned.
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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:49 pm 0 comments links to this post