Retiring the site

Dear APUO librarians,

I started this site when I was a library representative on the APUO Board of Directors. I haven’t done that job in many years and keeping the site up to date has been a challenge since I’ve moved on. I will keep the content online for a few more months and then retire it.

Thank you for reading!

Right to Know

This is an older post which I saved as a draft and never published – until now. It’s still not finished, but what good is it just sitting in my draft file. I will endeavour to finish it soon.


I attended the Faculty of Civil Law’s Right to Know Day yesterday in honour of Germain Brière and the 30th anniversary of Canada’s passing of the Access to Information Act.

The panelists were all top-notch and the theme of the day, well, obviously, was Right to Know. It occurred to me more than once yesterday that librarians today have by and large lost touch with the underlying principles of Right to Know – the legislation AND the fundamental concept. By the end of the day, it was clear that there is confusion between the open data movement which librarians are supporting to the ends of the earth and the more broad and radical right to information, about which we have all but forgotten. Which is not unlike the majority of Canadians, as I also discovered yesterday.

One of the later panellists, Arnold Amber, brought this point home. Mr. Amber lives in Toronto where he has access to four daily newspapers which he can buy and another two free papers that he can read if he takes public transit. How could anyone complain about access to information in that context? Canadians  in general do not feel deprived of information, yet our government consistently has ranked very low (55th place out of a total of 95 countries with ATI laws) on the international Access to Information rankings. Why and how is this?

Before getting into it, let me explain the difference between open data and access to information, two fundamentally different concepts; one that is wholeheartedly embraced by the Canadian government (and librarians) and the other which is actively neglected and even suppressed by government (and librarians?). Open data refers to sharing of large sets of data which do generate from government or can also be born by others such as private corporations. These data are not personal in the sense that individuals can be identified; these data are aggregated and compiled so as to make comparisons with other groups of data possible. For example, one could compare access to clean water  on reservations in Ontario to access to clean water  somewhere else. These data can certainly be used to write better policy and change laws, and I as much as anyone else hope that they do improve the lives of citizens around the world, Canada included. Any attempt to use these data for such purposes ought to be acknowledged and I do no wish to take away from the potential successes that open data affords various governments to improve the lives of citizens.

The right to information, however, is an entirely different ball of wax and one which is nearly ignored by Canadians and librarians altogether. The right to information includes the right to know what our government does; what it purchases; its supply chains; the amount it pays for goods; the processes used in tender; who is hired, and how much they are paid; information on government programs, policies and staffing. In other words, the right to information is about the accountability of our elected officials towards the citizens. This is far more controversial than open data, and is a topic of public discussion where librarians are generally absent, though along with lawyers and public servants, academics and activists, they do have a role to play and could be exercising their considerable experience and knowledge in a very productive way.

What are the obstacles to accessing important information which enables transparency, discourages corruption, includes taxpayers and citizens part of the elements contributing to decision-making instead of the sorry losers in these decisions after the fact? Believe it or not, one of the main factors is the fact that there is very little awareness or support in government for record-keeping and information management. That’s right – the simple record-keeping; filing, file-naming, storing and retrieving records is one of the big problems facing government; and yet, in my generation of information studies at least, record-keeping was a strong presence in the faculty. Perhaps not the most exciting stream when examined from a purely technical point of view; but when viewed in light of ATI, record-keeping is essential to a healthy democracy. Kevin Page, the former PBO and lately appointed visiting professor at the University of Ottawa, described a government that not only is not interested in due diligence in terms of record-keeping, it has moved to “oral decision-making” where there is no trace of how government operates; an intensely worrying state of affairs.

New Board Members / Library Reps

Your new Board Members are: Susan Mowers (until June 30 2016) and Mish Boutet (until June 30 2015)

What is the role of the Board Member?

  • Be a link between members and the APUO
  • Get members involved
  • Communicate with management on members’ issues in a pro-active way

Contact Susan or Mish if you would like advice with your collective agreement or other workplace issue.

Thanks to Susan and Mish for offering their time and expertise to serving librarians!


Keep Education Public Week Events

Workshop: “Student-to-faculty ratios: More than just bums in seats”

Similar to a cheap airline, it sometimes seems like the university administration does not care about the quality of the ride or the destination, only the number of seats sold. This workshop invites students and faculty to participate in this interactive, bilingual workshop about the problems with rising student-to-faculty
ratios. Event sponsored by GSAED, CUPE 2626 and APUO.

Where: DMS 12110
When: Monday, February 24th, 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.


Workshop: “Perish Citation Counts, Publish What Matters”

by Professor André Vellino (School of Information Studies, University of Ottawa)
This workshop aims to explain what scholarly performance metrics such as h-Index really measure, why they need to be interpreted with caution, and their alternatives. Lunch will be provided. Event sponsored by APUO.

Where: DMS 12110
When: Tuesday, February 25th, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.



Panel: “Public Education for the Public Good” and Social

Anaïs Elboujaini: Graduate Student Rep on the uOttawa Board of Governors Vanessa Hunt: Deputy Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students Erika Shaker: Director Education Project, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Panel guests will present on the need to fight neo-liberal attacks on the fundamental direction of public education and research. A social will take place after the panel. Event sponsored by GSAED and APTPUO.

Where: Cafe Nostalgica
When: Thursday, February 27th, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.


Film Screening: Carré rouge sur fond noir This event will be exclusively in French.

This film takes us into the heart of the 2012 student crisis to experience from the inside one of the most important social movements in Quebec history. Event sponsored by GSAED and SFUO.

Where: Grad House (GSD 307)
When: Friday, February 28th, 5:30pm