This Blog

In the course of a long career in librarianship – as a librarian, manager, professional leader, researcher and teacher – and through many years of participation in international programmes and activities, I have held the belief that libraries and information services contribute to peace and justice through the global exchange and sharing of information and knowledge. This site is intended as a resource for all who are interested in international and comparative aspects of librarianship and information work. I focus on matters with a conceptual and historic slant, including LIS development and the international political economy of information, roughly those matters covered in my recent book. But I also indulge myself sometimes and blog to air my opinions on other topics as well.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Surveying copyright legislation in the Global South

Last year an announcement on IFLA’s e-mail discussion list, IFLA-L alerted me to the appearance of a new copyright guide for Brazilian libraries, Guia para bibliotecas: Direitos autorais  e acesso ao conhecimento, informação e cultura [Guide for libraries: Authors’rights and access to knowledge, information and culture]  (Couto et al. 2022). Issued as an ebook, it is intended to help librarians navigate their way through legislation that governs access to knowledge, information and culture, in such a way that optimum use is made of the rights of libraries and their users. Librarians should obey the law, without being so intimidated by the complexity of laws and regulations that users are deprived of access to resources to which they are legally entitled.

Continue reading

Posted in Africa, Comparative Librarianship, Copyright, International Librarianship, Latin America, LIS, Research | Leave a comment

Some updates

Keeping a site up to date involves chores that can easily be overlooked. Today I was horrified to discover that my narrative list of presentations had not been updated since 2018, and worse: my lists of publications and of conference and other presentations ended in 2009. That has now been rectified here, just in time for the new year.

While on the subject of the new year, I wish all who intentionally or (more likely) unsuspectingly, land up on this blog, a wonderful, productive, civil, tolerant, and peaceful 2023. May the drones drop out of the skies in uninhabited places, may the guns fall silent, may infants and grandparents sleep peacefully in their own beds, and may the words of Isaiah 9:5 come true:

Every warrior’s boot used in battle, and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Global Gleanings #14: South African LIS research in international journals

Global Gleanings no. 14

This is a slightly expanded version of my column of news, views and snippets from the international literature of books, libraries, and information, which appears in LIASA-in-Touch, the newsletter of the Library and Information Association of South Africa.

Along with their peers everywhere, academic authors in South Africa strive to have their work published in prestigious, peer-reviewed ‘international’ journals, through which they can reach a much larger audience than through locally published journals (Abrahams et al. 2008). This is good. Science and scholarship know no boundaries. But there is a downside: the ‘international’ journals in which our high-flying academics publish are often inaccessible to researchers in the Global South (Himmelstein et al. 2017), and this includes their South African colleagues. Their contributions may be overlooked locally, especially by practitioner groups. That is why, in this instalment of Global Gleanings, I’m focussing on articles published in the last year or so by Southern African academics in ‘international’ journals. Continue reading

Posted in Research, South Africa, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Two accolades

Rachel More, Chairperson of the SALI Trust, hands over the SALIT-LIASA Lifetime Achievement Award to Peter Lor

Rachel More hands Lifetime Achievement Award to Peter Lor

I was honoured on 6 October this year when the S.A. Library and Information (SALI) Trust and the Library and Information Association of S.A. (LIASA) bestowed their Lifetime Achievement Award on me at the LIASA-SCECSAL Conference dinner.  This joint award acknowledges a sustained contribution to the library and information profession and notable impact and influence over many years. The citation can be read here.

Another accolade came when I received a copy of a recently published Festschrift for noted Italian LIS scholar, Giovanni di Dominico, which includes a rather flattering chapter on my career and writings.

Continue reading

Posted in International Librarianship, LIS, The Book | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Researching IFLA’s history: archives

During the IFLA World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) held in Dublin. Ireland. in July 2022. IFLA’s Special Interest Group for Library History (LibHist SIG) held an Open Session focusing on our preparation for IFLA ‘s centenary in 2027.  Here I presented a keynote paper, “Towards IFLA’s centenary: historical sources and themes” (available at In it  I referred to archival sources that are worth utilizing.  I had planned to follow up those preliminary observations by spending a week exploring the IFLA archives. These are housed in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (the Royal Library) in The Hague, the Netherlands.  After that I was to spend two days in Paris at the UNESCO archives.

Here is a report on what I found. Continue reading

Posted in International Librarianship, Research | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Global Gleanings 13: LIASA in the Literature. Part 2: from baby steps to adulthood

In this edition of Global Gleanings, I continue my overview of the literature on LIASA, with references and some personal recollections.  Part 1 dealt with LIASA’s “prehistory”, the processes that led to its founding in 1997 and its first annual conference in 1998. This second part covers the period after 1998.

Birth and first steps

In addition to the items mentioned in Part 1, international audiences were informed about LIASA by Dick Kawooya, who compared LIASA with the Uganda Library Association (Kawooya 2001), and in conference papers and articles by Clare Walker (Walker 2001), Gwenda Thomas (Thomas 2002), and Ellen Tise. LIASA’s first President (Tise 2004)

The first decade 1997-2007: hopes and expectations In the early 2000s the literature on LIASA focused on what LIASA was doing, or was expected to do, in various areas of professional development.

Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Reflections on librarians and time, 2: Boarding passes, QSLs, and tweets

Kathleen McCook’s post about Ephemera on her eclectic and fascinating blog,  Ebla to E-Books: The Preservation and Annihilation of Memory highlights the vast scope of printed ephemera. They include, listed in alphabetical order (as behoves a librarian!)  everything from air transport labels; bank checks; bingo cards; and bookmarks to QSL cards; receipts; sheet music; stamps; theatre programmes; ticket stubs; and valentines.

Some personal ephemera

I’ve collected quite a lot of these (except valentines) over the years. Some have no earthly use. But I have a collection of airline boarding passes, which turned out to be useful when an American government agency demanded from me a complete list of all my visits to the USA (26 to date) with dates of arrival and departure. In the USA one’s passport is or was stamped on arrival but not when departing, which makes it quite difficult to reconstruct that part of one’s history. I had also kept all my old passports, mainly for sentimental reasons. Was I simply taking the requirement too seriously? In the USA people get sent to jail for telling lies to government agencies (but not when they lie to the public on a monumental scale while campaigning for high office), and how am I to know whether that government has kept tabs on me over the 41 years since I first travelled to that county?  The thought of a steely-eyed immigration officer checking on her computer screen and asking me where I was on November 16, 1986, made my blood run cold. More seriously, this exercise in personal history was quite interesting and may be useful if I ever get round to writing my memoirs. Continue reading

Posted in Librarians and time, LIS | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Satellite Meeting on Global and Comparative Research Design in LIS

This event has been long in the planning. It was delayed by the Covid19 pandemic, but I’m happy to share that the planned satellite meeting will be held immediately after the upcoming IFLA World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) at the end of July.

IFLA’s Library Theory and Research Section (LTR), together with the Social Science Libraries Section (SSL) in cooperation with IFLA Journal, is organizing a Satellite Meeting on Global and Comparative Research Design in Library and Information Sciences. It will take place at Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland on 30 and 31 July from 09:00 to 15:00.

The meeting will take the form of an interactive workshop, with presentations by experienced researchers in international and comparative research. I have been asked to do a keynote presentation.

Registration for on-site and virtual attendance is open until 15 July.

Further details and a registration link can be found on the IFLA website at


Posted in Comparative Librarianship, International Librarianship, LIS, Research | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Global gleanings no 12:  LIASA in the Literature. Part 1: the beginnings

Twenty-five years! It calls for a celebration, and so this edition of my column and the next are devoted to what has been written about LIASA, both here and internationally. It comes in two parts. In Part 1 I deal with LIASA’s “prehistory”, the processes that led to its founding in 1997, and its first annual conference in 1998. Part 2 deals with LIASA’s development after 1998, and will follow in the next issue of LIASA-in-Touch.

This is more than a literature review, for I also share some personal recollections and reflections on a hectic period of my life, when I was deeply involved in what became LIASA. To compile it, I searched my own database, followed up references, and (not having access currently to any of the specialist bibliographic databases) searched in Google Scholar. If any important sources have eluded me, I will be happy to receive the references. I have not limited myself to foreign literature. In fact, most of the references are to South African writings. However, I have not included items from LIASA’s own publications, annual reports and the like, which are important sources for historians.


The founding of LIASA in 1997 was the result of a long process of reflection, consultation, and concerted action by the leadership of our profession.

Continue reading
Posted in South Africa | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

South African copyright legislation in the spotlight

Denise Nicholson, whose website Scholarly Horizons (, is a mine of up-to-date information on scholarly information, intellectual property and much else, last month drew attention to a post on the website of IFLA, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, on 2 February 2022,  announcing that IFLA had submitted comments on South Africa’s Copyright Amendment Bill to a consultative process in that country (IFLA 2022).

A contested process

Since 2009 South Africa’s authors and content creators, publishers, readers and information users, and librarians have witnessed – and participated in – a struggle to pass a Copyright Amendment Bill aimed at revising the country’s outdated Copyright Act, No. 98 of 1978 (Nicholson 2020; 2021). The Bill modernizes the legislation and provides for fair use exceptions, including provisions necessary to allow permit preservation digitization in libraries and to give effect to the 2013 Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (WIPO 2013; 2016), to which South Africa is a signatory. The Bill was passed by the South African Parliament in 2018, but it has not yet been signed into law by the President. In 2020 President Ramaphosa referred it back to Parliament citing concerns about its constitutionality. This has been attributed to pressure from the USA and Europe, whose “cultural industries” seek to prevent the adoption in South Africa and other developing countries of limitations and exceptions that are largely accepted in their own countries. South Africa may be a particular concern to them if it is thought that its legislation may set the standard for copyright reform elsewhere in Africa. Western pressure takes the form of raising tariffs on South African exports or excluding South Africa from favourable trade agreements. (Kayali 2020).

Continue reading

Posted in Information justice, International Librarianship, LIS, South Africa, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment