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.

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IFLA Satellite Conference at the Mundaneum

I’m delighted to share that the IFLA Library History Special Interest Group has organized a Satellite Conference to be held from 17 to 19 August, in Mons, Belgium. The Satellite Conference will immediately precede IFLA’s 2023 World Library and Information Conference (WLIC), which will be held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, from 20 to 24 August.

Worldwide organization of knowledge, diagram by Paul Otlet

The theme of the Satellite Conference is “Preserving our origins: Approaches to the organization, curation, and historiography of the record of national and international organizations in libraries, information, and documentation.” It has two aims: (1) to build on our understanding of the state of preservation and accessibility of historical sources for the historiography of library information sciences (LIS) and information science and technology organizations; and (2) to further explore the history of these organizations from their origins in the late 19th and early 20th century to today. Continue reading

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Most readers of this blog will have published articles in peer-reviewed journals. Many of us will have also spent many unpaid hours participating in the reviewing process. It is, in fact, an expensive process, expensive in terms of both pain and money, a “pain point” for authors  and reviewers, as pointed out by Pippa Smart (2016). As an author and reviewer, I agree with Smart’s comment on pain! In particular, I find being commandeered by the algorithms employed in publishers’ computerized article management systems a proverbial pain in the neck. Continue reading

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Global Gleanings #15: Disruption, disruption…

This quarterly column of news, views and snippets from the international literature of books, libraries, and information, appears in LIASA-in-Touch, the newsletter of the Library and Information Association of South Africa.

 Long Covid

The worst of the disruptive Covid pandemic is behind us, we hope. But Covid has not gone away altogether. Here I’m not only thinking of ‘Long Covid’, but also of more far-reaching consequences. The world is experiencing long-term social, economic, and political effects, which do not leave LIS untouched. Much has already been published on how libraries have responded and coped. Several insightful articles on this appeared in a special issue of IFLA journal. Dobreva and Angelescu (2022) pointed out that we are living in the Covid-19 era, not the Covid-19 crisis. We are in it for the long haul. A report on a large-scale survey conducted in Australia concluded that libraries had shown that they could respond in an agile and adaptable manner, and that Covid had demonstrated the value to communities of library buildings (Wakeling et al. 2022). Continue reading

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Submissions to parliamentary hearings

Following up on my previous post, I can report that today (7 March 2023) I participated virtually in a hearing of the Standing Committee on Finance, Economic Opportunities, and Tourism, of the Parliament of the Western Cape Province, Cape Town, held in Cape Town and virtually. Here is the text of my remarks. It is followed by an earlier written submission.

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Unlikely allies oppose signing of South Africa’s Copyright Amendment Bill

In a previous post I wrote about South Africa’s seemingly never-ending struggle to enact new legislation to update its 1978 vintage copyright law. The Copyright Amendment Bill, Bill 2023-01-05, which has been in the making for the best part of a decade, is intended to update the South African copyright regime by providing explicitly for limitations and exceptions that  form an accepted part of copyright law in many developed countries (Nicholson 2022b). By incorporating these exceptions and limitations, the Bill seeks to remove obstacles that impede access to information for students, researchers, and content creators. These obstacles have so far prevented South Africa’s ratification of the 2013 Marrakesh Treaty to enable cross-border exchange of accessible formats for the visually handicapped. The Bill will also remove provisions that inhibit access to orphan works. It will allow librarians legally to copy rare and fragile materials for preservation purposes (Nicholson 2022a).

A typical university library copying and scanning facility. Image: Image: Kings Western University, Canada,

The revised Bill was passed by the National Assembly on 1 September 2022, by 163 votes (including those of the governing African National Congress) to 45. The 45 opposing votes came from five parties, including the Democratic Alliance (DA), which is the official opposition, and the third largest party in Parliament, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). (Nicholson 2022a). At first sight this is puzzling.  Why did these two, which are diametrically opposed ideologically speaking, both oppose the bill? Continue reading

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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.

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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.


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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

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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.

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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

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