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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Global Gleanings #9

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

An unexpected eruption?

I had started writing this column when, suddenly, violence and looting erupted in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. As I write now, churches and other faith communities are calling upon their members to pray for peace. At the same time social media are sharing heart-warming reports of people coming together to clear away the debris and clean the looted shops and malls. It is good to see and hear this, and even better to participate. Understandably, we are responding to the immediate problem of restoring normality – something that has preoccupied us since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Returning to normality?

But, while we all want peace and order to return, what sort of normality do we want to return to? The same society, with its unemployment, poverty, hunger and deprivation, the same inequality?

There can be no lasting peace without justice. Massive inequality is not compatible with social justice, and it is not a good basis for a stable democracy. The Gini coefficient measures economic inequality, or more strictly, income inequality (Investopedia). According to the World Population Review, South Africa this year (2021) has the highest Gini coefficient of all the 165 countries reported. Here the highest number means being the bottom of the class. We live in one of the most unequal societies on the planet. If this does not change, the tinder will still be there, waiting for the next spark to set it ablaze. Once again, it raised in my mind a question that has been nagging me for many years: what can libraries do to promote social justice? So, I set aside most of the literature I had collected, to focus on some literature on social justice and libraries – with a bit of political philosophy thrown in.

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Webinar on International LIS Research: video & documents

A video recording of the Webinar on International Research in LIS, held by the Library Theory and Research (LTR) Section of IFLA on 27 May, is now available at My presentation (at 4:41) was followed by a quite interesting questions and answers slot (at 21:17).

The event programme, presenter biographies, and my select annotated Bibliography on International and Comparative Research in LIS are at

A somewhat longer version of the Bibliography can be found here.

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Global gleanings #8

This is a slightly expanded version of my column of news, views and snippets from the international literature of books, libraries, and information, compiled for LIASA-in-Touch, the quarterly newsletter of the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA)

Virtual or real?

As contemporary librarians we devote a lot of our attention and reflection to virtual things: digital delivery of web-based resources, digital courses, meetings, services… whole libraries are today virtual, so much so that virtual has become the default in much of our professional discourse. But non-virtual, concrete, touchable things like physical books and flesh-and-blood library users who come to a real reference desk are also still around, and today I’ll concentrate on these. As an aside, when I started wondering how to refer to non-virtual things, I turned to the website to find over a hundred antonyms listed for the various meanings of the adjective ‘virtual’.  ‘Real’ seems to the simplest choice, although, of course, you can have really virtual stuff and virtual reality…

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Webinar on International Research — update and link to Bibliography

For the full programme and CVs of presenters and panelists, see

I have added a link to my brief annotated bibliography of international and comparative LIS research.

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Webinar on International Research in LIS


I’m pleased to post here the announcement of a forthcoming webinar on International Research in LIS organized by IFLA’s section for Library Theory and Research.

IFLA Webinar: International Research in LIS

Wednesday, May 26 at 17:00 – 18:30 Central European Time CET/UTC+1

Registration Link:

Cost: Free

This webinar will explore international and comparative research in Library and Information Science (LIS). Peter Lor, former IFLA Secretary General and the author of International and Comparative Librarianship will give an introductory talk to examine what is meant by international and comparative research in LIS, what can be learned from such research, and outline what special pitfalls and challenges are to be considered. The introduction will be followed by a panel of LIS journal editors discussing and evaluating the international and comparative LIS research submitted to their journals. The webinar will also include two presentations of international research by Anna Maria Tammaro and Amy van Scoy.


●      Peter Lor (University of Pretoria, South Africa)

●      Anna Maria Tammaro (University of Parma, Italy)

●      Amy van Scoy (University at Buffalo, USA)


●      Kendra Albright and Theo Bothma (Libri)

●      Juan Daniel Machin Mastromatteo (Information Development)

●      Steve Witt (IFLA Journal)

Moderators: Krystyna Matusiak (University of Denver, USA), Egbert Sanchez (National Autonomous University of Mexico), and Stefan Schmunk (University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt, Germany)

Organized by the IFLA Library Theory and Research

​Come and join us, and please share this invitation with colleagues in your region and professional network.

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Global gleanings #7

An infodemic: bad news

In an earlier column I referred to the “infodemic”: a veritable avalanche of news, information, and misinformation that has accompanied the Covid-19 pandemic. Misinformation in a health crisis can have serious, even fatal, consequences.[1] Comments by opinion leaders such as Brazil’s President Jair Bolsanaro (“it’s just a little flu”)[2] or President Trump (“It will just go away, you’ll see”)[3] can seriously undermine the efforts of their epidemiologists and public health workers to bring the pandemic under control. This is illustrated by the high rates of infection in Brazil and the USA respectively. The misinformation put out by “viral” social media messages and by slick anti-establishment, pseudo-science websites spreads like wildfire, stoking distrust, suspicion, frustration and anger. My mother used to quote a Dutch proverb to the effect that, “no matter how fast a lie runs, the truth will always catch up with it”. Unfortunately, today that is no longer true. By the time the facts have been checked and the correct information is disseminated, the offending message, having done its mischief,  has already been forgotten, buried in a layer of new misinformation.

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Global Gleanings #6

My column of news, views and snippets from the international literature of books, libraries, and information, appears in every issue of LIASA-in-Touch, the newsletter of the Library and Information Association of South Africa. Here it is with clickable links.

Covid-19 – Going, going, gone?

The pandemic is still with us, but libraries are re-opening. IFLA has a web page listing “key resources for libraries in responding to the Coronavirus pandemic”.1 A great deal is being written about how this should be done, one of the issues being how to ensure that books and other library materials do not transmit the virus from one user to the next. In the United States, OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Battelle Memorial Institute have been cooperating on a project to determine how long the virus survives on the materials we commonly deal with. This is called the REALM (Reopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums) project. Four series of tests have been conducted so far. In the fourth, it was found that the Covid-19 virus is still detectable after six days on four common library materials when they are stacked: the covers of hardcover books, paperbacks, DVD cases and Mylar protective book cover jackets.2 A Google search shows how thinking on this is changing as we learn more. For now, it seems, “the best disinfectant for library materials is time.”3

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2020 John Ames Humphry/OCLC/Forest Press Award

I’m pleased to share the news that the American Library Association (ALA) has honoured me with the John Ames Humphry/OCLC/Forest Press Award for 2020. The award was presented virtually during the ALA’s Annual Conference in June – which unfortunately I missed.

Since 1987 the award, sponsored by OCLC/Forest Press, has been made annually to a “librarian or person who has made significant contributions to international librarianship.” The citation reads in part, “for over forty years, Dr. Lor has demonstrated his passion for international leadership through his teaching contributions and efforts to guide a new generation of globally-minded librarians. He has worked, often simultaneously, at multiple institutions across the globe teaching library science courses including international and comparative library and information studies”. The ALA’s press release and award citation can be read here.

According to the award’s web page, it was created on the occasion of the retirement of John Humphry as Executive Director of Forest Press, publisher of the Dewey Decimal Classification, to recognize Humphry’s far-ranging work to internationalize the English language editions of Dewey and to ensure that translations were adapted to meet the needs of other cultures and countries. I’m honoured to join the ranks of past recipients, such as Henriette Avram (1990), Robert D. Stueart (1994), Robert Wedgeworth (2000), Marianna Tax Choldin (2005), Winston Tabb (2007), Ismael Abdullahi (2018), and Debora Jacobs (2019), all of whom made major contributions to international librarianship.


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Global Gleanings #5

Covid-19 again

When my previous column was written the news was dominated by Covid-19.[1] It was still mostly called an epidemic; the word ‘pandemic’ was only just coming into use. In South Africa a lock-down loomed. I reported on some of the ways in which libraries were being affected and how they were responding, but it seemed to me hardly worthwhile to continue collecting more literature on library responses to Covid-19, since it would be over by the time the next column appeared. How wrong I was! How wrong we all were. That includes health professionals, scientists, advisory panels, and politicians.[2] We simply did not know. In this column I revisit the impact of Covid-19 on libraries overseas and how they are responding.

The literature on Covid-19 and LIS has grown enormously. The topics addressed include what librarians are doing to serve their users during the pandemic, how libraries can plan to reopen safely, how our environment might change in the longer term as a result of the pandemic, and how to deal with the ‘infodemic’ of fake news and conspiracy theories that has erupted along with the pandemic itself. Continue reading

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Global gleanings #4: Coronavirus; library programmes; ancient manuscripts

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.


The Coronavirus (COVID-19) and libraries

As I write this the news is dominated by the Coronavirus epidemic/pandemic. It is encouraging to see how quickly libraries have been responding to the emerging and rapidly evolving situation. A quick search in Google for “public libraries and Corona virus” turns up a slew of library web pages devoted to it. A good example is the site of the Oak Park Public Library, in Illinois, USA, which offers a page dated 3 March 2020: Under the heading “Coronavirus and your library” the Library offers detailed information sourced directly from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It includes links to travel guidance related to COVID-19 as well as clinical guidance (including a picture of the test kit used for testing for the virus), and some information specifically about how emergency alerts are disseminated in Oak Bay. As a matter of interest, the Village of Oak Bay is a relatively affluent town adjacent to Chicago, and it is known for its architectural treasures in the “Prairie Style” of architecture. Visitors can see a large number of historic buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and other architects working in the Prairie Style (see

You will not believe what librarians don’t all get up to

The rapid response to the Coronavirus illustrates an admirable characteristic of American public librarians: they are aware of the events, issues, needs and crises preoccupying their communities, and they respond quickly – sometimes with anxious soul-searching, but often with practical measures and imaginative programmes. As the following examples show, this is not limited to public librarians. Continue reading

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