A friend just pointed me to Liberating Knowledge: A Librarian's Manifesto for Change by Barbara Fister, an academic librarian who also happens to write mystery novels.
She has an excellent perspective on the meaning of libraries, and the tradeoffs involved with the current societal trend toward privatizing knowledge through so-called "intellectual property" regulations. In a great critique of the passivity of academia and libraries in the face of attempts at intellectual enclosure by private corporations, she writes:
This uninformed indifference is laying the groundwork for a new tragedy of the commons: a world in which knowledge is turned into intellectual property, monetizied, and made artificially scarce.
She closes with a six-point manifesto that begins:
Liberation bibliography arises out of outrage at the injustice of the current system. It’s not about saving money, it’s about the empowering nature of knowledge and the belief that it shouldn’t be a luxury good for the few.
The article abounds in examples of heinous arrangements in the current system that seem to be accepted as standard procedure, and clear thinking about what the actual tradeoffs are (and how we, as a society, are making them poorly).
If i had one objection, it would be that she neglects to mention increased surveillance as one of the problems that come with privatization of knowledge. Our abilities to read privately and anonymously, and to correspond confidentially are at risk because of these systems of control.
Anyway, I'd love to see more open allegiances between librarians and free software folks; the ideals and struggles are very much in parallel. Go talk to your librarian friends about this stuff today!