Saturday, October 20, 2018

To those who do free stuff to make the world a better place: thank you.

When I was out walking yesterday, I saw that our neighborhood's Little Free Library had a sign up that Todd H. Bol, founder of the Little Free Libraries movement, had died. (See the obit at BoingBoing, the source of this picture.)

I don't have a Little Free Library because giving away books of literary criticism from rhymes-with-Luke-Luniversity-Fress isn't going to win many neighborhood hearts and minds, but still: farewell, R.I.P., and thank you, Todd H. Bol. You wanted to make the world a better place, and you did.

You might remember that last year the Radical Librarians were criticizing Little Free Libraries because they were just not quite correct enough and that they should cease to exist so that those who put them up could go advocate for more library funding--because obviously people who love books couldn't possibly do both. Obviously.

It's not an either/or with this or with other schemes for betterment.

Also, we ought to thank the people who make things for free.

For example, around the web (okay, on Twitter and comment boards) you'll see that someone has put up--for free--software on GitHub or a site that does something specific you need for research.

Let me emphasize: for free--not adware, not 30-day trials.

Most people say thanks, but a few are all "this sucks! Why doesn't it do X function that I need?"

Or "why doesn't this website have this thing I need for free?"

Or "why doesn't this transcription or site include all the metadata I need?"

Or--but you get the picture.

Now, big sites like Google Books have an obligation (says I) not to disable previously available functionality, like page numbers. Why have they done this for the preview function in many cases? No one knows. (Digression--sorry.)

Political action is important, and so is giving money. But so too is thanking the people who are trying to make the world a better place. It's not either/or.

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