Friday, February 27, 2015

Drone operated inter-library loans and document delivery

On my weekend break from dissertation writing, an idea emerged to me from out of a conversation with my wife about the future of courier services. I do not know if you are all familiar with the news stories about experiments with drone-operated courier services. If not, you might be pretty interested in looking at these news articles about recent companies that have been launching drone delivery services (Hern, 2014; Howarth, 2013; Weiss, 2014). All of a sudden, the crazy idea dawned on me: "What if libraries could offer drone interlibrary loan and document delivery services?"

The argument for such a service must first face the opposition of those who argue for the use of the Internet and e-resources for delivering information in the 21st century. After all, the Internet is one of the cheapest means of distributing information.

However, I would argue that the premise of using the Internet to serve our clients is useful to a point. For one, let us assume that not all library users possess e-devices or even Internet connectivity. Further, persons without the skills to use e-readers would also encounter this as a barrier to using e-resources. A second problem is that some resources are not yet in electronic format, although this is changing with scanning services and e-publishers republishing content in electronic formats.

It is still early yet, and drones while potentially useful, are still in the early stages of adoption by businesses. Libraries perhaps will not see the application of drones circulating library materials over some distance to the users for many years to come, but it is a good time to start thinking about it. Even if libraries do not deliver resources to users using drones, there might be a potential for public library systems to use drones to deliver resources to branch libraries or for libraries to engage in interlibrary delivery using drones to other library systems. As long as some library materials continue to exist in a tangible media or format, it may be still relevant for librarians to consider applying the new technology of the age to getting the user the information in the format that the user prefers. I would also consider this a great experimental opportunity for academic libraries serving students in distance education.


Hern, A. (2014, September 25). DHL launches first commercial drone 'parcelcopter' delivery service. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Howarth, D. (2013, October 16). "World's first" drone delivery service
launches in Australia. de zeen. Retrieved from

Weiss, R. (2014, September 26). Germany's post office beats Amazon and Google with launch of world's first drone delivery service. National Post. Retrieved from

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Recognizing Andrew Carnegie as a hero in library history and library science

[Edited February 27, 2015]

For the wintry month of February [2015], I have undertaken to read leisurely the autobiography of the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (You can access this on Project Gutenberg). This I do on the weekends, as I take a break from my dissertation work.

One of the reasons for my interest in Carnegie is that he perhaps one of the most central characters in library history. The NPR ran a story on his legacy in establishing libraries in 2013 (Stamberg, 2013). However, the scope of his legacy goes beyond just funding the building of public free libraries to be managed by municipalities. In a previous blog post, I remembered pointing out that Andrew Carnegie's finances also went into establishing library schools (Changing library education with the times). According to Rubin (2010), the Andrew Carnegie Foundation was very much involved in funding library education with the goal of producing graduates that would be able to effectively and efficiently manage the new libraries that were built by the foundation. As such, Carnegie's financial support underlies the foundation for library science and libraries not only in America, but internationally as well.

Prior to reading his story, I thought that Carnegie had used a private library to conduct research on investments,  that lead him to wisely invest in steel. Here, my biased perception towards libraries as places for supporting entrepreneurship associated Carnegie's financial support to libraries as being related to him benefitting financially from knowledge accessed in libraries. However, that narrative interpretation was "laid to rest" by reading his own personal account.

Andrew's autobiography tells of his story of poverty, where at his first job, his employment gave him the opportunity to access books from a private library. Carnegie felt that the experience of being able to borrow books and read improved him, and felt that this should be freely available to others. Hence, his commitment to using his fortunes to spread access to literature to the public.

One thing that I have recognized from Carnegie's story is that billionaires and the rich (or the 1%) as people today call them, are not necessarily villains as they are made out to be. It is these same billionaires that give away money to worthy causes to enhance the life and social experiences of others. Often, their motives come not from selfish ambition, but from pure desire to make their world a better place or help souls improve themselves. As such, I believe that we must resist the urge to divide people based on wealth into the 1% and the 99% and recognise that together, we the 100% have a role to play in making the world a community that recognizes the humanity of every human being.


Rubin, R. (2010). Foundations of library and information science (3rd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.

Stamberg, S. (2013, Aug. 1). How Andrew Carnegie Turned His Fortune Into A Library Legacy. Retrieved from
Inskeep, S. (Host). (2014, July 8). Buddhist Monks Face Jail Time For July 4 Fireworks Display [Radio broadcast episode].

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skeep, S. (Host). (2014, July 8). Buddhist Monks Face Jail Time For July 4 Fireworks Display [Radio broadcast episode].

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Inskeep, S. (Host). (2014, July 8). Buddhist Monks Face Jail Time For July 4 Fireworks Display [Radio broadcast episode].

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