Cornell University

June 5 2009

Enabling Epiphanies

Basefsky sharing Catherwood  philosophy at international conference

Stuart Basefsky takes great joy in "getting people to discover what they didn't know existed."

As keynote speaker Monday at an international gathering of librarians at the University of West Bohemia in the Czech Republic, he will share the Catherwood Library’s philosophy of open access.

"Open access" is a growing movement within the library world and Catherwood has been at the forefront, said Basefsky, senior reference librarian.

"We are really, truly a leader," said Basefsky, whose talk is part of the 2009 conference of the Czech and Slovak Library Information Network.

Open access repositories "… transform scholarly communication by making it easier for researchers to find and share the results of research, through free and unrestricted online availability," according to conference organizers.

In the early 1990s, when other research libraries were limiting their on-line collections to only what had been produced by one of their own, Catherwood was gathering relevant workplace information from many sources and sharing it.

If its use wasn't restricted and it would be helpful to faculty, researchers, students, governments, agencies, business or the public, it had a home at the Catherwood.

"We didn't care where information came from.  Our job was to find whatever information was available … and make it easier to find," he said. "We're trying to fit into everybody's mission."

As a result, Catherwood has a global community of online users.

Free of charge, they tap peer-reviewed journal articles, conference papers, theses, technical reports, working papers and other work-related literature.

Nearly 2,000 collective bargaining agreements, for instance, are available online through the Catherwood.

"We can pull people together with people, information and broader networks," he said.

Some on-line libraries subscribe to the if-you-build-it, they-will-come theory, Basefsky said.

Users don't function that way, though, he said, and "a good library doesn’t hide behind information."

Instead, it builds relationships and provides fodder for intellectual epiphanies, he said. 

The Catherwood's outreach includes daily postings by Basefsky through ILR's Institute for Workplace Studies Documented News Service, emailed around the world.

Basefsky, news service director, shares documents he gleans from places such as the Asian Development Bank, the Korea Labor Institute, the Dublin Foundation and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

By culling and sharing the Internet's most reliable, authoritative workplace information, Basefsky says he saves people time and invigorates himself.

"There's no fun," he said, "in finding something you can't share"