The best of IIPC meeting

The IIPC meeting in California was an enriching experience:

  • I heard leaders speaking as leaders should do.
  • Received signs that indicated me the next steps to take when I was losing my path.
  • Witnessed the rising of cyber-historians among web archivists, as web archivists rose among digital librarians.
  • Was amazed with effective social policies to problems accepted by society as been unsolvable.
  • Got rewarded to see our work being useful to our colleagues across the world.
  • Observed people caring about the environment on everyday small details.

However the best was saved for the last.

Before going to catch the train we went for a traditional cookie ice cream in Palo Alto and sat on a city bench to finish eating it.

A guy with a stool and a sports bag came and sat on the corner in front of us. He carefully brushed his hair up, took a notebook from the bag, carefully posed it on top of the bag, and looked around.

– “Can you spare me some change man?” He asked for the first time to someone passing by.

He picked up the notebook, opened it, took a sneak peek at it, close it again and put it on his side. The notebook looked very organized and cared.

I instantly remembered my teenage years song Mr. Wendal.

– “Can you spare me some change man?” He did not ask us.

After a while, a young lady from a restaurant came and gave him a menu. Now this is unusual, I thought. People from restaurants usually do not want homeless people eating there. He received the menu and thanked the young lady.

– “Can you spare me some change man?”

He picked up the notebook again, took a look and posed it again.

Is this someone pretending to be homeless and doing some kind of research? I first thought. Then I recalled the Mr. Wendal song: “to give him money isn’t charity, he gives me some knowledge, I buy him some shoes”.

Well, maybe I will meet Mr. Wendal, 23 years after. There is only one way to know:

– Here it goes my friend.
– “Thank you man”.

– Can I ask you a question?
– “Yeah!”

– What do you have on that notebook?
– “Well these are some notes that I take from things that I read at the library. It is part of some research that I’m doing.”

– Oh really? What about?
– “Well, there’s gonna be elections and I wanna be informed. It’s about governments and History.”
– It would be good if more people did the same as you.
– “You gonna vote?”
– Well, there are going to be elections this year back home. I don’t live here.
– “Where you from?”
– Portugal.
– “Portugal…That is next to Spain. Lisbon?”
– Right. I am from Lisbon.
– “They had this dictator is Spain: Franco. I also learned some Spanish when I was at school. Uno, dos, tres, quatro,…”
– Yes. In Portugal it was Salazar.
– “Yeah. In Italy it was Mussolini.”
– At that time in Europe there were dictators all over.

– So, do you go to the library often?
– “Yeah!”

– Why?
– “Well, when I was a kid I never had a proper education. They just passed me on and I never learned anything. Now, I go to the library to try to educate myself.”

– All right. So you live here?
– “Nah, I live in San Jose. I catch the bus here.”

– But you were born in California?
– “Nah, I am from Texas. Came here when I was five with my mom. She is a preacher, a Jehovah witness. Do you know Jehovah witnesses?”

– Yes, I do. Are you a Jehovah witness?
– “Nah, I just go to church.”

– Which one?
– “I just go to church. I believe in God.”

– “You a Catholic Roman right? You follow Pope Francis.”
– Well. No. Back home, people are Catholic but most of them do not go to church anymore.

– Do you know anything about Buddhism?
– “I read something about it. They believe you must have the right vision, the right intention, the right effort, the right speech…”
– That’s the Eight-fold path. Buddhists do not believe in God. They believe that each one of us must try to evolve to be a better person.

– “The Indians also do not believe in God. They believe that God is in Mother Nature. First it is Mother Nature, then the gods. I read about several religions at the library.”

– You learned about Islam? You know it is a peace religion and not terrorists as some people may think (this is when I start walking on slippery stones when talking to north americans).
– “I know it is a peace religion. People go to their land to impose Christianity and democracy. They are seen as intruders. The Bible says we must take care of our own house. Once I read this at the library and made me think.”

– So what did you do before?
– “Well, I used to be a private security but I have esquizofrenia. It means I am kind of bipolar. So, I could not continue to work on my profession. I receive 476 dollars, this change helps me to keep up. I have to take my medication to be stable and also take care of weight.”

– It looks to me you are doing fine.
– “Thank you.” He said with a big smile.

– “What you do?”
– Well, we preserve information today to be accessible in the future. Something like a librarian but for information published online.

– Do you use a computer at the library?
– “Nah. I should do a course on that. When I was on high school I typed 64 words per minute on an Apple computer.”

– Really? That’s more than I do.
He smiled.
– “You work with computers?”

– Yes. We preserve the information published on the Internet. Do you go to the Internet sometimes to find information for your research? – I insisted.
– “No, I just go to the library.”

– “Did you see the parade this morning?”
– No. What was that about?

– “I don’t know. There were so many people at that store with the big glass windows. It was not like that when it opened. It is a phone store.
But people don’t go there to phone. They just go stare at the phones. It doesn’t make sense…”
– You are right. It does not – I said smiling. – I never thought about that.

– Well. I have to go catch a plane. It was a pleasure talking to you. What is your name?
– “Sam. And yours?”

– Daniel.
– “Daniel. Prophet Daniel.”
– Yeah. The one who slept with the lions.
– “Yeah.”

– Take care. I wish you the best my friend.
– “You too.”

I crossed one ocean and one continent to watch live an inspiring talk from Brewster Kahle but it was a beggar that showed me what universal access to all knowledge really means.

Apple Store in Palo Alto, California.

Apple Store with “big glass windows” in Palo Alto, California.

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