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EIFL was greatly saddened to learn of the untimely loss of Aaron Swartz. Aaron cared deeply about the values that EIFL holds dear – to create equal access to information for people in developing and transition countries. We were privileged that Aaron, and Quinn Norton, joined an EIFL retreat in 2008 at the Eremo dei Frati Bianchi, a tranquil restored monastery, to help us craft our vision and set our strategy for the next years. Aaron was thoughtful and bright. When put on the spot to give “the young person’s viewpoint” on future libraries and knowledge sharing – as he was several times – he was funny. But he seemed wise beyond his years, and we paid attention to what he said. At times he forced us to re-think our perceptions. He questioned established mores, and was impatient for change. Aaron penned the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto while at the Eremo.
Libraries need activists like Aaron who understand MARC records and coding and the online world, who are passionate and articulate about social justice and access to knowledge, who question and challenge authority (libraries included). We mourn his loss. As a lasting tribute, we encourage everyone to make their own work open access, and to follow the #pdftribute campaign on Twitter.