September 24, 2016

Travel grant opportunity – Deadline November 1st

Litwin Books provides financial support to scholars in LIS and related fields for travel to conferences they attend, domestically or internationally. Travel grants are limited to $500 for domestic conferences and $1000 for travel to a conference outside the recipient’s home country. No more than one grant is available per recipient per year, and grants over the course of the year are limited to available funds.

Applications should include a CV, the accepted abstract for the presentation, or the paper itself if available, as well as any information about the conference that may be helpful. Evaluation will be based in part on the paper’s “fit” with the publishing program of Litwin Books and its associated imprints. Applications are evaluated by a panel of three judges.

Except in unusual circumstances, funds will be a reimbursement of travel and lodging expenses up to the award amount, based on documentation of the expense and evidence that you participated in the conference (nametag, program, tweets, etc.)

Applications may be sent to by November 1st of each year. Recipients of the travel grant will be notified on December 1st.

We ask that you acknowledge the travel grant in your presentation and on your CV.

Past Recipients

Natalie Baur, to travel from Mexico City to Portland, Oregon, as co-organizer of a one-day forum on community archives during the Society of American Archivists meeting in 2017. $1000

Jamila Ghaddar, to participate in a panel titled, “Archival interventions: Anti-violence and social justice work in community contexts,” at the Association for Information Science and Technology Annual Meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2016. $500

Nathaniel Moore, to present his paper, “Speaking Truth to Power: Archives, Community Engagement and Advocacy,” at the Northwest Archivist Annual Conference in Denver in 2016. $500

Jen LaBarbera, to present her paper, “History in the Making: How Archives and Activists Can Work Together,” at the Gender & Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium in 2016. $500

Marika L. Cifor, to present her paper, “Blood, Sweat, and Hair: The Archival Potential of Queer and Trans Bodies,” at the Gender & Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium in 2016. $500

Julie Winkelstein, to present her paper, “Safe in the Stacks: Public Libraries Serving LGBTQ Homeless Youth,” at the Public Library Association Annual Conference in 2016. $500

Nathaniel Enright, to present his paper, “The Austerity of Literacy: The Financialization of Information and the Politics of Debt,” at the Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians in 2015. $1000

Anna Wilson, to present her paper, “Comparing Indigenous Approaches to Autism with Western Approaches to Autism,” at the Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians in 2015. $500

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September 20, 2016

ODLOS launches Intersections, calls for contributors

CHICAGO – The ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services (ODLOS)is launching Intersections, a new blog that highlights the everyday work of library and information science workers as they advocate for equity and inclusion as they relate to diversity, literacy and access among membership, the field of librarianship and the communities they serve.

The blog invites submissions from across the library profession that feature support for those from historically and disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups; those who experience socioeconomic barriers, people experiencing hunger, homelessness and poverty; immigrants, refugees and new Americans; those discriminated against based on nationality or language; those who are geographically isolated; those experiencing barriers in regards to access to literacy; and new and non-readers.

“We envision Intersections to be a vibrant and thriving place for our members to share their stories,” said ODLOS Director Jody Gray. “We’ll also be sharing exciting news from ODLOS and our many constituencies, including information on conferences, initiatives, grants, and much more.”

For more information, including submission information, please visit

The ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services supports library and information science workers in creating safe, responsible, and all-inclusive spaces that serve and represent the entire community. To accomplish this, we decenter power and privilege by facilitating conversations around access and identity as they impact the profession and those we serve. We use a social justice framework to inform library and information science workers’ development of resources. We strive to create an association culture where these concerns are incorporated into everybody’s everyday work.



John L. Amundsen, MLIS
Program Officer, Outreach and Communications
Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services
American Library Association
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611
T 312.280.2140 | F 312.280.3256 |

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September 16, 2016

Call for book reviewers for Progressive Librarian

Message from Michael Matthews, Progressive Librarian Book Review Editor:

Dear Progressive Library Workers:

Do you like balmy summer late afternoons, listening to the crickets chirp as you paddle a canoe along a mountain stream while watching a mother moose and her adorable calf drink clear, unpolluted water as an eagle swoops down, clutching a PCB-free trout in in its talons?

Because if you do, I would stop reading this message now and book your vacation plans for Never-Never Land. I’m looking for book reviewers for Progressive Librarian #46 as well as for recently published titles in the following fields of interest:

LGBT, queer, and feminist perspectives on library work
Late (neoliberal) capitalism and the politics of information
Libraries, neoliberal ideology, and social reproduction
Poverty, homelessness, and the role of libraries (in either mitigating the circumstances of poverty or exacerbating them)
Libraries, information technology, and the proletarianization of library workers
Climate change, the Anthropocene, and the challenge for libraries in the Age of the (not-so-immediate) Sixth Extinction
Library management discourse, the future of libraries, and performativity
Scholarly communication and the role of libraries in supporting the supremacy of publishers—or their possible role in subverting them

And…as Ron Popeil would say, “much, much more!” If you can find a book that fits these criteria or might even share a shaded portion of the circle within a Venn diagram, then please forward it to my attention. And if you would like to review such a book (or another book, which I may forward to your attention) then so much the better!

We will also entertain reviews of books (or other works) that cleverly torpedo the pretensions of our profession’s self-appointed “thought leaders”, and pitilessly reduce their arguments to a burning pile of wreckage—with eloquence, wit, and substantive scholarship, of course.

Your friendly neighborhood book editor, social raconteur, and mad gadabout,
Michael Matthews
Michael Matthews
Head of Serials & Media/
Associate Professor of Library Science
Northwestern State University Libraries
Natchitoches, Louisiana 71497

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September 1, 2016

The Mortenson Center Launches Libraries for Peace Initiative

From: Clara Chu to multiple lists
Subject: The Mortenson Center Launches Libraries for Peace Initiative

[please forward as appropriate]

The Mortenson Center warmly invites libraries and librarians around the world to take part in our International Peace Day initiative. Visit our website ( to learn about what libraries are doing to promote peace, how they can initiate their own efforts, and where these actions are taking place; to discuss and share ideas of libraries and peacebuilding; and to serve as an information hub for an international library celebration and action day for peace.

JOIN this Libraries for Peace (L4P) movement by going to the website to:

1. Celebrate Library for Peace (L4P) Day on 21st September, 2016 (International Day of Peace)
2. Pledge to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
3. Share your story of how you and/or your library are working toward building a peaceful and sustainable local and global community.

The Libraries for Peace web portal was created to advance the mission of the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs, which for the past 25 years, has worked to strengthen international ties among libraries and librarians worldwide for the promotion of international education, understanding, and peace. Libraries as information, education and cultural centers have a role in advancing peace internationally.

For more information, please email

Clara M. Chu
Director and Mortenson Distinguished Professor
Mortenson Center for International Library Programs
142 Undergraduate Library, MC-522
1402 W. Gregory Dr.
Urbana, IL 61801 USA
Email: Phone: (217) 300-0918 ~ phone: (217) 333-3085

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August 29, 2016

CFP: Pushing the Margins: Women of Color and Intersectionality in LIS

Pushing the Margins: Women of Color and Intersectionality in LIS

Editors: Rose L. Chou and Annie Pho

Literature on diversity in librarianship has mainly focused on recruitment and increasing numbers of librarians of color. This book shifts the focus beyond numbers and instead on the lived experiences of those who are underrepresented in our profession. Using intersectionality as a framework, this edited collection explores the experiences of women of color in libraries. With roots in black feminism and critical race theory, intersectionality studies the ways in which multiple social and cultural identities impact individual experience. Looking at race and gender isolated from each other fails to see the many dimensions in which they intersect and overlap, creating a complicated lived experience that cannot be captured by studying one identity.

Libraries and librarians idealistically portray themselves as egalitarian and neutral entities that provide information equally to everyone, yet the library as an institution often reflects and perpetuates societal racism, sexism, and additional forms of oppression. Women of color who work in libraries are often placed in the position of balancing the ideal of the library providing good customer service and being an unbiased environment with the lived reality of receiving microaggressions and other forms of harassment on a daily basis from both colleagues and patrons.
Typically these conversations and discussions of our experiences as women of color have happened behind closed doors, within trusted circles of friends. Our hope and intention is that by bringing these conversations into a public space, we will raise consciousness of these experiences and start changing perceptions and expectations.

Proposals may consider the following themes and questions:
– Invisible and emotional labor
– Intersections of multiple identities, such as sexuality, gender identity, and socioeconomic class
– Leadership, management, promotion, and authority
– Gender presentation and performance
– Treatment of women of color library workers who are either not in librarian positions or do not have a library degree
– Experiences of women of color as library patrons
– How identity affects approaches to collection development
– How does structural oppression reproduce itself in spaces that are touted to be egalitarian and democratic?
– How does one maintain respect in the library when confronted with oppressive treatment or being stereotyped based on one’s race, gender, or other social categories?
– How can library organizations create better work cultures and environments for staff and patrons to exist as their true selves?

This is not an exhaustive list. Proposals are welcome from anyone involved in libraries, archives, and information science. Contributions from people of color, those who belong to communities underrepresented in LIS, and those who work in school and public libraries are strongly encouraged. Essays that are straightforward scholarship are invited and welcome, as are more hybrid or creative approaches that incorporate scholarly writing with personal narrative, illustrations, graphics, or other strategies consistent with feminist and antiracist methodologies.

This collection will contain papers and essays of approximately 2000 – 5000 words. Proposals should include an abstract of no more than 500 words describing the proposed contribution and a short biographical statement. Send proposals to by October 28, 2016.

Notifications will be sent by November 4, 2016. First drafts of manuscripts will be due May 31, 2017. Editing and revision will occur June-December 2017, with an anticipated publication date of Spring 2018.

This book is forthcoming in the Litwin Books/Library Juice Press Series on Critical Race Studies and Multiculturalism in LIS, Rose L. Chou and Annie Pho, series editors.

About the editors

Rose L. Chou is Budget Coordinator at the American University Library. She received her MLIS from San Jose State University and BA in Sociology from Boston College. Rose serves on the ARL/SAA Mosaic Program Advisory Group and is part of the LIS Microaggressions project team. Her research interests include race, gender, and social justice in LIS.

Annie Pho is Inquiry and Instruction Librarian for Peer-to-Peer Services and Public Programming at UCLA Libraries. She received her MLS from Indiana University-Indianapolis and BA in Art History from San Francisco State University. She’s on the editorial board of In the Library with a Lead Pipe, a co-moderator of the #critlib Twitter chat, and a Minnesota Institute for Early Career Librarians 2014 alumnus. Her research interests are in critical pedagogy, diversity, and student research behavior.

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August 18, 2016

Research Assistant Sought

This is a position for an independent contractor (so really a business relationship rather than a position), where the successful candidate would do straightforward research projects for Library Juice Press and Library Juice Academy on a contractual basis. A typical project might be a literature review on staff training and professional development for librarians, with document delivery (sending selected articles) as part of the deal. Payment would be on a per-project basis. Since you’re the contractor, you’re setting the price, as long as it is reasonable. This is a good way to make some extra money, put a nice item on your résumé or CV, and help out a publisher who you may believe in. A plus would be very good access to LIS literature through an academic library. Please send your resume and cover letter to Rory Litwin: Thanks!

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August 11, 2016

ALA Task Force on the Context of Future Accreditation Webinars

From: Mary Ghikas
Sent: Tuesday, August 09, 2016 3:14 PM
To: ala-allstaff
Subject: FW: ALA Task Force on the Context of Future Accreditation Webinars

On behalf of Peter Hepburn, chair of the ALA Task Force on the Context of Future Accreditation, I am sending this out with a request to forward to the groups with which you work. Thanks go to Danielle Alderson for setting up these sessions. Thank you all for forwarding the announcement. mg

The ALA Task Force on the Context of Future Accreditation is charged to develop a white paper that describes the fields and context for which we will be accrediting in the future and to make such recommendations as may arise in the process of that development to the ALA Executive Board.
Within its purview are

Accreditation of information programs — who is doing what, how do or might they relate to LIS programs; disconnect (or perceived disconnect) between skills increasingly needed (e.g., information architecture), the current curricula of LIS programs, and standards/statements of core competencies currently in place;

Values — e.g. public access, privacy, intellectual freedom — as common threads binding together LIS and related fields and a core element in curricula; and,

The changing institutional context for accreditation, including factors such as pedagogical innovation, assessment and resources.

The discussion/white paper should result in a conceptual statement as a framework for the development (by the ALA Committee on Accreditation) of future standards.

The Task Force on the Context of Future Accreditation seeks broad input from the LIS community. To this end, the Task Force will be staging a series of online forums targeting certain populations and capped with a general forum for those who have not otherwise had an opportunity to contribute.

The four sessions are as follows:

Thursday, August 18 10:00 am PDT/12:00 pm CDT LIS faculty (other than deans and directors).
To attend this event please register at:

Thursday, August 25 10:00 am PDT/12:00 pm CDT Librarians and LIS graduates in Canada
To attend this event please register at:

Wednesday, August 31 10:00 am PDT/12:00 pm CDT Current LIS students and recent LIS graduates
To attend this event please register at:

Friday, September 2 10:00 am PDT/12:00 pm CDT General forum
To attend this event please register at:

Each forum will be hosted by a facilitator from the Task Force. Attendance at each forum will be capped at 100. The facilitator will have a set of guiding questions, but discussion is otherwise open. The conversation will be recorded.

Please contact Task Force chair Peter Hepburn at should you have questions.

We look forward to the conversations.

Thank you,
Peter Hepburn, chair, Task Force on the Context of Future Accreditation

Peter Hepburn
Head Librarian, College of the Canyons
Santa Clarita, CA

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August 8, 2016

Interview with Annie Downey about her new book, Critical Information Literacy

Annie Downey has agreed to do an interview with me about her new book with Library Juice Press.

Dr. Downey is Associate College Librarian and Director of Research Services at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Annie’s professional aspiration is to occupy a constant state of praxis in her daily work. Her research interests help her do that and include critical information literacy, women in librarianship and the status of women’s professions, service design and user-centered research methodologies in libraries, and library administration. She published two books in the summer of 2016: Critical Information Literacy: Foundations, Inspiration, and Ideas from Library Juice Press and Library Service Design: A LITA Guide to Holistic Assessment, Insight, and Improvement with Joe Marquez from Rowman and Littlefield.

Annie, thanks for agreeing to do this interview.

Thanks for inviting me! I am always excited to talk about critical information literacy.

Critical information literacy, or critical pedagogy in library instruction, is a hot topic in the library world right now, especially among Twitter’s #critlib participants. The discussion goes back a few years. I’d like to start by asking you first to summarize what critical information literacy is, and then to talk about how you first learned about it and got interested in it.

My favorite definition of critical information literacy is from Accardi, Drabinski, and Kumbier’s 2010 book Critical Library Instruction. They define it as “a library instruction praxis that promotes critical engagement with information sources, considers students collaborators in knowledge production practices (and creators in their own right), recognizes the affective dimensions of research, and (in some cases) has liberatory aims.”[1] I am drawn to this definition in particular because the authors use plain language to attend to both the student and teacher roles, praxis, and empowerment, all of which are important components of CIL theory and practice.

As our definitions of information literacy have expanded – which we see reflected in the ACRL Framework – it has become harder to define critical information literacy as a distinct type of information literacy. But a primary signifier is that CIL is inspired and informed by critical educational theories and theorists, especially Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy.

Like many CIL converts, I first became interested in critical education and the emancipatory potential of education, and then found my way to CIL when I was looking for ways to connect my burgeoning interest in that set of theories with my work as a librarian. As I was working on my PhD coursework, I had an opportunity to study education theory in depth for the first time. I was inspired by Freire’s work, but also by Myles Horton and Jack Mezirow. Freire, Horton, and Mezirow all worked on critical literacy with adults. The connections between critical literacy and information literacy jumped out at me right away so I began looking for other librarians who were doing work in that space. This was just a few years ago, but there was not a lot out there. I immediately found the work of James Elmborg, Troy Swanson, Kushla Capitzke, and Heidi Jacobs compelling. Of course, since then many others have come forward and a lot of great work is being done on CIL right now.

Regarding Freire, many readers caught that the cover of your book is a riff on the cover of Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I think it’s fun to make that reference, but I have to admit to feeling like it might be false advertising to an extent, because the book is not that directly tied to his educational philosophy. He was strongly marxist for one thing, and your book is not. I wonder if you have any comments about expectations people might form of a more radical book, looking at the cover.

First, let me just say that I love the cover and was so thrilled when I saw it. It’s true that the book is not tied strictly to Freire’s theory, nor is it Marxist. But I would argue that it is fairly radical and heavily influenced by Freire.

The majority of the librarians I interviewed were influenced by Freire either directly through reading his work or reading work inspired by it so the ideas and practices presented in the book provide examples of what librarians have done with his theory so far. In that sense, the cover is more than appropriate as a reflection of the contents providing a Freirian interpretaton of information literacy. However, I also tried to make it as authentic to the academic librarian experience as possible, and in many ways that resulted in me finding ties to critical education generally rather than Freire’s work specifically. I also wanted it to be an authentic reflection of my own interpretation of CIL, which is influenced Frieire, but also by other theorists.

Prior to my interviews, I was really into the type of critical pedagogy taught by Myles Horton, which is due at least in part to finding his work a lot more relatable and usable in a personal way. When I was first reading about critical education, I was also involved in a grassroots activism organization that used popular education to move people to action. I loved the curriculum we designed and were teaching, but getting people in the room to learn what we were trying to teach was close to impossible in my small Texas city. I always felt like we were teaching the already converted and the power to change anything in a meaningful way would ultimately reside in our ability to speak to people who weren’t already in the room. Horton, Freire, and other critical pedaogues encouraged teachers to start where their students were and then help them get where they wanted to be. Starting where the students are in order to make learning meaningful is a major rationale behind student-focused pedagogy. A major purpose of this book is to help librarians practice CIL and in order to do that, they have to start where they are and build their practice to include CIL.

All of the librarians I spoke with talked about their inability to do anything too radical in their classrooms – one of my participants was actually leaving the profession for this very reason. I understand that feeling because I am a radical in my own mind, but my at work radicalism has to be moderated because over time, librarians have not managed to position themselves very well institutionally. I believe we can change that, but the change has to be thoughtful and we have to start where we are. I know there are plenty of radical activists that will call this a cop out. But I decided many years ago that I did not want the typical activist life for me or my children. I want to do good meaningful work, but I also want my children to live fairly unstructured lives with one parent at home. I am the breadwinner for my family of five and I work at an institution where it is much easier for faculty and students to take an ideological stance than for staff, including librarians. My work in this area has to be more stealthy and that was definitely what I heard from participants as well. So I think this book is radical in part because we are talking about trying to move a whole lot of disempowerd people to action. When we know that librarians are starting from a fairly disempowered place organizationally and their values have gotten confused over time, big change starts with small steps. Personally, I will just be thrilled if this book convinces more librarians that we are not and should not pretend to be neutral actors in our work.

But I also think the Freirian pedagogy is there, even though the radical politics are largely missing. This is where the practicality and professionalism of librarianship often conflicts with the value structure and political philosophy of librarians, especially teaching librarians. What you’ll find in this book is that many librarians are taking the radical step of trying to adopt Freire’s critical pedagogy for their teaching, but as one participant said it is just really really hard. Feminist critical educators like bell hooks, Jennifer Gore, Carmen Luke, and others speak to this difficulty and I think that is really the next step for CIL – to look at, work with, and respond to the critiques of critical pedagogy. Freire said we have to remake critical pedagogy for our situations and contexts and that is what the librarians in my book are trying to do.

Yes, that makes perfect sense. One thing I have wondered about in relation to that is how Freire translates into the affluent first world context. He was an educator in the third world, and his efforts to empower students had to do with their situation as members of an oppressed class. In what ways are his ideas about student empowerment and student perspectives relevant when you are talking about students who are privileged, like the students at your institution? When they question authority, is it the same thing?

I can’t imagine anything bringing home the importance of questioning authority like the current presidential election. As unfortunate and distasteful as the whole thing is, I’ve definitely thought this book came out at a good time because it points to how important it is for even privileged students to question and challenge authority. It also illustrates how the breakdown of old gatekeepers have really changed what and how issues are talked about. It has turned older notions of information literacy on their head. And that is where the importance of talking about power with privileged and oppressed students alike really comes in. It is no longer acceptable to teach library literacy like it is information literacy or to ignore the power structures behind information access. Students have to be able to understand and use sources outside of our expensive (and privileged) databases and they need to understand the power structures that put that info behind pay walls to begin with.

When I urge students to analyze and question information power structures in my classes, I am also asking students to consider where they are and where others are and have been. A major issue over the last couple of years in higher ed and at my institution involves creating inclusive communities. One of the things that always comes up in trainings and discussions is the importance of identifying and being mindful of your biases. That also happens to be one aspect of CIL. You need to understand where you stand in the discussion. Students have to ask themselves what their privilege is and how that influences their understanding. Half of our student body receives need based financial aid, but the other half have families that can afford to pay around $50,000 per year. When you have classrooms that include students from all places on the financial spectrum, it is really important for everyone in the room to be able to identify and name privilege and power.

In an oppressive system, you obviously end up with people that are born into one side of the equation or the other. It is easier to change the equation if both sides see how it does not add up. My mother has recently been really surprised and upset to discover that so many of the people in her life are racist. What brought that to light for her? Facebook. It has become harder for people to keep their biases to themselves. But the good news is that finding ways to uncover bias and inequities helps us all to get to a place where we can start to analyze and question them. One of the things we can learn from Freire is how to do that in a productive way. One of my favorite pieces of Freire’s work is his explanation of the complexity of dialogue. For him, dialogue is much more than just a discussion where everyone shares their truth. Rather, it is about taking those truths and using them to look deeper, analyze, and make change.

Okay, I appreciate what you are saying, but there is an odd dynamic in current US media and politics, which is that the authoritative voices like objectivity-minded journalists and fact-checkers, as well as establishment politicians, are under attack mainly from the Right. It is Donald Trump and his ilk who claim that Politifact is biased and that scientific claims are politically biased. People on the left, including radicals, tend to be more fact-oriented and science-oriented, and depend for the arguments they make on the possibility of claims to an independent objective reality, facts that everyone must accept and understand for their implications. How does that jibe with ideas in critical information literacy about questioning authoritative information? And how do you deal with right-wing students rejecting Politifact?

CIL and critical education theory do not just demand that we question authority, but also seek social justice. Justice can only be found by seeking evidence and facts. But beyond that, we also have values to guide us. Part of critical pedagogy is naming values. When working with problem-posing methods and dialogue, teachers should always encourage students to name the values that underlie the evidence, in addition to looking at how they mesh with their own values. To question does not necessarily mean to deny or even disprove. When we say to question, we mean to look at the whole picture with authenticity and hope with the goal of getting closer to social justice. I think Freire’s book titles alone display that approach: Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Pedagogy of Hope, Pedagogy of Freedom, Teachers as Cultural Workers, Education for Critical Consciousness,

The Right is doing exactly the opposite of looking at the big picture with authenticity and hope -they are focusing on pieces to obscure the whole and they are twisting the truth or outright lying to drive home political points. They lack important information literacy skills. They claim that the media, educators, and science are biased, but they use logically flawed or untruthful arguments. They bring up conspiracy theories for things like climate science because that works for them when actual facts would not. A student in a CIL class could not get away with this.

If you don’t trust the fact-checkers, you should check the facts. If a student disagrees with Politifact, they should fact check it. I actually did a little of that yesterday for my own enjoyment and would happily lead a student down that path. I might ask them to consider whether it is really the fact-checkers they don’t trust or if they don’t trust or want to believe facts, while also teaching them how to check the facts in question. Through this process, they may find that their favorite politicians often treat facts as though they are inconvenient or don’t mesh with how they have decided to interpret the world. But they could not do that with just a discussion or debate where I have my opinion and you have yours, but rather they would have to actually do some searching for facts. This is what Freire means when he says to structure the dialogue. How are you going to push students to ground themselves in their own experiences and think deeply while also considering others’ experiences, the evidence, and the overarching value structure you are working within? There are many levels of complexity there that go beyond an opinionated Twitter war.

There’s an example in my book of a librarian who had students research a fear that the media had perpetuated to try to find the science behind the fear. Basically, he wanted them to see that fears are often overblown by the media and scientific studies can be sensationalized. Unfortunately, almost all of the students found other newspaper articles on the fear rather than digging deeper to find the real science. This example shows that the layers of understanding are complex. I can see why the Right has such an easy time getting people to mistrust the media and I actually think that is an understandable impulse. But they stop there because it helps them meet their goal of obscuring and confusing in order to meet their political goals. With CIL, we teach students to take the next step and problematize, investigate, and dialogue about the issue, the evidence they’ve found, and the value structures they’ve uncovered.

I get what you’re saying, but I still feel like there is a tension involved in trying to empower students to question authority for themselves, and then at the same time exercising pedagogical authority in telling them the right and the wrong ways of doing that. Reed College, where you work, is a selective school, with students who bring their own intellectual motivation to the classroom. (Full disclosure: I know that because I was one of those students, a “Reedie,” for my first two years of college.) I’ve worked at other types of institutions though, where a lot of the students are just there because their families believe that college is the ticket to a middle class life, which is not their own background. Those students are more likely to feel alienated from the educational system and intellectual authorities in general. They might resent “elites” telling them what to think. This is the social position of typical Trump supporters, or so I have been reading. You probably don’t deal with a lot of them in your classrooms, but I wonder what you think about the difficulty of teaching students CIL when they are resistant to intellectual authority because of class dynamics?

I agree that there are students who resent elites telling them what to think. And they are right to resent that. I was poor when I started college and stayed that way until well into my first years as a librarian. My time in the middle class has been short so far. I personally felt disenfranchised for a very long time and I still have to stop myself from identifying as poor. My habit is always to go there, but doing so is not fair to people who are still in the middle of that struggle. I always think of the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn quote: “How can you expect a man who’s warm to understand a man who’s cold?” I was once cold, but now I’m warm. And so I can and should maintain my empathy, but alienation sets in when those of us who are living a comfortable life tell others that we have the answers for them or tell them they should think about things a certain way because we know best. This includes questioning students’ motivations for being there. Going to college to try to work your way up the economic ladder is a smart thing to do, and I enjoy working with students who are motivated in that way because I understand it and I respect the stake they have in the game. I also enjoy and feel privileged to work with so many students that are intellectually motivated the way Reed students are, in the same way that I felt privileged to work with the many intellectually motivated students at my alma mater, the University of North Texas. But regardless of their intellectual motivations, I definitely believe almost all students hope to be able to support themselves financially when they graduate and they expect their educations to help them do that, even if they come from more privileged backgrounds.

But the alienation issue is very real. Students who’ve attended public education in this country are likely to have seen how the education system is often set up to keep them in their place. They are not wrong to feel that way because that is how our public education system is set up. It is very hierarchical and racist, funding is far from equitable, and teachers are often encouraged to control their classrooms above all else. It is very steeped in maintaining the status quo. One of the most remarkable things I discovered when I moved to Reed was how focused on personal empowerment liberal arts colleges are. Students are encouraged to think they are very special for being there. They are told they can change the world. And they have a lot of resources to help them think of ways to do that, including hands-on and involved faculty and staff, funding for research trips and projects, planned activities meant to engage them in the larger community, volunteer and paid opportunities in schools, labs, and non-profits, and of course a wonderful library. This is great for these students and this type of education benefits all of society because students from liberal arts colleges go on to do amazing things, but what if we told all students from Head Start through college that they were special? And then actually gave them tools to bring their gifts out?

Critical information literacy can actually help with alienation because it helps students of all backgrounds identify and reflect on where they are on the power structure underlying information availability, access, and distribution. I have found in my experience that students are empowered by that discussion alone. Seeing where you are and how you fit in a larger social system is something people crave, but there are few opportunities to discuss and problematize it in a group of people with a variety of backgrounds. The social system underlying information is something they live in, but may have never been asked to really think about. I find that I don’t need to say much to get that type of conversation going, which means I do very little telling students what to think.

Inequity is one of the things critical pedagogues hope to confront and challenge. But the change we hope to see will not come from us. It only starts with us. One of the librarians I interviewed said that we just have to hope students take what we’ve presented in our sessions and turn it into real learning later. We don’t have the time or space to make real lasting learning happen in our classrooms as librarians – what we are doing is planting seeds. As a librarian, the truth is I don’t get to deal in-depth with issues like intellectual authority or even motivation for being in college. The best I can do is plant seeds that encourage students to question. If there are students that question the questioning, I am open to them doing that. To take it back to the student who challenges Politifact and authority in general, I would say “good, you should be doing that. If you’re not questioning, you’re being complacent.” But I would also tell them that their arguments will be better and stronger and will be more likely to line up with their own views if they dig deeper and make sure they know the truth. Finally, I would encourage them to be open to what they find and realize they are seeing it through their own filter. If you’re going to mistrust someone you see as an intellectual authority, the best tactic is to know their arguments well and then find the facts that either prove or disprove their position.

Thanks for that explanation. I think you present a good way of thinking about it. I’d like to switch gears a bit. I’m curious about how the interviews you conducted changed the way you think about CIL or surprised you in some way. Could you talk a bit about that?

One of the biggest surprises for me was to hear how hard it was for so many librarians to get to practice CIL. I’ve long struggled with the relatively low status of librarians in education. I see library work as the very center or cornerstone of education and just don’t get why we often have to fight so hard to have a voice or be allowed to use our expertise to improve the educational experience of students. But when you’re struggling with something that is as personal as your own teaching practice, it is easy to think you are just doing something wrong when you feel like you have to work so hard to turn your teaching into what you want it to be. So I guess I thought my own teaching struggles reflected a weakness in my practice and hearing from so many librarians that they were having the same struggle was enlightening and oddly empowering. It made me realize that the status and stereotyping issues really do impact librarians’ ability to develop our own authentic teaching practices. It was not just me feeling this way – it is a real thing!

Another thing that surprised me was how little faculty status seemed to influence this. I asked participants to talk about their thoughts about faculty status and if they believed it helped librarians who teach. I don’t talk about this much in the book because it was not something I felt like I got enough information on to find patterns that I felt comfortable making assertions about, but the conversations I had with participants made me suspect that faculty status is not terribly important when it comes to empowering librarian teaching. Librarians that had worked in both types of institutions (as I have) did not find that their faculty status did much beyond giving them opportunities to build relationships through committee work. While I think relationship building is one of the most important things we can do as librarians, teaching faculty often see early career committee work as a distraction from developing their teaching practices. So why do librarians feel so differently about the interplay of committee work and developing a teaching practice? This would be a great research topic for someone interested in CIL!

Now that the book is complete and out in the world, what do you think remains to be said, by another work perhaps? Is there anything you regret you didn’t have a chance to cover, or would cover differently now?

There are so many aspects of CIL that still need to be covered! We need some actual classroom studies that look at how critical pedagogy works in our classrooms. We also have a lot of theoretical work still to do. Our theory is behind other educators so we need to take the time to consider what other educators and social scientists have been up to over the past couple of decades, while continuing to work on figuring out where librarianship and information literacy fit in that conversation. We also need to seek wider audiences for our information literacy imperative. You really make the case for this in your previous questions. There is a lot of evidence right now that society has to start paying attention to the importance of learning to understand and evaluate information. Information literacy is so much more than an academic skill and it is really very crucial for democracy. I would like to write something on the importance of CIL for a general audience.

Researching and writing this book really got me thinking about the positioning of librarians in education and in what ways our standing is related to being a historically women’s profession and librarianship’s bizarre stance on neutrality. The institutional barriers and professional philosophies that get in the way of librarians being able to teach CIL also lead to librarian disenfranchisement and burnout and limits our potential to positively impact students’ lives. This summer, I’ve returned to some previous research and done some new work to prepare a book proposal for you on these intersections. So much of the work that has been done on this has focused on women in public librarianship, but not as much has been done on women in academic libraries and even less on women librarians in K-12. Libraries were the most important part of building the first American colleges. Colleges with libraries made it and those without did not have a good chance. Likewise, the first academic librarians were often chosen from the best of the lecturers. How did we move from librarians holding a position of importance to becoming so disregarded intellectually? Somehow along the way, our management and clerical skills became what we are known for, rather than our intellectual skills. Everyone who knows several librarians knows this is crazy because the breadth of most librarians’ knowledge along with our capacity to problem solve, adapt to change, understand many disciplines and the publishing industry, and commitment to students should make our importance to education indisputable. Yet, many people don’t see our value and even write long, infuriating, ill-informed pieces stating that our profession is approaching its death. I want to investigate the history that led us to this point with the hopes that librarians will be empowered to reclaim our profession.

That’s an important topic, and it sounds like an ambitious project. I look forward to seeing the proposal. Thanks for doing this interview! I think it was enlightening. Best of luck with the book! I hope everyone reads it.

Thanks so much for the opportunity to talk a little about the book and CIL. I am excited to see where librarians take information literacy next. We still have work to do, but I have been really delighted to see how much critical engagement and reflection on information literacy has gained traction in recent years. It makes me feel really hopeful about the future of our profession.

[1] Maria T. Accardi, Emily Drabinski, and Alana Kumbier, eds., Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods (Duluth, MN: Library Juice Press, 2010), xiii.

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August 4, 2016

Positions open on SRRT Action Council

Message from Diedre Conkling…

Believe it or not it is now time to start thinking about whether or not you would like to run for a position on SRRT Action Council. The terms are 3 year terms so would be from summer 2017 through summer 2020.

For information about SRRT Action Council just go to There are 4 terms expiring, those of Laura Koltutsky, Charles Kratz, Nikki Winslow and me.

To run for a position you need to fill out the form at The more complete the information you provide the better it is for all of us when we are voting.

All candidates running for round table positions must complete the biographical information form no later than 11:59 pm CST on January 26, 2017, after which point the form will go down and new candidates will not be accepted for the ballot.

Here are the instructions for candidates to register on the system:

1.) You will see a Self-Register link on the first page within the bolded text at the top of the page.

2.) Click on the Register link to fill out the registration information and to set your passcode for the Nominee/Candidate process.

3.) Once in the Nomination site you will need to select your ballot. Once you have made your selection, click on “GO”.

4.) Next you will select the office you wish to run for and then click on “GO”.

5.) The first entry, Display Name, is how you would like your name displayed on the ballot. Once you have filled in your name, click on “Next”.

6.) When you go to the page with all of the question/categories to fill in, you will notice the word count monitor. Once you reach the limit, the word count monitor turns RED. Please remember to save your work often.

7.) If you try and submit your work with one or more required questions/categories not completed properly, the system will not let you submit. If this is the case, you will notice the word “Required” by each required category or field that was missed.

8.) If you hit logout, the page will turn grey, provide a notification that your work must be saved before logging out.

9.) When you hit finish you will be able to view your work.

10.) Once you have reviewed your work, if you would like to make any changes, click the “Previous” button and if what you have entered meets with your approval, please hit the “Submit” button and then the “Finish” button.

11.) If at any time during the process, you run into technical difficulties or have a question, please click on the “Support” button located at the bottom of the page. Individuals at ALA cannot troubleshoot problems with the form.

Candidates must click the SUBMIT button, and then the FINISH button to successfully submit their info. Candidates who do not complete their bio form by January 26 will not be included on the ballot. Please let me know if there are any questions or concerns with use of the form.

All candidates must be a current member of the roundtable (ALA/SRRT) as of January 31, 2017 in order to stand for election. Those who are not members of the roundtable by that date will be removed from the ballot, including write-in candidates.

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August 3, 2016

World Libraries (CFP)

World Libraries — a peer-reviewed, open access LIS journal published by the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois — invites submissions on library and information topics of interest to an international audience.

If libraries, museums and archives are windows to the world, it follows that those working in them must also be internationally engaged, sharing ideas across borders, profiting from the successes and discoveries of farflung colleagues, and strengthening alliances built upon shared philosophies.

World Libraries is a cooperative, collaborative project devoted to the free and unfettered sharing of knowledge. Working from the premise that librarianship has always had and should always have an international scope — and that we ignore ideas and neglect allies at our own peril — we invite LIS professionals and fellow travelers to engage in an ongoing conversation.

Topics may include but are not limited to:
– Library and information trends, including the maker movement, sharing economy, gamification, resilience, connected learning, haptic technology, linked data and elder services
– Disaster preparation and recovery, including crisis informatics
– Preservation and conservation, including the impact of global climate change
– Scholarly communication, including libraries as publishers and information creators
– International dialogue on LIS topics, including organizations such as IFLA and the International Librarians Network
– The impact of library and information services on political discourse and activity, socio-economic trends, and quality of life
– Marketing and advocacy, including case studies of approaches and campaigns
– Library design and innovative use
– The for-profit library sector and economic globalization
– Comparative librarianship, including postcolonial studies
– Information services and minority groups, including immigrant communities, indigenous people and LGBTQ+ people
– Literacy, including information and artifactual literacy
– Demonstrating the value of library and information services
– Access to information and intellectual freedom
– The future of library and information services
– Leaders or influential figures in the library and information sector
– And library and information topics in any country or region, particularly emerging countries and regions

Submissions may take the form of research papers, interviews, reportage and correspondence, opinion pieces, talks and lectures, roundtables, multimedia storytelling, and product and media reviews (including books, audio-visual works and electronic resources). Other types of submissions are welcome and will be given due consideration by our editorial team. Accepted research papers are evaluated by at least two peer reviewers.

World Libraries is published in English, but non-English content is welcome and translation assistance may be available.

Authors whose works are published in World Libraries are given the option of retaining the rights to their works. They may retain copyright or select a Creative Commons license that best suits their needs. More information will be provided upon acceptance of a submission.

For more information about World Libraries and to make a submission, visit

Questions? Please contact World Libraries editor Scott Shoger at

More about World Libraries

World Libraries is a project of the faculty, staff and students of Dominican University Graduate School of Library and Information Science; an advisory board of library and information professionals from around the world; and an ever-changing cast of contributors and readers. It was established in 1990 under the title Third World Libraries.

Past contributors and editors include Marta Terry González, Loriene Roy, Ken Haycock, Sara Paretsky, Roderick Cave, D. J. Foskett, Norman Horrocks, Carlos Victor Penna, Josefa Emilia Sabor, Peter Havard-Williams, Herbert S. White, Jeanne Drewes, Lars-Anders Baer, Peggy Sullivan, Robert P. Doyle, Michael E. D. Koenig and John W. Berry.

Themed issues have focused on indigenous library services, Latin American librarianship, the Center for Research Libraries and information services in Cuba, Nigeria and Poland. The entire run of the journal is available at

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July 27, 2016

Class and Librarianship: Essays at the Intersection of Information, Labor and Capital

Editors: Erik Estep and Nathaniel Enright
Price: $28.00
Published: July 2016
ISBN: 978-1-936117-74-1
Printed on acid-free paper
186 pages

The current crisis of capitalism has led to the renewed interest in Marxism and its core categories of analysis such as class and exploitation. In our own discipline — Library and Information Science — voices and ideas that have long been confined to the critical margins have been given buoyancy as forms of critique have gained traction. This volume allows for a fresh look at at the interaction of information, labor, capital, class, and librarianship.

Now available on

Table of Contents


The Academic Library as Crypto-Temple: A Marxian Analysis, by Stephen Bales

Social Reproduction in the Early American Public Library: Exploring the Connections Between Capital and Gender, by Alexandra Carruthers

From Steam Engines to Search Engines: Class Struggle in the Information Economy, by Amanda Bird and Braden Cannon

Working with Information: Some Initial Enquiries, by Steve Wright

Crisis Talk, by Toni Samek

Poverty and the Public Library: How Canadian Public Libraries are Serving the Economically Challenged, by Peggy McEachron and Sarah Barriage

Lost in the Gaps: The Plight of the Pro Se Patron, by Carey Sias

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July 21, 2016

Interview with Elaine Harger, PLG co-founder

In the past couple of years, social justice issues in librarianship have come to the fore, led by the #critlib conversations on Twitter. I have felt that much of this new discussion could benefit from greater awareness of work that has gone on in the past in relation to social justice and libraries, and continuing efforts of some of these older groups and older generations. Specifically, I think The Progressive Librarians Guild (PLG) and ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) deserve greater recognition in the conversations that are happening now, and I think it is worth discussing their contributions, as well as some of the differences with newer formations. I think this discussion could potentially give food for thought to activist librarians of all generations, in light of changing political priorities, strategies, and social and political contexts. As a way to start this discussion, I am interviewing one of the founders of the Progressive Librarians Guild, Elaine Harger.

Elaine Harger is the librarian at Washington Middle School in Seattle, and is the author of a book recently published by McFarland & Company entitled Which Side Are You On? Seven Social Responsibility Debates in American Librarianship, 1990-2015. She is one of the co-founders of the Progressive Librarians Guild, the managing editor of its journal Progressive Librarian, and had been very active in the American Library Association until 2009, when she gave up air travel to reduce her personal CO2 footprint. As a librarian she has served a wide range of library users, from kindergarten through graduate school. She’s been a union activist, and worked her way into librarianship after a series of library jobs as a student, clerical worker, and paraprofessional.

Elaine, thanks for agreeing to do this interview.

I’m happy to have the invitation Rory. Now more than ever we need librarians concerned about social justice to come together.

I’d like to start by asking you to talk a bit about what was going on when you founded PLG, why you felt it was needed, and why it took the form that it did?

At the 1989 annual American Library Association (ALA) conference in Dallas, Texas, Mark Rosenzweig and I, both recent graduates of Columbia School of Library Services, attended a meeting of the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) where a discussion was held regarding SRRT’s seeming inability to address some of the big issues then confronting the profession. SRRT members Sandy Berman and Elliott Shore presented a statement urging SRRT to consider expanding its focus beyond the work of individual task forces in order to challenge the growing use of business models in library administration, privatization, and concerns that new information technologies threatened to lead to deskilling and deprofessionalization of the work of librarians.

After returning to New York City from the conference, Mark and I continued to think and talk about what we’d learned, and thought it would be a good idea to bring together librarians in the northeast for further conversation. The full story of PLG can be found in Al Kagan’s excellent book Progressive Library Organizations: A Worldwide History (McFarland, 2015), and five years ago I published an article on PLG in issue 34/35 of Progressive Librarian (p.58-71) that readers might find of interest for details about our history.

In a nutshell, however, PLG was needed because no other group in librarianship was taking a critical and activist stance toward “big picture” issues. SRRT task forces were doing excellent work, but they all focused on single issues — human rights, library unions, LGBT, feminism, peace, and others. Members of PLG believed, as Mark stated in a 1997 letter in the SRRT Newsletter that librarianship needed “a global vision of social librarianship and cultural democracy” something SRRT did not provide at the time.

As for the form PLG took, we became an affiliate of SRRT in order to operate both within and outside ALA. This allowed PLG to have a presence at ALA midwinter meetings and annual conferences by holding meetings, sponsoring programs, having a presence on the exhibit floor, but also gave us freedom from ALA’s heavy bureaucracy to issue statements, publish an independent journal, participate in conferences of leftist organizations, march in rallies. This was the best of both worlds — affiliation and independence.

As for organizational structure, it evolved out of the hum-drum of managing memberships and subscriptions and also out of a political sensibility (maybe with anarchist tinges) opposed to the bureaucratic trappings of bylaws, officers, elections, and cumbersome relationships with the Internal Revenue Service. We needed a bank account and a tax ID number, both easily available to small club-like groups. PLG is run solely by volunteers. Membership dues pay for the publication of the journal. We have always operated at a deficit (except for a period in which the Alternatives Library in Ithaca NY printed the journal) with editors of the journal sometimes helping to pay for printing and mailing costs, and various members (most recently David Lesniaski of St. Catherine’s LIS in Minnesota) taking on the tasks of maintaining membership lists, handling finances, and mailing the journal.

The PLG Coordinating Committee was established in 2002 to bring more people into decision-making for the organization. Previously all the work had fallen to editors of the journal, an arrangement that was neither sustainable nor organizationally healthy.

Well, thanks for that outline of PLG and its history. You’ve reminded me of why I got involved in PLG in the late 90s and was so inspired by it. Two things strike me about this in the current context. The first is that the issues that PLG has been concerned with are not prominent issues in the current discussion in the #critlib community, and I think this reflects differences in the younger generation’s politics more broadly. I realize this is oversimplifying, but PLG’s priorities could be described as socialist, and the concerns of #critlib are more related to the politics of identity. There is plenty of overlap; in #critlib there is often reference to neoliberalism, and plenty of reference to Paolo Freire, who was a marxist. But the priorities are different, and the theoretical background that people refer to in the group is different. And #critlib is more concerned with theory in general it seems, as there is often discussion about poststructuralist critical theory. So there is that difference in terms of the priorities and focus. The other thing that strikes me is that at that time, in the early 90s, you felt that the natural thing to do was to start an organization, and it came out of a context of being involved with another organization. I understand what you say about the ethos being anti-bureaucratic. At the time that you founded PLG, the logical way to network with people was to form some kind of organization, but that is no longer true. People participating in #critlib generally don’t feel the need to have a formal organization at all, especially not one that collects dues. I think many younger people today would question what the point is of being involved in an organization at all. Given all of that, I wonder what you would like to say to younger people, to speak to the importance of the work that PLG is doing or has done, and the mode of organization for doing it. I’d also like to ask if in retrospect, PLG could have been more open to being reshaped and redirected by younger people who had different politics?

I’m quite interested in how you’ve described the differences between these two generations of social justice-minded librarians. Not being a theoretician, rather a practicing librarian who uses theory to inform my practice and my activism, I don’t feel I can say too much except in a general fashion. You mention a few differences between the thinking and politics of librarians who identify with either PLG or #critlib. I’ve been meeting with several #critlib-identified librarians here in Seattle this past year and find that there aren’t many substantial philosophical or political differences, but I do think there is something accurate in your assessment. Let me take one point at a time and then add what I believe is a very important difference that PLG has been missing, and which addresses your final question.

First, I’d like to share a quote from a document considered foundational to the concepts of identity politics and intersectionality — the Combahee River Collective Statement of April 1977. The Combahee River Collective was a group of radical, black, lesbian feminists.

We realize that the liberation of all oppressed peoples necessitates the destruction of the political-economic systems of capitalism and imperialism as well as patriarchy. We are socialists because we believe that work must be organized for the collective benefit of those who do the work and create the products, and not for the profit of the bosses. Material resources must be equally distributed among those who create these resources. We are not convinced, however, that a socialist revolution that is not also a feminist and anti-racist revolution will guarantee our liberation…. Although we are in essential agreement with Marx’s theory as it applied to the very specific economic relationships he analyzed, we know that his analysis must be extended further in order for us to understand our specific economic situation as Black women.

…In the practice of our politics we do not believe that the end always justifies the means. Many reactionary and destructive acts have been done in the name of achieving “correct” political goals. As feminists we do not want to mess over people in the name of politics. We believe in collective process and a nonhierarchical distribution of power within our own group and in our vision of a revolutionary society.

Although this document played no role in the establishment of PLG, I believe it describes what I consider the political spirit of PLG. Yes, PLG is (loosely speaking) socialist, and we also from the very beginning recognized that the goal of socialism could never be reached without being informed by the knowledge and experience of people who had often been “invisible” to earlier socialist theorists. Because of our place on the timeline of history and our identification with various strands of leftist politics, we knew that efforts toward liberation had to be informed by women, people of color, LGBT members, and others who were oppressed on several fronts. That was a given.

We chose to call our group of radical, leftist, anti-establishment librarians “progressive” because the term embraced a broad spectrum of political strands. We weren’t Maoist or Trotskyist or anarchist or communist or liberation theologists, and although members might identify personally as such none of those groupings could describe all of us. The word “progressive” also hearkened back in history to the progressive movement of the early 20th century (not to say that the Progressive Era was free of oppressive elements).

As far as theoretical differences are concerned, it’s important to point out that theories evolve and have roots in the work of earlier thinkers. The term intersectionality, for instance, was coined in 1989 when PLG was first getting started. I know I had never heard, much less used, that term back then, but the underlying concept was quite familiar as noted above. Another example, in Progressive Librarian we’ve published several articles critical of post-modernism. I don’t know what #critlib librarians think of post-modernism, perhaps it is so “old school” as to receive no attention from the younger generation, but we saw that post-modern theory was very negatively impacting thinking in the profession and so felt critiques must be made.

Regarding the politics of PLG and #critlib, I’d say that the main difference might be in what constitutes the ultimate goal of those politics. Is the goal primarily to develop one’s practice as a librarian or to change unjust social structures, or both? Developing one’s practice might not require organization, but the task of changing social structures cannot happen without organization. Yes, protest might be triggered via Twitter, but as we’ve seen with the various outcomes of Arab Spring, lasting change requires a level of organization and action well beyond street activism.

The social, political, economic, cultural structures that maintain oppression are powerfully organized. And all successful movements for social change have been powerfully organized. So I don’t see how social justice-minded librarians can impact our profession and communities without also being organized.

As for dues, while it is true that no one has to pay dues to participate in #critlib, there are costs involved — either individuals or institutions pay for access to the internet, and if workshops or un/conferences are held either donations or volunteer time or in-kind contributions are solicited. PLG requires membership dues to pay for the printing and mailing of Progressive Librarian. Some have argued that the journal should just be published electronically in order to do away with the necessity of dues. Editors of the journal have discussed this several times, always deciding that we want to maintain a print publication. The payment of membership dues is an act of solidarity whether tithing to one’s spiritual community, joining a political party, club, union, professional association. Paying $25 per year to PLG is a message that says, “I value what PLG is and does and want to make a contribution to the cause from my hard earned income.” Many people who don’t pay dues benefit from the work of an organization, but those who do pay are actual contributors — and that act of solidarity is powerful in many ways.

You state that PLG’s concerns are not “prominent issues” within #critlib. Because PLG’s journal covers such a wide variety of issues, I’m not sure which are not of interest to #critlib, but my guess if that you might be referring to our ongoing critiques of information technologies — the ubiquitous gadgets of 21st century existence. For the moment, I’d encourage readers to consider the following:

1. Take a look at this 8-minute video and ask “What does this mean in terms of librarianship today?”
2. Consider that wars are fought over who controls the coltan mines in the Congo, and ask what sort of privilege benefits from the misery of that region.
3. Are there any negative impacts of technology in the library workplace? In your own job? In the job you wish you had? Ever experience “speed up”? Doing the work of two or three people?
4. What is your personal relationship with technological devices? Does digital addiction enter into that relationship?
5. Are 3-D printers really important in libraries, or have they just been successfully marketed by an industry that, having saturated the market with regular printers, simply needs something new to produce and sell and profit from?

There is so much critical work librarians could be doing regarding information technologies.

Lastly, I have noticed an element in #critlib gatherings that has largely been missing from PLG — a manner of relating to one another that is more open, more welcoming, and more respectful of differences. It seems to me to be a sensitivity to the establishment of relationships and a communication style that is informed by an understanding of white (and other) privilege. The #critlib guys actually listen attentively when others speak, they are not the experts who suck all the airtime (and spirit) out of the room. There seems to be a level of humility and recognition that other voices are needed and must be considered, and that differences in communication styles require different needs. Time is given to everyone, a quiet moment is allowed to give a speaker time to gather their thoughts, speakers are not “pounced on” by those with louder voices, sarcasm is understood to be NOT universal and so not used, conscious efforts are made to make everyone comfortable in gatherings and conversations. No one voice is prominent. That is something PLG has learned from the younger generation, and this is no small matter. It must be said, however, that ardent, confrontational, critically informed communication styles have their place too. To quote Frederick Douglass, “Power concedes nothing without a demand” and demands usually require forcefulness. The important thing is to know when a particular style is useful and when it isn’t.

Elaine, thanks for that explanation of what PLG is about. I think it is very enlightening, and it shows a seriousness about political action that many perhaps do not realize is a part of PLG. I have a follow-up question. The first is to elaborate on an earlier question. You talked about something that I observed at PLG meetings as well, which was a certain macho attitude and lack of openness to younger people or people who came in with a different set of assumptions about what PLG should be doing, resulting in people being “shut down.” I think that explains how PLG could have been more open to new people at an affective level. But I want to ask about that issue in terms of the structure of PLG as well, and the way PLG decided, at least from the start, to be a structureless organization, and the structure it chose to have once the guidelines were created. I want to ask this in reference to Jo Freeman’s famous piece, “The Tyranny of Structurelessness.” I always felt that the reason new people were not replacing the original founders of PLG and taking it in new directions was as much because the structure prevented it as it was because people were less welcoming than they might have been. For the first twelve years, as an organization it was equivalent to a small, informal group doing the work and making the decisions, and dues paying members existing to offer their tacit support. When the guidelines were created, a structure was introduced that allowed for people to be voted onto the coordinating committee. But a near majority of the possible seats on the coordinating committee would be held by the members of the editorial board of the journal, which was roughly equivalent to the original small informal group, which all but guaranteed that they would stay in control. My question about this is, first, is any of that incorrect in your view, and secondly do you think it prevented PLG from being open to new people coming in to take it in new directions?

Before answering these questions, I want to clarify something. PLG has never made, or even attempted, a statement describing an organizational political ideology, and we’ve never affiliated with any political groups. The most overtly political thing we ever did was invite native activist Winona LaDuke to speak at ALA when she was vice presidential candidate for the Green Party. PLG’s politics are expressed via the work we do within librarianship, within the contexts in which individual PLG members are active, and in the statements and actions taken under the banner of PLG. Again, readers are referred to Al Kagan’s book for details.

In regard to your two questions concerning the affective environment of PLG meetings and our structure, and the impact of both in attracting the new generation of librarians, I think this discussion can be made constructive by recognizing that the dynamic is not so simple as you describe it.

First, PLG meetings on a national level take place at the midwinter and annual ALA conferences. I have only attended 3 of these meetings in the last five years, so can’t speak to the dynamics of meetings in recent years. That said, my observations, concerns, and attempts to change those dynamics in the past has led me to conclude that interpersonal behavior was only one component of the problem. Limitations of time, plus an agenda that usually covered both PLG business and ALA activities (program planning and resolutions mainly), and the nature of ALA conferences with many attendees on tight schedules, did not foster an environment that was welcoming to anyone new to either PLG or ALA. There was a period of time, however, when two PLG members (Georgie Donovan and Lauren Ray) had the idea to facilitate a discussion about an issue of interest for the first half of the meetings as a means to get everyone who attended involved in conversation. Those were my favorite meetings and the practice was used for a couple years.

Second, I hesitate to use the term “macho” to characterize the behavior that “shut down” any (and certainly not all) newcomers. Rather, an unbridled sense that one’s expertise is paramount, which is a culturally engrained attitude, often not subject to reflection, and a manifestation of white privilege. It pops up all the time even where one might least expect it. Recently, someone demanded on the SRRT listserv to know what qualified a published librarian to edit a book on gender studies and praxis. This is an example of behavior that can have a “chilling” effect on others. It has been present at PLG meetings, I imagine it’s made an occasional appearance at #critlib gatherings also. But, as I mentioned above, I have noticed an attentiveness to the problem among the new generation of librarians that hasn’t been as fully attended to within my own generation. That said, awareness can always be developed, behaviors can change — at any age!

As for the question of PLG’s structure, readers can take a look at the guidelines, adopted in 2002 and revised a couple times. They need further revision to reflect the fact that over the past several years, some of the editors of the journal have chosen not to also serve on the Coordinating Committee, so the determination of the size of the CC is no longer correct.

I’d not read Jo Freeman’s “The Tyranny of Structurelessness” until you brought it to my attention, and have found it quite interesting and an accurate reflection of what I’ve experienced and observed about group dynamics over the years. Reading it brought to mind the recent vote by PLG members in Edmonton, Alberta, to disaffiliate with PLG. We’ve no idea if the decision was made by a small number (an elite?) who drafted the statement and voted, or if the vote represented the thinking of a large number of members (although I’ve no idea how many members the chapter had, could have been 5, 15, 50…). I use this example to make what I think is an important point, one that Freeman also makes when describing challenges to one informal structure/group/elite by another. She states, “[the group in charge] would have to become ‘public,’ and this possibility is fraught with many dangerous implications.” The “dangerous implications” being the revelation of exactly who is in charge — knowledge that threatens the power of informal elites.

It seems to me that what is most important in an organization is transparency. For whatever structural and governance problems PLG has, at least anyone who wants can easily find out who is on the Coordinating Committee. We are not anonymous. If someone wishes to complain about something done in the name of PLG, they know who to contact, and our guidelines do contain a process for rank-and-file member input. Can the guidelines be better? Probably, but at least we have a known structure and process.

While it is very easy to find fault in the details of any given organizational structure, what interests me most about the question is how, at this point in time, does the progressive, radical, critical, leftist library community work together to assist one another and our communities at a time of increasing political and climate crisis (which I personally think needs to be moved to the front of our agenda, along with racism). A couple days ago I received an email from Fred Stoss, a longtime PLG member who wrote:

It is hard to believe that the very first ALA program on climate change was at the 1995 Annual Meeting in Chicago at the very beginning of a massive heat wave that would go on to kill more than 1500 people in Chicago and Milwaukee (most old, respiratory-compromised, over weight poor people). Hundreds were buried in a mass grave, never having been identified, claimed or reported missing. Many died on Chicago’s South Side when the power went off due to voltage drains and they had no means to get out of their upper floor apartments (elevators were inoperable and they physically could not use the stairs), had no water and no means to keep themselves cool. Chicago passed an ordinance shortly after that require stores to remain open as harbors of refuge from the extreme heat.

Twenty-one years ago PLG and SRRT activists were working to bring climate change to the attention of ALA members. But knowledge, information, and education are no longer enough. Librarians need to be thinking of and working within our communities on action in regard to climate change. What Fred describes above is the future, plus floods, storms, fires, social tension.

Tomorrow night (July 21st) I’m joining other librarians for a Black Lives Matter demo here in Seattle. Temperatures and tempers are getting hotter, and there is work for librarians everywhere to provide harbors of refuge, spaces for dialogue. Librarians who recognize the political nature of our profession, who reject the notion of neutrality, are needed now more than ever — as individuals and as organizations. So, my question is: How can we unite in order to be strong with those we serve, as well as with one another?

Elaine, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about PLG. I think what you’ve said is very helpful in clarifying what PLG is about. I hope that it will attract new people into the organization.

I appreciate the opportunity, Rory. Your contributions to librarianship and to PLG have been considerable and I’ve no doubt will continue to be. Readers of your blog might not be aware that you and I have a longstanding, sometimes contentious, relationship. You put up PLG’s first website, got San Jose to sponsor the PLG listserv, you’ve been an editor of Progressive Librarian, a member of the Coordinating Committee, and we’ve spent countless hours at ALA dealing with all kinds of issues. Trust was broken, but now we are taking steps toward healing that break. Neither of us is perfect, neither of us has all the answers, both of us have the capacity to change. You keep an eye on my progress, and I’ll keep an eye on yours, okay? Let’s see where we are a year from now.

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July 19, 2016

New: Critical Information Literacy: Foundations, Inspiration, and Ideas

Author: Annie Downey
Price: $28.00
Published: July 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63400-024-6
Printed on acid-free paper
204 pages

Academic librarians are exploring critical information literacy (CIL) in ever increasing numbers. While a smattering of journal articles and a small number of books have been published on the topic, the conversation around CIL has mostly taken place online, at conferences, in individual libraries, and in personal dialogues. This book explores that conversation and provides a snapshot of the current state of CIL as it is enacted and understood by academic librarians. It introduces the ideas and concepts behind CIL and helps librarians make more informed decisions about how to design, teach, and implement programs. It also informs library science scholars and policy makers in terms of knowing how CIL is being taught and supported at the institutional level.

This book grew out of the author’s dissertation research, which was a qualitative study investigating the institutional support, nonsupport, and barriers to CIL programs and the effectiveness of experiential critical pedagogy for information literacy learning as taught and studied by 19 CIL librarians and scholars. Experiential education served as the broad theoretical framework for the study, which stems from the tradition of critical theory, and used the work of two major experiential learning theorists and theories specifically: Paulo Freire and critical pedagogy and Jack Mezirow and transformative learning. Mezirow and Freire focused their work on adult education and grounded their approaches in critical theory and focused on power relationships, reflection, and the emancipatory potential of education.

Each chapter expands on the themes discussed or illustrated by the study participants, to include how and where librarians learn about CIL; the three major critical teaching methods critical librarians employ, including student-centered approaches, discussion and dialogue, and problem-posing methods; the struggle between using critical teaching methods and incorporating critical content; the argument for teaching within the broader context of academic disciplines and the crucial importance of strong relationships with faculty; support for CIL at the institutional level; and the role of professional identity and the culture of librarians and librarianship in CIL teaching and thought.

Annie Downey has written and presented on user studies, information literacy, K-20 library instruction, assessment, and academic library administration. Her current research interests include critical information literacy, service design in libraries, women in librarianship, and the student research process. She has an MLS and a PhD in Higher Education from the University of North Texas and is currently the Director of Research Services at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

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July 14, 2016

Beta Phi Mu Announces 2016 Scholarship Winners

Beta Phi Mu, the International Library and Information Studies Honor Society, announced the 2016 scholarship and award winners at their annual business meeting and member reception. This event was held on Saturday, June 24th, in conjunction with the American Libraries Association Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL.

The Eugene Garfield Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships are $3,000 awards intended to support doctoral students who are working on their dissertations in library and information science and related fields. The 2016 winners are:

• Sarah Buchanan, University of Texas, “A Provenance Research Study of Archaeological Curation”
• Rachel Clarke, University of Washington, “It’s Not Rocket Library Science: Design Epistemology and American Librarianship”
• Wei Jeng, University of Pittsburgh, “Factors Influencing Qualitative Data-Sharing Practices in Social Sciences”
• Jinseok Kim, University of Illinois, “The Impact of Author Name Disambiguation on Knowledge Discovery from Big Scholarly Data”
• Robert Montoya, University of California, Los Angeles, “Articulating Composite Taxonomies: Epistemology and the Global Unification of Biodiversity Databases”
• Min Sook Park, Florida State University, “Exploring Social Semantic Relationships in Knowledge Representation in Health through Mining Unstructured Textual Data on Social Media”

Winners of the Sarah Rebecca Reed Scholarship for beginning library and information science students are Jennifer Dixon, studying at Pratt Institute, and Ayoola White, studying at Simmons College. The winner of the Blanche E. Woolls Scholarship for School Library Media Service, for a beginning library and information science student with an interest in school media librarianship, is Emily Fischer, studying at the University of Iowa. Each scholarship provides $2,250 of support to its recipients.

The $1,750 Harold Lancour Scholarship for Foreign Study was awarded to Natalie Baur, to help underwrite her work with a digital cultural heritage archive in Ecuador. The Archivo Cultural de Cañar is a digital archive intended to help preserve and provide access to the rich cultural heritage of the town of Cañar and the Cañari indigenous nation. Natalie holds an M.L.S. degree from the University of Maryland, with a concentration in Archives, Records, and Information Management.

The winner of the Frank B. Sessa Scholarship for the Continuing Professional Education of a Beta Phi Mu Member is Alyson Gamble, a member of Beta Zeta chapter at Louisiana State University. Currently working as a science librarian at the New College of Florida, she plans to obtain a Council of Science Editors (CSE) Publication Certificate. This certificate program requires CSE members to attend two conferences, three webinars, and two short courses before creating and presenting a research project in the form of a poster or published article. This scholarship provides $1,500 worth of support.

Beta Phi Mu was established in 1948 to recognize and encourage scholastic achievement among library and information studies students. It seeks to support the values of scholarship, leadership, and service within the library and information science profession. Beta Phi Mu is an affiliate organization of the American Library Association and is a certified member of the Association of College Honor Societies.

For more information, contact Alison Lewis, or 215-895-5959.

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July 5, 2016

CFP for a new journal: Libraries: Culture, History, and Society

From Bernadette Lear and Eric Novotny:


Libraries: Culture, History, and Society

We are delighted to announce that Libraries: Culture, History, and Society is now accepting submissions for our premiere issue to be published in Spring 2017.

A semiannual peer-reviewed publication from the Library History Round Table of the American Library Association and the Penn State University Press, LCHS will be available in print and online via JSTOR and Project Muse.

The only journal in the United States devoted to library history, LCHS positions library history as its own field of scholarship, while promoting innovative cross-disciplinary research on libraries’ relationships with their unique environments. LCHS brings together scholars from many disciplines to examine the history of libraries as institutions, collections, and services, as well as the experiences of library workers and users. There are no limits of time and space, and libraries of every type are included (private, public, corporate, and academic libraries, special collections and manuscripts). In addition to Library Science, the journal welcomes contributors from History, English, Literary Studies, Sociology, Education, Gender/Women’s Studies, Race/Ethnic Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Architecture, Anthropology, Geography, Economics, and other disciplines.

Submissions for volume 1, issue 1, are due August 29, 2016.

Manuscripts may be submitted electronically through LCHS’s Editorial Manager system at They must also conform to the instructions for authors at

We are excited to see this journal become a reality and welcome your thoughts (and submissions!) as we create a new platform for studying libraries within their broader humanistic and social contexts.

For further questions, please contact the editors:
Bernadette Lear,
Eric Novotny,

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