May 26, 2015

Interview with Joachim Schöpfel, author of Learning from the BRICS: Open Access to Scientific Information in Emerging Countries

Joachim Schöpfel is lecturer of Library and Information Sciences at the University of Lille 3 (France), director of the French Digitization Centre for PhD theses (ANRT) and member of the GERiiCO research laboratory. He teaches on LIS topics, including intellectual property. His research interests are scientific information and communication, especially open access and grey literature. Litwin Books recently published his book, Learning from the BRICS: Open Access to Scientific Information in Emerging Countries. Joachim agreed to be interviewed here about it.

Joachim, thank you for agreeing to do this interview. I’d like to start by asking you to tell readers a bit about yourself and what got you interested in the topic of this book.

After a PhD in Psychology at the University of Hamburg (Germany), I have been working for nearly 20 years in the French public information industry before returning to academic life. As an author and information manager, I have always been interested in open access as a set of tools and services designed to facilitate scientific communication. Most of my publications are freely available on the French open repository HAL. Also, I am interested in the development of the open access movement, in France and Germany and other European countries, but also in other regions of the world. Because of their economic and demographic dynamics, the BRICS countries play a particular role in global policies, may it be security, public health, ecology, innovation, research or education. This was the reason why a couple of years ago I became interested in open access initiatives and projects in these countries.

For readers’ info, the BRICS countries are the “emerging” economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. What are some of the basic differences regarding the open access movement in those countries, versus the U.S. and Europe?

Perhaps the most important difference is that the scientific output of the BRICS countries has largely been neglected and underrepresented by the international databases and catalogs; and partly still is. Language, culture, politics – all this may explain the underrepresentation but today they want to be visible and have impact on the global landscape of scientific research.

Another difference is that they had and partly still have more problems than the U.S. or Europe to get access to the core of scientific information. Again, language plays a role but also the economics of scientific information and technical infrastructures. Open access, therefore, has another and sometimes more crucial meaning for the BRICS countries, as a vector of global dissemination of their scientific results and as a way to get access to larger amounts of information than before.

So what does the book say about the open access situation in the countries discussed? Could you tell us its scope and outline it?

The book shows that all emerging countries develop an open access policy. Yet, the diversity and differences prevail. Each country pursues its own open access strategy that fits best with its economic, financial, political and scientific situation. Each strategy is specific and different, except for Brazil and South Africa which started a bilateral collaboration for OA journal publishing on the SciELO platform. However, all countries face the same double challenge, i.e. how to increase the visibility and global impact of their scientific output, and how to improve access to scientific and technical information for their research and higher education? Open access can be an answer to both.

Can you give a few interesting examples of the differences between the open access policies in these countries?

The public policy concerning open access journals is quite different between the countries. While Brazil and, to a lesser degree, South Africa, invest into a central public platform for OA journals (SciELO, SciELO-SA), the other countries and in particular China and India have another strategy, based on larger numbers of different OA servers. Another difference is the role of the public sector. Russia for instance, but also Brazil seem to consider that free access to research output is part of the social and political responsibility of the State, i.e. national or regional authorities. Open access, gold or green road, should not be controlled by commercial publishing houses. On the other hand, India and perhaps even more China foster further individual, institutional and often corporate initiatives, without clear distinction between “for profit” and “non for profit” dissemination. A third difference is related to their global strategy. While some countries focus more on regional collaborations, such as Brazil and South Africa, others (China, Russia, India) appear to seek global impact, in competition with Western countries, which means for instance, that for them the question of English content and the visibility in international initiatives are of prime importance.

The title, Learning from the BRICS, suggests that there are lessons to be learned from these countries in going forward with OA in the West. What do you think are some of the lessons to be derived for us?

One lesson is that there is no single solution or magic recipe for open access, and that a pragmatic and flexible approach fitting with local conditions seems more important than preconceived ideas about what should be done. Perhaps there is no unique or dominant model of open access. Perhaps there never will be. Perhaps, too, there is no need for a unique model, be it green or gold. Diversity may be a better option for sustainable development. Another lesson is the need for a strong commitment to open access shared by scientific and political authorities in order to increase the impact of the countries’ research output and the availability of scientific information. With the words of one of the book’s authors, Abel Packer from SciELO (Brazil): “National research policies that favour open access is the main factor to advance open access”. Yet, as our book shows, this commitment must also be shared by the local and domain-specific research communities in order to transform national policy into a success story. This is the third lesson: learning from each other does not only mean learning from failures, mistakes and dead-ends but more so and above all, learning from success. More than the understanding of problems and challenges, perhaps the real message of our book is the importance of success stories. The development of open access depends on the promotion of successful initiatives, such as SciELO in Latin America. Expect success, focus on it, and coordinate scientific and political efforts in favour of open science.

Thank for this interview, Joachim. Your insights are very much appreciated, by me and I’m sure by our readers. Litwin Books is privileged to have published this title.

Thanks to Litwin Books for support and interest!

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May 24, 2015

New issue of IRIE on Ethics for the Internet of Things

International Review of Information Ethics (IRIE)

Issue 022, Volume 22, December 2014
Ethics for the Internet of Things
edited by Hektor Haarkötter, Felix Weil

[ Current issue ]

Editors’ note:

Many science fiction phantasies already claimed that one day machines will be superior to human beings and computers will finally take over. But unlike in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001’ or Asimow’s ‘I, Robot’ the latest developments in the Internet of Things (IoT) give reason to suggest that if this will happen it won’t be necessarily machines that physically resemble human beings with legs, bodies, voices etc. that will do the job (robots in the classical sense). If, then it will be more like in Matrix – the physicality of the necessary intelligence (i.e. computing power) will vanish as it will be incorporated into the physical world of our daily life itself. It won’t be separate machine entities that will dominate the human kind but it will be by the embedding of computing power into the ordinary things of our daily life and their being connected with each other to form a virtual pervaded living space. A living space that then could not only be paradise (optimized by the computing power embedded to the best for mankind) or hell (used to encage and enslave its inhabitants) but even more also a pure illusion (encaged and enslaved inhabitants that are made believe and even sense realistically that they are in paradise).

This is what philosophically the Internet of Things is all about: Things won’t be physical things anymore that are independent objects for the examination, exploration and manipulation of an equally independent subject. Things will be what is presented to the subject and the subject is what the computed presentation presupposes ‘on the other side’: a user, a monitored, a … . Thus, if the things change in the IoT we will change. And thus, the underlying philosophical subject-object paradigm has to change as well taking this interplay into account. Again, not only theoretically (as depicted in science fiction far from any possible reality) but very practically regarding our daily life: how we automate our homes, how we care for elder people, the way we monitor our children, the concepts we use to organize life in (smart) cities etc. For the good (of who), for the bad (according to what norm)? This is the ethical challenge raised by the IoT and this issue presents some very interesting answers to it and where not complete answers yet very helpful outlines for possible answers an ‘Ethics for the IoT’ can give and must give (rather sooner than later).

Sincerely yours,

the Editors.

[ Current issue ]

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May 20, 2015

Interview with Mandy Henk about her LJA courses

Mandy Henk is a librarian at DePauw University, and was a law librarian at Vanderbilt before that. She specializes in access to physical materials, resource sharing, and personnel management. Her interests include social class and librarian/staff relationships, the development of international resource sharing systems, and copyright in the academy and the library. She recently published her first book, Ecology, Economy, Equity: Building the Carbon Neutral Library, with ALAEditions, which we interviewed her about in April. Mandy has a couple of classes with Library Juice Academy this summer. She recently taught Trends in Library Automation, and next month will be teaching Access Services – Keeping the Common. She agreed to do an interview with us about these classes.

[…Read the interview…]

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May 12, 2015

Call for Proposals: Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science

Call for Proposals:
Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science

Editor: Gina Schlesselman-Tarango
Publisher: Library Juice Press
Projected publication date: April 2017

From the materials libraries and archives collect to the spaces they design and inhabit, whiteness can be mapped and traced in library and information science (LIS). Exploring the diverse terrain of LIS, this edited collection strives to unveil, name, explore, interrogate, problematize, and ultimately fissure whiteness at work. It will provide critical accounts of LIS history, exploring the legacies and current formations of whiteness, from whiteness and technology to whiteness and library pedagogy. Offering theoretical and practical approaches, this text will consider possibilities for challenging oppressive legacies and charting a new course towards anti-racist librarianship. Finally, this text will take seriously the limitations of and problems inherent in studying whiteness.

Proposals might address the following:

– Theoretical approaches to whiteness in LIS, including but not limited to those drawn
from postcolonial, critical race, whiteness, disability, feminist, womanist, queer, media,
and architectural studies.

– Histories and legacies of whiteness and white supremacy in LIS; ways in which these
histories and legacies are tied to colonialism and cultural imperialism.

– Whiteness and white supremacy at work in LIS subfields and practices, including but not limited to archives, cataloging, collection development, information technology, instruction, and reference.

– White identity in LIS.

– The ways in which whiteness intersects with class, gender, sexuality, ability, etc. in LIS.

– Practical steps and theoretical approaches librarians can take to move beyond “checking their privilege” to engaging in meaningful anti-racist librarianship.

– The limitations of and problems inherent in studying whiteness, white identity, white
privilege, etc.

This is not an exhaustive list. Proposals are welcome from anyone involved in LIS. Contributions from people of color, those who belong to communities underrepresented in LIS, and those who work in school and public libraries are encouraged. Autobiographical accounts of white privilege should be paired with theoretical or practical suggestions for moving towards anti-racist practice.

This collection will contain papers and essays of approximately 1500 – 5000 words. Proposals should include a short biographical statement followed by an abstract of no more than 500 words describing the proposed contribution. Send proposals to by September 15, 2015.

Submission of proposals deadline: September 15, 2015
Notification regarding proposals: November 1, 2015
First drafts of manuscripts due: May 1, 2016
Editing and revision: June-October 2016

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May 11, 2015

2015 Solidarity Statement from Librarians and Archivists with Palestine

Arabic children's books

Bayt al-Karameh (Haifa)

In early April, members of Librarians and Archivists with Palestine went on a follow-up trip to Jerusalem, the West Bank (Ramallah and Birzeit) and ’48 (Nazareth, Haifa, and Akka). We’ve just posted a report/solidarity statement (reproduced in full below), as we did after our initial delegation in 2013. Note the last section with some specific ideas for projects and campaigns we may embark on—if you think you might like to get involved, join the LAP network. If you want to join LAP’s (low-traffic!) email announcement list, send a blank message to You can also follow @Librarians2Pal on Twitter and like our Facebook page.

Librarians and Archivists with Palestine 2015 Delegation Report and Solidarity Statement

May 2015

In April 2015, nine librarians from four countries traveled to Palestine for an in-depth trip to follow up on the work of our 2013 delegation. In 2013, sixteen librarians had met with representatives from academic libraries, cultural centers, community education spaces, family libraries, museums, media centers, special collections, and more. From that delegation, the Librarians and Archivists with Palestine network was formed, and within this network, an advisory board of Palestinian librarians, archivists, information workers, and activists was convened.

Since 2013, our small group of sixteen delegation participants has grown to a network of almost 100 members in 15 countries. We have created a website profiling organizations we met with in Palestine. We have made art, spoken at conferences, written articles, read poetry on the subway, and encouraged hundreds of people to read Palestinian literature.

Our April 2015 delegation was divided into two streams. One stream focused on academic and research libraries and issues related to knowledge production in Palestine, with a focus on such topics as cataloging and classification, library outreach, library science education and training, open access publication, translation, and technology. The academic and research libraries stream met with Birzeit University Library, the Palestinian Library and Information Consortium (PALICO), Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA), Institute for Palestine Studies, and Mada Al-Carmel.

The second stream focused on access to children’s literature in Arabic, both inside the West Bank and inside ‘48 (Israel), and met with representatives from the Tamer Institute, Qattan Foundation, Al-Tufula Center, International Board on Books for Young People – Palestine section, and Palestinian public and school librarians in the West Bank and ‘48. The two streams joined to visit Maktabat Kul Shay (Haifa), Dar Al-Aswar (Akka), the Educational Bookshop (Jerusalem), and a number of other organizations.

In all our travels and work, we respected the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and did not partner with any organization that violates this call. As librarians and archivists, as people who believe in access to information, we affirm that institutional academic and cultural boycotts are appropriate responses to curtailed freedoms and are effective tools for change.

As we traveled, we continued to see and learn about the effects of Israeli occupation on Palestinian life. We passed by the weaponized apartheid wall, checkpoints, and segregated roads. We noticed the rapid proliferation of Israeli settlements on hilltops above Palestinian villages, even larger in number and size than what some of us had seen in 2013, evidence of the ongoing theft of land and forced displacement that Palestinians have been experiencing for decades.

In all our meetings, we heard about the “enemy state” designation that prevents literature from being sent directly to Palestinian stores and libraries if it has originated in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and sometimes other countries. This is a particular problem with Lebanon, a major hub of Arabic-language publishing.

We were told about the book shipments into the West Bank that might be returned to Amman, quarantined for days (at a cost of 1000 shekels per day), or destroyed depending on Israeli inspectors’ arbitrary decisions.

People shared stories of individuals bringing books into Palestine—from London to Jerusalem, from Jerusalem to Ramallah, from Ramallah to Gaza, from Ramallah to Haifa, or from Lebanon to Jordan to Ramallah—a process that is neither scalable nor easily sustainable.

We heard about the widespread unauthorized printing and copying of Arabic-language literature that render publishing and writing risky and sometimes unsustainable ventures, but also make literature accessible to the majority of readers who have trouble affording original publications.

We heard how journalists and editors at Palestinian newspapers and magazines have adapted to continuing Israeli censorship by engaging in self-censorship.

We heard from booksellers, writers, and librarians about the need for more local stories written by Palestinians for Palestinians. One cultural center director in Nablus estimated that 90% of children’s books there have been translated from other cultures. In Haifa, librarians talked about how a lack of local young adult literature leads Palestinian teens to prefer to read in Hebrew or English than in Arabic.

People also discussed the need to get Palestinian voices out into the rest of the world, and suggested translations from the original Arabic as a powerful and necessary step in the process. Palestinian writers themselves need more opportunities to get out of occupied territory and travel.

In both the West Bank and ’48, people talked about insufficient school budgets that leave little or no money for school librarians to stock their shelves with quality books. In ’48, discrepancies in headcount calculations and funding levels hit Palestinian students hardest, leaving them with overcrowded classrooms and paltry resources.

We heard about the myriad ways that Israeli universities suppress the academic freedom of Palestinian students and faculty in ‘48—apartheid, racism, and censorship at these schools creates a chilling effect that makes it difficult for Palestinian scholars working in ‘48 to openly engage in activism and organizing on campus and to publish their work.

We were told about the limited approved vendor lists set by the Israeli government in ’48 that result in a chain of informal agents, each levying their own fees, that librarians must tap just to get needed books from desired publishing houses who aren’t on the list.

Academic librarians from the PALICO consortium spoke to us about the challenges of acquiring access to databases and other electronic resources for their library users, as so many of these tools are behind a paywall, and prohibitively expensive. We learned that the active engagement of PALICO librarians with global networks and programs like Research4Life and EIFL has allowed Palestinian academic libraries to mobilize resources for their user groups in the context of this private commodification of scholarly information sources. A librarian at Birzeit University told us, “We don’t have freedom of information and we struggle to give the right education and information to Palestinian people.”

We heard about Gaza, where 180 schools and 5 universities were damaged in Israel’s 2014 assaults on the region. Two IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) libraries were completely destroyed. It is now virtually impossible to bring in books (among other resources) through the tunnels from Egypt to Gaza. Smaller libraries have few books despite large and avid user bases.

We met courageous and innovative publishers in the Galilee including Dar Al-Aswar, established in 1974 as part of the struggle to renew Palestinian identity and culture, and the four-year-old Rayya Publishing, which has already released around 100 books (mainly new publications) by Palestinian writers from all over.

We heard about programs to encourage reading, from “Daddy Read To Me” by Ramallah’s Tamer Institute, to bilingual (Arabic and English) author events at the Educational Bookshop in East Jerusalem, to the emphasis on learning and creativity that makes Haifa’s Beit Al-Karme “More Than a Library,” to “My Mother Is Reading for Me” for pre-kindergarten children in Nablus, to the initiative of Nazareth’s Al-Tufula Pedagogical Centre to produce children’s books so appealing they’re “eatable.”

We learned about both new and longstanding initiatives at research centres like Mada Al-Carmel in Haifa and the Institute for Palestine Studies in Ramallah, to collect, describe, digitize, and make accessible archival sources and oral histories from Palestinians in ‘48 and the West Bank.

We heard from Palestinian academic librarians developing vital knowledge platforms for their communities and for researchers around the world. The Birzeit University Law Library’s legal database Al-Muqtafi gathers and makes searchable a comprehensive collection of all legislation enacted in Palestine from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, in both Arabic and English search interfaces. Cataloguers at Birzeit created and continually add to an Arabic-language equivalent of the Library of Congress subject headings.

We saw how Mada Al-Carmel in Haifa serves as a haven and a hub for Palestinian researchers who may not otherwise find institutional support in ‘48, nurturing academic inquiry and engaged scholarship beyond the constraints of the university. Mada Al-Carmel’s programs bring seminars, workshops, and discussion groups into community spaces, and their electronically published research is freely accessible.

On the last day of our trip, Al Bireh Municipality hosted us in their public library for a meeting of our Palestinian advisory board. We reported on our week of meetings, brought forward a number of ideas, and asked people what they thought we should pursue. We learned more about struggles for different kinds of libraries in Palestine and heard a variety of views from our board members, who came from the Ramallah area, Jerusalem, and Akka, and who work in public, government, university, and school libraries, as well as publishing houses and community organizations. This was a great closing for our visit, and it helped solidify long-term relationships with our colleagues in Palestine.

Following our visit, we have a much better (though not complete) understanding of the specific issues we focused on during our trip. We are committed to working directly with our partners in Palestine on projects that are both concretely useful and politically meaningful. We hope to support professional development among library staff at universities by looking into the translation of new library science materials into Arabic; helping to raise scholarships for Palestinian librarians to attend conferences and university programs; and participating in regular discussions and workshops. We will investigate ways for people around the world to support the collections of Palestinian school libraries while discussing the political context that has created these needs. We plan to look into facilitating the translation of Palestinian children’s books from Arabic into other languages, and to distribute this literature in our communities. We hope to connect with colleagues in Gaza and raise awareness about the unique issues they face. We will continue to develop curricula to accompany the archival box set of materials that we created after our 2013 delegation. We reiterate our commitment to join BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns, to engage in critical examination of our positions of privilege, and to support Palestinian self-determination and access to information in and about Palestine.

Librarians and Archivists with Palestine 2015 delegation:

Eva Devos, Children’s Literature Specialist, Antwerp, Belgium
Jessamy Klapper, Caseworker, Brooklyn, NY, US
Jessa Lingel, Researcher, Boston, MA, US
Hannah Mermelstein, School Librarian, Brooklyn, NY, US
Melissa Morrone, Public Librarian, Brooklyn, NY, US
Vani Natarajan, Research and Instruction Librarian, Brooklyn, NY, US
Elisabet Risberg, Public Librarian, Stockholm, Sweden
Kevin Sanders, E-Resources Librarian, Bath, UK
Tom Twiss, Liaison Librarian, Pittsburgh, PA, US

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May 6, 2015

CFP – Radical Change: Inclusion and Innovation (ALISE Historical Perspectives SIG)

ALISE 2016, Boston, MA, January 5-8, 2016

Historical Perspectives Special Interest Group Call for Papers

DEADLINE: June 30, 2015

In keeping with the 2016 ALISE Conference Theme, “Radical Change: Inclusion and Innovation,” the Historical Perspectives SIG invites submissions for individual papers, or for a 3+ person panel program that examines the history of radical change, innovators, or inclusion in LIS education. Historical research that explores some of the persistent questions related to pedagogy and educational reform in LIS education is encouraged. If you have something in mind that is not related to the conference theme, we invite you to propose different topics. This call is open to anyone working in the field of library and information science, regardless of occupational label.

In order to make the July 15th ALISE SIG deadline submission, submit 300 – 500 word abstracts in PDF, ODT, or DOCX format by June 30, 2015, to Susan Rathbun-Grubb, or C. Sean Burns,

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May 5, 2015

Learning from the BRICS: Open Access to Scientific Information in Emerging Countries

Learning from the BRICS: Open Access to Scientific Information in Emerging Countries

Editor: Joachim Schöpfel
Price: $35.00
Published: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1-936117-84-0
Printed on acid-free paper

The market for scientific and technical information (STI) has been dominated by publishers from the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands. This book takes a look at the interesting developments in publishing coming from the countries with emerging economies known as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), which comprise 40% of the world’s population and whose GDPs comprise 18% percent of the world’s economy. Each of these countries has a unique economic system as well as differing systems of academic higher education and research. As a result, they have each developed different models of academic publishing for the dissemination of their research results, many of which are based on principles of open access.

This book closes a gap in the literature of academic publishing by examining the strategies employed in STI publishing in these countries. As a growing part of the international STI market, they will impact the ways in which information is produced and made available in the future. The models examined here can serve as alternative options for information delivery in developed countries, and may serve as more sustainable models for emerging economies in Africa and Latin America.

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa all developed their own way to open access, based on specific blends of green and gold road, public investment and private initiatives. What they have in common, is their commitment to research as a driver of economic and societal development and to open science as a way to enhance quality, impact and access to scientific information. Open access is not an end in itself but a means to better science.

Twelve established information professionals and scientists from seven countries contribute to this book and help the reader to understand the open access situation in the emerging countries. How are they doing what they are doing, and why? Where are the bottlenecks, and what are the challenges? What can be learned? Each chapter is introduced by “Facts & Figures,” a section with basic data about each country, on its economic performance, research and development, scientific output and open access publishing.

Brazil: The first chapter presents the open access journal platform ScieELO, the most important open access server for scientific journals worldwide, with an impact well beyond Brazil.

Russia: Chapter two provides a general overview on institutional initiatives for free dissemination of public research on the Internet, especially in the field of grey literature, in a society with strong traditions of public interest prevailing on private intellectual property.

India: Along with a detailed description of the open access movement in India, the third chapter informs about awareness and acceptance of institutional repositories and open access journals among the Indian scientific communities.
China: The author presents the results of a recent survey on the development of open access journals in China. This is interesting insofar as only very few titles are known and indexed outside of China.

South Africa: The last chapter shows how open access can increase its impact and also protect local content, and how it can build on African cultural traditions and values of Ubuntu, i.e. relatedness, sharing and generosity.

Each chapter tells a story, and each story is different. A virtual roundtable concludes the book, with a focus on shared values and engagement in the international community of open access and open science. This book provides an important overview of publishing trends in BRICS nations and will be of interest to anyone concerned with the future of academic publishing, including librarians, higher education researchers, and publishers. It also provides insights regarding copyright issues, the economics of publishing and STI, and international affairs.

Joachim Schöpfel is lecturer of Library and Information Sciences at the University of Lille 3 (France), director of the French Digitization Centre for PhD theses (ANRT) and member of the GERiiCO research laboratory. He was manager of the INIST (CNRS) scientific library from 1999 to 2008. He teaches library marketing, auditing, intellectual property and information science. His research interests are scientific information and communication, especially open access and grey literature.

Available from Amazon or your favorite library vendor.

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May 2, 2015

New book: The Dialectic of Academic Librarianship: A Critical Approach

The Dialectic of Academic Librarianship: A Critical Approach
Author: Stephen Bales
Price: $35.00
Published: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1-936117-89-5
200 pages
Printed on acid-free paper
Publisher: Library Juice Press
Available on Amazon

Oftentimes, academic librarians are not fully conscious of the role that their libraries play in late-capitalist society or how they, as information professionals, help to perpetuate this role. Adopting a dialectical materialist perspective, Stephen Bales investigates the modern academic library as an institution and academic librarianship as a profession. The author examines the academic library’s position as a culturally and historically situated producer and curator of knowledge and its instrumental role in driving social reproduction and the status quo. The book then considers the effect of academic librarians in bolstering dominant ideologies and argues instead for a transformative, engaged librarianship that recognizes and implements the academic library as a locus for positive social change. To these ends, the book serves as a tool for deepening the theoretical consciousness of practicing academic librarians and as a point of entry for praxis.

Stephen Bales is a Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian at Texas A&M University Libraries.

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April 30, 2015

1/2 hour pilot: “Sacto PL”

Who among us hasn’t dreamt of writing a TV comedy set in a library? Well, my friend Jen Ferro has done just that. You can read her 1/2 hour pilot for a “dramedy” called “Sacto PL“…

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April 27, 2015

CPJ releases annual assessment of press freedom worldwide

CPJ releases annual assessment of press freedom worldwide

New York, April 27, 2015 – Terrorist groups and the governments who purport to fight them have made recent years the most dangerous period to be a journalist, the Committee to Protect Journalists found in its annual global assessment of press freedom, Attacks on the Press, released today. Some journalists are kidnapped or killed by militant groups while others are surveiled, censored, or imprisoned by governments seeking to respond to that threat, real or perceived.

Attacks on the Press is a collection of essays by regional experts and CPJ staff that examines the array of challenges journalists face. The 2015 edition features a foreword by CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, a member of CPJ’s board of directors.

“Journalists are being caught in a terror dynamic, in which they are threatened by non-state actors who target them and governments that restrict civil liberties including press freedom in the name of fighting terror,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “Attacks on the Press surveys this new landscape, providing insights into the myriad threats- from surveillance and self-censorship to violence and imprisonment-that make this the most deadly and dangerous period for journalists in recent history.”

Non-state actors, including criminal organizations and violent political groups, pose a significant threat to journalists as well as a challenge to press freedom advocates and news organizations. In places like Mexico and Paraguay, trafficking organizations are the primary threat. One essay examines how in 2014 journalists became props in propaganda films, reflecting a global trend in the documentation of violence by the perpetrators. Another essay looks at how journalists cope with continuous risks to their well-being.

Further essays examine how governments abuse anti-terror and national security laws to silence criticism. Ethiopia, one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists, has charged most of the journalists behind bars with promoting terrorism. Egypt under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi uses a similar technique; the country recently sentenced three reporters to life in prison because of alleged connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, across the Middle East, the Internet is treated as an enemy, as leaders are all too aware of its power in galvanizing anti-government movements.

In Europe, journalists must contend with limitations in the name of privacy, a rise in right-wing extremism, and homegrown terrorists such as those who murdered eight journalists at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. As in the U.S., a focus on national security forces journalists to think and act like spies to protect their sources, as CPJ Staff Technologist Tom Lowenthal writes.

The combination of threats poses an array of safety concerns for journalists. Conflict in Syria has reshaped the rules for covering conflict, as Janine di Giovanni writes. Many of those covering Syria are in fact covering their first war. Freelancers make up an increasing percentage of journalists killed for their work, leading CPJ and a coalition of press freedom organizations and media outlets to advocate for better global standards for protecting them and the local journalists on whom they rely.

The book is rounded out by essays on the different forms of censorship-wielded by governments and non-state actors-in Hong Kong, India, Libya, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine, and West Africa during the Ebola epidemic.

Attacks on the Press was first published in 1986. The 2015 print edition is published by Bloomberg Press, an imprint of Wiley, and is available for purchase.

Note to Editors:

Attacks on the Press is available in English and select essays are available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.

For social media, CPJ suggests using the hashtag #AttacksOnPress.

On April 21, CPJ released a segment of Attacks on the Press, the 10 Most Censored Countries worldwide, a ranking of where the news media is most restricted by state control.

CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.
Media contact:

Samantha Libby
Advocacy Officer
Tel. +1 212-300-9007

Ashley Parent
Communications Associate
Tel. +1 212 300 9032

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April 24, 2015

Litwin Books Awards First Travel Grants for Conference Attendance


Litwin Books Awards First Travel Grants for Conference Attendance

April 24, 2014

Sacramento, CA – Litwin Books has awarded its first Travel Grants to Anna Wilson and Nathaniel Enright. The Litwin Books Travel Grants support scholars’ attendance at conferences, either domestic or international, with a special emphasis on helping those without other forms of financial support. Anna Wilson received funds to attend the Congress Conference of the Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians (CAPAL), held in Ottawa, to present her paper, Comparing Indigenous Approaches to Autism with Western Approaches to Autism. Dr. Enright will also be travelling to CAPAL to present his paper, The Austerity of Literacy: The Financialization of Information and the Politics of Debt. The Litwin Books Travel Grants provide up to $500 to attend a domestic conference in the recipient’s home country or up to $1000 to attend a conference outside the recipient’s home country.

About the Recipients

Ms. Wilson is a Master’s degree candidate in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta, where she has studied the information sharing needs of people with autism. Her research is designed to enable library professionals and policy makers to facilitate meaningful programs for people and families impacted by autism spectrum disorders. She hopes to help the public see the strengths of people with autism so that they can view them as a source of social capital instead of a social burden.

Dr. Enright recently completed his PhD at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. He has published papers on and spoken at conferences about capitalism, the marketization and political economy of information, information ethics, the history of information literacy, the increasingly central role of proprietary algorithms on research and scholarship, intellectual property rights and the production of technology and waste.

About Litwin Books

Litwin Books is an independent academic publisher of books about media, communication and the cultural record. They are interdisciplinary in scope and intention, and gather together works from a range of disciplines. Through their Library Juice Press imprint, they publish books that examine theoretical and practical issues in librarianship from a critical perspective, for an audience of professional librarians and students of library science.
For More Information:

For more information about the Litwin Books Travel Grants, see:
For more information about Litwin Books and its imprints, see:

Rory Litwin, Publisher
P.O. Box 188784, Sacramento, CA 95818
Tel. 218-260-6115
Fax 916-415-5446

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April 11, 2015

Islamophobic ALA Banned Books Week Poster


Thus far I’ve seen little in the way of active controversy over this ill-advised ALA poster celebrating 2015’s Banned Books Week. There were a couple of messages recently on the SRRT email discussion list, which brought this to my attention. Clearly, the image links suppression of information with the religion of Islam, depicting a woman whose eyes are showing through her niqab. No one denies that there is suppression of information in a number of countries where Islam is the national religion, but this image implies an identity between the religion and the practice of censorship. I think most of us can think of some American muslims who would take offense at that. Perhaps they are even members of the American Library Association.

I’m surprised that ALA actually put this poster up for sale.

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April 8, 2015

Interview with Mandy Henk, author of Ecology, Economy, Equity: The Path to a Carbon-Neutral Library

Mandy Henk is the author of what I think is the most important LIS book of 2014 (at least the most important one not published by Library Juice Press). The book is Ecology, Economy, Equity: The Path to a Carbon-Neutral Library, published by ALA Editions. Quoting the publisher’s description:

In the first book to seriously examine the future of libraries in a climate reality-based context, Henk convincingly argues that building a carbon-neutral future for libraries is not only essential but eminently practical. Using the ‘three E’s’ of sustainability (ecology, economy, equity) as a foundation, she traces the development of sustainability from its origins in the 1970s to the present, laying out a path librarians can take at their own institutions to begin the process of building a carbon-neutral library.

I’m not sure that our earlier Greening Libraries and Focus on Educating for Sustainability did not “seriously examine the future of libraries in a climate reality-based context,” but I admire her book and wish that we had published it. Mandy agreed to do an interview here, to talk about her book and the topic it addresses.

Mandy, thanks for agreeing to do this interview.

Hi Rory, it’s nice to chat with you and thank you for interviewing me.

I’d like to start by asking you about your own background and interest in this topic. What drew you to write this book?

You know that’s a hard question to answer. I was drawn to it for lots of reasons. Part of it was because I was spending a lot of time in meetings and at conferences angry and I couldn’t quite articulate why. I needed to really explore in depth what it was about the general tone of the profession that frustrated me. I started the book at a time in my life when I was turning back towards an earlier political radicalism that I had sort of left behind to focus on making on a living and raising my children. Then I turned 30 and I had an employee get cancer and I had this epiphany that life was short and I should do more with mine than just be really good at managing an Access Services department. I realized I was hiding in my work and not being true to myself in some really important ways.

So, I got involved with Keystone XL protesting and once that happened I realized that living my values at work too was really important to me. But I had no clue how to do that. So, the book is really a long conversation with myself about how to live my values at work and how to bring a DIY/anarchist ethos into my professional life. The book was a way for me to break down the dissonance between what I felt and did in my personal life and what went on at work. To live an authentic life I needed to tie those things together. It was either that, or I was going to quit and go live off the land. Since I like health insurance and hate farming and really love libraries, the book seemed a better choice. It also gave me great cover to say and do things at work that I think would otherwise just be considered a bit nutty. It gave me a real legitimacy so that I could say things like, “I think software-as-a-service is dangerous to our patron’s long-term interests.” Or, “Discovery layers are hollowing out libraries.” The work on the book demonstrated that I wasn’t just being testy, I had done real research and work to come to those positions.

Most people reading this have not read your book yet an therefore don’t know how that relates to what you’ve written. At one level, the book is about how to guide libraries in the context of global warming and other threats to the environment, but it also addresses other ways in which our current structures are at odds with sustainability, identifying problems with the current “library industry” as it is sometimes called. For the convenience of people reading this, would you mind outlining the book? The problems it addresses and how it addresses them.

Of course, I am happy to do that. One thing I’d push back on is the idea that it is possible to pull apart the various sustainability challenges that we face. Climate is the most urgent manifestation of an entire system gone absolutely off the rails and so I gave it center place. But my understanding is that climate and other problems, like mining or labor issues, are really just different aspects of the same basic failure of our society to create the conditions needed for a biophilic planet. Our libraries exist in the midst of a morass of environmental, political, and economic challenges and this gives us moral obligations that go beyond fulfilling our stated missions. Clocking in at work doesn’t give us the right to clock our values out, that’s my basic premise. And that’s where the book starts. It’s divided into three parts. In the first part, I try to connect the various dots of sustainability issues to the library world and to our professional values, while also outlining a picture of the world as it is. So, I look at the science behind climate change,the philosophical construct that is “sustainability,” as well as how libraries have been impacted by these issues.

In the second part, I provide a framework for conducting what I call a sustainability assessment. It’s not really a formal assessment, it’s more about giving people an excuse to look at their own libraries and choose their own starting points. There are an awful lot of librarians who are very concerned about these issues, but who don’t have either the political capital in their own libraries or the ability to spend a whole lot of time figuring out what to do. But once you lay it all out in a book, it empowers them to have something to work from and offers a sense of legitimacy that can be very important to getting something like this done in an actual library. That’s the point of the second part. I used the structure of the three basic areas of sustainability, ecology, economy, and equity, to structure this section so that librarians could have sense that, even if their sustainability work had to be in collections, they could still feel confident that that work was tied into the larger concept of sustainability.

The last part is about the larger information system. This is really where I tried to talk about the “library industry” and what we need to do, what we can do, to transform it. I see technology and corporate control of the collection and our software as twinned problems. To solve them, I think that we need an alliance between our advocacy groups, like ALA and SLA, and activist groups. I highlighted some really successful examples of those kinds of alliances in this part, groups like SaveNYC Libraries. I also used this part to talk about why climate change is hard to talk about. There are structures and social expectations in place that shape our discourse. Talking about climate and libraries seems really “unserious” and I devoted a chapter to breaking that down in the hopes that if we can learn to see these structures working to suppress our voices, we can resist that suppression and say, insist that a vendor tell us the carbon footprint of their server operation before we agree to purchase a new database. That’s a pretty uncomfortable position to take and if we understand what makes it uncomfortable, I think it is easier to work through the uncomfortableness.

Thanks for that outline of the book. That’s very helpful. I am interested in what you say is the impossibility of pulling apart the various sustainability challenges that we face. You cite the “three E’s” of sustainability: ecology, economy, and equity. I think when most people think about sustainability, they are thinking about ecology – resource extraction, pollution, climate change. The three E’s are not an idea that you’ve made up, but I think to a lot of readers the ideas that equity and economic structures are an essential part of sustainability will be new, and perhaps in need of justification. Equity in particular, and the democratic library values that it implies, are an essential part of sustainability in your view. I wonder if you could say a bit about equity, and what makes it part of sustainability?

Absolutely. The concept of sustainability is not easy to intuit, nor is it without some basic flaws in its premises. The basic argument is that poverty and inequality lead to ecological destruction through a failure to manage the global commons. So, in the United States, you can look at California right now and examine the politics of the drought. I suspect most average citizens of that state would strongly support limiting water use by farming corporations. But because the corporations are such a powerful group, because they control a wealthy industry, they have been successful over a long period of time in preventing the kinds of restrictions that the natural world and people who make their living in other ways would benefit from. Sustainability advocates would argue that a more genuinely democratic process would have a better outcome since economic power would not translate to political power. At the same time, part of sustainability is building resilient economic systems that would, in theory, prevent the concentrations of economic power that we see today.

With that said, I do have some concerns about the interrelationship between ecology, economy, and equity. The biggest one is that I am not convinced that citizens are always able to make good choices, especially at the national level. The use of media and the educational system to control the paradigm through which people understand the world is an extremely powerful tool that has been well honed by the wealthy in this country. Environmental resistance has been degraded and minimized as “NINBYism.” So I am not at all convinced that it is possible for us to create a more democratic society, nor do I think that those with power are going to step down and allow a more just form of organization for our society.

I agree with you, and I share the pessimism implicit in your response there. But your book is not a pessimistic book, or at any rate, you could say it’s guided by the idea of “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” It’s consistent with the idea that as dark as things may be, you have to try. You take the position of a “solutionist” as you explain in Chapter 1, as opposed to being in a state of resignation or paralysis. I struggle with that myself. It seems that an obstacle to a sustainability initiative in libraries is getting everybody on board as a solutionist, when there are good arguments to justify other positions. What do you think about that? How do you find the strength to maintain the position of a solutionist?

I have children. As a mother, I feel an obligation to do what I can to try and fix the world. There’s also the question of what else I would do with my life. If I didn’t work on what I see as the most pressing problems that are within my power to influence, what would I do? The answer to that, as far as I can tell, is be a really diligent Access Services Librarian. Which is a fine thing to be, but it is similar to being a great steward on the Titanic. Laudable sure, but also beside the point. I think that there is value in looking hard and with as much clarity as you can muster at the actual state of the world and then insisting that you live your life in a way that is informed by reality. Even if it leads to sorrow and frustration.

Do you think the book gives enough attention to obstacles to sustainability measures in libraries? It seems that a lot of the work is going to be overcoming obstacles.

Yes, I could have talked more about obstacles. There are a few reasons I shied away. One is that I think there are many libraries right now where this kind of initiative would not meet resistance. Sustainability is a pretty hot idea and library administrators love getting on board with trends. So, I didn’t really think it was absolutely necessary. Instead, I focused on broadening the sustainability umbrella so that it included changes that could be implemented at almost every level of a library’s staff hierarchy. Taken individually maybe they won’t make a huge difference, but I think that building momentum is really important Having lots of library workers making changes in their libraries under the banner of sustainability is a valuable form of organizing. It creates space for deeper organizing activities.

At the same time, I think it’s worth being upfront that I think largest obstacle is hierarchy. Because of that, I am the last person who should be giving mainstream library staff advice about how to manage up. There are others who do have that skill set and I respect them and their ability to engage in organizational politics. I am not one of them. That kind of persuading requires respecting the authority of those currently holding power, and I mean that across all levels–in libraries and out in the larger world. And I don’t. My advice would be to just do what you see that needs to be done. Don’t let someone more powerful insist that you engage in actions that you think are destructive. Stop following orders. So, yeah, that’s why I stepped back from that. It isn’t particularly useful advice and it doesn’t respect the risk tolerance levels of those who may need their paychecks and health insurance. I know my limits.

I can imagine ALA Publishing might have balked at that as well. I wonder, do you have any thoughts on what you might have done differently in writing this book if you could?

I suspect they would have. This was really intended to be a mainstream book for a fairly mainstream audience. I wanted to write a book that someone could share with their director or with their board and not feel like they were being outlandish.

It’s hard to say what I might have done differently. This was the first book I have ever written and writing it was a learning process. In terms of the final product, I think I wrote the best book I could have written. So, the things I would do differently are all process based. For example, I really struggled with falling into never ending research. I would read and read and read and never really feel like I knew enough to actually write something down. So, in retrospect I would have a bit more confidence in myself. Also, I would probably have let the book be longer. I think people prefer short books, but I might have too harsh in my own editing.

I think a longer book would have been great, but a shorter book is easier to use in a practical setting. I think the book benefits from the research that you put into it, definitely. It is very strong bibliographically.

At this point, would you be willing to say a few words about your next project?

Absolutely, I am really excited about my next project, which is under contract with Library Juice Press. The working title is OCLC: A Biography. This book really evolved from the dissonance I felt, and still feel, when working with OCLC products. One of my first jobs when I was a student assistant was in an ILL Department, and it was there, working with WorldCat, that I really grew enchanted with the world of libraries. The idea that there was this cooperative system in place between libraries, complete with a complex infrastructure and rules and customs was just such a revelation to me. Which is why, after 17 years of working with WorldCat and with OCLC, I think it is so important to critically examine it as an institution. Both in the United States and globally, OCLC is such a central and powerful member of the library world. This next book will explore both the history of OCLC, but also how it works as an organization and what really drives it. I’m going to frame it around the question of who owns WorldCat and use that to explore what it means to own something as vital and also as valuable as WorldCat. I also think it’s going to fill an important void in the current literature. As a profession, we don’t always take the time to examine how we got to where we are. It’s my hope that this book will remedy that, at least for this particular case.

Thanks for the teaser! I am very excited that we will be publishing this book. I agree that it will fill a major gap in the literature. And thanks for the interview. I admire your book and appreciate your taking the time to talk about it.

Thank you for talking to me. It was a good chat and I appreciate your taking the time from your schedule to do it.

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April 6, 2015

Vincent Mosco on C-SPAN

Vincent Mosco, author of To the Cloud: Big Data in a Turbulent World, talked by remote video from Boston about the history of the development of the “cloud” and “big data,” and the economic, social, and cultural implications of massive data collection.

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April 2, 2015

Announcing “The Political Librarian”, a New Journal from EveryLibrary

Post on April 2, 2015 by John Chrastka

The Political Librarian

For too long, there has been a dearth of research, discussion, and published content related to locally focused advocacy, policy, and funding issues for libraries. Today, EveryLibrary is proud to announce the launch of “The Political Librarian”, a new journal which will address these very issues. As the only national organization dedicated exclusively to local funding and policy outcomes for libraries, whether at the ballot box or through town/city/county government negotiations, EveryLibrary is uniquely positioned to fill this gap. Today, we are making a call for contributions for Issue 1, Volume 1 to be published on September 5th, 2015.

We seek contributions that:

Further a discussion of tax policy and public policy at the local level

Explore and review ordinances, regulations and legislation, or propose new model language that actuate policy or revenue at a local level

Specifically engage disparities in community outcomes based on current funding and authority models for libraries

Provide and encourage experiential input about the way that current policy models impact library service delivery and community outcomes

Provide and encourage explorations of new, underutilized, or experimental models to address local library funding or authority

Provide resources and tactics that libraries can use to educate stakeholders on the essential role of libraries and librarians in their local community.

Why a journal?

While discussions in the library sector tend to focus on federal and state-level issues, it is at the local level that the majority of funding and policy decisions for libraries are made and expressed. Our work places us at the nexus of library tax and public policy discussion at the hyper-local level. Many of the campaigns we support aim to secure taxes for operations or building initiatives. Through our work we have seen first-hand that there is limited civic awareness and understanding of tax codes and funding structures on the part of librarians, boards, voters, and policy makers. This low level of awareness stems from lack of engagement in a public debate about local library taxes and authority.

With the launch of “The Political Librarian”, EveryLibrary is expanding the discussion, promoting research, and helping to reenvision tax policy and public policy on the extremely local level. We will provide a venue for listening and learning across a wide range of experiences, and a platform for sharing insights from librarians at the forefront of services by the librarians who need funding, authority, and policy to align with, and support, the actual practices of modern librarianship.

We believe that these policy discussions need to begin in the context of the unique challenges faced by towns, cities, townships, and counties as expressed in municipal or district library contexts. We also understand that the borders between library taxing jurisdictions are often crossed by inter-institutional agreements for services like interlibrary loan, cooperative cataloging, and shared resources. With this understanding, we want to encourage a discussion about how libraries may be the only true supra-jurisdictional public institution in this country. In publishing this journal, we are not limiting the discussion to policies that impact only public libraries. The edges will be pushed.

From its inception, “The Political Librarian” will be open access and submissions will be published under a non-commercial attribution Creative Commons license. We will apply for an ISSN immediately following the first issue in order to provide discoverability in the broader library and public policy discussion across the United States and internationally.

We seek submissions from both researchers and practitioners, and anticipate accepting and publishing three styles of submissions:

Polemics – Editorial in nature; the first draft of an idea or argument
White Papers – Longer form discussions that may include research
Peer Reviewed – Long form articles that include original research and arguments, and are submitted for review by our Editorial Board

Timeline for publication
EveryLibrary looks forward to publishing Volume 1, Issue 1 on September 5, 2015. This will mark our third anniversary as the first and only national political action committee for libraries. Your collaboration on this and subsequent semi-annual issues is welcome. EveryLibrary seeks to encourage non-traditional journal submissions and can support the publication and dissemination of blog to book-length contributions, along with video, audio, and other file types. Anonymous contributions in the Polemics category are welcome. Submission and content formatting instructions are forthcoming.

Over the next several weeks, EveryLibrary will present questions and discussion topics that will help form the basis of this exploration and inform the content of our first issue. We believe that we can serve as a platform, a venue, a contributor, and a convener of these discussions, and we encourage others to bring their own original lines of inquiry.

Please contact editor Lindsay Sarin for more information or to discuss contributing to “The Political Librarian”:

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