Unique and vital perspectives are and have been offered up by underground newspapers, zines, and other radical publications. But alternative materials are for the most part not carried by libraries. Alycia Sellie comments on the value of alternative publications and describes behind-the-scenes efforts, by her and other activist librarians, to get them into library collections.
Libraries and the Alternative Press was a big priority topic for Library Juice in years past, and an activity of mine within ALA/SRRT’s Alternative Media Task Force, formerly the Alternatives in Print Task Force. It is now inactive, but could be revived if anyone wants to take it on. Contact someone in SRRT if you feel inspired to do that.
The discussion will be recorded and available later to those who register.
Objectives of this open meeting:
1) Provide a brief history and status update of SustainRT including upcoming nominations for officers
2) Capture YOUR input, needs, and vision to help shape the future of SustainRT (the mission of which is “to exchange ideas and opportunities and provide resources for the library community to support sustainability.”)
3) Provide a venue for meeting virtually to continue our important networking and dialogue.
From the SustainRT Steering Committee:
Rebekkah Aldrich, Jonathan Betz-Zall, Madeleine Charney, Mara Egherman, Elaine Harger, Ashley Jones, Carrie Moran, Leighann Wood, Bonnie Smith
For more information, contact Ashley Jones firstname.lastname@example.org or 513-529-2887
Library Juice Press, Litwin Books, Library Juice Academy, and Auslander & Fox will have a table in the exhibits hall at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago. The exhibits open on Friday, June 28th at 5:30pm, and close on Monday, July 1st, at 2pm. We won’t be selling any books, but we will be giving away our display stock at our reception on Monday night (ask at the booth for details).
If you’ve started your planning for ALA Annual, here’s something to consider for Monday night, July 1st. Library Juice Press is having a reception/party kind of thing at 7pm. There will be drinks and some things to nosh. We created a Facebook event with details. This will also be for Litwin Books, Library Juice Academy, and Auslander & Fox. Hope to see you there…
ALA is now offering library vendors their “first round assignments for ALA 2013,” that is, their booth assignments in the exhibit hall. I want to juxtapose ALA’s two summaries of the Annual Conference, one for librarians and the other for vendors:
The Annual Conference is the best place to expand your network, build your knowledge, and improve your profession.
Exhibiting at ALA tradeshows provides the best and most comprehensive opportunity to reach decision-makers in the library industry. We look forward to seeing you in Chicago next June.
Interesting that ALA speaks the vendors’ language when talking to them – ALA Annual is a “trade show” for the “library industry.” This despite the fact that libraries seem to be the primary if not one of the biggest markets for almost all of the vendors present. You would think that ALA could have the confidence in librarianship as a social institution to call the conference a conference and the field of libraries a field.
This is another sign of the effects of member dues constituting a small proportion of ALA’s revenues versus a half century ago, when we really could say that it was a member organization. (To be fair, ALA’s justification for this change in revenue patterns – that its transformation into a business came about in order to meet the demands of members – is probably true.)
This is a couple of months old now but has just reached my attention. It is a statement from IFLA, cosigned by some of its member associations, including ALA and ARL, raising alarm about a new multi-lateral trade agreement that establishes new intellectual property rules that bypass essential balancing user rights such as Fair Use. The agreement is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Please read the IFLA statement for a good explanation of what is happening in this area.
If you’re at the ALA conference in Anaheim this weekend, stop by the Library Juice Press/Litwin Books booth in the exhibits hall to pick up a discount order form, which gives you 20% off on all of our titles. The booth is at the end of the hall, #2769. We have examples of all 34 titles, plus the first title from Auslander & Fox. We are also providing information about the electronic resource Alternatives in Print, and the new course offerings from Library Juice Academy. Stop by and say hi!
James Welbourne was an important and inspiring leader among librarians who changed librarianship in the late 60s and early 70s.
From the New Haven Register, New Haven, CT
WELBOURNE, JAMES CLIFTON AUGUST 10, 1942 – AUGUST 22, 2011 “Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me; The carriage held but just ourselves And Immortality.” –Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) James Clifton Welbourne, son of James C. and Mabel Welbourne, was born August 10, 1942 in Baltimore, Maryland, and died in New Haven, Connecticut on August 22, 2011. Having profoundly touched the lives of all who had the good fortune to know him, he is especially cherished by his wife, Penny Welbourne; sister, Delores Welbourne; aunt, Marion Morton; cousin Joyce Tongue and other relatives; his “favorite” mother-in-law, Margaret E. Jamitz; sisters-in-law, Nikki J. Riley and Deena J. Imbriglia and their respective families; God-son, William Charles Brown; and a host of friends and colleagues. From July 2000 until October 2010, Jim served as the City Librarian for New Haven, Connecticut. Before coming to New Haven, he was the Deputy Director of The Enoch Pratt Free Library ((1993-2000) in Baltimore, Maryland (where he worked as a book page while in high school), and the Assistant Director of the Carnegie Library (1986-1993) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The crowning achievement of Jim’s career in public library service was the conception and realization of the Courtland Seymour Wilson Library branch of the New Haven Public Library system that opened in the Hill District in October 2006. But Jim’s true legacy lies in the profound effect he had on the countless men and women he mentored and taught throughout his career, many of whom went on to lead major library systems and teach in the library education field. The lives they in turn have touched have produced a ripple effect that ensures the legacy of Jim Welbourne will continue in perpetuity. Throughout his life Jim lived as if the cultural and historical mores of the times simply did not exist, and as a result he had an almost magical effect on everyone with whom he came in contact. While never outwardly (or inwardly) defiant, he simply went about implementing his extraordinary dreams and ideas in the most remarkable (and sometimes incomprehensible) way. Possessing an intellectual prowess he displayed at a young age enabled him to attend a public high school in Baltimore that, although originally “all-white,” had been forced to open its advanced college preparatory curriculum to African American students in 1952-two years before the enactment of federal laws requiring integration. Following his graduation, the practice of segregation in the state university system precluded his attending the University of Maryland at College Park, his school of choice, at which point he simply bided his time working until those laws were changed. When he did finally enter college in the early 1960′s, he was already in his early 20′s; yet he responded to being the oldest freshman by several years in his dorm as being nothing unusual (which at that time it most definitely was). Jim continued to live his life as if any racial and cultural differences between him and others simply did not exist. As a result, he was accepted and embraced by people who might have responded differently were it not for Jim’s grace, confidence, and infectious exuberance. Both Jim and Penny will remain eternally grateful for the unfailing love and support of his two dear friends, Mae Gibson Brown and Kathleen Hurley. A celebration of Jim’s life will be held in early October 2011. All are warmly welcomed and invited to attend and share their stories, remarks, and remembrances of Jim publicly or privately. Specific details about the gathering will be forthcoming. For those who would like to honor Jim by making a charitable contribution in his name, two local organizations of great importance to him and in which he took tremendous pride are New Haven Reads (a community resource center that promotes the power of reading) at 45 Bristol Street, New Haven, CT 06511, 203-752-1923 (http://www.newhavenreads.org); and LEAP (which provides opportunities for children and youth to thrive in all areas of their lives through Leadership, Education, Athletics, and Partnerships) at 31 Jefferson Street, New Haven, CT 06511, 203-773-0770 (http:www.leapforkids.org).
Some of my colleagues in the Progressive Librarians Guild used to complain that Banned Books Week was an unfortunate distraction from the greater problem of a propagandistic media system. I shared that view and still do, but it is not the objection that I want to explain today.
My problem with Banned Books Week is one that is probably shared by some conservatives, and it has to do with the loose definition of what a “banned book” is, and what a “challenged book” is. Over time, as I have come to understand my own politics better, I have realized that what I care about is rational discourse as the basis for a democratic society. In rational discourse, as I see it, it is important to be clear about what you are actually saying, to ask critical questions with a patience for detail, and to reject strategic communication and to minimize rhetoric. The Banned Books Week project, well-intended as it may be, is a propaganda exercise that fails to model good standards for democratic communication.
Here is what I mean.
The history of book banning is a history of inspiring stories, stories of mass suppression of ideas, copies of books collected so that they can be burned, publishers incarcerated, often ultimately to no avail as the power of an idea proved greater than the power of the state or of a fascistic party. Book banning, good people agree, should be fought against, and is a source of inspiration to fight for what is right. Banned Books Week taps into people’s response to these historical narratives and aims to prevent the suppression of ideas from recurring. A noble intention and a narrative resource.
The problem that I see with Banned Books Week is that what counts as a “banned book” is actually a “challenged book,” and what counts as a challenged book is something quite different from an effort to prevent a book from being published, sold, or even made available in a library. Most of the cases of challenged books that are reported as a part of Banned Books Week are cases where a parent of a child objects to a book being a part of their child’s school curriculum, or at other times in the school’s library, on the grounds of “age appropriateness.” Defenders of intellectual freedom, to my dismay, have an unwritten policy of never addressing the question of age appropriateness, leaving it as an unstated assumption that anything selected for the curriculum by educators as opposed to by parents is automatically age-appropriate, as though educators are incapable of error.
School districts have policies in place for reviewing challenges to books on the basis of age-appropriateness. Challenged books are reviewed and evaluated by committees that are charged with that responsibility, and then the school district makes an official decision regarding the book. Regardless of what the school’s decision turns out to be, regardless of its reasonableness or unreasonableness, and regardless of the objectivity or bias within the decision-making process in a specific case, all challenges to a book by a parent get counted as an attempt at book banning.
Personally, I agree with intellectual freedom orthodoxy that says that one family should not have the right to determine what other students are taught, and this is part of what public education is. But when a book is challenged and reviewed on the grounds of age-appropriateness, it is ultimately not the family that brought the challenge that makes the decision. The decision is made by the educational institution itself. We can hope that more often than not these decisions are well-informed and based more on educational psychology than they are on pressure from an ideological community group. They may not always be. But the decision about whether a book should remain a part of the curriculum or not is ultimately made by the public institution that put the book in the curriculum in the first place, which means that book challenges happen as a part of a process that the institution puts in place in order to get feedback from the community on the curriculum. (In some other areas, we on the left are fighting for more opportunities to influence local policies to meet local needs.)
What I want to emphasize about this is that the “book banning” that is the subject of Banned Books Week is not book banning as we understand it historically but part of the cultural fight over the school curriculum. Now, I am prepared to fight hard to keep rationality and science and humanism in the school curriculum, against the theocrats who seem to be making incredible progress in rolling back not only 20th century liberalism but the values behind the Constitution itself (i.e. secular democracy). But in fighting that fight over the curriculum, what I am ultimately fighting for is rational discourse as opposed to irrationality. If I give up basic standards of rational discourse and resort to strategic communication and propaganda… well, as we said about Al Qaida during the debate over the PATRIOT Act: “They have won.”
Daniel Ellsberg spoke at the American Library Association Annual Conference in New Orleans this summer, about the current world situation and libraries. ALA’s Leonard Kniffel followed up with this on-camera interview.
The Amelia Bloomer Project, a product of the ALA Social Responsibilities Round Table’s (SRRT) Feminist Taskforce, announced the 2011 Amelia Bloomer List at ALA’s Midwinter Meeting in San Diego.
The bibliography consists of well-written and illustrated books with significant feminist content, intended for young readers from birth to 18 years old. This year’s list includes 68 titles published between July 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010.
Named for Amelia Bloomer, a pioneering 19th century newspaper editor, feminist thinker, public speaker, and suffragist, the list notes books about girls and women that spur the imagination while confronting traditional female stereotypes.
The bibliography is intended to aid children and teens in selecting high-quality books released over the past 18 months and may be used for a recommended reading list for youth and those who interact with them and as a collection development or reader’s advisory tool for interested librarians.
Yes, it is that time of year again. Soon, your American Library Association membership renewal form will be arriving in the mail. Receipt of this renewal notice prompts many ALA members to ask themselves, why should I keep up my membership? What do I get out of it? What I want to say about membership renewal has to do with the two alternate ways that ALA members view the association: as a real association constituted by its members, or within the framework of a business-to-customer relationship.
Over the years, ALA has gradually become more of a customer-oriented publishing entity and less of a representative body and association for a professional group. Membership dues presently make up 15 to 20 percent of ALA revenues, as compared to 100% in the first days of the association. (Net profits from publishing activities are greater than revenues from membership dues today.) ALA is still governed by Council, the member-elected body that directs ALA management concerning any new activities, so it has to be recognized that this long-term change ultimately has been based on an accumulation of directives from the membership. ALA members have asked ALA to become what it has become.
As an organization with 60,000 members and a 55 million dollar budget, it should not be surprising that ALA is many different things to many people. Through its divisions and offices, and through the work of both its employees and its active members, the organization pursues a range of activities and goals that most of us don’t think about when we think of ALA. Usually we think of ALA in terms of what it offers to us in our own narrow areas of interest and own little corners of librarianship, whether in terms of publications or opportunities for committee work. It is easy to undervalue the association as a result of failing to appreciate the full range of its activities. This is especially true when Council (never forget that it is an elected body of the membership) makes a statement that turns out to be controversial. Such statements tend to overshadow everything else that Council has worked on and decided in a given session, not to mention ALA’s other activities (55 million dollars can go a long way). It is a shame that people form strong opinions about the association based on what are minor activities in relation to the whole, and that few members put effort into keeping up with what ALA is doing. (ALA Publishing needs to take some of the blame here for choosing to use American Libraries primarily as a magazine about the library scene in general, missing opportunities to highlight the association’s diverse activities.)
So, on the one hand I am suggesting that before deciding not to renew your ALA membership, you should take some time to study what ALA has being doing. A good place to do this is to look at ALA’s annual reports (the source of most of the facts in this posting).
In addition to taking a broad view of what ALA does, I think it is also important to consider two ways of looking at the association and its basic role. Those who look at their renewal form and ask, “I am getting my money’s worth?” are generally considering ALA in the context of a business-to-customer relationship, and trying to calculate whether their membership sufficiently benefits them personally. In that way of looking at ALA, the opportunity to volunteer one’s efforts to a committee, to participate in governance, or even to vote is not very meaningful, and ALA might as well not be a membership organization at all. Not to be too harsh, but I think that is a selfish way to look at one’s relationship to the association.
I have to admit that ALA as it presently exists does encourage members to have that kind of a relationship to it. It presents members with many opportunities to engage in a business-to-customer relationship with it. I can’t deny that there is value in ALA’s products through its publishing operations, and that those products benefit not only members but libraries and librarianship. However, I wish that ALA’s self-presentation to the library profession gave more emphasis to its role as a professional organization. Though it is not a professional organization in a technical and legal sense (since it has many non-librarian constituencies who are interested in the library world for various reasons and it is organized as an educational association for tax purposes) it is the closest thing to a professional association that librarians have. Unfortunately, its basic role as a professional association is somewhat invisible to most members.
It is natural to take for granted the basic structure of things. The way we take ALA for granted is similar to the way we take for granted the role of government in society. We take for granted that clean water comes out of the tap and rarely think of the role of government in creating and supporting the regulatory structures that allow that to happen. Though it lacks formal regulatory power, ALA supports the existence of libraries and of the library profession in a similar way. Its most important activities, from my point of view, are in its standards-setting role and in its provision of a central context for librarians to work together on questions that concern the practice of librarianship profession-wide. Librarianship has a degree of professional status, insecure as it may be. Without that professional status we would have less autonomy within the institutions where we play a role, which means that we would have a diminished ability to further the ethical aims that bind us together and give us a shared purpose. Without a professional association there would not be anything solid on which to lay our claim to belonging to a profession, and there would be no central context for deliberating on professional questions with the hope of an authoritative outcome. I think many people like the idea of doing without a centralized voice or an organization that provides a sense of unity, but I think they don’t realize how much depends on having it. It is good that we have the freedom debate such broad questions as “What is a library?” on the web and in independent publications, but it is also good, from my point of view, that an organization exists that is able to provide standards that contain provisional answers to those questions, which the library world is then able to use for guidance in decision-making and justification of budgets. And it is good that libraries are able to experiment with new ideas, but also extremely important that a shared context exists for incorporating the results of those experiments into profession-wide discussions that benefit all libraries. It is easy to take for granted the role of a professional association because it is easy to take for granted the basic structures of things as we know them. To a much greater extent than any of us realize, I think we have ALA to thank for the existence of what we understand as librarianship.
So, my point about ALA membership is that it simply isn’t appropriate to look at it in terms of what we get back from it individually, against the background of a structure that we think is otherwise secure. When you get your renewal notice, rather than looking at ALA from the point of view of a customer, I think it is more appropriate that we think of it by paraphrasing John F. Kennedy from his inaugural address: “Ask not what ALA can do for you – Ask what you can do for ALA.” (I should mention that paraphrasing JFK like that is not my own idea. It’s a saying that has circulated among active ALA members for many years.)
Women in Libraries, which for many years was the print publication of the Feminist Task Force of ALA/SRRT, ceased publication a few years ago, but is now back as an online publication. It is part of the larger wiki of the group.
Leonard Kniffel, editor of American Libraries, the American Library Association’s house publication, write in his blog:
Book burning is the most insidious form of book banning, and just as the American Library Association is preparing to celebrate the freedom to read during Banned Books Week, along comes one Rev. Terry Jones of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida. The good reverend’s idea of world outreach is to commemorate the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001 with a public burning of the Qur’an, the Muslim holy book.
The reverend would do well to use his matches to ignite the pilot light in his brain. Have you ever actually read the Qur’an, Rev. Jones? If you really want illumination, I respectfully suggest you spend Saturday reading instead of burning.
Save this date if you’re planning to be in New Orleans next June for the ALA Annual Conference. Saturday, June 25th Library Juice Press, possibly with one or more other groups, will be hosting a party of some kind. What to call it? It will be more lively than a reception or a meet-and-greet, but less wild than some of the things viewed on public computer terminals.
Please contact me if you’re with a group that has similar interests and would like to co-host our … maybe it should be a cocktail party? Sazeracs, of course.