February 21, 2016

Ramsey Kanaan on Resistance Radio

Ramsey Kanaan of AK Press and PM Press talked to Derrick Jensen on Resistance Radio again. (You can listen to a previous interview from August 16, 2015.)

Resistance Radio introduces him thusly:

Ramsey Kanaan has been involved in attempting to disseminate the good word for well over three and a half decades now. As a young teenager, he founded AK Press (named after his mothers initials) from his bedroom in Scotland. Hes co-founder and Publisher with PM Press. You can check out his current efforts at www.pmpress.org. Today we talk about the collapse of the book industry, and the implications for social change.

Don’t worry about the animal sounds at the beginning of the program. That’s how Jensen introduces his shows, instead of using theme music.

December 5, 2014

Statement by Former New Republic Editors and Writers

As former editors and writers for The New Republic, we write to express our dismay and sorrow at its destruction in all but name.

From its founding in 1914, The New Republic has been the flagship and forum of American liberalism. Its reporting and commentary on politics, society, and arts and letters have nurtured a broad liberal spirit in our national life.

The magazine’s present owner and managers claim they are giving it new relevance while remaining true to its century-old mission. Instead, they seem determined to strip it of the intellectual, literary, and political commitments that have been its essence and meaning. Their pronouncements suggest that they hold those commitments in contempt.

The New Republic cannot be merely a “brand.” It has never been and cannot be a “media company” that markets “content.” Its essays, criticism, reportage, and poetry are not “product.” It is not, or not primarily, a business. It is a voice, even a cause. It has lasted through numerous transformations of the “media landscape”—transformations that, far from rendering its work obsolete, have made that work ever more valuable.

The New Republic is a kind of public trust. That is something all its previous owners and publishers understood and respected. The legacy has now been trashed, the trust violated.

It is a sad irony that at this perilous moment, with a reactionary variant of conservatism in the ascendancy, liberalism’s central journal should be scuttled with flagrant and frivolous abandon. The promise of American life has been dealt a lamentable blow.

Peter Beinart (Editor)
Sidney Blumenthal (Senior editor)
Jonathan Chait (Senior editor)
David Grann (Senior editor)
David Greenberg (Acting editor)
Hendrik Hertzberg (Editor)
Ann Hulbert (Senior editor)
Robert Kuttner (Economics editor)
Robert B. Reich (Contributing editor)
Jeffrey Rosen (Legal editor)
Peter Scoblic (Executive editor)
Evan Smith (Deputy editor)
Joan Stapleton Tooley (Publisher)
Paul Starr (Contributing editor)
Ronald Steel (Contributing editor)
Andrew Sullivan (Editor)
Margaret Talbot (Deputy editor)
Dorothy Wickenden (Executive editor)
Sean Wilentz (Contributing editor)

November 21, 2014

Ursula K Le Guin’s speech at National Book Awards: ‘Books aren’t just commodities’

“To the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks, from the heart. My family, my agents, my editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as my own, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice in accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who’ve been excluded from literature for so long – my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination, who for 50 years have watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.

Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.

Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximise corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial. I see my own publishers, in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an e-book six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience, and writers threatened by corporate fatwa. And I see a lot of us, the producers, who write the books and make the books, accepting this – letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish, what to write.

Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.

I’ve had a long career as a writer, and a good one, in good company. Here at the end of it, I don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds; but the name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. Its name is freedom.”

August 29, 2013

Robert Darnton on “5 Myths About the Information Age”

The Chronicle of Higher Education published this succinct editorial by Robert Darnton, noted defender of the book and of libraries, titled, 5 Myths About the “Information Age.” Nicely, this is freely available on the web, not just for people whose institutions have access to the Chronicle. You might know Robert Darnton for his The Case for Books, which was based on a series of essays he did for the New York Review of Books (correct me if my memory is misleading me). This editorial in the Chronicle encapsulates some important points.

March 14, 2013

Interview with Ray Schwartz

I have just interviewed Ray Schwartz. Ray is a systems librarian at the William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. He frequently presents on topics relating to the use of many forms of electronic transactional data and datamining. He is teaching a course for Library Juice Academy next month called, “Collecting and Evaluating Electronic Transactions from Library Services.” He agreed to do an interview here to give people a better idea about what will be covered in the class and where he is coming from.

March 11, 2013

The women behind Russia’s literary greats

Interesting article from The Moscow News this week about the women behind the great men of Russian literary history. The author claims that creative partnership between writers prior to women’s independence was a uniquely Russian tradition…

August 18, 2012

Sloppy reporting on Saudi “City for Women”

I won’t comment much on this except to speculate that this may be an example of a state of affairs in journalism where reporters are making sloppy mistakes because the pace of the newsroom, like the pace of everything else in the internet era, is too quick for us to keep tabs on everything as we should. Numerous reputable newspapers and magazines evidently misreported a story based on a reading of the original Saudi headline, without reading the article itself. Al Jazeera English reports: “Saudi Women-Only City? Look Again.”

July 24, 2012

Article on the NYPL in N+1

Like most librarians, I’ve been following the changes going on at the New York Public Library. It is one of those issues that casts a spotlight on the larger library world because of the vast importance of the institution. Charles Peterson’s essay in the amazing and fabulous journal N+1 burrows deep into the issue and he comes up with some suprising findings that have a lot to say about the corporatization of libraries and the future of reading culture. Here is a representative quote:

“More than anything, this rhetoric reveals the fundamentally anti-democratic worldview that has taken hold at the library. It is of a piece with what the new Masters of the Universe have accomplished in the public schools, where hedge funders have provided the lion’s share of the backing for privatization, and in the so-called reforms to our financial system, where technocrats meet behind closed doors to decide what will be best for the rest of us. Oligarchs acting in the people’s name (with the people’s money) is not democratic; selling off New York’s cultural patrimony to out-of-town heiresses, closing down treasured divisions and branches, pushing out expert staff, and shipping books to a warehouse in the suburbs, all without consulting the public, is not democratic. If the reconstruction goes through, scholarly research will be more, not less, concentrated in the handful of inordinately wealthy and exclusive colleges and universities. The renovation is elitism garbed in populist rhetoric, ultimately condescending to the very people the library’s board thinks they’re serving. It suggests that no one other than an Ivy League professor or student could ever hope to engage in scholarship or original research. Leave the heavy lifting to the folks at Harvard and McKinsey (and the quants in our commodities division), the financiers are saying; for the rest of you, there will be lovely sun-filled spots to check your email.”

I encourage you all to read the whole thing and let us know what you think. Part One can be found here and Part Two here

January 5, 2012

Robert Darnton Interview at Cardiff University

Robert Darnton, frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books on libraries and author of The Case for Books: Past, Present and Future, was interviewed prior to a talk at Cardiff University, by Cardiff grad student Rhys Tranter. The interview was posted to the blog of Cardiff University’s Centre for Editorial & Intertextual Research.

November 12, 2011

Books Don’t Take You Anywhere

Great Onion article lampooning those among us who lack imagination:

Books Don’t Take You Anywhere

WASHINGTON, DC—A study released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education revealed that, contrary to the longtime claims of librarians and teachers, books do not take you anywhere.

“For years, countless educators have asserted that books give readers a chance to journey to exotic, far-off lands and meet strange, exciting new people,” Education Secretary Richard Riley told reporters. “We have found this is simply not the case.” …

October 30, 2011

Students at the University of Denver Want Books

Here is a guest post from Julie Teglovic, an MLIS student at the University of Denver, where students have been protesting a decision regarding the library…


Library as Space: University Students Want Books

This April, the paper books at the University of Denver’s Penrose Library began a move into a storage facility 10 miles away in preparation for the library’s gutting and renovation. I, like most students not hearing otherwise, assumed that the move would be temporary, until I happened across the “Keep the Penrose Library Book Collection on Campus” Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/savethestacks) in early May. According to this page, secret dealings had been made “behind closed doors and at the last minute” by the university Chancellor and Board of Trustees, culminating in a decision to retain 80% of the books at the storage center and return 20% to campus after the renovation.

About six students and a few faculty members, led by undergraduate English and Psychology major Brandon Reich-Sweet, united to disseminate information through the Facebook page and a website (www.savepenrose.com). They distributed online and paper petitions, contacted news outlets and university officials, made t-shirts and signs, and organized check-out/sit-in protests in and around the library. Because of these efforts, as of right now, university administration has agreed to return 50% of the books to campus (this is according to library faculty and student organizers; no official communication to students has been released).

Concerns over environmental sustainability and transparency were important to the group’s arguments (books will be driven by truck to and from the storage facility indefinitely, and neither students nor library staff were asked for input on the initial decision), but perhaps more interesting here are this group of non-librarians’ deep concerns about the library, its space, and its purpose.

I’ve read a lot in library school thus far about adapting to survive, about the need to see the library as community space, meeting space, and cutting-edge technology space. As gaming space, video-editing space, music-recording space. I’ve taken classes on ebooks and seen the skills requirements for programming languages and systems analysis on academic librarian job descriptions. Librarians want to redefine their collective image, to be tech-savvy and rethink education; we champion webinars and iSchools and digital repositories as solutions. Penrose is certainly not the first academic library to move a large number of books off-campus. Some students supported the Chancellor’s original decision and spoke out in the student newspaper The Clarion, asking why a book that’s never been circulated should gather dust. They argue that the way students learn has fundamentally changed in the last 20 years, and by designing a library with more collaborative learning space, the university is responding to this change.

Yet the (mostly undergraduate) students protesting—the library users, not the librarians—organized this movement and voiced—loudly—a different opinion: they want the books. As symbols of academic rigor, as visible history, as an elegant reminder of long-form reality itself to Brandon—the pages mean something to them. The millennials we jump to categorize as attention-deficient and gadget-crazed are perhaps more attuned to the emotional, existential, and intellectual redemption that a brick of words, a collection not on a screen, can provide than we as a profession would like to acknowledge. “The decision by a group of number-obsessed business-types to remove almost all of the books from a LIBRARY was really just a small symbol of a broader cultural trend,” Brandon says in an editorial for the Clarion. He writes about “Things without meaning…the terrible anxiety that comes standard with existence in modern human society…The victory of the Save Penrose movement then is not only one of logistics but one of meanings.”

-Julie Teglovic

October 29, 2011

Alan Mattlage reviews Slow Reading

New Library Juice blogger Alan Mattlage has posted a review of John Miedema’s Slow Reading on his own blog, books, etc.

While we’re on the topic of John’s book, I will note that he has a new book in the works, which he is writing as a series in web form first. It is about e-book reading, and it is called, I, Reader.

September 30, 2011

On the Pleasure of Libraries as a Place

Hello, this is Erik Sean Estep. I’m one of the new bloggers here. I’ve been a librarian for over ten years and I’m currently the Social Sciences Librarian at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

I’m honored to be a contributor because I think that this is one of the most intellectually compelling blogs in our field. Many times, this space has caused me to think more deeply and philosophically about library and information science issues. I hope to continue that tradition.  For my first post, I’d like to draw attention to one of the best things I’ve read about the wonders of the library.

A nostalgic piece about going to the library as a young man is in one of the recent issues of The London Review of Books. Alan Bennett is one of England’s great writers and he elegantly gets at the tactile joys of going to the library without resorting to the sentimentality of pining for a lost world.  Bennett is a true Renaissance Man and you get the sense that his inspiration came from going to the library. He was raised in a working class family and the library was his gateway to a wider life of the mind. Sometimes it takes an outsider to bring to our attention the important work that we do and the value we bring to our society.

September 17, 2011

Lincoln Cushing writes on the printing renaissance of the 1960s

Red in black and white: The New Left printing renaissance of the 1960s – and beyond

Essay by Lincoln Cushing in Peace Press Graphics 1967-1987: Art in the Pursuit of Social Change, Catalog for a 2011 exhibition at the University Art Museum, California State University, Long Beach. Exhibition curated by Ilee Kaplan and Carol A. Wells, Center for the Study of Political Graphics.

This article is a brief historical overview, with illustrations, of some of the print shops that were associated with the New Left in the United States. Like a lot of historical writing about the 60s, it’s both nostalgic and indirectly instructive, for people who might want to do analogous projects now. Lincoln is an important and knowledgeable writer in the history of left political printing and graphic design in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and since.

September 6, 2011

Call for Papers: Protest on the Page: Print Culture History in Opposition to Almost Anything* (*you can think of)

2nd Call for Papers

Protest on the Page:
Print Culture History in Opposition to Almost Anything*
(*you can think of)

Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture
Madison, Wisconsin
September 28-29, 2012

Protest has a long and varied tradition in America. The conference will feature papers focusing on authors, publishers and readers of oppositional materials, in all arenas from politics to literature, from science to religion. Whether the dissent takes the form of a banned book by Henry Miller or documents from Wikileaks, conference presentations will help us to understand how dissent functions within print and digital cultures.

The keynote speaker will be Victor Navasky, Publisher Emeritus of The Nation and George T. Delacorte Professor in Magazine Journalism, Director of the Delecorte Center for Magazine Journalism, and Chair of the Columbia Journalism Review. In addition, he is the author of such noted books as Kennedy Justice (1971), Naming Names (National Book Award, 1982), and A Matter of Opinion (George Polk Book Award, 2005). Perhaps best known for his long career as editor and then publisher of The Nation, Navasky has an understanding of dissent and its publications that has few peers. His lecture, and the subsequent reception, will be open to the general public.

Proposals for individual twenty-minute papers or complete sessions (up to three papers) should include a 250-word abstract and a one-page c.v. for each presenter. Submissions should be made via email to printculture@slis.wisc.edu. The deadline for submissions is January 31, 2012. Notifications of acceptance will be made in early March 2012.

As with previous conferences, we anticipate producing a volume of papers from the conference for publication in the Center’s series, “Print Culture History in Modern America,” published by the University of Wisconsin Press. A list of books the Center has produced is available at the Center’s website (http://slisweb.lis.wisc.edu/~printcul/). The best proposals will mirror these earlier works, as they speak to their own authors, publishers, and readers.

For information, contact:

Christine Pawley, Director,
Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture
4234 Helen C. White Hall, 600 N. Park St.
Madison, WI 53706 phone: 608 263-2945/608 263-2900
fax: (608) 263-4849
email: cpawley@wisc.edu