March 24, 2009

Information for Social Change #28

The new issue of Information for Social Change, issue #28, is now online. The topic of this issue is “lifelong learners.” Here is a list of the articles:

  • Learning, Learning Communities and Globalisation (Dr Ray Shore)
  • Back to the Future?- Lifelong learning in libraries (Andrew Hudson)
  • Developing a NEETS Based Library Service (John Pateman)
  • Policing Library Users (John Pateman)
  • Information and liberation: writings on the politics of information and librarianship (Shiraz Durrani)
  • Quality Leaders Project (Youth) initiative (Jane Pitcher and Elizabeth Eastwood-Krah)

Some useful material here.

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June 18, 2008

ISC Call for Papers

INFORMATION FOR SOCIAL CHANGE (ISC)
ISSN 1364-694X (print)
ISSN 1756-901X (online)

CALL FOR PAPERS —

The Summer 2009 issue of the journal Information for Social Change (ISC) will focus on the theme of SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY FOR UTOPIAS.

This issue of ISC aims to document 21st century science and technology initiatives designed for utopian societies. The intended audience is hands-on Utopian makers, as well as those individuals and groups who share in the vision of Utopian futures.

ISC seeks submissions in the following two areas aimed at encouraging adaptations, constructive intercultural dialogue, and international participation:

1) General action research, development based participatory action research, case studies, and DIY (do-it-yourself) aspects of creating low cost, long term science and technology solutions to our present ecological mess, which also make for viable long term social justice (e.g., ethical
aid, alternative transportation, living labs, green housing, and slow food movements) and the role of library and information workers and work therein.

2) Thoughts on information ecology, sharing, and recycling as they relate to the production of human and natural resources and how best to achieve egalitarian societies in which there is free flow of information (e.g., social, cultural, communication, and information systems which combine ICT within egalitarian decision making processes in the context of non-proprietary systems and free information movements).

Anyone interested in contributing work related to the above expressed theme is invited to share their ideas with issue co-editors Martyn Lowe (martynlowe @ usa.net) & Toni Samek (toni.samek @ ualberta.ca).

Whilst encouraging rigorous debate, the journal exists primarily for workers and practitioners, so simple and clear English is preferable. Articles should, where possible, be between 500 and 2500 words. This is to ensure a wide coverage of topics in each issue. However, longer articles
may be excerpted in the journal and the full text made available from the author(s), if you wish. As well as articles we are also interested in shorter pieces (including letters, review articles, and poems). For our submission guidelines, see: http://libr.org/isc/policy.html#2

The closing date for final submission is DECEMBER 10 (HUMAN RIGHTS DAY), 2008.

For more information about ISC and this forthcoming issue, see: http://libr.org/isc/forthcoming.html

Toni Samek, PhD
Professor & Graduate Coordinator
School of Library & Information Studies, Faculty of Education, University
of Alberta

Mailing Address: SLIS, 3-15 Rutherford South, University of Alberta,
Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA T6G 2J4
Phone: (780) 492-0179
Fax: (780) 492-2430
E-mail: toni.samek@ualberta.ca
Skype: antoniacan
Web: http://www.ualberta.ca/~asamek/toni.htm

“A word after a word after a word is power.” Margaret Atwood

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March 3, 2008

Information for Social Change – issue 26

The new issue of Information for Social Change is on the web. This issue comes back to the topic of social exclusion, which has been a major direction for ISC over the years. Here is the table of contents:

  • Social Exclusion ‚Äì where is it going? (John Pateman)
  • Developing a Needs Based Library Service (John Pateman)
  • He didn‚Äôt have to say he was gay (John Vincent)
  • Public Libraries and the Digital Divide (John Pateman)
  • Are We All Being Served (Andrew Hudson)
  • Reading Orwell in Havana (John Pateman)
  • Library Services for Newcomers to Canada: Embracing Cultural Diversity (Kendra Bender)
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October 16, 2007

New issue of Information for Social Change

The new issue of Information for Social Change, issue 25, is available online. It is another theme issue, this time dealing with libraries and information workers in conflict situations. Examples of what’s in it include articles in disinformation during wartime, truth commissions in Latin American countries and libraries in relation to them, women living under Muslim law, human rights and librarians, and cultural property.

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April 20, 2007

Radical and Progressive Library and Information Site Search

Paul Catherall of Information for Social Change has created a Google-based web search that searches websites from the international library left. Try the Radical and Progressive Library and Information Site Search and leave feedback here if you like.

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April 19, 2007

Rory Litwin joins ISC editorial board

Continuing in a self-congratulatory mode, I am proud to announce that I have joined the editorial board of Information for Social Change, the UK-based collective and semi-annual journal. ISC is an organization of the Left, but is extremely diverse politically and intellectually, and handles this diversity in an interesting way. I have followed their work for years (and even have a stack of all of the back issues of the journal) and I am very pleased and proud to be a part of their group.

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March 19, 2007

Ed D’Angelo responds to John Pateman’s review of Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library

I appreciate John Pateman’s efforts in writing a review of my book, “Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library,” and I think that ultimately our underlying motives are similar. But there are real disagreements, too, as well as misunderstandings that I would like to address. The most important real difference of opinion is found in his assertion that “by supporting democracy and civil education, Public Libraries are supporting capitalism.” I agree that the US and the UK are poor examples of democracy– and I say so in my book–but I do not believe that by supporting democracy one is supporting capitalism. I believe that the values of democracy are different if not opposed to those of capitalism, and that democracy, when pushed far enough and extended into the workplace, is socialism. Curiously, the argument that capitalism and democracy are somehow related to one another, or even identical, can be found on both extremes of the political spectrum. On the right, neoliberals and market fundamentalists equate democracy with capitalism in order to ideologically support capitalism. Thomas Frank does an excellent job of analyzing and indeed mocking this ideology under the name of “market populism” in his book One Market Under God. At the other end of the political spectrum, authoritarian socialists equate democracy with capitalism in order to discredit democracy. But among more moderate socialists, such as members of the Frankfurt School, some of whose arguments I draw upon in my book, democracy and socialism are viewed as entirely compatible. Anarchism, in my view, is a radical form of democracy that relies on direct, participatory democracy and consensus decision making at the local level, and federation at higher levels of complexity.

Pateman claims to be writing from a Marxist perspective, but he embraces neoliberalism and the Harvard Business School. It is true that according to Marx capitalism must sweep the world before communism can exist. This put Marx in the odd position of sometimes supporting capitalism as a necessary stage of history while resisting contemporary socialism. This was one of the sources of disagreement between Marx and Bakunin in the First International. Bakunin believed that socialism could be achieved through many historical routes that didn’t necessarily pass through capitalism. Anarchism is primarily a moral ideology. From an anarchist perspective, the Marxist doctrine of the dictatorship of the proletariat, as well as the Marxist theory of history that requires a stage of capitalist development prior to communism, are immoral on Kantian grounds. They are immoral because they treat people as a means to an end. In either case the current generation of workers is exploited for the sake of a future communist society. But even Marx would not endorse becoming a capitalist exploiter (or corporate style manager, etc.) in order to bring about socialism. Marx simply meant that one should not attempt to bring about socialism until the time is ripe. Furthermore, our historical situation is very different than Marx’s. We now know with the benefit of hindsight that history has not proceeded in the way that Marx anticipated, and that history does not proceed according to some tidy Hegelian logic.

Pateman states that “Education and Public Libraries were invented by capitalists (such as Andrew Carnegie) to take the pressure out of the capitalist system, to prevent revolution.” He goes on to say that public libraries are capitalist institutions just like corporate chain bookstores. Public libraries cannot successfully compete in the capitalist marketplace with bookstores for the same middle class customers so, Pateman concludes, public libraries should compete instead for working class customers, using the same corporate capitalist strategies that the corporate chain bookstores use to attract middle class customers. De-professionalize librarians, take away their “gatekeeper role,” stock the libraries with entertainment, and give the customers what they want, since what they want is what they need. “We should employ staff for their Customer Service skills first and foremost, and then teach them any technical skills which they require to carry out their jobs. Under capitalism the citizen is the customer, the customer is always right, and if we don’t give the customer what s/he needs, we will become irrelevant and people will stop using us.” Pateman says that the working class “should be involved in every aspect of public library operations, including book selection” (as long as they are not actually employed by the library), but then he turns around and quotes a corporate management guru who says “that it takes only a few people (who Gladwell characterises as Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen) to spread a good idea or product.” But who are the “Connectors” but the top level executives with political connections? Who are the “Mavens” but the engineers and technicians? And who are the “Salesmen” but the marketing managers of a typical corporation? This is simply market populism, the idea that the market expresses the true interests of the people, and that the corporate ruling class, as the most powerful players in this market, are their true guardians.

What Pateman has totally omitted are professional librarians and educators. He simply dismisses librarianship and civil education as agents of capitalism. Once he has reduced librarianship and education to capitalism, he can then reconfigure the public library in capitalist terms. Library users become “customers.” Staff are trained in “customer service” and given “technical skills.” But librarianship and civil education are not about customer service or about technical skills. They are ultimately about politics–principally, democracy and its associated moral values. Pateman can neither recognize nor accept this distinction because he reduces democracy itself to capitalism. It is true that the first public libraries, founded in the 19th century, were established by the capitalist ruling class, and I say so in my book. But to say as he does that public libraries have only served capitalism and that they offer no alternative to or resistance against capitalism is equally false. To say as he also does that democracy serves capitalism is to confuse democratic institutions with the ideal of democracy itself. If the public library has failed to measure up to its democratic ideal that is not reason to abandon the ideal but reason to defend it more ardently.

My book speaks for itself, and so I refer readers to it if they wish to further resolve this issue. But Pateman has also misrepresented or misunderstood my book on certain other issues, and that requires an additional response. The chief misrepresentation of my book in Pateman’s review is that he leaves the reader with the impression that I am supporting middle class Victorian values. I do argue that public libraries were established according to middle class Victorian values and that these values have gone into decline. But I do not argue that the public library can be revitalized by returning to Victorian values. On the contrary, I argue that 19th century Capitalism went into decline and was replaced by postmodern consumer capitalism in part because Victorian values were deficient. I cite Nietzsche who predicted a period of nihilism following the decline of Victorian Christian values (the “death of God”). What is needed is not a return to Victorian values but the creation of new values.

The most disturbing aspect of Pateman’s review is his inconsistency (if not hypocrisy) about the role of the working class in public libraries and, more broadly, in politics. Like the market populists, he claims to be a champion of the oppressed masses and of the working class, but at the same time he supports the corporate world order. He says that we should cure ourselves of “affluenza” by seeking to satisfy our needs rather than our wants, and says that public libraries should serve the “needs” of the working class rather than the “wants” of the middle class. He recognizes that wants are not the same as needs, and that people sometimes want things that are not in their best interest. But then he turns around and says that the customer is always right and that the gatekeeper role should be taken away from librarians, clearly implying that public libraries should give working class people what they want. He confuses the logic of consumer markets?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùthe principle that the “customer is always right,” giving people what they “want”?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùwith the empowerment of the masses. Conversely, he equates criticism of popular culture with the oppression of the working class. In fact, he rejects any distinction between “good” and “bad” books. In other words, he confuses a critical ranking of books with a class system. The element of truth here is that “high culture” was a product of certain privileged classes of literate people (clergy, nobility, upper bourgeoisie, etc.) during the pre-modern era, and in part it may very well reflect their class interests. But popular culture has not been produced just to give the masses what they want, let alone what they need. It has also and primarily been produced to generate a profit. And when it became necessary to change what consumers wanted, advertising was created. In other words, consumer markets express the interests of the capitalist ruling class at least as much as high culture expressed the interests of the pre-modern literate classes. Pateman says that the working class “may not be attracted to ?¢‚ǨÀúhigh culture’ but there is equal value in ?¢‚ǨÀúpopular culture’.” But it is insulting and patronizing to assume that working class people never have an interest in high culture. Pateman gets around the fact that working class people have shown an interest in high culture by arguing that working class people who show an interest in high culture are trying to adopt middle class values, hence are not authentically “working class.” But this is a circular argument. It only works if you assume beforehand that high culture is necessarily middle or upper class. It is not. Although academia has a way of absorbing them today, prior to the second half of the 20th century there were many working class intellectuals. Literacy among working class people in the early 20th century was astonishingly high, as the popularity of Will and Ariel Durants’ “high brow” history of civilization demonstrates. Nor is it true, on the other hand, that the working class has been the sole consumer of popular culture in the modern period. Popular culture cuts across class lines.

Pateman claims that “working class people are able to work out what is good for them,” and since librarians are “middle class,” they don’t need librarians. Pateman assumes that anyone who is educated must be “middle class.” But class is not about education. Class is about power, and about wealth, insofar as wealth bestows power. And in that respect librarians in the USA are hardly “middle class.” As I discuss at length in my book, since the time of Melvil Dewey librarians in the USA have been treated more or less like factory workers and subjected to the same system of “scientific” management. (The professional status of librarians may be different in the UK. And that may be a source of disagreement between Pateman and I. In that case, I recommend that Pateman disabuse himself of the idea that librarians should be deprofessionalized by finding employment at the front lines of an American library.) Pateman’s animosity towards the “middle class,” which he apparently confuses with middle income workers, is not a mark of his radicalism, but rather of the new corporate world order, in which the rich get richer and everyone else gets poorer. It is a world of the “few” corporate chieftains and legions of low paid temp workers.

Pateman says that it is “patronizing and insulting” to assume that working class people need librarians to select material for them. But it is equally insulting and disrespectful to assume that a trained and educated librarian would not be more competent than an untrained person, whatever “class” that person may belong to. Pateman insinuates that librarians would select what they think their users should read, rather than what they want to read. But any competent librarian will consider both the wants and needs of their users.

I do not argue in my book that all popular culture is without value, only that a “great deal of popular literature falls into the category of information that is neither educational nor edifying.” Indeed many of my own sources are works of popular culture that are educational or edifying.

I do not argue in my book that popular culture should be excluded from public libraries. Good librarians, like good teachers, begin where they find their readers. If that happens to be works of popular culture then they will begin by building a collection of popular works. Good librarians merely facilitate the reader’s own innate quest for truth and quality. Use of a public library is, after all, voluntary. Librarians cannot and should not coerce users to read what they deem best. They should, however, make available what their educated opinion deems best. My primary complaint about collection development in public libraries has always been about what is not available (books that meet high critical standards) rather than what is (books that the publishing industry is promoting at any given time). I am arguing for the inclusion of great works, not the exclusion of popular culture.

Pateman says that I pose “education and entertainment as if they are mutually exclusive; they are not. The best books / films / media are both entertaining and educational. If a subject is not entertaining / enjoyable, it is less likely that people will want to learn about it.” Pateman is correct that I distinguish between education and entertainment. But he is wrong to say that I exclude enjoyment from education. I state very clearly in my book that “education and edification do not necessarily exclude pleasure. Pleasure is necessarily a part of education insofar as education makes higher levels of pleasure and the pleasurable consumption of information possible. We consume education and we are pleasured by it.”

But as I go on to say, “it is possible to consume information without being educated or edified.” In fact, it is possible to consume information without being either educated or entertained. When I view a subliminal advertisement that associates sex with an expensive car, am I being educated? Have I learned some truth about the world that I did not previously understand? Or have I been manipulated and deceived into purchasing a car I cannot afford? Such a subliminal ad doesn’t even qualify as “entertainment.” I am not even conscious of it. Its purpose is neither to educate me nor to entertain me, but to change my behavior in such a way that the producers of the ad will increase their profits. Most of what we call “entertainment” in our culture functions much like an advertisement. Its purpose is not to educate, or even to entertain. Its purpose is to increase profits. It educates or entertains only as a means to produce profit. That is just the way capitalism works, and Marx would have agreed. But as it turns out, education is not as useful for the purpose of increasing profits as entertainment is. Education is dangerous. It empowers those who acquire it. Those who are educated are not so easily deceived. Those who are educated make choices in their own interests. Those who are educated are not so easily exploited. Entertainment, on the other hand, is useful to those who wish to profit from us. Entertainment keeps viewers eyes glued to the screen. It’s very “sticky,” indeed, like candy?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùor better yet, like cigarettes, one of the most heavily advertised commodities in the 20th century. By making information entertaining, the producers of information increase the likelihood that we will continue to consume it, just as nicotine in cigarettes increases the likelihood that we will continue to consume them.

A good model for the role public libraries could play in the lives of all people, including working class people, is Earl Shorris’ great books program at the Roberto Clemente Center in New York’s Lower East Side. I have done something similar with my philosophy discussion group in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Earl Shorris objects to the fact that poor and working class people rarely have access to the humanities. He believes that an education in the humanities is essential for a meaningful life and for full participation in modern society. He established a great books program in the Lower East Side and found that the chronically unemployed, methadone patients, former prisoners, etc. enthusiastically identified with the prisoners in Plato’s allegory of the cave. Like the prisoners in Plato’s cave, they too had been force-fed mere shadows. With the help of an education in the humanities they gained the power to see through the lies and the shadows, and to break free.

Ed D’Angelo

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March 3, 2007

ISC review of Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library

John Pateman of Information for Social Change has written a review of Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library, by Ed D’Angelo. Pateman has a Marxist perspective as well as a UK perspective, and explains his disagreement with the book in those terms.

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December 30, 2006

New – ISC #24 – World Social Forum

The new issue of Information for Social Change is out. It’s issue 24, and its theme is “Libraries & Information in the World Social Forum Context.

There hasn’t been much participation in the World Social Forum by U.S. librarians, including the progressives and socialists, though there has certainly been awareness and enthusiasm about the WSF in general among the Left. There has been a bit more activity in the WSF among librarians and information professionals in other countries. Members of the Information for Social Change collective are very interested, and have generated the current issue of the journal out of past activity and preparations for 2007 in Nairobi.

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November 1, 2006

Information for Social Change – Call for Papers

INFORMATION FOR SOCIAL CHANGE (ISC)
ISSN 1364-694X

CALL FOR PAPERS

The summer 2007 issue of the online journal Information for Social Change (ISC) will focus on the urgent theme of library and information workers as political actors in times of war, civil war, military occupation, and social conflicts worldwide.

ISC seeks both contemporary and historical submissions that address such topics as:

— Library and information provision during times of war, civil war, military occupation, and social conflict that provide insights and practical strategies for potential library and information projects in regions of conflict worldwide.

— Profiles of library and information workers as participants and interventionists in conflicts, as political actors that offer some new possibilities for strategies of resistance, or that challenge networks of military or civil control worldwide.

— Access to library and information provision and the information needs of oppressed peoples for empowerment and emancipation during times of war, revolution, or social conflict worldwide.

— Dissemination of information about inside conflicts to the outside world. Here, ISC is particularly interested in explorations of how to protect the information provider in terms of privacy; confidentiality; freedom of opinion and expression; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; peaceful assembly and association; and protection from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

Note: ISC has a special interest in receiving, publishing, documenting, and giving memory to information about conflicts on which very little information has been recorded to date.

Anyone interested in contributing an article, thought piece, bibliography, review, or other work related to the expressed theme is invited to share their ideas with issue co-editors Martyn Lowe (martynlowe@usa.net) AND Toni Samek (toni.samek@ualberta.ca).

The closing date for submission is December 10, 2006 (HUMAN RIGHTS DAY).
Word limits are negotiable with Martyn and Toni.

For more information about ISC, see http://www.libr.org/isc/

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October 4, 2006

Information for Social Change #23

The new issue of Information for Social Change, issue 23, is now online. It is a bigger-than-usual issue with some provocative and interesting articles. Information for Social Change is a British organization of radical library workers.

Here is the table of contents:

Contents and Editorial

* Contents
* Editorial: Education for Social Change – by Glenn Rikowski

Articles

* Class, Capital and Education in this Neoliberal and Neoconservative Period – by Dave Hill
* To Teach or Not to Teach? The Dilemma of a Left-wing Student – by Alison Tuffs
* Education and the Politics of Human Resistance – by Glenn Rikowski
* The Age of the Corporate State Versus The Informational and Cognitive Public Domain – by Zapopan Mart?ɬ?n Muela-Meza
* ‘Pay as you learn’! The ‘Learning Society’ Rhetoric in the EU-Sponsored Research Projects – by Dionyssios S. Gouvias
* Critical Mass – by Phil Badger and Glenn Rikowski
* What is Moral Education? – by Susan Devine
* Teaching Ethical Issues in Information Technology: How and When – by Ruth Rikowski
* Critical Perspectives in E-Learning – by Paul Catherall
* Education for Social Change or for Capital Crisis Resolution – by Helen Raduntz
* Problems in Education Today – by Victor Rikowski

E-Dialogues and E-Interviews

* Education for a Socialist Future – An E-Dialogue between Rich Gibson and Glenn Rikowski
* Where has youth radicalism gone? Political participation and democratic pedagogy – An e-dialogue between Alpesh Maisuria and Spyros Themelis
* Critical Pedagogy Reloaded: An E-Interview with Peter McLaren – Peter McLaren interviewed by Glenn Rikowski
* Marxism and Educational Theory: An E-Interview with Mike Cole – Mike Cole interviewed by Glenn Rikowski

Book Reviews

* Linear Hymns, a collection of lyrics and poems by Giles Paley-Phillips – reviewed by Paul Catherall
* Foibles, Frolics and Phantasms: Illustrated poems (1995-2005), by Paul Catherall – reviewed by Ruth Rikowski
* Delivering E-learning for Information Services in Higher Education, by Paul Catherall – reviewed by Ruth Rikowski
* The Copy/South Dossier: issues in the economics, politics, and ideology of copyright in the global South, The Copy/South Research Group, Edited by Alan Story, Colin Darch and Debora Halbert – reviewed by Ruth Rikowski
* Open Access: key strategic technical and economic aspects, Edited by Neil Jacobs – reviewed by Ruth Rikowski

Biographical Reflections

* Combining Information and Library work with the Arts and Artistic Creativity, Research and Theory: it is all possible! – A focus on Paul Catherall – by Ruth Rikowski

Poems

* The All Rounder (The Centre of Everything) – by Gregory Rikowski
* The Ideal World – by Gregory Rikowski

Epilogue

* Education beyond Retromodernism, and Towards Really Useful Workers’ Knowledge – by Glenn Rikowski

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May 30, 2006

Call for Papers: Information for Social Change

INFORMATION FOR SOCIAL CHANGE (ISC)
ISSN 1364-694X

CALL FOR PAPERS (Feel free to foreword this message to friends and colleagues.)

The summer 2007 issue of the online journal Information for Social Change (ISC) will focus on the urgent theme of library and information workers as political actors in times of war, civil war, military occupation, and social conflicts worldwide.

ISC seeks both contemporary and historical submissions that address such topics as:

— Library and information provision during times of war, civil war, military occupation, and social conflict that provide insights and practical strategies for potential library and information projects in regions of conflict worldwide.

— Profiles of library and information workers as participants and interventionists in conflicts, as political actors that offer some new possibilities for strategies of resistance, or that challenge networks of military or civil control worldwide.

— Access to library and information provision and the information needs of oppressed peoples for empowerment and emancipation during times of war, revolution, or social conflict worldwide.

— Dissemination of information about inside conflicts to the outside world. Here, ISC is particularly interested in explorations of how to protect the information provider in terms of privacy; confidentiality; freedom of opinion and expression; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; peaceful assembly and association; and protection from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

Note: ISC has a special interest in receiving, publishing, documenting, and giving memory to information about conflicts on which very little information has been recorded to date.

Anyone interested in contributing an article, thought piece, bibliography, review, or other work related to the expressed theme is invited to share their ideas with issue co-editors Martyn Lowe (martynlowe@usa.net) AND Toni Samek (toni.samek@ualberta.ca).

The closing date for submission is December 10, 2006 (HUMAN RIGHTS DAY). Word limits are negotiable with Martyn and Toni.

For more information about ISC, see http://www.libr.org/isc/

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