August 18, 2016

Research Assistant Sought

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

August 8, 2016

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

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

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

Annie, thanks for agreeing to do this interview.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 27, 2016

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

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

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

Now available on Amazon.com

Table of Contents

Introduction

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

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

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

Working with Information: Some Initial Enquiries, by Steve Wright

Crisis Talk, by Toni Samek

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

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

July 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 1, 2016

Robert Montoya wins the 2016 Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information

We are pleased to announce the winner of the 2016 Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information. We are granting this year’s award to Robert Montoya of the UCLA Department of Information Studies, based on his dissertation project, tentatively titled, “Articulating Composite Taxonomies: Epistemology and the Global Unification of Biodiversity Databases.” Montoya’s nominating faculty member wrote:

“Our field, information studies, is often misunderstood as a field in which technocrats and managers impose standards on data or records for the purpose of implementing tasks that make it easier for people to find and use information or cultural legacy materials. This misapprehension ignores the complex and profound inquiry into the nature of knowledge models, epistemological discourse, and the historicity of these models and discourses across fields, disciplines and professions. Robert Montoya’s work on classification and nomenclature is relevant to scholars and scientists working with the identification and assessment of species viability. Perhaps more importantly for the Information Studies community, his work on classification used in the natural sciences is going to offer insights into the ways classification systems and knowledge organization meet a specific set of conditions in application and use. His dissertation should also be of interest to those working in the history of science, cultural history, bibliographical study, and discourse analysis from a philosophy of knowledge perspective.”

The award consists of a certificate suitable for framing and $1000 check.

Since this award is for ongoing research, other applicants who are still working on their dissertations will be eligible to enter their work next year, and we strongly encourage them to do so.

For more information about the award, please visit http://litwinbooks.com/award.php.

June 8, 2016

Celebrating GLBT Book Month – A few of our titles

We want to recognize and celebrate that June is GLBT Book Month, and draw attention to a few of our titles:

May 19, 2016

Progressive Community Action: Critical Theory and Social Justice in Library and Information Science

Progressive Community Action: Critical Theory and Social Justice in Library and Information Science

Editors: Bharat Mehra and Kevin Rioux
Price: $35.00
Published: May 2016
ISBN: 978-1-936117-65-9
Printed on acid-free paper

Title page, Table of Contents, Preface, and Introduction (PDF)

Social justice in library and information science (LIS) seeks to achieve action-oriented, socially relevant impacts through information work. This edited volume includes papers that explore intersections between critical theory and social justice in LIS while focusing on social relevance and community involvement to promote progressive community-wide changes. Contributors include LIS researchers, practitioners, educators, social justice advocates, and community leaders who identify theories, methods, approaches, strategies, and case studies that apply these intersections in mobilizing community action to deliver tangible community building and development outcomes.

Demonstrating and articulating these community outcomes are particularly important today, as stakeholders increasingly require LIS professionals to provide evidence of relevance and accountability. This timely book offers a unique perspective in identifying what LIS professions are doing (or can do) in the contemporary context of the 21st century.
The critical theoretical base of the book frames a proactive, less-traditional concept of the LIS professional. It showcases and markets LIS in new ways that highlight its role in taking progressive social actions, bringing positive community changes, and developing relevant community services.

The frame of study is inclusive of (though not limited to) academic, public, school, and special libraries, museums, archives, and other information-related settings. An international context of analysis is included along with a focus on social impact and community involvement in LIS practice and research, education, policy development, service design, and program implementation.

About the editors:

Dr. Bharat Mehra is Associate Professor in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee. His research furthers diversity and intercultural communication and addresses social justice and social equity agendas to meet the needs of minority and underserved populations (e.g., lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people; racial and ethnic minorities; international communities; low-income families; rural residents; amongst others). He has applied conceptual frameworks in LIS (e.g., human information behavior, information seeking and use, social informatics, etc.) in combination with interdisciplinary approaches from critical theory, feminist and cross-cultural studies, postcolonial literature, race and gender research, and community informatics or the use of information and communication technologies to enable and empower disenfranchised communities to bring changes in their socio-cultural, sociopolitical, and socioeconomic circumstances. Drawing on the intersections between the research-teaching-service missions in the American academy, Mehra’s work helps to re-conceptualize institutions of higher learning in an expanded capacity of community engagement to partner with people on the margins of society to bring significant changes in their everyday lives.

Kevin Rioux, PhD, is Associate Professor of Library and Information Science at St. John’s University, New York. In his teaching and research, he uses social justice metatheory, information behavior frameworks, and integrated human development models to explore issues related to information access and information technologies as tools of social and economic development in both local and international contexts. Rioux is also a Senior Vincentian Research Fellow and is on the faculty of St. John’s Center for Global Development, which offers a hybrid Rome-based M.A. program in global development and social justice. His work with the Center involves supporting graduate curricula and research on the causes of poverty and social injustice in urban areas, slave labor practices, human migration, education, gendered health issues, food security, and sustainable development.

Now available on Amazon.

April 30, 2016

Why we like Amazon and generally don’t work with independent bookstores

In the early 2000s, as Amazon was emerging as a major player in the book world, I understood them as the faceless evil that was killing off the independent bookstore, which by contrast represented (along with libraries) the individuality of human understanding, the knowledge of literature, independence of spirit, and the flickering candle of enlightenment; in short, everything that was good. Publishing was said to need independent bookstores to survive. It was good to be motivated by such a drama.

Considering this context, you can imagine how surprised I was to discover, as a new participant in the world of alternative press publishing in 2006, that Amazon would be our best outlet for books, and independent bookstores, with a few exceptions (most notably Bluestockings in New York) would be almost impossible to work with.

Let me explain by sharing some facts about the book trade and how our press fits into it.

The book trade has different segments; the ones we’re concerned with here are trade publishing and scholarly and professional publishing. Trade publishing is what most people think of when they think of the book trade. It’s the books that you find in bookstores and the public library, that authors talk about in radio interviews, and that get reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. To make money in trade publishing, publishers do a lot of advertising and marketing to achieve high sales figures, and compete on price. Profit margins are small, and publishers depend on big hits in order to be profitable. Bookstore sales are essential, and books reach bookstores through distributors. In order to make their money in all of this, bookstores expect a certain discount, and the distributors expect a cut as well. Bookstores also expect distributors to accept returns of all unsold copies. Typically, bookstores take a 45% cut of the retail price, with distributors taking an additional 15%. With the competition on price, that leaves just a sliver for the publisher on each copy sold. If that sliver is extended to 200,000 copies sold, it is significant money, making trade publishing a big business.

Scholarly and professional publishers, on the other hand, do not sell in high volumes. The market is mainly academic libraries, and in some cases university bookstores. A typical scholarly book that is sold to research libraries will sell 200 copies. As a rule of thumb, sales of 500 are necessary for a book to be profitable, and that is not always reached. Consequently, cover prices are much higher. Also, since this part of the industry doesn’t need to support brick and mortar outlets, vendors to libraries are willing to take a much smaller cut, generally 20 to 25% of the retail price. University bookstores have a captive audience and are willing to accept these kinds of discounts as well. And although they usually expect to be able to return unsold copies, they accept it when they can’t.

Enter Amazon. You have probably read about Amazon’s battles with major publishing conglomerates over pricing and discounts, and these stories make them appear to be the enemy of the publishing industry, squeezing profits and making things generally difficult (even as they give these publishers much of their sales). But that is a story about the trade segment of the industry. At the same time, Amazon gets a lot of its power though being a place where you can buy just about any book, including books coming from scholarly and professional publishing houses. In that market, Amazon participates according to the prevailing terms, meaning they accept a 25% discount and are okay with not being able to return unsold copies.

Library Juice Press and Litwin Books, being niche publishing imprints in scholarly and professional fields, have a business model that is based on low sales volume, small discounts, and generally a lack of interest from bookstores, which have a more general readership. On those rare occasions when an independent bookstore is interested in our books, usually to meet an individual customer’s request, they are likely unwilling to accept our terms, and there is no sale. “What should I tell the customer?” they sometimes ask. “They can buy it on Amazon.”

The implications of this state of affairs might be a bit sad, because independent bookstores are a unique sort of institution that represents important values. Independent booksellers actually know what they are selling, have read the books, have had the authors visit to read from them. They are knowledgable about books and literature and impart that knowledge to their book-loving clientele. Amazon, of course, is a powerful machine with no heart and no soul and no human understanding. At any rate, that is one way to think about it.

I would like to propose another way of thinking about the ecology of books and reading of which Amazon is a part. What independent bookstores offer, and represent, is connection to the readers in a local community. Communities now, however, can be geographically dispersed and bound together by shared interests, niche interests like library studies. A local community may have only a couple of people with those interests, not enough for the local bookstore to serve them profitably. Librarians who buy our books may find their local communities very important; they may buy locally, they may want their foods to be grown within a 50 mile radius, they may cultivate relationships in their neighborhoods, and they may patronize their local independent bookstores for that reason. But they continue to participate in geographically dispersed communities based on niche interests. Their love of what is local is generally not inspiring them to get rid of their internet connections. And if they want books related to their niche interests, Amazon is the soulless machine that serves them. It is the logistical source for buying books. Part of the function of an independent bookstore in this equation, however, is not logistical but knowledgable. That factor is replaced by another participant, one in which a lot of soul is present – the niche network of knowledgable people linked by social media. Where the independent bookseller helps customers find the right book, niche customers using Amazon already know what they want when they go to the site, because they have found out about it from peers, mentors, and mavens. So, independent bookstores are not being replaced only by Amazon in that context, but by soulful people as well, albeit ones who don’t get to talk face-to-face all that often. We are happy to let Amazon be their source because we exist in a geographically-dispersed niche that local independent bookstores are not a natural part of.

So that is where we stand.

There have been occasions, however, when we have produced a book that has a potential wider interest, like Chris Roth’s fantastic book on secessionist movements around the world. These experiences have been frustrating, because our position as a scholarly and professional publisher makes it impossible to give those books the marketing they deserve. Chris’s book in particular is one that people really want when they get a chance to see and touch it, so not having a good avenue to get it into bookstores has been a real hindrance to sales. Since that book is outside the niche network that we are connected to as a publisher, social media is less effective for us in marketing it. Distributors generally want the exclusive right to sell all the books in a given ISBN range, so we can’t give them just the one book to work with. Consequently, I feel pain over not being able to generate the sales that Chris’s book deserves. I feel good about bringing the book to publication (we developed the idea for it together), but in the future I will probably avoid getting involved in projects that really belong in the trade book marketplace. The idea of entering the cut-throat trade publishing market in earnest is not appealing.

If you have been reluctant to buy our books on Amazon, I hope what I’ve said might change your mind. If not, feel free to hate on Amazon and request our books at your library through inter-library loan. (Although that means one fewer sale, we feel that supporting libraries supports us by extension.)

April 5, 2016

How Library Juice got started (and how it got its name)

I was just asked on Twitter how Library Juice got its name, from someone who wondered why we don’t state it in our “about” pages. I think a lot of people wonder why a serious business has what some might consider a silly-sounding name, so I think I should address that. The first part of the answer is that at the beginning, it wasn’t a serious business, but something very experimental and playful. So here is the story of how Library Juice got started…

Back in 1997, the World Wide Web was very new and very exciting. It was before social media, before blogs, before Twitter, and before Facebook (or Myspace or Friendster), but it nevertheless presented great new opportunities for networking and communicating with all sorts of people. At that time, I was a student in the MLIS program at San Jose State University (obviously before it was an online program). We were a cohort that was exploring the new potential of the Web for librarianship (although it must be said that the internet had existed for some time in text form, and librarians used Gopher and command-line databases like Dialog and Lexis-Nexis to a great extent already). SJSU was one of the more progressive programs, and a couple of years earlier had started a Listserv for the community of students, alumni, and faculty to communicate.

As library students go, I was particularly inspired by all the potential of libraries and their ethical foundations. I did a ton of outside reading, and found linkages between the curriculum and outside ideas, in philosophy and politics. I also delved into the history of progressive movements and activism in ALA, and was inspired by people who came before me, like Sanford Berman. I joined ALA SRRT and the Progressive Librarians guild in 1997, and became active in those organizations, and found my community there.

I had a burning desire to share what I was finding with the SJSU community that served as my entry point into this inspiring profession, so I began using the Listserv heavily. I reposted discussions and news items that came from other places, and wrote about political and philosophical topics that were of no interest to the majority of list members. I was posting very heavily, to the point that I was the most frequent poster on the list. I wasn’t engaging in arguments, I should add, just sharing what inspired me. But complaints began coming in about the volume of these “irrelevant” posts. At first I ignored them, but in January of 1998 I took heed and found a good solution. I announced to the list that I would be setting up my own email distribution service for people who were interested. (I got the idea from Phil Agre’s Red Rock Eater news service, which had been going for some time.) Very quickly, 80 people signed up, and I began distributing a weekly email.

With the first issue out, I saw that it needed a name. I don’t remember what other names I considered, but Library Juice seemed like it was a good description of what that distribution service was about. It was the “sweet essence” of librarianship as I saw it, with all its inspiring political and philosophical meaning. “Juice” also referred to the electricity behind the WWW as the emerging new medium for librarianship.

Library Juice, the email newsletter, ran until 2005, first as a weekly and then as a biweekly publication. After the first year it had around 2000 subscribers. Issues went out by email and were posted on a website as well. It was plain text, running to about 40K with each issue. It consisted of news items collected from other lists, email discussion threads, press releases, and short essays, often by me. This was the kind of material that would eventually be found on blogs, but before blogs, this email newsletter filled a definite need. (Back issues are all on the web, and can be found here.

Things gradually changed over the 7 or so years that I was publishing Library Juice, the email newsletter. One issue was that it became more complicated to send out an email to 2000 people, with spam blocking measures coming into use especially. With the emergence of blogs as a place where people could find press releases and commentary, the content had to change in order to provide something different. I began writing more essays and publishing essays by other people. I also began dredging up interesting articles from pre-1923 library journals, typing them up and republishing them in the newsletter. But the whole thing began to feel untenable, so in 2005 I discontinued it.

I felt that my avocation needed to continue somehow, and I wanted it to be something more than just another blog. I did turn the email newsletter into a blog (the blog you are reading now) in 2005, but wanted to do more. The possibility of publishing books had come to mind through a number of influences. One was the fact that a professor at SJSU, David Loertscher, had a side business publishing and distributing books himself, with High Willow Press. Another was reading about Ralph Shaw, a LIS professor in the 1950s, and the history of Scarecrow Press, which he started. Another was playing with the booklet product that Cafe Shops offered and seeing that laying out and printing a book was something doable. I learned about Lightning Source, which offered print-on-demand services to publishing companies. I had conversations with Tony Dierckins, a small press publisher in Duluth, MN, where I was living, and phone conversations with Robbie Franklin of McFarland Publishers. In 2006 I started working on the first four books published by Library Juice Press, which were published in December of that year.

As I got more serious, I started the company Litwin Books, LLC and spun off Library Juice Press as an imprint strictly for an audience of librarians. Although Litwin Books publishes a bit more broadly, the majority of new titles are still LJP titles, and most of our book sales are through that imprint. Between those two imprints and the smaller, more trade-publishing oriented Auslander and Fox, we’ve published 62 books all told, with about five to seven new titles coming out each year at the current rate. Publishing books was my avocation through my library career.

Fast forward to 2012… I had left my last library job to enter the PhD program in information studies at ULCA and had finished the first year of coursework. The funding situation for the following school year would be less strong than the first, and I needed to figure out a way to earn money on the side to continue my studies. I devised a plan to offer online classes for librarians’ professional development using Moodle, and began working on the project that summer. It quickly became a full time job, and I dropped out of the program before the second year.

Naming the online course business presented a dilemma. The Library Juice name was well-established, and had the advantage of an existing presence in the library community. Other names might have worked as well, but I decided to call it Library Juice Academy, to attach it to the brand that I had built, despite its sounding a bit silly in the new context. I sometimes wonder if having a silly-sounding name hurts the business, but things have been going well, so I don’t worry about it too much. I also wonder if using the same name as the publishing company was wise given that what we offer in terms of online courses, which are skills based and often technical, is so different from the books that we publish, which are political and philosophical. But again, it doesn’t seem to have hurt the business.

And that brings us to today. I’m happy to answer questions in the comments…

March 21, 2016

Library Juice Email Updates

You can get news from Library Juice Academy and Library Juice Press (and Litwin Books) via email. Here are the links to sign up:

Library Juice Academy email updates

Library Juice Press (and Litwin Books) email updates

We sometimes get requests to be put on our mailing list. Library Juice Academy hasn’t had one until now. The Library Juice Press mailing list has been going for a number of years and will continue.

Thanks!

March 16, 2016

Award for Ongoing Doctoral Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information

Award for Ongoing Doctoral Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information

1. Nature of the Award
1.1 The award shall consist of $1,000, given annually to a graduate student who is working on a dissertation on the philosophy of information (broadly construed). As we see it, the range of philosophical questions relating to information is broad, and approachable through a variety of philosophical traditions (philosophy of mind, logic, philosophy of information so-called, philosophy of science, etc.).

2. Purpose of the Award
2.1 The purpose of this award is to encourage and support scholarship in the philosophy of information.

3. Eligibility
3.1 The scholarship recipient must meet the following qualifications:
(a) Be an active doctoral student whose primary area of research is directly philosophical, whether the institutional setting is philosophy or another discipline; that is to say, the mode of dissertation research must be philosophical as opposed to empirical or literary study;
(b) Have completed all course work; and
(c) Have had a dissertation proposal accepted by the institution.
3.2 Recipients may receive the award not more than once.

4. Administration
4.1 The Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Doctoral Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information is sponsored and administered by Litwin Books, LLC, an independent scholarly publisher.

5. Nominations
5.1 Nominations should be submitted via email by June 1, to award@litwinbooks.com.
5.2 The submission package should include the following:
(a) The accepted dissertation proposal;
(b) A description of the work done to date;
(c) A letter of recommendation from a dissertation committee member;
(d) An up-to-date curriculum vitae with current contact information.

6. Selection of the Awardee
6.1 Submissions will be judged on merit with emphasis on the following:
(a) Clarity of thought;
(b) Originality;
(c) Relevance to our time;
(d) Evidence of good progress toward completion.

7. Notification
7.1 The winner and any honorable mentions will be notified via letter by July 1.

Advisory Board
Jonathan Furner, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, UCLA
Ron Day, School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University
Melissa Adler, College of Communication and Information, University of Kentucky

Past Winners

2015: Quinn DuPont, of the University of Toronto Faculty of Information, for his dissertation précis, titled, “Plaintext, Encryption, and Ciphertext: A History of Cryptography and its Influence on Contemporary Society.”

2014: Patrick Gavin, of the University of Western Ontario FIMS, for his dissertation propsoal, titled, “On Informationalized Borderzones: A Study in the Politics and Ethics of Emerging Border Architectures.”

2013: Steve McKinlay, of Charles Sturt University, New South Wales, Australia, for his dissertation proposal, titled, “Information Ethics and the Problem of Reference.”

March 8, 2016

Library Juice Press Handbook of Intellectual Freedom wins the Eli M. Oboler Award

“The Library Juice Press Handbook of Intellectual Freedom” named 2016 Eli M. Oboler Award winner

Tue, 03/08/2016
Contact:

Shumeca Pickett
Administrative Assistant
Office for Intellectual Freedom
spickett@ala.org

The Intellectual Freedom Round Table has announced the winner of the 2016 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award, which recognizes the best published work in the area of intellectual freedom. The 2016 award goes to The Library Juice Press Handbook of Intellectual Freedom, edited by Mark Alfino and Laura Koltutsky. The publisher is the Library Juice Press.

In recognizing The Library Juice Press Handbook of Intellectual Freedom, the Oboler Award selection committee said it believed that the book was an enormous contribution to the existing literature and indispensable to a thorough discussion of the subject of intellectual freedom. The book looks at intellectual freedom from a wider range of theoretical perspectives and in connection with a wider range of cultural topics, under the premise that “thought and action about intellectual freedom needs to be informed by a broader and more complex range of topics and theoretical reflection than it typically has been.” The 21 articles focus on topics including threats to intellectual freedom, academic freedom, the arts, the internet, censorship along with connections to contemporary social issues and institutions, and historical and cultural theories.

The Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award, which consists of $500 and a certificate, is presented for the best published work in the area of intellectual freedom. The award was named for Eli M. Oboler, the extensively published Idaho State University librarian known as a champion of intellectual freedom who demanded the dismantling of all barriers to freedom of expression. The award has been offered biennially since 1986.

The award will be presented at the IFRT Award Reception & Member Social at the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando in June.

The Intellectual Freedom Round Table is now accepting nominations for the 2018 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award.

The Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) provides a forum for the discussion of activities, programs, and problems in intellectual freedom of libraries and librarians; serves as a channel of communications on intellectual freedom matters; promotes a greater opportunity for involvement among the members of the ALA in defense of intellectual freedom; promotes a greater feeling of responsibility in the implementation of ALA policies on intellectual freedom.

March 4, 2016

CFP: Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis

Call for Proposals: Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis

Editors: Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, and Eamon Tewell
Publisher: Library Juice Press

Reference work often receives short shrift in the contemporary discourse and practice of librarianship. Conversations that concern critical pedagogy, social justice, and theory tend to revolve around instruction or cataloging practice. Moreover, reference librarians and reference services themselves seem to be disappearing. Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis seeks to stake out a space and make a passionate case for reference work in a manner that is historically, socially and politically compelling. It will highlight the unique position of reference librarianship, a liminal and dialectical space, potentially distinct from the power dynamics of classroom instruction and singular in its mission and practice. At heart, reference is a conversation and partnership. The stakes are significant, not only because of the unique potential for social justice work but because of the risk that the profession is now overlooking reference’s central importance.

Libraries can be viewed as “leaks in the informational economy” (Vaidhyanathan, 2004) and reference services inside and outside of the library have the capacity to create radical spaces of critique and social justice. Reference has a long history of contributing to libraries as sites of democratic access to information, ideas, books, and culture. That access is an essential element of an informed democracy and the intellectual engagement of the autonomous individual. Yet we overlook that this access doesn’t happen magically. Point-of-need interaction, key to the positioning of libraries as agents of social change, often pivots around the work of reference.

The Book’s Three Sections:

Part 1: Praxis
This chapter will mine diverse theoretical frameworks as they pertain to Social Justice & Reference. This may include the canonical theorists that Critical LIS Literature has traditionally engaged but an emphasis will be placed on work beyond the canon. In so doing, it will trouble and broaden traditional academic conventions. For example, the work of various activist traditions and social movement thinkers might be discussed, or epistemologies associated with non-western cultural ideas of property, ownership, knowledge, etc. Contributors are also encouraged to look to theorists writing in a variety disciplines: architecture, computer science, or law, among others. These frameworks can come from both inside and outside LIS literatures. For example: How has work in the area of radical cataloging or archival theory served to provide a lens through which to engage reference work?

Part 2: History
Part 2 makes the case that reference librarianship has a long tradition of social justice work. It will feature historical studies of reference work both in and out of libraries, international and domestic (e.g. librarians in totalitarian regimes, librarians during the cold war, etc.). In this section we encourage authors to make connections from the past to the present: what historical examples of reference service might serve as inspiration or as caution for present day efforts to provide a socially conscious reference service? Possible examples: reference work in Nazi Germany or Nazi-occupied Europe; reference services in segregated, Jim Crow libraries.

Part 3: Dispatches from the Field
Articles about mindful, social justice-oriented reference work in diverse settings (e.g. rural, Native American reservations; inner-city neighborhoods; situated within myriad institutions such as the federal government; and within myriad collections, e.g. archives, special collections, etc.) Part 3 seeks to bring parts one and two together. We laid the groundwork for the book’s claim about the centrality of social justice in reference work by presenting a variety of theoretical models; we’ve explored the rich genealogy of social justice in reference librarianship by looking to the past in part 2; and now, in our closing section, we seek to illuminate parts one and two and their relevance by looking to practice today.

Possible Chapter Topics:
– Reference as praxis: Explorations of diverse theoretical models and frameworks through which to think about Reference. We encourage proposals that engage thinkers, writers and traditions beyond the traditional Critical LIS canon, though new engagements of canonical thinkers are welcomed too.
– Studies exploring the historical tradition of reference librarianship as social justice practice. We encourage proposals that seek to connect and draw parallels between librarianship’s historical tradition and contemporary practice and the contemporary context.
– Examples of specific social justice initiatives tied to reference services.
– Linking reference services to social justice movements outside of the library.
– Innovations in reference service to better serve marginalized and oppressed groups.
– Reference work and anti-racism.
– Successful efforts at repurposing reference services with a social justice and/or critical focus.

Submission Guidelines:
Please submit the following to ReferenceAndJusticeBook@gmail.com by July 1, 2016:
– An abstract of up to 500 words describing your proposed chapter
– A brief biographical statement about the author(s)

Notifications will be sent by July 29, 2016. First drafts will be due December 1, 2016, with an anticipated final publication date of Fall 2017. Chapters are expected to be between 2000 and 5000 words.

February 21, 2016

Clarification of our policies on copyright and such

Hi…. This is a follow-up to my December 15 post, “A note on our copyright statements.” I want to follow up because there was a comment that was critical of our copyright policies, apparently reading a few things into what I said that weren’t true. I responded to the comment but I wanted to make the clarification here.

The basic point of the earlier post was that a simple copyright statement on the copyright page of a book, e.g. “Copyright 2017 Wayne Bivens-Tatum,” or “Copyright 2015 respective authors” can be misleading about who actually has the publication rights. That’s because a publishing agreement often gives an exclusive right to the publisher, usually for a limited time. I wrote that post in a style that was maybe a little bit officious and legalistic, but copyright is about rules that can be a bit technical. It was this tone, I think, that gave the commenter the impression that we are highly proprietary about rights and not friendly enough to open access publishing. She asked why we don’t use a Creative Commons license, why the prices are so high for our books, why aren’t our books open access after an embargo period, and why don’t we use a contract that allows authors to use their work for whatever purposes they want. I addressed her questions in a response to her comment. I’ll put my answers here and say a bit more as well.

First, I want to say a bit about what is typically in our contracts with authors. The contracts differ between the authors or editors of a book and contributors of chapters to an edited volume. Contributors of chapters to an edited volume have always had an immediate right to put their work in an institutional repository, which qualifies us as open access to an extent. In addition, for the past few years our contracts with contributors have been “non-exclusive,” which means that in fact they can do whatever they want with their chapters right away and forever. They can put them on a website or whatever they want. We’re not too worried about this competing with book sales, since it distributes access to the contents through all of the different contributors and the different methods they want to use. The way we look at it, it would not be easy or necessarily possible to pull together the whole book for free, even though authors could get together to do that if they wanted (though that we not be very fair to us).

Authors of books or editors of collections get a different kind of contract that gives them less rights at first. They don’t sign over their copyright, but they give us a temporary exclusive right to publish their work, whether it’s a whole book or the editor’s contribution to a collection (introduction, arrangement, etc.). After maybe five years, our exclusive right automatically renews unless the authors ask for it not to. At that point they can have the right to renegotiate, to take it to another publisher, to make it freely available on a website, or whatever they want to do.

Since our rights are always limited, we don’t have the right to make someone else’s work open access or put it on a Creative Commons license, nor would it make sense financially. First, about not having the rights to do it. That is something that could theoretically be negotiated with an author, meaning that if it was okay with them we could write a contract that did that. I just want to point out that since we are not the owners of the copyright, we don’t have the right to make somebody else’s work open access. That would be on them, and they could still give us a non-exclusive right to publish it and hope to break even. But break even we at least hope to do, and contrary to what you may have read, making a book free does not increase sales. And we have to sell books to break even, and also to pay authors royalties, which they are interested in. Book authors and editors typically get 15% of sales. (Contributors of chapters get a free copy of the book, in addition to maintaining the rights to their work.)

So if open access publishing is not feasible for us as a book publisher, how can it exist? It does exist – there are plenty of open access publishers out there. Most of them are journal publishers, but some university presses are beginning to experiment with open access book publishing. What you may not know about this kind of thing is that it’s financed by charging authors to publish their work. The author of a journal article is typically charged $500 to $1000 to have her article published, even in a highly reputable journal. A book can cost an author easily $7500 for a university press to publish it open access. We don’t want to do that. Sometimes there is grant funding to pay these fees, and sometimes it comes out of a scholar’s own pockets. We really don’t want to do that, so open access publishing or Creative Commons publishing is not an option for us, not as long as we hope to break even.

Finally, a note about our book pricing. The commenter said our prices are high, and I responded that they are typically about half of what other LIS publishers charge. We have a philosophy of trying to make our books affordable so that people and not just libraries can buy them. But given the small quantities published, there’s no way we can compete with the low pricing of the giant trade publishers. It is all about breaking even. (Click the book covers on the right to see what our prices are like.) So I am confident that our prices are good given the overall market for LIS books.

In a typical year, we do just a little better than break even from selling books. And that is without paying us a salary, so in a sense it is all subsidized with our labor. Our online classes are more profitable, but I think that is not so much of an issue.

I hope that our policies, and our transparency, show that we are still an ethical publisher.

January 27, 2016

Nicole Pagowsky wins 2016 University Libraries Sections (ULS) Outstanding Professional Development Award

For Immediate Release
Thu, 01/21/2016

Contact:

Chase Ollis
Program Coordinator
ACRL
collis@ala.org

CHICAGO – The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) is pleased to announce that Nicole Pagowsky, research and learning librarian/ instruction coordinator at the University of Arizona, has been chosen to receive the 2016 University Libraries Sections (ULS) Outstanding Professional Development Award.

The $1,000 award and plaque, donated by Library Juice Academy, will be presented to Pagowsky at the 2016 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida.

“Though early in her career, Nicole Pagowsky has made a significant impact to academic librarianship through broad professional engagement, scholarship, and service,” said award Chair Rebecca Blakiston of the University of Arizona. “In addition to being active in social media and professional blogging, Nicole has already co-edited two books, taught an ALA eCourse, presented an ACRL webinar, created the ACRL student retention Discussion Group, presented as a keynote speaker at a state library conference, initiated #critlib chats, and organized the first Critical Librarianship and Pedagogy Symposium. She has initiated and provided innovative opportunities for the professional growth of librarians nationwide. As librarianship continues to advance, it is library leaders such as Nicole Pagowsky who act as proactive agents of change and provide the necessary support for successful information professionals.”

Pagowsky received her M.A. in Information Resources and Library Science and M.S. in Educational Technology and Instructional Design from the University of Arizona.

For more information regarding the ACRL ULS Outstanding Professional Development Award, please visit the awards section of the ACRL website.

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About ACRL
The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) is the higher education association for librarians. Representing more than 11,000 academic and research librarians and interested individuals, ACRL (a division of the American Library Association) develops programs, products and services to help academic and research librarians learn, innovate and lead within the academic community. Founded in 1940, ACRL is committed to advancing learning and transforming scholarship. ACRL is on the Web at www.acrl.org/, Facebook at www.facebook.com/ala.acrl and Twitter at @ala_acrl.

About Library Juice Academy
Library Juice Academy offers a range of online professional development workshops for librarians and other library staff, focusing on practical topics to build the skills that librarians need as their jobs evolve. With customers in 30 countries and 100 courses in the catalog, Library Juice Academy is bringing online continuing education to a new level. Library Juice Academy is online at http://libraryjuiceacademy.com/.