October 27, 2006

Alternative Publishers of Books in North America, 6th Edition

Alternative Publishers of Books in North America, 6th Edition, by Byron Anderson, is officially published, and available from Ingram, Baker and Taylor, Yankee Book Peddler, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. It is the first title published by Library Juice Press, LLC.

This book is a directory of alternative publishers in the U.S. and Canada, meaning smaller, independent publishers of the overall left, which focus, varyingly, on topics such as sustainable development, punk culture, social justice, gender studies, human rights, socialism, anarchism, and globalization.

Entries provide a wealth of useful information about the 163 publishing companies covered, including contact information, years in operation, titles per year, areas of focus, and textual descriptions of a page or more in length that describe the history of the presses and talk about some of their publications. A subject index lets the user find publishing companies that focus on specific subject areas, which is useful for both collection development librarians and authors.

This is the 6th edition of the book, which was formerly published by CRISES Press, of Gainseville, Florida, associated with the review journal Counterpoise. It was formerly a biannual publication, but it has been over four years since the last previous edition, making this sixth edition a major update. From the start, this book has been a project of ALA/SRRT’s Alternatives in Publication Task Force, to which compiler/author Byron Anderson is generously donating his proceeds.

The preface to the book, by former ALA President Nancy Kranich, discusses the context and the importance of alternative publishing, and it is available online.

October 21, 2006

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh distributing right wing voter guides

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh District Services has sent an email to branch heads offering to distribute to interested branches 50 copies of the 2006 Voter Guide from the Pennsylvania Family Institute, which the email calls “a non-profit, non-partisan research and education organization that analyzes public policies and cultural trends for their impact on the family.”

The Pennsylvania Family Institute is in fact not formally affiliated with a political party and is a registered non-profit; however these facts alone don’t amount to a truthful description of the organization, which the sender of the email had to have known. Pennsylvania Family Institute is a political advocacy group focusing on conservative social issues, from a fundamentalist Christian point of view.

It is not possible for me to believe that the person at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s District Services who sent out this offer to branches is unaware of the Pennsylvania Family Institute’s political nature – it is too obvious.

According to my contact in this library system, offers for other voter guides have not been sent out.

Library systems routinely reject advocacy groups’ efforts to plant election-related materials in libraries. In this case, the library system’s headquarters is actively distributing materials that are designed to affect the outcome of Pennsylvania’s elections.

I acknowledge that there have been people in the library left who believe in using public libraries for political advocacy purposes. That point of view was especially strong in the 1960s and 1970s, and was part of the set of ideas behind the founding of ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table. It is not, however, the outlook of most people in SRRT today, who are interested in advancing an awareness of social issues, within the liberal, social-science-grounded tradition, among librarians so that we can contribute to the profession and offer unbiased service in a way that is more inclusive, broader, fairer, and more cognizant of social and political structures. In many cases that can mean advocating for people in the community who are otherwise underserved. It does not mean attempting to change the results of an election, as the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s District Services is, ultimately, attempting to do.

October 20, 2006

The Progressive Librarian’s Guild stands with Amnesty International

The Progressive Librarians Guild approved endorsement of the following Amnesty International statement last night…

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA
PRESS RELEASE

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Amnesty International Vows to Push for Clarification on Detainee Legislation

(Washington, DC) Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA’s Executive Director, issued the following statement in response to President Bush signing the “Military Commissions Act” earlier today:

“Now bad policy has become bad law. The administration can now hold people indefinitely, without charge or without trial, with Congressional authorization.

“The president this morning stated that the legislation would allow the CIA program to continue and that the new legislation satisfied ‘both the spirit and the letter of the law.’ If, in making such a statement, the president is asserting that the CIA can continue to detain people in secret prisons and use interrogation techniques that amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, such an assertion is outlandish. Enforced disappearance is a crime under international law, and there is no legal interpretation of U.S. treaty obligations that would sanction secret detentions.

“By cutting off avenues for judicial review, the legislation puts people in detention at substantial risk. A person’s ability to challenge his detention and invoke fundamental rights in court is a critical protection against abuses by any government. By striking down these rights, this legislation is an historic step backwards and creates a fertile breeding ground for violations to continue.

“Amnesty International will to continue to push the administration and Congress to provide clarification. We’re not giving up. We’re fighting back and we’re fighting back hard.”

As background. PLG recommends the October 17, 2006 Progressive Magazine article by Matthew Rothschild: “Bush Betrays Democracy and Truth in Signing Military Commissions Act.”

October 19, 2006

Doing the math

Are other people getting the same result when they add these things up?

Pentagon monitoring peace activists’ email to “combat terrorism”…. suspending habeas corpus to prevent the fate of (pre-judged) terrorists from being decided by our lenient and overly-fair criminal justice system…. huge prison camps being built by Haliburton subsidiary Kellog, Brown, and Root for detaining people in the event of a “national emergency.”

I am getting this, only madder and maybe a little more worried.

October 18, 2006

AFSCME Library Workers page

AFSCME has a new page about their representation of library workers. AFSCME represents more library workers than any other union. The page is nice, and so is the logo:

Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s memorable comment

“The real culture of America is not corporate monoculture and television. It’s the writers, teachers, universities, libraries and librarians. That’s the mainstream culture of America.”

– Lawrence Ferlinghetti, announcing the finalists for the National Book Awards, in his City Lights bookstore in San Francisco last week.

October 17, 2006

Historian Tony Judt’s talks in NYC cancelled due to ADL pressure

NYU historian Tony Judt is a strong critic of Israel and a proponent, along with Noam Chomsky and the late Edward Said, of a secular, binational state as the solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The Washington Post has a nice article, dated Oct. 9, about how a couple of his talks in New York City were recently cancelled after the Anti-Defamation League and other pro-Israel groups put pressure on the hosts of the talks (at the Polish Consulate and Manhattan College). The article is well-done and gets into some of the issues surrounding opposition to Israel on the left and among Jews.

October 14, 2006

American Anthropological Association opposition to Open Access: a letter from the AnthroSource Steering Committee on FRPAA

The Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (FRPAA), if passed, would mandate that research by Federal government agencies (publicly funded research) automatically go into publicly accessible open access repositories. The library community and most of the academic community is in favor of this bill as a way of protecting the information commons.

Scholarly publishers are, understandably, opposed, as they stand to lose many many opportunities as exclusive publishers of these publicly funded studies.

The American Anthropological Association also opposes the bill, perhaps indicating the extent to which publishing interests are represented in their leadership.

AnthroSource is the full text database of journals published by the American Anthropological Association. The AnthroSource Steering Committee has come out in opposition to AAA’s official position and in support of FRPAA.

There is some worthwhile discussion of these developments on blogs: Eric Kansa from SAA’s Digital Data Interest Group is where I would point you.

October 13, 2006

The Nation on the YouTube/Google deal – leading edge of corporate takeover of the web

Trenchant and insightful article in The Nation by Jeffrey Chester: The Google YouTube Tango. This article focuses on how corporate claims-staking such as Google’s buyout of YouTube and Rupert Murdoch’s takeover of Myspace in 2005 are part of the creation of an overall interactive environment whose main function is marketing (advertising and data collection) for the corporations that control the space.

The IRS keeping audit statistics secret; covering up higher audit rates of the poor than the rich

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), which provides data on Federal “enforcement, staffing, and spending,” reported in March of this year that IRS data obtained through FOIA requests showed that audit rates for low income Americans were higher than the rates of tax audits for wealthy Americans, representing a significant change:

Restricting the comparison to the agency’s comprehensive face-to-face audits, taxpayers reporting less than $25,000 in total positive income were six times more likely to be audited than those reporting $200,000 or more in income.

Following that report, the IRS claimed that its own official statistics were incorrect. But the IRS has resisted turning over relevant statistics for over two and half years and continues to resist releasing this information in defiance of a judicial order (link will reflect newer developments as they occur). These are statistics that until recently were released as a matter of course. The more information trickles out, the clearer it is that IRS has shifted its audit policies and has begun giving wealthy Americans a free pass while targeting lower income people. But there is still a significant portion of its audit statistics – statistics released regularly by the IRS in former times – that apparently it feels it can’t afford to release to the public. The fight continues.

October 12, 2006

The real reason students like Google better than our databases

For academic librarians:

We think that our undergrads go to Google because it’s easier to search than our databases, with their powerful syntaxes and fields, and we’re plowing ahead with federated searching to give our resources “Google appeal” based on this idea. But we’re mistaken. Our databases can be searched with keywords pretty easily, and students who want to keep it simple can just go to the general databases like Academic Search Premier and Expanded Academic Index. But they still tend to prefer using Google. Why?

The real reason undergrads like Google is that it gives them more reading material that they are actually able to understand. And this is not a reflection on our students’ intelligence or general preparedness – it goes for the brightest of our undergrads. We tell our students to go to our databases for articles that are “scholarly and reliable,” but we don’t often tell them that most of the articles they will find there, in addition to being scholarly and reliable, are not really intended for an undergraduate audience. These journal articles are mostly narrowly defined studies intended for an audience of scholars who are advancing their fields at the highest levels of learning. Our students can’t even understand the titles of half of these articles. It’s not our students’ fault; many of the articles in our databases require a high level of disciplinary background knowledge. But what does it say to them when they are not able to comprehend the materials that we tell them are “scholarly and reliable?” If they are unaware that these articles are intended for an audience of professors and graduate students, it probably makes them feel dumb and somewhat resentful toward the library.

Often our undergrads need to read articles that present more of an overview of a topic (even if it’s a relatively narrow topic), something that gives them a little bit of depth about it, a bit of background, and in some areas a bit of a picture of the scholarly discourse. Books are usually better than doing this than journal articles, but electronic resources are preferred and tend to be more promoted (I believe this has to do with political issues related to academic library funding). There are some articles in scholarly journals here and there that offer a broader treatment of a topic (often they’re literature reviews), but they are not always easy to find, especially for undergrads left to their own devices.

It would be helpful if our databases included a field that estimated the level of disciplinary background knowledge required to understand an article, on, say, a scale of one to five. Working with a sophomore student just beginning a biology major, we could search Biological Abstracts with the limit on this field set to two, and have a much more useful and less intimidating result set. Maybe it wouldn’t work in Biological Abstracts, because everything in it would count as a four or a five; maybe the place to start using such a system would be in one of our general databases, with coverage of magazines like Science and The New Scientist.

This difficulty rating could be determined by an indexer, or possibly automatically. Software could analyze the full text of the articles against a dictionary of discipline-specific terms rated for obscurity and difficulty, or count the frequency of obscure terms, and rate the articles for difficulty this way. Maybe some databases already do something like this and I’m not aware of it.

You know what I’m talking about, right? What is to be done?

October 7, 2006

The Ballad of Old Man Peters

A non-librarian friend recommended this story to me recently, and on reading it I felt surprised never to have seen it before. It’s an inspiring story about literacy and learning. It’s very Reader’s Digest-y (in fact it was actually published there) and corny, but nevertheless enjoyable and inspiring, and made me feel proud to be a librarian and to want to spend more of my free time studying and learning.

The Ballad of Old Man Peters, by Jon Franklin.

October 6, 2006

New York Review of Books on Google’s book scanning project

The New York Review of Books discusses Google’s massive scanning project and general ascendency in a review essay that touches on five recent books…

Newt Gingrich’s 1996 GOPAC memo

This has been available online for a while, but I just recently found it: Language: A Key Mechanism of Control: Newt Gingrich’s 1996 GOPAC memo. In retrospect it is clear how the GOP’s rhetorical strategy and their discipline in using it was a major part of their surge of power and control through the last ten years or so.

Their regime is imploding now, but the Democrats still haven’t shown up…

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