November 24, 2006

EPA libraries dumping collections to preempt congressional action

ALA Council’s Bernadine Abbott Hoduski, who has been Council’s leader on the EPA library closure issue, has sent us this article from Yubanet, which begins:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is frantically dispersing its library collections to preempt Congressional intervention, according to internal emails released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Contrary to promises by EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock that all of the former library materials will be made available electronically, vast troves of unique technical reports and analyses will remain indefinitely inaccessible.

November 22, 2006

LibrariansForFairness a project of PR firm Rothstein and Memsic

This is from LISNews. It turns out that LibrariansForFairness, the ostensible library group that opposed SRRT’s criticism of Israel a few years ago, is actually a project of the PR firm Rothstein and Memsic, which is connected with Standwithus, a pro-Israel lobby group. The rundown is LISNews, though brief, is very interesting and presents the actual evidence, and I congratulate the blogger there calling himself Daniel who dug up the information.

November 20, 2006

Censorship in Iran

The Guardian (UK) published a story on Friday about a new wave of censorship in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran. Scores of Western classics, Western bestsellers, and liberal Iranian novels are censored and not being published there.

One small thing worth pointing out about this. Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is among the banned books, and it is banned because it has deeply offended Iran’s Christian community. This is worth pointing out because it indicates that the censoriousness we’re seeing here isn’t something that we should associate with Islam so much as with a certain thread in Iranian culture and perhaps in the cultures of the Middle East. The threads are all entangled.

How different would the world be if the CIA had not overthrown the liberal Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953?

Return of the Press Barons

Journalism has changed in the last few decades because the ownership of most daily newspapers has moved from local, private hands to publicly traded corporations, which have demanded higher profit margins. The main result has been a reduction of reporting staff and a greater need to avoid offending advertisers and connected corporations. Consumers have been switching to the internet for their news, which has cut advertising revenues. Newspaper owners have further reduced spending at their papers in response.

Yesteray’s Boston Globe cites an interesting development: local investors are trying to purchase the daily papers in their cities from the corporations that now own them. This is something that’s been happening in a number of cities just in recent weeks.

November 19, 2006

Four top French book awards go to non-French authors

Why do I care so much about France? I don’t know, maybe just because it’s the traditional first stop for a semi-cosmopolitan anglophone and I am less culturally far-reaching than I would like to think. Or maybe it’s simply that I want America to be more like France.

Anyway, I think this is a very interesting development in light of Americans’ and others’ traditional anti-French sentiments. Many people have negative feelings toward the French because of that sense of cultural superiority they can sometimes exhibit, and their historical sense of being the carrier of Western civilization and the world’s diplomats. Like any colonial power adjusting to a somewhat more democratic world, they have seemed resistant to giving up the cultural implications of their former status as the owners of the world’s lingua franca (now lingua anglica to use my fake latin).

It seems to me these literary awards to non-French writers (in the French language) are a sign that France is doing what any former great empire should end up doing after a while: opening itself to the world and becoming multicultural not out of a sense of responsibility or guilt but a sense of curiosity, interest, and a recognition of the need for wider perspectives.

In any event, it is definitely newsworthy and the literary world, inside and outside of France, is talking about it.

ALISE Information Ethics Special Interests Group

The Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) has an Information Ethics Special Interest Group (IE-SIG) that has recently completed a Position Statement on Information Ethics in LIS Education.

I have been waiting to blog this for news about whether it is going to be officially adopted by ALISE or what authority it has as the IE-SIG’s position statement, but decided not to wait anymore, as it is significant enough to share as the position statement of the sub-group in ALISE that is concerned with information ethics. I will post an update if there are further developments.

This is an important statement on an area of LIS education that many feel has been de-emphasized over the years.

NYPL executive pay

In the past few years, the New York Public Library has sold off important assets in order to raise money to continue operations. In the same period, compensation for their top administrators has increased dramatically. (The President and CEO now makes around $800,000.) The link is to an article in the New York Times dated November 19th.

Starting salaries for librarians at NYPL continue to be at the low end of the scale for urban public libraries.

November 16, 2006

On the importance of alternative literature in libraries

I think I neglected to emphasize this… Nancy Kranich’s preface to the 6th edition of Alternative Publishers of Books in North America is online. It’s good reading about the importance of alternative literature in libraries, from someone who has been studying the issue for years. Nancy Kranich is a past president of ALA and has been heading up a subcommittee of the Intellectual Freedom Committee dealing with media consolidation and local control of media. Their work will be very valuable as it comes to the surface.

November 12, 2006

New from LJP: Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library

New from Library Juice Press:

Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library:
How Postmodern Consumer Capitalism Threatens Democracy, Civil Education and the Public Good

By Ed D’Angelo
November 2006.
139. paperback. $18
ISBN 978-0-9778617-1-2

Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library is a philosophical and historical analysis of how the rise of consumerism has led to the decline of the original mission of public libraries to sustain and promote democracy through civic education. Through a reading of historical figures such as Plato, Helvetius, Rousseau, and John Stuart Mill, the book shows how democracy and even capitalism were originally believed to depend upon the moral and political education that public libraries (and other institutions of rational public discourse) could provide. But as capitalism developed in the 20th century it evolved into a postmodern consumerism that replaced democracy with consumerism and education with entertainment. Public libraries have mistakenly tried to remain relevant by shadowing the rise of consumerism, but have instead contributed to the rise of a new barbarism and the decline of democracy.

Praise from Henry Giroux:

“We live in dangerous times as a relentless war is being waged by market fundamentalists, political extremists, and religious zealots against all those public spheres guided by democratic values and ideals. Ed D’Angelo’s book is a brilliant recounting of public memory and a spirited defense of one of the nation’s most important public goods, the public library. Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library is a riveting example of the language of critique and recovery, critical engagement and possibility. It is a must read for anyone who takes democracy seriously, is willing to fight for one of the country’s most important democratic public spheres, and at the same time learn something about the history and importance of the democratic function of public libraries in America. Everyone should read this book.”

Order Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library through your book jobber or buy it from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Contact:
Rory Litwin
Library Juice Press, LLC
rory@llibraryjuicepress.com

November 10, 2006

Who is out of step with the country, really?

We get our sense of where the country is at largely from the media. When elections and opinion polls tell a different story, we have to ask questions about the media. FAIR has put out an critique of the news media’s analysis of the Democrats’ electoral victories of this week. A major theme of news coverage is that election night was a victory for conservative democrats who will move the party rightward, and that they were strategically opposed to anti-war democrats. FAIR argues that this is in fact a distortion, citing exit polls showing the majority of voters were against the war and looking at the actual positions of winning candidates on traditional democratic issues.

Circumscribing the “public” in public libraries

Thoughtul article in the new Marginal Librarian, McGill’s library school student e-zine: Public libraries: who or what is “public”? This article has to do with Montréal’s new anti-homeless policies (that’s anti-homeless, not anti-homelessness), and ties the question of society’s attitudes toward poor people to library service and the way “the public” is operationally defined in “public library.” The article is by McGill student Katharine Barrette.

November 9, 2006

One Love, One Bank

Bank of America execs exchange their souls for money in front of a camera. Not specifically library related except inasmuch as it paints a good picture of what we’re up against, and gives us a reason to feel good about our chosen career.

November 2, 2006

I paid for those mp3s – Scout’s honor!

This is really amusing. Boy Scouts in the Los Angeles area are being awarded an activity patch for taking a moral instruction course (developed by the movie industry) about the evil of copyright infringement, giving them the strength and courage to avoid it.

Actually, it’s less amusing than offensive, because the movie industry’s version of copyright law and information ethics is not the same version that you will actually find in the statutes, case law, or in a scholarly or objective book about copyright freedoms and restrictions. This means that Boy Scouts are being given a political indoctrination with respect to information issues that is in certain ways contrary to the public good and responsible citizenship. Not that there aren’t other reasons to be opposed to the Boy Scouts and not that we have any reason to be surprised by this corporate influence on a corner of civic American life, but crap! What are they going to be teaching Boy Scouts next? How to fill out a credit card application?

November 1, 2006

Information for Social Change – Call for Papers

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

CALL FOR PAPERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liquidation of Iraqi academics

According to the Brussells Tribunal, an international group of artists, intellectuals and activists opposed to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the intellectual and academic community of Iraq is being destroyed:

A little known aspect of the tragedy engulfing Iraq is the systematic liquidation of the country’s academics. Even according to conservative estimates, over 250 educators have been assassinated, and many hundreds more have disappeared. With thousands fleeing the country in fear for their lives, not only is Iraq undergoing a major brain drain, the secular middle class – which has refused to be co-opted by the US occupation – is being decimated, with far-reaching consequences for the future of Iraq.