December 30, 2006

New – ISC #24 – World Social Forum

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

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

December 27, 2006

Lawrence Lessig on the political process

Lawrence Lessig has an editorial in last month’s Wired Magazine about how money distorts the political process, with a specific tie-in to the recent legislation concerning network neutrality: A Costly Addiction.

December 24, 2006

Alternative Lit and Libraries

This post is a compilation of web resources having to do with alternative literature and libraries. It replaces an out-of-date page on my personal site.

By “alternative literature” I mean books, magazines, and other written media coming from any of a myriad Left perspectives (socialist, anarchist, green, feminist, queer, or specific-issue-based) and published independently of large publishing companies. The term has a long tradition of being used in this way.

Okay, here are some links:

The Alternative Press Center publishes the Alternative Press Index, an index to articles in over 200 alternative periodicals, and Annotations, a directory of those periodicals including detailed information and selected reviews. Located in Baltimore, MD.

The Alternatives in Publication Task Force of SRRT (The Social Responsibilities Round Table of The American Library Association) promotes the Alternative Press, especially in libraries. It is more commonly referred to as AIP, for Alternatives In Publication (formerly Alternatives In Print). AIP sponsors the directory Alternative Publishers of Books in North America, offers programs at ALA conferences and takes on other tasks as necessary. You can get involved in AIP by joining ALA and SRRT (see ALA’s website) and then contacting the group directly.

ALA Past President Nancy Kranich’s Preface to the 6th Edition of Alternative Publishers of Books in North America, outlines the facts about and significance of alternative literature in libraries.

A Bibliography on Media Consolidation (pdf), by Byron Anderson, was produced as a part of an AIP project.

Bibliographic Tools for the Alternative Press, from the alternative review journal, Counterpoise, is a helpful collection development tool.

The Other 90 Percent: What Your MLS Didn’t Teach You is an article by Byron Anderson, originally published in Counterpoise 3(3/4) and based on a talk at an AIP program in 1999. This article explains some interesting facts about the publishing industry, and advocates teaching about it in MLS programs.

The Alternative Press and Academic Libraries: A Selected Bibliography, by Jeff Lilburn of Mount Allison University, Nova Scotia, is another potentially useful collection development tool.

Charles Willett’s article “Politically Controversial Monographs,” from issue 4 of Progressive Librarian, Winter, 1991/92, discusses the way selection practices in academic libraries result in an under-representation of alternative press titles.

All the Book Reviews Fit to Print: Tolerance of the conservatively correct, Part I,” By Edward S. Herman is an article from Z Magazine about systematic bias in book reviews.

That’s what I’ve got for you today. Please leave more links and citations in the comments.

December 21, 2006

Privacy, Libraries, ALA and FBI

ALA’s Don Wood has a blog that he uses as a channel for his communications on libraries and intellectual freedom. Today he has a post about the ALA Washington Office and their response to statements by the director of the FBI that they say reveals the Bureau’s continued lack of understanding of libraries and the sanctity of library users’ privacy.

December 20, 2006

If books were computers

This is a cute visual argument for the value of printed books. A friend at work sent it to me….

December 19, 2006

Christopher Hitchens reviews David Nasaw’s book on Andrew Carnegie

Whatever you think about Christopher Hitchens, I think you’ve got to appreciate his iconoclasm. His review of David Nasaw’s book about Andrew Carnegie gives me the slight feeling that he wishes he had written it himself, or at any rate that he appreciates it very much for the many-sided story that it tells. It is the kind of review that can’t help repeating as much of what is in the book as will fit in the assigned space.

(Am I imagining it or is Hitchens’ point of view becoming rounder and fuller now that he has reasons to identify with the bad guys he likes to write about?)

Southern Methodist University faculty uneasy about a Bush Presidential Library

Southern Methodist University is the front runner to be the site for the Bush Presidential Library, and is favored by President Bush because of his United Methodist religious affiliation. The administration at SMU has been pushing to win the project.

Faculty at SMU are starting to protest, and United Methodist leaders are also questioning the relationship. Why? They tend to view Bush’s policies and decisions as antithetical to their faith. Some are also worried about the emerging discussion about turning the Bush Presidential Library into an academic center that would advance Bush’s political philosophy using SMU as a vehicle.

Other sites in contention are Baylor University and the University of Dallas. Some universities would be friendlier to a Bush Library than others, but I think it is undeniable that Bush’s own attitudes about learning and intellectuality would naturally make university faculty anywhere anxious about a Bush Presidential Library at their institution.

December 18, 2006

Craigslist meets the capitalists

The founder of Craigslist went to an internet media conference where most of the discussion was about “monetizing pageviews,” and made people scratch their heads because his super-successful website has never been about making money and he has no plans to move it in that direction. These wall street types had trouble grasping the concept of running a website for fun and as a pure service. The article from the NY Times about it is cute. Actually I think it’s really good that the NYT is pointing out that such sites still exist.

December 16, 2006

Summary of blog treatment of UCLA library taser incident

Morgan Wilson of has a nice summary of the blog traffic and library-world discussions about the UCLA library taser incident.


PALIAct is the Progressive African Library & Information Activists Group. It has ties to CILIP (the UK library association) and the UK’s Information for Social Change, and publishes an online journal, Information Equality, Africa, the second issue of which is just out and available from the group’s website.

Library Juice Concentrate teaser

Library Juice Concentrate and Library Daylight are in the final phases of publication and will be available for purchase in about a month. Review copies will be available sooner to anyone who wants to review one of these books for a publication – just contact me if you’re interested: rory at

I thought I would share the just-finished cover of Library Juice Concentrate. Pretty nice, don’t you think?

December 14, 2006

ALA President Leslie Burger’s letter to UCLA regarding the taser incident

Posted with permission

December 13, 2006

Dr. Norman Abrams
Acting Chancellor
University of California at Los Angeles
University Chancellor’s Office
Box 951405
2147 Murphy
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1405

Dear Acting Chancellor Abrams:

I was shocked, as were many of the 66,000 members of the American Library Association, to read about and watch the November 14, 2006 incident that unfolded at the Powell Library. On behalf of ALA I urge you to take immediate action to ensure that library patrons will never be subjected to this type of shocking and unwarranted treatment again. The violent manner in which Mostafa Tabatabainejad was treated is unconscionable.

We applaud your decision to conduct an independent investigation of this matter but also urge you to reexamine your security practices as a result of this incident.

While I can appreciate the need to provide for the safety and security of library users this incident reveals how easy it is for these situations to escalate. On college campuses throughout the country, libraries are places for sanctuary and peaceful study. Please restore that sense of sanctuary to the students and faculty at UCLA by ensuring that the privacy and security of all who use your campus libraries are protected from violence from the University’s security force.

We live in difficult times in which many people in our country are persecuted and criminalized due to the color of their skin and their ethnicity. Our Association’s Bill of Rights states that a person’s right to use a library should not be abridged because of origin, age, background or views. We hope that UCLA and all its campus libraries honor this basic tenet of library service.

We condemn the violent actions against Mr. Tabatabainejad and urge you to reexamine current security practices to ensure that they are fair and responsive to the needs of the campus community and free of excessive force.


Leslie Burger

December 12, 2006

SRRT Newsletter 156/157

The new issue of the SRRT Newsletter, which is combined issue 156/157, January 2007, is finished and now online. Paper copies will be mailed to SRRT members and other subscribers soon.

Erik Estep has put together a nice issue, with articles by some new voices in SRRT. Carol Gulyas, chair of the Alternatives in Publications Task Force, wrote a very interesting report on an AIP program, “The Ethnic Press, Libraries, and Community: How We Can Strengthen Ties.” There’s a brief article by Jeff Ridinger about access issues and access services librarianship; an article about the experience in New Orleans by Ted Chaffin, a report from Ginny Moore on the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Multi-Cultural Idea Exchange Task Force, three book reviews, and Al Kagan’s report from IFLA.

If you’ve wondered what SRRT does or if it’s the right place for you in ALA, this newsletter is a good way to tell.

December 10, 2006

Reports disappearing from EPA library website

As you may have noticed throughout the EPA library closure situation, the government’s big justification for closing the libraries has been that it is a digital age, meaning that physical libraries have lost their relevance. We know that that is hardly true, but aside from that, shouldn’t this argument mean that we will see EPA library services shifting to the web?

The opposite is what’s actually happening. A news release from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility says that the EPA library is purging electronic records and reports and making them unavailable from the EPA library website, as a part of the library closure process.

This is proof that what is really going on is not a shift to the digital era but a large scale loss of access to important environmental information.

Human Rights Day

Today is Human Rights Day. Two sites I will recommend:

OHCHR Human Rights Day page

Human Rights Education Association Human Rights Day page

Also note Toni Samek’s upcoming book: Librarianship and Human Rights, coming out very soon on from Chandos Publishing.

Also… Kathleen de la Peña McCook and Kathryn Phenix are working on a book on librarianship and human rights, and Kathleen is presently teaching a seminar on the subject in the spring. (Go to that page if you want a nice bibliography.)

Kathleen’s posting on Human Rights Day has a list of fiction books about human rights.