February 25, 2007


Just a link to a handy website, brought to you by Public Citizen, guiding you through all the ins and outs of one of the Bush Administration’s clearest and strongest changes to government policy: drastically increased government secrecy and public disinformation. The website is Bushsecrecy.org, and it is divided into a few simple sections: Regulatory Deception, Executive Privilege, Freedom of Information Act, and National Security. It goes into solid detail about Bush Administration policy changes that have decreased public access to government information.

This is information everyone should know.

February 21, 2007

John Rendon – the Goebbels of our era

My friend John Gehner just told me about this watershed piece of investigative reporting by James Bamford, an article from Rolling Stone that won the 2006 National Magazine Award in the “Best Reporting” category: The Man Who Sold the War. It is about John Rendon, who heads the “perception management” firm that was hired by the White House to “create the conditions for the removal of [Saddam] Hussein from power.”

This is amazing. We now know exactly who is responsible, who was hired for the job of manipulating the public to sell the War in Iraq that has destabilized the Middle East, brought our own country into unprecedented debt, cost us a tremendous amount of prestige as a country, and taken the lives of disadvantaged Americans and innocent Iraqis. It is no longer a matter of accusing the White House of being Macchiavellian and manipulating the public; we now know that they in fact hired a firm of specialists, the Rendon Group, to manipulate public perceptions in order to sell the War.

What an unpardonable, deliberate, direct distortion of democracy.

February 16, 2007

Urgent message from LoC Professional Guild

Dear Friend of the Library of Congress,

We are sending you this message because the Library of Congress Professional Guild, AFSCME Local 2910, needs your help.

For over thirty years our union has worked with management to forge a constructive relationship at the Library of Congress. Together we have built a modern and progressive workplace committed to the highest principles of librarianship. Everybody has gained, including the public we serve.

Today, the Library of Congress has chosen to betray that relationship. Through its Office of Workforce Management, the Library has struck at the very heart of the Guild by seeking to put union representatives on enforced leave or Leave Without Pay until we provide confidential information about our Guild representational activities.

The Library wants us to change the way we submit our bi-weekly reports to management by forcing us to describe specifics of conversations held with employees in the Guild office. If we were to submit to this demand, we would undermine the confidentiality of employees and impair our ability to represent our colleagues at the Library of Congress.

Guild officers and stewards always account for our use of official time for representational activity but we object to demands that go beyond the reporting practices of our federal union colleagues in the Executive Branch. Under the guise of “accountability” the Office of Workforce Management is attempting to chill communications with employees, curtail official time for Guild representatives, and restrict the Guild’s ability to develop and implement progressive policies and practices at the Library of Congress. Furthermore, efforts by management to coerce union officials by docking their pay is considered by many to be union-busting.

These actions should have no place at the Library of Congress, or in any workplace in America. Please visit our website at http://www.guild2910.org and read about our efforts to preserve representational rights at the Library of Congress.

We urge you to express your concern by signing the statement below:

Dear Dr. James Billington, Librarian of Congress:

As the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and as the research arm of the U.S. Congress, the Library of Congress should embody the values of pluralism and democracy. Employees who participate in labor organizations, or who — as officers or stewards — assist their colleagues in the workplace, should have the right to do so without fear
of penalty or reprisal.


Send to:

Library of Congress Professional Guild www.guild2910.org
LM G-41, Mailstop 9994 guild@loc.gov
Washington, DC 20540
FAX 202-707-1873

Please cut and paste this statement and send it to our email address. You may also fax it us or send us a letter.

And if you visit our website we invite you to read 2 essays by our members:

“More on What is Going on at the Library of Congress,” by Thomas Mann, January 1, 2007,” and

“Eliminating Series Authority Records and Series Title Control: Improving Efficiency or Creating Waste? Or, 12 Reasons Why the Library of Congress Should Reconsider Its SARs Decision,” by Gary M. Johnson, January 11, 2007.”

On behalf of our executive board and stewards, we thank you for your support,

Saul Schniderman, Cataloger
Guild President

Melinda Friend, Archivist
Guild Chief Steward

The Library of Congress Professional Guild
AFSCME Local 2910
Mail stop 9994
Room No. LM G-41
Library of Congress
101 Independence Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20540
(202) 707-6493/1304
Fax: (202) 707-1873
“Opinions expressed are those of the authors, and are not official statements by the Library of Congress.”

February 14, 2007

Progressive Librarians Guild calls for Bush’s impeachment and trial for war crimes

The Progressive Librarians Guild endorsed a petition to impeach President Bush and to have Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Gonzales tried for war crimes by an international tribunal. The petition, written by Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois Law School and Joan Russow of the Global Compliance Research Project, is carefully framed within the appropriate structures of international law.

February 12, 2007

Dick Cheney’s stealth operation

Here’s a little detail about the present government that everybody should know.

The Office of the Vice President, along with all executive branch offices, is required to submit a list of its staff for publication in the government’s “Plum Book,” and is required to submit statistics on its document classification activities. Cheney has been refusing to do this, with the claim that his office is not a part of any of the three branches of government.

Steve Benen writes about this unbelievable and ignored issue in his Carpetbagger Report

March of the Librarians

This is really funny.

February 11, 2007

LJP Friends Group and Email Announcements

I announced this earlier but deleted the post when I saw that I needed to make some changes to how I was doing these things. So now, with some things redone….

Two new features on the Library Juice Press website…

First, a Friends’ Group, where friends and supporters of Library Juice Press can communicate on an email list. This list is for people to share ideas, ask questions, make suggestions, and probably also for the Press to share some advance information on forthcoming books. The address for subscribing is joinfriends [at] libraryjuicepress.com. Subscriptions are handled manually, so introduce yourself and say something about your interests.

Second, the Library Juice Press website now has an email announcement list, which is a one-way email list that people can subscribe to to be alerted to new publications from Library Juice Press and occasional other news. This is a collection development tool, essentially. Emails will be infrequent on this announcement list. Subscription is automated, and you have to go to that page to subscribe.

February 10, 2007

In defense of denial

Frank Furedi in the free-thinking Spiked has an interesting essay in defense of denial (as in holocaust denial, AIDS denial, etc.). His position is that illiberal intolerance of such heresies breeds more of them and breeds an illiberal society. It is a good exposition of some classical principles of intellectual freedom, but stated more categorically and more seriously than one usually encounters.

February 4, 2007

Rivers and dams

Recently a reader commented on a posting about Rick Anderson of last March, defending the idea that librarians should be “invisible facilitators of the flow of information in a capitalist society,” which is how I interpreted the intentions of Anderson and others like him (though I am sure that they would take issue with that).

The talk by Anderson that I was blogging about then had the title, “Sometimes a river, always a library.” It seems to me that the River metaphor has been a major part of business thinking in the neoliberal era, going back to the Reagan-Thatcher years. (Laissez couler – “let it flow,” also, “let is sink”). It’s the new age version of capitalism, where the hippy idea of “going with the flow” is translated to mean “do not resist the flow of capital and the natural dynamism of capitalism.”

In libraries, this obviously means that if we are smart, we apprehend the changes that are being brought to us from outside in the neoliberal era, and we brave the whitewater rapids on our little raft of librarianship, avoiding the rocks that could smash us to bits. Only a fool would stand in this river letting the water flow by him, trying not to be carried off.

We have mostly been looking at just one side of this metaphor, which I think is actually quite a useful metaphor.

There are definitely times when the appropriate way to look at it is to see ourselves as taking a raft down a fast moving river. It is certainly ridiculous to stand alone in the river thinking that by standing there you can stop its flow and save yourself from the future. But I think the neoliberal era has progressed sufficiently far that most people can see its logical conclusions, and we can talk about The River in terms of how people have used it historically.

Historically, humans have harnessed the power of rivers by building dams. One person standing in a river does not make a dam, but a community cooperating over time can build a great dam, which is a very useful thing. Sure, dams can have unintended ecological consequences, but where would civilization be without them? Dams create power, make land useable for agriculture, create lakes, create a stability for communities…

We’ve used the idea of the River to suggest a view of rapid change as a force of nature, and to suggest that the changes being brought by neoliberal capitalism are simply a force of nature to which we as profession have to adapt and “go with.” This way of using the idea of the River fits nicely with the pleasurable feeling of “flow,” the expression of emotion, and the mid-20th century rejection of discipline in favor of pleasure.

Capitalism is certainly based on aspects of human existence that are as natural as anything in the natural world. But it is also in our nature to observe, to think, to plan, to control our environment and harness the power of nature. I think it is time to begin thinking of how the laissez-faire metaphor of the River has a useful other side, which is about how its power can best be harnessed by building dams.

What is the meaning of a dam? Yes, it is something that can break, but it is also something organized, something that represents collected power, cooperation, planning, a human creation but one that is greater than any single person can accomplish. It represents the creation of value through collective effort and applied intelligence. It represents human control of natural forces.

I’ll leave it for a later time to think of how this metaphor might be applied to libraries, but feel free to comment if you have ideas…

February 3, 2007

Al Kagan’s report to SRRT on ALA Council, Midwinter Meeting, Seattle ’07

ALA Council Report to SRRT, Midwinter 2007

Greetings once again to SRRT members, old and new. Following up on our previous successes, in Seattle we introduced a resolution aimed at lobbying the Congress to defund the Iraq War. The resolution referenced our past successful resolutions since 2003, which addressed securing Iraqi cultural resources and rebuilding libraries; opposing torture; opposing disinformation, media manipulation and the destruction of public information; and for getting the US military out of Iraq. Unfortunately, after much debate, the resolution failed 98 to 48. Although we had some unlikely supporters speak to it, the Council was just not ready to take this next logical step. Almost everyone we talked with was in favor on a personal level, but there is a disconnect between their personal views and their professional lives. We just have to work harder to connect our issues and break down these barriers to fundamentally change our society.

As I said on the Council floor, one of the nice things about meeting in new places is that we meet new folks who may want to participate in ALA for the first time. Some folks in the Seattle Public Library union crafted an excellent resolution on the reasons for impeaching President George W. Bush. SRRT endorsed it and we took it to the Council. Jonathan Betz-Zall took the lead as Washington State Chapter Councilor. This was a positive development on the one-hand but very disheartening to see the reaction of the Council. To my knowledge, the ALA Council has never precluded debating anything brought before it. Unfortunately in this case, someone came to the microphone to do just that. A councilor asked for a ruling on whether this resolution was appropriate business for ALA. President Burger consulted with the Parliamentarian who advised her to ask the body. When she did, a majority of hands went up and she ruled the item out of order. An immediate rebellion followed. Councilor Bernadine Abbott-Hoduski made an impassioned speech against self-censorship followed by several others including one councilor who said she had not realized what she was doing when she raised her hand. President Burger then overruled herself and we debated the resolution. Progressive councilors were themselves divided on this one. Several, including Bernadine, stated their opinion that tying up the Congress with impeachment was the wrong way to go, and that we needed the Congress to act to try to right some wrongs from the current Administration. In the end, only about ten councilors voted for the resolution.

There were several other important resolutions. The Council voted in support of immigrants (legal or otherwise) by opposing any legislation that infringes on the rights on anyone in the USA to use library resources, programs, and services on the national, state, and local levels. Evidently, many public libraries currently exclude undocumented immigrants from various services. Hopefully, local activists might be empowered to change this situation. Thanks to REFORMA for bringing this to our attention through the Committee on Legislation (COL).

The Council also approved two other items from the COL report. The first urged the Congress to amend the Copyright Act to facilitate use of “orphan works” if the user has made a good faith effort to locate the owners. The other urged governments at all levels to support the role of libraries in providing electronic government and emergency response services.

For the first time in my memory, the Intellectual Freedom Committee did not present any resolutions for consideration. The International Relations Committee had only one non-controversial action item, the appointment of an ALA representative to the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield. The Blue Shield was established in 1996 as an international organization to protect the world’s cultural heritage threatened by wars and natural disasters. The U.S. Committee was formed in 2006.

There was one other ALA Council resolution of note. Several progressive councilors introduced a resolution to follow-up on ALA’s continuing relationship with the Boy Scouts of America National Council (BSA). ALA Council had resolved at the Midwinter 1999 meeting to cut its formal relationship with the BSA because of their explicit homophobia and discrimination based on religious affiliation. These councilors pointed to a liaison listed on the website of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). The ALSC Councilor defended its practice and said this did not constitute an official relationship. In the end, Council decided to put this on hold until the Council could receive an official response from ALSC, which will happen at the annual meeting in Washington, DC.

Finally, the ALA-APA (Allied Professional Association) easily passed a resolution endorsing a nonbinding minimum salary of not less than $40,000 for professional librarians.

As usual, I will be happy to try to answer any questions.

Al Kagan
SRRT Councilor