June 29, 2007

Media Diversity in Libraries

From ALA’s Don Wood:

Fostering Media Diversity in Libraries: Strategies and Actions (PDF)

This guideline is designed to provide libraries, library consortia, and library networks with a centralized list of strategies and actions to help them fulfill one of their key responsibilities: to provide access to a diverse collection of resources and services. Special attention has been given to the acquisition of and access to small, independent, and alternative sources–including locally produced ones–in all formats: print, AV media, and electronic.

See also

Media Concentration

This material from OIF has been long-awaited by those who’ve been aware of the subcommittee working on it. I am very glad to see the report. I think it’s great, and I hope it receives wide attention. -Rory

Victory for Librarians, EPA Library Funding

I will simply refer you to the ALA blog District Dispatch and let you read it there…

American Library Association statements re: the “War on Terror”

Elaine Harger, outgoing coordinator of the ALA Social Responsibilities Round Table, compiled a list of resolutions by ALA Council on the War on Terror, for distribution to congressional offices on Tuesday, which was a day of lobbying during the ALA Conference in Washington, DC. The list is online in PDF form, and also here:

American Library Association statements re: the “War on Terror”

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States government has implemented policies, practices and legislation that have compromised the democratic ideals of our country. These include activities that violate the constitutional rights of American citizens, promote a war based on a campaign of disinformation, and continue to bring about widespread destruction and loss of life abroad. The American Library Association has passed numerous resolutions addressing these concerns, excerpts of which appear below.

Brought to your attention by the Social Responsibilities Round Table of ALA
Washington DC, June 26, 2007


Resolution on the USA PATRIOT Act and Related Measures that Infringe on the Rights of
Library Users

“RESOLVED, that the American Library Association considers sections of the USA PATRIOT Act are a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users…”
Adopted by the Council of ALA, January 29, 2003


Resolution on Libraries and Cultural Resources in Iraq

“RESOLVED, that the American Library Association (ALA) deplores the inaction of the U.S. and British authorities to secure cultural institutions to prevent the loss of precious cultural resources in Iraq; and be it further…

RESOLVED, that ALA urges the U.S. government to provide funding for the reconstruction and rebuilding of libraries and other cultural institutions in Iraq and to collaborate with UNESCO and other international and national bodies working to remedy this loss to the cultural record of humanity….”
Adopted by the Council of ALA, June 25, 2003


Resolution Against the Use of Torture as a Violation of the American Library Association’s Basic Values

“RESOLVED, that ALA condemns the use or threat of use of torture by the U.S. government as a barbarous violation of human rights, intellectual freedom and the rule of law.”
Adopted by the Council of ALA, June 30, 2004


Resolution on Disinformation, Media Manipulation & the Destruction of Public Information

“RESOLVED, that the American Library Association goes on record as being opposed to the use by government of disinformation, media manipulation, the destruction and excision of public information, and other such tactics;…”
Adopted by the Council of ALA, June 29, 2005


Resolution on the Connection Between the Iraq War and Libraries

“RESOLVED, that the American Library Association calls for the withdrawal from Iraq of all U.S. military forces, and the return of full sovereignty to the people of Iraq….”
Adopted by the Council of ALA on June 29, 2005


Resolution on the Darfur Genocide

“WHEREAS, over the past three years between 180,000 and 400,000 civilians have been killed in the Darfur region of Sudan, 2,000,000 people have been displaced, 2,000 villages have been burned and their wells poisoned, and women of all ages have been raped by government-supported Janjaweed militias;…

RESOLVED, that the American Library Association Council urges all the relevant ALA units and the profession-at-large to highlight and explain the Darfur genocide through collections, programs, displays, resource guides, and other suitable means….”
Adopted by the Council of ALA on June 27, 2006

Green Libraries

Monika Antonelli is developing what I think is an important new conceptual direction for libraries, on the basis of ideas from the permaculture movement. She has just started a website, Greenlibraries.org, still mostly undeveloped, which will be a resource for support and documentation for making libraries more ecologically sustainable. Making libraries more sustainable is the basic first step in Monika’s view of things, but farther down the road, as energy issues begin to affect the economy more heavily and change the way that people live, local libraries may emerge as having a central role in the activity of communities.

Technological visionaries in librarianship focus on bringing the skills of librarianship into networked digital services that bypass local libraries. Local libraries are often not a part of the vision of these futurists. A vision of the future informed by ecological realities is different, and is easier to ignore than to face up to because of the drastic changes that these realities require for true sustainability. It is not clear whether a networked world will be such a given when we reach the limits of our natural resources. Permaculture thinking provides an alternative vision of the future of libraries as local institutions. I look forward to Monika’s work on this area, which I think will be very important.

“Beyond Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” – Video Resources

Mary Sue Brown of ALA/SRRT’s Alternative Media Task Force (AMTF) has compiled a bibliography of “sources for, reviews of, and film subscriptions to alternative media in film,” titled, “Beyond Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” It is available in a six-page pdf on the AMTF website, and also here:

Beyond Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
ALA SRRT Alternative Media Task Force
Version: June 2007

Looking for progressive, ground breaking, captivating, issues oriented films? An ALA SRRT selected bibliography of sources for, reviews of, and film subscriptions to alternative media in film.

Arab Film Distribution www.arabfilm.com Arab Film Distribution has been the leading distributor of Arab films for over 15 years includes documentaries and feature films. A sampling includes the award winners The Letter: An American town and the “Somali Invasion”, Iraq in Fragments, Forget Baghdad, and Private.

Bullfrog Films www.bullfrogfilms.com Over the last 32 years, Bullfrog Films has become the leading US publisher of independently-produced, environmental videos that point the way to living healthily, happily, and with greater concern for the other inhabitants of this planet, and for our descendants. Notable works include China Blue a film that according to Variety “makes a stronger case against worker exploitation than any news item could” and Bombies which shows the terrible aftermath of dropping cluster bombs during the secret air war in Laos and the international campaign to ban them. Bullfrog Films are heavily discounted for public libraries. Call for information

California Newsreel www.newsreel.org California Newsreel – film and video for social change since 1968 – includes among its new releases Black Gold exposes the enormous profiteering of the coffee business (for every $2.00 cup of coffee, the farmer receives 1/5 cent.) and The Hero which tells the story of Angola, a nation attempting to reconstruct itself after 40 continual years of anti-colonial and civil warfare through the stories of a veteran who lost his leg, a prstitute who lost a child and an orphaned boy. Offers discounted prices for schools and public libraries.

Chelsea Green www.chelseagreen.com Publishes materials about the politics and practice of sustainable living. Watch for soon to be released DVDs.

DEFA www.umass.edu/defa DEFA or Deutsche Film Aktiengesellschaft, is the state run East German film studios where films were made from 1946 to 1990. University of Massachusetts professor of film and German studies, Barton Bog founded the DEFA Film Library in 1990 in order to make East German cinema more available and better known in the US. The collection includes feature films and documentaries. Significant titles include Kuhle Wampe, or Who Owns the World, a 1932 banned by the Nazis in 1933 for its positive depiction of communism and for insulting Hitler, the judiciary and religion; Verdict on Auschwitz: The Frankfort Auschwitz Trial 1963 Р1965; and the Gleiwitz Case, a detailed reconstruction of the 1939 surprise attack by a Nazi unit on the radio station in Gleiwitz, which was blamed on Polisy forces and served as Hitler’s justification for marching into Poland.

Direct Cinema Limited www.directcinemalimited.com Direct Cinema Limited strives to present titles tnat are both entertaining and enlightening. Some of their award winning films include Land Mines, A Love Story; One Survivor Remembers, the story of Gerda Weissman Klein and her six year ordeal as a victim of Nazi cruelty; Murder on a Sunday Morning; and Stealing America: Vote by Vote.

Fanlight Productions www.fanlight.com Fanlight Productions is a leading distributor of innovative film and video works on social issues of our time. Recent releases include Hold Your Breath, Hidden Wounds, and Outsider.

Frameline www.frameline.org Frameline’s mission is to support, develop, and promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer visibility through media arts. Included are Tongues United, Emmy award winning director Marlon Riggs account of Black gay life that describes the homophobia and racismt hat confront Black gay men and Mom’s Apple Pie about lesbian custody battles.

Docurama Film www.docuramafilmfestival.com Films from the Docurama Film Festivals I, II, and III. Includes such powerful films as Dark Circle( winner of the Grand Prize at the Sundance Film Circle) which follows the trail of plutonium from the Rocky Flats Nuclear Power Plant in California, to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Other titles from III – Gitmo: the New Rules of War, Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: the Fred Korematsu Story, and Well Founded Fear.

Docuseek www.docuseek.com Docuseek is a search site for independent documentary, social issue, and educational videos in the US and Canada. It allows you to simultaneously search eight leading distributors complete collection of over 3,200 titles.

Facets www.facets.org Facets is one of the world’s largest distributors of foreign, classic, cult, art, and hard to find videos. “We search the world for artistically important film on video – bypassing many mainstream releases to focus on the rare and unusual”.
Catalog of over 60,000 titles. Milos Stehlik, co-founder and director of Facets has given many workshops to librarians about collecting videos. He also instigated Facets “public programs”, the Chicago International Film Festival, and the Children’s Film Festival. He serves on National Endowment for the Arts panels, the Rockefeller Foundation’s National Video Resources, the Illinois Arts Council and on juries of numerous international Film Festivals. The Seven Deadly Sins of Library Video Collecting should be in the hands of all librarians with responsibility for film collections. (This pamphlet may still e available from Facets 773-281-9075).

Films for the Humanities and Sciences www.films.com Films for the Humanities and Sciences includes some good social issues films – use key words to find them on the website. Among the notable works are Dying to Leave about human trafficking; The Empty ATM: Inside Argentina’s Broken Economy; and China’s Prosperity: Behind the Scenes of Progress. Films for the Humanities and Sciences is also a source for many if not all of Bill Moyers films including NOW, On Faith and Reason, Moyers on America and more.

First Run/Icarus Films www.frif.com First Run/Icarus Films is a major distributor of documentary films. Most of the films are independent productions intended to provide a fresh and informative view of our rapidly changing world. Notable titles include Hothouse, filmed inside Israeli high-security prisons, explores the lives and society of Palestinian prisoners, men and women, members and leaders of Fatah and Hamas and The Face of Evil, a history of the attempts to categorize the physiognomy of evil. From the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch to physiognomics, phrenology, eugenics, and anthropometrics. The cost of these films may be prohibitive for many libraries, however public libraries receive a 15% discount.

Folkstreams www.folkstreams.net A national preserve about American roots and cultures.

Indiepix www.indiepix.net Indiepix is an online service created for the broad independent film community at large – home video experts, information professionals, media arts specialists, and most importantly, committed supporters of independent film. DVD’s available from Indiepix include Farmingdale – a damming indictment on the treatment meted out to immigrants in the US; A Place Called Chiapas – a unique and balanced rreport on the obstacles faced by Mexico’s poorest residents and the uprising that brought their troubles to the world’s attention; and A State of Mind – Within the closed society of North Korea, British filmmaker Daniel Gordon documents the efforts of two school girls as they train for the large governmental spectacle, the Mass Games, in the capital city of Pyongyang.

Infowars www.infowars.com Featuring Alex Jones’ Bohemian Grove films.

Internet Infidels www.infidels.org Internet Infidels, an interesting website that includes in addition to films, books, articles, and a discussion board. As the name suggests the films lean to the irreverent. A sampling of titles include Ballot Measure 9, Coming Out Under Fire, and Blood in the Face – a look at the far right movement in the US, featuring footage and profiles on the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations movement, and the American Nazi Party.

LAVA www.latinamericanvideo.org LAVA works to facilitate the flow of media from south t onorth by archiving and distributing feature films and documentaries made by Latin American and Latino artists. Three recent Cuban documentary films include Conga Lessons at the Bay of Pigs, Woman is of the House and Man is of the Street and Marry Me.

Leftbooks www.leftbooks.com ‚ÄúBooks to change the world‚Äù also includes some noteworthy DVD‚Äôs including The Take ‚Äì A real life political thriller that documents the working class resistance in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Poison Dust ‚Äì Although thousands of Gulf War 1991 are suffering from depleted uranium poisoning, the US use of radioactive DU weapons has increased six-fold from 1991 – Gulf War II. (Includes details of a panel about Vieqes, Puerto Rico and a DVD ROM display of further DU reports; and Mission Against Terror ‚Äì award winning documentary tells the story of the ‚ÄúCuban 5″ who were imprisoned in the US for fighting against terrorism.

National Film Board of Canada www.nfb.ca/store With its groundbreaking point of view documentaries and creative animated shorts, the National Film Board of Canada has earned world-wide acclaim and won over 4000awards in countless film festivals and competitions. Since its inception in 1939, the NFB has produced over 10,000 films and is recognized as a place where innovation, risk taking, diversity, and quality are its hallmarks. Recent titles include The Lost Boys..Aparatheid’s Legacy, The War of 1812, and Asking Different Questions: Women and Science.

National Film Network www.nationalfilmnetwork.com National Film Network’s large international collection includes both full length and short documentaries. A sampling of titles include the Fourth Annual Media That Matters Film Festival, Landmark Consumer Rights Trials, Silence: In Search of Black Female Sexuality in America, and In the Arroyo.

New Day Films www.newday.com New Day Films describes their endeavor as the premier distribution cooperative for social issue media. Notable titles include Dirty Secrets: Jennifer, Everado and the CIA in Guatemala; Golden Venture, a journey into America’s immigration nightmare; Letters from the other side, post NAFTA immigration sotry told by the Mexican women lift behind; and The Last Atomic Bomb, a Nagasaki survivor’s wake-up call. Prices are reasonable, usually $50. Р$125. for public libraries with discounts for more than one title.

PBS www.shopPBS.com is the source for Frontline, Now, and the Edward R. Murrow Collection including Harvest of Shame and the McCarthy Years.

Progressive Films www.progressivefilms.org Progressive Films distributes films and videos that offer a progressive perspective, promote human rights, and are created to advance social justice, multiracial equality and environmental sustainability. A sampling includes Fed Up, an exploration of the unintentional effects of pesticides and the links between government and major biotechnology companies; Unconstitutional: the war on our Civil Liberties; and The Panama Deception, the untold story of the December 1989 US invasion of Panama, the events that led to it, the excessive force used, the enormity of the death and destruction, and the devastating aftermath. Reasonably priced.

Straightaway Movies www.straightawaymovies.com 22 years presenting American underground drama.

SubCine www.subcine.com SubCine describes itself as “the only source for Independent Latino Film and Video, an artist run and artist owned collective of Latino film and video makers – challenging, experimental, and progressive.Two recent multiple award winners are The Lost Reels of Pancho Villa and Palante, Siempro Palante! The Young Lords.

Video Project www.videoproject.com Video Project is a major source of social issues films. New releases include The Venus Theory – the impact of sudden climate change and One More Dead Fish – the plight of small scale fishermen in the age of globalization.

Women Make Movies www.wmm.com Women Make Movies is a multiracial, organization that produces, distributes, and exhibits independent films by and about women. New releases include Everyone Their Grain of Sand – the struggles of the citizens of Maclovio Rojas, as they battle their government‚Äôs attempts to evict them from their land to make way for corporate development; God Sleeps in Rwanda — five remarkable women as the rebuild their lives following the 1994 Rwandan Genocide that left the country nearly 70% female; and Nalini by Day, Nancy by Night, an award winning documentary about outsourcing telephone support services to India ‚Äì a witty film about politics of identity and globalization.

Zeitgeist Films www.zeitgeistfilms.com Zeitgeist Films pioneers the world of filmmakers with unique personal vision. Recent documentaries include My Country, my Country Рan intimate portrait of Iraquis living under US occupation, Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater, and Sophie Scholl:The Final Days Рstory of Germany’s most famous anti-Nazi heroine. Call for special public library rates.

Film Clubs and Subscriptions

Ironweed www.ironweedfilms.com Ironweed provides a monthly Progressive Film Festival for $14.95 a month – no handling or shipping costs. The package includes a feature length film and two or more short films. The February films include This DVD is Not Yet Rated, a raucous sleuth style investigation into how films are rated and how this affects the filmmakers who make them; Walleyball: Yeah, Yeah, We speak English, Just serve; The Competition; How to Poke Pole a Monkey Faced Eel; and Baby Squid: Born like the Stars.

Film Movement www.rbfilm.com Film Movement in association with Recorded books offers a subscription to first run, award winning films on DVD. The films arrive monthly with a poster and performance rights for a one time showing in the library. Recent titles include Gerardo Olivares’s The Great Match and Aaltra, an irreverent road movie of understated physical comedy and non-PC humor.


Bright Lights Film Journal www.brightlightsfilm.com A popular-academic hybrid of movie analysis with a prime area of focus on the connection between capitalist society and the images that reflect, support, or subvert it.

Cineaste www.cineaste.com America’s leading magazine on the art and politics of cinema.

Film Comment www.filmlinc.com Published by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

The Film Journal www.thefilmjournal.com Passionate and informed film criticism from an auteurist perspective

Film Journal International www.filmjournal.com

Film Quarterly www.filmquarterly.org Published by the University of California.

Images www.imagesjournal.com A journal of film and popular culture.

Jump Cut www.ejumpcut.org A review of contemporary media

Online Film Critics Society www.ofcs.com An international association of Internet-based film critics and journalists.

Screening the Past www.latrobe.edu.au An international, referred electronic journal of visual media and history.

Senses of Cinema www.sensesofcinema.com An online journal devoted to the serious and eclectic discussion of cinema.

Sight and Sound www.bfi.org Informed commentary on world cinema.

Video Librarian www.videolibrarian.com now in its 21st year provides over 225 critical reviews each month. An additional 30 reviews are shown on its website. Subscribers may select the print only ($64. as of this printing) or print and online ($99. ) With the online version comes access to over 20,000 reviews. Video Librarian, as it states, alerts readers to upcoming new releases of special interest, documentary, and video movie titles.

Mary Sue Brown

June 17, 2007

Eugène Morel: pioneer of public libraries in France (forthcoming)

From the introduction of the forthcoming Eugène Morel: pioneer of public libraries in France, by Gaëtan Benoît:

This study is a critical account of the works of Eugène Morel (1869-1934), a French Librarian who, along the lines of such eminent public library pioneers as Edward Edwards and Melvil Dewey, made a remarkable contribution towards the development of public librarianship in France. Morel was genuinely interested in all facets of librarianship and played a dominant role in molding the development of most of them. His writings on the profession, more particularly his two books, Bibliothèques: Essai sur le dévelopement des bibliothèques publiques et de la librarie dans les deux mondes, and La Librarie Publique made a fitting testimony to the life’s work of a very active library pioneer. His relationship with the British and American Library Associations helped to bring closer the French professional association to both of them. Morel had an “avant-garde” view on the automation of libraries and was the first to encourage the employment of women in French libraries. It is to be regretted that the work of a true library pioneer has gone unrecognized for such a long time.

Eugène Morel: pioneer of public libraries in France is due this Winter from Library Juice Press.

June 16, 2007

Thomas Mann’s new one

New essay by Thomas Mann, “The Peloponnesian War and the Future of Reference, Cataloging, and Scholarship in Research Libraries” (June 13, 2007). PDF, 41 pp.

ABSTRACT: The paper is an examination of the overall principles and practices of both reference service and cataloging operations in the promotion of scholarly research, pointing out important differences not just in content available onsite and offsite, but also among necessary search methods. It specifies the differences between scholarship and quick information seeking, and examines the implications of those differences for the future of cataloging. It examines various proposed alternatives to cataloging: relevance ranking, tagging, under-the-hood programming, etc. The paper considers the need for, and requirements of, education of researchers; and it examines in detail many of the glaring disconnects between theory and practice in the library profession today.

AFSCME 2910 urges readers of this essay to make their voices heard by writing to the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control. This advisory group will make recommendations to Library of Congress management which could determine the future of LC cataloging policy.

In particular, LC management is positioning itself to change its practices in two major ways: 1) LC is moving away from its practice of requiring subject expertise in its catalogers; and 2) it is questioning the practice of creating LC Subject Headings in precoordinated subject strings (see pages 21-27 of Mann’s paper). Without precoordination, the existing cross-reference structure, the linkages of LCSH to LC Classification, and the possibility of browse displays of subdivided headings in online catalogs, would be lost.

PLEASE MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD on these issues by writing to the Working Group BY THE DEADLINE OF JULY 15, 2007. You may contact them at: jmgriff@unc.edu

or you can fill out a web form at:

or you can mail your letters to:

Dr. Jos?©-Marie Griffiths
Dean and Professor
School of Information and Library Science
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
CB#3360, 100 Manning Hall
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3360

The Working Group needs your input. Please speak up and encourage your colleagues to respond as well.

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.”

June 13, 2007

ALA Council Resolution on Southeast Asia Conflict (1971)

Resolution on Southeast Asia Conflict

Whereas, the stated objective of the American Library Association is the promotion and improvement of library service and librarianship, and

Whereas, continued and improved library service to the American public requires sustained support form public monies, and

Whereas, the continuing U.S. involvement in the conflict in Southeast Asia has so distorted our national priorities as to reduce substantially the funds appropriated for educational purposes, including support for library services the American people, and

Whereas, continued commitment of U.S. arms, troops and other military support has not contributed to the solution of this conflict, be it therefore

Resolved, that the American Library Association call upon the President of the United States to take immediately those steps necessary to terminate all U.S. military involvement in the present conflict in Southeast Asia and to insure the reallocation of national resources to meet pressing domestic needs.

Passed 145 to 21 by roll call vote at the 1971 ALA Annual Conference.

Al Kagan sent the text of this resolution to the ALA Council listserv just now, in the midst of a debate over Council’s role in addressing political issues. The United States’ pullout of Vietnam certainly came too late, but would have come later if not for the the willingness of cultural and professional leaders in the mainstream, like ALA, to take a stand.

June 7, 2007

Braverman Prize winner (student essay contest)

Media Release

Dr. Alison M. Lewis
Chair, Miriam Braverman Memorial Prize Committee
Progressive Librarians Guild
Phone: 215/895-2765
FAX: 215/895-2070
E-Mail: alewis@drexel.edu

June 6, 2007


Miriam Braverman Memorial Prize Winner Announced
(Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA) – The Progressive Librarians Guild is pleased to announce the winner of the 2007 Miriam Braverman Memorial Prize. Marcel LaFlamme has been awarded the prize for his essay entitled “Towards a Progressive Discourse on Community Needs Assessment: Perspectives from Collaborative Ethnography and Action Research.” Mr. LaFlamme is currently enrolled in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College in Boston, MA.

Mr. LaFlamme’s essay was one of many submitted by library and information science students from colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada. Their papers considered such subjects as rural information centers, library services to indigenous populations, and civic literacy. Mr. LaFlamme’s essay will be published in the forthcoming issue of Progressive Librarian, the journal published by the Progressive Librarians Guild. He will also receive a $300 stipend for attendance at the 2007 American Library Association’s annual meeting in Washington D.C., and an award certificate at the PLG annual dinner.

Honorable mentions go to Katherine Becvar, Department of Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, for her paper, “Intellectual Freedom and Sensitive Knowledge: Embracing Pluralism in the Process of Knowing,” and to Joshua Jackson, Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College, for his paper “Taking the Next Step: A Critical Encounter with Critical Information Literacy.”

The Miriam Braverman Memorial Prize is awarded annually for the best essay written by a student of library/information science on an aspect of the social responsibilities of librarians, libraries or librarianship. The prize is named in honor of Miriam Braverman (1920-2002), an activist librarian who was a longstanding member of the Progressive Librarians Guild and a founder of the American Library Association’s Social Responsibilities Round Table. She was a strong proponent of the social responsibilities perspective within librarianship and an inspiration to younger librarians entering the field.

The Progressive Librarians Guild (PLG) was founded in 1990 and is committed to supporting activist librarians and monitoring the professional ethics of librarianship from a perspective of social responsibility. For more information, visit the Guild’s website at: http://libr.org/PLG/

June 2, 2007

Reed Elsevier to stop organizing arms fairs

In mid-April I posted an item about the campaign to get Reed Elsevier out of the arms trade business, which had a link to a well-organized petition drive. I found out about the issue from Mark Rosenzweig, who tried to bring the issue up for discussion on the ALA Council list, where it was ignored. Privately, he was told by some Councilors that customers of a company like Reed Elsevier (whose subsidiary Reed Business Information publishes Library Journal) could not have any effect on its business practices in a completely different area.

Today’s news is good and serves to show that those of us who did sign the petition didn’t do it in vain. Reed Elsevier is pulling out of organizing arms fairs. According to Reed Elsevier they made the change under “pressure which included complaints from customers, shareholders and academics writing for its major titles.”

I think Mark Rosenzweig is correct in scolding ALA Council for sleeping through this (though I have to admit I could have backed him up on the Council list; I didn’t do anything beyond posting an item here and signing the petition).

Thanks to Martyn Lowe for sharing this news.

Venezuela’s media and the U.S. media

Two items regarding recent mainstream news reports telling the story that Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is cracking down on free speech in refusing to renew RCTV’s license. First, Robert McChesney unpacks the issue and provides some of the facts and context that have been buried, showing how “the US media coverage of Venezuela‚Äôs RCTV controversy says more about the deficiencies of our own news media that it does about Venezuela.” Also, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has an analysis of recent coverage on the issue which does a great job of showing the mainstream media’s bias in favor of the Bush administration on this issue, and its lack of perspective or context. Both commentators point out that a television station attempting to incite a coup in the United States would have been shut down long ago, and its operators tried for treason.

There is an unfortunate cognitive bias among many librarians that says that mainstream sources, ones that seem not to be activist in nature, are automatically more reliable and objective. This is commonly stated as a basic guideline in evaluating information sources, without reasons given, and without awareness of issues in media theory. A companion to the idea that “mainstream means objective” are the anti-intellectual ideas that “everything balances out,” and that “for every argument there is an equally valid counterargument.” This kind of thinking makes our professionalism irrelevant, and makes literacy irrelevant as well. For a profession that claims to specialize in information literacy, as a group we know a lot less about issues of bias than we should. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s magazine, Extra!, should be required reading in library schools (to recommend a very easy starting point).