September 21, 2007

Socialism and print culture

Here’s an interesting article from the July-August isssue of New Left Review relating the history of socialism to the history of print culture. It suggests, without quite stating it, that the decline of socialism is tied to the decline of print culture, and that by extension the future of socialism will be tied to a transformation of its vocabulary and its ideas in adaptation to the culture of new media. Hard to know what that means in practical terms!!

Thanks to Erik Estep for sharing this link with the SRRT list.

I’m shocked and appalled that you’re shocked and appalled

A creative MIT student made a thing out of a circuit board and some LEDs and wore it on her shirt. She’s young, 19, so it’s understandable that she didn’t quite understand how things are in airports these days, and when she walked into Logan Airport she was surrounded at gunpoint by security men who suspected her of carrying an explosive device.

Her self-description: “In a sentence, I’m an inventor, artist, engineer, and student, I love to build things and I love crazy ideas.”

The head of security: “I‚Äôm shocked and appalled that somebody would wear this type of device to an airport.”

Lots of comments on blogs saying that she is an idiot. She’s a college sophomore. Not many comments about what a loss it is to our culture that simple creativity generates such paranoia.

Note that Boston’s police were the same ones who freaked out about the Aqua Teen Hunger Force ad campaign and arrested the artists there.

September 17, 2007

British Columbia Library Association IFC blog

The British Columbia Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee has a new blog, which I will read regularly. It’s been going since late August, and in that time I’d say it’s shown that the BC IFC is a group that’s doing some interesting things relating to intellectual freedom and information policy and having fun while they’re at it. One thing that attracts me to the Canadian approach to IF is that they tend to see the connections between IF and information policy more clearly than our own IFC and OIF do. In ALA the focus is on book challenges almost exclusively. The IFC did recently publish its report on Media Diversity in Libraries, but Judith Krug doesn’t consider it central enough to include a summary of its findings in the upcoming edition of the Intellectual Freedom Manual. Judith Krug has accomplished an incredible amount in terms of establishing intellectual freedom as a core value within librarianship and even within United States society, so I am not trying to minimize her contribution. However, I would say that the BCLA IFC’s approach shows more awareness of where the real intellectual freedom issues lie at this point in history.

September 16, 2007

Books on libraries and the public sphere

Kathleen de la Pe?±a McCook recommends some books on libraries and the public sphere. This list is a good prescription for getting reinspired as an ethically and politically grounded professional.

September 15, 2007

PLG endorses the Iraq Moratorium

The Progressive Librarians Guild has endorsed the Iraq Moratorium, an organized method of protest for the third Friday of each month.

September 12, 2007

Coming up from Library Juice Press

Library Juice Press has a number of book projects forthcoming in the Winter and Spring.

Coming up soonest are these two:

Shortly following on those will be a compilation of articles from Progressive Librarian on the myth of library neutrality, edited by Alison Lewis.

Coming up in the Spring will be these:

Also in the Spring will be an anthropological study of the Library of Congress by Samuel Collins that is a very interesting read.

Following those will be some books that I’d like to keep under wraps for the time being.

I hope you’re as excited about these projects as I am!

September 11, 2007

No intellectual freedom in U.S. prison chapel libraries

The New York Tims has a story dated yesterday about a change dictated from the top in the libraries of U.S. Federal Prisons, called the “Standardized Chapel Library Project.” With the rationale of preventing violent religious extremism among prisoners, religious books in Federal prison libraries will now be a standardized collection – 150 books for each library, following a list of approved titles selected by “religious experts.”

According to a range of religious scholars interviewed by the Times, the list of 150 titles is odd. Among its ideosyncracies are that where Christianity is concerned it is heavy on Calvinism and Evangelicalism, leaving out liberal theologians and writings representing major Protestant denominations (no books by Karl Barth or Reinhold Niebuhr); where Judaism is concerned it is mostly books published by a single Orthodox publishing house, and three-quarters of the Jewish books at a prison in Otisville, NY were removed from the shelves based on the new list. Several inmates at Otisville have filed a class action lawsuit alleging that the Standardized Chapel Library Project violates their first amendment rights.

Some people are thinking: “It’s prison, people are supposed to lose their rights.” I have two responses. First, it is easy to think this way until you are put in prison yourself, which I am afraid can happen all too easily in a country that puts a higher percentage of its people in prison than any other, and where social policies become progressively more punitive and more and more based on irrational fear with each decade. Second, prisoners are entitled to basic human rights, even if there are legal rights that they can be expected to lose. The freedom to read is a basic human right. And at the risk of offending some of my atheist colleagues, I think that theological study, while I wouldn’t say it deserves special protection in prison libraries versus other literature, is something that for many prisoners represents an essential tool for coping with imprisonment and for dealing with a violent past. Many prisoners become serious students of theology. Cutting them off from the literature they need for these studies seems more like sadism than a reasonable kind of punishment, especially since it goes against rehabilitation. And given what is on and what is off of the list, the government’s rationale of preventing terrorism can’t be taken very seriously.

September 10, 2007

OncologySTAT: end run around objectivity

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a brief news item today about a Reed-Elsevier web portal for oncologists called OncologySTAT, which provides free access to medical research in journals that are otherwise mainly accessed through library subscriptions, and pays for the service by showing ads to users. The kind of ad-based model in use here bypasses libraries and reduces scholars and practitioners’ dependency on institutionally funded services that aren’t as slick. If I find fault in this model an obvious thought might be, “Of course – it’s your job that’s disappearing.” But I could work for a commercial information provider if I wanted to. (Okay, Library Juice Press is technically a commercial information provider, but it’s not the same thing.) The point is that I choose to work in a library because I believe the library model has reasons behind it that are ethical and practical. Libraries aren’t funded by ad revenue, and that is part of how we ensure that what we present to users is not colored by commercial bias, by a desire to sell something. We’re not here to manipulate user behavior but to support user autonomy. There’s no conflict of interest in the library model. There’s no incentive to bury research that would hurt the sales of a sponsor’s product, or promote research that’s in the sponsor’s interest. An ad-based model has a built in factor for distorting the truth. The library model does not (at least in its pure form).

September 7, 2007

Terje Hillesund on the future of books

The new First Monday has an article by Terje Hillesund that’s worth reading if you’re interested in the question of the future of the book: Reading Books in the Digital Age after Amazon, Google and the long tail. Here is the abstract:

Presenting a wide range of literature, this article explores the state of art in book research, paying particular attention to John B. Thompson’s interpretation of digital transformations within the book industry, as depicted in Books in the Digital Age (2005). Claiming that Thompson’s analyses are one–sided, the article applies alternative perspectives and a model of a text cycle, contending that the diminishing role of paper in text production and text distribution makes the dominant position of printed books particularly vulnerable to advances in digital reading technologies.

September 6, 2007

Libr.org Cafe Press

Somebody just bought a “Kiss Me I’m a Librarian” thong out of my old Libr.org Cafe Press store, which reminded me that it exists. The shop has got t-shirts, coffee mugs, and other things advertising Libr.org and the old Library Juice, and advertising the fact that you are a librarian. I thought I’d mention it again and see if it can make a comeback. It’s generating something like a dime a sale for Libr.org; the real point is just to make the stuff available.

Apologies to anyone who showed me a “Kiss Me I’m a Librarian” button at a conference if I didn’t remember that I created it.

September 2, 2007

Civallero and Plaza

Don’t let the everyday name fool you, Edgardo Civallero and Sara Plaza’s blog, The Log of a Librarian, an English translation of their Spanish language blog from Argentina, is full of refreshing passion and idealism that shows how far from its reason for being mainstream librarianship has fallen.