February 24, 2009

Machines in the Archives

Richard J. Cox‘s new book is Personal Archives and a New Archival Calling: Readings, Reflections and Ruminations, just out from Litwin Books this January.

I searched around and found a fairly recent article by Dr. Cox that gets into some of the issues that he develops further in the book. If you’d like to get a taste for what you’ll find in parts of his new book, take a look at his November 2007 article in First Monday: “Machines in the archives: Technology and the coming transformation of archival reference.” …

February 21, 2009

Robert Jensen on library neutrality

…[T]he question isn’t whether one is neutral, but whether one is independent from control and allowed to pursue free and open inquiry. In a healthy society, professionals would be given that independence–not just in theory but in practice–and out of the many choices that varied professionals would make, we could expect a rich cultural conversation and an engaged political dialogue.

The ideology of political neutrality, unfortunately, keeps professionals such as journalists, teachers, and librarians–as well as citizens–from understanding the relationship between power and the professions. Any claim to such neutrality is illusory; there is no neutral ground on which to stand anywhere in the world. Rather than bemoan that fact, I believe we should embrace it and acknowledge that it is the source of intellectual, political, and moral struggle and progress. If we take seriously this claim, then all people, no matter what their position, would have to articulate and defend the values and assumptions on which their claims are made. The other option is intellectual stagnation and political decline.

Robert Jensen, “The Myth of the Neutral Professional,” Progressive Librarian No. 24 (Winter 2004).

Available in Alison Lewis (ed.), Questioning Library Neutrality: Essays from Progressive Librarian, Duluth: MN, Library Juice Press, 2008.

February 20, 2009

Book Staxx

Winning entry in the 2008-09 UMD Library Student Video Contest, by Jacob Strassman and Matt Moline…

February 17, 2009

Left Children’s Lit

I missed this when it came out a month ago in the New York Times Book Review: Caleb Crain has a review of Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature. I have often wondered about Left Children’s Lit, so I find this book interesting. Crain finds too much amusement in the topic and mocks it a little (part of that publication’s attitude of light, breezy superiority), but the review is informative. Even though the book includes the full text and illustration of each of the 44 children’s books that it anthologizes, I think that it would only spark the interest of books collectors to seek out copies of the originals…

February 16, 2009

Braverman Prize – Call for Papers


Are you an LIS student interested in activism and the struggle for social justice? Do you stay awake at night thinking about how your politics might inform your professional practice?

The MIRIAM BRAVERMAN MEMORIAL PRIZE, a presentation of the Progressive Librarians Guild (PLG), is awarded each year for the best paper about some aspect of the social responsibilities of librarians, libraries, or librarianship. Papers related to archivists, archives, and archival work are also eligible.

The winning paper will be published in the Summer 2009 issue of Progressive Librarian. The winner of the contest will also receive a $300 stipend to help offset the cost of travel to and from the 2009 American Library Association annual conference in Chicago, IL. The award will be presented at the annual PLG dinner.

Think you might be interested? Here’s the fine print.

1. Contestants must be library and/or information science students attending a graduate-level program in the United States or Canada.

2. Entries must be the original, unpublished work of the contestant, and must be written in English. Entries may not exceed 3,000 words, and must conform to MLA in-text citation style.

3. To facilitate the blind review process, each entry must include a cover sheet providing the contestant’s name, full contact information (address, phone number, e-mail address), name of the institution where the contestant is enrolled, and the title of the paper. No identifying information, other than the title, should appear on the paper itself.

4. Entries must be submitted electronically, in Microsoft Word or RTF format, to bravermansubmissions@gmail.com. Entries must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. CST on May 1, 2009.

5. The $300 stipend is available only to help defray the cost of ALA conference attendance; if the winner of the contest is unable to attend, the money will remain in the Braverman Prize endowment fund and may be donated to a progressive cause at the discretion of the selection committee.

Any questions regarding the contest or the selection process can be directed to the chair of the selection committee, Marcel LaFlamme, at mlaflamme@indycc.edu. More information about Miriam Braverman and about the Progressive Librarians Guild is available at http://libr.org/plg .

25% off on three or more books ’till March 1st

When you start a business, your thinking starts to change, and sometimes you start to have thoughts you wouldn’t have had before, such as….

So, from now until the end of the month, I am offering a 25% discount on purchases of three or more books from Library Juice Press or Litwin Books. Just download the order form and enter “Project Valentine” for the discount code.

Thanks and come back soon!

February 15, 2009

JCLC Conference Proceedings

Gathering at the Waters: Embracing Our Spirits, Telling Our Stories
Proceedings of the First National Joint Conference of Librarians of Color (JCLC)
October 11-15, 2006, Dallas, Texas
Edited by Gladys Smiley Bell

I made a bid to publish this in book form, but the preference was to do it online, and they have obviously done a very nice job with a very accessible result.

February 14, 2009

Some other librarian-publishers

When I started Library Juice Press, I was aware of some librarian-publishers who came before me, whose presses are still around. There may be others. I like to think that despite changes in publishing that make it easier to dive in I am more in line with this tradition of librarian-publishers than I am with recent phenomena of POD self-publishing and the like. (In fact, the financial investment that I have made would support this idea.) I’d like to take a moment to share a bit of what I know about some other librarian-publishers.

The first that comes to mind, though I don’t know as much about her as I should, is Pat Schuman of Neal-Schuman Publishers, who are well-known in the library world for their practical books on aspects of our professional work. Pat Schuman’s name often came up in conversations I had with mentors in ALA having to do with the origins of SRRT and other things going on in librarianship in the late 60s and early 70s. She was an important figure in the generation that gave American librarianship its present (if changing) shape (and is still going strong, I should add). She founded the company in 1976 as an outgrowth of a business that distributed books on librarianship for other publishers.

Closer to what I am doing though, would be the early Scarecrow Press, founded by librarian and information scientist Ralph Shaw in 1950. Shaw launched Scarecrow Press with the intention of putting scholarly books out on the market that other publishers would not consider financially viable, and did it by running a business with extremely low overhead. Many of these books were in the LIS field, and they included some dissertations that Shaw felt deserved publication as monographs (one of the ways I find my titles as well). Some of the history of Scarecrow Press is told in Ken Kister’s biography of Eric Moon, published by McFarland in 2002. (Eric Moon, also a librarian, took over the editorship of Scarecrow in 1971. Norman Horrocks, another important librarian, served as editorial vice president there until recently.)

McFarland, though not technically founded by a librarian, has a connected lineage. Its founder (and current President), Robbie Franklin, had been Vice President at Scarecrow, and created McFarland in 1979 because he wanted to run his own show. Franklin had a close relationship with Eric Moon, and his father, Bob Franklin, was the director of the Toledo Public Library.

These three companies are some of the major publishers of books on LIS topics today. Scarecrow and McFarland also both tend to publish a lot of books on historical topics, which is something I like to do as well. One thing they have not done, however, is to attempt to have a list that’s related to any particular political bent or set of ideas (which they might have done, since Pat Schuman and also Ralph Shaw were very politically-minded). Robbie Franklin advised me against giving the press a political identity, and said that I should deliberately publish some conservative books in order to establish that it is a publishing company, not an activist organization. I have not particularly heeded that advice, choosing instead to look to publishers like Verso as examples of where I’d eventually like to be. I think Robbie’s advice to me would have made more sense in an earlier era. Publishing is becoming a more niche-oriented business, it seems. At any rate, there is plenty of room for transformation.

I also should mention Hi Willow Press and LMC Source, a company started by LIS professor David V. Loertscher to disseminate research and practical books on children’s librarianship. Though that was never my field of interest, I had a student job assisting Dr. Loertscher when I was working on my MLIS, and first got the idea from him about the possibilities of starting a small business as an adjunct to a library career.

And I shouldn’t leave off without mentioning one other librarian-publisher I know, who has started just recently. Bill Brahms, a librarian in New Jersey, founded Reference Desk Press to publish his book, Notable Last Facts. The last time I spoke with Bill he was conceiving other projects, and I was impressed by what he has done. Bill has a connection to the publishing industry through family and knows about how it works in ways that most librarians don’t.

Byron Anderson, compiler of Alternative Publishers of Books in North America, has long said that library schools should require a course in the publishing industry, and I agree with him, or at least that it should be a part of a course that also covers book history. I think knowledge of how publishing works is very helpful from a collection development standpoint.

In the future, I plan to write something here about the publishing industry, and share a few ideas about why publishers are still important, and what they offer, in the age of POD and the web.

February 13, 2009

Three from Arts & Letters Daily

I found these three items in Arts & Letters Daily….

In the New Yorker, a look back into the distant history of newspapers, “The Day the Newspaper Died,” by Jill Lepore. She puts the present newspaper crisis in perspective.

In City Journal, Brendan Boyle reviews A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books, by Alex Beam, and in the process dips into some interesting history regarding the debate over the canon and educational philosophy.

In Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens writes about media self-censorship in response to Muslim protests and fatwas in “Assassins of the Mind.”

February 12, 2009

The Other Crisis of Trust (and a question about what it means for Info Lit)

Since the second half of last year I’ve been reading a lot of financial news, where the major theme of the financial crisis is the “crisis of trust” – banks not wanting to take the risk of extending credit to counterparties. But we’ve been living through a worsening crisis of trust in another sense for decades now.

Simply put, we live in a media environment that constantly surrounds us with messages that are dishonest at their root, and it has a corrosive effect on the glue that holds society together, teaching us that it is prudent to assume that most of what we hear is bullshit. In such an environment of eroded trust, straightforward communication is a challenge.

It would be easy to say that capitalism is the fundamental problem, since the bulk of the lies come to us through advertising and public relations messages, which in turn shape the character of individuals’ own habits of daily spin. But I would not to claim that socialism as an economic system has a tremendous advantage in cultivating honesty.

In our own capitalist society, though, the crisis of trust has been accelerating as our mode of life has grown progressively more submerged in the media sphere. Corporate logos, targeted sensual stimuli, slogans, and vague, untestable claims clustered together in brands form the background against which we live our lives, far more than do rocks, trees, wood, earth, sky, or plants (or text, for that matter). These clusters of stimulation are engineered to bypass our rational faculties, our natural tools for knowing what is true. They are in fact engineered to make us believe things that are NOT true (that product X will make me happy, that company Y is my friend or part of my family, etc.).

We’re half-surprised and half-outraged to learn about new examples of financial or accounting fraud, or Bush Administration or corporate lies, but we also understand them as a natural consequence of a society whose substrate of togetherness has grown sour and untrustworthy.

What are the causes of this crisis? Reagan-Thatcherism clearly had a lot to do with it. Thatcher, after all, made the notorious pronouncement that there is no such thing as society, only individuals. I would resist simplifying things to that degree, however. Altamont was already a symbol of a new distrust and growing bitterness in society in the years that led to the Reagan revolution.

There is another factor that’s unrelated to any transition in social policy. It is the simple fact of media technology producing the potential for a world made up of recycled bits and pieces of the past and present. If you go to a furniture store to buy a chair, you choose from among examples of styles that each represent the “what is” of another time and place. There are no chairs that are simply what they are, only chairs that lie, saying they are “Pompeii Chairs,” when in fact they are not from Pompeii but were manufactured in Shunde (Guangdong province) and designed in Anaheim. To understand the state of present day society it is necessary to understand that in former ages we didn’t make selections from a list of styles representing the feeling we get about another time and place, because design wasn’t a technological process using recorded information. There wasn’t an authenticity gap; there was simply what was here and now. Products, furniture, buildings, and graphics – the stuff that makes up our environment – today are composed of these recorded pretenses of embodiment that evoke values and feelings that we imagine belonged to other places and times, giving our world an emotional character that is manufactured rather than natural. Our present is manifested largely in terms of what it is not (reconstitutions of other times and places), and a whole generation has grown up taking this for granted.

This environment of counterfeited reality has implications for us as information literacy instructors, but in all honesty I’m not sure what they are. What does it mean to teach students who have grown up in this radical new context to be information literate, or to avoid plagiarism?

At another level, what does it imply for the way we talk about our services and libraries in general?

February 11, 2009

Separate Twitter Accounts for Biz and Personal

As I’ve started getting the hang of Twitter I’ve realized I need separate accounts for business stuff (publishing) and personal stuff.

So, the one I announced earlier, @rorylitwin, will be for personal stuff (you’re welcome to follow), and I’m starting a new one, @litwinbooks, for updates concerning Litwin Books and Library Juice Press.

February 7, 2009

From Polders to Postmodernism: A Concise History of Archival Theory

From Polders to Postmodernism: A Concise History of Archival Theory

Author: John Ridener
Price: $22.00
Published: February 2009
ISBN: 978-0-9802004-5-4
Printed on acid-free paper

From Polders to Postmodernism is a broad ranging history of the conception and development of the theories that have guided archivists in their work from the late 19th through the early 21st centuries. Narrated through the controversial thread of archival appraisal theory, the book examines how archivists have engaged with theory through the tension between keeping records that reflect objective history “as it happened” and subjective decision making in the archive. Through an interpretive reading of archival theory, distinct periods emerge, with each paradigm contributing unique responses to difficult archival, historical, and theoretical contexts.

The book is written within the framework of paradigm change and discusses archival theory in terms of geographical, historical, historiographical, and technological contexts. Through these contexts and discussion of luminary archival theories, the development of distinct periods within archival theory is illustrated. The periods and associated archivists include: Consolidation (Muller, Feith, and Fruin’s Manual for the Arrangement and Description of Archives), Reinforcement (Jenkinson’s A Manual of Archive Administration), Modern (Schellenberg’s Modern Archives), and Questioning (the work of five archivists: Brothman, Cook, Heald, Ketelaar, and MacNeil from 1991 to 2004).

Library Tech, circa 1899

The services of electricity to libraries, however, are by no means exhausted by the electric light. It is capable of rendering aid even more important, and the more so in proportion to the extent of the library. The need for rapid communication throughout large buildings has been in some measure met by the telephone, whose usefulness is impaired by its incapacity for transmitting and recording written messages. Recourse must be had to the telegraph – not, of course, that ordinary description of the instrument where the record is made in dots and dashes, intelligible solely to the expert – but the printing telegraph, where the message appears in clear type, or a facsimile of the transmitter’s handwriting…

From “The Telegraph in the Library,” in Richard Garnett’s Essays in Librarianship and Bibliography (New York: Harper, 1899).

Republished in Library Daylight: Tracings of Modern Librarianship, 1874-1922, from Library Juice Press, 2006.

February 5, 2009

The Conyers Bill is Back (copyright)

The Fair Copyright Act is to fair copyright what the Patriot Act was to patriotism. It would repeal the OA policy at the NIH and prevent similar OA policies at any federal agency. The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where Conyers is Chairman, and where he has consolidated his power since last year by abolishing the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property. The Judiciary Committee does not specialize in science, science policy, or science funding, but copyright. ”

The Conyers bill is back
Peter Suber
Open Access News: News from the open access movement
Wednesday, February 04, 2009

February 3, 2009


Kathleen de la Peña McCook has linked to a review of David Denby’s new book, Snark, published in Salon recently, aiming her post at a particularly snarky and nasty blogger who likes to attack her personally.

Kathleen is right on the money in bringing this book to the attention of the blogosphere.


…snide, undermining abuse, nasty and knowing, that is spreading like pinkeye through the media and threatening to take over how Americans converse with each other and what they can count on as true.

(as defined by Denby)

I agree with Kathleen about the relevance of the book, and I feel that to the extent that library discourse lowers itself to that level, it is a sign that our profession is in a serious state of deterioration. I think we owe it to our institutions and to the future of the profession to be better than that.

(For the record, I am not saying anonymity should be banned, or that bad speech should be banned, or that anyone’s employer should be called because of an offensive blog post, or that IF is not a right, or that there should be rules against snarkiness. But I would definitely say that celebrating the right to ugly expression is not the same thing as celebrating ugly expression. I’m for the former and against the latter. Ugliness, viciousness, intolerance, and stupidity in our discourse are part of the cost we pay for our freedom, but we don’t need to celebrate those things when we celebrate our freedom.)