June 22, 2010

Putting up a tent

I’ve been reflecting on our latest title, She Was a Booklegger: Remembering Celeste West, and its meaning for me within my overall publishing endeavors, and I think that the right thing to call it, for myself, is a tent stake, a stake for supporting the structure of a tent by holding it to the ground. Library Juice Press and Litwin Books are a tent to provide a space for idea exchange. The tent has room for people to interact, see each other, see at night by lamp light, and dream. That’s what I would like it to be.

Some of the books we’ve done are tent stakes, others poles that extend the space, and others unique objects in the space. There are some reasons why I consider the Celeste West book a tent stake for me.

First, more than any other person, Celeste West established the tradition of alternative library literature of which Library Juice is a part, and Toni Samek’s essay in the book explains the debt that we owe to her if we have benefited from her magazines, from Charles Willett’s magazines, Progressive Librarian, Unabashed Librarian, Sandy Berman and James Danky’s biannual anthology Alternative Library Literature, Women in Libraries, the progressive listservs that started in the 90s, Library Juice, the MSRRT Newsletter, and many other publications. Many of the blogs you now read also owe a debt to Celeste West. So the book about her that I have had the privilege of publishing serves to connect my publishing business to its roots.

The second reason that I like to view the book as a tent stake is that it has taught me something about what I am doing that I wasn’t aware of. I went off and started Library Juice Press at around the time I was withdrawing from active involvement in PLG and SRRT, and it seemed to myself for a while that it meant that I work better alone than with other people. Over time however, the books that I have done have all involved the efforts of more and more people, until with this one I did little more than guide and encourage a collaborative endeavor. A lot of people contributed a lot of work to this book; from the editors to the contributors to the designer and copy editor, it was a greatly collaborative project. I feel proud to have been a part of it in part because it shows me that people working together is at the foundation of my press. This book makes me feel privileged to be the publisher, and thankful to the people who have contributed their energies; that makes it a tent stake.

It is also a tent stake because of the ideas and ideals that are in it. It is a book full of passion and inspiration, in connection to libraries and life. As a scholarly publisher, it is too easy to get cut off from the passion that gives things their meaning.

Thank you to all the people involved. I am very happy to have been a part of this contribution to the public memory.