November 27, 2010

So You Want To Be a Librarian – Testimonials Wanted

Have you or someone you know been helped by Lauren Pressley’s book, So You Want To Be a Librarian? We are interested in testimonials by people who have read the book and found it helpful to them in deciding on or planning for a career in librarianship. In exchange for a testimonial of 300 words or more that talks about how you used the book (and permission to publish it along with your name), we will send you a complimentary copy of any book published by Library Juice Press. You can send your testimonial to rory at… libraryjuicepress.com.

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November 21, 2010

Call for Chapters: Gender, Sexuality, Information: A Reader

Call for Chapters: Gender, Sexuality, Information: A Reader

While information needs and behavior have become a central research concern in library and information studies, the particularities of gender and sexuality have yet to be centered in the field. Bringing queer and feminist theories into conversation with current LIS research, Gender, Sexuality, Information: A Reader addresses this gap, gathering existing research along with new scholarship on the intersection of gender and sexuality and information use. Contributors address a range of concerns, including paradigms of information needs and behavior research, methodological challenges, and current approaches to assessing and meeting LGBTQ and women’s information needs. Responding to emergent critiques of positivism and behaviorism in LIS scholarship, this collection also seeks to trouble what we think we mean when we talk about gender and sex, as well as “information” and “behavior,” as settled, stable constructs.

Critical and Interdisciplinary Focus
Current work in disciplines as diverse as legal theory, literary criticism, design, anthropology, and technology studies exercise a profound impact on LIS research. At the same time, the somewhat nebulous sub-disciplines within our field, such as information seeking behavior, information structures, archival studies, museology, information retrieval, and information policy, have been connected by researchers in new and innovative ways. LIS scholarship has also sought in recent years to challenge traditional approaches and suggest new directions for research into the purposes, practices, phenomenon, and organization of information. This reader serves as a comprehensive multidisciplinary anthology where different epistemologies and methodologies meet. It offers a timely and reasoned contribution to feminist and queer LIS research and promotes perspectives that can serve the cause of social justice.

Possible topics
Manuscripts can cover a range of topics, both professional and theoretical. The editors strongly encourage submissions concerning the intersection of gender and sexuality with race, ethnicity, religion, and socio-economics. Possible topics include but are not limited to the following: cataloging and classification, assessing user needs, information behavior, alternative social science methods, records management, preservation, documentation, oral history, collection development, curatorship, digital libraries and archives, Internet studies, human-computer interaction, sexual health, sex positive perspectives, activist or oppositional new media, informatics, queer or feminist zines, web design and digital aesthetics, computer coding, digital humanities, censorship and intellectual freedom, information technology policy, children and young adult services, international and comparative LIS issues, grant writing, administration and management, and history of the book and publishing.

Submission Guidelines
The editors encourage practitioners, activists, and both established and emerging scholars to submit manuscripts by September 1, 2011. Manuscripts should rage from 5,000-8,000 words and use the Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago University Press, 2010). Manuscripts should be submitted electronically in Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) to gsireader.submissions@gmail.com.

About the editors

Rebecca Dean and Patrick Keilty are PhD candidates in information studies with a concentration in women’s studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Contact

UCLA Department of Information Studies
GSE&IS Building, Box 951520
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1520
Phone: (310) 825-8799
Dean’s email: becdean [at] gmail [dot] com
Keilty’s email: pkeilty [at] gmail [dot] com

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November 20, 2010

Why you should renew your ALA membership

Yes, it is that time of year again. Soon, your American Library Association membership renewal form will be arriving in the mail. Receipt of this renewal notice prompts many ALA members to ask themselves, why should I keep up my membership? What do I get out of it? What I want to say about membership renewal has to do with the two alternate ways that ALA members view the association: as a real association constituted by its members, or within the framework of a business-to-customer relationship.

Over the years, ALA has gradually become more of a customer-oriented publishing entity and less of a representative body and association for a professional group. Membership dues presently make up 15 to 20 percent of ALA revenues, as compared to 100% in the first days of the association. (Net profits from publishing activities are greater than revenues from membership dues today.) ALA is still governed by Council, the member-elected body that directs ALA management concerning any new activities, so it has to be recognized that this long-term change ultimately has been based on an accumulation of directives from the membership. ALA members have asked ALA to become what it has become.

As an organization with 60,000 members and a 55 million dollar budget, it should not be surprising that ALA is many different things to many people. Through its divisions and offices, and through the work of both its employees and its active members, the organization pursues a range of activities and goals that most of us don’t think about when we think of ALA. Usually we think of ALA in terms of what it offers to us in our own narrow areas of interest and own little corners of librarianship, whether in terms of publications or opportunities for committee work. It is easy to undervalue the association as a result of failing to appreciate the full range of its activities. This is especially true when Council (never forget that it is an elected body of the membership) makes a statement that turns out to be controversial. Such statements tend to overshadow everything else that Council has worked on and decided in a given session, not to mention ALA’s other activities (55 million dollars can go a long way). It is a shame that people form strong opinions about the association based on what are minor activities in relation to the whole, and that few members put effort into keeping up with what ALA is doing. (ALA Publishing needs to take some of the blame here for choosing to use American Libraries primarily as a magazine about the library scene in general, missing opportunities to highlight the association’s diverse activities.)

So, on the one hand I am suggesting that before deciding not to renew your ALA membership, you should take some time to study what ALA has being doing. A good place to do this is to look at ALA’s annual reports (the source of most of the facts in this posting).

In addition to taking a broad view of what ALA does, I think it is also important to consider two ways of looking at the association and its basic role. Those who look at their renewal form and ask, “I am getting my money’s worth?” are generally considering ALA in the context of a business-to-customer relationship, and trying to calculate whether their membership sufficiently benefits them personally. In that way of looking at ALA, the opportunity to volunteer one’s efforts to a committee, to participate in governance, or even to vote is not very meaningful, and ALA might as well not be a membership organization at all. Not to be too harsh, but I think that is a selfish way to look at one’s relationship to the association.

I have to admit that ALA as it presently exists does encourage members to have that kind of a relationship to it. It presents members with many opportunities to engage in a business-to-customer relationship with it. I can’t deny that there is value in ALA’s products through its publishing operations, and that those products benefit not only members but libraries and librarianship. However, I wish that ALA’s self-presentation to the library profession gave more emphasis to its role as a professional organization. Though it is not a professional organization in a technical and legal sense (since it has many non-librarian constituencies who are interested in the library world for various reasons and it is organized as an educational association for tax purposes) it is the closest thing to a professional association that librarians have. Unfortunately, its basic role as a professional association is somewhat invisible to most members.

It is natural to take for granted the basic structure of things. The way we take ALA for granted is similar to the way we take for granted the role of government in society. We take for granted that clean water comes out of the tap and rarely think of the role of government in creating and supporting the regulatory structures that allow that to happen. Though it lacks formal regulatory power, ALA supports the existence of libraries and of the library profession in a similar way. Its most important activities, from my point of view, are in its standards-setting role and in its provision of a central context for librarians to work together on questions that concern the practice of librarianship profession-wide. Librarianship has a degree of professional status, insecure as it may be. Without that professional status we would have less autonomy within the institutions where we play a role, which means that we would have a diminished ability to further the ethical aims that bind us together and give us a shared purpose. Without a professional association there would not be anything solid on which to lay our claim to belonging to a profession, and there would be no central context for deliberating on professional questions with the hope of an authoritative outcome. I think many people like the idea of doing without a centralized voice or an organization that provides a sense of unity, but I think they don’t realize how much depends on having it. It is good that we have the freedom debate such broad questions as “What is a library?” on the web and in independent publications, but it is also good, from my point of view, that an organization exists that is able to provide standards that contain provisional answers to those questions, which the library world is then able to use for guidance in decision-making and justification of budgets. And it is good that libraries are able to experiment with new ideas, but also extremely important that a shared context exists for incorporating the results of those experiments into profession-wide discussions that benefit all libraries. It is easy to take for granted the role of a professional association because it is easy to take for granted the basic structures of things as we know them. To a much greater extent than any of us realize, I think we have ALA to thank for the existence of what we understand as librarianship.

So, my point about ALA membership is that it simply isn’t appropriate to look at it in terms of what we get back from it individually, against the background of a structure that we think is otherwise secure. When you get your renewal notice, rather than looking at ALA from the point of view of a customer, I think it is more appropriate that we think of it by paraphrasing John F. Kennedy from his inaugural address: “Ask not what ALA can do for you – Ask what you can do for ALA.” (I should mention that paraphrasing JFK like that is not my own idea. It’s a saying that has circulated among active ALA members for many years.)

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November 17, 2010

Terrorists meeting at the Capitol Building today? Government information and alternative media

I was discussing the free press with a Russian friend once, and she told me that the main difference between Soviet Russia and the contemporary USA was that Russians knew they were being lied to, while Americans have naively believed that what the news says is the truth. Amusingly, right wing skeptics are presently doubting the US military line regarding the missile sighting on the California coast, as though today’s Pentagon is a different Pentagon from the one they backed and trusted during the Bush administration. At any rate, it does look as though Americans are in a mood to doubt the honesty of the government.

But what about the news media? If the news media were a branch of government, obviously Americans would doubt it in much the same way that Soviet Russians doubted Pravda. Paradoxically, the American news media has become less reliable at the same time that it has become popularized. News organizations are being squeezed by declining revenues and shareholder demands for higher profit margins, and consequently are weaker in the newsroom than they have been in a long time, less capable of solid investigative journalism. The result is that the news media has to trust and rely more than in the past on the products of public relations people, working for both corporations and government. PR firms and the PR departments of government are responsible for most of what we read as “news” (even more than in the past). The news media is more propagandized and filtered than in the 20th century, while at the same time more “popular” in tone, to appeal to a customer base that increasingly distrusts “elites.” New media, blogs, etc., are often cited as representing a hope for greater democracy, but when democracy means channeling corporate and government propaganda, that hope is rather pale.

That said, the diversity of new media has to be recognized, and the importance of a free press, whether it is relevant to the average person or not, is something that we become cynical about at our peril. Case in point, a post from yesterday’s Machetera blog regarding a meeting at the Capitol building today. The meeting is called “Anger in the Andes: Threats to Democracy, Human Rights and Inter-American Security.” I am not sure whether the meeting will be open to the public or whether proceedings will be publicly available, or not. The blog post talks about players from the Latin American right wing who are scheduled to be present at the meeting. I recognized some of the names and am aware of some of the historical events that others are associated with. (I blogged about a couple of them last month.) The list has quite a few known terrorists, and other baddies involved in right wing coups d’etat and assassinations. For all the Tea Partiers’ assertions that the Obama Administration is socialist, it seems our government has maintained its ties with fascist elements in Latin America. But to say that because of that (or because of the Democrats, which it regrettably needs to be objected) we are a fascist state would be to take for granted the press freedoms that allow the Machetera blog to share this news with us without fear of (ahem) surveillance or harassment. (That statement might need to be qualified, however – you can read the blog to see why. To say that we have a free press that is overwhelmed by propaganda would be to oversimplify things a bit, when American dissidents (radical or perhaps not) sometimes face consequences that don’t make news.)

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November 12, 2010

Library Juice Press and Litwin Books on LibraryThing

Library Juice Press and Litwin Books now have “publisher pages” on LibraryThing (the links go there). There are links to the books, tags, reviews, and (soon) links to LibraryThing users who own our books. Check it out if you are a LibraryThing user…

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November 10, 2010

Ai Weiwei

A conflict over intellectual freedom of potential historical import may be taking shape in China surrounding China’s most famous (globally famous) artist, Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei is politically active as well as being a challenging and innovative artist whose work responds to the contemporary world, so it is not surprising that the Chinese government is nervous about him. Just recently, he was placed under house arrest for refusing to cancel a big party to commemorate the government-ordered demolition of his studio. New Yorker staff writer Evan Osnos is blogging about the situation from his home in Beijing. News concerning Ai Weiwei is being covered well at the UK Guardian.

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Library Juice Press Gift Certificates



   

Library Juice Press / Litwin Books gift certificates are great as personal gifts or as library-related awards. You can pay for a gift certificate in an amount of your choosing with funds in your PayPal account or with a credit card.

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November 4, 2010

Modern art was CIA ‘weapon’

This article feels like another nail in the coffin of what we thought we knew of the past: Modern art was CIA ‘weapon’. Or a ramping-ing up of the general weirdness of the times. Here is the start of the article in the Independent, by Frances Stonor Saunders:

For decades in art circles it was either a rumour or a joke, but now it is confirmed as a fact. The Central Intelligence Agency used American modern art – including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko – as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince – except that it acted secretly – the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years.

The connection is improbable. This was a period, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the great majority of Americans disliked or even despised modern art – President Truman summed up the popular view when he said: “If that’s art, then I’m a Hottentot.” As for the artists themselves, many were ex- communists barely acceptable in the America of the McCarthyite era, and certainly not the sort of people normally likely to receive US government backing.

Why did the CIA support them? Because in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, this new artistic movement could be held up as proof of the creativity, the intellectual freedom, and the cultural power of the US. Russian art, strapped into the communist ideological straitjacket, could not compete.

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