CFP: Queers Online: LGBT Digital Practices in Libraries, Archives, and Museums
(An Edited Collection to be published as part of the Series on Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies)
Litwin Books and Library Juice Press
Rachel Wexelbaum, Editor
Emily Drabinski, Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Series Editor
Editor: Rachel Wexelbaum, Collection Management Librarian, Saint Cloud State University:
rswexelbaum [at] stcloudstate.edu
In the 21st century, there are more LGBT information resources than ever before. The challenges that arise both from the explosion of born-digital materials and the transformation of materials from physical to electronic formats has implications for access to these resources for future generations. Along with preservation concerns, making these numerous digital LGBT resources available to users becomes more difficult when they swim in an ocean of websites, EBooks, digitized objects, and other digital resources. Librarians, archivists, and museum curators must engage in a range of new digital practices to preserve and promote these numerous LGBT resources.
A “digital practice” in libraries, archives, and museums includes, but is not limited to, the digitization of physical objects; the creation of online resources and services that improve access to these objects; the use of online catalogs, databases, and metadata to categorize such objects; and the online social media and Web 2.0 tools used to connect users to these resources. Information professionals engaged in digital practices must also understand the information needs, online searching behaviors, and online communication styles of their patrons in order to make them aware of the digital resources that may be of use to them.
This is the first book to specifically address the digital practices of LGBT librarians, archivists, and museum curators, as well as the digital practices of seekers and users of LGBT resources and services. More broadly, this collection aims to address these issues in the context of the technical, social, economic, legal, and political challenges of creating LGBT-specific digital collections, electronic resources and services.
Objective of book
This book, to be published in Library Juice Press in Spring 2013, proposes to consider the following questions:
- What advances have been made in the digitization of LGBT books, art, music, film, primary sources, and other LGBT physical objects?
- What types of LGBT-specific online resources and services have been created to promote visibility of LGBT-specific content, as well as to organize and market such content?
- What LGBT-specific institutions have created electronic LGBT resources and services of interest to libraries, archives, and museums? What mainstream institutions and vendors have created electronic LGBT resources and services of interest to libraries, archives, and museums?
- What are the technical, social, economic, legal, and political challenges of creating LGBT-specific digital collections, electronic resources and services?
- What are the digital practices of seekers and users of LGBT resources and services, and how do they influence the development and marketing of online LGBT resources and services?
Professionals and non-professionals involved in the work and study of libraries, archives, and museums, as well as publishers and content providers for such institutions, will find this book helpful in building awareness of electronic LGBT resources and services, in libraries, archives, and museums and the practices that connect users to them.
Suggested topical questions
Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:
- What are the histories of LGBT digital objects and practices in libraries, archives, and museums? How does LGBT information seeking change in a digital environment? How does digitization affect the organization of LGBT resources?
- How are libraries, archives, and museums responding to the shift to mobile content and services? How are institutions making resources and services accessible through mobile devices (mobile phones, EReaders, tablets, and apps)? How does the shift to mobile information improve access to LGBT digital resources?
- How does digitization change the ways LGBT populations access information? Are there differences related to race, gender, class, immigration status, or geographic location? Do LGBT populations with special needs (Deaf, visually impaired, physically handicapped, others) use particular technology/online resources/digital resources to find LGBT-specific information?
- How do electronic formats, including ebooks, electronic databases (e.g., GLBT Life), digitized museum and archives collections, and open web resources (e.g., www.outhistory.org), change the LGBT research landscape? How do these new formats change traditional library functions, including collection development, reference, outreach, and instruction?
- What problems and possibilities are presented by metadata about LGBT-related materials in a digital environment? What are the critiques of LGBT-related subject vocabulary/subject headings in online catalogs and/or databases that could restrict access to information or mislabel it?
- What LGBT-specific digitization projects for print and non-print materials have taken place in your library, archives, or museum? What were the challenges that you faced during the process? How are digital collection marketed, and how is usage calculated? How are digital collections kept updated?
- What kinds of digital projects exist to preserve and make accessible LGBT primary sources (personal papers, manuscripts, oral histories, government documents, ephemera, etc)?
- How are LGBT-specific Web 2.0/social web tools used in libraries, archives, and/or museums?
Please submit abstracts and chapter proposals of up to 500 words and a short author’s statement to rswexelbaum [at] stcloudstate.edu by April 1, 2012. Chapter authors will receive notification of acceptance by June 1, 2012. Final manuscripts of between 3000 and 5000 words will be due September 1, 2012. Final edited chapter manuscripts will be due to Library Juice Press January 1, 2013.
Here is a guest post from Julie Teglovic, an MLIS student at the University of Denver, where students have been protesting a decision regarding the library…
Library as Space: University Students Want Books
This April, the paper books at the University of Denver’s Penrose Library began a move into a storage facility 10 miles away in preparation for the library’s gutting and renovation. I, like most students not hearing otherwise, assumed that the move would be temporary, until I happened across the “Keep the Penrose Library Book Collection on Campus” Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/savethestacks) in early May. According to this page, secret dealings had been made “behind closed doors and at the last minute” by the university Chancellor and Board of Trustees, culminating in a decision to retain 80% of the books at the storage center and return 20% to campus after the renovation.
About six students and a few faculty members, led by undergraduate English and Psychology major Brandon Reich-Sweet, united to disseminate information through the Facebook page and a website (www.savepenrose.com). They distributed online and paper petitions, contacted news outlets and university officials, made t-shirts and signs, and organized check-out/sit-in protests in and around the library. Because of these efforts, as of right now, university administration has agreed to return 50% of the books to campus (this is according to library faculty and student organizers; no official communication to students has been released).
Concerns over environmental sustainability and transparency were important to the group’s arguments (books will be driven by truck to and from the storage facility indefinitely, and neither students nor library staff were asked for input on the initial decision), but perhaps more interesting here are this group of non-librarians’ deep concerns about the library, its space, and its purpose.
I’ve read a lot in library school thus far about adapting to survive, about the need to see the library as community space, meeting space, and cutting-edge technology space. As gaming space, video-editing space, music-recording space. I’ve taken classes on ebooks and seen the skills requirements for programming languages and systems analysis on academic librarian job descriptions. Librarians want to redefine their collective image, to be tech-savvy and rethink education; we champion webinars and iSchools and digital repositories as solutions. Penrose is certainly not the first academic library to move a large number of books off-campus. Some students supported the Chancellor’s original decision and spoke out in the student newspaper The Clarion, asking why a book that’s never been circulated should gather dust. They argue that the way students learn has fundamentally changed in the last 20 years, and by designing a library with more collaborative learning space, the university is responding to this change.
Yet the (mostly undergraduate) students protesting—the library users, not the librarians—organized this movement and voiced—loudly—a different opinion: they want the books. As symbols of academic rigor, as visible history, as an elegant reminder of long-form reality itself to Brandon—the pages mean something to them. The millennials we jump to categorize as attention-deficient and gadget-crazed are perhaps more attuned to the emotional, existential, and intellectual redemption that a brick of words, a collection not on a screen, can provide than we as a profession would like to acknowledge. “The decision by a group of number-obsessed business-types to remove almost all of the books from a LIBRARY was really just a small symbol of a broader cultural trend,” Brandon says in an editorial for the Clarion. He writes about “Things without meaning…the terrible anxiety that comes standard with existence in modern human society…The victory of the Save Penrose movement then is not only one of logistics but one of meanings.”
I was just reading a bit of Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript, and came across a section that I think applies to the bibliometric obsessions with impact factors, h- and g-indexes, and other quantitative measures of the value of a scholar’s work. The following is from pages 119 and 120 of the translation by Swenson and Lowrie (1968 edition):
…Ethics and the ethical have to raise against this entire order of things. For in our age it is not merely an individual scholar or thinker here or there who concerns himself with universal history; the whole age loudly demands it. Nevertheless, Ethics and the ethical, as constituting the essential anchorage for all individual existence, have an indefeasible claim upon every existing individual; so indefeasible a claim, that whatever a man may accomplish in the world, even to the most astonishing of achievements, it is nonetheless quite dubious in significance, unless the individual has been ethically clear when he made his choice, has ethically clarified his choice to himself. The ethical quality is jealous for its own integrity, and is quite unimpressed by the most astounding quantity.
It is for this reason that Ethics looks upon all world-historical knowledge with a degree of suspicion, because it may so easily become a snare, a demoralizing aesthetic diversion for the knowing subject, in so far as the distinction between what does or does not have historical significance obeys a quantitative dialectic. As a consequence of this fact, the absolute ethical distinction between good and evil tends for the historical survey to be neutralized in the aesthetic-metaphysical determination of the great and significant, to which category the bad has equal admittance with the good. In the case of what has world-historic significance, another set of factors plays an essential role, factors which do not obey an ethical dialectic: accidents, circumstances, the play of forces entering into the historic totality that modifyingly incorporates the deed of the individual so as to transform it into something that does not directly belong to him. Neither by willing the good with all his strength, nor by satanic obduracy in willing what is evil, can a human being be assured of historical significance. Even in the case of misfortune the misfortune may obtain world-historical significance. How then does an individual acquire historical significance? By means of what from the ethical point of view is accidental. But Ethics regards as unethical the transition by which an individual renounces the ethical quality in order to try his fortune, longingly, wishingly, and so forth, in the quantitative and non ethical…
While we’re on the topic of John’s book, I will note that he has a new book in the works, which he is writing as a series in web form first. It is about e-book reading, and it is called, I, Reader.
This post dovetails coincidentally with Rory’s 10/22 post about the solidarity library in Bethlehem – looks like it’s Israel/Palestine week at Library Juice.
Hannah Mermelstein, a school librarian in New York City, is also a Palestine solidarity activist (and generally awesome person). She’s reworked her thesis into an article, “Overdue Books: Returning Palestine’s ‘Abandoned Property’ of 1948,” that’s been published in the Autumn 2011 issue of the Jerusalem Quarterly.
The article is about books as physical and symbolic pieces of cultural heritage. During times of war and occupation, they may be seized and, if not destroyed, repurposed for the benefit of the regime in power. However, the continued existence of and, often, detailed record-keeping for these books leaves open the possibility of restoration to the original owners, in the larger context of rights for the victimized peoples.
In 1948, much of the wealthy and formally educated Palestinian population was concentrated in Jerusalem and other urban centers. When Zionist militias swept through these neighborhoods, they physically pushed thousands of people from their homes and caused tens of thousands more to flee in fear. Many Palestinians left in haste, grabbing only what they could carry as they ran. Others thought they would return a few weeks later, once the fighting died down. In many cases, members of the educated class left behind some of their most prized possessions: books.
The soldiers raiding these West Jerusalem neighborhoods were closely followed by teams of librarians from the Jewish National and University Library at Hebrew University (later referred to as National Jewish Library or simply the National Library). They gathered approximately 30,000 books from private Palestinian libraries and, according to testimonies from those involved in the project, began to catalog books by subject and often by owners’ names. In the early 1960s, however, close to 6,000 of the books were revisited and labeled with the letters “AP” for “abandoned property”. [...] To this day, the books’ call numbers begin with the letters “AP.” The National Library has thus maintained a likely unintentional collection of looted Palestinian books, easily identifiable to those who understand what “AP” means.
The article that originally inspired Hannah is Gish Amit’s “Ownerless Objects? The Story of the Books Palestinians Left Behind in 1948,” published in the Jerusalem Quarterly as well. There is also a related cultural memory project called The Great Book Robbery.
I ran across this essay by Karl Mannheim while looking into ideas on “styles of thought” in relation to philosophy and politics. Mannheim was one of the founders of the “sociology of knowledge,” which is an area of inquiry that some in LIS have said constitutes a good theoretical underpinning for what we do. The field of sociology of knowledge is a little too relativistic about knowledge for my taste, but this essay on “conservative thought” by Mannheim, one of his most famous, really floats my boat. I would recommend it to anyone who ponders what “conservative” and “liberal” really mean, in our time and historically. Mannheim describes the conservative mode of thought and its historical genesis through the lens of an intellectual history of Europe. Useful reading for our times.
Message sent to me by the International Solidarity Initiative. I don’t have any personal names to connect to this group, but in response to my questions about them they told me that they are independent and not a part of another organization. They can be excused for wanting to stay personally under the radar given the difficult politics surrounding their project.
Our Project: A solidarity library in central Bethlehem
Presentation of the International Solidarity Initiative (ISI)
International Solidarity Initiative is an independent community center based in the center of the Old City of Bethlehem. It is a place where everyone meets to share and develop together there abilities in purpose of right social construction; to help Palestinian people in its march towards freedom and autonomy.
Our philosophy is based on non-violent popular resistance. We believe that educating young people must go through the construction of critical thinking and their own individualization inside the society. We participate in the creation and support of the Palestinian initiative campaigns. These campaigns and our actions are relayed by the media both locally and internationally. We are at the origin of the campaign I Am Palestine whose goal is to change the image of Palestine through various video testimonies of Palestinians on the question of their identity through its wide distribution.
Many volunteers have already joined our initiatives. To this end, we have also a guest house in the center.
Presentation of our project: a solidarity library
Our project is primarily a community project: the creation of a solidarity library, non-profit and open to all. This library gives to young Palestinians easy, secular and democratic access to books whose intellectual relevance and cultural escape fill the absence of such offer in Bethehem area.
The choice of undertake such a project in the center of the ISI is not trivial. Indeed, local and international youths meet there already, what makes this place a full participant in actual solidarity. We have a large room that can accommodate more than 5000 books on its shelves, and equipment and volunteer staff necessary for the proper management of the library.
We mainly target a part of the Palestinian youth who suffers from barriers to access to culture but also to the most disadvantaged families. This is why the free borrowing of books is a principle on which we insist.
The types of books required are mostly novels (classic, fiction…), poetry, theater, cultural books (arts, film, photography …), history and politics, dealing with social issues, art of living (cooking, nature, travel …) and educational manuals (language learning, science, academic books …).
Your contribution by a sponsorship takes on a gift of books.
In addition to this donation, you support us with the dissemination of a culture with a population that represents the future of a becoming nation. You support the Palestinian people. You support Palestine.
The in and out presence of international volunteers will give a media influence to our project’s sponsorship, supported by our very visited website and Facebook page.
If you want to ask question and support us, you can at first contact us via our email: bethlehem.isi [at] gmail.com
We hope that your initial support will soon looks like a partnership in the long term and you will become an mean asset to Palestinian mind’s plethora.
With blessed regards,
International Solidarity Initiative
I spent the better part of Wednesday at VuStuff II, a small regional gathering hosted by Villanova University’s Falvey Memorial Library, which focused on the intersection of technology and scholarly communication in libraries. The attendees were an interesting mix of people from academic and special libraries, and included library directors, archivists, systems librarians, special collections librarians, reference librarians, technical services librarians, and more. In the group discussion session, some of us regretted the lack of representation from public libraries. It sounded like it is now on the agenda to do outreach to that sector next year.
I’ve been impressed with what’s going on at Villanova for awhile now. Not only are they doing some of the most interesting, cutting-edge work that I’ve seen in terms of presenting digital content from their special collections, but the culture of their library work environment is very different (and I might judge it as “better”) than what I know of in other libraries and work settings. This is an outsider’s view, based on perceptions gleaned from what people who work there have told me and things that I’ve read. The following are some of the things I find particularly intriguing and feel might serve as a good model for other places to consider: 1) Falvey library staff are given time to explore special projects based on their own interests. By doing this, the library is taking a risk – some work hours may indeed be “wasted,” but new products and new services may be born. A lot of workplaces harp on the need for employees to be “creative,” “collaborative,” and “innovative,” but very few actually provide the time and space to support their staff in doing this. 2) Falvey funds technology. Money for digital projects and technology-based services is written into the budget. Many workplaces expect staff to “make do” with no financial support or else fund projects on an ad hoc basis. Falvey models the fact that superior technology-based projects require dedicated, on-going funding. 3) Falvey diversifies the responsibility for technology. There is no one staff position that is responsible for technology initiatives; rather, various aspects of technology are integrated into the job descriptions of numerous library staff members. This means that if a library staff position is cut or a staff member leaves, technology initiatives don’t evaporate along with that change. 4) Falvey supports open access. The VuFind product they’ve developed for use as a flexible library resource portal is available for free through a GPL open source license. The digital library content they present is available freely to anyone (with a few exceptions for some materials with outside restrictions). Instead of partnering with commercial interests to market a product, Falvey keeps to the ideal of libraries providing information and resources free-of-charge.
I think that Joe Lucia, Villanova’s university librarian and the director of Falvey Memorial Library, deserves a lot of credit for his leadership in these areas. I missed his opening remarks at the conference, but found his questions and comments throughout the sessions to be interesting and thought-provoking. He seems to be looking further forward than many library directors, asking questions like “What does it mean for libraries if the ILS as we know it is dead in the next five to eight years?” “What does it mean if 80% of the content of our book collections is available electronically?” A word to the wise is that the two books he specifically mentioned were Siva Vaidhyanathan’s The Googlization of Everything and R. David Lankes’ The Atlas of New Librarianship.
The presentations at the conference were informative and sometimes inspiring. Amy Baker of the University of Pittsburgh described the preservation of archival mining maps project that her institution has been involved in, spurred by a mining accident in western Pennsylvania. Working in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection, this project is a good example of a university/government partnership that provides publicly available information in order to help protect people and property. It reminded me that while librarians and archivists rarely see our work as possibly having life-or-death consequences – sometimes it does.
Eric Lease Morgan of the University of Notre Dame demonstrated the Catholic Research Resources Alliance website (the “Catholic Portal”) and explained how it uses the VuFind product to draw together metadata from various formats and sources into one seamless product. I was particularly interested in its ability to perform full text searches and construct KWIC word concordances. I’m not sure how well known or well utilized this site is, but I think it holds a great deal of potential for researchers in literature, history, religious studies, and other fields to mine text data for a variety of purposes.
Eric Zino of the LYRASIS library network explained the Mass Digitization Collaborative, undertaken to help libraries digitize selected resources in a cost effective way. Unique items of historical value have been the major focus, although participating libraries are free to choose any materials they wish to include (provided copyright restrictions are met). Digitized materials are made publicly available via the Internet Archive, and can also be hosted locally. This project underscored the benefits of libraries working together to cut costs, minimize staff time spent on projects, produce consistent products, and share content more broadly.
I missed the final presentation of the conference, which was Rob Behary of Duquesne University speaking on his library’s project to digitize the Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper. His presentation highlighted some of the benefits of moving from microfilm to digital content. Most librarians will agree that efforts like this, to preserve smaller regional publications with a unique focus or viewpoint, are an important service that libraries should be involved in.
All in all, this was an interesting day with plenty of time for networking built in. I enjoyed reconnecting with former colleagues and students, and meeting some new people as well. It was particularly rewarding to be with a group of people who were interested in moving library services forward into the 21st century, while still retaining the traditional library value of open access to information. I suspect that organizers may be seeking larger quarters for future VuStuff gatherings as its reputation continues to grow.
Do you love big words? Love your Theory words? Then you’ve probably noticed that MS Word likes to underline a lot of your prose in red. For some reason their dictionary is not as complete as it should be given the ubiquity of the software in academic settings. I wonder why that is?
Here is a list of 147 words that appear in books published by Litwin Books and Library Juice Press that get dinged by the MS Word spell-check. We like these words and find them useful. There is nothing Orwellian, exactly, in Microsoft’s smallish vocabulary; we aren’t stopped from using the words that aren’t in its dictionary. But it makes me wonder, where does the dumbing-down start and where does it end?
I was honored when Rory Litwin asked me to write for Library Juice. I have followed the blog for some time now and have always found it a source of interest. As this is my first post, I thought I’d write on an issue that I find to be central to librarianship, namely, the tension between our role to provide general access to information and our roles as reference librarians or research assistants. Historically, librarians were responsible for relatively discrete collections about which few people had much knowledge. Consequently, the main service that librarians provided was to help patrons find resources — particularly the best resources – available in their collections. Furthermore, there wasn’t much chance of accessing holdings outside of those collections, so when librarians could acquire more resources, they needed to be very sure that the new acquisitions were the best that were available. Librarians were constantly making judgments about the quality of the resources that they were providing to their patrons.
To some extent this is still true, but during the past half century or so, our profession has concentrated on expanding access. Our roles as reader advisors, research assistants, and collection curators have declined, and our role in linking our patrons to vast storehouses of information through interlibrary loan systems, aggregated databases, and automated search tools has expanded. In many circles, arranging access seems to be taken to be the whole of librarianship. It isn’t surprising, then, that the success of Google and other popular search engines has caused such anxiety among librarians. If access is our sole reason for being, then what do we do when our “competitors” can satisfy our patrons’ needs more quickly, easily, and effectively?
Recently, I’ve come to think that we should remember that providing access is only one of our professional responsibilities, and that it probably has become overemphasized. We need to reengage in the activities we left behind when we turned our efforts so much to providing access. In a time when information availability is exploding, we should remember that our patrons need guidance through the morass of data that lurks behind every poorly constructed search. We can do this, not just by “going to where they are” and offering to do their searches for them, but by seeking out the best resources and making those particular resources more readily available.
Practically speaking, this means that librarians must begin to de-emphasize the value of access in general and re-emphasize their role as research assistants. We need to provide our patrons with the reader advisory services that were once a core element of our work. In academic libraries, this can be done most readily by creating guides to the literature, but those guides need to go far beyond what we see in most guides. They need to be more than simply lists of useful databases and video tutorials on using various search tools. They need to do such things as introduce patrons to the nature of the field of study, provide a history of its devepment, and identify its most important figures, and its classic and important current works. Library administrations will need to hire subject specialists with significant expertise, who are potentially capable of teaching courses in the departments they serve.
Of course, this presents a challenge to our desire to remain “neutral” or “unbiased” with regard to the subject matter that we make available, but we need not shy away from the challenge. We must conscientiously identify the information that we judge to be most worthwhile, while remaining reasonably humble about our abilities to discriminate the wheat from the chaff. We need to exercise our right to the freedoms that our teaching colleagues have in expressing our views about our fields of expertise. We owe it to our patrons to apply our professional judgment about the value of the resources available to them and not simply serve as human cogs in an access providing machine.
There’s an occupation in my city – maybe in yours, too.
The activity itself is born of the frustration, rage, and inspiration of people who are looking for alternatives to the current corporatist state of things, but of course there’s also work to be done within the movement. People are working to “counter the images of brogressivism and manarchism” and questioning why we don’t seem to be trying to decolonize instead of “occupy.” These are voices that are marginalized within the language of the “99 Percent.” (Also, I wish the goddamn drumming would stop during the General Assemblies.)
And word is out about the Occupy Wall Street library. It’s got a website and a hashtag. It’s been evolving in leaps and bounds – I’ve been to the occupation three times now, and at first the books were in one sort of spread, then they were in cardboard boxes sorted by genre, and now they’ve moved up to waterproof plastic bins. They’ve got a bin full of zines! All of the books have “OWSL” written on the tops of the pages!
There was steady browsing when I was hanging around last night taking photos. It looks like some folks from NYC Radical Reference are going down there on Friday night. I’d like to be around to help more, but I don’t have a lot of free time (and fortunately for me it’s not all because I’m working for The Man – or because, as a waiter acquaintance said yesterday, “I serve the One Percent”).
A message is going around from “the librarians of #occupywallstreet” that says in part:
We need books of resistance and people’s history. We need economics and finance books. We need contemporary philosophy and ecology. We especially need non-English books and materials for low literacy readers. [...] We also need you. Our collection is growing rapidly and we need help organizing it and keeping it orderly. We want to save the time of our readers, but to do that we need help marking, sorting, and shelving materials. We need help building our catalog and writing our history. Our readers are enthusiastic and some of them need help finding the right book. The right book for the right reader is fundamental to successful librarianship, so we need public services folks to come out and conduct reference interviews with people and help them find ‘their’ book. The Library is constantly evolving and changing and we invite you to be a part of it.
Ranganathan + protest, I love it!