October 24, 2012

The 2013 LACUNY Institute: Libraries, Information, and the Right to the City

The 2013 LACUNY Institute –
Libraries, Information, and the Right to the City

April 5, 2013
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Keynote Speakers:

Christine Pawley – Former director of the School of Library and Information Studies, University of Wisconsin – Madison and historian of print culture in America.

Jessa Lingel – Doctoral student at Rutgers and author of “Occupy Wall Street and the myth of the technological death of the library.”

In recent years movements of scholars and activists have advanced a concept known as “the right to the city.” As the noted geographer David Harvey puts it “the right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city.” Situated at the heart of a global metropolis the Library Association of the City University of New York
(LACUNY) is in an excellent position to initiate this dialogue.

The 2013 LACUNY Institute committee welcomes proposals that examine how library and information professionals engage in such social transformations. The majority of the world’s population now resides in urban areas making questions surrounding the city central to understanding the shape of the 21st century. The goal of the 2013 institute is to create a dialogue about how library and information professionals can (or should) move beyond being guarantors of access and become engaged in communities’ production of knowledge. We consider “the city” to be the public sphere broadly defined (i.e., proposals that examine these issues in small communities are welcome). The massive technological transformations of recent years have changed the nature of both libraries and the public sphere. At the 2013 LACUNY Institute we would like to explore the roles of libraries and information in the polis of the future.

Here are few examples of subjects that would be considered appropriate:

Librarians and social movements
Libraries and public services
The ethics of representation
Services to traditionally marginalized groups
Critical information literacy
The ethics of user generated content
The ethics of neutrality
Libraries and civic engagement
Open access and the public’s right to information

We look forward to your participation in the spring of 2013!

Submission of proposals for papers should include:

name(s) of presenter(s)
contact information
abstracts of 300-500 words.

Presentations will be 20 minutes with time allocated for questions and discussion.

Full papers will be published in a special issue of Urban Library Journal.

Submit a 300 to 500 word abstract to this webform or email a word document with the above information to 2013lacunyinstitute@gmail.com
Deadline: December 21, 2012
Notification of acceptance: January 25, 2013

October 18, 2012

Interview with Maria Accardi

I have just done an interview with Maria Accardi for the Library Juice Academy news blog. Maria is teaching a class next month called, “Changing Lives, Changing the World: Information Literacy and Critical Pedagogy.” This course is based on part on work that she did leading up to her co-editing the book published by Library Juice Press in 2010, Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods. Maria talks about how she teaches this class in a way that is designed to let participants’ own experiences and insights play a big part in the learning process, and what this class was like when she taught it previously.

October 17, 2012

Interview with Christine D’Arpa

I have interviewed Chris D’Arpa for the News and Comment blog over at Library Juice Academy. Chris is in the instructor for a course being offered in November: “So Now I Am an Archivist, Too?! Introduction to Archives Administration and Management. Chris gave an informative interview that will provide some background about her to anyone who might be interested in taking the class.

October 15, 2012

Library Juice Press to “Unglue” a Book for Prospective Librarians

Library Juice Press to “Unglue” a Book for Prospective Librarians with Unglue.it

October 15, 2012

Library Juice Press is announcing one of the latest campaigns to “unglue” an e-book so that it can be shared under a creative commons license, in partnership with Unglue.it.

Unglue.it is an organization devoted to opening up access to electronic books in a way that is community based, library friendly, publisher friendly, and convenient. Using crowd-funding, Unglue.it facilitates campaigns to buy out future e-book rights so that e-books can be used freely by the public, perpetually. Library Juice Press supports the Unglue.it project, because it is smart, realistic, forward-thinking, and motivated by values that librarians can get behind.

Coinciding with Unglue.it’s relaunch with a new crowd-funding platform, Library Juice Press is announcing a campaign to “unglue” Lauren Pressley’s popular book, So You Want To Be a Librarian, a concise yet comprehensive guide to the library profession, aimed at an audience of college students and recent graduates, as well as career changers. Library Juice Press determined that the book would be a suitable candidate for an Unglue.it campaign, due to the financial limitations of college students, as well as their familiarity with e-readers.

As Lauren Pressley says about Unglue.it, “Unglue.it is something every librarian should be paying attention to. Part crowdsourcing, part open access, part answer to the ebook problem, it’s a solution to some of the most critical issues libraries are facing today. Ungluing a book gives it to the world, so that anyone can access the ebook without Digital Rights Management (DRM), without worrying about how many devices they’ve put it on, and without worrying about legality and compensation issues. Libraries can provide access to unglued books for free, forever, in any format — no need to worry about changing contract terms or pricing.”

Author Lauren Pressley currently serves as Head of Instruction at the Wake Forest University Library. She is a frequent presenter on library technology topics, with numerous published articles and book chapters. A 2009 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, she is also a member of ALA Council, Director at Large of the LITA Executive Committee, and otherwise active in national, regional and state associations. She is also the winner of the 2011 Greenwood Publishing Award for Best Book in Library Literature for The Tech Set, from Neal-Schumann Publishing. Her CV is available at

Library Juice Press is a small publisher for the library profession founded in 2006 by Rory Litwin, specializing in library philosophy, information policy, library activism, and library history. It is an imprint of Litwin Books, LLC, which publishes books about media, communication and the cultural record, primarily for an academic audience.

To support the Unglue.it campaign for Lauren Pressley’s book for prospective librarians, go to:

For more information about Lauren, go to:

For more information about Library Juice Press, see:


Documentation and Narratives

The fourth session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP) took place in New York City two weekends ago. According to an info sheet in the program folder, it was an “International People’s Tribunal” that “has no legal status, [but] like other Russell Tribunals on Vietnam, Chile and Iraq, its legitimacy comes from its universality and the strength that it draws from the will of its citizens and the support of international personalities…” If anyone is interested in the actual content, you can go to the RToP’s website  (and I would also recommend you take a look at Ethan Heitner’s wonderful renderings, with sketches, of each day). But I bring this up here to talk about the value and limitations of documentation.

“I don’t know what I’m doing here,” an acquaintance said with a laugh when I bumped into her during a coffee break on the first day of the session, and I was happy to hear that because I didn’t really know what I was doing there, either (a future Library Juice post notwithstanding). But then I reminded myself, again, that it was called a “people’s tribunal” for a reason, that our very presence in the audience was necessary and gave the event weight. (There is also something called the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, which formed in 1979 and recently held a session in India about agrochemical transnational corporations.) We were what made it all different from the issuing of another bunch of reports and essays. The jury was stacked, as it were, composed of people whose progressive politics in general and on Israel-Palestine in particular are well known. And the event certainly wasn’t about hearing the voices of those most directly affected by the issue at hand, as there were only two Palestinian speakers the entire weekend (there would have been a couple more, had illness and visa denials not prevented their presence). But there we all were in the Great Hall at Cooper Union, having gotten up early on a Saturday morning for this sold-out tribunal.

The session opened with an introduction (in French, and tant pis to the majority of the audience who didn’t realize they would be needing the translation headphones) by Pierre Galand, who told us how Bertrand Russell had formed the first Tribunal (on Vietnam) in 1966 to combat “the crime of silence.”  He also explained that as the audience, we were participants in the tribunal and as such should rise when the jury entered and filed out, refrain from applause, and generally behave as befitting a serious event in which we played a serious role. (Being asshole Americans, most of us had a hard time with even these limited directions and just laughed it off when Galand tried to shame us by comparing New York with all the other world cities where people managed to conduct themselves properly.)

And so the weekend proceeded, with hours of intricate presentations. And we listened. And I formulated questions in my head: Does the proclamation of a foregone conclusion have value? Is having a big event and inviting ordinary people (albeit those who already care deeply about the issue) to hear testimony important if only as an affirmation and inspiration to keep up with their solidarity work? Will the additional documentation and judgment change minds?

Regarding the documentation, the single livestream file is online, but this is not useful if you want to find a particular witness’s presentation. The RToP website has all of the reports, of course, including a draft one for the NYC session, but I don’t know how easy it is to find the multilingual softcover reports that detail each session. A book about the London tribunal came out from a trade publisher and, according to WorldCat, is held widely in academic libraries around the world. I wonder if any public libraries have ever done programming related to these “people’s tribunals”?

And regarding the judgment and the changing of minds – as one commentator put it, “The conclusion was essentially preordained, but its importance lies in the fact that the findings were presented by a jury full of luminaries like Angela Davis and Alice Walker to a United Nations body.” Well, but that depends on whether you consider someone like Angela Davis a “luminary” or a culturally irrelevant ex-Black Panther.

Another commenter wrote afterward, “While the ‘witnesses’ were mainly international law experts at home in the world of inter-governmental bodies and narrowly-defined protocols for advancing an action, the majority of attendees (and indeed, of the local organizers who worked countless hours to make the event a success) were oriented toward grassroots activism operating largely outside of such channels. This particular contradiction resonated throughout the entire event. All through the proceedings, there was a distinct sense that different segments of those assembled were processing all of the same facts, and yet arriving at radically different conclusions.”

I don’t know if the conclusions were quite so radically different, but the sort of disconnect between the witnesses and the attendees pales in comparison to the disconnect between the overall RToP conclusions and many US perceptions of this particular subject. (Consider how the narrative in the [very minimal] mainstream journalistic coverage was unaltered.) Oftentimes facts and legal justifications are just not enough, and it all has to do instead with political will and public opinion shifts and individual reflection and critical thinking.

So, as usual, the upshot is that a rational assemblage of truthful evidence is only part of the surround of information that shapes our thinking, whether we are a US senator or a random librarian. (I also thought of the circle of information and the human role in it when juror Alice Walker spoke up after Jeanne Mirer’s particularly harrowing testimony about life in Gaza, telling her, “Thank you for going, seeing, witnessing, and sharing with us, with such compassion.”) From our personal lives to our political actions, we are usually guided by one narrative or another, and it’s everything from the recorded testimonies of expert witnesses to the stories we tell ourselves that ultimately change the world.

If you are interested in this topic, a delegation of librarians to Palestine is being planned for next summer. Get in touch with me if you’d like more information when it’s available.

October 13, 2012

Interview with Rachel Bridgewater

I have interviewed Rachel Bridgewater about her class, Exploring Fair Use, which she will be teaching for Library Juice Academy next month. Rachel talks about her background and what participants will get out of the four-week class. I enjoyed interviewing Rachel and hope you enjoy reading the interview.

October 9, 2012

Libraries, Marketing, and Popular Culture

Libraries are not businesses. They do not fare well when the majority of people in a society believe that the “free market” is the only viable economic model. However, there is much of value that libraries can learn from the business community and the concept of marketing is one example. Library leaders have been arguing for decades that librarians need to “get out the message” concerning the value of libraries and what they do—whether the audience is college undergraduates, the general public, or employees served by a special library. But what is effective marketing within the context of libraries?

I would argue that in order to be effective, library marketing must succeed in two things. First, it must capture the attention of the intended audience. Second, after capturing that attention, it must provide useful information about the organization or the services offered. Unfortunately, much library marketing seems to succeed at only one or the other of these objectives. Historically (and currently to a great degree as well), libraries have been successful at producing useful information about their collections and services. Librarians have spared no effort in putting together brochures, websites, research guides and pathfinders, publicity about programming, and more. But in many cases such efforts have fallen short because they do not reach their intended audience. The element of creating interest and capturing the attention of that audience is missing.

Librarians are aware of this problem of failure to reach the intended audience, but in many instances have reacted by over-compensating in the opposite direction. They have gone to such lengths to capture the attention of potential library users that the underlying message, the information they need to convey, is lost or missing. A recent case in point is the very entertaining YouTube video put out by the University of Maryland’s McKeldin Library. This was promoted on ACRL’s LinkedIn page as “Now THIS is how to market a library” by UMD Libraries’ Director of Communications. The video is one of many re-creations or parodies of South Korean rapper Psy’s catchy “Gangnam Style” music video that has recently taken the internet by storm. The UMD student who produced it did a great job with the video—you can tell that a lot of planning and work went into its making. The student performers admirably dance and lip-synch to Psy’s hypnotic beat and repetitive lyrics with the McKeldin Library serving as the main setting for their lively re-creation. Yes, the video features a stereotypical librarian—a middle-aged woman with glasses and a stack of books—but even she is hip enough to get in on the fun. The video has certainly been a success by many measures, including having garnered over 100,000 views in its first week of being posted online.

In terms of library marketing, however, the UMD “Gangnam Style” video does not succeed at effectively providing information about the library or its services. The only message that seems to be communicated about the library is: “See how tuned into popular culture we are.” That doesn’t truly rise to the level of effective marketing as I have defined it. This video is the 21st century, Web 2.0 equivalent of students vying to see who can stuff the most people into a phone booth. UMD may have beaten out their peers by producing an internet meme using more people and higher production values, but it is doubtful that any UMD student understands more about their library and its services as a result of watching it.

Using tropes from popular culture to promote the library is a good idea, and it is certainly something that other libraries have attempted with varying degrees of success. Brigham Young University’s Special Collections produced a “Theatrical Trailer” that plays on themes from various popular and cult movies, from the Harry Potter series to Being John Malkovich. The production values are very high and the video effectively communicates that “treasures” of historical value are located in this area of the library. It also counters the stereotype of barriers to access in special collections with the tag line stating that “Anyone can come.” Another example is Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which made a humorous video involving another trope—zombies. In their YouTube video, a young couple is menaced by the undead while out at night. They find safety and the information they need to survive a zombie attack (in a book of all places!) at their public library. The video manages to convey the fact that useful and even obscure information can be found at the library, without hitting the viewer over the head with the message.

Popular culture can be mined effectively for library marketing, and its use is not a strategy that librarians can afford to ignore. Some may feel that they have succeeded in marketing if their audience feels positively about the library or is at least made aware that it exists. That is certainly a necessary step. But grabbing people’s attention by showing that the library is tuned into popular culture is not enough. Librarians need to do more than merely entertain with their attempts at marketing. They need to rise to the next level and do what they do best—clearly communicate useful information to those who need it.

Naomi House interviews Rory Litwin

Naomi House of INALJ.com (I Need a Library Job) has just posted an interview with me about Library Juice Press and Library Juice Academy. I enjoyed doing the interview. Thanks, Naomi!

October 8, 2012

Interview with Kelly Wooten

Michele Berger interviews Kelly Wooten, co-editor of Litwin Books’ recent publication, Make Your Own History: Documenting Feminist and Queer Activism in the 21st Century, which was the second volume in Emily Drabinski’s Series on Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies. Michele does a good interview that tells you quite a bit about Kelly Wooten and the background for the book.

October 6, 2012

Teaser: Unglue.it

What’s this Unglue.it logo doing here, you rightly ask?

We here at Library Juice Press will tell you on October 15th, or thereabouts. I hope you’re good and curious now.

What on earth could it be?

October 4, 2012

Beta Phi Mu/LRRT Research Paper Award for 2013

Beta Phi Mu/LRRT Research Paper Award for 2013

This award is being jointly presented by The Beta Phi Mu International Honor Society and the American Library Association’s Library Research Round Table to recognize excellent research into problems related to the profession of librarianship. Any ALA member is eligible for this $500 award, and all methodologies and research topics/questions are eligible for consideration. The criteria to be followed for the selection of an award winner are:

. Importance of the research question or problem
. Adequacy of the review of relevant literature
. Appropriateness of the methodology used
. Effectiveness of the application of the methodology
. Addition of the findings to the knowledge and/or praxis in the field of librarianship
. Articulation of the conclusions emanating from the study
. Clarity and completeness

The page limit for submissions will be thirty (30) double-spaced pages plus bibliography. Only complete papers will be considered and submissions should be made electronically to the contact person below. The submissions must not have been published prior to March 1, 2013 and should follow APA style. Individuals may submit only one paper. Jointly authored papers are acceptable, but all authors must be ALA members, and will split the award of $500.

The deadline for submission is March 1, 2013. All submissions that meet the deadline and the criteria (including length of paper) will be considered. The papers will undergo a blind-review process by a joint BPM/LRRT award committee and the winner will be notified by May 1, 2012. Please include a title page with title of paper and author contact information including name, institutional affiliation, mailing address and email address.

The award will be presented during one of LRRT’s research programs at the ALA Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL, June 27-July 2, 2013.

Email Submissions as Word documents only to:

John M. Budd
Beta Phi Mu-LRRT Research Paper Chair
School of Information Science & Learning Technologies
303 Townsend
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211

ALA Annual from 2 points of view

ALA is now offering library vendors their “first round assignments for ALA 2013,” that is, their booth assignments in the exhibit hall. I want to juxtapose ALA’s two summaries of the Annual Conference, one for librarians and the other for vendors:

Librarians get:

The Annual Conference is the best place to expand your network, build your knowledge, and improve your profession.

Vendors get:

Exhibiting at ALA tradeshows provides the best and most comprehensive opportunity to reach decision-makers in the library industry. We look forward to seeing you in Chicago next June.

Interesting that ALA speaks the vendors’ language when talking to them – ALA Annual is a “trade show” for the “library industry.” This despite the fact that libraries seem to be the primary if not one of the biggest markets for almost all of the vendors present. You would think that ALA could have the confidence in librarianship as a social institution to call the conference a conference and the field of libraries a field.

This is another sign of the effects of member dues constituting a small proportion of ALA’s revenues versus a half century ago, when we really could say that it was a member organization. (To be fair, ALA’s justification for this change in revenue patterns – that its transformation into a business came about in order to meet the demands of members – is probably true.)

A modest proposal regarding the Presidential debates

Wouldn’t it be nice if a Presidential debate was actually a debate on one question, where each candidate took a position on that question and defended it? It might be the question of whether low tax rates for wealthy people are good for the economy – something where the candidates have a well-known, clear difference on a matter that is debatable in a practical sense. That particular question is that economists disagree on and that most Americans have an opinion about as well. We wouldn’t learn any less about the candidates’ actual plans this way, and we would learn more about the qualities that matter. The candidates would know the question in advance and would be expected to prepare. It would be a treat for the audience to see a question like that debated. It would be educational. And it would show television viewers something that they might never know otherwise: That there is more to issues than soundbites and emotional affiliation, that there is knowledge worth knowing, knowledge that makes a difference…

October 2, 2012

So who exactly is ruling that “reference is dead”?

I liked this post from Hack Library School, written by Amy Frasier: “Whither Reference?” Amy notes with alarm that reference isn’t being taught as a standalone class at her library school. I want to note for the benefit of more senior and cynical readers that this is a current library student who is concerned about the lack of a reference course at her institution…

October 1, 2012

Banned Books Week – Yeai Us? Not So Fast. Sandy Berman on Self-Censorship

Banned Books Week sometimes feels like National Library Week, in the sense that it is something that lets librarians shine a celebratory spotlight on our profession, since we are all about the freedom to read, always opposing small-minded censors. Feeling good about the heroic narrative at the core of our profession is a perk of the job.

And so is feeling good about the heroism of that symbol of librarianship the way we want it to be: Sanford Berman, activist librarian par excellence. But besides being a crusader for progressive values in the profession, Sandy Berman has also encouraged an attitude of self-criticism as a professional value. He has consistently found ways in which practicing librarians can be truer to our core values. I view that as part of the tradition of progressive librarianship that he helped found.

So, given all of that, I am happy to link to this article of his on self-censorship in libraries: “Inside Censorship.” It has appeared in different versions over the years in different places, because it is statement that it has always been important to him to reiterate. I recommend it as something to read about and think about during Banned Books Week, to counter some of the feel-goodism about librarians’ roles in combatting censorship that tends to dominate this time of year….