April 30, 2015

1/2 hour pilot: “Sacto PL”

Who among us hasn’t dreamt of writing a TV comedy set in a library? Well, my friend Jen Ferro has done just that. You can read her 1/2 hour pilot for a “dramedy” called “Sacto PL“…

April 27, 2015

CPJ releases annual assessment of press freedom worldwide

CPJ releases annual assessment of press freedom worldwide

New York, April 27, 2015 – Terrorist groups and the governments who purport to fight them have made recent years the most dangerous period to be a journalist, the Committee to Protect Journalists found in its annual global assessment of press freedom, Attacks on the Press, released today. Some journalists are kidnapped or killed by militant groups while others are surveiled, censored, or imprisoned by governments seeking to respond to that threat, real or perceived.

Attacks on the Press is a collection of essays by regional experts and CPJ staff that examines the array of challenges journalists face. The 2015 edition features a foreword by CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, a member of CPJ’s board of directors.

“Journalists are being caught in a terror dynamic, in which they are threatened by non-state actors who target them and governments that restrict civil liberties including press freedom in the name of fighting terror,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “Attacks on the Press surveys this new landscape, providing insights into the myriad threats- from surveillance and self-censorship to violence and imprisonment-that make this the most deadly and dangerous period for journalists in recent history.”

Non-state actors, including criminal organizations and violent political groups, pose a significant threat to journalists as well as a challenge to press freedom advocates and news organizations. In places like Mexico and Paraguay, trafficking organizations are the primary threat. One essay examines how in 2014 journalists became props in propaganda films, reflecting a global trend in the documentation of violence by the perpetrators. Another essay looks at how journalists cope with continuous risks to their well-being.

Further essays examine how governments abuse anti-terror and national security laws to silence criticism. Ethiopia, one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists, has charged most of the journalists behind bars with promoting terrorism. Egypt under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi uses a similar technique; the country recently sentenced three reporters to life in prison because of alleged connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, across the Middle East, the Internet is treated as an enemy, as leaders are all too aware of its power in galvanizing anti-government movements.

In Europe, journalists must contend with limitations in the name of privacy, a rise in right-wing extremism, and homegrown terrorists such as those who murdered eight journalists at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. As in the U.S., a focus on national security forces journalists to think and act like spies to protect their sources, as CPJ Staff Technologist Tom Lowenthal writes.

The combination of threats poses an array of safety concerns for journalists. Conflict in Syria has reshaped the rules for covering conflict, as Janine di Giovanni writes. Many of those covering Syria are in fact covering their first war. Freelancers make up an increasing percentage of journalists killed for their work, leading CPJ and a coalition of press freedom organizations and media outlets to advocate for better global standards for protecting them and the local journalists on whom they rely.

The book is rounded out by essays on the different forms of censorship-wielded by governments and non-state actors-in Hong Kong, India, Libya, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine, and West Africa during the Ebola epidemic.

Attacks on the Press was first published in 1986. The 2015 print edition is published by Bloomberg Press, an imprint of Wiley, and is available for purchase.

Note to Editors:

Attacks on the Press is available in English and select essays are available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.

For social media, CPJ suggests using the hashtag #AttacksOnPress.

On April 21, CPJ released a segment of Attacks on the Press, the 10 Most Censored Countries worldwide, a ranking of where the news media is most restricted by state control.

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CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.
Media contact:

Samantha Libby
Advocacy Officer
Tel. +1 212-300-9007
E-mail: slibby@cpj.org

Ashley Parent
Communications Associate
Tel. +1 212 300 9032
E-mail: aparent@cpj.org

April 24, 2015

Litwin Books Awards First Travel Grants for Conference Attendance

PRESS RELEASE

Litwin Books Awards First Travel Grants for Conference Attendance

April 24, 2014

Sacramento, CA – Litwin Books has awarded its first Travel Grants to Anna Wilson and Nathaniel Enright. The Litwin Books Travel Grants support scholars’ attendance at conferences, either domestic or international, with a special emphasis on helping those without other forms of financial support. Anna Wilson received funds to attend the Congress Conference of the Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians (CAPAL), held in Ottawa, to present her paper, Comparing Indigenous Approaches to Autism with Western Approaches to Autism. Dr. Enright will also be travelling to CAPAL to present his paper, The Austerity of Literacy: The Financialization of Information and the Politics of Debt. The Litwin Books Travel Grants provide up to $500 to attend a domestic conference in the recipient’s home country or up to $1000 to attend a conference outside the recipient’s home country.

About the Recipients

Ms. Wilson is a Master’s degree candidate in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta, where she has studied the information sharing needs of people with autism. Her research is designed to enable library professionals and policy makers to facilitate meaningful programs for people and families impacted by autism spectrum disorders. She hopes to help the public see the strengths of people with autism so that they can view them as a source of social capital instead of a social burden.

Dr. Enright recently completed his PhD at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. He has published papers on and spoken at conferences about capitalism, the marketization and political economy of information, information ethics, the history of information literacy, the increasingly central role of proprietary algorithms on research and scholarship, intellectual property rights and the production of technology and waste.

About Litwin Books

Litwin Books is an independent academic publisher of books about media, communication and the cultural record. They are interdisciplinary in scope and intention, and gather together works from a range of disciplines. Through their Library Juice Press imprint, they publish books that examine theoretical and practical issues in librarianship from a critical perspective, for an audience of professional librarians and students of library science.
For More Information:

For more information about the Litwin Books Travel Grants, see: http://litwinbooks.com/travelgrant.php
For more information about Litwin Books and its imprints, see: http://litwinbooks.com/

Contact:
Rory Litwin, Publisher
P.O. Box 188784, Sacramento, CA 95818
Tel. 218-260-6115
Fax 916-415-5446
inquiries@litwinbooks.com

April 11, 2015

Islamophobic ALA Banned Books Week Poster

BBW_2015_Poster_200x300

Thus far I’ve seen little in the way of active controversy over this ill-advised ALA poster celebrating 2015’s Banned Books Week. There were a couple of messages recently on the SRRT email discussion list, which brought this to my attention. Clearly, the image links suppression of information with the religion of Islam, depicting a woman whose eyes are showing through her niqab. No one denies that there is suppression of information in a number of countries where Islam is the national religion, but this image implies an identity between the religion and the practice of censorship. I think most of us can think of some American muslims who would take offense at that. Perhaps they are even members of the American Library Association.

I’m surprised that ALA actually put this poster up for sale.

April 8, 2015

Interview with Mandy Henk, author of Ecology, Economy, Equity: The Path to a Carbon-Neutral Library

Mandy Henk is the author of what I think is the most important LIS book of 2014 (at least the most important one not published by Library Juice Press). The book is Ecology, Economy, Equity: The Path to a Carbon-Neutral Library, published by ALA Editions. Quoting the publisher’s description:

In the first book to seriously examine the future of libraries in a climate reality-based context, Henk convincingly argues that building a carbon-neutral future for libraries is not only essential but eminently practical. Using the ‘three E’s’ of sustainability (ecology, economy, equity) as a foundation, she traces the development of sustainability from its origins in the 1970s to the present, laying out a path librarians can take at their own institutions to begin the process of building a carbon-neutral library.

I’m not sure that our earlier Greening Libraries and Focus on Educating for Sustainability did not “seriously examine the future of libraries in a climate reality-based context,” but I admire her book and wish that we had published it. Mandy agreed to do an interview here, to talk about her book and the topic it addresses.

Mandy, thanks for agreeing to do this interview.

Hi Rory, it’s nice to chat with you and thank you for interviewing me.

I’d like to start by asking you about your own background and interest in this topic. What drew you to write this book?

You know that’s a hard question to answer. I was drawn to it for lots of reasons. Part of it was because I was spending a lot of time in meetings and at conferences angry and I couldn’t quite articulate why. I needed to really explore in depth what it was about the general tone of the profession that frustrated me. I started the book at a time in my life when I was turning back towards an earlier political radicalism that I had sort of left behind to focus on making on a living and raising my children. Then I turned 30 and I had an employee get cancer and I had this epiphany that life was short and I should do more with mine than just be really good at managing an Access Services department. I realized I was hiding in my work and not being true to myself in some really important ways.

So, I got involved with Keystone XL protesting and once that happened I realized that living my values at work too was really important to me. But I had no clue how to do that. So, the book is really a long conversation with myself about how to live my values at work and how to bring a DIY/anarchist ethos into my professional life. The book was a way for me to break down the dissonance between what I felt and did in my personal life and what went on at work. To live an authentic life I needed to tie those things together. It was either that, or I was going to quit and go live off the land. Since I like health insurance and hate farming and really love libraries, the book seemed a better choice. It also gave me great cover to say and do things at work that I think would otherwise just be considered a bit nutty. It gave me a real legitimacy so that I could say things like, “I think software-as-a-service is dangerous to our patron’s long-term interests.” Or, “Discovery layers are hollowing out libraries.” The work on the book demonstrated that I wasn’t just being testy, I had done real research and work to come to those positions.

Most people reading this have not read your book yet an therefore don’t know how that relates to what you’ve written. At one level, the book is about how to guide libraries in the context of global warming and other threats to the environment, but it also addresses other ways in which our current structures are at odds with sustainability, identifying problems with the current “library industry” as it is sometimes called. For the convenience of people reading this, would you mind outlining the book? The problems it addresses and how it addresses them.

Of course, I am happy to do that. One thing I’d push back on is the idea that it is possible to pull apart the various sustainability challenges that we face. Climate is the most urgent manifestation of an entire system gone absolutely off the rails and so I gave it center place. But my understanding is that climate and other problems, like mining or labor issues, are really just different aspects of the same basic failure of our society to create the conditions needed for a biophilic planet. Our libraries exist in the midst of a morass of environmental, political, and economic challenges and this gives us moral obligations that go beyond fulfilling our stated missions. Clocking in at work doesn’t give us the right to clock our values out, that’s my basic premise. And that’s where the book starts. It’s divided into three parts. In the first part, I try to connect the various dots of sustainability issues to the library world and to our professional values, while also outlining a picture of the world as it is. So, I look at the science behind climate change,the philosophical construct that is “sustainability,” as well as how libraries have been impacted by these issues.

In the second part, I provide a framework for conducting what I call a sustainability assessment. It’s not really a formal assessment, it’s more about giving people an excuse to look at their own libraries and choose their own starting points. There are an awful lot of librarians who are very concerned about these issues, but who don’t have either the political capital in their own libraries or the ability to spend a whole lot of time figuring out what to do. But once you lay it all out in a book, it empowers them to have something to work from and offers a sense of legitimacy that can be very important to getting something like this done in an actual library. That’s the point of the second part. I used the structure of the three basic areas of sustainability, ecology, economy, and equity, to structure this section so that librarians could have sense that, even if their sustainability work had to be in collections, they could still feel confident that that work was tied into the larger concept of sustainability.

The last part is about the larger information system. This is really where I tried to talk about the “library industry” and what we need to do, what we can do, to transform it. I see technology and corporate control of the collection and our software as twinned problems. To solve them, I think that we need an alliance between our advocacy groups, like ALA and SLA, and activist groups. I highlighted some really successful examples of those kinds of alliances in this part, groups like SaveNYC Libraries. I also used this part to talk about why climate change is hard to talk about. There are structures and social expectations in place that shape our discourse. Talking about climate and libraries seems really “unserious” and I devoted a chapter to breaking that down in the hopes that if we can learn to see these structures working to suppress our voices, we can resist that suppression and say, insist that a vendor tell us the carbon footprint of their server operation before we agree to purchase a new database. That’s a pretty uncomfortable position to take and if we understand what makes it uncomfortable, I think it is easier to work through the uncomfortableness.

Thanks for that outline of the book. That’s very helpful. I am interested in what you say is the impossibility of pulling apart the various sustainability challenges that we face. You cite the “three E’s” of sustainability: ecology, economy, and equity. I think when most people think about sustainability, they are thinking about ecology – resource extraction, pollution, climate change. The three E’s are not an idea that you’ve made up, but I think to a lot of readers the ideas that equity and economic structures are an essential part of sustainability will be new, and perhaps in need of justification. Equity in particular, and the democratic library values that it implies, are an essential part of sustainability in your view. I wonder if you could say a bit about equity, and what makes it part of sustainability?

Absolutely. The concept of sustainability is not easy to intuit, nor is it without some basic flaws in its premises. The basic argument is that poverty and inequality lead to ecological destruction through a failure to manage the global commons. So, in the United States, you can look at California right now and examine the politics of the drought. I suspect most average citizens of that state would strongly support limiting water use by farming corporations. But because the corporations are such a powerful group, because they control a wealthy industry, they have been successful over a long period of time in preventing the kinds of restrictions that the natural world and people who make their living in other ways would benefit from. Sustainability advocates would argue that a more genuinely democratic process would have a better outcome since economic power would not translate to political power. At the same time, part of sustainability is building resilient economic systems that would, in theory, prevent the concentrations of economic power that we see today.

With that said, I do have some concerns about the interrelationship between ecology, economy, and equity. The biggest one is that I am not convinced that citizens are always able to make good choices, especially at the national level. The use of media and the educational system to control the paradigm through which people understand the world is an extremely powerful tool that has been well honed by the wealthy in this country. Environmental resistance has been degraded and minimized as “NINBYism.” So I am not at all convinced that it is possible for us to create a more democratic society, nor do I think that those with power are going to step down and allow a more just form of organization for our society.

I agree with you, and I share the pessimism implicit in your response there. But your book is not a pessimistic book, or at any rate, you could say it’s guided by the idea of “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” It’s consistent with the idea that as dark as things may be, you have to try. You take the position of a “solutionist” as you explain in Chapter 1, as opposed to being in a state of resignation or paralysis. I struggle with that myself. It seems that an obstacle to a sustainability initiative in libraries is getting everybody on board as a solutionist, when there are good arguments to justify other positions. What do you think about that? How do you find the strength to maintain the position of a solutionist?

I have children. As a mother, I feel an obligation to do what I can to try and fix the world. There’s also the question of what else I would do with my life. If I didn’t work on what I see as the most pressing problems that are within my power to influence, what would I do? The answer to that, as far as I can tell, is be a really diligent Access Services Librarian. Which is a fine thing to be, but it is similar to being a great steward on the Titanic. Laudable sure, but also beside the point. I think that there is value in looking hard and with as much clarity as you can muster at the actual state of the world and then insisting that you live your life in a way that is informed by reality. Even if it leads to sorrow and frustration.

Do you think the book gives enough attention to obstacles to sustainability measures in libraries? It seems that a lot of the work is going to be overcoming obstacles.

Yes, I could have talked more about obstacles. There are a few reasons I shied away. One is that I think there are many libraries right now where this kind of initiative would not meet resistance. Sustainability is a pretty hot idea and library administrators love getting on board with trends. So, I didn’t really think it was absolutely necessary. Instead, I focused on broadening the sustainability umbrella so that it included changes that could be implemented at almost every level of a library’s staff hierarchy. Taken individually maybe they won’t make a huge difference, but I think that building momentum is really important Having lots of library workers making changes in their libraries under the banner of sustainability is a valuable form of organizing. It creates space for deeper organizing activities.

At the same time, I think it’s worth being upfront that I think largest obstacle is hierarchy. Because of that, I am the last person who should be giving mainstream library staff advice about how to manage up. There are others who do have that skill set and I respect them and their ability to engage in organizational politics. I am not one of them. That kind of persuading requires respecting the authority of those currently holding power, and I mean that across all levels–in libraries and out in the larger world. And I don’t. My advice would be to just do what you see that needs to be done. Don’t let someone more powerful insist that you engage in actions that you think are destructive. Stop following orders. So, yeah, that’s why I stepped back from that. It isn’t particularly useful advice and it doesn’t respect the risk tolerance levels of those who may need their paychecks and health insurance. I know my limits.

I can imagine ALA Publishing might have balked at that as well. I wonder, do you have any thoughts on what you might have done differently in writing this book if you could?

I suspect they would have. This was really intended to be a mainstream book for a fairly mainstream audience. I wanted to write a book that someone could share with their director or with their board and not feel like they were being outlandish.

It’s hard to say what I might have done differently. This was the first book I have ever written and writing it was a learning process. In terms of the final product, I think I wrote the best book I could have written. So, the things I would do differently are all process based. For example, I really struggled with falling into never ending research. I would read and read and read and never really feel like I knew enough to actually write something down. So, in retrospect I would have a bit more confidence in myself. Also, I would probably have let the book be longer. I think people prefer short books, but I might have too harsh in my own editing.

I think a longer book would have been great, but a shorter book is easier to use in a practical setting. I think the book benefits from the research that you put into it, definitely. It is very strong bibliographically.

At this point, would you be willing to say a few words about your next project?

Absolutely, I am really excited about my next project, which is under contract with Library Juice Press. The working title is OCLC: A Biography. This book really evolved from the dissonance I felt, and still feel, when working with OCLC products. One of my first jobs when I was a student assistant was in an ILL Department, and it was there, working with WorldCat, that I really grew enchanted with the world of libraries. The idea that there was this cooperative system in place between libraries, complete with a complex infrastructure and rules and customs was just such a revelation to me. Which is why, after 17 years of working with WorldCat and with OCLC, I think it is so important to critically examine it as an institution. Both in the United States and globally, OCLC is such a central and powerful member of the library world. This next book will explore both the history of OCLC, but also how it works as an organization and what really drives it. I’m going to frame it around the question of who owns WorldCat and use that to explore what it means to own something as vital and also as valuable as WorldCat. I also think it’s going to fill an important void in the current literature. As a profession, we don’t always take the time to examine how we got to where we are. It’s my hope that this book will remedy that, at least for this particular case.

Thanks for the teaser! I am very excited that we will be publishing this book. I agree that it will fill a major gap in the literature. And thanks for the interview. I admire your book and appreciate your taking the time to talk about it.

Thank you for talking to me. It was a good chat and I appreciate your taking the time from your schedule to do it.

April 6, 2015

Vincent Mosco on C-SPAN


Vincent Mosco, author of To the Cloud: Big Data in a Turbulent World, talked by remote video from Boston about the history of the development of the “cloud” and “big data,” and the economic, social, and cultural implications of massive data collection.

April 2, 2015

Announcing “The Political Librarian”, a New Journal from EveryLibrary

Post on April 2, 2015 by John Chrastka

The Political Librarian

For too long, there has been a dearth of research, discussion, and published content related to locally focused advocacy, policy, and funding issues for libraries. Today, EveryLibrary is proud to announce the launch of “The Political Librarian”, a new journal which will address these very issues. As the only national organization dedicated exclusively to local funding and policy outcomes for libraries, whether at the ballot box or through town/city/county government negotiations, EveryLibrary is uniquely positioned to fill this gap. Today, we are making a call for contributions for Issue 1, Volume 1 to be published on September 5th, 2015.

We seek contributions that:

Further a discussion of tax policy and public policy at the local level

Explore and review ordinances, regulations and legislation, or propose new model language that actuate policy or revenue at a local level

Specifically engage disparities in community outcomes based on current funding and authority models for libraries

Provide and encourage experiential input about the way that current policy models impact library service delivery and community outcomes

Provide and encourage explorations of new, underutilized, or experimental models to address local library funding or authority

Provide resources and tactics that libraries can use to educate stakeholders on the essential role of libraries and librarians in their local community.

Why a journal?

While discussions in the library sector tend to focus on federal and state-level issues, it is at the local level that the majority of funding and policy decisions for libraries are made and expressed. Our work places us at the nexus of library tax and public policy discussion at the hyper-local level. Many of the campaigns we support aim to secure taxes for operations or building initiatives. Through our work we have seen first-hand that there is limited civic awareness and understanding of tax codes and funding structures on the part of librarians, boards, voters, and policy makers. This low level of awareness stems from lack of engagement in a public debate about local library taxes and authority.

With the launch of “The Political Librarian”, EveryLibrary is expanding the discussion, promoting research, and helping to reenvision tax policy and public policy on the extremely local level. We will provide a venue for listening and learning across a wide range of experiences, and a platform for sharing insights from librarians at the forefront of services by the librarians who need funding, authority, and policy to align with, and support, the actual practices of modern librarianship.

We believe that these policy discussions need to begin in the context of the unique challenges faced by towns, cities, townships, and counties as expressed in municipal or district library contexts. We also understand that the borders between library taxing jurisdictions are often crossed by inter-institutional agreements for services like interlibrary loan, cooperative cataloging, and shared resources. With this understanding, we want to encourage a discussion about how libraries may be the only true supra-jurisdictional public institution in this country. In publishing this journal, we are not limiting the discussion to policies that impact only public libraries. The edges will be pushed.

From its inception, “The Political Librarian” will be open access and submissions will be published under a non-commercial attribution Creative Commons license. We will apply for an ISSN immediately following the first issue in order to provide discoverability in the broader library and public policy discussion across the United States and internationally.

We seek submissions from both researchers and practitioners, and anticipate accepting and publishing three styles of submissions:

Polemics – Editorial in nature; the first draft of an idea or argument
White Papers – Longer form discussions that may include research
Peer Reviewed – Long form articles that include original research and arguments, and are submitted for review by our Editorial Board

Timeline for publication
EveryLibrary looks forward to publishing Volume 1, Issue 1 on September 5, 2015. This will mark our third anniversary as the first and only national political action committee for libraries. Your collaboration on this and subsequent semi-annual issues is welcome. EveryLibrary seeks to encourage non-traditional journal submissions and can support the publication and dissemination of blog to book-length contributions, along with video, audio, and other file types. Anonymous contributions in the Polemics category are welcome. Submission and content formatting instructions are forthcoming.

Over the next several weeks, EveryLibrary will present questions and discussion topics that will help form the basis of this exploration and inform the content of our first issue. We believe that we can serve as a platform, a venue, a contributor, and a convener of these discussions, and we encourage others to bring their own original lines of inquiry.

Please contact editor Lindsay Sarin for more information or to discuss contributing to “The Political Librarian”: lindsay.sarin@everylibrary.org