Library Juice Concentrate
By Kathleen de la Peña McCook, Distinguished University Professor, University of South Florida, School of Library and Information Science in Tampa
[A Book for die Jahrtausendwende]
Library Juice Concentrate is a millennial touchstone for librarianship. The essays, interviews, and discussions in Library Juice Concentrate were published in Rory Litwin’s webzine, Library Juice, between 1998-2005. The topics are of utmost concern to librarians at the start of the 21st century, but the initial format of these essays as postings on the worldwide web is emblematic of the transformative nature of librarianship at this time. Rory Litwin has characterized himself as an avid user of social networking Web 2.0 types of sites, but also as a frequent communicator with librarians of the baby-boom generation. He is “something of a bridge between two generational cultures in librarianship” (p.71).
In the mid-1990s many librarians, especially new graduates, adopted Internet technologies and web-based services with great enthusiasm. Many programs that educated librarians changed their names to become “Information Schools” or “I-schools” and a generation of people who work in libraries, for the most part, lost connection to the shared history and philosophy of librarianship. People still took jobs in libraries, but their skill set—in general-- was increasingly removed from a connection to the scholars and philosophers of librarianship who through writing and service had developed one of humanity’s most trusted professions.
When I wrote the paper, "Using Ockham’s Razor" for the American Library Association Congress on Professional Education in 1998 I realized that “librarianship” was being abandoned by a large part of the LIS professorate and the students that filled our classes were more focused on the web than print collections or archives. I began reading Library Juice in 1999. I found my way to it when I read Litwin’s essay, “Cease and Desist,” in the mailed to my house paper copy of the SRRT Newsletter of December 1998. I remember thinking what a good grasp Litwin had of social change issues. I realized I could subscribe to Library Juice online and I did. Library Juice was just what I needed to begin to lead me through the growing online discussions among new librarians that didn’t take place in print-on-paper.
Looking back to the initial issues of Library Juice I realize that I responded to the publication because Litwin grasped the traditions and history of librarianship so well and commented upon them with intelligence and insight in an online format. He demonstrated promise for rapprochement between the old and new librarianship. I should point out that the essays in Library Daylight: Tracings of Modern Librarianship, 1874- 1922, a companion volume to Library Juice Concentrate, also appeared online as part of the webzine and contributed to my confidence in Litwin as a thoughtful individual who looked to the past for knowledge and the future as a convergence of the old and the new. So much of the material posted in various library blogs at this same period assumed the world had just begun which, naturally, did not inspire the same level of interest in someone who had journeyed from keypunch cards to the Internet. In fact, it seemed ironic to me that so many writing about libraries at the turn of the millennium were willing to disregard the thousands of years of library traditions. Litwin’s work demonstrated that there was a cadre of librarians who saw the profession as a continuum. The fact that he used the (then) new format of the web to explore timeless issues underscored that librarianship was, indeed, a continuum and not a dead end.
I had been Chair of the American Library Association Office for Literacy and Outreach Services in 1997 and worked to get greater attention to the ALA Policy 61 (Library Services to Poor People). Some of this effort was rewarded in spring 2000. When asked to be guest editor for American Libraries I chose the theme “Ending the Isolation of Poor People.” I took a big step from print to blog with this issue and sent a note about the “Ending the Isolation of Poor People” theme to Rory Litwin which he published in Library Juice 3.6. He included a link to the Social Responsibilities Hunger, Homelessness and Poverty Task Force (HHPTF). Library Juice made me see the power of linkage. People read the articles in the magazine and didn’t connect to SRRT HHPTF-- but if they read the note in Library Juice they made the connection. This was a Eureka moment for me in seeing how blogs could move us ahead from passive to active. It was June, 2000. I recognize that in a few years someone will read this and wonder how this could seem amazing, but this is part of the importance of Library Juice.
Library Juice existed at the dawn of the online experience and it was a central resource for the transition. Libraries cataloged Library Juice as an online serial. More library blogs appeared in the first years of the millennium but Library Juice continued to be iconic. Litwin included essays by library activists such as Mark Rosenzweig, Ann Sparanese, and Chuck D’Amato. He edited listserv discussions on topics such as the Better Salaries Initiative. He interviewed key nextgen figures such as Jessamyn West. He organized items on Cuban libraries. Library Juice also included quotes, websites of the week and reading lists.
The essays and other artifacts from the webzine that appear in this volume stand on their own as thoughtful contributions to the practices of librarianship in the 21st century. But it must be remembered that they had their first life in an electronic format that has become an important component in the way librarians began to communicate at the turn of the millennium. With the publication of Library Juice Concentrate Rory Litwin has captured the spirit of a time that began in great hope with the Clinton-Gore optimism for a new century with widely available information for all people and ended in a time of great despair with the oppressive regime of Bush-Cheney and the structure of the USAPATRIOT Act and CIPA.
In the pages of Library Juice Concentrate we find thoughtful deliberations on politics, democracy, human rights, commercialization of information, intellectual freedom, anarchism, and Cuba. We see how the instantaneous capacity to post information can create a new level of discussion shared among far more people than ever before. Library Juice Concentrate captures a tectonic shift in the development of librarianship.