Progressive Librarianship: Perspectives from Kenya and Britain
Author: Shiraz Durrani
Expected publication date: Summer 2013
Printed on acid-free paper
The current global crisis of capitalism in the industrialised West has seen many social institutions become victims of privatization, pushed by pro-market governments acting in the interest of finance capital. Public libraries are no exception to this trend. At a time when libraries can play a critical role in supporting people facing difficult economic and social problems, mainstream libraries have nothing meaningful to say about the role and relevance of the traditional library model in this period of social change. The situation has become more challenging because traditional librarianship has created a myth that there is no alternative to its own policies and practices. There is thus an urgent need for alternative ideas and practices to address the new reality.
The progressive librarianship movement has taken up this challenge. Such a movement has been active in USA for many years with journals such as Progressive Librarian addressing crucial issues. There are similar organisations in many European countries. But while such movements in USA and Europe are well known, the progressive librarianship movement in Kenya is less known in USA and Europe. It is this history that this book records, using original documents. The Kenyan movement differed from the US-UK model in an important aspect: it grew within the underground political movement in the 1980s – the December Twelve Movement. It was its Library Cell that set out its own ideas on what a relevant library service should be and put many of its ideas into practice. This experience has wider relevance today and has influenced developments in Britain as well.
Progressive Librarianship: Perspectives from Kenya and Britain, then, examines the progressive library movement in the UK from the late 1980s. It gave birth to a number of initiatives such as the Three Continents Liberation Collection and the Quality Leaders Project. It also developed new programmes for University teaching of librarianship.
The book examines this Kenya-UK experience against the background of the progressive librarianship movement in USA. It creates a unique record of a relevant, progressive model of librarianship. In the process, it takes on some key issues facing the library profession: politics of information, neutrality, globalisation, teaching and learning for librarianship, activism. The conclusion analyses the experiences from Kenya and Britain to find the essence of a relevant, progressive library service that can meet current challenges. The book will be of interest to library staff and professionals, students and teachers of librarianship as well as to political activists and historians.
Shiraz Durrani graduated from the University of East Africa in 1968 and got his library qualifications from the University of Wales. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). He worked at the University of Nairobi Library from 1968 to 1984. Durrani was an active member of the then underground December Twelve Movement in the late 1970s and 1980s. Following the publication of his articles on the history of Kenyan anti-imperialist, liberation struggle in national press, Durrani left Kenya and moved to Britain in September 1984. In Britain he worked at Hackney and Merton public libraries before taking up the post of Senior Lecturer in Information Management in the Department of Applied Social Sciences at the London Metropolitan University.
Durrani's main interest is the politics of information. His most recent previous book was a collection of articles, published by Library Juice Press as, Information and Liberation: Writings on the Politics of Information and Librarianship. A prior book, Never be silent; publishing and imperialism in Kenya, 1884-1963, was published in 2006, by Vita Books of the UK. His first book, a short work titled Kimaathi, Mau Mau's first Prime Minister of Kenya (1986, London: Vita Books), remains an important resource for political activists in Kenya today.