Hello, I was away for the summer. It seems that there has been some activity. If you’re here because you heard about my The FBI Has Not Been Here signs, here is a link to the page where I first mentioned them, back in 2005 or so [ETA: Internet Archive says 2002, thanks Frank]. Back when this idea was getting batted around it was originally because the USA PATRIOT Act was concerning people, the idea that if you even got a National Security Letter not only would it compel you to turn over records, but it also prevented you from telling anyone other than your legal counsel. This sort of sucked and so people fought back. Most notably the people from Library Connection in Connecticut who got the gag order part of the USA PATRIOT Act declared unconstitutional. And you may have read about Brewster Kahle talking in the New Yorker about what it’s like to get a National Security Letter. Brewster is one of the strongest advocate for the right to privacy (and libraries’ right to defend their patrons’ privacy) and even he was sort of freaked out by this. Now that we’re looking into the face of the NSA looking into damned near everything and their heavy-handed tactics to get corporations to comply with them, it’s almost quaint thinking that we were just afraid of the USA PATRIOT Act. You can read more about the idea of “warrant canaries” here. I certainly didn’t think them up, just got a little traction with this one. Oh hey look there is this image over on Wikipedia’s warrant canary article. That’s nice.
In the wake of the Kirtsaeng decision Wiley has, predictably, decided to raise their prices in the UK to match American prices for titles. The news I got was from a forwarded email but it appears, in part on this website as well
The price increases are the publisher’s reaction to a recent US Supreme Court ruling whereby lower priced editions bought elsewhere in the world were allowed to be sold back into the US, a market which has traditionally had higher prices than other markets. To reduce the impact on US sales, Wiley have chosen to increase the prices in the UK to match the American prices. Unfortunately we have no ability to influence this decision although our buying team has vigorously championed non-US customers against price increases.
The blog post goes on to mention that “Closer examination of Wiley’s list of titles shows that most US Edition titles have more than tripled in price.” The email I was sent also included a link to this list of comparison pricing for literally thousands of Wiley titles so you can do the math yourself.
The odd aspect to this post, to me, is that ebook prices are also going up despite the fact that ebooks can not be resold and are not, in my understanding, affected by this ruling. Am I missing something?
I’ve been doing a lot less public speaking this year, by choice. Just trying to travel less, be more of a homebody, be choosier. I just noticed that I haven’t mentioned any of the talks I have been doing or will be doing, so this is the post that clears that up. I have done three talks this year, all thematically related. You may be able to detect the theme….
- Encouraging a Culture of Openness in Libraries
- Open Library and Open Libraries – information for ALL the people
- Open Resources & Fair Use – Share ALL the things
Basically they summarize what’s been going on in the world of Fair Use the past year (a lot!) and then talk about what libraries are doing and what they can do. I also talk a bit about my work for Open Library where I am volunteering doing email support, helping people freely download and read ebooks through the Internet Archive‘s somewhat quirky interface. It’s challenging and fun. The two are related but maybe not in the way you’d think. People who are curious about Open Library or maybe helping out a little, please drop me an email and I can talk more about it at length.
A few upcoming talks, most on the far horizon. In August I’ll be in Lincoln Nebraska talking to rural librarians about technology use and training. In April of next year I’ll be at both TXLA (my favorite state conference I think, though there are many close seconds) and then at the Michigan Rural Libraries Conference on Mackinac Island. If you’re going to any of these, please let me know.
Two things to mention here
1. I finally saw Desk Set. I have no idea how I not only managed not to see it before but also how I even missed the theme which is whether computers will ever really effectively (and cost-effectively) be able to do our jobs.
2. ALA is going on right now and I’m not there. Each year there is usually some sort of “Librarians, they are really great!” press release around this time which often winds up in my various mailboxes by various sources. This year it’s this one: APNewsBreak: Librarians to help with health law. Which, hey great, librarians they’re still there doing their jobs. Good for them. The thing that is so weird about this, to me, is it’s basically implying though not outright stating that librarians will be doing this work 1. officially and 2. as part of some nationwide project. Neither is true as near as I can tell. I asked over at ALA Think Tank for people to give me an update on what was happening at ALA (at this program) which further confused me.
The only real fact we got from that article is that OCLC got an IMLS grant to create training materials to help librarians do this. Today I got this press release from Meredith (thank you!) that seems to say that OCLC got $286,000 from IMLS to create training content on WebJunction to help libraries help patrons with the new heath care law. And then, amusingly as I was driving from Massachusetts to Vermont trying to find a radio station, I heard some right wing talk show radio host who was MAD that librarians were going to have a part in the “indoctrination” by the “regime” that was doing the health care stuff. Sheesh.
In summary: librarians are still doing their jobs. OCLC/WebJunction are getting money to (maybe) help us to do them, lots of people get the wrong idea about libraries’ role in helping the people who have been digitally divided.
I went to the Windsor Library in Windsor Vermont this weekend to take a look at their seed library. It was really neat. The whole building was terrific with large photographs of people from the community. Jim and I poked around in their historical books room and found this gem. It’s a collection of stereoscopic “Albertypes” in a book by Charles and Edward Bierstadt, brother to the more famous Albert (name of photographic process just a coincidence). The book comes with a little viewer built in to the book cover so that the images can be seen in 3D. I took a few photos of the book and more of the stereoscopic images can be seen online. And now I’ve been spending all morning reading about the Bierstadt brothers and the overlap between Albert’s painting career and the other brothers’ photography careers. Fascinating stuff.
viewer built into the book cover
instructions on how to use the book cover
Jim makes it work
- When nerds collide – some advice on managing groups of volunteers for one-off library projects
I failed to communicate the “why” of this project to the volunteers. Before turning my volunteers loose, I needed to explain the general workflow of the library. By saying, “here is a list of books to pull” or “adjust the shelves so they look like this” wasn’t enough information for them to grasp the bigger picture. Taking a moment to discuss how the library functions, sans library jargon, would have helped them understand the overall goals for the project.
- Highlights from Ian MacKaye’s Library of Congress lecture (video coming soon)
Every song I ever wrote, I wrote to be heard. So, if I was given a choice that 50 years from now I could either have a dollar or knowing that some kid was listening to my song, I’d go with the kid listening to my song.
- Publisher Threatens Librarian With $1 Billion Lawsuit for publishing this list of predatory publishers.
- Saskatoon Public Libraries have a contract – I was impressed by their silent protest/read-in at the City Council meetings.
- Forecasting Next Generation Libraries A Virtual Course-ference (Jul-Aug 2013, cheep!) – featuring a keynote by one of my favorite educational scholars Bryan Alexander.
I know people are probably pretty up on the general level of change, upheaval and consternation that are happening surrounding NYPLs big changes, most notably the changes at the Central Library but also the closure and sale of the Mid-Manhattan branch. You may not know about the closure and sale of some of the Brooklyn Public Library’s branches in which buildings are being sold and new spaces are being leased/rented to fit the library collections, programs and staff into. I know we’ve been fighting against some of the major downsides involved in leasing versus owning content, I think it’s important to think about the major downsides involved in renting rather than owning real estate. Here is some further reading about the Brooklyn plans.
- For Brooklyn PL, Planned Sale of Branches Promises Opportunity, Provokes Concern
- Saving Schools and Libraries by Giving Up the Land They Sit On
- Brooklyn Public Library plans to sell two dilapidated branches and move them into smaller locations
- BPL’s explanation of the plan
- Brooklyn Public Library to sell off Boerum Hill’s Carnegie branch
- Is the Public Getting Swindled by the City’s Short-Sighted School and Library Sell-Offs?
- Girl Scout troop fights to save Pacific Branch library
Want to get involved?
- Tweet or share this video. Girls speak out to save the historic Brooklyn library they love.
- Keep up with what Urban Libraries Unite are up to.
- Follow the Citizens Defending Libraries blog.
- The Queens Library is facing similar issues and has a petition that you can sign right on their website.
- Brooklyn Public Library has a Speak Up For Your Library page where you can share your voice.
- The People’s Budget NYC is a place you can vote on community suggestions for budgeting, extended library hours is at the top.
- The Pacific Branch has its own Save The Pacific Library page.
- Facebook options: Urban Libraries Unite, Save NYC Libraries
I listen a lot to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast about comedy. He interviews pretty much everyone you’ve ever heard of in the comedy world (and some people you may not have heard of) and one of the things he always asks people are “Who are your guys?” like who did you come up with in the comedy world and who did you identify with or look up to when you got started? I recently got an email from a library school student who is an anarchist librarian wondering a similar thing basically who my guys were and what resources were out there for radical librarians. The people who were my guys when I got started are all doing different things right now, interesting things. I wanted to share an amended version of the resource list and email I sent her. These are just people in the radical librarian niche, there are a lot of other people who have influenced me in many other ways. Who are your guys?
Sandy Berman was one of my original guys. I was lucky enough to get to know him when I was a library student and was active in my local SRRT chapter.
I think the work that Radical Reference is doing is important. It’s sort of distributed often crisis or demonstration-based reference services and they also do some email and other support.
It’s a neat project and the takeaway for me is the idea of “just in time” reference or event-based reference especially at large events like marches and demonstrations but this could be anything really.
There used to be a much more active anarchist librarian community on a mailing list and forum
I’m not sure where that bunch of people gets together, but Chuck Munson who runs that site is worthwhile to talk to.
The big takeaway is that there are a LOT of people doing this sort of work, the profession attracts folks like us.
Rory Litwin and the Library Juice Press put out a lot of worthwhile information about the more radical aspects of the profession as well as professional development opportunities.
The FreeGovInfo people spend a lot of time making sure that government information is available to ALL the people. It’s interesting since, well, it’s very involved with government, but making the current government we have accountable and responsible is a worthwhile goal
Other people who are doing “free the information” activities include
The Prelinger Library
Carl Malamud and Public Resource
are both groups that take a fairly radical approach to what is a library issue and work within big organizations like the ALA to be on the record about things that matter. There’s some pushback to this, but overall I think they are worthwhile. Not everyone is an anarchist, there are varieties of left-wing thinkers (and some libertarians? I don’t know) but worthwhile to get to know and worth seeing if there are people in your area.
More recently the Occupy Libraries put an organized face on the idea of a protest library. Many places to read more, here is a current blog and wiki about the Occupy Wall Street library.
There are also mutual aid type societies of groups of librarians working towards a common cause without the more formalized structure of a state or national organization.
Urban Libraries Unite
Rural Libraries Unite
Some individual librarians are people I met early on and are still continuing to do great stuff. I’m also most hesitant to mention anyone for fear I’ll leave someone out, but here are two folks
Julie Herrada, curator of the Labadie collection
Lincoln Cushing, archival consultant, All Of Us Or None collection (among other things)
But at some level I think the best way to start mutual aid projects from within the library context (in my personal opinion) is to try to work FOR
- fewer limitations on content (against DRM even if you may not be able to eradicate it)
- fewer copyright restrictions and be careful about self-censoring
- access to library materials to more people including historically disadvantaged groups such as language minorities, people in prison/jail, homeless people, people with disabilities
- sharing the community resources that you hold in the widest way possible
And while I think it’s important to be upbeat, it’s also important to understand what the threats are in the community and trying to work AGAINST
- more restrictions on copyright and/or internet freedom
- people meddling in childrens’ rights to read or intellectual freedom generally
- internet filtering
- publisher’s harassment of librarians and others for telling the truth about their practices or business models
- increasing push towards rental/lease of content and away from purchasing it and the rights that first sale gives us
Happy National Library Week. This is the week that encompasses a few more days worth celebrating including National Library Workers Day on Tuesday, National Bookmobile Day on Wednesday and Support Teen Literature Day on Thursday. Oxford University Press is giving away free access to the OED for folks in North and South America through Saturday. That’s sort of neat. I just got back from a very fun time giving a keynote speech at NETSL (more on that later) which was the first talk I’ve given all year. This was after Flavorwire’s “Coolest librarians alive” list which made me go “Who is Flavorwire again?” and then “Oh, neat” But my favorite thing about that accolade was what happened afterwards. A bunch of people instead of being normal crabby internet people in the comments section, actually started naming other librarians who they thought were cool, or great, or excellent, or important. And people talked about it online in the usual places, a lot. The article (more of a listicle really) was so popular they added a second set of librarians a Readers Choice with 10 more cool librarians.
And that, in a nutshell, is why I become a big goofball during National Library week and bug all my friends to get cards and take themselves to the library and why I stopped at the Somerville Library to check out their Awesome Box yesterday when I was nearby. Because I get to work with and around a lot of neat people and in many ways we’re a team. Sure there are some showboats and various rockstars in various areas and niches, but it’s great to see people being not just happy for whoever some website thinks is cool but also to talk about the other cool librarians that they know and why they’re people you should know. It’s a great group of people.
Just a photo that came across my stream, taken for Life magazine but not published there. This is from ALA, in 1971. I saw the photo and wanted to know more about it.
As a former member of SRRT and someone who knew about early GLBT activities within ALA (and in the current political climate) from reading Revolting Librarians, I enjoyed seeing this photo but I had a lot of questions. Who were these people? Who planned this? How was it received? So, like any good librarian, I researched.
Some other folks on facebook filled in some of the blanks about this event. A quote from another librarian, pulled form a relative who commented on his timeline “ALA’s Gay and Lesbian Task Force was the first such professional organization in the country. And with their bibliographies they helped create new areas of research.” A few more photos of the SRRT booth are at NYPL.
The two women are identified as Barbara Gittings and Alma Routsong better known by her pen name Isabel Miller and were well known activists of the time. Israel Fishman the founder of SRRTs Task Force on Gay Liberation (later to be called the Gay Task force and splitting off to what is now its own round table, the GLBTRT) was the one who planned the stunt. Other reports of this booth activity come from unlikely places such as the neighboring booth where RUSA (then known as Reference and Adult Services Division) was located. Their history page reports…
Plans for the division’s booth in the ALA Professional Exhibit area at the 1971 ALA Conference in Dallas included scheduling different board members to be on-hand to meet with visitors. When the “Hug a Homosexual” and other exuberant and high-spirited activities in a neighboring booth proved newsworthy to the extent that television cameras appeared and reports were broadcast nationwide, an on-hand board member from a conservative community shielded his face and moved to the remote side of the booth. At another point, when the RSD booth was staffed by a librarian clad in the habit of her religious order, a young volunteer who was intimidated by the boisterous goings-on in her booth came next door seeking “sanctuary.” According to American Libraries, “Farcical tumult reigned in the exhibit area when the Gay Lib group staged a ‘Hug-A-Homosexual’ stunt that attracted press and television but few hugs.
Library Journal tumblrblogged this last June and noted
For those that are interested, the booth received a (predictably) mostly negative reaction, with little to no people stopping by for a free hug. So the staffers of the booth hugged and kissed each other. Gittings kissed Patience and Sarah author Alma Routsong (aka Isabel Miller) while cameras were rolling and made the nightly news. That same year she appeared with a panel of lesbians on the David Susskind Show to debunk gay stereotypes of the time. She was approached in a supermarket a week after the appearance by a middle-aged couple who claimed “You made me realize that you gay people love each other just the way Arnold and I do.”
The book Before Stonewall has called this event “The first gay kissing booth” and is worth reading for more great stories about what a nifty person Gittings was and what sort of work she did within ALA. Here is a quotation from a blog post after her death in2007 discussing what drew her to librarianship.
One of Gittings’ proudest achievements was what she called “combatting lies in the library.” Gittings had experienced her first attractions to women when she was in high school. She was denied membership in the National Honor Society by an advisor who said she had “homosexual tendencies,” and had been told by her father, with whom she was close, to destroy the book The Well of Loneliness which he found in her bedroom when she was in high school. Determined to understand her own path, she spent most of her freshman year at Northwestern University in the library instead of in class, searching for books and information about being a lesbian. What little she could find was catalogued under “sexual perversion” and “sexual deviance.” She dropped out of Northwestern then to pursue the life of an activist and never returned to get her degree.
There are many more anecdotes and names named in Wayne Wiegand’s Encyclopedia of Library History. I know for people who are more on the inside of this movement a lot of this is just old news, but I hadn’t known a lot of this before. And, at this time in history with some important cases before the Supreme Court and public opinion rapidly shifting, it’s neat to look back and see at least part of the profession taking an early and affirmative stand for equality.