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