“Who are your guys?” some radical librarian resources

books are weapons in the war of ideas

cc image from Wyoming_Jackrabbit

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.
http://www.sanfordberman.org/zine/zine1.htm

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.

http://radicalreference.info/

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

http://forums.infoshop.org/viewforum.php?f=6

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.

Library Juice Press
http://libraryjuicepress.com/blog/
Library Juice Academy
http://libraryjuiceacademy.com/

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

http://freegovinfo.info/

Other people who are doing “free the information” activities include

The Internet Archive & Open Library & Archive Team
http://archive.org
http://openlibrary.org
http://archiveteam.org/index.php?title=Main_Page

The Prelinger Library
http://www.prelingerlibrary.org/home/

Carl Malamud and Public Resource
https://public.resource.org/

Open CRS
https://opencrs.com/

The Social Responsibilities Round Table and the Progressive Librarians Guild
http://libr.org/srrt/
http://www.progressivelibrariansguild.org/

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.

http://peopleslibrary.wordpress.com/
http://olan.wikidot.com/
(not to be confused with “occupy your 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
http://urbanlibrariansunite.org/

Rural Libraries Unite
http://www.rurallibrariansunite.org/

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
http://www.lib.umich.edu/users/jherrada
Lincoln Cushing, archival consultant, All Of Us Or None collection (among other things)
http://www.docspopuli.org/Personal.html

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

what ALA is doing, from a current ALA Councilor

I have no idea how long I stay on the ALACOUN, the mailing list for Councilors, but I’m definitely not on Council anymore. Whether I’ll let my membership lapse in December is anyone’s guess. This has been a big few months for shakeups. Rory has a post over at Library Juice which has links to the sorts of reports Councilors get from the organization. If you’re ALA-curious, they’re worth a look.

Both Rory and I have been involved in working on some of the ALA-related Wikipedia articles and it’s clear that there is a small (one person? more?) and vocal (fanatical?) faction who believes that one of ALA’s primary claims to fame is as a “sexualizer of children” and other related issues based on ALA’s Library Bill of Rights which includes a statement of right of access to libraries for children as well as adults. I don’t feel the need to chime in on that particular topic, my feelings are probably obvious. However, one of the side effects of the move towards the democratization of information production of the type we see in Wikipedia, means that people with serious axes to grind, a lot of time, and ability or willingness to circumvent or constantly challenge community norms, guidelines and rules get a much larger-seeming platform for their ideas than they would have under more “traditional” publishgin methods. Whether this is the good news or the bad news depends in a large part on which side of the particular debate you’re on.

In this new world, it seems to me, we need libraries and their librarians more than ever.

tech.

The How to Lose Your Techie Librarians memes have gotten a lot more traction than people talking about Library 2.0, mainly because we don’t have to discuss whether techie librarians exist or not. They do, we do, and we’re all over the place. There are also computers all over the place which in my neck of the woods has more to do with the Gates Foundation and less to do with technology advocacy. Is it a surprise that people who use technology enough to become bloggers are also technology advocates? I’ve been reading some thought provoking pieces over the past few days which I’ll list here

  • Rory has been keeping up with his blog and wrote a long piece about technology advocacy and his ideas about technophilia. While I think his tone verges on the negative, which often happens when people talk about things they don’t like about “bloggers” without addressing one person or idea directly, I think I can still extract what he’s getting at. I also question his listing of the presumptions of what he perceives to be the tech advocates. While he is comfortable calling people’s ideas and assumptions “irrational” because they aren’t supported by research, he is also dismissive of people’s conclusions on topics that are well-researched, such as the tech savviness of newer younger library users, making his assumptions seem equally irrational. I’m always sorry when people feel that any group of people to which I belong feels exclusionary to them because I aim towards openness generally and because I know it can feel bad to be left out. On the other hand, I don’t feel that tossing around words like “perverse” is a good way to get a dialogue started, it sounds too much like choosing sides. On the other other hand, I have known Rory for a while and know that he’s no luddite, he’s just more on the cautionary side of technology adoption and advocacy than, say, I am. I think we’re both pretty skeptical of gadgets, bad technology for sale by bad companies, and the hype and boosterism involved in the marketplace generally, we just express it differently. Read what he says and think about it. You don’t have to agree to get good ideas from it.
  • This prompted a response and a longer response with a lengthy follow-up comment over at …the thoughts are broken… with even more food for thought and rundown of the ideas involved from another biblioblogger and library student who doesn’t always feel quite in the loop.
  • Contrast this with super-techie Karen Coombs talking about new-fangled AJAX and how and why it does what it does. This is in response somewhat to Walt’s post making a flip reference to “all the cool people” being seemingly dismissive about usability at Computers in Libraries. Walt asks, Karen answers, people learn. Good.
  • Last in the list is an essay from Rick Anderson that is part of a chapter he wrote for Attracting, Educating and Serving Remote Users Through the Web: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians where he discusses some very real truths about the world we find outselves in, as information professionals. I specifically found this line interesting “[I]n fact, what we are seeing is the end of a world – a world in which information is mostly published and distributed in print formats. That world is gone. We are not talking about a change that is going to happen someday or that is just starting to happen – the revolution is over, and online has won.” Now if you read the rest of the essay, he’s not some zealot telling us to replace our OPAC with Google, he’s just talking about risk, and the way that electronic information is different from print, and the way mastery of both is important, but different. I like this essay.

Now from my perspective, as much as I love my technophile friends, it’s the people who are in the first stages of coming in to the profession (Rory and I are both at about the ten year mark I think) whose perspectives on technology I’m curious about. I’ve said before, I grew up with technology, my father had a job with the word “technologist” in the title and to me computers are like video games, big fun problems to solve. When I work with librarians in this region, a less wired area, I complement [and compliment] the library staff. I do not tell them that “I am the future” or that they should all get ipods, though when they tell me that they hear that MySpace is where all the sexual predators hang out, I try to tell them what I know. When they think about getting their catalog online, I try to help them choose a sensible way to do it. My feeling is that technology will continue to be a growing part of libraries now and in the future and we can either choose to learn the technology ourselves, or get it sold [or given] to us by people who may not have our best interests at heart. I think we ignore technology at our own peril.

I teach email to old people, I teach technology to librarians, and I co-manage an online community of 30,000 people. I think we need to use technology sensibly, purchase technology sensibly, and encourage people to talk about technology so that it doesn’t become some oogyboogy topic like sex or religion that people feel that everyone else has already made up their mind on.

Rory is back

I rarely, if ever, link to new blogs that only have one post in them, but in this case, I’ll make an exception. Rory has a new URL and a new blog and a new look and a new manifesto. Go read Library Juice. Pay attention to the manifesto.