“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

San Francisco Libraries, public and non

I’m heading home from San Francisco tomorrow. Here is a short list of the libraries I saw while I was here. Since this was a vacation in the true sense of the word, I was a little more lax in my library visiting than usual, but I did see some beauts. You may have read about my visit to the San Franscico Public library’s downtown branch which is a lovely building with some great art, but regrettably FULL of books. Full like there’s no more room. This isn’t news, but it’s sad nonetheless. Here are the other libraries I went to:

  • The Western Addition Branch. When I hear that name out loud I always think Western Edition but that’s just me being weird. This is a tiny branch in a busy neighborhood with people from a lot of different backgrounds. The library is full of books in Russian and Japanese and other languages that I can’t read at all. For a tiny space, they manage to do a lot with it, there’s a large chidlren’s area, a YA section, a place for adult new readers and a few, very few, public access computers. I sat and read here for an hour while I was waiting for a friend and it was a nice calm place in the middle of a busy city. My photos of the Western Addition Branch are here.
  • The Helen Crocker Russell Horticultural Library, which is part of the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Another incredible oasis. My friend Jane works there and took me on a tour of the grounds and I noodled around in the stacks some. The head librarian there (who just won an award) indexes the articles in a lot of the teeny periodicals they receive, making their catalog a very rich resource. My photos of the Helen Crocker Russell Horticultural Library are here but more interesting are my photos of the San Francisco Botanical Garden including a nesting hbummingbird and some random quail walking around.
  • I had a rendezvous with friends at the Prelinger Library but didn’t do as much of a tour as I did last time. I’m still in awe of the sheer interestingness of their project as well as the general grace and charm of the Prelingers in person. Every librarian should make this collection a “must see” if you’re in the Bay Area. In the meantime, you can always read the Prelinger Library blog.

Prelinger Library is blogging

I’m trying to find a way to seamlessly integrate longer thought out posts with fewer links in with the shorter quick-link type posts I usually write. There may be some experimentation here over the next few days. For now, please enjoy the brand new Prelinger Library Blog and if you are in the Bay Area in California, please stop by and visit the Prelinger Library in person.