Stand, Fight, Resist

 

December 16, 2016

 

The idea that libraries are neutral spaces has been well and disabused over the last few years. From the services we offer to the collections that we curate, the decisions that libraries and librarians make are political ones that reflect values. Sometimes those are the values of the organization, sometimes the values of the individuals, and sometimes they are the values of the communities that the library serves. Those values are illustrated by our technologies, our ontologies, and our descriptors. Those who attempt to hold that “neutrality” of information access is an ideal for which to strive have had a hard time holding to that stance as increasing numbers of librarians question and deconstruct our profession. I would like to suggest something even stronger…that even if it were possible for libraries to be neutral spaces, that to create such a space would be morally questionable, and potentially actively morally wrong.

I say this as someone who firmly believes in the maxim of combating bad speech with more speech. I am not here advocating controls or restrictions on speech. But it is not the responsibility of every library to collect and distribute literature of hate, or falsehoods, or lies. Some libraries do need to collect everything, the good and the bad, for archival and historical study purposes, but those libraries are fairly obviously identified in practice and the vast majority of libraries should and could take a stand with their actions, programs, policies, and collections to be on the side of justice and scientific fact.

Neutrality favors the powerful, and further marginalizes the marginalized. In the face of the current political climate, with the use of opinions as bludgeons and disinformation as the weapon of choice for manipulation and intellectual coercion, it is up to those who value fact and believe in the care of those in need to stand up and positively affirm that to do otherwise is evil.

I say this as someone who firmly believes in the maxim of combating bad speech with more speech. I am not here advocating controls or restrictions on speech. But it is not the responsibility of every library to collect and distribute literature of hate, or falsehoods, or lies. Some libraries do need to collect everything, the good and the bad, for archival and historical study purposes, but those libraries are fairly obviously identified in practice and the vast majority of libraries should and could take a stand with their actions, programs, policies, and collections to be on the side of justice and scientific fact.

Neutrality favors the powerful, and further marginalizes the marginalized. In the face of the current political climate, with the use of opinions as bludgeons and disinformation as the weapon of choice for manipulation and intellectual coercion, it is up to those who value fact and believe in the care of those in need to stand up and positively affirm that to do otherwise is evil. Read article

 

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On the heartbreaking difficulty of getting rid of books

Astack_of_booksApril 26, 2016  By Summer Brennan

Like a lot of avid readers, I enjoyed Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up but bristled when it came to the section about books. The gist of her now-famous method is this: go through all your possessions by category, touch everything, keep only that which “sparks joy,” and watch as your world is transformed. It seems simple enough, but Kondo gives minimalism the hard sell when it comes to books, urging readers to ditch as many of them as they can. You may think that a book sparks joy, she argues, but you’re probably wrong and should get rid of it, especially if you haven’t read it yet.

Paring down one’s wardrobe is one thing, but what kind of degenerate only wants to own 30 books (or fewer) at a time on purpose? What sort of psychopath rips out pages from their favorite books and throws away the rest so they can, as Kondo puts it, “keep only the words they like?” For those of us for whom even the word “book” sparks joy, this constitutes a serious disconnect. Still, as the weather gets warmer, many readers will tackle their spring cleaning with The Life-Changing Magic in hand.

I wondered, can Kondo’s Spartan methods be adapted for someone who feels about books the way the National Rifle Association feels about guns, invoking the phrase “cold dead hands”? I decided to give it a try. Read more…

WHYY Public Media The future of libraries and why they still matter

 

With the rise of e-Books, Wikipedia, Google, and Smartphones, the way we access and consume information has changed dramatically. It used to be that we visited the local library to borrow a book, research a topic and read back issues of our favorite periodicals. In his new book, BiblioTECH: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google, John Palfrey argues that libraries still fill an important role in the community and are crucial in a democratic society. Libraries provide valuable public spaces where people of all ages can learn and exchange ideas, he says. In this hour of Radio Times, we’ll talk about the future of libraries and how they have adapted in the digital age with JOHN PALFREY who is Head of School at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, and SIOBHAN REARDON, president and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Can We Create a National Digital Library? Robert Darnton

October 28, 2010 Issue

The following talk was given at the opening of a conference at Harvard on October 1 to discuss the possibility of creating a National Digital Library.

The purpose of this meeting is to discuss a question of vital importance to the cultural life of our country: Can we create a National Digital Library? That is, a comprehensive library of digitized books that will be easily accessible to the general public. Simple as it sounds, the question is extraordinarily complex. It involves issues that concern the nature of the library to be built, the technological difficulties of designing it, the legal obstacles to getting it off the ground, the financial costs of constructing and maintaining it, and the political problems of mobilizing support for it.

Despite the complexities, the fundamental idea of a National Digital Library (or NDL) is, at its core, straightforward. The NDL would make the cultural patrimony of this country freely available to all of its citizens. It would be the digital equivalent of the Library of Congress, but instead of being confined to Capitol Hill, it would exist everywhere, bringing millions of books and other digitized material within clicking distance of public libraries, high schools, junior colleges, universities, retirement communities, and any person with access to the Internet.

The ambition behind this project goes back to the founding of this country. Thomas Jefferson formulated it succinctly: “Knowledge is the common property of mankind.” He was right—in principle. But in practice, most of humanity has been cut off from the accumulated wisdom of the ages. In Jefferson’s day, only a tiny elite had access to the world of learning. Today, thanks to the Internet, we can open up that world to all of our fellow citizens. We have the technical means to make Jefferson’s dream come true, but do we have the will? Read more…http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/oct/28/can-we-create-national-digital-library/

What Libraries Can (Still) Do James Gleick

Deutsches Historiches Museum/Arne Psille/Art Resource Heinrich Lukas Arnold: The Reading Room, circa 1840

Of the many institutions suffering through the world’s metamorphosis from analog to digital (real to virtual, offline to online), few are as beleaguered as that bedrock of our culture, the public library. Budgets are being slashed by state and local governments. Even the best libraries are cutting staff and hours. Their information desks are seemingly superseded by Google, their encyclopedias are gathering dust. And their defining product, the one that lines their shelves, now arrives in the form of a weightless doppelgänger that doesn’t require shelves.

In the technocracy, all the world’s information comes to us on screens—desk, pocket, wrist, goggles—and no one trudges through wind and rain with library card in hand to find a single worn object. After all, when you want the text of Magna Carta, you don’t track down the original. Same with books? “Libraries are screwed,” said Eli Neiburger, a Michigan library director, in a much-quoted presentation at a Library Journalconference in 2010. “Libraries are screwed because we are invested in the codex, and the codex has become outmoded.”

So is the library, storehouse and lender of books, as anachronistic as the record store, the telephone booth, and the Playboy centerfold? Perversely, the most popular service at some libraries has become free Internet access. People wait in line for terminals that will let them play solitaire and Minecraft, and librarians provide coffee. Other patrons stay in their cars outside just to use the Wi-Fi. No one can be happy with a situation that reduces the library to a Starbucks wannabe.

Perhaps worst of all: the “bookless library” is now a thing. You can look it up in Wikipedia.

Read more:http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2015/oct/26/what-libraries-can-still-do-bibliotech/

Reinventing the library by Alberto Manguel

The Oberlausitzische Library of Sciences in Gorlitz, Germany. Credit Florian Monheim/Arcaid via Corbis

Plato, in the “Timaeus,” says that when one of the wisest men of Greece, the statesman Solon, visited Egypt, he was told by an old priest that the Greeks were like mere children because they possessed no truly ancient traditions or notions “gray with time.” In Egypt, the priest continued proudly, “there is nothing great or beautiful or remarkable that is done here, or in your country, or in any other land that has not been long since put into writing and preserved in our temples.”

Such colossal ambition coalesced under the Ptolemaic dynasty. In the third century B.C., more than half a century after Plato wrote his dialogues, the kings ordered that every book in the known world be collected and placed in the great library they had founded in Alexandria. Hardly anything is known of it except its fame: neither its site (it was perhaps a section of the House of the Muses) nor how it was used, nor even how it came to its end. Yet, as one of history’s most distinguished ghosts, the Library of Alexandria became the archetype of all libraries.

Libraries come in countless shapes and sizes. They can be like the Library of Congress or as modest as that of the children’s concentration camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where the older girls were in charge of eight volumes that had to be hidden every night so that the Nazi guards wouldn’t confiscate them. They can be built from books found in the garbage, like the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass., set up in 1980 by the 24-year-old Aaron Lansky from volumes discarded by the younger generations who no longer spoke the tongue of their elders, or they can be catalogued in the mind of their exiled readers, in the hope of resurrection, like the libraries plundered by the Israeli soldiers in the occupied territories of Palestine. It is in the nature of libraries to adapt to changing circumstances and threats, and all libraries exist in constant danger of being destroyed by war, vermin, fire, water or the idiocies of bureaucracy.

Read more: http://nyti.ms/1R0E2G8

Library Superbosses Lead By Creating Careers | Leading from the Library

Steven BellIt makes sense. Great bosses create workplaces where staff want to be. Lousy bosses make staff miserable so they quit and go elsewhere and try to recover. What exactly does a superboss do?

Have you ever known a superboss? A superboss is more than just a good leader who runs the type of library where staff members want to work and community members want to be. A superboss creates a library legacy primarily through two actions: First, there is a unique ability to identify top talent, staff members who exhibit tremendous potential to do great things. Second, there is leader development at a high level that produces a next generation of library leaders who go out and do great things on their own. To be a superboss means putting the future career success of the library’s executive team or unit heads ahead of one’s own selfish desires to keep subordinates under control and in place. The superboss takes pride in knowing she has given staff opportunities for leadership development, and may be sorry to see good people go on to new jobs but does so knowing they deserve their chance to take the reins and deliver on their own library leadership vision.

FINDING THE SUPERBOSSES

Superboss is hardly the term I would have come up with for the type of leader described above. I might go with the familiar “remarkable leader,” but perhaps there needs to be a more distinctive way to describe a leader who is particularly skilled at developing staff, or whose track record demonstrates an ability to produce subordinates who go out and do great things on their own. A good case is made for the superboss in Sydney Finklestein’s article “Jon Stewart, Superboss.” Finkelstein became interested in the track records of leaders who could be linked to the rise of an industry’s top leaders. He did this by examining fields where the top 50 most prominent or influential individuals could be connected back to one or two leaders who had employed a disproportionate share of those 50. He came up with a group of superbosses across industries and found that “although their personalities varied, these bosses all demonstrated an unusual, even legendary ability to develop the best talent in their industries.” These superbosses are a diverse group, from Lorne Michaels and Oprah Winfrey in entertainment, to Ralph Lauren in fashion, and Bill Walsh in professional sports. One individual in particular has a truly impressive track record.

LAUNCHING CAREERS AND LOVING IT  Read more…