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Information for Social Change

Information for Social Change

"an activist organisation that examines issues of censorship, freedom and ethics amongst library and information workers..."

ISC 18. Editorial

By John Pateman

Welcome to Issue 18 of ISC which is being published in our tenth anniversary year.

Yes, ISC is ten years old in 2004! Over the past ten years we have produced 18 issues of ISC, all of which challenge the dominant paradigms of our profession which is what we set out to achieve when we met and discussed the foundation of ISC at Oxford in 1994. At the time we felt that there was no outlet for radical, progressive, challenging LIS articles and we still feel that there is no outlet for this material in the mainstream professional press. If anything, the situation has got worse over the last ten years the LA Record has been replaced by Update, which is more focussed on the needs of information providers than information receivers; and the Assistant Librarian (which was very radical in the past) is now the turgid journal of the Career Development Group (and you cant get more turgid than that).

The only positive development has been that Ruth Rikowski is now the Series Editor for the New Books for Information Professionals by Chandos Publishing. Ruth is also a member of the ISC editorial board. ISC hopes to add to this series later this year with a book on Radical Library and Information Work : Issues and Ideas. You can find out more information about the Chandos series in this issue.

In celebrating ten years of ISC we also remember those who went before us and paved the way for radical LIS journals in the UK. I refer, of course, to our illustrious predecessor

Librarians for Social Change (LSC), from whom we shamelessly stole our title. One of the leading lights in LSC was John Lindsay. In 1979 John wrote a pamphlet for LSC on Radical Librarianship. This is the blurb which appeared on the back of the pamphlet:

"John Lindsay was a school librarian in Hackney, East London, when he wrote this pamphlet. He is now, at the time of publishing, "resting", as they say in the acting profession.

Possessor of an indefatigable amount of energy, he believes that the present capitalistic society is unjust, and that a more equitable society must emerge. He is most insistent that that new society emerges during his lifetime. He believes, like other members of Librarians for Social Change, that libraries, and the other parts of the information system, should play an important role in the changeover to a new society.

John Lindsay is Co-ordinator of the Gay Librarians Group, and of the Gay Studies Library; a founder-member of Libraries Against the Cuts, and Libraries Against Racism; and a member of Librarians for Social Change, the Library Association, and the Socialist Workers Party.

He is a frequent writer on librarianship, the media, gay studies, and socialism. He has contributed articles to, amongst others, the Journal of Librarianship, Gay Left, Librarians for Social Change, and the Education Bulletin of the Institute of Education, University of London."

Reading this, I was struck by three things. First, the range of radical library organisations which existed in 1979. Today there are very few, such as ISC, Link, Cuban Libraries Solidarity Group (CLSG) and The Network.

Second, the combination of activism and ideas. Again, there are not many people like that in the LIS world today, with notable exceptions. Martyn Lowe, for example, founded ISC by building on his experience of activism in Operation Namibia, Librarians Within the Peace Movement, and War Resisters International. Here he contributes his thoughts on The Hidden Agenda and Information Gaps.

Third, the hopes that John aspired to replace capitalist society with a fairer system are shared by ISC and by Fidel Castro and the people of Cuba. Which brings me onto another major theme of this issue.

In June 2003 the Third International Congress of Culture and Development was held at the international convention centre in Havana, Cuba. Two members of ISC, John Pateman and Gillian Harris, attended this event. One of the conference forums (Forum 8) was about the role of libraries in culture and development. This Forum was chaired by Eliades Acosta, the Director of the National Library of Cuba (the Biblioteca Nacional Jose Marti). John Pateman presented a paper to this Forum, which is reproduced here. This issue also contains a report of the congress, and a resolution produced by its participants.

While we were in Havana, we also met with representatives of the Cuban public services union, SNTAP, who have a developed a twinning link with UNISON in greater London. We also joined a one million strong march (which was organised at 24 hours notice) to protest against the measures taken against Cuba by the EU. At the closing ceremony of the Congress, held in the Karl Marx theatre, we were privileged to hear Fidel Castro speak on the dangers facing Cuba from Bush and Blair. I was asked onto the platform with Comrade Fidel in recognition of the National Culture Award which was presented to me by the Cuban government last year. Being on the same platform as Fidel Castro was a defining moment in my life and something I will never forget. We also include an open letter to the librarians of the world from the Cuban library association, ASCUBI.

From our very first issue, ISC has always given plenty of space to international affairs, and this issue is no exception to that rule. We have reports on the World Summit on the Information Society (also by John Lindsay) and the IFLA/EBLIDA talks with the World Trade Organisation and the European Commission about GATS and libraries, to which Ruth Rikowski contributed questions. We also reproduce the CILIP Response to Liberalising Trade in services: a new consultation on the World Trade Organisation GATS negotiations. This response, which draws very heavily on Globalisation and Information (ISC 14, edited by Ruth Rikowski) appeared on the CILIP website in January 2003, with no publicity and no acknowledgement of ISC or Ruth Rikowski. This was a significant omission, especially as ISC is an Organisation in Liaison with CILIP. Completing this section is Information Services and the Independent Public Library by Anders Ericson

Our final section, Any Other Business, includes book reviews, information about alternative information sources, and news about progressive organisations. It has been a privilege to edit ISC over the last ten years and I am confident that ISC will continue to appear for many years to come. I would particularly like to thank the ISC editorial committee - Gillian Harris, Ruth Rikowski, Martyn Lowe and John Vincent - for all their hard work and support and I look forward to working with them in the future as we continue to struggle collectively to not only understand the world, but also to change it for the better.



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