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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 19. Librarians and the World Social Forum, unite! by Mikael Böök *

Introduction: Kay Raseroka's Proposal

At an international workshop of the fourth World Social Forum in Mumbai, January 2004, Ms Kay Raseroka, the present chairperson of IFLA, made an interesting proposal. Librarians should participate in the World Social Forum, she said. Librarians should document the World Social Forum and the information brought there by the thousands of organisations and social movements 1 .

Kay Raseroka's proposal raises some important questions. Firstly, the question which the French librarian and documentalist Suzanne Briet asked some fifty years ago in the title of her pamphlet: Qu'est-ce que la documentation? 2 Is the library documenting anything except its own collections? What is documentation today?

A second series of questions starts with this: Is the library independent enough? Can it decide to engage in documentation of the World Social Forum? Are we here speaking about a universal library policy or about a special project of some particular library? And why precisely the World Social Forum? Shouldn't the library then document the World Economic Forum (the unofficial yearly gathering of the political and economic leaders of capitalism in the Swiss resort Davos) as well?

Kay Raseroka's proposal leads to discussion about the role of the library in the globalisation process of which the World Social Forum is such an important "document", i.e. example and proof, in itself. How is the library responding to globalisation?

It is also worthwhile to ask whether the World Social Forum is interested in cooperation and interlinking with the libraries. Is the International Council of the World Social Forum ready to accept IFLA among its eighty or so member organisations?

While trying to answer the above questions some comments must also be reserved for the "Mosaico de Livro", which is a library project in Porto Alegre, the capital of Brazil's southernmost state Rio Grande do Sul, where the first three WSFs (2001,2002 and 2003) were arranged and where the fifth WSF will again be held 24-31 January 2005.

Chapter One: How a reader searched for a book about the World Social Forum


The Reader did not know very much about the World Social Forum. For some reason, he wanted to know more.

So he stood up, stepped out of his door and walked a kilometer. To the nearest library.

No, not yet.

The Reader, who was living in the southernmost part of Finland, just went to his writing-desk and accessed the new integrated online public library catalogue of the Helsinki Metropolitan area at

"There are over 60 branch libraries in the HelMet network and annually loans are approximately 16 millions. The library system is Millenium by Innovative Interfaces" 3 , the Reader was reading from his screen. The webpages and search forms of the Helmet catalogue are unusually user-friendly, he noted, provided that the connection to them is smooth and fast. It was.

The Reader tried various search-phrases in Finnish, Swedish and English. He searched by title, by subject and by keywords, but he could not find one single book, nor any other document, about the World Social Forum.

No matter how hard he tried, the number of hits remained zero.

With 'social' AND 'forum' he actually got 4 hits, but those publications had nothing to do with the WSF.

Or perhaps one of them did, after all. That one was Bertrand Russell: Västerlandets visdom (Wisdom of the West).

Wisdom, always relevant. Also, the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, which continues in the footsteps of the famous philosopher, participates actively in the World Social Forum. But that's another story.

That book had no doubt been included among the search results because of the name of its publisher, "Forum", and for the reason that one of the subjects that the cataloguer had related it to was "Social History".


"Hypocrite Reader, - my likeness, - my brother ... " - Baudelaire

The Reader, my double, knew an alternative catalogue. So, on 7 June 2004, about half a year after the fourth WSF in Mumbai, he typed the search-phrase "World Social Forum" into Google.

Never mention Google without a warning about Big Brother. See

Google found approximately 134.000 web-addresses in 0.28 seconds.

Another search-engine, Alltheweb ( ), captured 33,335 web-addresses in an equally short time. A third, AltaVista, offered 34,160 addresses.

A fourth, Yahoo, brought 145,000 addresses in 0.13 seconds as a result of a search on the whole web. 4

The Reader, who had heard in the mainstream media that ca 100,000 active citizens had attended the WSFs in Porto Alegre and Mumbai, was not much impressed by the quantities of hits from Yahoo and the rest. Nor did he pay too much attention to their differences. After all, which reader cares about another hundred thousand hits from a search engine?

All the search engines put the following links on top of their research results:

  • = the homepage of the WSF - = the homepage of WSF IV in Mumbai

  • = the homepage of the European Social Forum

  • Clearly, these are relevant links. But the Reader wanted more than links...


    The Reader meditated on libraries, internet and wisdom.

    Wisdom is God, he thought, remembering the words of Goethe:

    Gottes ist der Orient!
    Gottes ist der Occident!
    Nord- und südliches Gelände
    Ruht im Frieden seiner Hände!

    The Reader wanted to read a book. About the World Social Forum.

    Would he go to the Academic bookshop of Helsinki, one of the biggest general bookstores of Northern Europe? Or would he try to open up a chat-connection to a human being, a professional librarian?

    What would Goethe have done in his situation?

    Goethe would certainly have given Yahoo a second try, the Reader decided. So that was his next step. The Reader combined the search-phrase "World Social Forum" with "new book". Among the top 20 of 1900 hits, he sorted out the following titles:

    • The World Social Forum: Challenging Empires. Editors: Jai Sen, Anita Anand, Arturo Escobar, Peter Waterman. The Viveka Foundation 2004. This was found at: together with details on how to order the printed matter from its Indian publishers. The full contents of this book were also there to be read instantly as webpages, and as a readable/printable pdf-file.
    • Another World is Possible. Zed Books. Edited by William F. Fisher and Thomas Ponniah (ISBN 1 84277 328 3 Hb, ISBN 1 84277 329 1 Pb). This one was mentioned at
    • War Talk , by Arundhati Roy. Forthcoming in September 2004 from the South End Press. Will include the author's "Address to the World Social Forum, Porto Allegre, Brazil, January 27, 2003". Mentioned at

    Three books, all very fresh and interesting-looking, but in English! It would be nice to get familiar with this new phenomenon in my language, in Finnish, the Reader thought.

    'Kirja' is Finnish for book , 'maailman sosiaalifoorumi' equals 'world social forum' . Yahoo came up with a book-review ( Embedded in the book-review was a link pointing to the book itself:

    • Maailman sosiaalifoorumi - toisenlaisen maailman puolesta, by Laura Nisula and Katarina Sehm-Patomäki. NIGD 2002. This book is available both in print and online at

    That was that. We shall now leave my brother, the Reader, in peace. May he finally read the book he was looking for.


    I, for one, went to the library to take a closer look a things.

    By car. I also used Helsinki City Library's "personal information services" via the web-service 5 . I contacted information professionals in the national library of Finland (Helsinki University library) by email as well.

    The library can certainly do a lot to help you find what you are looking for, if you know how to make the librarians work for you. Well, that's what I did.

    Using databases to which the libraries buy access, a member of the staff of the Library in Malmi (one of the 35 branches of Helsinki City Library) looked up references to 6 articles in journals, and to 9 articles in Finnish newspapers. For some of the articles, she could offer print-outs of the full texts.

    She also retrived 67 references to journal articles on WSF from the "MasterFILE Premier" database hosted by EBSCO 6 .

    I asked the librarian to send the EBSCO listing into by email box, which she did. This series of references with abstracts, most recent on top, proved well worth reading as such. I have to admit that this list is informative stuff, an excellent selection from social science journals, news magazines and newspapers (a film about the WSF is also mentioned). Moreover, full-text versions of many of the listed articles turned out to be available for free on the net. 7

    The personal online service of the library was also able to find four books relating to the World Social Forum in The Finnish National Bibliography. Here, "World Social Forum" (and the Finnish translation "maailman sosiaalifoorumi") turned up in the database field "subject, corporate name".

    One of these four books was found in nine libraries of the Helsinki Metropolitan region, namely, Globaali demokratia (2003) by Heikki Patomäki and Teivo Teivainen. 8   - On 13 June 2004 six of the altogether ten copies of this book are lent by the library's customers, one is in transit and three are on shelf.

    Long live the library!


    On Thursday, the Reader searched furiously in the library for a book about the World Social Forum.

    No book was found. On Sunday, the Reader searched the catalogue again. Now a book was found.  Q: What had happened in the meantime?  A: Impressed by the Reader's activism, the librarians had updated the cataloguing data.

    Isn't this a good example of how an observer may sometimes influence the object of his research? In this case, the researcher influenced the subject, too. Now "World Social Forum" figures among the subjects of the library catalogue.

    Chapter 2: Where is documentation now?


    "...blithe as a milkmaid, or sumptuously dressed according to the wishes of its masters" - Suzanne Briet

    Documentation, as a concept, seems to have become superseded by information and metadata. What was documentation?

    "The active history of European documentation spans the years from the founding of the International Institute of Bibliography by Henri Otlet and Henri Lafontaine in 1895 in Brussels to its eclipse by information science after World War II", writes Ronald E. Day in The Modern Invention of Information. 9

    Suzanne Briet, writing in the nineteen-forties and fifties, believed that documentation had a great future. She looked upon documentation as an offspring of the evolution of intellectual work in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. According to Briet, documentation was a necessary "cultural technique" in modern society.

    Briet's "cultural technique" is complex. To explain it, she uses a rather vague notion of "documentary unity":

    "Documentary unity tends toward the elementary idea, toward the unity of thought, simultaneously and proportionally to the multiplication of documentary forms, to the increase of documentary mass, and to the improvement of the documentalist's technical skills." 10

    To the reader of Briet's pamphlet /What is Documentation?/ (1951) it may be easier to understand documentation as the sum of the multiple skills and techniques which need to be mastered by a new category of professionals, the documentalists, rather than as just a single "cultural technique" 11 .

    Briet on the role of documentation and the documentalist:

    "The evolution of human knowledge is a permanent compromise between two mental attitudes. Invention and explication, reflection and hypothesis divide the field of thought. Documentation is their servant: blithe as a milkmaid, or sumptuously dressed according to the wishes of its masters, the scholars."

    To Briet, however, the documentalist is not only a servant, he is a creator, too. Consider the following characteristic passage:

    "Documentation, while it is intimately tied to the life of a team of workers or scientists or scholars--or while it participates in an industrial, commercial, administrative, teaching activity, etc...., can in certain cases end in a genuine creation, via the juxtaposition, selection, and the comparison of documents, and the production of auxiliary documents. The contents of documentation are, thus, interdocumentary."

    A reader today is struck by Briet's over-optimistic belief in progress through scienctific research and industrial development. In this regard, Ronald Day's chapter on European Documentation brings a penetrating critique of her concepts and of the concepts of her predecessor, Paul Otlet.

    Yet Briet stood for a principle which deserves to be remembered and revived. It is the principle that the documentalist and librarian (Briet herself worked at the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris) should be an active intellectual producer and team-worker. And a networker, we would like to add today.

    Another good principle of Briet is the openness and publicness of the documentation, which, nowadays, is called the freedom of information. Briet writes:

    "Is the scholar confident of having the power to locate the entirety of that documentation which interests him? The centers and offices of documentation read it for him. Documentary work is organized collectively. The location, however, of an important part of scientific documentation remains secret, in certain areas at least. Jean THIBAUD has recently translated the anxiety of scholars before the fact that "science" now appears "as the most essential of warlike activities in a time of peace." The great EINSTEIN has given a cry of alarm: "the field of information shrinks without end under the pressure of military necessity. Secret documentation is an insult inflicted upon documentation."

    Back in the days of the Cold War, when Briet wrote these words, "secret documentation" did not mean exactly the same as it means in the present age of the GATS and the TRIPS. Not only the militarisation of research, still a very real threat today, but also the ever more exclusive tradable intellectual property rights of business corporations and media conglomerates are piling obstacles up against the "collectively organized documentary work" (Briet) which remains to be done. In our days, secret has come to equal patented, or copyrighted.


    Finnish library professionals maintain a thesaurus of library terms in Finnish (VESA) and Swedish (ALLÄRS). From these thesaurii the term 'documentation' has almost disappeared.

    In the Finnish thesaurus, the word 'dokumentaatiokeskus' (documentation centre) is only mentioned as an outdated alternative to 'tietopalvelu' (information service), which is the preferred term.

    Finnish language and culture is purist in the sense that Greek or Latin-based words are only rarely imported; instead, new words with Finnish roots are constructed like, for instance 'puhelin' (from the verb 'puhua', to speak) for telephone, or 'tietokone' (based on 'tieto', i.e. knowledge; information; and 'kone', i.e. machine) for computer. For a while I thought that 'documentation' (from the Latin verb 'docere', which means 'to show, teach') had perhaps been replaced because of linguistic purism.

    That was vain speculation. The Swedish language takes in lots of Latin, Greek and English words, yet in the Swedish thesaurus, too, 'dokumentationscentraler' (documentation centres) is out; henceforward, the recommended term is 'informationstjänster' (information service). 12

    I provoked an angry comment from one of the maintainers of the thesaurus when I reported my observation to her and described it as an example of ideological cleansing. I had to explain that I did not mean that there has been a conspiracy or that somebody was reaching his strategic goal, the liquidation of all 'documentation centres', and their replacement by 'information service units'.

    Still I think that the eradication of documentation at the level of terminology has run parallell with a universal decline of the ideal of the librarian as an intellectual, in the sense of Suzanne Briet.


    I asked an information specialist, who has been working in the Helsinki City Library for decades, if they are doing any documentation in her library. Would they compile a bibliography on a particular subject, if needed? I was thinking of subjects relating to the World Social Forum.

    The information specialist confirmed that, in the past, librarians often prepared special book-lists and bibliographies on demand (it would have been interesting to discuss the origins and nature of those demands). With the advent of electronic databases, however, that kind of documentation came to be considered as superfluous. People got used to printing out bibliographic data on screen or paper instantly from computerised catalogues, she said.

    Fortunately, many librarians continue to document a little bit more than the collections of their libraries. I shall conclude this chapter with some examples of documentary work still being done:

    • libraries have been (are?) engaged in local history projects in cooperation with study circles, historians and educational associations;
    • the libraries arrange exhibitions, presentations, readings and many other events. These activities may involve documentation work;
    • the head librarian of the Malmi Library (were they helped me find materials on the WSF in the EBSCO database), maintains a collection of links to facilities and services in the suburb of Malmi;
    •   in general, the libraries are making efforts to document the new contexts of the World Wide Web. Finnish public libraries have, for instance, produced web-directories of living novelists and poets. For several years now, the public library of Hämeenlinna, a city of ca 50.000 inhabitants, has maintained an excellent general collection of weblinks, "The Goodies" (ca 35.000 links), which is being visited each week by ca 100.000 visitors, predominantly women aged 15 to 29 and men over 45. 13

    Some years ago Finnish public libraries also begun to classify webpages according to the universal decimal system (or a specially developed variant of it). But that project, which was supposed to draw on assistance from the users, has never really "taken off". The "Link Library" continues as an experimental rather than a functioning and vital service.

    Chapter 3: Global democratization


    From one year to another, the organisers of the WSF are doing a heroic job. The programme of the WSF in Mumbai, for instance, is indeed "a document". On each of its 120 pages in tabloid format are printed the dates, venues, hours, titles (in four languages), organisers and additional facts about ca 12 separate events. Thus the programme lists some 1250 events: panels, roundtables, testimonies, seminars and workshops. (The last fifteen pages is a catalogue of the cultural part, ca 150 presentations, concerts, film screenings and exhibitions.)

    The WSF in Mumbai 2004 must have been one of the biggest international meetings in the history of mankind. Of course, even greater numbers of people from different countries and cultures have confronted each others in times of war, and some religious mass gatherings may also have attracted more participants from different countries. The WSF is unique, however, in its mundane, multicultural yet peaceful character, and because the participants are not sent there by a dictators, or even by more or less democratically nominated governments. One should like to call it a civilized meeting of civil societies.

    Why do people go to the WSF? Here, I should like to use that word, information. The WSF is a gigantic information market for the exhange of news, thoughts and knowledge. But it is not a mass market, nor an instance of mass communication. The information is not commodified and reified. The communication is between individuals and groups of individuals in kind of global public sphere beyond the distorted information landscape offered by today's mass media.

    The papers, the leaflets, the books and booklets, the CDs and videos brought to the WSF by people from all corners of the world need to be collected, scanned, preserved and presented as widely as possible through the public libraries of the whole world, because the WSF does not intend to be just one among several recurring world conferences. It is also meant to be a global sociopolitical process at the local level of social life. I want my local library to become involved. I would expect to find catalogues, digital copies of WSF-materials, and hard copies of important WSF-books in, say, the Helsinki City Library and in other libraries close to where I live.

    Brazilian business-man and WSF-activist Oded Grajew has proposed 14 that social fora be arranged in all cities of the world in order "to accelerate the process of globalization". Actually, the diffusion of the social forum to the local level is already well under way. Continental and regional social forums are being organised in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. National social fora have been arranged in many coutries, including my own, Finland.

    Oded Grajew evidently understands globalisation as signifying, first and foremostly, global democratisation. Other participants in the WSF disagree and say that globalisation is something that has to be stopped. But even the most 'anti-globalisation' activists would not demand a halt to global democratization, I believe.

    The participants in the WSF are an almost unbelievable multitude of people with so many beliefs, convictions and opinions. However, so are the users and patrons of the library.


    IFLA chairperson Kay Raseroka writes: "As a facilitator of communication, the library has to establish contextual operations that are determined by the needs of the community they serve." 15

    At the workshop in Mumbai, Raseroka expressly illustrated her statement with the example of the World Social Forum. 16 In the present global context, one of the necessary public library operations consists in documenting the WSF. The WSF badly needs a documentation service.

    WSF activist Gustavo Marin writes:

    "The means for obtaining a global vision, to facilitate legibility sufficient to highlight the wealth of the debates and proposals, also remains a task on standby. Efforts have been made in the sectors of documentation and systematising the ideas formulated at the Forums since the first forum at Porto Alegre in January 2001. There is no nostalgia in this quest to keep archives on the forums. An amnesic movement is liable to become diluted, or else others will write its history. The work of archiving, documentation and systematisation is essential for emphasising the intercultural, social and political wealth contributed by the participants themselves." 17

    It should become clear from this article that, although I warmly agree with the view that the WSF should keep archives, I also think that, hitherto, the efforts at documentation of the WSF have been far too timid.

    The WSF does not need to reinvent the wheel. The solution to this problem is very old. It can be found running smoothly somewhere in between the state and the civil society. It is universally known as the library.

    The documentation of the WSF, that is, the job of collecting, preserving and disseminating of the proceedings from all the meetings and conferences of the World Social Forum, is a job for the library. Or, to be more precise: it is a task to be filled by the information professionals, the staff of the world's libraries.

    The documentation of a world meeting like the WSF in Mumbai is an operation which cannot be carried out from afar. This means that librarians should go to the next WSFs, participate in them, and organise the documentary work. Because of the scale of these world events, the team should have as many members as possible.


    I can hear objections: Why, aren't the journalists already doing this? Is the WSF not being covered by press, radio and television teams? Why bother the libraries with extra work?

    But journalism, I answer, is like the wife in the film called Belle de jour , while documentation resembles her husband, the neutral, stable and incorruptible doctor. Besides, the coverage given by a newspaper or TV-team may extend to five or ten events per day. Five hundred or a thousand events per day is a different story.

    I also expect to be told that the solution is already up and running and it is called the internet. Just type "World Social Forum" into Yahoo, and you'll get 148.00 hits. Do you need more?

    The answer is yes, because 148.000 hits is a gross underestimation. Much more can be retrieved from the deep web 18 .

    Much more of what? I am not going to write that word, information, but I can draw a parallell.

    La documentation Française has been, since 1947, the documentation center and publishing house of the French state government. Originally, however, La documentation Française was the London and Algiers based information agency of the French Resistance Movement during World War II. 19

    Resistance and Liberation are again on the agenda; Porto Alegre and Mumbai are their new symbols. The WSF needs a new documentation centre, but one which is independent from the nation-state and which surpasses the documentation Française both quantitatively and qualitatively. The world's public librarians can create it, if they want to.

    After the dissolution of the USSR, and with the spread of the internet, the process of globalisation has passed the point of no return. In this new situation, the librarians and documentalists must find new ways to serve the entire humanity.

    The documentation of the World Social Forum: a necessary step towards the global public library.


    Is the documentation of the WSF a political project? In a sense, yes, because the World Social Forum is not politically indifferent. In April 2001 the Brazilian organizing committee drew up a charter of principles of the WSF. The first principle defines the purpose of the WSF in the following way:

    "The World Social Forum is an open meeting place for reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, formulation of proposals, free exchange of experiences and interlinking for effective action, by groups and movements of civil society that are opposed to neoliberalism and to domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism, and are committed to building a planetary society centred on the human person." 20

    As long as it remains an open meeting place, however, the World Social Forum is no more political than the library. It is striking that one of the most often heard self-definitions of the library is precisely the same as the self-definition of the WSF - 'a meeting place'. Thus the library, and the ethos of the librarian, are also needed to save the democratic and open character of the WSF. Democracy is not only a question of the formal structures of decision-making, nor even of partcipation and majority power, it is also an issue of openness and tolerance. The principles of intellectual freedom and freedom of information of IFLA and its FAIFE-committee 21 should be fully compatible with those of the WSF. Democracy rests upon this spirit of the libraries.

    The WSF does not release final statements nor have the participating organisations and movements agreed on a political programme. True, you will not find many supporters of the occupation of Iraq among the participants of the WSF. But that, too, may be an _expression of their intellectual freedom. Because intellectual freedom does not mean indifference, either.

    A secretariat and permanent office in Sao Paulo care for the organizational continuity of the WSF. The important planning decisions are taken by the International Council of the WSF which, after its most recent meeting (in Passignano, Italy), where 19 new members were admitted, is composed of delegates from 83 organisations. Among these are Attac, IBASE, World Council of Churches, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Via Campesina, Greenpeace, Oxfam, Ubuntu, Inter Press Service and Network Institute for Global Democratization. 22

    The possibility that the IFLA would join the International Council of the WSF must have crossed Kay Raseroka's mind in Mumbai last January. It is to be hoped that such a step forward will be taken. Both institutions have aspirations beyond the national borders and political divisions of mankind. They both need to share each others visions and to strive to realise them together.

    Chapter 4: Instead of conclusions

    Intead of ending this article with conclusions of a general kind, I shall briefly discuss how to translate the idea which I have tried to set out above into practice.


    It is not one huge project.  The documentation of the WSF can only proceed in a molecular manner. Some molecules are already forming the first cells of the new organism, but I am not sure that they will survive.

    The Mosaico del livros is a collection of books which have been brought to Porto Alegre by participants in the WSF. This project tries to make "a Knowledge Mosaic around a fundamental opus: "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" of the educator Paulo Freire". 23

    Another initiative is The Tree of Books , which describes itself as an artistic project: "It is the central bookstore that shall receive, in its roots, the authors, speakers and NGOs publications from all organisations and people attracted by the Forum". 24

    Stouthearted and nice as these initiatives are, they are in reality only pathetic reminders of the need to shape a true library policy and documentation strategy for the WSF.


    At one of the evaluation meetings in Mumbai on the day after the official ending of the WSF, an adivasi from Orissa complained about the difficulty he had to find what he had been looking for. In fact, most of the participants in the WSF experience the same problem. The stories about the consequences of the informational chaos at the WSF are legio. There are both negative and positive experiences.

    However, this man had a special complaint. In Orissa, a social movement is developing against the bauxite mining, which is being undertaken there, as usual, by big corporations. At the WSF in Mumbai, this movement had arranged a workshop on the social and environmental impact of bauxite mining.

    The problem, according to our witness, was that they felt isolated. They lacked contacts to similar movements in other places and other countries. In order to 'globalize the resistance' (as one of the often heard slogans go), one of course needs global links and contacts.

    After the man from Orissa the present writer was given the floor. I explained that this is precisely the kind of problem which could be solved if there was a serious documentation of the WSF. I also pointed out that there exists one institution which is, or which is at least supposed to be, capable of providing valuable information on the most varied range of subjects, namely, the library. In short, I asked the man from Orissa and the others to imagine that the library would be able to help them to find the information they need. - then I informed them about the library-related workshop we had at the Tata Institute for Social Sciences and at the Nesco Grounds (the are of the WSF-events in Mumbai). Finally, I stressed the importance of creating links between the WSF and the ordinary public libraries.

    I am not sure what the man from Orissa thought about my speech because, unfortunately, I failed to look him up after the meeting and to get his contact details. However, I got positive response from an anthropologist who was also attending the evaluation event. His name is Felix Padel and he is working with a book on bauxite mining.

    Bauxite, which is known as the third most abundant element (after oxygen and silicon) and as the raw material of the transnational aluminium industry, is a big topic in itself. I hope that a public library, somewhere, might want to initiate documentary work on bauxite-related activities at the WSF.


    When and for what purpose does a library initiate a "contextual operation"? Is there room for projects relating to the documentation of the WSF in the back-offices of the public libraries? Does the library staff have any time to work on such projects at hours when they are not serving their customers at the loan desks and reference desks? These are the kind of questions to which one would hope to get some positive answers.

    Ten years ago Helsinki City Library launched the Cable Book, one of the first libraries with an own web-server and internet-connected workstations for the public. The beginnings of this operation of the city library - which, by the way, turned out to correspond very well to the needs of the surrounding community - coincided in time with the coming of Linux. Linus Torvalds was indeed present in person at the opening of the Cable Book branch of Helsinki City Library 28 February 1994, because the first webserver of the library was a linux-server.

    In 1993-1995 Jyrki Kuoppala, the linux-guru, and myself, worked in the back-office of the Cable Book Library. 25 From these years, and from my subsequent experience I know that the librarians are sometimes capable of social innovations.


    * The author wishes to thank the Kordelin Foundation in Helsinki, which has provided financial support for my research work on the subject matter of this article. Mikael Böök's homepage is at

    1 Besides presiding over IFLA in the period 2003-2005 Kay Raseroka is working as university librarian in Gaborone, Botswana. Raseroka gave the keynote speech to the WSF-workshop "Democratisation of Information with a Focus on Libraries" (Mumbai 18-19 January 2004). She also led a panel discussion during the first session of the workshop and was chair of the second session. As far as I know this was the first WSF-event which focussed on libraries and on connecting library professionals to the WSF-process. The majority of the participants were Indian LIS, including the leaders of the Indian Library Association, the director of the Library of the Parliament and other central figures of the Indian library community. Reports and proceedings from this workshop are available from the website of the Network Institute for Global Democratization (NIGD), which organised the workshop jointly with the Sir Dorabij Tata Memorial Library at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). See

    2 See Briet, Suzanne(2001): What is Documentation? Selections from Qu'est-ce que la documentation? (Paris 1951), translated and commented by Ronald E. Day and Laurent Martinet.

    3 Launched 2003, the Helmet system provides public online access to bibliographic information and availability data about the books in the public libraries of the Helsinki Metropolitan area (the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen, and Vantaa). The database also comprises periodicals, videos, dvds and musical scores. Here are some statistical figures from the Ministry of Education about the books in the Helmet libraries: in 2003 the Helsinki City Library kept 1,815,313 books (3,31 books per inhabitant; new acquisitions 2003: 101,536 books), Espoo 869,660 books (4,54 books/inh.; acq. 2003: 57,273 books), Kauniainen 77,744 books (9,63 books/inh.; acq. 2003: 2,513 books) and Vantaa 524,346 books (3,44; acq. 2003: 36,595 books). More Finnish public library statistics are found at

    4 Yahoo also provides a catalogue of annotated links by subject. The homepage of the World Social Forum was found in the following directories: - Society and Culture > Environment and Nature > Sustainable Development - Global Economy > Conferences

    5 Helsinki City Library offers personal information services via the Internet: "- Ask a Librarian - reference service: questions sent to this service may be answered by any Public Library in Finland. Users from abroad are welcome to send in questions concerning Finland. - iGS - the information Gas Station: ask anything about anything. You can send in your question by e-mail, text message, fax, postcard or phone. iGS is on the move. You will find the schedule on the iGS homepage. - iGS online: discuss online with the information service staff" (source: )

    6 EBSCO stands for Elton B. Stephens Company. Founded in 1944, the company is a subscription provider for more than 250,000 journals, serving more than 50,000 libraries worldwide, and a publisher of journal article databases. EBSCO is also the world's largest manufacturer of fishing lures and a manufacturer of steel joist and metal roof deck. Furthermore, EBSCO is in the real estate business. Annual sales surpassed $1 billion in 1997. (Source: )

    7 A copy of this particular listing can be seen at

    8 The English version of Heikki Patomäki's and Teivo Teivainen's book is forthcoming from Zed books in August 2004 under the title A Possible World: Democratic Transformation of Global Institutions.

    9 Day, Ronald E.(2001): The Modern Invention of Information. Discourse, History and Power. Southern Illinois University Press, p. 7.

    10 Briet, op.cit. ( ). I am grateful to Ronald E. Day and Laurent Martinet for their web-translation. The "translation will be posted as it progresses", they write. So my quotations from Briet's text should be checked against the version in the web. I have not been able to find the French original. It would be nice to have that, too, on the web.

    11 "The documentalist is that person who performs the trade of documentation. He must possess the techniques, methods, and tools of documentation. It is now possible for this person to become a licensed technician: a state diploma exists in France since the founding of the National Institute of Documentary Technique (Decree of December the first, 1950)", quoted from Briet, op.cit.

    12 In the Swedish part of the thesaurus, it is also suggested that 'dokument' (document) be replaced by 'handlingar', a generic term signifying 'actions' or 'acts'. The VESA-thesaurus ( ) is maintained at the Helsinki University Library (the Finnish National Library). It functions as a basic tool for documentation (!) work throughout the Finnish library system.

    13 Source: , homepage of "The Goodies".

    14 Oded Grajews proposal, see .

    15 Kay Raseroka: "Keynote Adress", "Democratisation of Information with a Focus on Libraries", Mumbai 18 January 2004 ( )

    16 One of the particular contexts which Raseroka has been thinking of is that of the oral cultures: how can the library serve people who speak languages which are not written? See Kay Raseroka: "The Right to Memory" ( )

    17 See Gustavo Marin: "Advances and tensions of the alternative world movement"

    18 'The deep web' is a common denomination for internet content which is not reached by web-crawlers like Google and AltaVista. The International Internet Preservation Consortium was formed by a number of national libraries in 2003. Led by the National Library of France, the Consortium also comprises National libraries of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, The British Library (UK), The Library of Congress (USA) and the Internet Archive (USA). This consortium has a special working group on the deep web. Information about the deep web working group is found at

    19 La documentation Française is present on the web at

    20 World Social Forum Charter of Principles, quoted from

    21 Documents and news from the FAIFE are at

    22 The list of members of the International Council, as well as documents on its rules and procedures, are found at

    23 Mosaico de Livro, Biblioteca social mundial.

    24 The Tree of Books, an artistic initiative.

    25 See my article "The Cable Book and its Knot. An Internet Public Library" (Mikael Böök) (published in VINE No 98, March 1995 )


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