Library Juice 4:46 - December 19, 2001
- Principles for a Networked World (Draft)
- SIMILE Volume 1 Issue 4
- French police attack book
- Pat Holt on Michael Moore and HarperCollins
- Sacramento Bee publisher booed offstage for talking civil liberties
- Surveillance Camera Players
- WTO/GATS: Implications for Libraries (Ruth Rikowski)
- Libraries of the Future, according to kids
- Library cats across the nation
Quotes for the week:
Benjamin Franklin said all this:
"Anger is never without a reason but seldom a good one."
"How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, his precepts! O! 'tis easier
to keep holidays than commandments."
"If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be without
"Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the
freeness of speech."
"There was never a good war, or a bad peace."
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Homepage of the week: Sara Ryan
1. Principles for a Networked World (Draft)
Developing an Agenda for Libraries and
Information Policy Issues -- Introduction
The following is excerpted from a column by OITP Director Rick Weingarten
available in ALA's online TechSource magazine.
Eight years ago, a group of librarians met in Washington to discuss the
Internet's potential impact on libraries. Their goal was to prepare a
statement of principles to guide libraries in what was already shaping up
to be a major policy reassessment in telecommunication and information
policy. Printed in draft form, the principles were never fully adopted by
ALA. Nevertheless, the draft version proved to be a helpful resource for
library policy advocacy.
Possibly the most important and farsighted contribution of that draft
statement was the overall message it carried -- that libraries have a huge
stake in helping shape the ongoing digital revolution and that their voices
should be heard in a wide range of policy debates.
ALA's OITP Advisory Committee and Committee on Legislation decided this
year that it was time to revisit and possibly rewrite the principles. After
all, eight years is an eternity in digital time. The Internet has grown by
orders of magnitude in size and capability in that time. Nearly all
libraries now provide their users with access to the Internet (compared to
an estimated 10 percent of libraries in 1993.) Indeed, major policy fights
have erupted and, as we expected, libraries are in the middle of them all.
We are no longer speculating on a future technology and the role libraries
would play. Digital technology is now part of librarians' daily lives.
Eight years ago, we were trying to predict what policy issues would emerge.
Today most policy issues are better defined and the potential impacts on
With support from The MacArthur Foundation, about 40 representatives of the
library community met over a weekend this April in Skokie, Ill., to
identify the key policy issues and revise or develop new statements of
library principles. Agnes Griffen and Elaine Albright, chairs of COL's and
OITP's telecommunication subcommittees, chaired the meeting, whose
participants were drawn from a wide spectrum of ALA divisions and units, as
well as our sister library associations. Members of the ALA Executive
Board, also meeting in Chicago that weekend, bussed out to Skokie on
Saturday night to meet with the participants. ALA President Nancy Kranich
talked about the need to disseminate the group's work widely and asked them
to consider how to make the principles part of the fabric of ALA advocacy.
Please see the final draft of the revised principles (draft principles link
above). We encourage you to distribute this draft and information on this
important project to others in the library community-we are seeking the
widest possible consideration and discussion. Our goal: to produce a
concise document that will be officially adopted by the ALA Council (at
Midwinter 2002) and its sister associations as a statement of where
libraries stand on the policy issues raised by the Internet in the 21st
2. SIMILE Volume 1 Issue 4
SIMILE Volume 1 Issue 4 November 2001 is now available at
Announcing the fourth issue(see table of contents and abstracts below) of
Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education (SIMILE), a new e-journal
published by the University of Toronto Press.
The journal, which is currently available for free, is intended to be an
electronic meeting place for anyone and everyone interested in the broad
subject of media literacy. The journal will be published four times per
year, in February, May, August, and November. Each issue will contain three
or four full-length refereed articles from scholars approaching media
literacy from a wide variety of perspectives.
SIMILE hopes to bring together scholars and educators at all levels from
research university to the grade school to the community college and
everything in between. The submission of theoretically-based work that has
been tested and applied in the field-the kind of work that demands
collaboration between university-based researchers and, for example, high
school teachers-is strongly encouraged.
SIMILE Volume 1 Issue 4 November 2001
Jeanette Haynes Writer and Rudolfo Chávez Chávez
Storied lives, dialog - retro-reflections: Melding Critical Multicultural
Education and Critical Race Theory for pedagogical transformation
We are critical retro-reflective teacher educators and cultural workers. As
such, we have a civic responsibility to embrace courage, compassion,
social justice, and social activism. We also have the responsibility to
deconstruct dominant subordinating narrative and stories. The purpose of
this article is to create a counter story via our retro-reflective dialog,
centered within our deep-seated existence as culturally ethnic, racialized,
and gendered beings. We illustrate how the process of retro-reflection is a
hopeful contingency for transformative praxis using the theoretical tools
Critical Race Theory and Critical Multicultural Education. Our
retro-reflections expose and de-center the tacit practice of white
supremacy - a hegemonic construct often embedded within teacher education
programs. Through our retro-reflections, we hope to create personal and
pedagogical transformations for both ourselves and others involved in the
struggle for social justice and equity.
Donna L. Potts
Channeling girl power: Positive female media images in "The Powerpuff
Using information from web site reviews as well as interviews with
preschool, elementary, undergraduate, and graduate students, this article
argues that the television show "The Powerpuff Girls," despite its violent
nature, appeals to the vast majority of its viewers because it provides
positive female media images that are not based on sex appeal. In addition,
viewer comments reveal that the show is viewed as empowering for both girls
and boys because children are depicted as saviors to adults.
Peter Pericles Trifonas
Loving the letter, teaching the truth: Creating a community of the question
in the English education classroom
This article suggests that, in order to reduce the numbing sense of
divisiveness permeating the public sphere of our lives and classrooms, it
necessary to create the solidarity of a community of difference borne of
affirmation and respect for others, rather than a simple celebration of a
community of differences where subjects are perceived to exist more-or-less
independently of each other as the multiple sites of isolated or
marginalized selves. It is within the affirmative ethics of a "community of
the question" and the multiple sites of literacy that arise from within it
that a synthesis of the negative values of difference as a foundational
concept of democratic education can occur. This will provide a
and methodological means through which to rethink the ground of the
principle of educational equity beyond the competing distinctions of
Sexual strategies theory, gender, exposure, and support for restriction of
pornography on the internet
Based on a survey of 2,826 college and high school students in Taiwan, this
study examines the relationship among gender, exposure, and support for
restriction of pornography on the internet. The study was theoretically
grounded in sexual strategies theory, which contrasts the sexual pairing
behaviors of males and females. The results confirmed substantial gender
differences in internet exposure and willingness to support restriction of
pornography on the internet. Gender and pornography exposure were also
related to support for restriction of pornography on the internet.
3. French police attack book
Book in danger
Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2001 12:49:05 +0100
From: Eric Fenster <efenster[at]IGC.ORG>
Reply to: efenster[at]igc.org
A small (96 pages) book, and not just any book, is in danger of
being censured in France.
The title is: Vos papiers! Que faire face à la police? (Your
papers! What to do when confronted by the police?) It was recently
published by the French magistrates' union (Syndicat de la
The book simply tells citizens (and others) what their rights are
when there is an ID check, arrest, and so on.
The police are furious and have been demonstrating in the streets
[sic] against the book, claiming it is anti-police and that telling
people their rights hampers their work.
Daniel Vaillant, the Minister of the Interior (essentially the head
of the national police) has filed a formal complaint against the
book and Marylise Lebranchu, the Minister of Justice, has called
its publication ill-advised (malvenue).
This reaction comes simultaneously with police attempts to scuttle
the new French law on the "presumption of innocence" which, among
other things, requires police to inform an arrested person of the
right to remain silent and to have access to an attorney.
The book is nearly impossible to find. The major Paris bookstore is
out of it and has told me it has no idea when its reorder will
arrive or if the book will be censured before then.
Expressions of opinions from the outside world concerning an effort
by a country that claims to be democratic to keep its people from
knowing their rights can have an effect.
The address of the Minister of the Interior:
Monsieur Daniel Vaillant
Ministère de l'intérieur
8, place Beauvau
75008 Paris FRANCE
Fax (from the USA) 011-33-1-43 59 89 50
Eric Fenster efenster[at]igc.org
http://efenster.home.igc.org [no www]
Moscow Study Trips in 2002: May 18 & mid-June departures
planned for 3/4 wks.
Web site has FAQs, trip details, anecdotal accounts,
sample schedules, photos, more ...
4. Pat Holt on Michael Moore and HarperCollins
[SRRTAC-L:7299] Pat Holt defends Michael Moore!
Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2001 17:43:58 -0500
From: "Carol Reid" <creid[at]MAIL.NYSED.GOV>
To: SRRT Action Council <srrtac-l[at]ala.org>
Reply to: srrtac-l[at]ala.org
To New Readers: "Holt Uncensored" is a free online column about books
and the book industry written by former San Francisco Chronicle book
editor and critic Pat Holt. To subscribe or "unsubscribe," send note to
Contents for Holt Uncensored #288
Thursday, December 13, 2001
HAS MICHAEL MOORE'S BOOK BEEN DELAYED OR CENSORED?
THAT FUNNY LETTER FROM AMAZON.COM
NOTE TO READERS
HAS MICHAEL MOORE'S BOOK BEEN DELAYED OR CENSORED?
Michael Moore may have thought he squashed rumors when he gave an
interview to Page Six of the New York Post about why
ReganBooks/HarperCollins withdrew his latest book from publication in
The book, "Stupid White Men and Other Excuses for the State of the
Nation," which is critical of George W. Bush and others of his
administration, has been kept in the warehouse "for obvious reasons," says
Page Six, quoting a HarperCollins representative who said that "both Moore
and ReganBooks thought its publication would be insensitive, given the
events of Sept. 11."
The rumor that needed to be quelled, Moore thought, was the one spreading
like a (publishing) house afire that HarperCollins had ordered Moore to
rewrite the book and "tone down his criticism of President Bush."
"I'm not revising the book," Moore said in the interview. "I believe
HarperCollins is a publisher that supports a diversity of ideas. I have no
doubt that they will do the right thing." To that carefully worded
statement, he described "Stupid White Men" as "a book of political humor. I
think we could all use a bit of relief right now, and I think the book will
do very well."
Hmm. Sounds a little carefully worded, no? Not like the flamboyant and
incendiary Michael Moore of "Roger and Me" or "Downsize This!"?
Well, here's one thing to remember: Time was (Before the Internet), a
controversial person like Michael Moore could say one thing to the press
and another thing to a private group and never worry about getting, you
But members of the New Jersey Citizen Action group remember a different
story that Moore told them when he gave a keynote speech at their
convention, held early this month.
He seems not to have known that librarians would be attending the
convention, and that the matter of "censorship by HarperCollins of his
book" - if that's indeed what it is - should be reported and examined on
One of those librarians wrote a story - for a listserv called "Library
Juice" - called "Michael Moore's New Book Isn't," in which Moore and his
publisher don't sound so cozy about yanking the book from publication.
Moore, the librarian writes, did agree when HarperCollins canceled his
book tour because of the events of September 11.
But then "the other shoe fell," the librarian says. Not only did Moore not
agree that the book should be withheld from publication, "he reported that
the publisher also told him that he (Moore) is being 'intellectually
dishonest' not to state that GW Bush has done a good job in the last few
months. Moore said that he has been told that the book will NOT be
distributed as is, will be destroyed, and that if he will rewrite AND pay
for the reprinting of the book HarperCollins will publish the new
Goodness. That would be an extraordinary charge, if true. Moore then read
some of the apparently offensive material, including an open letter to
Bush, the librarian reports, but "when asked by the audience what he would
like them to do about this censorship, Moore said to do nothing right now -
that not only are his lawyers and other powers he has to bring to bear
doing their thing, but that he feels that there are more important things
for people to be protesting and working on in this new period than getting
his book out of limbo."
But "to do nothing" is not an option, the librarian believes, because
"from all that [Moore] said, this is NOT a question of the CIA or the
government demanding that a publisher stop publication for national
security or some other well-known reason. The publisher just decided to
walk away from the money -- the books ALREADY printed and sitting in a
warehouse -- because of the current war-inspired, anti-dissent atmosphere.
Even satire is biting the dust, by the publisher's own hand."
And here is the call to librarians that perhaps could be taken to heart by
all readers: "I understand Moore's position that with [Attorney General]
Ashcroft and the others running amok with military tribunals, new
surveillance plans, detentions, etc., the censorship by HarperCollins of
his book is the least of the trouble we are in. Maybe he and his band of
lawyers will succeed. But as librarians, it seems we are obligated to
follow this up, find out some more, and make a response."
Well to some (okay, to me), what the librarian calls "the censorship by
HarperCollins of his book" is among the WORST of the "trouble we are in,"
because if this story is accurate, it's a sign of a book publisher caving
in to what it perceives as political or social pressure, and not standing
up for its author.
Michael Moore has made his reputation as an important, insensitive,
reckless, (for some), embarrassing and (for others - myself included)
courageous author and filmmaker. That's why he has built up the audience
that wants to hear from him. Sign him up for a book, and you get more
Michael Moore. Withhold his book, even temporarily, and you censor him.
(Let's take the opposite stance - let's say the librarian misunderstood
Moore's remarks, or that Moore exaggerated some aspects of his experience.
So be it: I'd rather have an atmosphere of debate and scrutiny, of charges
being leveled and reports of those charges zipping around the Internet,
than an atmosphere in which we all passively accept a single company line
that's agreed to in carefully worded language by author and publisher."
The librarian ends her report by cautioning her colleagues: "And if you
ordered 'Stupid White Men...' prepub for your library, well, don't hold
Gad, that's painful. That doesn't demonstrate belief in the publishing
process. So come on, HarperCollins! Get the book out and help librarians to
stop holding their collective breath! Get Michael Moore back in print so we
know that free speech and a free exchange of ideas are alive and well in
post 9-11 America.
5. Sacramento Bee publisher booed offstage for talking civil liberties
Janis Besler Heaphy, Publisher and President of the Sacramento Bee, was
speaking about the present loss of our civil liberties at the commencement
address at Cal. State Sacramento last Friday, and was boo-ed off the stage
at the noisy ARCO Arena. It wasn't rowdy graduating students, but their
older family and friends who made such a noise that Heaphy was
rendered inaudible. That's what you get for being so unpatriotic as to warn
young people to keep a close eye on their freedoms.
The AP story about what happened at the commencement ceremony is at:
Richard Reeve's Op/Ed is at:
The local TV news channel KCRA's story can be found at:
The Bee published a story about what happened in the Sunday, Dec. 16th
edition, page B1:
The text of the offending speech is presently at the following URLs:
6. Surveillance Camera Players
Subject: Another Anti-Surveillance Camera Resource
Date: Fri, 14 Dec 2001 15:43:08 -0500
From: "Williams, Pam"
To: "Rory Litwin"
I was interested and delighted to see the mentions of the NYC Surveillance
Camera Project and i-SEE in issue 4:45 of Library Juice. You and your
readers might also be interested in the activities of the Surveillance
Camera Players (http://www.notbored.org/the-scp.html). In addition to
performing protest street theatre pieces in front of surveillance cameras,
they've also posted an impressive amount of information about their
activities and the politics of surveillance cameras in public spaces on
their Web site. Visitors should also check out the sites of other SCP
groups, especially Arizona SCP.
Thanks for another informative issue of Library Juice. Keep up the good
[Chris Dodge also wrote, and gave the URL:
7. WTO/GATS: Implications for Libraries (Ruth Rikowski)
Posted: 12/11/2001 By mritchie[at]iatp.org
From: "rikowski.uk" <rikowski.uk[at]tinyworld.co.uk>
GATS: Private Affluence and Public Squalor? Implications for Libraries and
One of the themes discussed on BBC Radio 4s You and Yours programme in its
lunchtime slot on 17th October was the WTO (World Trade Organisation) and
the GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services). I was pleased to be
invited to participate in this programme, where I focused on the likely
impact of the GATS for libraries and information. Others spoke about the
GATS and its likely implications for other public services. These speakers
were Barry Coates from the World Development Movement, Alex Nunn from
Manchester University, the journalist Nick Cohen from The Observer, Lord
Newby (a Liberal Democrat peer and Treasury Spokesperson), and Christopher
Roberts (Chairman of the Committee on Liberalisation of Trade in Services,
The debate largely revolved around the issue of "private affluence existing
alongside public squalor" (Barry Coates. quoting from the American
economist J.K. Galbraith). If public services (under the GATS) are forced
to open up their markets to free trade and thereby to private companies,
will this lead to an increase in both private affluence and public squalor?
Fundamentally, the position taken by myself, Alex Nunn, Barry Coates and
Nick Cohen was that, yes indeed, this would be the likely outcome.
We might ask why is it possible that such a scenario could develop? Barry
Coates provided background information on the WTO and the GATS. The GATS
means that WTO members must open up their services to other possible
suppliers which would, by implication, pave the way for the private
sector to move in (when companies feel the opportunity is right - i.e. when
they can make sufficient profits). The logic of this would have profound
implications for libraries. As I said on the programme:
At the end of the day, a few years down the line, people will probably be
paying to go into their public library service, or there will be a
subscription. Maybe they will go into their library free but then they will
have to pay to do searches on the Internet for information, or perhaps it
will be both. I suspect it will be both in the end, because private
companies are out to make, need to make money. So they need to maximise
their profits, and poor people, unemployed, pensioners, children and are
going to be the ones that suffer particularly.
Alex Nunn, speaking about the situation in relation to Higher Education
(HE), said that the GATS agreement redefines public services. Thus, HE will
...as a product that can be bought and sold on a world market, rather than
a public service which is for the benefit of the public
This means that HE is offered according to the ability to pay, he said. It
also means that education will be traded like tangible commodities
(bricks and cars), with corporations either running educational
institutions on a contract or running them directly. In the first instance,
profit is made by cutting costs below those specified in the contract for
service delivery, or by having a profit element built into the contract.
In the second case, corporations will be running educational institutions
directly; employing teachers themselves (rather than teachers being
employed by the university, college or local education authority), and
having control over all procedures and practices. Finally, as Alex Nunn
pointed out, this raises issues of academic freedom, with commercial
sponsors controlling much academic research. One outcome of this could be
the demise of the government funded Research Councils.
Nick Cohen, from The Observer, emphasised how the GATS was taking away our
democratic rights. WTO decisions are made by unelected people meeting in
secret noted Cohen. At these meetings in the WTO headquarters in Geneva
it is principally the interests of big business that are listened to, said
Christopher Roberts and Lord Newby both held that people like Coates, Nunn,
Cohen and myself were being unduly pessimistic. Roberts asserted that the
GATS should help to strengthen services around the world and give
governments and public authorities the opportunity to use all their latest
skills and methods in developing public services. Lord Newby was more
concerned with the American influence on the emerging pattern of world
trade, with its legalistic system of regulation.
Later in the discussion, Christopher Roberts endeavoured to argue that the
WTO and GATS process is democratic because:
...the GATS, like the wider World Trade Organisation, has set up a range of
rules which governments have freely entered into, and when disputes arise
they are disputes about whether those rules are being adhered to.
Nick Cohen replied that the procedure is not democratic, as these disputes
are not resolved in an open and objective court of law.
Nick Cohen then returned to the question of regulation. He said that:
The GATS rules say very clearly that a regulation will not be allowed if it
is more burdensome than necessary. And who decides what a burden is?
Whether planning laws, or health and safety laws, or environmental laws are
a burden? The WTO: not your elected politician.
This is a powerful and important point. One of the things that really
worried me about the whole debate though, was Lord Newbys assertion that
public services are not covered in the GATS and his subsequent claim that
there are no examples of public services being privatised anyway. He said:
My understanding is that services provided by government, ...by the public
sector, the GATS agreement as it currently stands, are not covered.
However, when reading the GATS document carefully, it is very ambiguous (to
say the least) about whether public services are included in the GATS or
not. When defining the concept of services, the GATS Agreement,(1) in
Part 1 Article 1 on Scope and Definition, indicates in point (b) that:
..."services" includes any service in any sector except services supplied
in the exercise of governmental authority.
In point (c), the GATS agreement says that:
..."a service supplied in the exercise of governmental authority" means any
service, which is supplied neither on a commercial basis, nor in
competition with one or more service suppliers.
However, the public services are now being encouraged to open themselves up
to other service suppliers. This is happening in libraries under the Best
Value process. Angela Watson, in the Best Returns report on Best Value and
public libraries, notes that:
Government does not believe that it is the public interest for any single
supplier to dominate service provision, either locally or nationally. It is
looking for variety in the ways services are delivered, and a mix of
service providers from the public, private and voluntary sectors. The aim
is to improve the performance and competitiveness of services, not create a
particular model of provision.(2)
So once the environment has been created for the possibility of other
service suppliers to move in the other suppliers can, and will, become
involved in the public library service. Once this occurs, the inclusion of
libraries under the GATS will no longer be in doubt. This same model can be
applied to other service, though the precise mechanisms will vary (e.g. for
schools, Ofsted will be a key bridge for business take-over of schools and
their inclusion under GATS). That is how it will happen; that is how public
services shall fall under the GATS provisions, in due course.
Interestingly, in a document issued by the Trade Policy Directorate on 7th
March 2001, it was noted that:
The GATS excludes from its coverage any services supplied in the exercise
of governmental authority. Such services are those "which [are] supplied
neither on a commercial basis, nor in competition with one or more service
suppliers". Our interpretation (and that of the WTO Secretariat) is that
this excludes public services such as health and education services
(although private services would be covered by the GATS)...However, since
the terms have not been tested in WTO jurisprudence, some commentators have
suggested that the GATS poses a risk to state provision of these services.
We do not believe these fears are justified.
Richard Caborn MP, the then Trade Minister, wrote to the Library
Association Record on 8th March 2001 saying that:
As a major global exporter of services, the UK strongly supports the GATS
negotiations and their objective of progressive liberalisation of trade in
a fair and predictable way. Despite stories to the contrary, there will be
no forced privatisation of libraries or the NHS as a result of the GATS.
It seems unfortunate that the future of our public services is apparently
in the hands of the governments interpretation of what is meant by public
services and what services the GATS will impact on. Even if there were no
examples to date, this would not exclude the possibility of GATS leading to
privatisation of public services in the future, if we were merely reliant
on legalistic interpretations. Corporate lawyers are likely to interpret
the wording in a way that most closely represents their interests.
Secondly in regard to examples of privatisation in the Trade Policy
Directorate, and in comments made by Lord Newby and others, it would appear
that there are no examples of privatisation of our public services.
Furthermore, in referring to the possible erosion of our social and
democratic traditions in health and education under GATS, Lord Newby added:
...I dont think there is the single beginnings of an example of where that
has begun to happen in Europe.
However, many examples have been given in the media about the private
sector moving into health and education. Indeed, the New Labour government
seems to be proud of this fact. There are, though, examples of this
happening in the library service as well. In my recorded radio interview I
had given a number of examples of where this was happening in the public
library service, but unfortunately these were not included in the
programme. Presuming traditions to mean how things have been undertaken
for some time, there are enormous changes taking place in the library
world. The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) is clearly opening up library
services to other suppliers. Richard Sibthorpe wrote in the Library
Association Record in April about the first PFI to incorporate construction
and IT solutions in Bournemouth public library service, for example.(3) He
described how Bournemouth gained a new central library and ICT (information
and computer technology) facilities through PFI. A 30-year contract between
the Council and Information Resources (Bournemouth) Ltd was signed, to
build and facility manage a new central library. As Sibthorpe said, in
regard to PFI:
The initiative also provides private investors with valuable exposure to
Nick Cohen gave some examples, illustrating some of the negative
consequences of the WTO (such as the example of bananas in the Caribbean
islands), but unfortunately these examples were not based on public
services in the UK.
A little later in the interview, Christopher Roberts argued, once again,
that the WTO trade agenda would bring tremendous benefits to British
companies on the world stage in terms of investment, economic development,
and strengthening our economy.
Lord Newbys concluding remarks were interesting. He thought that there
should be more public input into the whole GATS issue, thereby increasing
democracy and accountability, and also more transparency in general, with
simpler rules guiding the world trade framework.
The fact that this programme was broadcast is a hopeful sign. It provided a
forum for discussion on these very important issues, and opens up the
opportunity for further debate. This is a much better media response than
many of the news headlines of the last couple of years, which focuses
narrowly on the violent activities of some globalisation resistors. Here,
in contrast, some of the issues were being discussed. However, many other
aspects in relation to the corporate take-over of public services require
much further discussion. The debate needs to be both widened and deepened
on both mainstream radio and television. This is because many debates are
taking place in many different places, but much of this occurs on web sites
and in activist groups, and little of it filters through to the majority of
the British public. Following the televised anti-WTO demonstrations in
Seattle in late-1999, many people became aware of the WTO. Yet the GATS
remains shadowy and little discussed, though its implications are huge,
both for the public services and for our whole way of life.(4)
One important issue requiring clarification is how likely it is, in fact,
that private companies would move into the public sector. Those in support
of GATS argue that GATS merely means that the public sector must open up
its services to different suppliers, and it does not follow necessarily
that this will result in private companies becoming the main supplier.
This, I suspect, is where the debate might start to lead. Although Lord
Newby argued that public services are not covered under the GATS, I doubt
that other people in positions of power and influence and who actually
support the GATS would necessarily try to argue this position any more.
However, the argument about different suppliers is a powerful one,
initially. The new suppliers could be voluntary organisations, trusts,
charities etc. (and not full-blooded private companies, as such). On the
same day as the You and Yours programme I read an article in The Guardian,
which said that Tony Blair was looking into the possibility of the
voluntary sector having more involvement in our public services. As Patrick
Winter reported in The Guardian on 17th October,(5) Tony Blair spoke at the
British Library on October 16th saying that:
In developing a greater choice of provider, the private and voluntary
sectors can play a role. Contrary to myth, no one has ever suggested they
are the answer, or that they should replace the public services. But where
greater use of them can improve public services, nothing should stand in
the way. If primary care trusts, or regional health directors, want to use
private sector capacity or do innovative deals with private or voluntary
sectors to help patients, they should be free to do so. Or if schools want
a new relationship with business in their community, as many do, let them.
By these means, it could be argued that Alex Nunn and myself are just scare
mongering, with our emphasis on a private sector take-over of libraries and
education. But this scenario paves the way for the private sector.
Voluntary organisations, trusts and charities can easily change their
nature and become private companies, if this was thought to be a better
option at a later date, once economies of scale could be attained as
increasing numbers of schools, universities, libraries and hospitals were
moving out of direct public control. The central point remains; in essence,
public services would no longer belong to the people.
Many more examples of the beginnings of privatisation in the public
services, or at the very least, the opening up of public services to the
GATS agenda, need to be highlighted and brought to the attention of the
It is interesting to note that Tony Blair's speech about the future of our
public services, which he presented at the British Library, was given the
day before the You and Yours programme went on the air. That libraries are
facing particular pressures from the privatisation process under Best Value
was perhaps linked to the choice of venue for Blairs speech. The speech
was also reported by Paul Eastham in the Daily Mail on 17th October,(7)
where he noted that:
Mr Blair said he was convinced the public could be persuaded to pay for
better hospitals, schools and public transport.
Eastham also noted that Blair's speech, which addressed an audience that
included nurses and teachers, policemen and firemen, included a section
about how we are to pay for our modernised public services in the future:
The issue is how do they pay? Do they buy the services themselves or do
they pay collectively through taxation?
The water was being tested: pay up front or higher taxes for the public
services? Of course, the situation is oversimplified by the Prime Minister,
as there is a third way, a form of privatisation where corporate capital
runs libraries to contract (as is happening with schools and hospitals)
that allows room for profit. This means that public services will need to
include scope for profit making when they are contracted out to the private
sector, at extra cost to the taxpayer.
Richard Caborns earlier point about how the GATS links to all this is
important. He implies that the current privatisations cannot be blamed on
the GATS. We must conclude from his analysis that the Government has a
positive mission to privatise public services, making the GATS irrelevant.
Yet this analysis would be superficial too. Mechanisms such as PFI, Best
Value and contracting out public services to the private sector are
national responses to the transnational opening up of the public services
internationally, as required through GATS. It is in making this sort of
connection that the commercialisation and privatisation of the public
services jigsaw begins to take shape and make sense. And this is how my PFI
example fits into the overall picture. It is not just the case of a one-off
situation where a private company is benevolently assisting a local
authority in the provision of a new central library and IT facilities.
Rather, it is a necessary consequence of the international liberalisation
of trade in services. It is an aspect of the GATS coming home to our
public libraries and other services.
The issues discussed here, and others focusing on the effects of the GATS
on libraries and information, will be explored in the next issue of the
journal Information for Social Change, coming out in January 2001 on the
theme of Globalisation and Information for which I am the editor.
Writers in the issue will include Clare Joy (Campaigner for the World
Development Movement), Alex Nunn, Shiraz Durrani (a librarian/information
professional and member of Information for Social Change), Shahrzad Mojab
(University of Toronto) and Fiona Hunt (Progressive Librarians Guild).
Further details on the Special Issue of Information for Social Change on
Globalisation and Information can be obtained from John Pateman at
john.pateman[at]merton.gov.uk or from myself at rikowski.uk[at]tinyworld.co.uk.
Copies of the full tape transcription of the radio programme (transcribed
by Glenn Rikowski and myself) can also be obtained from me.
Notes and References
General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) (Annex 1B). See:
Angela Watson (2001) Best Returns: Best Value Guidance for Library
Authorities in England, 2nd Edition, July, p.8, at:
Richard Sibthorpe (2001) A new path to follow, Library Association
Record, April, vol.103 no.4, pp.236-237
See Dexter Whitfields (2001) book on Public Services or Corporate
Welfare (London: Pluto Press).
Patrick Wintour (2001) Blair hints at tax rises to lift public
services, The Guardian, 17th October, p.15.
George Monbiot (2000) The Captive State: the Corporate Takeover of
Britain (London: Macmillan). On the WTO and education, see Glenn Rikowskis
(2001) The Battle in Seattle: Its significance for education (London:
Tufnell Press), and Richard Hatcher (2001) Getting down to business:
schooling in the globalised economy in Education and Social Justice,
spring, vol.3 no.2, pp.45-59.
Paul Eastham (2001) Blair hints taxes may rise to boost public
services, Daily Mail, 17th October, p.4.
© Ruth Rikowski, Managing Information, vol.8 no.10, pp.8-10, December 2001
8. Libraries of the Future, according to kids
9. Library cats across the nation....
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