Library Juice 7:19 - September 10th, 2004


1. Links....
2. Clark Atlanta University SLIS Student Activism
3. Get involved with ALA-APA!
4. Downs Award Nomination Deadline
5. Letter on major proposed FOIA exemption
6. Public Libraries: Mission and Practice

Quote for the week:

"For aesthetics is the mother of ethics... Were we to choose our leaders on
the basis of their reading experience and not their political programs,
there would be much less grief on earth. I believe-not empirically, alas,
but only theoretically-that for someone who has read a lot of Dickens to
shoot his like in the name of an idea is harder than for someone who has
read no Dickens."
-Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born American poet

Homepage of the week: Luciano Floridi

Editor's note

I am in the process of moving from Sacramento, California to Duluth,
Minnesota. By the time the next issue is due to come out, I should be
moving into my new digs in Duluth. That issue may be delayed.

For my new address, see the post-script at the end of this issue.

Rory Litwin


1. Links....


New on the server:

Information for Social Change No. 19, Summer 2004

This issue has a dozen articles; each is online.

The whole issue is also available as a PDF file.


Library Values in a Changing World
ALA President Michael Gorman's keynote address at the Canadian
Library Association Annual Conference this June (Windows Media Format)

[ from Michael Gorman ]


Letter from House and Senate Judiciary Committees to John Ashcroft,
inquiring as to why he requested that those gov docs be destroyed, dated
August 24th.



Information Access Alliance

The Information Access Alliance believes that a new standard of antitrust
review should be adopted by state and federal antitrust enforcement
agencies in examining merger transactions in the serials publishing
industry. When reviewing proposed mergers, antitrust authorities should
consider the decision-making process used by libraries - the primary
customers of STM and legal serial publications - to make purchasing
decisions. Only then will these mergers be subjected to the degree of
scrutiny they deserve and adequate access be preserved.

[ found surfing ]


State high court favors Dallas paper in libel suit
Story on arrest of girl is ruled to be parody, not defamatory
Associated Press

[ found surfing ]


Open to All? The Public Library and Social Exclusion
Volume 1: Overview and Conclusions
Published by The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, UK

[ sent by Shiraz Durrani to the PLG list ]


Bonfire of the Humanities
by Lindsay Waters
A legendary editor at Harvard University Press asks, What good are books?
August 30th, 2004 3:25 PM

[ from Jim Dwyer ]


Lawsuit meant to help humanity is impacting negatively on the humanities
(about the CD-dumping lawsuit settlement)
Andrei Codrescu
Jewish World Review August 31, 2004 / 15 Elul, 5764

[ from Rochelle Hartman to the ALA Council list ]


Pentagon Censors 'Right to Know' Video
By TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer
Sept. 1st, 2004

[ From Declan McCullagh to the Politech list ]


by Sharon McQueen
A Jabberwocky parody with an Intellectual Freedom slant.

[ found surfing ]


Book Sense Picks BBW 2004

Independent booksellers with Book Sense have created this list of ten
banned books in support of Banned Books Week: Celebrate the Freedom to

[ from Don Wood to ALA Member Forum ]


Introduction to Public Librarianship
By Kathleen de la Peña McCook
1-55570-475-1 . 2004 . 6 x 9 . 406 pp.


Bookmobiles, the village kitaabwala
Rajiv Theodore | August 16, 2004

[ sent by Shiraz Durrani to the PLG list ]


Supporting the Intellectual Life of a Democratic Society
Philip E. Agre
Ethics and Information Technology 3(4), 2001, pages 289-298.

[ found surfing ]

2. Clark Atlanta University SLIS Student Activism

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 8 Sep 2004 19:00:20 -0400

----- Original Message -----

From: "Akilah S. Nosakhere" <akilah[at]>

At the Clark Atlanta University Rally this morning, library school
supporters wore well designed placards held in place with red string
over their casual and business suits. And yes, we meant business this
morning as we cheerfully worked the crowd distributing over 700 flyers
to students, faculty, administrators and visitors on the CAU campus
today for the dedication of the Carl and Mary Ware classroom building
on the CAU campus. We had hoped to be joined by CAU students from other
schools and departments slated for closure in May 2005 but their leaders
decided to re-schedule the planned press conference and demonstration
until next Monday, September 13 as not to appear confrontational or
compete with the building dedication.

The Coalition of Metropolitan Atlanta Concerned Citizens (COMACC), the
original organizer of this rally on this day stepped back from their
original plan because they did not want to distract from this special
day for "Carl Ware and his family." I was also informed that COMACC was
concerned that student participants may be subject to retaliation for
their role in the demonstration at this important ribbon cutting ceremony
so late Monday night they opted out of the demonstration.

In essence, COMACC did not want to rain on Care Ware's parade. To that I
say: The SLIS supporters did not rain on Carl Ware's special day, Mother
Nature did. Nevertheless, SLIS supporters were very respectfully and we
smiled sincerely as pressed our case among the Atlanta dignitaries in

Today, SLIS students, alumni and supporters today took a bold--yet
dignified step forward to publicly show our determination to keep the
school open. I think they were surprised to see librarians demonostrating;
thinking that we had accepted the fate of the CAU SLIS.

Our presence was evidence that this is not the case and we are now in the
public arena making our concerns known. SLIS students and supporters are
determined to be seen and heard by CAU President Broadnax and the Board of
Trustees. We will do whatever we can to save our beloved school. Again, I
thank all of you who came out this dreary and wet morning. I think we made
a strong impact. Keep the Faith!

Akilah Nosakhere

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 9 Sep 2004 13:01:18 -0400
----- Original Message -----

From: "Akilah S. Nosakhere" akilah[at]

Here is the flyer I meant to attach...


1. The CAU School of Library and Information Studies is the only ALA
(American Library Association) accredited program in the state of Georgia.

2. The CAU School was established in 1941 primarily to educate African-
American librarians for a segregated national library system. To this very
day, graduates of the CAU library program have established school libraries
and continue to teach information literacy skills to all Americans of all
ages in public and academic libraries.

3. The CAU School of Library and Information Studies had experienced a
70% growth in enrollment during FY 2002 and expected additional increase
prior to the unfortunate and uninformed decision by the CAU Board of
Directors to close the program in May 2005.

4. The CAU School of Library and Information Studies is capable of
supporting itself. Today, there are many grant and investment opportunities
available to fund digital librarianship, minority librarianship, and
program infrastructure development needed to improve instruction and the
technological capacity of the library school program. These efforts can
supplement funds received from current sources, including alumni support.

5. The CAU School of Library and Information Studies must be given an
opportunity to transform and further develop its program to maintain the
production of quality librarians. Alumni, along with national and
international supporters are poised and ready to provide pledges of a
minimum of $1 million to ensure the growth of the historic library school
in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

6. The CAU School of Library and Information Studies has a unique
opportunity to build its program and produce librarians to fill the coming
librarian shortage predicted to occur within the next ten years as many
librarians reach retirement age.

7. To close the CAU School of Library and Information Studies is to
contribute to the decline of literacy rates and reading in the African-
American communities, in particular, and the entire American society,
in general.

8. The mission of the CAU School of Library and Information Studies is to
continue educating library and information professionals who are culturally
diverse and able to serve successfully in libraries and information centers
throughout the world.

9. In this global society, librarians play an increasingly important role
in the promotion of information literacy in higher education and general
society; we can not afford to lose another library school.

10. We, the students and alumni of the CAU/AU historic School of Library
and Information respectfully request that the Clark Atlanta University
Board of Directors reevaluate their decision to close the library school
in light of these and other findings regarding the increasing need for
librarians, the financial stability of the library school and the strong
fundraising capabilities of the library in conjunction with its Alumni
and international supporters.

Thank you,

Colin Dube,
Representative of the current class of SLIS students
September 9, 2004
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
--Martin Luther King, Jr.


3. Get involved with ALA-APA!

From: "Jenifer Grady" <jgrady[at]>
To: <libsup-l[at]>
CC: <moneytalks[at]>
Date: 09/01/04 01:16 pm

It was brought to my attention that the ALA-APA site doesn't make it
clear how you can get involved. I'll be remedying that by adding the
following to the site soon:


1. Sign up for membership on of the subcommittees of the Standing
Committee on the Salaries and Status of Library Workers (send emails to
2. Subscribe to the newsletter, Library Worklife: HR E-News for Today's
3. Write for Library Worklife:
4. Download the Better Salaries and Pay Equity Toolkit and find ways to
use it in your library to improve salaries:
5. Donate to ALA-APA - a complimentary copy of the advocacy video
"Working [at] Your Library: For Love or Money" will be sent to donors
giving $25.00 or more. ALA-APA has no members and depends on your
6. Celebrate National Library Workers Day - the Tuesday of National
Library Week:
7. Subscribe to either the MoneyTalks or Union electronic discussion
8. Attend ALA-APA meetings and programs at ALA Midwinter and Annual
9. Learn the facts and initiate discussions about improving salaries,
pay equity, and certification with your colleagues, managers, trustees,
and others:
10. Spread the word!

Jenifer Grady, MSLS, MBA
Director, ALA-Allied Professional Association
American Library Association
50 E. Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611
800-545-2433, x-2424
Library Worklife newsletter

4. Downs Award Nomination Deadline

November 1, 2004 is the Deadline for the 2004 Robert B. Downs Intellectual
Freedom Award Nominations

Champaign, IL--The Graduate School of Library and Information Science
(GSLIS) at the University of Illinois seeks nominations for the Robert B.
Downs Intellectual Freedom Award. Given annually, the award acknowledges
individuals or groups who have furthered the cause of intellectual
freedom, particularly as it impacts libraries and information centers and
the dissemination of ideas. Granted to those who have resisted censorship
or efforts to abridge the freedom of individuals to read or view materials
of their choice, the award may be in recognition of a particular action or
long-term interest in, and dedication to, the cause of intellectual

The Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award was established in 1969 by
the GSLIS faculty to honor Dean Emeritus Downs, a champion of intellectual
freedom, on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as director of the
School. Previous winners have included June Pinnell-Stephens, Collections
Services Manager for Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Library,
Fairbanks, Alaska, and Mainstream Montgomery County, a Montgomery County
Texas organization (2003); retired librarian Zoia Horn and Ginnie Cooper
and the Multnomah County Library Board of Trustees (Portland, Oregon)
(2002); high school librarian Deloris Wilson and the Electronic Frontier
Foundation (2001); Nancy Garden, young adult author, and Bennett Haselton,
creator of (2000); Ann Symons, librarian at Juneau Douglas
High School in Alaska and immediate past president of the American Library
Association (1999); Mainstream Loudoun, for the group's commitment to
defending the right to access information on the internet at Loudoun
County (VA) Public Library (1998).

Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., Westport, Connecticut, provides the
honorarium to the recipient and co-hosts the reception in honor of the
recipient. The reception and award ceremony for the 2004 Downs
Intellectual Freedom Award will take place in January 2005 during the
American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting in Boston.

Letters of nomination and documentation about the nominee should be sent
by e-mail to unsworth[at] with a copy to weech[at] or in paper
form to John Unsworth, Dean, GSLIS, 501 E. Daniel Street, Champaign, IL
61820 before November 1, 2004. Questions should be directed to Terry Weech
at weech[at]; More information about the award is available at

5. Letter on major proposed FOIA exemption

Subject: Fwd: sign on letter re FOIA exemption
Date: Wed, 08 Sep 2004 16:50:27 -0500
From: Patrice McDermott <pmcdermott[at]>

A huge FOIA exemption (exception?) is proposed in an amendment to the
National Defense Authorization Act of 2005, which has already passed in
the Senate (S. 2400).

The letter below will be sent to the House and Senate conferees. Right
now it is only addressed to the Chair of the House Armed Services
Committee, but we will send it out to the relevant parties as soon as we
have all the names.

This bill is likely to be in conference early next week, so we plan to
have the letter on the Hill on Friday. The deadline for signing on to
the letter is COB (5 pm EDT) tomorrow, 9 September. Please send name,
title, org to pmcdermott[at] I apologize for the short time

Patrice McDermott

Dear Chairman Hunter:
The undersigned organizations and individuals write, in anticipation of
the House and Senate conference on the National Defense Authorization
Act for FY 2005, to express our serious concerns with Section 1034,
"Nondisclosure of Certain Products of Commercial Satellite Operations,"
as included in S. 2400.

Section 1034 would exempt from the Freedom of Information Act "data that
are collected by land remote sensing and are prohibited from sale to
customers other than the United States and its affiliated users under
the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992." Under the bill's terms,
important non-confidential commercial satellite imagery, which the
government has purchased, would be exempt from disclosure to the public.
The exemption would apply not only to commercial satellite images
acquired by the government, but would also broadly exclude from public
access "any... other product that is derived from such data." Thus,
maps, reports, and any other non-classified government analyses or
communications that are in some way "derived from" a commercial
satellite image would become inaccessible through FOIA. Indeed, even if
the government wishes to release such information, the bill may preclude
its ability to do so.

Moreover, the legislation would preempt state and local laws mandating
disclosure by a state or local government. Again, this would extend to
all imagery or imagery-derived information.

The fact that this information is licensed to the government is not a
legitimate reason for its exemption from FOIA. Federal agencies use
licensed and/or purchased imagery in regulatory proceedings and numerous
other mandated activities. The public requires access to this imagery in
order to participate in these proceedings and importantly, to be
informed about the activities of Government. Without access to this
information, members of the public are unable to effectively participate
in governmental activities that affect their daily lives. As noted in
the recent National Research Council report, Licensing Geographic Data
and Services: "When geographic data are used to design or administer
regulatory schemes or formulate policy, affect the rights and
obligations of citizens, or have likely value for the broader society as
indicated by a legislative or regulatory mandate, the agency should
evaluate whether the data should be acquired under terms that permit
unlimited public access or whether more limited access may suffice to
support the agency's mandates and missions and the agency's actions in
judicial and other review." (page 229,
prepublication version)

Senate Report. 108-260 notes that disclosure of such information through
FOIA "may damage the national security by mandating disclosure to the
general public upon request," and notes the desire of the government to
not classify such information in order to share it quickly when needed.
We are concerned, however, that this provision would further the
extraordinary grants of authority by Congress to the Executive Branch,
allowing it to preclude any possibility of public access to unclassified
material without appropriate congressional or judicial oversight.

Indeed, the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992 notes that "The
continuous collection and utilization of land remote sensing data from
space are of major benefit in studying and understanding human impacts
on the global environment, in managing the Earth's natural resources, in
carrying out national security functions, and in planning and conducting
many other activities of scientific, economic, and social importance;"
and that "the Nation's broad civilian, national security, commercial,
and foreign policy interests in remote sensing will best be served by
ensuring that Landsat remains an unclassified program that operates
according to the principles of open skies and nondiscriminatory access."
Moreover, it notes that "It is in the best interest of the United States
to maintain a permanent, comprehensive Government archive of global
Landsat and other land remote sensing data for long-term monitoring and
study of the changing global environment," an interest that will be h!
armed by this provision.

We urge Congress, instead of taking this precipitous step, to follow the
recommendations of the RAND National Defense Research Institute in its
report prepared for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Mapping
the Risks: Assessing the Homeland Security Implications of Publicly
Available Geospatial Information. The report recommends that federal
agencies and other organizations use an analytical process to assess the
potential homeland security sensitivity of specific pieces of publicly
available geospatial information and to determine if restricting access
to these specific pieces would enhance security. They recommend that
such a process include analysis of the usefulness of the information to
an attacker; its uniqueness; and the expected societal benefits of
access and the costs of restricting the information.

We are also concerned with other justifications in the Report language.
The bill defines ``land remote sensing information'' as "data that are
collected by land remote sensing and are prohibited from sale to
customers other than the United States and its affiliated users under
the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992." The Report notes that,
"Compelled release of such data and imagery by the United States under
FOIA defeats the purpose of these licensing agreements [and] removes any
profit motive*" Confidential business information and trade secrets are
already adequately protected under FOIA and copyrighted information
under other laws and regulations. Protecting a profit motive is an
entirely inappropriate reason for creating yet another exceptionally
broad exemption to the FOIA. Indeed, an amendment restricting
information from public release under the FOIA unfairly restricts public
and business use of this information, which has significant and broad
application in farming and resources industries, science and technology.
In providing a restriction on behalf of one specific interest, Congress
appears to neglect the broad economic and social benefit of such information.

The Freedom of Information Act is intended to be a tool for protecting
and enhancing, the public's access to their government. Exemptions to it
should only occur after wide public consultation and discussion, which
has not occurred with this provision. We urge the conferees to drop
Section 1034.


Patrice McDermott
Deputy Director, Office of Government Relations
American Library Association

Steven Aftergood
Project Director
Federation of American Scientists

Meredith Fuchs
General Counsel
National Security Archive

Terry Francke
General Counsel
Californians Aware

Barbara A. Petersen
First Amendment Foundation

David Bahr
Founder & Staff Attorney

Prue Adler
Associate Executive Director
Federal Relations & Information Policy
Association of Research Libraries

Danielle Brian
Executive Director
Project On Government Oversight

Kevin Goldberg
General Counsel
American Society of Newspaper Editors

Carolyn Raffensperger
Executive Director
Science and Environmental Health Network

Sean Moulton
Senior Policy Analyst

Lucy A. Dalglish
Executive Director
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

S. Elizabeth Birnbaum
Vice President for Government Affairs
American Rivers

Edward Hammond
The Sunshine Project

Scott Armstrong
Information Trust

Susan E. Kegley
Senior Scientist
Pesticide Action Network

Laura W. Murphy
Director, Washington Legislative Office
American Civil Liberties Union

Betsy Loyless
Vice President for Policy
League of Conservation Voters

Peter Weitzel
Coalition of Journalists for Open Government

Greg Watchman
Executive Director
Government Accountability Project

Douglas Newcomb,
Director, Public Policy
Special Libraries Association

Lynnell Burkett
National Conference of Editorial Writers (NCEW)

Charles N. Davis
Executive Director
University of Missouri Freedom of Information Center

Mary Alice Baish
Associate Washington Affairs Rep.
American Association of Law Libraries

Gary Cohen
Executive Director
Environmental Health Fund

Christopher Finan
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression

Patricia S. Schroeder
President and Chief Executive Officer
Association of American Publishers.

William Ferroggiaro
Writer and Consultant
Washington, D.C.

Susan Doran
Knowledge Management Consulting

Dave Jackson
The Sleep-e Times

6. Public Libraries: Mission and Practice

Cynthia Maxey

May, 2004

Written for LIS 60612: Library Materials and Services for Adults
Kent State University School of Library and Information Science

Basic to any decisions about the materials and services provided by a
public library is the debate over the very purpose of the library. When
the Boston Public Library opened its tax-supported doors in 1852, its
charter was clear: to complete the educational task begun by schools and
universities by providing good books to the public. Librarians were to
educate the public taste in reading in order to develop citizens for
democracy. Today, many librarians reject that mission in favor of a more
customer-driven purpose: provide for the public what they want and only
what they want, just as the market does. Educating taste or directing
reading (even promoting reading over listening, viewing and clicking) is
perceived as an elitist pursuit, the slightly embarrassing heritage of
our profession. I will examine these two very different perceptions of
our mission for their implications for democracy, for our survival and
prosperity as an institution and for our profession itself.

While the public library was born in 1852, it was conceived in the Era of
Enlightenment, perhaps first put into words by Thomas Jefferson who held
that democracy was dependent on an informed and enlightened citizenry.
He wrote, in 1809,

The people of every country are the only safe guardians of their own
rights, and are the only instruments which can be used for their
destruction. And certainly they would never consent to be so used were
they not deceived. To avoid this they should be instructed to a certain
degree. I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at
small expense than the establishment of a small circulating library in
every county, to consist of a few well-chosen books, to be lent to the
people of the country under such regulations as would secure their safe
return in due time. These should be such as would give them a general
view of other history, and a particular view of that of their own
country, a tolerable knowledge of geography, the elements of Nature,
Philosophy, of Agriculture and Mechanics. (Cited in McCabe, p.30).

Given Jefferson's contention that the reading of good books instructs
people against deception, it is interesting to consider the relationship
of present-day American reading habits, or lack thereof, to the recent
survey results which indicate that most Americans believe that weapons of
mass destruction have been found in Iraq and that Saddam Hussein was
responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Jefferson's young friend George Ticknor was the primary author of the
request of the Boston Public Library Trustees to the Boston City Council
requesting tax support for the library, arguing

[I]t has been rightly judged that, -under political, social and religious
institutions like ours, - it is of paramount importance that the means of
general information should be so diffused that the largest possible
number of persons should be induced to read and understand questions
going down to the very foundations of social order, which are constantly
presenting themselves, and which we, as a people, are constantly required
to decide, and do decide, either ignorantly or wisely. (McCabe, p.29)

This is not an elitist vision. The trustees were concerned for the library
to reach out to all sectors of the community, but especially to the poor.
It was a mission of inclusion. It's also significant that this "library
mission statement" uses the word "induce" and speaks of "social order"
and "questions we, as a people, are constantly required to decide." The
education to be afforded by the library is not a matter of personal
choice or for personal gain or amusement; it has a public purpose and is
even obligatory on citizens.

This may be a different definition of democracy than is commonly used
today. I would like to someday conduct a survey, perhaps of library
members or students at a university, on how they define democracy. I
suspect that most Americans today would define democracy as personal
freedom or majority rule. As used by some public officials, the word
seems to be interchangeable with "free market." To the Enlightenment
thinkers, democracy means something more like self-rule, not primarily of
individuals but of societies. It necessitates civic engagement and is
exemplified by the New England town meeting rather than a modern
presidential election.

Another way of defining the democracy envisioned by the Founders and
extended by the best Enlightenment thinkers to follow such as Lucretia
Mott, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez is a community of people
deliberating with one another to decide how to structure their common
life. This requires knowledge, skills and certain habits of the mind. As
citizens in a democracy we need to know where we've come from ("a general
view of other history, and a particular view of that of their own
country"), an understanding of the environment we're living in ("a
tolerable knowledge of geography, the elements of Nature"), an
understanding of cultures and values ("Philosophy" -- known today as the
humanities and social sciences), and an understanding of technology
("Agriculture and Mechanics"). We need to develop the skills of
listening, speaking and writing articulately, of discernment and
cooperation. We require the habits of reflection, empathy, humility and
learning itself.

Writer Earl Shorris traveled the country speaking to poor people (which he
defines as those who identify themselves as poor or who are attached to
institutions for the poor) to find out what poverty is, what perpetuates
it and what it takes to overcome it. After observing the lives of many
poor people and listening to people describe their lives, Shorris
concluded that poor people live in a "surround of force" - violence,
depression, crisis, prejudice, etc .- that effectively prevents forward
movement. As soon as someone makes progress in some area, they are hit
from another. Life becomes a matter of survival and there is no space for
any response but instinctual reaction. Shorris believes the only way out
of this surround is through politics, by which he means the ability to
organize one's life in community (perhaps as small a community as a
single family or a few roommates). And the only way to "do politics" is
by developing the ability to reflect and choose and carry through. And
the means to do this is by studying the humanities. Shorris states that
the poor have only been dangerous to the status quo once in American
history - in the Civil Rights Movement - and this happened because people
had spent lifetimes studying the humanities through one text: the King
James Bible. This had been enough for them to reflect on their common
life, to choose a path for change and to walk that path through all the
repression the white establishment threw at them.

To test his theory, Shorris developed the rigorous Clemente Course in the
Humanities, taught by scholars and limited to people living below 150
percent of the poverty line. Some of his students were homeless, few had
graduated from high school, all lived within the "surround". When Shorris
recruited and interviewed the students, he told them, "You have been
cheated. The humanities have been reserved for the elite in this country.
But I think you are the elite; the humanities are for you." (Shorris,
2000). They studied philosophy, literature, art, history and logic. They
read, wrote and deliberated. Pre and post-evaluations determined that
students had improved substantially on recognized measures of
self-esteem, problem definition and formulation, increased values of
benevolence, universality, spirituality and collectivism and had
decreased in verbal aggression. A number of his students were able to
enter four year colleges or showed other evidence of having broken the
"surround". Shorris concludes in his book New American Blues: a journey
through poverty to democracy, that the humanities are the road to real
social change for the poor (Shorris, 1997).

Shorris has gone on to offer this course throughout the nation in English,
Maya, Yupik, Kiowa and Spanish. In an article in American Libraries in
May 2000, he says, "In the course of this course, the students will,
inevitably, become more familiar with one of the greatest resources
available to them almost everywhere, and always free: the public library.
There is no question that when they finish the course, they'll be ready
for the library. Will the library be ready for them?" He goes on to
suggest that public libraries become involved in spreading the Clemente

The one argument I have with Shorris is that he overlooks the fact that it
is not just the poor who have been denied the humanities, who have been
denied legitimate power through mis-education. The Boston Public Library
Trustees saw this education for democracy as the mission of both the
schools and the public library. Today, few public schools (almost none of
them in working class communities) and public libraries understand this
to be their mission. Public schools largely focus on teaching students
how to earn their bread and libraries provide the circuses. I believe
this abandonment of public mission in favor of "customer-driven"
librarianship is the real elitism as it prepares the ground for
demogagory and plutocracy.

In contrast to a traditional public purpose, a philosophy of
customer-driven librarianship has become prevalent since the 1980s. This
model, called "libertarian librarianship" by Ronald McCabe, seeks to
imitate the market, giving "customers" what they want, when they want it
and in the form that they want it. Books and other services not in demand
are not selected or kept in the collection while materials desired by the
"customer-base" are selected without regard to quality. Efficiencies are
sought and success is determined by quantifiable goals such as
circulation or web page hits rather than contribution to the public good.
The library functions like a business, meeting but not informing customer

A frequent justification for this libertarian model is that by meeting
customer-demand for popular materials, libraries can improve their
chances of winning levies. Besides the problem of circular reasoning here
(meet customer-demand to increase funding to meet customer-demand to
increase funding to what end?), this may very well not work. It appears
that many of the citizens who vote for library levies never use the
library themselves. They don't tax themselves because they want a "free"
source of books they could buy in the check-out line at the supermarket
or videos they could rent from Blockbusters. They tax themselves because
they value the library's educational purpose and service to the
community. If the library is not serving a public purpose, why should
the public support it?

In the twenty-first century, we are surrounded and even inundated with
information, perhaps beyond our best interests. Most of this information
comes at us from the commercial media which focus on the sensational and
easy because this is what sells. The novel, the challenging and the
controversial are eliminated from the mainstream, not because of any
intention to censor but because they are not marketable. It is only
libraries that can afford to promote these more challenging materials.
When libraries abandon this mission to compete with the entertainment
industry, these voices are lost to the public debate. Judith McPherson
decries the tendency of modern public libraries to promote rather than
fight "the rampant anti-intellectualism of American life." She says,
To abandon that effort [to promote intellectual inquiry], even when it
seems most difficult, is not to cheer for democracy and equality, but to
pave the way for a more complete totalitarianism. If democracy is defined
as reducing human capabilities to the degree that we are all zombies, and
therefore equal, then it is not worth having. If, instead, it is defined
as the shared encouragement and development of the best of human
potential, equally and for all, then it is not only worth having, but is
the only thing worth having. (Cited in Hafner and Sterling-Folker, p. 27)

When public libraries abandon this effort, they short-change individuals
and communities.

The conflict between civic and libertarian models of librarianship has
grave implications for the issue of the professionalism of librarians. A
profession is an essentially altruistic occupation with a coherent theory
and practitioners who use skill and judgment to apply that theory to
specific cases. What is the justification for librarianship as a
profession requiring masters - level preparation and deserving
professional- level pay?

If librarians are to stock and circulate materials based only on popular
demand and locate (whatever) information for "customers", it is unclear
why this requires a masters degree. Very similar work is done in chain
bookstores by recent, and poorly paid, college graduates. A business
degree might be better preparation for administering a library
efficiently in this model.

Libertarian librarianship might point to its commitment to intellectual
freedom as a professional value, but, as noted above, this is only to the
extent that any major retailer might defend its right to sell whatever
products customers are willing to pay for (or be taxed for). This model
does not promote the collection and promotion of materials that are not
particularly popular.

Civic librarianship, on the other hand, does have a coherent theory and
does rely on professional skill and judgment. It is a theory of democracy
and a belief in the necessity of the education of all citizens in order
to achieve it. Civic librarianship requires a broad knowledge of the
world, a specific knowledge of one's own community and the skills and
habits of the mind necessary to civic engagement. These librarians
unapologetically use professional skill and judgment to assess, select
and promote the best and most meaningful materials and to provide
services that build up their community and encourage the active
participation of all its citizens.

Before a library can make decisions about the materials and services it
will provide, it must make a more basic decision about its purpose. The
civic and libertarian models provide a real contrast in purposes. I
believe the civic tradition is the more professional, more deserving of
the public's support and more useful to a democratic society.

Works Cited

McCabe, Ronald B. Civic Librarianship: renewing the social mission of the
public library. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2001.

McPherson, Judith, "A Critique of the Progressive Public Library Movement
in America," Cited in "Democratic Ideals and the American Public Library"
by Arthur W. Hafner and Jennifer Sterling-Folker, Democracy and the
Public Library: essays On fundamental issues, Arthur W. Hafner, editor.
Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1993.

Shorris, Earl, New American Blues: a journey through poverty to democracy.
NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.

Shorris, Earl, "Promoting the Humanities, Or: How to Make the Poor
Dangerous," American Libraries, May 2000, pp. 46- 48.


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