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LIS 950: Libraries and community

The purpose of this seminar is to explore an important topic in library and information studies in depth — in all its intertwined historical, cultural, philosophical, and political aspects — through a graduate reading/discussion seminar. The topic varies each time the course is taught; this time around, we will focus on "libraries and community"

Monday, October 31, 2005

I wish that I hadn't

missed class last week. I wish that I could have heard how that last post came out to postmodernism=bad. Not that I disagree. One of the first plays that I worked on was "post modern" (this was how the director and playwright referred to it) and it was in the stock pavilion on campus. Yes, this is where the horses are kept. Certain characters from the Oresteia were involved, everyone was having sex with everyone (brothers sisters whathaveyou) and Hermione was played by a blow up doll, there was fire on stage and the real kicker was that some scenes involved members of the cast rolling around in that horse crap filled hay. Naked, if I remember correctly. So anyway, that's my two bits about post modernism, I think that I may have missed the point at the time. If there was one. It did give me a lot nightmares which the director was delighted to hear about and thought that he must be doing something right.

Sorry for such a long post off the subject, but as long as I'm there I have two book recommendations that are somewhat relevant, one is called Burning City by Ariel Dorfman and is about a personal messenger business that is created in response to e-mail -- to create a personal touch. The other is called So Yesterday by Scott Westerfield and is about cool hunters. While this might seem an out there recommendation, we've talked a few times about trends etc. and the whole philosophy of cool hunting has innovators at its pinnacle -- something that Jom mentioned in a previous post.

On this week's readings, I think that it's interesting thinking about the public sphere as originating with the family as it says in the Buschman entry. This seems sensible, but kind of pulls the idea away from librarianship. Libraries are not homes or families.

I'm also struck by the ability of these authors to condense someone's entire philosophy into two pages. Wow.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Thought since Friday's class


I finally understand the book!


Friday, October 28, 2005

Utne Reader article and Brooklyn librarian manifesto on our themes for this week

This summer the Utne Reader web site published a short article entitled Knowledge for Sale by Chris Dodge, which echoes many of Buschman's themes in a briefer more accessible style (ie. perhaps suitable for posting to SLIS-DISCUSS and getting reaction). Here's a slice:

Can libraries muster the political support they need to be funded adequately? Ralph Nader has called for federal library help, noting 'an aircraft carrier currently costs about $4 billion, while libraries currently receive about $110 million yearly.' One obstacle, writes library advocate Ed D'Angelo (www.blackcrow.us), is that policy makers increasingly view public libraries as 'an inessential social service for the unemployed, or even as frivolous entertainment.'

Local citizens, meanwhile, have voted to build new urban showcase libraries, structures that local leaders hope will revitalize downtown areas. The spectacular new Seattle Public Library designed by, among others, the firm of renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, is one example. Despite critical raves, the building seems made to awe and befuddle rather than function smoothly as a house of knowledge. Escalators go to the top floor but don't return from there, stairs are for emergency use only, and just three elevators serve 11 stories and a basement parking garage (costing as much as four dollars an hour). A bright and glassy new library in Salt Lake City has a mall-like foyer lined with shops selling coffee, sandwiches, and gifts. In Minneapolis a new central library with a 'green roof' is scheduled to open next year, following recent layoffs and reduced service at the branches. A number of other cities have new trophy libraries of their own.

One concern is that, in the name of giving people what they want, the new libraries of the future will be closer in spirit to amusement complexes -- centers offering corporate-sponsored 'edutainment' spectacles and tiered services to a paying clientele. In fact, some administrators have already embraced library partnerships with Starbucks, McDonald's, and other companies as 'creative' ways to make up public funding shortfalls. This trend should surprise no one. Libraries are increasingly modeled on big business and directed not by librarians but by executives who are apt to have read more management books than literature.

The reference to Brooklyn Public librarian Ed D'Angelo is from his manifesto where he also echoes Buschman (but does not cite him) in a lengthy piece entitled "Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library: How Postmodern Consumer Capitalism Threatens Democracy, Civil Education and the Public Good" (find it at http://www.blackcrow.us/index.htm):

Public libraries account for a miniscule portion of government expenditures and are the first to be cut when budgets fall short. Government policymakers view public libraries as a dispensable supplement to the public school system, an inessential social service for the unemployed, or even as frivolous entertainment at public expense. So why should we care if the barbarians crash the gates of the public library? Of what great significance to the state and its public would that be?

The answer is that government policymakers have missed the most important function of a public library, which is to promote and sustain the knowledge and values necessary for a democratic civilization. Conversely, the condition of public libraries may be taken as a litmus test for the state of democratic civilization. Any threat to the core values of a democratic civilization will be reflected in the state of our public libraries; and, any threat to our public libraries will weaken our democracy.

The main body of this work is occupied with an analysis of postmodern consumer capitalism and its effects on democratic civilization. We will find that postmodern consumer capitalism threatens the rational public sphere of discourse which is essential to a functional democracy. Postmodern consumer capitalism transforms discourse into a private consumer product and as such reduces knowledge to mere information or entertainment. But for the reasons given above I have framed my analysis of postmodern consumer capitalism with a discussion about the public library. The public library may be like the proverbial canary in the mine -- the first to go when the air is poisoned. It is uniquely positioned to feel the effects of a declining democratic civilization; and it is the first to go when knowledge gets reduced to information and entertainment.

Might be interesting to try to figure out where in the profession and in the press these sentiments are being expressed -- certainly Buschman is not the only one wrestling with these ideas. Is the common thread "neoliberalism," or consumerism, or shrinking funding for all aspects of local government? How should library professionals and advocates be framing these issues on a practical basis? Do all of these different views agree on the place and purpose of "the library" in modern global society?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Thoughts on Dismantling
I also found some difficulty at times distinguishing between when Buschman uses sources and when he uses his own voice which caused a lot of page-turning and some re-reading --talk about exercises for the brain! But seriously, I found Buschman to be verbose, but challenging, in thinking about libraries and their future. Especially interesting was a remark he made during a talk given in 2004, On Libraries and the Public Sphere. He said, "Aping business rhetoric and models doesn’t save libraries, it transforms them into something else. We’re a profession and an institution in crisis because we have a structural contradiction between our purposes and practices as they’ve historically evolved and our adaptation to the current environment."

My thoughts

Is it because reading in English is always difficult to me (even Harry Potter, well, sometimes) that I didn’t find the book particularly more difficult than the others? Actually, the book is kind of illuminating – it answers some questions that are always on my mind. The power of market and economy, the change of the many fields toward economy-driven, market-oriented ones, the missing of the traditional values and many others issues are just what are happening in my own country and what have been confusing me so much when I tried to think of some problems. My issue is not about the author’s sharp arguments which seem very convincing to me, but the future standpoint of our field which the author claims very idealistically. If people (in general, not the philosophers) are greatly influenced and adapting this new public philosophy, do we have the power to stand up against it? BTW, this is the only book that I finished well ahead of class so far :P

More thoughts

OK, I finished the first 7 chapters. So far, I think I can break this book down into the following points:

Public Sphere....GOOD


Business/Corporate Model....BAD

Library funding emphasis on technology....BAD

Library administrators....BAD

Customer-Driven Librarianship....BAD

ALA leadership....BAD

The Library Profession as a Whole....DOOMED!

Am I on the right track?


Public sphere, the press, and communication

How do you see these three interplay to one another? Also, how can libraries enter this arena?
I am also interested in the idea of democracy, and how equal access to information is brought to users by library especially in a diverse community.

Dismantling the Public Sphere

Examples from the book reflect stimulating issues especially in three related cores - economic, technology, and intellectual trends and values. The book is full of details and issues, and I cannot deny that I have a hard time trying to understand not only its skin but its body which dismantle the sphere for us to consider, and it is very useful.

To the perspective that technology has roles influencing decisions in librarianship and the profession globally, the book, to me, introduces interaction between technology, librarianship and public sphere. How do technology, library professions, services, users, and the sphere interplay with each other? The “SelfCheck System” by 3-M is a good example (p.139). Existing trend created by human mechanism in a so-called “public sphere” might be one factor that influences the technology industry in developing such equipment. Then, as a circle, it returns impacts to the profession, services, and the users. Librarians and staffs might ask whether they are “being replaced” by technology equipment or whether the technology maximize or minimize their work and productivities. We have this discussion about whether technology equipment will replace librarians, and one thing is that people interaction gives different senses and feelings that technology cannot replace. However, we are in the flow of changing trends that occur along with the development and implementation of technology as well as the needs and views of users. I think there are trends among us librarians that we want to keep whether or not they match with users' needs. So, does this have to do with the profession's philosophy? What comes to mind when libraries are considered a business corporate which involves issues like marketing, public relations, consumption, and budgeting?

Moreover, technology requires a large sum of fortune to invest, economic becomes an undeniable factor in this playground, and it can both limit and accelerate growth. I am wondering who could be actors in this realm for balancing the implementation of technology, and how can members in a community enact. Are the balancing and decision making acts be considered gate-keeping? Therefore, I am wondering who is the key holder(s) in the situation like this. When, why, and how will the key make changes? Does it all depend upon the key holder(s)?

I, personally, think of two people. One is an innovator, and the other is a facilitator. There are other people which might have a lot to do with the growing of the profession, but these two seem to come up when thinking about our class discussions and through the readings. In order to make something grow, I think we need both an innovator and a facilitator. They can also be those who make difference in solving the theoretically and intellectually thinness in library literature that appears as one of our major crisis culture (p.150).

I Don't Think You've Lost a Brain Cell

1.) It is somewhat disjointed and difficult to follow - - however, I actually liked the book very much. I think that his reliance on quotes is effective, although it does interrupt the flow of the text. He is building a case and substantiating his case with a myriad of arguments from within and LARGELY outside the library profession. However verbose and (confusing) his prose may be, he does illuminate the critical point (s) of his argument rather well, i.e., . . . it is the vision of a library democratically connected to its community . . . engaging it in a rational dialog about what it should be in light of democratic public purposes, and the need to provide alternatives and alternative spaces in a culture dominated by information capitalism and media image and spectacle. It is a the core responsibility of librarianship in a democracy. (180)

I don't think he fails in building a case for this . . . he just makes it hard to follow.

2.) I read Bridget's comments on technology shortly after finishing the book. I think that he is taking a very narrow approach to discussing technology and his vision of the library. So much of his arguments are based on the premise of technology or information as being something that is consumed. In other words, that library patrons in the new public philosophy are no longer considered citizens -- rather consumers. I think that the vision should reflect what the capabilities of new technologies afford patrons and see them not only as consumers -- but also as producers. It is not a one-way stream and this seems like a terrible oversight on Buschman's part. Any vision of the library in an IT dominated future needs to account for the idea of patrons as both.

I was wondering....

Have I lost brain cells? Or, is this book extremely hard to understand? Other than "public sphere," I don't know what this author is taking about! He is very verbose! This may be the first book I do not finish before class. Am I the only one stressing here, or are there others struggling with this book?


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Let The Complaining Begin!

First, to comment on Bridget's observation of Buschman's use of citations:

Stylistically, I don't think that he is doing a good job of integrating his source material with his own ideas. This is probably Katy as Compositionist coming out here, but it isn't always clear in Buschman's writing to whom certain ideas are attributed. This can lead to the illusion that some ideas/approaches are actually coming from him rather than those sources. It also means that when he is discussing multiple theorists, it becomes difficult to discern which author he is actually referencing. As a reader, I shouldn't have to keep flipping back to the endnotes to determine this. Also, I think that too often he lets others (those he references) speak for him. And he also isn't very critical of the sources he favors - more about that in my next point.


I want to preface this complaint by stating that it is NOT a defense of some of the extremes of post-modernism, but....

Why is it that when Buschman discusses the 'evils' of post-modernsim that he uses some of the most extreme examples of this type of thought? And, when he discusses Habermas, he says that we can't do what he is doing to post-modernists - he tells us that we need to consider x and y, despite z. Isn't this a bit contradictory and, to be honest, unfair? I sense a faulty use of logic in this method of argumentation. And I don't think that he reads Habermas as critically as he should - even someone embracing Habermas the way Buschman does needs to be a bit more reflective about the theoretical approach and its implications.


One of the biggest "ack!" moments of my rereading of this book occured on page 39 where Buschman conflates Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School. The Frankfurt School is one approach (or group of similar approaches) to the notion of critical theory. That, coupled with Buschman's statement that Critical Theory involves "pessimism of total domination of people and societies by capitalism" demonstrates his ignorance of varied approaches that might be termed Critical Theories.

I'm done for now, but I'm sure I'll find more to pick at later ;-)

Sources up the wazzoo

I'm not sure if that's spelled right. Anyway, I'm blown away by all of Buschman's sources. I remember earlier in the semester wondering how certain authors could go around saying this or that is or isn't true without backing up their claims, and someone saying that if they did that it would be constant footnotes and quotes. Now I see what that looks like. It took me a while to get into his writing style because of the constant "interruption" and I'm not sure if that is because I got used to it or if he starts to rely on quotes a little bit less later on. I had to go through and make a point of underlining the points that came from Buschman himself to find out where he stood. What do other people think? I know that some of you are good source critiquers. Is it too much or does it really support his argument?

I found his arguments fascinating, but they have this zealot ring to them that make me not accept everything at face value. I feel like he explains clearly the problems with technology and the bad reasons for the move towards technology, but he doesn't ever explain how technology could fit into his vision. It isn't going away any time soon and I feel like he needs to address how to better incorporate or use technology if he wants his vision of librarianship to happen.

Monday, October 24, 2005

More about UW and Community

Did anyone go to the Plan 2008 event last month? My students were asked to go to it for the lead course in our FIG, but I never heard much about it. For their other course, they are preparing an exhibit (of their own design!) about community at UW. It will be displayed in Memorial Union in early December. When I know more about the actual exhibit and display period, I can fill in those who are interested. Then we can all see how a group of first year students defined and represented community on campus.

Chancellor encourages steps toward ‘creating community'

Some of you may have seen this message on community from the Chancellor. Note that creating community focuses almost entirely on diversity. Diversity is not really defined here other than the reference to seek out someone different from them, someone whose background or ethnicity or identity is uniquely different from their own.

Chancellor’s Message

“Creating Community” is an appropriate theme to develop as UW-Madison continues its goal of expanding diversity in campus life. Our success does not hinge on any one office or division, nor is it strictly a question of enrollment or hiring practices.

We all have a role to play, and we all have a stake in its outcome.

“Creating Community” will reinforce the need for broad campus input on how this institution can foster and promote diversity. The campus-wide forums will provide status reports on Plan 2008, highlight some of our more successful programs and examine areas where we are falling short. But it’s critically important that the interaction runs both ways, and that diversity leaders hear about the challenges and successes on the front lines of education.

During the Fall 2005 welcome for first-year students, I challenged the group to seek out someone different from them, someone whose background or ethnicity or identity is uniquely different from their own. I recommended it as a single, small step in understanding the power of diversity to shape our knowledge of the world. It’s also a step I hope students are ready to repeat many times over as they prepare to live in a multicultural society.

here is the entire message:


Friday, October 21, 2005


Dain mentions about the three viewpoints about Americanization and points out the librarians at the New York Public Library leaned toward the “cultural pluralism” concept of Americanization. Fain seems to suggest that libraries were vehicles for “melting pot” (the second concept that Dain mentions) approach. They might be different approaches and they might reflect different ideas and values, but I’m thinking, the results were probably the same – a unique American culture was created (and still being created). Are there still the three different conceptions toward Americanization today? Or are there other viewpoints? The readings for this course really remind me that there is so much that I do not know about American culture.
I like the idea that Fain conveys at the end of her article that libraries were crucial for certain individuals not “because of its special programs for immigrants or because of the social reform views of its employees, but because it was the major source of influential books which transmitted powerful ideas and changed lives.” The standards, values and ideals of the library profession might be changing over time because of the influence of various external social forces and also because of its own perception and knowledge about the society and its own power and limit, but the most important value remains over time, that is to serve knowledge to its patrons, which makes the library so valuable and powerful.


I agree that the way that the diversity article pinpoints diversity is too narrow. Why is this? Is there something about a certain kind of "diversity" that is more appealing to librarians?

Right books

Commenting on Irene's post -- How can the "the right books" even be considered outreach? I feel like collection development is something different, but I didn't find the authors of these articles to feel that way. This makes me wonder if outreach is nothing more than a way to get people in to read the right books.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Immigrants in Libraries

I got a kick out of Axel Josephson's response to the remarks given by the Library Journal editor in Fain's article (p. 261). The suspicious part of me wonders if the objection of foreign language materials had to do solely with wanting to "[promote] good citizenship" or if it was something more than that.

One paragraph in the Dain article felt to me as condescending towards the new immigrants (p. 256 starting with "For the 'new' immigrants, were, for many reasons, not natural library users..."). Later, the recollections of a retired New York City school teacher and school principal stated, "Those who could read were too busy with the laundry, cooking, shopping, and baby after baby." Yet, I have to remember that this was written in the time when immigrants were viewed as uncultured. Oh, wait, is that current times, too?

In beginning my research into graphic novels in public libraries, I've been reading a little more on the controversy in Denver regarding Spanish fotonovelas. From the Denver Post, Aug. 12: Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., said, "he was not dealing with the novella issue but favors the library's removal of questionable items - including those in English and other languages."
'With the few dollars that they have to spend, they would choose to spend it on that garbage, rather than spending it on something uplifting and, by the way, in English,' Tancredo said. 'They choose to use materials of such little redeeming social value, like a trashy comic book.'

Are we back to how libraries must uplift the masses by instilling social values again? Talk about full circle...

For Friday

I found it interesting in Dain's article how the library's programs and meeting space offered to outside groups restricted not only religious groups, but also the women suffragists.

In both Dain and Fain's articles, I also found it interesting that for all the outreach programs libraries offered, there was the continued emphasis on the "right books," even in the non-English language books.

With all the emphasis on programs, as well as all those "good" and "right" books to "Americanize" the immigrants, doesn't it make you think about Fain's claim that "the public library was crucial - not, I think, because of its special programsfor immigrants or because of the social reform views of its employees, but because it was the major source of influential books which transmitted powerful ideas and changed lives."


Protected Minority?

Adkins and Espinal say, "The ALA Spectrum Scholarships began in 1997 with an initial funding base of $1.5 million. The funds were used to support both scholarships and programs. Spectrum scholars are chosen from the four 'protected minority' categories recognized by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Act: African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, and Native American" (52-53). Does anyone know the specific law that Adkins and Espinal refer to as "U.S. Equal Opportunity Act?" In my searching, I cannot find such an Act.

Some thoughts for Friday Oct 21

When and how can we come up with unity and share in a community? I am wondering in what ways can library outreach programs can bring sub-communities together and form one united community which in fact, is a meta one. To me, as I mentioned before, the look at two dimensions is complicated and so I am thinking about how library can use its venue and inventory as the first outreach to community before making further moves – reaching out and bringing in or bringing in and reaching out.

I find the value of existence very fascinating and important for institutions especially service ones. Being exist and being known exist are different, and the latter can be influencial to a group. It can impact perceptions, understanding, behaviors, collaboration, and many important things in a community. This is, to me, has important meanings to both sides of the story - users’ existence and library’s existence. I am wondering if the representation of commonality within and between groups communicated and delivered though outreaches and/or media interplays with the issues of unity and diversity. How much more can the relationship between the existence, goals, and process of outreach programs contribution to the field? In what way does this have to do with “gatekeeping”, and how do gatekeepers play roles? I am thinking two sides again - library’s gatekeepers and communities’. Also, I find that ideas embedded in outreach programs are not framed only at library “outreach”, but also to serve as a mechanism on issues such as social controls, Americanizations, domestic reforms, social changes, social problems, etc.

responses this week on diversity

It happens almost every time that I come into post something here and I get sidetracked by reading the other posts . . . hey, which is a good thing! This issue of diversity does seem to be a little narrow in scope. I do think that it is extremely important to make sure that various ethnic populations are represented but what I thought about as I was reading these articles was the term diversity. In my mind this represents ethnicity, sexuality, gender, age, learning style/preference, ability/disability, socio-economic standing . . . etc. It is a larger list. After reading Barbara's comments:

How about diversity in other respects. Such as sexual orientation? disability status? age? religion, even? It seems to me that there are many kinds of diversity and our profession is concentrating on just one kind.

I went back and re-read the Dain article and found the following:

. .. the Librarian who works with the blind: a group almost entirely dependant on the library. . . The Library for the Blind's teacher made in 1915, a year of "unprecedented activity" 476 visits to blind persons, gave 280 lessons in Braille and exchanged 318 books . . .

I did find this very encouraging. I would love to know the Librarian's name. 476 visits and 280 lessons is a huge amount to be delivered by one person. There should be a scholarship or award in that person's name for the dedication and time spent serving this population of the library.

I was also (wish I had time to look in more detail) struck by the persons with color in LIS programs and wondered how this compared to other disciplines AND how the scope of this research was narrowed to race.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

respnses for Friday

I appreciate the suggestion that öutreach"may be one of the themes this time. I am thinking that maybe another issue might be the library and the librarian as representatives of the dominant culture. In our two contrasting history articles, one takes considerable notice of the idea that librarians thought their mission was to contribute to the melting pot. To encourage immigrants to read "good" books, to focus on education for learning/reading in English. It seems there was a certain amount of discomfort in providing foreign language materials. It was done so that older immigrants who were not going to learn much English could still access reading materials. There wasn't much of a sense that an ethnic/cultural community should have materials representing itself, or a sense that ethnic/cultural groups might/should have pride in having materials representing their culture or ethnicity. Or that parents might want to encourage their children to read in the language of the Old Country, or read about the Old Country in English, even.

In another vein, I wish I could understand some of my discomfort with what we have encountered so far with contemporary writings about diversity in our profession. I think that I support and want diversity and agree that it is important. I agree that the relatively low status and pay of librarians makes it harder to achieve diversity. It does take a lot of expensive education to become a librarian. I wonder what other similar fields, maybe nursing/social work (also lower-paying "feminized"professions) have in the way of diversity issues. Is it similar? What are the common elements?

I also think that much of what we have read about diversity centers around people of color. But that is not the only kind of diversity. There is diversity of bodily appearance. Did you-all see the article on piercing/tattooing of library staff in American Libraries or was it Library Journal recently--in connection with an article on "dress codes"for library staff. Pretty amazing to me that this should be an issue in a world where many people have tattoos/piercings and lots of them are the young folks that we really wish would come into the library. How about diversity in other respects. Such as sexual orientation? disability status? age? religion, even? It seems to me that there are many kinds of diversity and our profession is concentrating on just one kind. Is this because "protected minorities"(as our article defines them) are the ones most important in achieving diversity? Or is it that the more formal mandate to avoid discrimination against protected minorities makes it easier and less controversial to develop programs to work towards diversity in regards to this group?

The authors of the article argue that minorities of color should be represented in the library in the same proportion that they are in the population. This seems like a good and laudable goal to me. But then should not other minorities also be represented in this way as well, and should we not also be recruiting and encouraging these minorities also, and also organizing libraries to reach out to and to represent the culture or interests of other minorities as well? Might this be politically dangerous? Well, I have more questions than answers.

See you Friday. Barbara

some questions

It's my week for leading the discussion. A few questions that I've thought of while reading:

What do each of the authors mean by outreach? It seems to me that they aren't all necessarily using the word the same way.

Given that they use outreach differently and some of the authors use the phrase hardly at all, why did Greg choose these articles for the outreach section of the course? (this is speculative, Greg do not answer). What I'm getting at is how do these four different viewpoints fit into the bigger picture of outreach?

The last article I found especially interesting and my question is who benefits from the encouragement of diversity in librarianship? Given the large amount of debt needed to get a Bachelor's and Master's Degree and the poor pay of librarians what advantage is it to people who might already have cultural setbacks (i.e. anyone who is not a middle class white woman with a rich sugar daddy)) to become a librarian?

That's all for now.


Friday, October 14, 2005


Does anyone else feel like McCook assumes the reader is on board with the community building thing without making much of an argument for it? She spends most of her time explaining how libraries can build community and very little time explaining why we should build community at all.

Fortress America

Irene brought up this topic and it had caused me to pause too. When I was visiting Victoria, Canada a couple of weeks ago my dad made a similar comment, but he was referring to the increased security trying to get back into this country. They stop each person and spend some quality time with them before letting them back in. I'm assuming that these are two completely difference concepts with the same name -- homeland security couldn't have been tightened up that much when this was written. What does Fortress America mean as McCook uses it?

Something from reading McCook's

I think that there are issues on immigrants and literacy that emphase a wider divide in the environment. I feel that they are embedded in her writing somewhere, and this makes me curious. Also, when I went over the web, I found other works by McCook are on diversity - include Hmong, my focus group.

In a broad sense, this book does lay out issues, factors, examples, cases, historical perspectives related to library and community building. It confirms ideas that might seem simple to the professionals, and that they might be well known and awared of. It is challenging to see McCook facilitate explanations and aspects of complicated issues as something simple. This book, to me, is a large table where ideas are laid out for everyone to see and so it distribute a global picture of the “building community” concept. I am wondering if this book is not only for us in the field, but also for normal users and community members can take parts and share views.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

thoughts for Friday

I thought that McCook's idea that librarians need to be proactively engaged in community-building efforts and active in local community planning had a great deal of resonance. She seemed t0 recognize that a great deal of this effort lies in the realm of the socio-political. I think she was correct in noting that libraries are not recognized as they should be when community resources are invoked or considered. I think this is generally true of libraries, not just public libraries. They are regarded benignly as a general good but not as an active force in their community. Yet, they can, should and sometimes do work actively in the community.

At first I was kind of grumpy that the political climate she was talking about seemed so liberal and outmoded--the political climate just isn't like that these days, but then I realized that this book too is a product of its time. As the political landscape has changed, libraries have to find ways to be proactive in ways that are appropriate to their time and place.

In that regard, especially with some of the other postings that are going around on SLIS lists this week I started wondering what public libraries are doing in areas where a lot of Katrina refugees are gathered together. Are they sponsoring outreach programs in shelters to tell people how to find information about jobs and housing, are they inviting people to come to the library to use computers and assisting them in doing this, even maybe providing transportation so people can do this? Are they asking for places at the table when relief groups are talking about how to help this uprooted community? This in many ways makes the library into a social-service agency, not a cultural agency, but I think that is what this book is advocating. I'm not sure what I think about the library as a social-service agency. How far should it go in this regard? It might be interesting to talk about this; it seems like both a historical and a contemporary issue.

In this regard, I too had issues about the focus only on Hispanic communities. I suppose this is just for the sake of example, but, what about the elderly? Those in nursing homes?i What about the homeless? -- many people in homeless shelters are families with children, who go to school in the community. How does a library that wants to be proactive identify the community that needs its services? Can it really serve them all?

I also was glad she mentioned some of the institutional barriers to outreach, such as overburdened staff, the sense that administration is the only route to a good salary and career success, and one that I think is overlooked -- the typecasting of minorities as only suitable for working with minority populations-- I''ve been struck by how many minority öutreach"librarians we have read about are assistants to somebody else of the majority, who has broader responsibilities. Some of this is contradictory, but I wonder if there is a pattern and if somebody has researched it.


More About Disabilities

To piggyback on Jacob's comments, I just want to add that it seemed like McCook was defining disabilities as physical or visible disabilities. I kept looking for more about working with people who have invisible disabilities such as one or more of the myriad of learning disabilities, AD(H)D, MS, chronic pain, etc. Conflating all types of disabilities into one giant "disabilities" umbrella term is short-sighted and careless, at best, and recklessly indifferent, at worst.

Re: Common Sense

To me (and I see to some others as well) this book presented common sense applications. Libraries are vital to communities and they play a major role - yep, got it. I agree with Bridget that it appears the book is written for another audience - not necessarily for librarians only. Given the book is 5 years old, has there been an increase about the place of libraries in communities in others' writings? What has librarians' responses been to McCook's call for participation in the community?

A Couple of Thoughts

I would have liked McCook to have delved into the concept of "fortress America" more thoroughly in Chapter One, as well as into the "ideological discomfort" with the concept of cybercommunity building outside libraries in Chapter 6.

Is McCook's emphasis on "stability" and "resilience" of libraries and communities so different from the motivations of early library leaders?

I can't resist: on p. 69 McCook talks of "This approach calls for less large centralizaed governemnt and more responsilibity on the part of local governments, individual citizens, and community institutions for tackling public problems." Now, isn't this view that of the traditional Republican politicans and leaders? Yet many of these community building initiatives were carried out during the Democratic Clinton presidency, with the traditional Democratic emphasis on big governement involvement. What does all of this say about the U.S. politically during the 1990s, as well as the library profession during this time? Is it all about compromise?


Cybercommunities and Persosn with Disabilities

McCook seems to suggest that libraries need to do more to provide for cybercommunities but does not give any explicit examples. Libraries could provide the computer hardware to make freenets possible. Today that might include wireless freenets but their legal status is questionable. Libraries could provide programs and/or workshops about cybercommunity opportunities.

The role of libraries in relation to cybercommunities seems to be tied up in discussions of the digital divide. Is it simply enough for libraries to provide access to the Internet or must something more proactive be required? The economic of the digital divide might be beyond the control of the library but libraries could help to provide the equipment required for persons with disabilities to access computers and participate with a cybercommunity. Let me finish by talking about persons with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities are mentioned on pages 67, 73, 76, 87, and 95 are not included in the discussions about diversity. I find the omission problematic because there are 49.7 million persons with disabilities according to the US Census compared to 39 million Hispanics or Latinos. In order to make community diversity more encompassing persons with disabilities must be discussed along with other minority groups.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

For this Friday meeting!

For Friday about Dr.McCook's 'A place at the table',Hello everyone! Are you enjoying the book? I have some discussion topics.

First, the book starts with the disparity that what the public libraries or librarians have been working for their communities and the lack of public recognition of the work in community building(p.5). Dr.McCook briefly mentions two reasons (p.40): Actors in building communities do not well understand public libraries' work; Librarians and libraries have not been integradlly involved in the process of building communities.

I just want to think about the reasons more. Why building community actors don't understand the libraries well? The actors are supposed to be parts of the library users in their everyday lives. They already experienced libraries but they do not use the libraries when they need in their business. Do they have different expectations between their personal and business information needs? If they do, why? Why librarians and libraries have not been involved in the process? Because, they were not invited, even though they wanted? What are the librarians' notion of building community? Don't they know about the concepts or practices of building communities? Is this the reason that the author provides the first two chapters? Does the two reasons affect each other?

Second, the author points out factors for succesful community building in three perspectives: characteristics of the community, the community building process, and community building organizers. In the every characteristics, she provides possible librarians' roles and practices. In chapter 5, the book is taking quite big space (12/107!!!) for the true stories of building community. What do you think about the questions on page 56. Do you think these are enough to investigate the library involvement in building community? If you don't think, what kinds of questions can be added later?

Third, chapter 6 focuses on libraries' and librarians' roles in cybercommunity. The public libraries physically provides their users with access to the the Internet. What I want to point out is that accessing to the Internet does mean somebody can be involved in but is not in the cyberspace. The notion of building community does not mean just to live together in a certain area. As the same stream, getting the access does not mean to have membership of cybercommunity. Except the providing the access, what kinds of librarians' roles can be expected in the cybercommunity? Also, what can be identities of public libraries and librarians that are generally defined geographically, in the cybercommunity?

Forth, the book is talking about the historical roles of the library in the community on page 95. What can be reasonable justifications of library building community? We already read some historical investigation of the public library's work and roles. Is there anything else fitting with the library community building?

Last, this book stimulates me to think possible other concepts related to community. The author brings out the concept of community building. What kinds of verbs or nouns we can use instead of building? For instance, community maintenance. Just for fun!



KT brought up a good point about A Place at the Table: to a current library student, this isn't new information. This makes me wonder if library studies has changed to include community in the past six years and if so if McCook's influence had anything to do with it. But I don't think that library students are necessarily the audience, I think that it's established librarians who might not have been discussing community while they were in library school. What I find even more interesting is that she seems to be writing this for Others, those people who are leaving librarians out and not giving them a place at the table -- that's whose attention she really wants to get and she's trying to get it by going through librarians whose actions she hopes to change with this book. That's what I got out of it anyway.

Where oh where to put the new Fitchburg library?

From the Capital Times today, a report on how a nearby community is debating the role of, and site for, a proposed new public library.

Site pick for Fitchburg library to follow hearing

By Cliff Miller
Correspondent for The Capital Times
October 12, 2005

A special committee will write the next installment in the saga of Fitchburg's quest for its first library next week, but the panel first will take one more reading of residents' opinions.
The Library Committee will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, in the Senior Center at City Hall, followed immediately by a committee meeting to choose between two proposed library sites, chairperson Jayne Kuehn said.

The sites are a portion of McKee Farms Park near McKee and Fish Hatchery roads and a section of Fitchburg Center Park near the City Hall/Community Center at Fish Hatchery and Lacy roads.

Kuehn said the two sites share one advantage: Both are already owned by the city. Privately owned sites were explored in hopes a developer might provide land for a library as an attraction in a new subdivision, but the search came up empty, she said.

The effort by residents to persuade the city to build a library goes back about three years. City officials created the 13-member committee to formalize the process, but City Council members and Mayor Tom Clauder also said they want the issue put to a referendum before they decide whether to back it.

It will be some time before a referendum is held, even if next week's hearing and committee meeting result in a site choice. "That's just the first hurdle," Kuehn said.

The committee has chosen, in a competitive process, the Milwaukee office of HG&A architects, a national firm with libraries as one of its specialties. The architects and other consultants will determine costs after construction and design details are worked out as dictated by the chosen site.

"Once we get through the basics we have a big sales job ahead of us," she said.

Choosing between the two sites means wading through a thicket of pros and cons on each.

There is currently no bus service to the City Hall site; there is service to the McKee area. Residential population surrounding City Hall is thin; McKee Park is within walking distance of densely populated residential areas including Ridgewood Country Club Apartments a mile or so north.

But Kuehn said the city's growth is moving southeast toward the City Hall complex, and she is confident that bus service will follow. The site contains about 10 acres, meaning ample space for parking in addition to a single story library of about 36,000 square feet. A library would enhance the City Hall site as a community center, she added.

At McKee, potential parking space is limited and the library may have to be built on more than one level.

In either case the library would be designed for expansion but would meet state requirements to serve the city's expected population for 20 years.

The committee has held several listening sessions to learn what residents want in a library and whether they want one at all. For now the Dane County Bookmobile visits the city twice per month.

Any insights from our class so far which can be applied to this debate?

The poverty issue

In the section on diversity, McCook talks about poverty saying that the poorest people in this country are making below $13,000/yr. Has anyone read American Libraries this month? Granted the survey adjusts for cost of living while McCook doesn't but New York Public Library pays it's entering librarians the equivelant of $12,833/yr. I'm not sure that librarians are themselves always outside of the realm of poverty.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Common Sense?

I'm feeling a little cranky because of this book. Of course, it might just be that I'm tired.

It seems as if a lot of what is in here is common sense. Her message seems to be: if you want to get involved in the community, you have to learn about it (hello! isn't this written for librarians, people who know how to aquire information) and then to actually do something. once we do this, the library can take a more prominent place (and, as McCook might say, its rightful place) in the development of the community.

I guess that what I am trying to say/get at, is that a lot of her suggestions seem to introduce ideas already part of library education (well, at least here at slis). I don't feel as if she is telling me something new, and I expect everything I read to tell me something new (even if it is just a little bit of newness or new perspective).


Libraries as Government

I'm still reading, but I came across the section in which McCook reminds readers that libraries are government entities and that they should work from this angle, using that connection to get that 'place at the table'. I'm wondering what the implications and ramifications of this might be. It seems that, although libraries are publicly funded entities - and thus part of the govt. project - that libraries hide this affiliation (at least, somewhat) to make themselves inviting places for all people. What happens when the library, as government entity, takes a more forceful and vocal role?

Chapter by chapter layout of A Place at the Table

I just wanted to mention that as I'm sitting down to read McCook's book that I am very pleased with her taking the time to layout and tie together what she hopes to convey in each chapter. Her short descriptions and objectives in the first few pages are very thoughtful and provide a good overview that I'm sure will lead to my better understanding and retention of her book. I wish more authors did this.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Librarian-at-every-table: McCook's website

I came across this site, and I am very much impressed with what she has achieved so far. If this is of your interest, check this link:


Friday, October 07, 2005

That Novel - 2nd Attempts

Blogger hates me.

I really don't have an issue with the use of the novel to show a reflection of how life might have been. I've seen it done before - especially in the context of the Middle Passage. The reason, though, that I don't have a problem with it is that it is framed in terms of this "might" tell us something about the cultural values of this group. Also, I didn't get the feeling that Beck was trying to say that this was true for all Russian jewish immigrants. I think that he was trying to explain a larger trend within a group.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Reactions to this week

This week's readings were really provocative, I thought. I totally agree with Jacob about the insertion of a novel as evidence for a major argument in the Beck article. Usually if historians are going to use a novel they use more than one and they talk quite a bit about what they are trying to tease out of the novel and why. Surely there must be a better source than this. I found myself writing "how do you know this"at several points in this article -- the whole thing just seems weak on evidence to me.

But beyond that I have some other issues too. Beck treats the Russian emigres as a monolothic group, but I doubt that they were. And it seems to me that at least some of the Russian immigrants created their own reading rooms and libraries, which were later absorbed into the public library. This fits with what I'm currently reading about German-American immigrants, who, in keeping with the European tradition they came from, formed their own societies which sometimes included reading rooms and rental libraries, as well as a vibrant press. So, public libraries may have beem competing with other kinds of community resources that they were unaware of. In my readings about German-Americans I see that there is a generational aspect to all of this too; as the children of the immigrants become more assimilated the needs and outlook of this community changes. The article on Latino outreach seems to reflect some of these issues in a more proactive and contemporary way I thought.

Anderson's article about the 135th Street Branch really tries to lay out the different elements in the community. I hope we'll talk more about the figure of Miss Rose. I've been thinking about her quite a bit in the context of Bridget's observation, but it is hard for me to view her impact as anything other than benign in the context of that time and place. I really liked the notion of the Schomburg Collection--now a world-famous collection-- as, in its origins, a kind of validation of black history and culture. I'm really interested in the symbolic value that is attached to library collections and it was intriguing to read about it in this context. As other have already mentioned, the ideas of the library's patrons play an important role too, pointing up some of the differences in that element of the community also -- DuBois'' opposition to Schomburg's curating his own collection because Schomburg lacked a college degree, for instance. Of the articles we have read thus far, this one by Anderson was the most satisfying to me as good social history. I hope she'll write more.

Sorry to be delayed in my blogging--the blog was down yesterday when I tried to post. See you soon...Barbara

Issues with Beck

I keep waiting for Beck to connect Americanization and learning English with the citizenship examination requirements between 1880-1914. This never happens. Why does Beck remains silent on this issue?

Why does Beck’s use of Abraham Cahan’s novel The Rise of David Levinsky as a source tell us? This is not the only source Beck uses to discuss the importance of education but he never tells why this novel is a good source. It might suggest there were no other sources to make the point he wanted.

Mark your calendars: Room change Oct 21

Just got this in the mail from Jay:

There is a conflict with your 544-950 class in the Conference Room on
Friday, October 21. The L&S Board of Visitors has reserved the
Conference Room that morning for possible use by their members if needed
(they are using the Commons too).

I checked with Awa Zhu and the Computer Lab in the SLIS Library is
available at that time. With this email I'm asking that she go ahead
and reserve the Computer Lab for your class on Friday, October 21 from
9:00-11:30 a.m.

So mark the date and alternate location in your calendars ...

Respone to Jom

Perhaps one of the reasons Miss Rose could accomplish so much, and have so much autonomy, was that the white elite of her time and place were not interested in the Black community,and/or looked down on the Black community, wanted nothing to do with them, thus leaving a space and an opportunity for Miss Rose.



I had thought of the some of the same issues that came up in Jom's post -- about Rose being of an elite class and even though she was "helping", isn't that still a means of social control? Also, there's a theory out there that any time you have white people in authority "helping" black people in this country, that it reinforces the idea of white supremacy. Even when those white people mean well. I don't know that I agree or disagree with this, but I thought that I'd throw it out there.

Some thoughts for Oct. 7

To me, I interpret from the readings the global perspective on the population of the United States dynamically expands with the increasing number of immigrants and a variety of cultures of the incomings. Definitely, there is awareness on diversity that brings about ideas such as Americanization, assimilation, racism, separatism, and so on.

Interesting issues from the reading are multi-cultural personnel, libraries as an institution or a mechanism to outreach to communities and to stimulate beliefs and unity especially on democracy, and programs that promote motivation to the community to come and to make use of a library. According to Beck’s, I see how cultures and languages relates to the development of outreach programs in response to background of the ethnic groups.

The story of Miss Rose brought to my attention an issue of feminism in the profession’s history. I am amazed that she could manage to accomplish many outstanding breakthroughs especially in her time when, to my understanding, women had less to do with leadership or powerful voices. This makes me wonder whether Miss Rose, herself, was recognized as a so-called “elite” whose voice bears favorable responses and acceptances. Then, her roles in making such big changes as described in Anderson’s article were embedded with ideas of social control through the use of institutions. Especially, she was different from the community by being white. In my opinion, there must be difficulties especially when aiming at reaching the community and influencing people in the community to do something set as or set for achieving particular goals. The story seems to be in favor to Miss Rose consisting with major achievements she accomplished. I am curious if this would happen, at that time, in a black community, when a black librarian or one of her assistant came up with such ideas and intentions. Is this an issue of timing meaning that she was in the right time with the power or connection that could make all these happen? Also, I am wondering if her achievements were partially or solely results from brainstorming ideas from her black assistants.

Also, I agree with Awa's question about the roles of patron. In addition, when considering a relationship between the community and libraries, it is obvious to me that they interplay with each other. For example, there was a two-way effect in the relationship when libraries have impacts on building and developing motivation among users to demand, to read, to come, and to use venues. Then, users’ demanding also has impacts on collection development and the expansion of the facilities and goals of libraries driving it into the concerns of culture, diversity, and the likes.

Then, another issue that I think the readings stimulate is the concepts of “immigrants” interpreted and perceived by a community. The interpretation of “immigrants” can be differently perceived since American society consists of people from various ethnicity and backgrounds. I also wonder about the ways libraries perceive the concept of “immigrants”. Finally, these three articles are very useful to me since they are mainly about immigrants, libraries, and communities. I found many useful issues that related to my project I plan to do for this class.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Beck's article does show the "tunnel vision" of Harris in his account of library patrons. However, it also brings me some confusion. Beginning with a critique on how Harris and Ditzion examine the origins of public libraries, Beck's account actually has nothing to do with the origins of public libraries. It's a good point to criticizing Harris that "himself expresses elitism by generalizing about the lower classes and by stating that workers and immigrants had little or no desire for education," but why is it necessary to examine the social and cultural conditions of the library patrons in order to understand why public libraries came into being? If the patrons did play an important role in the origins of the public libraries, I would really like to hear Beck's illustration on this point. This would make his argument more powerful and this article more interesting to thought.

Well, my question somewhat deviates the main topic of this week, but I keep wondering the role that patrons could play in the development of public libraries and what we can learn from it.

Elites and Immigrants

I think that the point Irene brings up from the texts is important to a number of our readings - particularly, I think, the earlier (date-wise) texts. Basically, that point is that it is always more complicated than an either/or situation. The binaries just don't work.

I'm really sad that I am missing class this week - I really wanted to be there for this set of readings. It is rainy and cold up here in Houghton, MI (location of the Feminism(s) and Rhetoric( s) Conference). Happily, wireless access is VERY available. I will 'talk' to y'all about the readings after I present my paper tomorrow!

the Golden Age

One thing that struck me while reading Anderson --- she's describing the golden age. Many of the previous works that we have read talk about this mythic golden age -- where the library was this gorgeous place of equality and a center of art and literature in the community, but went on to say that this golden age never existed. Anderson's article makes the early 1920's 135th St. Branch Library sound just like the golden age. She literally calls it The Place To Go. Isn't that like The Library Ideal of all library ideals? How was this possible and why does it appear to be so elusive in library history right up to today?

For Friday: Class, Family, Religion & Culture

Let us look at the issue of Class in the articles by Beck (1977), Anderson (2003), and Villagran (2001). Beck seems to discredit Michael Harris’ elitist assumptions about the immigrant “classes” as being lumped into one class, not interested in or having no time for education, reading, or using the library. What does Beck’s article on the Russian-Jewish immigrants tell us about Class assumptions regarding poverty, education, library use, etc.? What do Anderson’s and Villagran’s articles tell us about Class? Notice that Beck’s coverage of library/education use by Russian-Jewish immigrants covers all age groups, with library/educational services for various age groups. Anderson’s coverage of library development and use by African-Americans, often newcomers, largely depended on support by middle and upper class individuals. Villagran’s coverage of special programming for Hispanic community members focuses on services for children and mothers.

Let us also look at the issue of Family in these 3 articles: Does any of these authors place much emphasis on the importance of Family to these three ethnic groups? Beck does mention that Russian-Jewish parents sacrificed greatly and encouraged their children to obtain as much education as possible. Villagran implies strong family connections through descriptions of parents and children coming to the library programs together. Does Anderson look at the issue of Family in her article?

Let us also look at the issue of Religion and Culture in these 3 articles: Beck almost beats us over the head with his claim that it was Culture that caused Russian-Jewish immigrants to come to the library. How does Beck tie Religion into Culture among Russian-Jewish immigrants? Does Anderson describe Religion or Culture as factors in the development and us of the 135th Street Branch Library during the Harlem Renaissance? Why or why not? For that matter, how does Villagran treat these issues, or does Villagran address Religion and Culture at all?

Also, do any of these authors place these ethnic group experiences into larger contexts of societal issues and trends of the times studies? Do they have to? Who are the intended audiences, and what are the purposes of their statements?

In addition, do all of these authors explain these methods thoroughly, and provide sufficient and credible evidence to support their claims?

Finally, how much of these ethnic groups' experiences was the result of concerted efforts by librarians, and how much was the result of library users influencing policy and practice?