2 Sep 2015

Seven disturbing perspectives

“Seven disturbing perspectives”

Seven Disturbing Perspectives is a paper written and published in Swedish, by Prof. Lars Burman library director of Uppsala University Library. In his paper Burman highlights seven important trends shaping the future of research libraries in Sweden. Even though the paper focuses on conditions for Swedish research libraries I believe it could be of interest to librarians everywhere.

The disturbing trends are:
1. Swedish libraries are threatened by fragmentation
2. The librarian profession is becoming disconnected from the research
3. Libraries now have double responsibilities, virtual and physical, yet have less resources
4. Limited access to resources due to licenses
5. Constrained budgets due to increased and increasing costs for scholarly publications
6. Increased need for digitalization, infrastructure and data mining
7. The importance of the physical library building for higher studies and research is likely to be underestimated in the future

Since the paper is only available in Swedish I will translate with my own interpretations and summarize the seven trends.

1. Sweden has a history of strong cooperation between different public libraries and research libraries. In the new era of licensed digital resources the interlibrary loan system will be partly put out of action and researchers will more and more only have access to scholarly publications based on access promoted from their university library.
That is not the only problem: for citizens who are not part of the educational system it will be even harder to gain access to scholarly publication than before. Worst-case scenario - this will create increased fragmentation among Swedish libraries.

2. Libraries in Sweden are to a great degree regarded as service institutions – they provide access to material in a timely and accurate manner. They are seen only as in the business of service provision. This creates a distance between researchers and librarians. There is a need for the recruitment of librarians with experience in, and responsibility for, research and development to maintain and secure the development of the profession.

3. Today, all over the world, librarians struggle to maintain a physical library while at the same time developing the virtual library. From the user perspective there is a request for further digitalization of older collections. There is an expectation that everything should be available online. Who will pay the cost? No extra resources or funding is budgeted. Shall materials be available “just in case” or “just in time”? Whatever, there is a need for library cooperation and we can’t be concerned only with developing the local collections.

4. In the old days everyone had access to everything, if not directly through their library then through interlibrary loan. Today e-resources subscriptions gives access only to authorized users. On the other hand, those researchers do have access to more resources in a more flexible manner. The problem arises if you are a researcher who doesn’t have access to the library. Before, through interlibrary loan, the physical book was sent to you. Today you have to apply for “walk-in use” and simply travel to where the digital book is available. The resources your library has access to in that way affects the ability you have to conduct research. That can be a real obstacle for research.

5. The way academic publishers promote “big deals” and the effect of media inflation creates an enormous pressure on the budgets of research libraries.
One countermove from the research society is Open Access publishing. If you want you can publish OA in peer-review journal on payment of a fee. But how will that be funded? From the actual research community or from the library? Maybe the library is already paying for the access since the journal is part of a “big deal” agreement. On the other hand we have green OA. Still that also needs to be financed either through consortia or through membership. Low costs, yes. But put on top of the constantly increasing media budget for e-journals and e-books it is a problem.

6. The infrastructure for library services/resources is changing. Everything is expected to be made available online and searchable. The access to metadata is extremely important and valuable. Today it is the publisher who has the right to use and evaluate the information for data mining and therefore is in control as regards the possibility to analyse and evaluate research.
In libraries there are physical collections of old and rare books. There is a possibility for digitalization, systematization and tagging of these collections for future research - at least within the humanities it could be of great interest. But then again the question needs to be asked who will finance and who will be responsible for this mission?

7. Finally there is a concern as regards the importance of the library building. Most of Sweden’s Universities have new library buildings. The library building is manifestation of the value of knowledge! But today the library is a place for study as well as a social meeting place for students. Professors rarely visit the physical library any more. Still the physical library with the printed collections has a big influence on research and education and has to be valued and cared for in an era of virtualization.

13 Aug 2015

Reflections on online privacy


Guest post by Tom Maher who works with The Forgotten Zine Archive , likes long walks on the beach and enjoys Italian food....

Alison Macrina - of The Library Freedom Project - and Eoin O'Dell - Associate Professor of Law, TCD - led a discussion last Thursday evening in the RIA on the topic of digital privacy. The event, organised by A&SL attracted a large number of information professionals, from a variety of backgrounds, all eager to hear how this recent social concern would affect the services they provide. Although Macrina and O'Dell delivered great insight and sound recommendations, those professionals in attendance quickly understood the burden of change that lay before them. It would be up to them to maintain the dignity and rights of their patrons in the years to come, and to maintain the trust that allows the library/patron relationship to flourish.

The discussion began with a simple enough question: "Why privacy?"

Why should anyone, librarian or not, care about who has access to their data? Sure, if you have nothing to hide why be concerned? The answers developed along three lines:

- One, awareness of privacy-related issues gives people who are already giving implied consent to their personal data being collected the power to either give informed consent instead, or take steps to avoid that collection in the first place.

- Two, the ways in which personal data is currently being collected and used often violates our human right to privacy.

- Three, to allow recent disclosures of mass surveillance and non-transparancy in government to go ignored and under-discussed would be to allow the culture that spawned these practices to metastasize into further civil liberty violations.

Addressed to those that still needed convincing were further tales of such violations which, although thrilling to hear about, ultimately set my mind thinking about the CBS sci-fi crime drama 'Person of Interest'. The show tracks the weekly exploits of a former CIA agent and presumed-dead billionaire surveillance developer who have both taken it upon themselves to save lives using the godly power of well-indexed metadata. The show's duo also, rather auspiciously, operate out of an abandoned library in midtown Manhattan. What could be more fitting! Well worth a watch.

Returning to the talk, we were granted comparison views of the state of privacy in Ireland, the UK, Europe and the US. Unsurprisingly, Ireland is relatively ill-equipped and inexperienced in this area - though still at the mercy of larger spy agencies whose activities know no borders. Although mouthpieces may vary, a common feature of Western government policies is the commission of infringement in the name of tackling boogeymen - most notably, and vaguely, those classified as terrorists or extremists. O'Dell and Macrina also stressed the importance of not falling for the fear-mongering rhetoric - actively blocking, reviewing and/or repealing legislation imposed on this basis through mechanisms in the justice system instead. Although courts such as FISA have proven to be inept when it matters most, they do provide valuable structural legitimacy to acts of resistance.

Law reform takes time, however, so a number of ways were recommended in which libraries could effect change and protect the interests of their patrons outside the courts in the short term. The first is a piece of legal theatre known as a warrant canary - a method by which your library can communicate that they have not been served with a subpoena for patron information, and which can be removed in the event of such a serving taking place in order to alert patrons without violating a potential gag order. They usually take the form of a simple sign. If nothing else, it will spark questions!


Among the more practical recommendations Macrina made are the following (all free):

CCleaner for securely and permanently deleting sensitive (or not so sensitive) local files from a computer. Although the delete key and Recycle Bin seem to do the business on anything you aim them at, files deleted in this manner can still be retrieved using specialist software.

DuckDuckGo is a search engine alternative to Google that doesn't offer personalised search results and notably emphasises searcher privacy in its policies.

Mozilla Firefox is a browser very similar to your Internet Explorers and Chromes of the world, with one major difference - it is open-source. This means that its code is available for all to inspect and review, and this keeps Mozilla honest and transparent about the way they handle your data.

KeePassX (https://www.keepassx.org/) or LastPass for secure password generation - a vital element of any security routine.

Tor Browser, a piece of software which bounces your communication from node to node around the globe in such a fashion as to make it almost impossible for a third party to track your true location or identity - perhaps more applicable to libraries is how the Library Freedom Project have themselves have begun a pilot programme of setting Tor exit relays up in libraries.

Using a Tor Browser, however, can be a red flag for authorities and can result in you becoming a target of greater surveillance. Although one ought to possess the bravery to wave this concern, it is not always the sensible choice. Consider VPN services such as those recommended in this article:

Loaded up with food for thought (and nightmares of a dystopian surveillance state, no doubt), the librarians in attendance eventually dispersed and stumbled off into the night. Whether the warnings of O'Dell and Macrina will take hold is anyone's guess, but at least now a few dozen more people are aware of what small changes they can make to protect themselves, their patrons and the privacy of all of their data.

Further reading:

Assange, J. (2014). When Google met WikiLeaks.

Foerstel, H. N. (1991). Surveillance in the stacks: The FBI's library awareness program. New York: Greenwood Press.

Library Freedom Project Resources. Including further recommendations, teaching guides and a few other tidbits.

OpenCourseWare|MIT - Computer Systems Security. A free online course covering the basics and beyond of cyber security. Available at: http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/electrical-engineering-and-computer-science/6-858-computer-systems-security-fall-2014/

30 Jul 2015

Four useful librarian webinars in August

We are sort of just over half way through our term break and some of you might have spare time to tune into some of the upcoming webinars listed below. The suggested topics for August cover collection development, library user engagement, library advocacy strategies, and oral history services.

Collection Development Tips and Tools
Thursday, 6th August, 19:00 – 20:00 IST
Join Library Journal, Ingram Content Group, and special guests for a lively discussion about Collection Development. We’ll have a dynamic discussion about the challenges Selectors face – from predicting popular titles in advance, to dealing with patron demands, to staying on top of titles in the media and much more. Our expert panelists will have some solutions for many of these challenges, and we hope you’ll join the discussion!

As an aside, JISC have just created a new email list to discuss collection management issues (shelving, stores, gifts, policies, relegation, CCM tools, etc.). See LIS-COLLECTION-MGMT for details.

Individual Programs: Anything but Passive
Tuesday, 11th August, 22:30 – 23.30 IST (no registration required)
Individual programs have been called many things (self-led, passive, proactive, and more), but one thing remains the same – these are a great way for any library to encourage interaction from people who may not normally attend programs while using less library resources and staff time. Join us for an interactive webinar where you will help lead the discussion. Bring your questions, your previous successes, and even your failures to share with others! Learn how to give your patrons a voice and participate on their own time, regardless of the size of your location or budget (provided by the Colorado State Library).

Because Advocacy Never Stops: New Tools for Taking Action
Thursday, 13th August, 19:00 – 20:00 IST
This webinar will highlight free, newly revised downloadable materials for public libraries distilled from landmark advocacy and awareness-building programs. Learn about two resources scheduled for release in summer 2015: updated curriculum from Turning the Page including tools, worksheets and training materials you can adapt locally to grow your team’s advocacy knowledge and abilities; and a new online guide that walks through each step of planning and carrying out a local library awareness campaign modelled after Geek the Library. Hear from library leaders who have put these ideas to work to build advocacy know-how, increase staff confidence, and engage more deeply with the community. Whether you are looking to get started, or seeking to maintain momentum following a recent advocacy effort, join us to discuss strategies to take your library to the next level.

Oral History @ Your Library: A Beginner’s Guide
Monday, 31st August, 18:00 – 19:00 IST
Are you interested in fitting oral history into your library’s repertoire, but don’t know where to start? This one-hour webinar will provide an introduction to the ways in which libraries can use oral history for everything from collection development and programming to community engagement. We will begin with the basics — what is oral history? What does it contribute? — and also offer programming ideas for all ages, information about related technology (what type of equipment to use in which circumstances), and a wide range of resources for those who would like to follow up on the topic. At the end of the webinar, participants should have a better idea of how they might be able to utilise oral history in their libraries, and they will have a basic sense of what steps they would need to take to implement that vision.

20 Jul 2015

Preservation Book Cleaning - Report on ANTLC course

Guest post by Elaine Harrington, Special Collections Librarian, UCC Library

I was looking forward to the ANLTC event on Preservation Book Cleaning and from talking to others before the course started I wasn’t the only one. We might not get excited about cleaning and tidying our houses or workspaces but cleaning dusty books on the other hand, well that was new and therefore a little bit exciting!

There was a quite a varied group of library people at the course: special collections, collections departments, user services and periodicals and we were attending for the following reasons:
Interested in gaining more knowledge about the area in general
Knowing what was required in preparation for moving books
Knowing how to manage a book cleaning project
Knowing how to deal with incoming donations before they went to cataloguing.

But why preservation book cleaning? Preservation book cleaning sends a powerful message from library to a parent institution and the non-library world in general. If items aren’t cleaned it implies that the collections have little value, are little used and have little significance to the library itself.

The half-day course was broken into a number of sections: Parts 1 – 3 were PowerPoint presentations and Part 4 was a hands-on activity.

Part 1: Why book cleaning is beneficial to the longevity of library collections
Trinity College Dublin have used the The Long Room in the Old Library as a case study on dust Structural interventions such as filling in the colonnades on the ground floor have contributed to the dust. Preservation measures have already been taken such as fitting UV filters and roller blinds on the windows to minimise what light accesses the room, controlled lighting within the room, environmental monitoring and since a book and shelf cleaning project has been running since the 1980s.

Cleaning books extends the life of the book as dust can cause physical and chemical damage. ‘Dust’ however is a catch-all term and can actually be:
Pest detritus
Textile fragments
Skin cells
Degraded leather
Organic and inorganic materials
The dangers to dust is that it may be used as a food source for pests, dust may be transferred from the outside cover of the book to inside the text block, or dust may set off allergies for an individual.

Trinity College Library selection.

Depending on the size of a collection or a space cleaning might only happen annually but it should happen frequently enough to avoid dust levels. At the very least there should be regular inspections for pests or mould. If we need to decide what should be cleaned we should consider regular deep cleaning of high risk areas or collections that give us the greatest gain. Resources including time may be limited but not all collections are equal.

Andrew showed us examples of red rot and herbaria. Red rot can be cleaned off but the damage remains. A herbarium may have poison which remains from the substance used to preserve the dried specimens initially.

If an item is dusty then it’s likely the shelf on which it rests is dusty too as well the surrounding area. Staff should check with housekeeping as to which chemicals are used in their cleaning products. The cleaning products may leave a residue which depending on where they’re used may cause a reaction. For example wood shelving is hydroscopic so no liquids should be used. Every area has its own difficulties but parts of the Long Room are pretty tricky (area identified by arrow).

Upper Floor Long Room

This is a task for specialised staff as scaffolding is needed because of the height involved. The way dust is removed is also a matter for thought as no one wants the dust to fall further. As the Long Room is a visitor attraction AND a collection space protective coverings, barriers and security are required to protect both the collections and people. However these items impact the viewing experience of the collections.

Part 2: Health & safety issues and work procedures for book cleaning
Andrew opened this section by discussing the terminology for the parts of book. Terminology used on the day is shown in this image below.


When organising a book cleaning project the following questions and points should be considered:
What’s the scope of the project? Every single book or a sample of the collection?
What’s significant about the book?
What’s the storage space like? What are the requirements for cleaning this?
Are in-house staff doing the project or is a professional cleaning company required?
What is the cost of the project? This includes availability of staff, their time, training and supervising staff?
Are there sufficient staff numbers to do the various tasks as repetitive motion is involved.
Any overalls and aprons used by personnel cleaning will require laundering. How will this be done?
Check what level of particulates or mould is present and choose the appropriate dust mask. All the masks come with specific safety ratings.
Use safety glasses as needed.

Andrew put together a list of materials that would be useful for a book cleaning project:

The vacuum is not the type we use to hoover our houses! The filters need to be changed after time as if they are clogged the motor in the hoover heats up and burns out although Andrew assured us that he hadn’t seen it happen in Trinity! For the scientists among us, if we are interested in what kind of dust is present in our libraries we can conduct research on the full hoover bags post-dust collection.

Cloths & smoke sponges provided by Trinity College Library

Part 3: Planning a cleaning programme
Core tasks in a cleaning programme are:
Retrieve book
Clean shelves
Vacuum book
Chemical sponge book
Condition report of book
Repair if necessary e.g. fix spines, reattach boards with linen tape
Reshelve book

Trinity College Library use FileMaker to record information on condition reports for each item. It’s important to record the items as they’re being cleaned as it’s a snapshot for that point of time for that book and it is useful for acquiring funding. The reports have dropdown menus for each section to describe if for example headcaps (top and bottom) are present or not.

Butterworth’s Yearly Digest of reported cases for the year.

The selection on a dropdown menu can be edited to insert additional options. Each condition report can be updated if the book is cleaned in different years.

Phase boxes can be made during the cleaning programme which ensures that there is a barrier between the book and the dust. Additional archival quality enclosures such as archival envelopes or Mylar folders can be placed on sensitive items.

Items that require conservation treatment can be prioritised.

Once clean the books can be protected from dust with archival boxes and the top of each bay should always have a shelf which will capture dust.

Andrew noted that the British Library booklets published by the Preservation Advisory Centre are very good.

Part 4: Hands-on activity
While the whole course was very thorough and explained very well I found this part the most useful as it gave me an opportunity to use each of the pieces of equipment (under careful supervision!) on the various parts of the book.

As the largest concentration of dust tends to be on the top-edge of make sure the book is held firmly closed so that no dust can get in and using either a vacuum or a softer brush clean the book from the head of the book to the fore-edge. This is to minimise possible damage to the spine of the book.

The next areas to clean with vacuum or softer brush are:
Tail of the book (again outward towards the fore-edge)
Spine of the book: this should be cleaned with a sponge horizontally rather than vertically to minimise damage. If the spine is in any way damaged the vacuum should not be used.
Front and back boards: again this should be cleaned with a sponge horizontally rather than vertically.
Open the book and place on foam blocks to support the spine.
With horizontal strokes from the inner joint to the outer edge sponge first the front paste-down and then the front end paper.
Avoid sponging over any notation on a page as cleaning it might result in its removal.
Pages within the text block may be considerably less dirty than pages at the front.
Clean then the back end paper and the back paste-down again with horizontal strokes from the inner joint to the outer edge.
And then it’s on to the next book!

Thanks to ANLTC for organising the event and thanks also to Trinity College Library and the Preservation Team, particularly Andrew Megaw and Susie Bioletti for hosting and answering our many many questions!
Further Information
Trinity College Library’s research into dust:
Study of Old Library Dust (SOLD)
Smith, A., Goodhue, R and Bioletti, S.  “Monitoring Deposited Dust in The Old Library, Trinity College Dublin.”  TARA.

Additional research has been carried out by Historic Royal Palaces, National Trust and English Heritage.

“About a Book” In Bookbindings | Preservation Advisory Centre at the British Library. p.5 http://www.bl.uk/aboutus/stratpolprog/collectioncare/publications/booklets/caring_for_bookbindings.pdf  Taken from: Marks, PJM Marks., The British Library Guide to Bookbinding: History and Techniques. London: British Library, 1998.

“Erica nelsonii Fagúndez.” Specimen number: K000974400. Kew HerbWeb. http://apps.kew.org/herbcat/getImage.do?imageBarcode=K000974400 

“Headcaps.” Butterworth’s Yearly Digest of reported cases for the year.

Roche, Regina Maria. The Children of the Abbey. Cork: J. Haly, M. Harris, and J. Connor, 1798.

“Upper Floor Long Room” adapted from “Long Room Upper.” http://www.tcd.ie/trinitylongroomhub/news/fellowships/terms%20and%20conditions.php 

16 Jul 2015

Providing a Map and a Compass: developing Scotland’s first national strategy for public libraries

Guest post by Martyn Evans, Chair of the National Strategy for Public Libraries in Scotland Strategic Group. The Group was established and supported by the Scottish Library and Information Council.

As with the rest of the UK and beyond, public libraries in Scotland are undergoing a period of transition. A decline in book lending, the sea-change in how information and knowledge is created and shared due to digital technology, the shifting needs of the community, the current economic climate, and a need for stronger leadership within the sector are all part of this picture of change.

Map and Compass
Given this context, the National Strategy for Public Libraries Strategic Group set out to develop a strategy (available here) that would prove to be both a map and a compass: a map to show the terrain ahead and a compass to set a clear direction of travel. The hope? To show libraries how to plot a way through the ever-changing now. The destination? A future where libraries shift from safeguarding and lending information to actively helping citizens engage with information to improve their wellbeing, aspirations and potential.

Vision, Mission and Strategic Aims
Following from this, the group articulated a vision where public libraries ‘are trusted guides connecting all of our people to the world's possibilities and opportunities' and set out to be ‘part of a shared civic ambition to fulfil the potential of individuals and communities’. To deliver on this vision we set out six strategic aims, each one clearly linked to national outcomes and indicators outlined in the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework, and has detailed recommendations.

The aims are:
1. Promote reading literacy and learning
2. Promote digital inclusion
3. Promote economic wellbeing
4. Promote social wellbeing
5. Promote culture and creativity
6. Libraries as excellent public services

Interwoven throughout the aims is a focus on performance (and, crucially, measuring what matters), promotion, partnership, people and leadership.

Challenging perceptions
The strategy articulates the activities, aims and impacts of our public libraries in a way that draws in and engages a wider set of partners, advocates and stakeholders. It challenges non-library stakeholders to recognise public libraries’ potential to deliver on shared ambitions. It is also a challenge to those within the sector who say ‘but libraries already do all this’: examples of innovative practice do of course exist, but this does not equate to good practice across the board. Neither is there convincing evidence of libraries’ contributions that is meaningful to Scotland’s decision-makers and influencers.

Final Thoughts
We have worked hard to sift through the evidence and views of library funders and providers, users and non-users of public libraries. We have learned from library services in other jurisdictions of the UK and further afield. Our hope is that an agreed and widely supported national strategy for public libraries in Scotland will:
• Reinvigorate advocates for public libraries and encourage them to forge links with ‘unusual friends’
• Align and make explicit the wide range of activities provided by library services with the priorities
  of funders and decision-makers
• Support library service to become even more active and confident partners with other services
• Encourage librarians to be vocal leaders in the digital age on access to information, intellectual
  freedom  and freedom of expression
• Embrace an evidence-based and measurement-rich culture

It was a great privilege to Chair this enthusiastic and expert Group. We had some fascinating discussions. I hope you enjoy reading the Strategy and feel you can help deliver its recommendations.

15 Jul 2015

A spectre is haunting librarianship - the spectre of radicalism!

Guest post by Tom Maher who works with The Forgotten Zine Archive likes long walks on the beach and enjoys Italian food....


"To be a librarian is not to be neutral, or passive, or waiting for a question. It is to be a radical positive change agent within your community.” ― R. David Lankes
When asked to write about radical librarianship, my mind naturally began thinking about how to approach the topic - should I sketch a history of radicalism in libraries, deliver a polemic on the value of professional radicalism, or showcase the wide variety of interpretations the term enjoys in libraries today? I was confronted by a nebulous topic - difficult to define, let alone espouse the various merits and demerits of - and ultimately came to the conclusion that a through-line was required from which to sally forth and return to as I wrote. Like many things, you see, radicalism exists on a spectrum of intensity along which you will find extremes of both imperceptible disobedience and full-scale revolution. Though they vary in their commitment, each point on the spectrum shares a common devotion - sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but always depending on who you ask about it - and that is a devotion to change. Radical librarianship is no different.

Firstly, what makes radical librarianship radical? What does radical mean? Briefly put, something described as radical can be characterised by its deliberate departure from convention - usually by way of vocal criticism and direct action. Radicalism is also usually positioned as reactionary and most often operates in direct opposition to an existing mode of operation - after all, something is only radical by comparison.

In the case of libraries, this radicalism can often manifest itself as an outspoken critique of current best practices and a call for the reform of some aspect of libraries, writ large, at the structural level. Examples of the issues radical librarians are most occupied with - though are not limited to discussing - include the increasing commodification of libraries, the ethics of classification and collection development, and the role libraries play in supporting or disintegrating communities. Outside the realm of mere debate, this kind of radicalism can also manifest itself as autonomous library projects, outreach programmes directed at fringe or countercultural communities, and the provision of information resources to activists.

Though many of these examples may seem misguided, scary or generally undesirable to you, your library or your community, it is important to focus on the principles guiding them when thinking about whether to adopt radical measures or not. Examine your mandate, your services, your collections, and your policies - are any of these either accidentally or deliberately exclusionary? Remember that discrimination doesn’t always come in neat, stereotypical packages - it can be subtle, pervasive and especially difficult to self-identify.

Examine your community and the groups operating in it as thoroughly as possible - open up a dialogue with these groups and listen to their feedback on the services you provide (and how you provide them). Examples of networks to concentrate on include migrant, homeless and LGBTQIA+ communities, labour movements, local artists, environmental groups, and advocacy groups for the elderly or disabled.

If you cannot affect change in your own library, consider other options for bridging the gap between what can be done and what needs to be done - offer your personal expertise to groups on any upcoming projects; volunteer at local events; start up your own research or information service or help out with an existing one; start up your own community archive or help out with an existing one; broadcast the services your library does offer and suggest ways for these groups to best use them.

I can speak in only basic terms to most of these issues, but thankfully smarter folks than I have given this a lot more time. While Ireland is sorely lacking a radical pedigree in the area of information politics - at least formally and to my admittedly-limited knowledge - much ground has been gained by librarians abroad looking to spread the Good Word. Here are some examples of players I have come across (again, in my nascent and West-centric experience) and what they’re about:


United Kingdom

56a Infoshop - The 56a Infoshop is a volunteer-run, 100% unfunded DIY-run social centre in Walworth, South London.

We are a resource for local people, campaign groups and projects as well as selling books, zines, music and t-shirts. We have an extensive radical archive of international info with hundreds if not thousands of publications that we have saved over the last 16 years of being open.

We are part of a larger Social Centres Network in London and part of a global network of Infoshops, autonomous spaces, projects & people dreaming and working for a better world.

We share the space with Fareshares whole foods co-op and a free D.I.Y bicycle repair space. Stop by for a read, to fix your bike, buy some veg, to check the squatters' bulletin board or just for a cuppa.

Radical Librarians Collective - There is no central committee running RLC. The collective grew organically out of conversations between like-minded library workers, and its membership continues to be fluid and evolving. You don’t even have to be a library worker to be part of the collective, and you definitely don’t have to commit any time or labour to joining in.

For national gatherings, an open and temporary organising committee is created from those members who have the time and energy to take it on for the planning period. This group does not represent RLC and everything it does, this is simply a group of people who have volunteered (via an open invitation sent to the RLC mailing list)to help create the space that RLC will inhabit on the day of a gathering. Anyone can volunteer at any stage, and can take on as small a role as they’d like. We are actively trying to mitigate the formation of a ‘clique’ or hierarchy in RLC and welcome fresh input.

At the gathering itself, all attendees are welcome to suggest sessions and facilitate them, by no means just the organising committee. Equally, all attendees are expected to adhere to our Safer Spaces policy, and it’s all of our responsibilities to enforce it.

The horizontalist approach RLC aims to take is an ongoing process that we’re all learning from. If you have any thoughts or suggestions on how to make RLC as inclusive and effective possible, please join in and send us an email.

The Itinerant Poetry Library - We see libraries, and in particular, public libraries as the bedrock of world citizenship. We believe that nowhere else offers such information equity, trust and dialogue, between us as individuals, as communities, as cultures.

For when we enter a library we encounter each other: encountering each other we are revealed more to ourselves. Through such meetings we begin to understand how we are connected by our experiences of a shared world. Fundamentally, when we enter a library we are offered the opportunity to learn new things and thus, as individuals, as world citizens, to grow.

Thus, with this mission in mind, continuously since May 2006 The Itinerant Poetry Librarian has been travelling the world with a free public library, installing the library & librarian and archiving the sounds, poems and poetry of the cities, peoples and countries she meets.

United States of America

Bernard Zine Library - Barnard's zines are written by women, with an emphasis on zines by women of color. A woman's gender is self-defined. We also collect zines on feminism and femme identity by people of all genders. The zines are personal and political publications on activism, anarchism, body image, third-wave feminism, gender, parenting, queer community, riot grrrl, sexual assault, and other topics.

Radical Reference - Radical Reference is a collective of volunteer library workers who believe in social justice and equality. We support activist communities, progressive organizations, and independent journalists by providing professional research support, education and access to information. We work in a collaborative virtual setting and are dedicated to information activism to foster a more egalitarian society.

Radical reference originated as a service provided by volunteer library workers from all over the United States to assist demonstrators and activists at the convergence surrounding the Republican National Convention in New York City August 29-September 2, 2004.


Archiv der Jugendkulturen e.V. - [shamefully translated using Google] There are few places where mods alongside rockers, hippies can stand next to skinheads or punks Emos next without a snide remark, the flaps of a knife or spitting at his feet. But these so different and often entangled in fighting youth cultures, including Raver, Psychobillies, New Romantics, graffiti sprayer, Gothics and many others have found in the archives of the youth cultures a place of harmony, where they would escape in the real world. They continue to live here, forever young and stylish, politically and creatively, in a library that combines the last 70 years of youth culture. There you will find rarities such as Israeli punk fanzines, the first Bravo or American student newspapers from the 40s. The material ranges from books to videos, cassettes, posters, flyers to T-shirts and wristbands.

It may be for scientific research, journalists and filmmakers of importance. As a public library without fees, we are open to all.


Want to know more? 

Further reading on the subject of radical or alternative librarianship can be found all over the internet - most radical librarianship blogs have extensive bibliographies, as well as lists of active libraries and archives in their area - but here are some recommendations to get you started:

● Tsang, C. Daniel (2004) “Taking a Stand.” Revolting Librarians Redux: Radical Librarians Speak Out. Edited by K.R Roberto and Jessamyn West. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 61-65.

● Bartel, Julie (2004) From A to Zine: Building a Winning Zine Collection in Your Library. Chicago: ALA Editions.

● Berman, Sanford (2008) “Introduction: Cataloging Reform, LC, and Me.” Radical Cataloging: Essays at the Front. Ed. K.R. Roberto. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. 5-11.

● Freedman, Jenna (2008) “AACR2-bendable but not flexible: cataloging zines at Barnard College.” Radical Cataloging: Essays at the Front. Ed. K.R. Roberto. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co.

● Anderson, B. (1999). “The Other 90 Percent: What Your MLS Didn’t Teach You.“ Counterpoise Vol. 3, No. 3/4, July/October

● Marinko, R. A., & Gerhard, K. H. (1998). “Representations of the alternative press in academic library collections.” College and Research Libraries, 59(4), 363-377.

● Lawson, S, Sanders, K, Smith, L. (2015). "Commodification of the Information Profession: A Critique of Higher Education Under Neoliberalism". Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication 3(1):eP1182.

● Mai, J-E. (2013) "Ethics, values, and morality in contemporary library classifications". Knowledge Organization, 40 (3): 242-253. 2013.

● Highby, W. (2004). "The ethics of academic collection development in a politically contentious era". Library Collections, Acquisitions, and Technical Services, 28(4): 465-472.

● Althusser, Louis (1970). "Idéologie et appareils idéologiques d’État (Notes pour une recherche)". La Pensée (151). [English translations also exist]

And finally, check out the efforts of these industrious zinesters - "It belongs in a museum library!"

13 Jul 2015

Shaping our Legacy: Safeguarding the Social and Cultural Record. (DRI Digital Preservation Conference Report)

This report on the Digital Repository Ireland (DRI) 1st Digital Preservation Conference, June 25th & 26th 2015 - Theme: Shaping our Legacy: Safeguarding the Social and Cultural Record is by Siobhan McGuiness library intern with the Heritage Council 

Day 1:
To kick-start this wonderful two event, Catriona Crowe for the National Archives was our Keynote speaker. Catriona for anyone that does not know her is a fabulous speaker, her knowledge and wisdom is inspiring. I would not even try to write or repeat her speech as it covers a multitude. The one remark I will say is, check out the amazing speeches she has given over the years, this woman is for me an inspirational leader.

Moving on with this jam packed day, I decide to stay and listen to Paper Session 1A:
Sustaining Infrastructures.

Rob Kitchin, from Maynooth University is first up to illustrate “Funding models for open access digital repositories”
This is an important aspect for anyone moving into digitisation. As my current internship is with the heritage council we are hoping to work on a digitisation project. The heritage council is linked very closely to the research data within the humanities and social science so it is imperative that we understand what these models can offer us.

Most of us are aware of Open Access (OA) however the growing range of different OA models are forever changing and adapting. The need to look deeper into your organisation to see which one of these models matches your present needs and influences future decisions is of high importance.
To reflect on your organisation is never a bad discussion, it gives time to look deeper at the mission and value of the organisation and how this new digitisation fits with your core ideas and future endeavours.

The last two speakers, illustrated the many ways organisations can preserve their research or digital collection on a larger scale. Tibor Kálmán from GWDG which is “research centre to advance scientific research infrastructures” and Marcel Ras from the Netherlands explained infrastructure on a larger scale, which if you are within a larger institution can be helpful. The scale of a digital preservation project can start off small and the requirements that you think you need may be easy and accessible. However after hearing the above speakers it was imperative to me to keep the scale of the project as small as possible. There is a high possibility it could become gigantic in the ways these infrastructures are, however in my case this does not reflect the mission of the heritage council in anyway.

After lunch, it is paper session 2A: Cultural Heritage: Legal, Ethical and Practical Considerations
Here five (yes five) different speakers are to talk about all things heritage however in a very serious manner. Legal and ethics side of digitising heritage is a minefield, especially sensitive material. Sensitive material discussed here was very interesting. Documents that contained folklore stories which contained actual names and places that could be traced back needed to be followed up. Here some of the stories didn’t highlight the people very well and so present relatives needed to be asked if names could be kept or redacted, in some cases whole stories are not available.
Depending on what is in your digital collection there are many legalities to consider. Copyright is of course top of the list and again needs adding to the list of questions in terms of staff, who took the picture? Was it an archaeological dig funded by the organisation or a separate project? When, where, was the picture taken? When, where & what is in the picture? I am not an archaeologist and I am not a qualified heritage officer, so this is a challenging digitisation project. The bottom line is we all need to work together!

However because this is an awesome conference I get learn a small bit about archaeology, and more important Digital Archaeology. The discovery programme worked on a 3D project called 3D-ICONS. This amazing project showcased how the team went about taking pictures of the objects and the surrounding landscape. They outlined how they needed to take in height and depth surrounding each object, the sheer scale of this was enormous. The best bit was getting to meet and talk with the metadata team, two of the team members were present and it was so inspiring to see the amount of work that went into this project.

Day 2: Heritage, Heritage!

I really am starting to like all things heritage, the stories these people tell are mesmerising. The main discussion over the last two days is “how can we all work together”? The scariest part of getting down and dirty with heritage is the sheer volume that we as a nation have. We have it in our attics, we have it in our minds, and we have it now on our computers and phones as we document our heritage through holidays and visits around this wonderful country.

How do we preserve and document this in a way that will sustain over time? WHO will maintain this preservation? There are amazing projects being done as we speak, however resources are tight and not everyone is up to speed with digitisation. From my point of view this needs the collaboration of everyone that is someway connected. The heritage council is part of that connection and we will reach out to others to share our learning and to keep active the many ways we can document and preserve our precious heritage.

If digitisation is something you have an interest in as a librarian, archivist, knowledge manager, or information professional, whatever your title may be I would strongly urge you to attend this conference next year. It gets you out of your comfort zone, you meet people from so many other disciplines and you learn something new.

Be sure to check out DRI’s website it really is a great resource and check out #dpassh for tweets from and about the day.