Librarians at the US Social Forum
The Progressive Librarians Guild was established in 1990 with the recognition that the development of public libraries was initially spurred by popular sentiment which for one reason or another held that real democracy requires an enlightened citizenry, and that society should provide all people with the means for free intellectual development. Current trends in librarianship, however, assert that the library is merely a neutral institutional mediator in the information marketplace and a facilitator of a value-neutral information society of atomized information consumers. A progressive librarianship demands the recognition of the idea that libraries for the people has been one of the principal anchors of an extended free public sphere which makes an independent democratic civil society possible, something which must be defended and extended. This is partisanship, not neutrality. 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. We are evolving, expanding our services, and continuing to utilize our professional skills and tools to answer information needs from the general public, independent journalists, and activists.
are artists/cultural workers
Librarians with two organizations based in the U.S., the Progressive Librarians Guild and Radical Reference, will attend the USSF to engage in four primary activities. Our work will be framed by the question: In what ways can the field of librarianship help realize the goals set by the social forum movement?
Already librarian colleagues in several parts of the world are involved in the social forum movement in different ways: (1) collecting publications from social forum participants to document and preserve the memory and history of this important social movement, and in doing so to continue work begun in Nairobi in establishing the WSFLibrary; (2) informing social forum participants on the role librarians and libraries can play in communities to support social justice and, conversely, inquiring of participants how librarianship might best serve their needs; (3) in providing library services during the social forum itself to media workers; (4) in sharing our experience as activists engaged in opposing and exposing privatization of public services, disinformation, and censorship; and (5) engaging in dialogue with colleagues attending the forum on how we can bring the message, spirit and goals of the forum into the field of librarianship. Both the Progressive Librarians Guild and Radical Reference want to participate in the U.S. Social Forum in order to support the work begun by our colleagues within the context of the World Social Forum.
We hope to connect the idea, the potential, and the reality of libraries as vital hubs of knowledge and information within all communities. We share with the Social Forum a commitment to building bridges between peoples and cultures, with an internationalist perspective and a desire to put our skills at the service of grassroots initiatives. The overall theme of the U.S. Social Forum -- if another world is possible: another US is necessary -- reflects much of the work both groups have engaged in over the past years within the field of librarianship, PLG for 17, RR for 3 years. We consider the opportunity of the U.S. Social Forum a vital step in the development of our work as librarians who are opposed to neo-liberalism and imperialism, and dedicated to political, economic and cultural democracy, and to the building of infrastructures that heal the environment so badly damaged by industrial nations in the past century.
The primary goal of our participation has three aspects: (1) to engage in the collection, and later the organization and promotion, of material from social forum workshops and other activities; (2) to assist at the media center with fact-checking if space and equipment allow; and (3) to dialogue with our colleagues attending the USSF about bringing the forum’s goals into our profession.
The workshop we propose would have a two-fold purpose. First, we will need the assistance of anyone interested in collecting documentation. At the workshop we will explain the process to volunteers and establish a schedule for material collection. Secondly, we will use the workshop to organize our other forum activities.
The documentation project, begun at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, is still at the developmental stage, but many experienced librarians are involved, and we see the USSF as a venue in which to continue this valuable work. Information about the WSFLibrary is available at the following website:
Our work will be conducted in English and, depending on who is able to attend, we might have Spanish translation. We do not have equipment for interpretation. At this point, handouts will be available in English, perhaps in Spanish and other languages.
The greatest challenge PLG and RR face is reaching out to grassroots social activists and building alliances both within and outside the field of librarianship. We believe that taking this step in helping with the WSFLibrary project, fact-checking, and dialogue will give us an opportunity as organizations to develop outreach strategies to grassroots activists and groups.
Progressive Librarians Guild & Radical Reference
http://www.libr.org/PLG and http://radicalreference.info/
Thursday, June 28th (Consciousness + Awareness Raising / Current Struggles)
PO Box 331
Intellectual property, creative commons
Librarians at the US Social Forum.