oktober 17, 2015
About this blog
Scandinavian Library Quarterly just issued their no. 3 this year, with several texts on freedom of speech. Which is neither fresh nor original in library journals or at library conferences. However what makes this issue worth reading is the special focus in the Scandianavian countries on the public libraries as explicit venues for political debate.
All libraries have programs on literature that include talks and debates, and some even move to politics now and then. But probably for the first time not only one but two national library acts have had their objects clauses amended to include just political debates and related activities. Thus every Norwegian public library is since 1st January 2014 supposed to «serve as an independent meeting place and forum for public dialogue and debate”. And Swedish libraries should “promote the democratic development of the society by contributing to the dissemination of knowledge and freedom of opinion” (my translations).
This is covered by two texts in this issue (one of which by this blogger, who has gone more thoughly into this in an earlier blogpost). Other articles cover library and societal debates in other Scandinavian countries after e.g. the «Charlie Hebdo» incident, after exhibitions in Finnish libraries that turned out to provoke certain groups, the same in Denmark after poetry recitals provoking political muslims.
Especially in Norway librarians seem to prioritize freedom of expression to the risk of provoking groups or individuals. E.g. at least three major public libraries in Norway have lately invited racists to debates, of course together with competent opponents, or opened their premises to more or less racist organisations. However In the Swedish contribution in this issue the author stresses that «…the freedom of expression … is undoubtedly an important right, but is it an obligation to use it to wound and to provoke?»
juli 24, 2015
The fight against The Patriot Act: One proud example of librarians NOT being uncritical and indifferent toward Govt info
About this blog
I admit having been a crude moralist toward my librarian colleagues for years. It all started back in 2001 when I wrote a book, «-Videst mulig informasjon-» (in Norwegian only) on the sad story of many librarians’ indifferent and uncritical attitude toward governmental information, which is of course very often the propaganda of the majority of the city council or the parliament and government.
My article ‘Information Services and the Independent Public Library’ is a summary in English of this book, published in Information for Social Change (ISC) No. 18, Winter 2003 (pdf). Page 24 ff.
«… by presenting official [governmental] information as a genre of its own similar to fiction and non-fiction and without offering any contrary information on the same subject, librarians are in my opinion failing in their duty. An absence of conflicting views is harmful to social processes and leads to a more superficial democracy. … I also maintain that public libraries and their staff together with their national professional bodies reveal an attitude towards the authorities and their information activities which is uncritical and sometimes purely subservient. When loyalty is challenged there is a tendency towards self-censorship. Furthermore, any signs of tackling these problems have been ignored by central library forums».
Read the full text of the book at the National Library, however available for Norwegian IPs only.
juli 21, 2015
Mark Hudson with analogue resources in the reference area of Monroeville Public Library
Right at front when you open the website of Monroeville Public Library, Pennsylvania (no, not that Monroeville, fellow literature lovers), you are introduced to the library’s ‘Hot Topics’; i.e. sets of Web resources on local, national and international current issues. It was after my blog post two weeks ago, ‘How a Public Library Can Improve Public Participation and Democracy’, I was informed about ‘Hot Topics’ by Mark Hudson, Adult Services Librarian in Monroeville. He is one of the librarians responsible for Hot Topics.
About this blog
read more »
november 24, 2014
About this blog
This birth took place 1st January 2014 and at the same time in both Norway and Sweden. We are talking about the two countries’ library laws that were revised with new, radical formulations that promote democracy through debate and exchange of opinions in the public library.
The Norwegian law, combined with signals by the Minister of Culture, even gives the chief librarian status as an independent editor of library debates, in line with newspaper editors.
The law proposal was not uncontroversial. The debate raged about the chief librarian’s new status, in both the professional and the general press. Would the chief librarian still be overrun by the city council? Have librarians the right skills and attitude? However, a great number of libraries have now taken the plunge and organise debates. They experiment and gain experience. They do it so well, that the chairman of Norwegian PEN, William Nygaard (best known as the Norwegian publisher of Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” and for having survived an assassination attempt against him in 1993), said that the library has comea long way in a short time with its own debate profile. And mayors and administrators have publicly approved the new free position of the chief librarian.
Surprisingly very little has been said or written internationally about this innovative new service and policy. However in the latest issue of ISC – Information for Social Change – I have an article titled «The New Independent Norwegian «Debate Libraries» (page 4 ff ), hoping that other library communities and associations will consider it.