Library Essays

In the age of the globalisation of everything – and the privatisation of everything else - libraries can and must change. In fact, it’s already underway, as new technologies take books and libraries to places that are, as yet, unimaginable.

That’s what we’re unpacking today on Essays On Air, where we bring you fascinating long form essays in audio form.

Today, Camilla Nelson, Associate Professor of Writing at the University of Notre Dame, reads her essay, titled Why libraries can and must change.

Nelson takes us from the ancient Library of Alexandria to the New York Public Library and explores the problems that arise when books are excluded, destroyed, censored and forgotten. And, indeed, when libraries are decimated.

Join us as we read to you here at Essays On Air, a podcast from The Conversation.

Find us and subscribe in Apple Podcasts, in Pocket Casts or wherever you get your podcasts.

Additional audio

Snow by David Szesztay

Big chain by daveincamas

Traffic noise in the street by jcgd2

Automatic door by Kyodon

Kids Birthday Party Crowd by jakobthiesen

Cardboard burning by Rare Mess Recordings

Plunger-pop by Quistard

environment 1st floor by mariiao2

Moderate waves on the edge of a river by Duophonic

breaking objects by deleted_user_3667256

Vacuum cleaner, by InspectorJ

Morning docks by nathanaellentz

Tearing paper by ScreamStudio

Shhh Sounds by AryaNotStark

Best Bernard Black Moments, Black Books by Channel 4

Ye Olde Green Inn by MAT64

Robo Hobo by The Freeharmonic Orchestra

This episode was edited by Jenni Henderson. Illustration by Marcella Cheng.

Questioning Library Neutrality: Essays from Progressive Librarian

Editor: Alison Lewis
Price: $18.00
Published: April 2008
ISBN: 978-0-9778617-7-4
5.5" by 8.5"
152 Pages
Printed on acid-free paper

Questioning Library Neutrality: Essays from Progressive Librarian presents essays that relate to neutrality in librarianship in a philosophical or practical sense, and sometimes both. They are a selection of essays originally published in Progressive Librarian, the journal of the Progressive Librarians Guild, presented in the chronological order of their appearance there.

We begin with Progressive Librarian editor Mark Rosenzweig's editorial, "Politics and Anti-Politics," which provides a philosophical framework for considering the historical role of "neutrality" within the profession of librarianship. It is followed by Peter McDonald's "Corporate Inroads and Librarianship," which exposes the outsourcing of library functions in various settings and advocates for the retention of local professional involvement and humanistic values. Sandy Iverson provides a post-modernist and feminist critique of neutrality or "objectivity" in "Librarianship and Resistance." Steven Joyce revisits the so-called "Berninghausen debate" surrounding issues of social responsibilities within the American Library Association in the 1970s and relates it to a similar conflict within the profession over homosexuality in the 1990s in "A Few Gates Redux." In "Activist Librarianship: Heritage or Heresy?" Ann Sparanese relates the circumstances surrounding her now-famous "saving" of Michael Moore's book Stupid White Men and the motivations behind her own decision to act rather than remain a passive, neutral observer. Robert Jensen provides useful insights into the impossibility of remaining neutral with his comparison of librarians to professionals working in journalism and higher education in "The Myth of the Neutral Professional." Jack Andersen's "Information Criticism: Where is It?" looks at librarianship's inability to critique and analyze the information it deals with and places the blame for this on the profession's embrace of a technological and managerial discourse that overlooks practical use and societal impact. Likewise, John Doherty challenges librarianship's lack of critical self-awareness in "Towards Self-Reflection in Librarianship: What is Praxis?" and provides practical examples of his own attempts to integrate the ideas of educational theorists into his practice of bibliographic instruction. In "The Professional is Political," Shiraz Durrani and Elizabeth Smallwood examine the library within a global context, then narrow their focus to innovative practices in public libraries in Britain, providing a concrete example of a needs-based youth advocacy program. Lastly, Joseph Good critiques neutrality as a form of moral relativism in "The Hottest Place in Hell." Here at the beginning of the twenty-first century, "neutrality" no longer means "impartiality" or "objectivity," but too often lapses into what might be better termed "indifference." These essays are presented in the hope that they will stimulate further interest in and debate about the concept of neutrality within the library community, if not provoking the downright opposite of indifference.

Read the Introduction

Read the review in the SRRT Newsletter.



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