The House That Herman Built



Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch is now exhibiting a powerful collaboration between New Orleans-based artist Jackie Sumell and former prisoner and Black Panther, Herman Wallace. Wallace was a member of the Angola 3, who was wrongfully convicted of the 1972 murder of a prison guard; likely framed due to their political activism. Wallace spent nearly 42 years in solitary confinement and died just days after his conviction was overturned. The project Wallace worked on with Sumell began when she asked him, “What sort of house does a man who has lived in a 6-foot-by-9-foot cell for over 30 years dream of?”

The House That Herman Built is an on-going project that began as an exchange between two individuals and has expanded into an international art exhibition, a book, a documentary film, and is now in the fundraising stages of building Herman Wallace’s dream home in the city of New Orleans. The exhibit includes a life-sized replica of Wallace’s prison cell, selections from his correspondence with Sumell, books from his reading list, and, now in the library’s main lobby, a model of the dream house that he designed. In the wake of his death, this project, in all of its forms, speaks to Herman’s struggle and the struggle of all people forced to endure wrongful convictions and the inhumane conditions of long term solitary confinement. Go see it at BPL or take a look at the video below put out by Democracy Now!


#BlackLivesMatter Resource Series at Oakland Public Library

From the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign at Oakland Public Library. A woman holds a #WeNeedDiverseBooks sign up.      Photo: Courtesy of Oakland Public Library (via NPR)

From the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign at Oakland Public Library. A woman holds a #WeNeedDiverseBooks sign up.
Photo: Courtesy of Oakland Public Library (via NPR)

Across the country #BlackLivesMatter is inspiring action and conversation. Thank you to the Oakland librarians who have compiled resources to support these conversations (all of which are available to view here; however placing holds on materials via the OPL catalog would require a library card).

Listen, Learn, Participate: A #BlackLivesMatter Resource Series offers books, articles and videos to prompt discussion and action around:

These are incredibly valuable resources for teachers, students, parents, kids, community organizers, neighbors, and you. ❤

Upcoming: Library Juice Press Series on Gender and Sexuality in Librarianship


Expected (and highly anticipated) in early 2011 is Series on Gender and Sexuality in Librarianship (Emily Drabinski, Series Editor)!

Forthcoming in the series will be:

Out Behind the Desk: Workplace Issues for LGBTQ Librarians, edited by Tracy Nectoux

Documenting Feminist Activism, edited by Lyz Bly and Kelly Wooten

Gender, Sexuality, Information: A Reader, edited by Rebecca Dean and Patrick Keilty

The African Activist Archive Project


The African Activist Archive Project is building an online archive of primary materials – documents, photographs, artifacts, and written and oral memories – of 50 years of activist organizing in the United States in solidarity with African struggles against colonialism, apartheid, and injustice.

This movement offers important lessons about popular organizing for social justice: The anti-apartheid movement of the 1970s-1994, in particular, was unprecedented. Campaigns by community activists, students, faculty, churches, unions, and city, county, and state legislators led to divestment from U.S. companies doing business in South Africa and culminated in passage of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 that changed U.S. foreign policy over President Reagan’s veto.

Organizations in the African solidarity movement created newsletters, pamphlets, leaflets, policy and strategy papers, meeting minutes, correspondence, and graphic, audio and visual material such as posters, buttons, T-shirts, photos, slideshows, radio interviews, and videos. Many groups and coalitions no longer exist, but individuals associated with them have preserved many vital records.


Button: Chase Manhattan - Partner in Apartheid SDS

Button: Chase Manhattan - Partner in Apartheid SDS

The African Activist Archive Project is cosponsored by the African Studies Center and MATRIX: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online at Michigan State University, which have cooperated on projects about Africa for the past decade.

Celeste West “FESTSCHRIFT” Book Project


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Co-editors Toni Samek and KR Roberto are seeking articles, stories, poems, photographs, letters, thought pieces and other individual and collective memories of Celeste West, lesbian, feminist librarian, publisher, and activist, for a festschrift to be published by Library Juice Press in 2009. Celeste passed away in San Francisco on January 3, 2008 at the age of 65. She was a pioneering progressive librarian and one of the founders of the Bay Area Reference Center (BARC), Booklegger Press, Synergy [Magazine], and Booklegger Magazine. She was also co-editor of the now classic title Revolting Librarians.

From 1989 until 2006, Celeste worked as the library director at the San Francisco Zen Center. She was a radical library worker whose practice challenged established library traditions by encouraging librarians to speak up about the need for systematic change. West initiated questions and challenged assumptions (such as library neutrality) that continue to be central issues examined in critical librarianship today. However, while Celeste released a lot of work to the world as author and editor, not much was ever shared about her as subject.

For an historical snapshot of some of Celeste´s key contributions via Booklegger Press, please see: Toni Samek. 2006. “Unbossed and Unbought: Booklegger Press the First Women-Owned American Library Publisher” in Women In Print: Essays on the Print Culture of American Women from the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Edited by James P. Danky and Wayne A. Wiegand. Foreword by Elizabeth Long. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press in collaboration with the Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Pages 126-155. Available in print and as an online book.

For a more contemporary introduction to Celeste´s way of thinking, see: Revolting Librarians Redux: Radical Librarians Speak Out by K.R. Roberto and Jessamyn West.

Please direct your ideas and queries to the FESTSCHRIFT Editorial Assistant and Project Manager Moyra Lang (moyra @ The final deadline for all contributions has been extended to Monday February 2, 2009!

Rally for School Libraries


Grassroots Advocacy: More than 100 people gathered earlier this year (February) at the state capitol steps in Olympia, Washington to rally for school libraries. The rally, as well as an all-day summit, was the culmination of the work of a group of concerned Spokane mothers troubled at the cuts to school library media programs.

Library Fitness


Albeit several years old, the Fit For Life initiative serves as an amazing example of the potential of library services (specifically public library services) in partnership with local organizations, agencies and schools. In 2004, MetLife Foundation awarded a grant to to pilot Get Real, Get Fit!, a program designed to provide library systems with training, resources and support to promote health literacy and wellness in their communities, with a specific focus on populations in urban areas with limited access to reliable health information. LFF selected 40 libraries in 15 states to bring together teens and their parents for discussions and activities focused on fitness and nutrition and to help develop these libraries as centers for health information.

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Community Health Connections: Emerging Models of Health Information Services in Public Libraries, an LFF publication, can be downloaded here.