Bookmobile in Granma, Cuba

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Libros para Cuba (Books for Cuba) is a California non-profit organization working to advocate for the right to free exchange of professional information, interaction, and collaboration with colleagues in Cuban libraries. Over a year ago, Libros para Cuba sent a bookmobile (holding 5,000 volumes) to the outlying provincial library of Granma, Cuba, to help provide library outreach services to rural areas. According to their blog, the project is still going strong!!

As part of its committment to literacy and principles underlying the freedom to read, the Progressive Librarians Guild (PLG) has supported the bookmobile project of Libros para Cuba . Click here to see additional information on Cuba and libraries hosted by PLG.

Reflections on Librarianship

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The following is a letter which was recently posted to the ALA Council List by PLG member Elaine Harger in which she reflects on where libraries, specifically public libraries, fit into the communities in which they are situated. She brings important questions to the table with regard to the roles and responsibilities held by both individual libraries and larger library affiliated institutions in light of economic and environmental disaster. Please read as food for thought and thank you to Kathleen de la Peña McCook for making this available to the broader PLG community!

Dear colleagues,

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about all the suggestions made this past week regarding topics for discussion at the Membership Meeting at annual. I have also been thinking about ALA and librarianship in general in regard to environmental issues and have yet another idea to add to the hopper.

How do we make libraries relevant in the face of ecological degradation and disaster? For instance, did libraries in New Orleans inform their users about the probability that a hurricane like Katrina might cause the kind of damage that it, in fact, did? It was well known to civil engineers, journalists and others that a big hurricane would devastate the region, but did libraries ever highlight that information so that people might be better prepared? And, what role did libraries in wealthy areas play in fostering a spirit of civic unity with people in poor areas? How did libraries inform users of the likelihood of massive numbers of people becoming refugees? And, what should a library’s responsibility be in the face of the ecological stresses scientists are now warning us about? What is ALA’s responsibility as a leader within our profession? These are not academic questions — each one of our communities is vulnerable and we are all interconnected in vital ways. I think it is time for a discussion of these issues, as they are at the heart of a conversation that the entire nation needs to engage in. Yes, we can discuss what we’d like to see an Obama administration do in regard to libraries, but we need a _vision_ of the direction librarianship must head toward in the face of environmental (and economic, social and political) problems before we can take a wish list to the new president.

Librarianship needs to take a good, hard, eyes-wide-open look at where we are physically, historically and morally in order to transition the profession to meet the pressures of a future the likes of which we’ve never seen. If we are to make good on our promises to bear witness of what happened in New Orleans, then we need to reflect on what our responsibility is in preparing our own users and communities for the “disasters” that await us. We can certainly “hope” that President Obama will lead us in the right direction regarding these matters, but we really should be proactive and let him know that we have been thinking about the role librarianship could play in the transition to a more just and healthy world.

This afternoon I read an essay by Arundhati Roy entitled “Do Turkeys Enjoy Thanksgiving?” In it she makes a special point about honorable people who get elected to positions of power. I highly recommend this essay, which can be found at:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/95259/Do-Turkeys-Enjoy-Thanksgiving

We can’t passively “hope” for a better world, we need to be that change, and in order for this to happen within librarianship we need to do some serious reflection on where we fit into society, what that society is truly like and what we would like it to become.

All my best,

Elaine Harger
Councilor-at-Large

Progressive Librarians Guild Statement On WIFI In Libraries

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Newsworthy to all concerned with the potential health risks associated with wireless technologies to both library staff and the public, is the recently published Progressive Librarians Guild Statement On WIFI In Libraries, available here.

The Progressive Librarians Guild quotes the Wingspread Statement on the Precautionary Principle, 1998, stating:

“When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically…”

“In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.

“The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.”

European library workers have already taken steps to call for examinations based on the current research on health effects of wireless, including those from the Bibliotheque Nationale de France (having forgone installation of a public wireless system ) and the staff of the Sainte Genevieve Library (having called for a discussion on wireless technology safety in university and public libraries based in part on the conclusions reached by the European Environmental Agency BioInitiative Working Group (2007).

That said, anyone know if I can still order one of these? (Image “borrowed” from the archive of Make Magazine’s blog).
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