Review: A Radical Approach to Librarianship: Progressive Librarian
Journal Review: A Radical Approach to Professional Librarianship
The journal entitled, Progressive Librarian reflects a growing movement of North American librarians trying to make progress in making more radical steps to change libraries of all sorts. The journal is diverse in types of libraries and issues, but one author seems to sum up the question the journal is trying to answer as a whole: “how can libraries and archives uphold the statutes of liberty, in addition to observing professional ethics and standards, all the while providing the essential services our public, our constituents, and our past deserves?” (Schwenk 56). In other words, through discussions of race, class, workers’ rights, information economics, and a vast but relevant group of other topics, this journal moves towards the future of libraries and librarianship in a progressive and non-mainstream way. Through a study of individual articles and repeated terms and ideological stances, this concept of radicalism will grow as the apparent mission of the “Progressive Librarian.”
Although none of the issues focused all articles around types of libraries (public, academic, etc), nor any particular conflict (race, gender, information economics, etc), a discussion of them would probably best be suited to group the articles together, not by issue number, but rather by article type. For instance, race conflict type articles will be discussed first.
The problems and opportunities associated with race emerged several times, including titles such as, “The Politics of Cultural Genocide” (Kuntz), “Transmitting Whiteness: Librarians, Children, and Race, 1900’s-1930’s” (Hand), and “Through a Distant Lens: Visions of Native Hawaiians in Children’s Picture Books” (Zetervall). As noted, although these titles are related by a broad topic, in this case conflicts regarding race, they are still incredibly diverse within this topic. For the most part, these articles concern either librarians or library patrons. These article try to dismantle or disclaim a Eurocentric theme throughout North American libraries. “Through a Distant Lens,” is an especially noteworthy article talking about the stereotypes present in books supposedly about Native Hawaiian culture. More importantly than simply stating the present stereotypes, the author continues in detail about how these stereotypes might be ended; that is, through a cooperation with Native Hawaiians and including them in the LIS field and other related fields (Zetervall 122).
Similarly, “The Politics of Cultural Genocide” (Kuntz) offers an alternative view to the bombings of the libraries in Serajova and Bosnia in the mid-1990’s. Although both sides of this conflict took part in the bombings of cultural and religious heritage sites, such as libraries, churches, and mosques, only the side opposing the United States and its western allies appeared in court to answer to war crimes. This article pointed out the hypocrisy of an America not willing to admit to its own “cultural genocide” that was ever so apparent in Bosnia (Kuntz 94). Because of the Western centered view of culture, (similar to the other articles covering race), the West held others accountable, while pardoning themselves for nearly identical actions.
Other than race, the most substantial topic (at least in terms of quantity of articles), seemed to be dealing with workers’ rights and the place of unions within the library. I was not surprised to see the 2011 issues swelling with direct examples regarding Wisconsin and its legislation and protests carried out in recent years. One of these articles was entitled, “WALKERVILLE, NEW DEMOCRATS & “WISHES IN THE WIND”: ROLLING BACK THE 20TH CENTURY IN WISCONSIN” (Latham). I found it very similar to the broader scale articles referring to the Occupy Wall Street movement including, “Occupy Wall Street Librarians Speak Out” (Norton, et al), and “Collective Bargaining is a Human Right: Union Review for 2011” (Mccook). It should also be noted that near the end of each issue containing an article regarding the “Occupy” or “Worker’s Rights”, the PLG, issues a strong statement of support for the librarians taking part in peaceful protest for the protection of labor rights and the right to bargain collectively.
As mentioned earlier, there was a broad field of study going on in this journal, but these two were the most notable and cohesive. A handful of other articles made a common link to the underground newspapers of the Vietnam War era, and encouraged the fascinating study of alternative media (Charnigo). The journal also included book reviews, in which all were studies through a radical perspective of librarianship. Although for the most part book reviews were positive, common complaints of the published texts were eurocentrism, a lack of feminine influence, and arguments that a book might be too apolitical. They also covered a fascinating book that got excellent reviews, deserves a read, Critical Theory for Library and Information Science: Exploring the Social from Across the Disciplines, by Nicholas Joint, the review itself by Kevin Rioux (Rioux). (This might be a good tool for students with a philosophy/literature background; quoted authors include favorites like Foucault and Derrida!) These articles that seem to be collected about miscellaneous topics only add to the strength of the journal, not limiting them to certain political struggles, but widening the scope of what it meant to be a progressive Librarian.
The Progressive Librarian is an excellent overview of a range of radical information ideas. It’s breadth of studies is vast and impressive, and it’s authors writing, for the most part, clear and efficient. This journal is relevant to all information professionals.
Charnigo, Laurie. “Prisoners of Microfilm.” Progressive Librarian 40 (Winter 2012): 41-90. EbscoHost. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.
Hand, Shane. “TRANSMITTING WHITENESS: LIBRARIANS, CHILDREN, AND RACE, 1900-1930s.” Progressive Librarian 39 (Spring 2012): 34-63. EbscoHost. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.
Kuntz, Blair. “The Politics of Cultural Genocide.” Progressive Librarian 40 (Winter 2012): 91-108. EbscoHost. Web. 25 Sept. 2013
Latham, Joyce M. “WALKERVILLE, NEW DEMOCRATS & “WISHES IN THE WIND”: ROLLING BACK THE 20TH CENTURY IN WISCONSIN.” Progressive Librarian 36/37 (Summer/Spring2011): 3-14. EbscoHost. Web. 20 Sept. 2013.
Mccook, Kathleen D. “Collective Bargaining is a Human Right: Union Review for 2011.” Progressive Librarian 39 (2012): 69-90. EbscoHost. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.
Norton, Daniel, Mandy Henk, Betsy Fagan, Jaime Taylor, and Zachary Loe. “OCCUPY WALL STREET LIBRARIANS SPEAK OUT.” Progressive Librarian 39 (Spring 2012): 3-16. EbscoHost. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.
Rioux, Kevin. “Critical Theory for Library and Information Science: Exploring the Social from Across the Disciplines.”Progressive Librarian 36/37: 86-88. EbscoHost. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.
Schwenk, Kim. “ANOTHER WORLD POSSIBLE: RADICAL ARCHIVING IN THE 21ST CENTURY.” Progressive Librarian 36/37 (Spring/Summer 2011): 51-58. EbscoHost. Web. 22 Sept. 2013.
Zetervall, Sara. “Through a Distant Lens.” Progressive Librarian 40 (Spring 2012): 109-24. EbscoHost. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.