Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Power of Advocacy to Promote Service

     As future librarians, we are ever mindful of our responsibility to the public.  The ethic of service is the polestar of our profession from which all other rights and duties flow.  Whether we are engaging patrons at our local public library, educating college students at the USF library, or assisting health professionals create innovative treatment techniques, our commitment to service is an aspect of our profession that comes naturally to us.  It is our raison d'être.
     In order to serve the community, however, we need help from those who furnish the budgets that keep our libraries alive.  This is not an easy task, especially in light of today’s economic environment.  As local governments look to cut costs due to shrinking revenues, it is important that librarians advocate for themselves in order to explain to our communities the necessity of libraries.
     Advocacy, however, is a difficult skill.  It takes years to acquire and master.  It also requires a receptive audience.  Fortunately, for us in the State of Florida, we have people who are effective advocates for our profession.
     This year I was able to participate in the Florida Library Association’s “Legislative Day” at the state capitol in Tallahassee.  I, along with other eager graduate assistants and students in the MLIS program, travelled to the capital and joined the Tampa Bay Library Consortium as we shadowed library leaders during their advocacy rounds with politicians and policy makers.  I was fortunate to be paired with Barbara Gubbins and Brenda Simmons from the Jacksonville public library system.  Having met the night before, I was welcomed into their delegation as we walked the halls of the capitol talking to legislative leaders about this year’s budget.
     I was amazed and inspired by their advocacy.  I was also encouraged by the support we received from people such as Senator Audrey Gibson and Representative Janet Adkins from Jacksonville, both strong and effective voices on behalf of our profession. To them, we didn’t have to answer the question ”why they should help us.”  Instead, they were concerned with what they could do and how could they help us succeed.
     Our day concluded with a trip to the Florida Archives at the R.A. Gray building.  There we were greeted by archivists and state library administrators.  We learned much about the important work that is done on our behalf by the Division of Library and Administration Services. 
     By the time we left that day, we all had truly learned the power and necessity of advocacy in support of our commitment to service.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Biblioclasm Today

More than 200 copies of books about Anne Frank, including the diary which the Jewish teenager wrote in hiding during the second world war, have been deliberately vandalized in libraries across Tokyo.

Anne Frank

In this case, Anne Frank's book and the many books about her are widely published.  There are no shortage of them.  These are not rare manuscripts. However, her diary is symbolic.  It is more important the the words it contains.  Thus, those who disagree with that symbol strike out at it.  Why?  Because books are easy targets and still the most meaningful object to a culture.
Fortunately, her book is a powerful symbol and I bet that over the next couple of days the libraries in Japan will rebound from this and restore her work to the shelves.

The National and University Library of Bosnia-Herzegovina was shelled and burned for three straight days in August of 1992 during the three year civil war in that country.  Over two million books were lost and many priceless manuscripts.  The library itself did not hold any strategic value (Zeco, 1996).  The Vijecnica as it was called, was the former city hall built in a pseudo-Moorish style at the end of the nineteenth century.  It was a symbol of the city and the cultural heritage of the region (Zeco, 1996).
The library was targeted over this three day period by Serbian nationalists as part of the “cultural genocide” on the Muslim population in the region.  During the trial of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, the destruction of the library was offered as proof to support his conviction for crimes against humanity before The Hague (Kuntz, 2012).
As Knuth (2006) states, books are easy targets because of their “symbolic nature and relative vulnerability” (p. 11).  Sometimes books are banned because of the information they contain.  Many times, however, it’s not only because of the content of the books themselves but also because of their importance to a particular culture (Knuth, 2006, pp. 11, 29).
This can be seen with the recent burning of Islamic religious texts by a Florida pastor in 2012.  The texts themselves were not unique.  What they contained had been reproduced millions of times over.  The words they contained, however, were important to the culture that associated with them.
The destruction of libraries is important in war as a tactical target.  The loss is meant to instill fear.  “The loss of libraries signals to the population that they are vulnerable to the enemy and a superior army (Knuth, 2006, p. 11).
The Vijecnica after its destruction.
The destruction of the Vijecnica was not an isolated incident.  Shortly before, in May of that year and one month into the start of the war, the Serbians destroyed the Oriental Institute, a cultural heritage institution that archived many important documents from the region's past.  Lost were many valuable manuscripts, including an important collection called Manuscripta Turcica.  In addition, many civil and land records from the nineteenth century were targeted and destroyed.  The destruction of these texts and records are consistent with biblioclasm’s effort to erase all cultural records of a people (Zeco, 1996).
Biblioclasm’s aim is not the destruction of the book qua book.  Instead it focuses on books because they are vulnerable and important symbols of society.  By destroying a library, the aggressor is effectively annulling the UDHR’s application to the victims by announcing very plainly: you have no rights.
Joyner, C. C. (2004). The United Nations and Terrorism: Rethinking Legal Tensions Between National Security, Human Rights, and Civil Liberties. International Studies Perspectives, 5(3), 240-257.
Kuntz, B. (2012). The Politics of Cultural Genocide. Progressive Librarian, (40), 91-108.
Zeco, M. (1996). The National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the current war. Library Quarterly, 66(3), 294.
Edited by Peter Cannon on Jan 22 at 11:16pm

Friday, October 25, 2013

Edward Said and Orientalism Today

Said's Orientalism and It's Relevance Today
Edward Said’s analysis of the Occidental and Oriental discourse was, at the time it was published in 1978, the first use of Foucault in an “extended cultural analysis” (Clifford, 1980, p. 212).  There is much confusion about what Said’s Orientalism truly means.  It may be stated that the book is an attempt to analyze Occidental discourse and how it promotes Western culture’s imperialistic power over the Orient. Whatever the meaning, the book is a “controversial and important work” (Winder, 1981).
According to Said, the term
Orientalism can be discussed and analyzed as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient—dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short. Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient. (Said, 2004, p.3)
However, for Said, the term was mostly academic (Said, 1994, p.2) and was used to describe those who write, teach, discuss, or study the Orient.  It is also a style of thought based on an “epistemological  distinction” made between the Orient and the Occident (Said, 2004, p.2).
Through these three meanings, Said proposes that Orientalism is a discourse, a systematic method by which Europe was able to dominate the East.  Thus, the Orient is “not a free subject” that one can exercise any thought or action upon (Said, 2004, p.3).  In short, due to its literary baggage, it is never free to be what it really is and remain as if it was still under colonial rule.
Orientalists thought does not have to be false nor does it have to be suspect (Said, 2004, p.6). “Orientalism” is Western knowledge of the Middle East in the service of imperialism (p. 9). For Said, that your geographic origin defines your perspective, regardless of the content of your discourse (Said, 2004, p.11).  For example, when Said discusses German discourse, he distinguishes it from the Anglo-French Orientalist because they never had an imperialist presence (Said, 2004, p. 19).  Thus a German and English author could write the exact same thing, yet only one would be an Orientalist:
 For it is true that no production of knowledge in the human sciences can ever ignore or disclaim it’s author’s involvement as a human subject in his own circumstances…[i]t meant and means being aware, however dimly, that one belongs to a power with definite interests in the Orient, and more important, that one belongs to a part of the Earth with a definite history of involvement in the Orient since the time of Homer  (Said, 2004, p.11)(emphasis added).
Orientalism may be understood to start with the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt but as a system of ideas, it begins around 1840 (Said, 2004, p.6).  Thus, according to Said and his adherents, there is an undeniable link between scholarship and conquest, between discourse and imperialism (Hamdi, 2013, p. 136).
The concept is intriguing and the argument can be made, as it is so eloquently done by Said vis-à-vis Foucault.  Understandably, he has his critics such as Bernard Lewis and Ibn Warraq (Hamdi, 2013).  They refute Said’s claims by showing examples of Western writers who did not have imperialistic tendencies.  By and large, the evidence they present is correct:  there were scholars who sought to learn and write about the Orient without any designs on her people and land.  Others claim that Said conveniently ignores other European cultures that had no significant Oriental designs, particularly Germany (Pasto, 1998, p. 437).  Again, this is correct as Said does dismiss the “Germans, Russians, Spanish, Portuguese, Italians, and Swiss” from his Occidental imperialists (Said, 2004, p.1).  He thus reduces “Europe” to Britain, France, and the United States, thus making a curious foundation for an academic argument.
As a general argument, it appears correct, however, because the main colonizers of the world since 1840 were Britain and France, two European countries.  But to state that there was an ideology of the “Other” that somehow identified both regions may be too general (Said, 2004, p.5) if not sophistry.  The same could be said for a “Western” hegemony over Africa at the time or North and South America a few centuries earlier.  The point may not be so much that scholarship produced Orientalism which produced imperialism but that other factors were in play that led to Europe’s domination and imperialistic tendencies (see e.g., Diamond, 2005, and the discussion of a stable food supply as a determining factor in European ascendency).
More importantly, however, is the argument whether Said’s analysis is even relevant or sustainable today.  His analysis presumably begins in the 19th Century and continues until around 1977.  With the rise of the global economy (something that Said predicted would reverse Orientalism) and the effusion of digital content on the web, the marketplace of ideas is much broader and more heterogeneous.   For example, Said calls the Cambridge History of Islam the “highest and most intellectually prestigious” form of Occidental Orientalism (Said, 2004, p. 302).  Whether it radically misconceives or misrepresents Islam (p. 302) as Said states is irrelevant to this argument.  Perhaps in 1978 it was the preeminent Western treatise on the Orient but can the same be said today?
Using a keyword search of “Middle East”, “Islam”, “Muslim”, and “Arab” at the USF EBSCO Host electronic library brings up 15.6 million results, 7.4 million which are news or related articles.  Limit this search to academic writings (journals, books, symposia, etc.)  and 3.9 million results are returned.  Look at the academic discourse from 1978 to today and there are a total of 3.6 million results, a net change of approximately 300,000 writings.  Statistically, it would be difficult to argue that 3.6 million scholarly articles are of the type that Said argues about.
CLIFFORD, J. (1980). Orientalism [book review]. History & Theory, 19(2), 204-223.
Diamond, J. M. (2005). Guns, germs, and steel : the fates of human societies. New York : W.W. Norton.
Hamdi, T. (2013). EDWARD SAID AND RECENT ORIENTALIST CRITIQUES. Arab Studies Quarterly, 35(2), 130-148.
Pasto, J. (1998). Islam's 'Strange Secret Sharer': Orientalism, Judaism, and the Jewish Question. Comparative Studies In Society And History, 40(3), 437-474. doi:10.1017/S0010417598001364
Said, E.W. (2004).  Orientalism. New York: Vintage.
Winder, B. (1981). Orientalism [book review]. Middle East Journal, 35: 615-619.

Knowledge Funding
Historically, funding for research has come from a variety of sources as science transitioned from a “gentleman’s” pursuit to rigorous empirical testing (Burke, 2012).  Private industry has always played a role in research projects (Kappos, 2013) as well as government funding (Burke, 2012). 
Today’s universities rely on outside sources of funding.  For example, the University of South Florida received over $411 million in outside sources of research funding (USF, 2012).  Approximately 40% came from the federal government, 15% from state governments, and 45% from private industry (USF, 2012).  Traditionally, most research funding has been for quantitative research (Bourgeault, 2012). 
There has been very little research on the effects corporate and government funding has had on the diffusion of knowledge.  Recent studies, however, have found some disturbing trends.  Martinson et al. (2009) found that researchers who were involved in outside funding research reported that they were more likely to engage in questionable or unethical behavior, thus undermining scientific integrity.  Hottenrott (2011) found that researchers who were funded by private industry produced less scientific journal articles and therefore contributed less to the diffusion of knowledge.  Finally, Fortin and Currie (2013) found that large funding grants did not produce proportionally large research results, leading the researchers to conclude that smaller grant awards to diverse institutions produced the best results. 
In conclusion, Burke (2012) gives a historical account of research funding in his discussion of the sociologies of knowledge.  In it he describes traditional government and private industry funding and how many big discoveries may not have been possible without those sources of income (Kappos, 2013).  However, as grant proposals become major sources of income for universities, obtaining this funding may become more of a priority than scientific pursuit.  In other words, pursuing science for science dollars may decide what problems are investigated.  As the data suggests, scientific progress may be stunted by this new influx of money. 
Bourgeault, I.L. (2012). Critical issues in the funding of qualitative research. Journal of Ethnographic & Qualitative Research, 7: 1-7. 
Burke, P.(2012). A Social History of Knowledge: From the "Encyclopédie" to Wikipedia. Cambridge: Polity.
Fortin, J., & Currie, D. J. (2013). Big Science vs. Little Science: How Scientific Impact Scales with Funding. Plos ONE, 8(6), 1-9. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065263
Hottenrott, H., & Thorwarth, S. (2011). Industry Funding of University Research and Scientific Productivity. Kyklos, 64(4), 534-555. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6435.2011.00519.x
Kappos, D. J. (2013). WHO WILL BANKROLL THE NEXT BIG IDEA?. Scientific American, 309(4), 58-61.
Martinson, B., Crain, A., Anderson, M., & De Vries, R. (2009). Institutions' expectations for researchers' self-funding, federal grant holding, and private industry involvement: manifold drivers of self-interest and researcher behavior. Academic Medicine: Journal Of The Association Of American Medical Colleges, 84(11), 1491-1499.
USF Research & Innovation (2012). Annual report retrieved from

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Information Literacy Program for Teens

Today I helped present an information literacy program for teens at the New River Library in Pasco County, Florida.  It was an amazing experience and I learned a lot about how teens today are doing research.

As was expected, most teenagers do their research by starting with Google.  Not one of the participants today realized that Pasco County libraries have numerous databases that can be accessed anywhere using a library card.  This really shocked them.  More importantly, I also learned that many teachers do not teach their students that the libraries offer this service.

The next seminar:  Information Literacy for Teachers and Resources for Students.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wiki- Awsome

As part of our History of Libraries course we were asked to edit some Wikipedia articles.  These were my edits.

1) Library. Here is my first edit in the section "Library" where I added a good deal of information about Roman libraries.
21:41, 16 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+2,488)‎ . . Library ‎ (Classical period (800 BC – 500 AD):  Added information on Roman libraries) (current)
I also added a talk section to appease the WikiGods
22:22, 16 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+317)‎ . . Talk:Library ‎ (Classical Period:  new section) (current)
2)Nalanda University I then added an edit to the library section for Nalanda University and added a talk section to discuss my edits.
22:16, 16 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+334)‎ . . Talk:Nalanda ‎ (current)
22:10, 16 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+2,112)‎ . . Nalanda ‎ (Libraries:  Added information on the library at Nalanda) (current)
3) Richard de Bury.  I then did a lot of editing to the section on Richard de Bury which included adding a whole section on thePhilobiblon.  I also created a talk page to discuss these edits.
23:24, 16 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+106)‎ . . Talk:Richard de Bury ‎ (New Section) (current)
23:24, 16 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+464)‎ . . Talk:Richard de Bury ‎ (Religious Life)
23:18, 16 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+1,982)‎ . . Richard de Bury ‎ (current)
22:52, 16 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+23)‎ . . Richard de Bury ‎ (Bibliophile)
22:51, 16 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+42)‎ . . Richard de Bury ‎ (Bibliophile:  Changed error that stated de Bury founded Durham) 
22:46, 16 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+1)‎ . . Richard de Bury ‎ (Early life)
22:45, 16 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+651)‎ . . Richard de Bury ‎ (Early life:  Corrected two errors in early life) 
22:32, 16 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+306)‎ . . Talk:Richard de Bury ‎ (Religious Life:  new section) 
4) James Logan.  I made major additions to the article on James Logan and created a talk page to discuss my edits.
00:09, 17 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+285)‎ . . Talk:James Logan (statesman) ‎ (Major Additions:  new section) (current) 
00:07, 17 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+5,396)‎ . . James Logan (statesman) ‎ (current)
5) Book Curse.  For fun I have added to our collected knowledge of book curses.
00:35, 17 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+1,391)‎ . . Book curse ‎ (current)
6) Library.  Finally I made major additions to the section discussing the Middle Ages. These major textual additions were made to the section in order to accentuate the importance of the Byzantine Empire during this period and also to add a better organizational structure to the development of libraries during this period.  Normally I would consider edits to one entry one edit but this was a major undertaking.
01:14, 17 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+358)‎ . . Talk:Library ‎ (Middle Ages:  new section) (current) 
01:11, 17 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+6,835)‎ . . Library ‎ (Middle Ages (501 AD – 1400 AD):   major additions were made for organization) (current)
7) Library (again). After reading the two sections that I edited (Classical Period and Middle Ages) I didn't like how they were divided chronologically. So I changed the time periods to reflect the development of libraries better.  Not a major edit at all but I thought the traditional divisions too static.

I think I'm done for now with 21,000 characters not including my talk pages.
8) Justin Winsor.  I was doing my reading for Week 12 on Justin Winsor (first president of the ALA) and then read the Wikipedia article on him and noticed an error that stated he graduated from Harvard.  In fact, like Bill Gates and the Beastie Boys, he left.
17:10, 27 March 2013 (diff | hist. . (+291)‎ . . Justin Winsor ‎ (Background and education) (current)