Re: [OPE-L] Whither libraries?

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Sat Feb 25 2006 - 08:24:59 EST

Hi Jurriaan,

> Yes, well it's a funny thing how they talk about the "knowledge economy"
> and the "information age" and then shut down libraries which are needed
> by people who don't have all the gizmo's of the sophisticated classes.
> But my experience is that librarians are generally quite skilled at the
> politics of information, and demonstrating the need for libraries.

I'm not sure what you mean by "skilled" in this context.    In any event,
struggles by workers aren't won through amassing evidence in support
of one's demands.  They are won through unity, solidarity, and militancy.
Research and data can help (especially in the context of corporate
campaigns and union whistle-blowing, both tactics I have some
experience with) but neither capital nor the state can be expected to
concede to the demands of unions or working-class communities based
on that alone.

I'm sure that librarians in some urban areas and regions are well
organized, although public school teachers are even more organized
internationally.   As it happens, the movie I saw last night, "Granito de
Arena" (2005; Jill Freidberg) concerned a 25-year struggle by
Mexican teachers against the effort by the Mexican state and
international capital (in the form of the IMF and the World Bank) to
dismantle  public  education.  That struggle -- like struggles by state
workers elsewhere internationally --  depended primarily on their
ability to unite, reach out effectively for community support and
solidarity, and be willingly to militantly confront both the state and
their own union leadership.  In that case, the struggle against the
cutbacks and privatization was also a struggle for union democracy
(the Mexican teachers' union leadership had a long history of
corruption and violence towards militants; one former president
was described as "Jimmy Hoffa with a dress"; indeed, whether it
was a real union is questionable since its presidents were appointed
by the state rather than elected by the membership).  So ... I am
not as convinced as you seem to be that librarians will be able to
effectively struggle to keep libraries open and preserve their jobs.
We shall see ....

It should also be noted, in the case of college libraries, that in recent
years many colleges have de-funded to a significant degree the amount
allowed in library budgets for purchases.  And they have also
attempted a kind of 'rationalization'  among libraries in different
colleges:   e.g. in NYC,  students at one college often have the right to
use their library card at many other colleges in the city.  By doing so,
each individual school can cut back on their book and periodical
purchases. So libraries _are_ being attacked  (on many fronts: a high
school friend who now lives in  Australia, Linda Javin,   had a book
she wrote --_Eat Me_, a kind of feminist erotic novel -- banned from a
public library in Florida).

> Often people think
> trading in access rights to information is great, until they have to fork
> out big themselves, to get it. Then they start yelling that information
> ought to be freely or cheaply available, or that there should be more
> competition to drive down prices.

Well, these are real issues.  I don't think it's a stretch to think that
the cost of electronic acquisitions _will_ go down.  Yes, there are
"intellectual property rights" issues, but publishers also have competitive
incentives to shift more into e-publishing.  Indeed, it's already
happening -- on a huge scale.  But, at least for the time being, most
books and periodicals which are sold in an electronic format are
also sold in the more traditional 'hard' format.

> But really Jerry, I'm sorry but I have to take a break from OPE-L, however
> intellectually stimulating, as I have too many things to do, and people
> get  pissed off because you make them wait.

Sure.  I understand completely: we all have lives outside of this list
that need attending to.

> The interesting question about the TP
> is, why do people persist for so long in an error?

I'm not interested in discussing the TP.

In solidarity, Jerry

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