my time (9 months so far) as a library assistant at onehunga library has been one of the most rewarding periods of my working life. there is little i don’t love about my job–from the conversations with patrons to the lifting and moving hampers and even the frenzied hunting for information on salamanders, rosa parks, old photographs of onehunga and even once: “i want to borrow a book of recipes for my mum.” “what kind of recipes are you looking for?” “oh i don’t know. any book on how to cook.”
no wonder then, that ‘this book is overdue!‘ caught my eye, with its obvious pro-librarian stance. it soon became obvious though, that this was not just some librarian’s manifesto, but serious food-for-thought around the potential and responsibility of libraries in helping people get to information they need.
there is the inspiring story of the connecticut four, small town librarians who challenged the FBI and the american ‘patriot act’, refusing to wholesale-reveal patron information. there are the librarians at st. john’s university in queens, new york, who give students from developing nations the tech skills they need to join the global conversation on human rights. there are the anarchist librarians from radical reference, who use smart phones to help protesters on the street with non-partisan information. the librarians in the virtual world of second life, who provide *real library services there. even the librarians in the recession-battered town of darien, connecticut, who preach (and practise) ‘extreme customer service’. this book is about libraries and librarians giving people access to information, and fighting for their right to that access.
all this i think, is terribly relevant, at a time when there seems to be a concerted effort by governments and corporations to control information the public get to see. worldwide, the american government continues its persecution of wikileaks founder julian assange, aided by the support/capitulation of corporations and national governments. in india, corporate mogul ratan ‘singur’ tata claims that the release of taped conversations implicating him in influencing public policy to the taxpayer’s loss and the tata empire’s profit is an infringement of his privacy. and here in aotearoa new zealand? the government is currently negotiating a dubious free trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement that could sign away the sovereignty of the country to multinational corporations…but the only time kiwis will know the details of what has been committed is when it has *already been signed.
and i wonder. how might i, in the light of this book, react to what is happening around me? how might i get information to places the powerful do not want it to go? suggestions welcome!