Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians

#77, November 3, 2000.


SUBJECT INDEX to Past Issues

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Neat New Stuff I Found This Week
November 3: classic ads, medieval art, Thanksgiving recipes, and more.

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My resume
Or why you might want to hire me for speaking engagements or workshops.

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What IS Ex Libris?

The purpose and intended scope of this e-zine -- always keeping in mind that in response to readers, I may add, subtract, and change features.

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Highlights from Previous Issues:

My Rules of Information

  1. Go where it is
  2. The answer depends on the question
  3. Research is a multi-stage process
  4. Ask a Librarian
  5. Information is meaningless until queried by human intelligence

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Guru Interviews

  1. Tara Calishain
  2. Jenny Levine, part I
  3. Jenny Levine, Part II
  4. Reva Basch
  5. Sue Feldman
  6. Jessamyn West
  7. Debbie Abilock
  8. Kathy Schrock
  9. Greg Notess
  10. William Hann
  11. Chris Sherman
  12. Gary Price
  13. Barbara Quint

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Wanna See Your Name in Lights?

Or at least on this page, anyway? I'd like to print here your contributions as well as mine. As you've noticed, articles are brief, somewhere between 200 and 500 words -- something to jog people's minds and get their own good ideas flowing. I'd also be happy to run other people's contributions to the regular features like Favorite Sites on _____. I'll pay you the same rate I pay me: nothing.

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E-Mail Subscription?

To subscribe to a combined subscription to Neat New Stuff and ExLibris, please click HERE, complete the form, and click on "subscribe." To unsubscribe, use the same form but click on "unsubscribe." To change addresses for an existing subscription, unsubscribe from that form and then return to the page to enter the new address.
PRIVACY POLICY: I don't collect or reveal information about subscribers.

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Drop me a Line

Want to comment, ask questions, submit articles, or invite me to speak or do some training? Contact me at: marylaine at

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Talk Back

Where I will post any comments you want to make public. E-mail me and use the words "talk back" in your subject line.

Visit My Other Sites

My page on all things book-related. NEW STUFF ADDED in August

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Best Information on the Net
The directory I built for O'Keefe Library, St. Ambrose University, still my favorite pit stop on the information highway.

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My Word's Worth
a weekly column on books, words, libraries, American culture, and whatever happens to interest me.

Subject Index to My Word's Worth at

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My personal page

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Reminder: I'll be in California next week, so the next issue will be November 17.


Jessamyn West,,

I asked Jessamyn West, who calls herself an anarchist librarian, to explain for me and my readers the variety of views and organizations on the leftward fringes of our profession. Trust me, nobody who reads this will ever again think librarians are sweet little ladies in sensible shoes.

"Isn't an Anarchist Librarian an oxymoron?"
"You know how librarians say there's no such thing as a stupid question....?"

Just wanted to get it out in the open. The answer to the librarian question is No. And I've always said there's no such thing as a stupid question, just a stupid question-asker.

I became a librarian because I believed information should be free and I felt I was good at tracking it down. It was more of a calling than a choice. It wasn't until I took my first intellectual freedom class in library school [um, now the School of Information somethingorother] that I realized there was a place for me and my freaky politics within the profession, and not a small one either.

In many ways, you have to be some sort of a radical to be a librarian. Start out super-smart, get a lot of education, then devote yourself to a low- to middle-paying social service job where even your friends make jokes about your co-workers -- if not you directly -- and think you can be replaced by a computer. It's no wonder a lot of us have something to say on the matter.

"So what do you learn in library school, the Dewey Decimal System?"
"Enough to know that the Dewey number for cockrings is 391."

Since we're outspoken, and since we work with computers all day long, the radical librarian crew has a heavy web presence. The first thing you'll notice on a radical librarian tour is the preponderance and diversity of issues that populate the websites of people lobbying for change:

There are people who want to change the way the profession is perceived:

  • Lipstick Librarian (1) was one of the early ones. Static content, but what a guestbook!
  • The Modified Librarian (2), another old-school site where your favorite hottie librarians tell stories about their tattoos, piercings and desk jobs.
  • A recent librarian favorite is the Librarian Avengers (3) with their battle cry to "Thwart not the Librarian"
  • Chris Dodge, the Street Librarian (4) has an info-rich website about librarianship, social justice, mail art and diversity.
  • Need a litte more reading on the subject? Anthony Brewerton has written a whole article: "Wear lipstick, have a tattoo, belly-dance, then get naked: The making of a virtual librarian," (5)

    There are people working to change the system from within and without:

  • Sandy Berman (6) is a hero to many of us (7). For years he has lobbied the Library of Congress to include more realistic and colloquial subject headings like Gay Poets and Lesbian Detectives.
  • Rory Litwin maintains the web site (8) which includes his current awareness weekly mailing Library Juice as well as the homepage for the Progressive Librarian's Guild (9) and the journal Information for Social Change (10).
  • Chuck Munson -- who is now "out" as an anarchist librarian -- is the megabrain behind the Anarchist Librarians Web (11), which contains the Anarchist Librarian FAQ, links to radical bookfairs, anti-filtering info and the Site of the Week.
  • Um, and then I guess there's me. I maintain (12), a daily-ish weblog of interesting librariana, and the Naked Librarian page (13), which has always spoken for itself.

    There are organizations within the system working towards various kinds of change:

  • The Social Responsibilities Round Table (14), [aka the bastard stepchild of the American Library Association] hosts many disparate groups of library professionals who like to mix things up: the Feminist Task Force (15); the Hunger, Homelessness and Poverty Task Force (16); and Alternatives in Print (17). (They also hold some of the best parties at conferences.)
  • IFLA has a Social Responsibilities Discussion Group (18) that's interested in rural libraries, the digital divide and fees for library services.
  • Raimund Dehmlow maintains the Progressive Librarians Around the World website (19) to help radical librarians in far off places find eachother.
  • Heck, even Yahoo even has a Librarians: Activism category (20) category. Do you see that for nurses or postal workers? No, you don't.

    "Do you have classes on holding your finger up and saying Shush?"
    "No, but I'm pretty good with this finger already..."

    The radical librarians are a distributed network. We work all over the place, in every kind of librarian and semi-librarian job. We convene on listservs , at conferences (21), at demonstrations (22) and, of course in libraries. While we don't hold of all of our beliefs in common, we are often sex-positive (23), anti-filtering (24), able to laugh at ourselves (25) and smart as all get out. Where geography would have previously kept us distant, the Internet, book rate at the post office, and zines (26), have kept us in communication.

    I say "we" a lot here, but really there's no librarian "in crowd." Remember, as punk rock (27) as some of us may be, we're still weirdos (28) and nerds (29) at heart, which means there's always room for one more freak (30). And now, you know where to find us.


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    25., and

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    The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave.

    Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Richard Rush, October 20, 1820.

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    You are welcome to copy and distribute or e-mail any of my own articles for noncommercial purposes (but not those by my guest writers) as long as you retain this copyright statement:

    Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians and Other Information Junkies.
    Copyright, Marylaine Block, 2000.