Mikas blogg

Demonstration mot kriget i Irak, Helsingfors mars 2003
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01 July

The library and the thousand and one activities

[World Social Forum] 

A world social forum consists of thousand and one activities. And the catalog of the on-going first US Social Forum here in Atlanta also mentions hundreds of activities: workshops, seminars, lectures, discussions, brainstormings, etc.

These hundreds and thousands of activities of the social fora need to be documented in libraries and archives so that information about them can be transmitted to future generations of social forum participants, and to posterity. Here, the librarians undoubtedly have a very important role to play.

However, the social forum activities as such should also be present in public libraries throughout the whole world. In other words: both the the documentation of the activities and the activities themselves should be accessible and available in the library.

But what does it mean to say that the activities themselves should be accessible and available in the library? It means that the librarians should maintain webpages about those activities. The webpages should be of the easily editable Wiki-type, like in the Wikipedia. Wiki-techniques and wiki-pages are suitable when documenting ongoing activities, because: "The information is often very dynamic, meaning that some facts are prone to change quickly and need to be updated." (quoted from Guzman, Manuel & Verstappen, Bert(2003): What is Documentation? - a manual from HURIDOCS, accessed via www.huridocs.org, and quoted here just a little bit out of its context).

But before starting the documentation of the activities themselves, a very basic problem should be given some careful thought, and a viable (if not final) solution. Librarians would probably call this problem the problem of classification.

In short, in order to organize and present the hundreds and thousands of activities in the social forum process, we must agree upon a common classification scheme.

A classification of activities is not a classification of knowledge. Take the list of ministries of a modern state, or the table of contents of a political programme, e.g. the would-be political programme called "The Bamako Appeal", to quote an example from our own social forum context. Or imagine what the main headlines in a programme of a "world government" would be like. That should give you an idea of what the classification of the activities of the social forum must be like.

The International Council of the World Social Forum actually came up with a classification of the activities some months before the Nairobi WSF in January 2007. I am referring to the the 21 actionable themes. For the list of the 21 actionable themes plus some viewpoints by the librarians and library activists who participated in the Nairobi WSF, see http://www.wsflibrary.org/index.php/Actionable_themes .

The problem is, however, that these 21 actionable themes did not become established. They were not taken seriously.

Now, librarians happen to be a group who takes a serious, professional interest in the problem of classification. We would probably have no libraries at all if they did not. Nor would we have what is called civilization, but that is another story.

The point which I obviously would like to make here is that we, who want to take the process of the social forum a step further, have to civilize ourselves. We need to have real libraries and thus we must cooperate with the librarians, who understand the necessity of classification and serious information management. This will help us to navigate the ocean of social forum information. Obviously, it is also essential for the continuity of the process, and for the understanding of the nature of the social forum as an open space.

The openness of the open space is an ideal, a core value of the ethic of the public librarian. The librarian is supposed to deliver all the information without delay to all the people. The librarian must have an open mind and be intellectually free. The open space is the space where the intellectual freedom reigns.

We will remain divided on many political, economical, cultural, religious and scientific issues. That is another way of saying that we must by all means guarantee that the social forum lives on as an open space. And that we simply cannot do without public libraries and public librarians if we want to keep it open.

The librarians themselves also need the social forum, because as long as the librarians serve the political systems which we have to day, they cannot really be free. In order to liberate themselves, the librarians must proceed to build an independent worldwide public library system.

With whom shall they build this necessary institution? With the NATO? With the Commission of the EU? With the government of China? With UNESCO? Or with the World Trade Organisation, which grew out on of the effort of transnational industrial corporations and banks to make all our "intellectual property" - the accumulated knowledge of the human race - tradable? (In their book "Information Feudalism", Drahos and Braithwaite tell the story of the birth of the WTO from the marriage between intellectual property and international trade - and that is a story, which every librarian and social activist need to know.)

No, that institution, the independent, cosmopolitical public library system for the people, will never be built by the corporate-led governments of the national states and their international organisations. It is simply incompatible with the so called Information Society of today.

The library is the mildest and kindest institution, which helps to fulfil the information needs of everybody. But it can give a hard blow to the imperialisms and dictators of this world, if the librarians decide to raise from their subordinate position together with the peoples of the social forum.

  • - -

The envisioned WSFLibrary of activities, has to be built on the internet with the digital networking tools of the internet. As somebody wrote a long time ago: mankind always takes up only such problems as it can solve; and this problem of how to build the cosmopolitical public library is one of those problems that can now be solved, thanks to the internet.

The quality of the networking tools have matured over the last decade. They are are now available to librarians everywhere as FOSS (free and open source software) and in the form of relatively affordable hardware and internet connections. - Some, like Alfredo Lopez in his excellent essay "The Organic Internet" (May First, 2007 - by the way, this is a book and an author whom I met at the US Social Forum in Atlanta), think that the internet in itself is a vast social movement, the biggest which mankind has ever seen. I think they have a good point. However, I also think that the internet itself should be put in a long historical perspective. "The library is a growing organism", wrote Indian library scientist Ranganathan. The internet is the latest branch on that old tree.

The library of the printed word has swiftly adapted itself to the technical revolution of the internet. It must now go further and take the lead as an organizer and producer of social information on the internet. Firstly and foremostly: librarians must no longer accept that their webpages, the webpages of the libraries, follow rules and apply technical solutions which are dictated by others than the librarians themselves.

To sum up: let us continue to build (because we have already started) our envisioned WSFlibrary together on the internet, and in the public libraries. It should become a "Civipedia" of activities towards "another world". Without that library, we will not be able to take the alterglobalization process (the global justice movement) further. The social forum process should extend to all communities which have a library and the public librarians should become involved in the course of their daily work.

Last, but not least: The social forum opposes the Neoliberal globalization, which passes through global financial deregulation and the establishment of the most unjust and protectionist global intellectual property regime (the TRIPS). We oppose the information feudalism. We demand debt cancellation and abolishment of the tax havens. We want to introduce a global levy on the speculative money trade in order to finance the necessary public service, such as the public library service.

09 July


An Open ILS for Free LIS
[World Social Forum] 

Before leaving Atlanta Tuesday morning, I met up with librarian Elizabeth Garcia from Georgia Public Library Service to interview her about the free and open source integrated library system Evergreen.

The interview is available in English with the title An Open ILS for Free LIS among the Occasional Papers at the website of Information for social Change (ISC) (www.libr.org/isc/occasional_papers).

11 July

News from another USA

[World Social Forum] 

There has been almost nothing about the US Social Forum in the European mass media. The same goes for the mass media in the USA. I was there. As many of us have already said: it was an inspiring and hoperaising event. I concentrated on the library aspect (some of that covered earlier in this blog). But I also participated in a workshop on the re-opening of the 911 investigation, and in the closing plenary sessions on Sunday 1 July, where a representatative of the 911 Truth Movement read a statement saying that we need to have ''a new independent and international investigation on the causes and circumstances surrounding the events of September 11, 2001''. (You may read the text of the statement here )

This demand is supported by many citizens and intellectuals of the USA and other countries. Whether France's Housing Minister Christine Boutin actually supports it (as was reported by Yahoo News), I do not know. She would certainly not be the first European official to air suspicions about 911 having been an inside job. For instance Michael Meacher, former minister for the environment of the Blair government, and Andreas von Buelow, German ex-minister of Technology, who is also a renowned expert on state intelligence, certainly do support the demand for a re-opening of the investigation.

After the closing plenary of the US Social Forum I went to the stand of the 911Truth Movement to get a paper copy of the statement I had just heard. Then I walked around for a while among the thousands of social activists at the Civic Center of Atlanta -- a very colourful and heterogeneous bunch of people, by the way. I took some of them apart, showed them the statement, asked them to read it and say what they thought about it. In this way, I might have talked with perhaps six, perhaps eight persons, none of whom I had ever met before. It turned out that all of these persons agreed: Yes, there should be a new independent and international investigation! I also support this demand.

I want to add something about the 911-truth-workshop I took part in. It was chaired by Janice Matthews, one of the leaders of the 911 Truth movement in the USA. A very good moderator, by the way, besides being a courageous citizen, a mother of six kids etc. There, I learned that at least one of the presidential candidates, Mr Dennis Kucinich, is taking up the case. I also heard some other actualities. However, I do not think that I got any important information which I could not already have read from http://www.911truth.org http://www.911blogger.com/ , etc.

One episode remains on my mind, though. That was when the guy sitting next to me asked for the floor to present his own theory. And that really was one of those crazy conspiracy theories! He spoke about the Illuminati, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" (which is "an antisemitic text that purports to describe a Jewish plot to achieve world domination" - Wikipedia), and what not. This man could have been an agent provocateur for all I know. However, the curious thing is that nobody in the hall, including myself, did stand up to ask him to stop giving us this shit. Why so?

Here is my advice as a library activist: If you want to form your own opinion on the thorny issue of the causes and circumstances of the 911-crimes (because crimes they were, whoever planned and committed them), you should read 1) the official "9/11 Report", by Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, and 2) "The 9/11 Commission Report. Omissions and Distortions", by David Ray Griffin.

Those are not very nice things to read about. In case you need something to cheer yourself up with, how about that old "Candide" book, for instance?

14 July

Bidrag till kritiken av det populistiska biblioteket

bis 2/2007

Tidskriften bis (bibliotek i samhälle) har utkommit med sitt nr 2/2007. Några citat och kommentarer:

Bis söker ständigt med ljus och lykta, så mycket som hinns och orkas av en liten krets ideellt arbetande, efter kritiska röster, men det är rätt hopplöst när det gäller den nära biblioteksverkligheten, noterar Ingrid Atlestam, en av tidskriftens redaktörer.

Siv Wold Karlsen skriver om gratisprincip versus betalbibliotek, om föreningen Akribie i Tyskland och No pago di leggere-rörelsen i Italien. Siv själv har bra akribi.

Något kurdiskt bibliotek har vi såvitt jag vet inte ännu i Finland. Vi är nog lite insnöade här jämfört med Sverige. Frid över den kurdiske bibliotekarien Nedim Dagdevirens minne.

Nu är queerforskningen väldigt aktuell, men den har jag inte ägnat mig åt, säger Louise Waldén, som intervjuas om feminismen. -- Vid universitetet i Åbo hölls för någon tid sedan ett seminarium om queerforskning. En av föredragsrubrikerna där var "Heterosexualiteten i litteraturen och kritiken av densamma" (Enl. Leena Krohns roman "Unelmakuolema"). Queer!

Frågan var inte ens upptagen på dagordningen, eller: frågan behandlades under en nyinsatt informationspunkt - så kommer man att avskaffa biblioteken.

Harriet Klausners tusentals bokrecensioner på nätet. Tala om grafomani! Kanske Harriet Klausner är ett datorprogram?

Bis aviserar skribent- och läsarresor till Berlin och till Finnhamn i Stockholms skärgård. Har redan besökt Berlin och Sverige i år. Måste tyvärr avstå.

Ja, biblioteket bör givetvis vara ett "inkluderande samhällsrum", som  Annette DeFaveri skriver i sin artikel. Annette DeFaveri arbetar vid Vancouver Public Library och drar projektet Working Together. De Faveri:  Och genom att de socialt utestängda utnyttjar bibliotekets resurser blir de mer benägna att berika sina liv. -- Detta låter en aning paternalistiskt. Ty den socialt utestängda (fattiga, immigranten, homofilen, mentalpatienten, alkoholisten, osv.) individen lever ju inte sällan ett rikare inre liv än borgarbrackan. -- DeFaveri: Att uppmuntra till social inkludering bör marknadsföras hos personalen som ytterligare en kompetens, snarare än som ytterligare en plikt . Tanken tycks mig riktig, fast utbildning ju inte borde likställas med marknadsföring. DeFaveri: Kärnan i alla positiva berättelser om bibliotek är en personlig kontakt med en biblioteksanställd . -- Jag skulle vilja ersätta ordet "alla" med "många" eftersom redan ansamlingen av tankar, formuleringar, dikter mm. kan vara en positiv historia. DeFaveri: Att bryta ned barriärer som hindrar människor från att använda biblioteket handlar om att skapa relationer. Att skapa relationer handlar om att ta sig tid, och det kräver personal som är utbildad, har kunskap om och förståelse för behoven i samhället och för bibliotekets roll för att tillgodose dessa behov. När vi skapar relationer skapar vi samhällen . -- Så är det. Fint! Underbart! Men vilken ynklig slutsats de Faveri drar: När vi skapar samhällen stödjer vi livslångt lärande för alla samhällsmedborgare. -- När vi skapar samhällen rustar vi ner våra atomvapen, drar tillbaka våra trupper från Irak och Afghanistan och skär kraftigt ned på försvarsutgifterna. Vi slutar ljuga om världsekonomin, upphäver skatteparadisen, avskaffar de fattiga ländernas skulder, inför en global skatt på valutatransaktioner och flygbensin och satsar (med intäkterna) på miljövård och offentliga sociala tjänster, inklusive allmänna bibliotek. Vi går in för federalism i stället för imperialism. För att nu nämna några frågor, som är angelägna för samhällsbyggare typ bibliotekarier.

I bis får man träffa Kalle Laajala virtuellt genom läsning av hans artikel om biblioteks-IT, öppen källkod, bibliotek 2.0 mm.  Kalle berättar inledningsvis, att Library of Congress har skaffat sig en egen blogg.  Han undrar om något bibliotek i Finland eller Sverige har tagit Evergreen i bruk. Det skulle jag också gärna veta, jfr  http://www.libr.org/isc/occasional_papers. -- Kalle:  Do you Ubuntu? Yes, I do Ubuntu!

Kjerstin Thulin berättar om 40 år med social uppsökande biblioteksverksamhet: Många interner hade mycket bestämda läsintressen och avancerade önskemål som effektuerades i möjligaste mån . -- Bibliotekarien uppsökte en kollega, i fängelset.

Thulin: Under 90-talet var det väl inte intresset som dalade, snarast ekonomin och då var det enkelt för ekonomiansvariga att hämta resurser, även om de var små, från just den sociala verksamheten. -- Man undrar om det svenska välfärdssamhället någonsin blev färdigt.  Man beslöt  att lägga ner det sowieso.  

Bis-redaktionen: Nu vill vi ge vårt stöd till de ansträngningar som görs för att ge palestinska barn hopp, språk och kanske litet framtidstro genom läsning och tillgång på böcker och bibliotek.

Ett fel har insmugit sig i innehållsförteckningen till bis 2/2007: "...kommer att delta i World Social Forum i USA". Ska vara: "Kommer att delta i US Social Forum"

Solons nät


"Solon var [...] sysselsatt med allmänna angelägenheter och höll på att avfatta sina lagar. Då Anakharsis erfor detta, hade han skrattat åt Solons sysselsättning, då denne trodde sig med lagar kunna hämma oförrätter och egennytta bland sina medborgare, ty lagarna voro ingenting annat än spindelnät. Såsom dessa, skulle de fånga de svaga och klena, men av de starka och rika skulle de sönderslitas. Solon skall därtill ha svarat, att människornas även iakttaga överenskommelser, vilkas överträdande gagnade ingendera parten, och att han avpassade sina lagar efter medborgarna, sålunda att han visade att det var bättre att handla rättrådigt än att överträda lagarna. Men det gick mera såsom Anakharsis förmodat än som Solon hade hoppats." -- Ur Plutarkhos Levnadsteckningar över namnkunniga greker och romare i Ivar A. Heikels översättning.

"Far var född och uppfostrad i norra Österbotten i en finsk trakt. Han var fullt hemmastadd i finskan och älskade språket. Han ville att barnen skulle lära sig finska. Därför hölls i hemmet blott finska tjänarinnor eller pigor, såsom det hette den tiden. Vi hade två pigor. Den ena var från det då tvåspråkiga Jeppo, ett kapell under Nykarleby, och hon talade såväl svenska som finska. Hon, "gamla Maja", stannade hos oss till dödedagar. Den andra tjänarinnan skulle alltid vara finskspråkig. Far talade själv ofta finska med barnen. Lilla Teodors första språk var finska. "Pikku suomalainen poikani", sade far ofta. Jag för min del lärde mig kanske hundra ord och ett tiotal vanliga finska uttryck, såsom "hyvää päivää", "kiitoksia paljon". Far hoppades snart få flytta till en finsk församling. Om denna önskan förverkligats, hade vi troligtvis alla i familjen blivit finsksinnade, och ett och annat i vårt levnadslopp hade gestaltat sig annorlunda." -- Ur Minnen från min barndom och skoltid av Ivar A. Heikel.

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