Libr.org exists to provide communication services to librarians and library workers, individually and in groups, who believe in libraries as a social good and as an ideal pattern for the exchange of knowledge and ideas, and who wish to promote progressive thought and action and a concept of social responsibility within the library world and in the world at large. If you have a project which you would like to see incorporated here, email Rory Litwin at rory@libr.org.

 



Context:

from Herbert Schiller's Information Inequality, p. 35.
(London, New York: Routledge, 1996) ISBN: 0-415-90765-9

"...(I)nformation and data processing instrumentation are not independent or autonomous elements in society. How, and for what purposes, they are employed constitute essential and defining features of the social order. In the case of information, two dramatically different ways of using it can be imagined. One is to regard information as a social good and a central element in the development and creation of a democratic society. Under this premise, information serves to facilitate democratic decision making, assists citizen participation in government, and contributes to the search for roughly egalitarian measures in the economy at large. Comprehensive and well-organized public information enables decision makers to make rational resource allocation decisions; to prioritize social claims; to maximize social welfare. It allows them to overcome baleful practices that harm the general welfare, like pollution, smoking, and armaments production. Such information resources allow leaders to promote the development of science and invention that are socially beneficial and to organize historical experience for meaningful contemporary reflection and use. In brief, comprehensive, well-organized public information enables decision makers to bring past knowledge and experience to bear on current issues and problems.

"In contrast to information as a social good, a different approach can treat information as a privately produced commodity for sale. Actually, since Gutenberg, information has been bought and sold. Yet in the 500-year evolution of the industrial-capitalist state, social movements have sought to reserve some share of the community's information production and supply for common use. The public library system and the great land-grant universities are among the signal achievements of these efforts in the United States.

"In the 1990's, with the indispensable assistance of computerization, information is being produced, packaged, stored, and sold. Public stockpiles of information, government and academic, are being acquired in all sorts of imaginative and pecuniary ways by private companies. A vigorous and aggressive Information Industry Association successfully promotes its own objectives. In this pervasive atmosphere of privately acquiring, processing, and selling information, the public library system, a long-standing custodian of the idea and practice, of information as a social good, is tottering. Its function is being redefined and stripped of its social character...

"...Many librarians resist this direction and work valiantly, sometimes successfully, in the democratic tradition, defending the general social good. Their efforts are part of a larger democratic struggle that is not going well at this time. Alongside besieged public schools and public libraries are other organizations and institutions with democratic objectives and agendas that are also being swamped by technological, financial, and political pressures of the voracious market economy."


Libr.org exists primarily to help small organizations of librarians who are working in this struggle to defend the social good. It provides a place on the web to make their information easily accessible, and further disseminates information from these and other groups to help people make personal and professional connections that activate the library world. Your participation is invited.

Inquiries: webmaster@libr.org.