- Library Juice Concentrate
Rory Litwin’s Library Juice Concentrateembodies the contradictions inherent in the current tension between paper and digital materials in libraries. The essays included in this book were all written for and originally published on Litwin’s “Library Juice” webzine from 1998 to 2005; thus this work turns “born digital” materials into book form. Litwin, like his book, is a bit of a hybrid. He is a self-confessed “bridge between the two generational cultures in librarianship,” specifically, the baby boom generation, of which he is a member, perceived as more traditional in their librarianship, and what he calls the “younger, web-centric generation of librarians,” presumably Generations “X” and “Y,” with whom he seems to identify politically (71). The book, and the zine that preceded it, are openly and unabashedly from a left-wing perspective. The first line of his “Library Juice Manifesto” states: “Libraries are special because they are at once communitarian, libertarian, and models for sustainability” (3). Much of Litwin’s writing is predicated upon a call to social action, which he posits is intrinsic to the profession (or should be). This philosophy permeates his essays in the book.
The sheer breadth of topics treated in Library Juice Concentrateis a testament to its former life as a webzine and its current incarnation as a blog. Litwin examines the rapidly disappearing alternative press; anarchist librarianship, including an interview with Jessamyn West; Library 2.0 and differing perceptions of what is truly “private”; Mitch Freedman’s Better Salaries Initiative; the web-centric “techie” revolution; and the “Ontology of the Bo-ring” while simultaneously arguing that it is important to not discard knowledge in favor of information just because it is possible to do so. [End Page 234]
Litwin’s call to social action is also accompanied by a caveat about the importance of gathering good information prior to taking action. This is illustrated throughout the book, most notably in his interviews with Barbara Tillett of the Library of Congress (presenting her experiences in dealing with the Library of Congress Subject Headings) and activist librarians such as Sanford Berman and in essays related to the state of professional and protest libraries in Cuba.
Cuban protest libraries, often called “propaganda” libraries by critics, have been a point of contention for the library profession for several years, debating whether those who run the libraries are “real” librarians, worthy of the support of the American Library Association. The two articles treating the topic, by Rhonda L. Neugebauer and Ann Sparanese, provide a clear snapshot of the debate, outlining the information and misinformation about libraries in Cuba that have been provided by both sides of the issue. Larry Oberg’s article on the status of gays in Cuba works hard to debunk the image of how gays are treated in Cuba gained through Reynaldo Arenas’s film Before Night Falls, arguing that in many cases gays are treated better and live more openly in Cuba than in the United States.
The final section of the book is devoted to library-related quotes and amusing library limericks, suggested paper topics for students interested in further study of the issues discussed in the book, a bibliography for progressive librarians, and an amusing essay about searches that our patrons don’t want us to see. This volume is recommended for large public libraries and academic libraries, particularly at universities that have graduate programs in library or information science, where it should be standard reading as an example of our profession’s attempts to navigate the rapidly changing digital and print world at the turn of the twenty-first century. [End Page 235]