In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Introduction
  • Bharat Mehra (bio)

Scope and Rationale

The articles included in this issue of Library Trends recognize the organic relationship between social justice and library and information science (LIS)—here discussed as both a subject and a field of practice—and the varied services associated with it. The concerns and views expressed by the authors exemplify the work-in-progress that has arisen in different library and information contexts in order to achieve action-oriented, socially relevant outcomes. Such work includes the conceptualization and implementation of services that encourage community-wide changes via partnering with and providing programs for people on society’s margins. The essays in this issue address theories, methods, strategies, and case analysis in social justice research, teaching, and service design with a focus on social impact and community involvement in LIS. The topics presented here cover social justice activities in academic libraries, public libraries, school libraries, special libraries, and other information-related settings found in countries throughout the world.

There are diverse ways to harness the topic of social justice in LIS. For example, library directors and managers might personalize social justice in terms of meaningful changes they have witnessed during their years of leadership in their particular work contexts. Philosophers and political analysts might conceptualize social justice as an intellectual, analytical process. The authors who have contributed to this issue offer the reader multiple viewpoints on how social justice initiatives are made manifest in library and information settings. As a collection, these articles may serve as an overview of the potential that the social justice construct offers to LIS professionals. The hybrid of the two domains might spark future development and growth in new ways by offering social justice concepts that add to the body of knowledge within LIS and beyond. [End Page 179]

Brief clarification is required at this point regarding the use of the term “Library and Information Science and Services.” This broad term is an attempt to acknowledge the diverse range of activities (theory and practice) associated with information creation, organization, management, dissemination, and education, and how the intersections between these activities relate to various user community dynamics. The opinions expressed in this introduction are based on my reflections as an educator and as a community action researcher who has been immersed in information-related settings. These opinions are not meant to be considered as all-encompassing pronouncements or as final statements on any matter. Instead, their purpose is to open up the proverbial closet and provide opportunities to initiate dialogue, discussion, and constructive debate across our varied circumstances and identities, to reflect on critical questions in LIS surrounding social justice, socially relevant outcomes, and more. I also interweave my own comments and thoughts on the shift of social justice from the periphery to a core consideration in LIS and in my own professional journey.

Definition and Conceptualization

The term “social justice” goes beyond the legal sphere in applying the idea of justice in its administration and maintenance of fair laws to every aspect of social life (Lebacqz, 1986). The term refers to the condition under which individuals and groups are equitably treated in society (Barry, 2005). Western scholars of many disciplines have long debated notions of social justice from many points of view, including law, politics, theology, philosophy, and economics (Guillermina & Wegener, 1997; Plato, 1984). In the 1840s, the Thomist Jesuit philosopher Luigi Taparelli coined the term “social justice” to conceptualize the tensions between the rights of individuals and the idea of the “common good” against the backdrop of the social and political transformations of the nineteenth century (Barry, 1989; Behr, 2003).

In the twentieth century, social justice concepts were assimilated into secular conversations surrounding human rights, government policy, public philosophy, and respect for individual needs that called attention to the “social” facets of the affects, behavior, actions, interactions, and relationships between people in society as reflected in every aspect of their lives (Brighouse, 2005; Fleishacker, 2005). Additionally, the idea of social justice has evolved to include the intangible concerns of ethics and morality associated with people’s values and beliefs, as well as the tangible actions that shape justice in a social situation (Glennon, 2003; Merkel...