Information is Power: Librarianship and Human Rights

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Information is Power: Librarianship and Human Rights

Librarians and information experts hold a critical role in helping organizations research, document, collect, organize, store and use information for action. This dialogue features outstanding world experts in knowledge activism, who are knowledgeable and experienced on how information is power.

The following table of contents was developed to make the dialogue easier to navigate. Important themes and different discussions have been highlighted for archival purposes and for new users. 

[Photo credit: jypsygen]

Definition of a Librarian


Martus Database Software

Development and the Future

Networks and International Contact

Archiving

Foundation

Resources featured within this dialogue.

Intro

During the week of September 26 through October 2, 2007 outstanding world experts in knowledge activism - Saša Madacki (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Toni Samek (Canada) and Bert Verstappen (Switzerland) discussed with members of the New Tactics community the critical role of librarians and information experts in helping organizations research, document, collect, organize, store and use information for action. Unfortunately, Youk Chhang (Documentation Center of Cambodia, DC-Cam) was unable to join our discussion due to unexpected demands in far-flung villages related to the tribunal process where he had no internet access to participate during the featured week.

Saša Madacki Toni Samek Bert Verstappen Youk Chhang
Saša Madacki, Toni Samek, Bert Verstappen and Youk Chhang

Saša Madacki, Director of the Human Rights Centre at the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Prior to taking over as director, he was the Head of Information Research and Library Department at the Human Rights Centre. In 2002, Saša participated in the New Tactics in Human Rights Central and East European Regional Training Workshop and wrote a tactical notebook on library and information services for the improvement of human rights work. Saša’s New Tactics Tactical Notebook: Making Sense of the Information Wilderness: Library and Information Services for the Improvement of Human Rights Work is available as a free download. For more information about the Human Rights Centre at the University of Sarajevo see: http://www.hrc.unsa.ba/en/osoblje.html

Toni Samek, educator and scholar at the School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta, Canada. For more information see: http://www.ualberta.ca/~asamek/toni.htm She has written An Introduction to Librarianship and Human Rights, a paper presented for Shared Dialogue and Learning: International Conference on Educating for Human Rights and Global Citizenship. Her recently released book, Librarianship and Human Rights: A 21st Century Guide, is available through CHANDOS (Oxford) Publishing (www.chandospublishing.com). The book provides eighteen strategies and over 100 examples of social action applied to library and information work. Plans are in process for a Spanish translation to be released in Buenos Aires in a special Latin American adaptation in 2008.

Bert Verstappen, Programme Coordinator at the Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems, International (HURIDOCS), a global capacity-building network of organisations that use documentation techniques, monitoring methods, information management systems and available technologies in the defence of human rights and the prevention of abuses. Among the many helpful resources and manuals Bert has written is the excellent, What is documentation, available at HURIDOCS website. For more information on HURIDOCS see: http://www.huridocs.org/

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OPENING POST OF THE DISCUSSION

Welcome to our first Monthly Featured Tactical Discussion. We are so pleased to highlight Philippe Duhamel’s interTactica blog post that beautifully summarizes our usual perceptions and biases about librarians. He also draws out key points from Saša Madacki’s tactical notebook that provide a perfect opening for pulling out some reactions for both our extraordinary resource practitioners and those participating in the discussion.

Philippe Duhamel wrote:

I must admit my prejudice. Those in the profession are the epitome of neutral, technical, and boring. Or so I thought.

Boy was I wrong. Blame early childhood experiences.

Forget the cold lady with the glasses who goes Shhh! behind mouldy bookcases. Get a read beyond stereotypes. Find out about a radical new breed of freedom fighters who can bolster knowledge democracy and boost your overall effectiveness.

My preconceived biases about librarians were first shaken in a New Tactics notebook entitled Making Sense of the Information Wilderness: Library and Information Services for the Improvement of Human Rights Work, by Saša Madacki, head librarian at the Human Rights Centre in Sarajevo. I discovered documentalists, information specialists, and archivists — however you want to call them — can actually be of use to us in the movement. Some even describe themselves as activists! I was blown away.

Beyond help to organize reference materials, I found in the tactical notebook many other ways librarians can assist our work, our organizations, and indeed the world. Let me share seven.

1. From wasteful ignorance to faster, better decisions. Sometimes, key decisions are postponed or never made because critical information is missing. Worse, you make a decision based on incorrect information, or facts that weren't checked properly. As a knowledge worker, a librarian can hunt decision-making facts faster, and better. Your document specialist can also identify research carried out elsewhere, to avoid unnecessary duplication. Don't waste time in ignorance. Find out early. Ask a librarian.

2. One copy makes the rounds. Your librarian can make sure there are no duplicates of costly subscriptions or materials around the office, managing resources so they are shared efficiently. This saves time and money. Hugely.

3. Go for the find, not the search. Most of us whose work depends partly on research usually spend over half of our time looking for stuff, online or otherwise. A librarian can cherry-pick for you the best reference material on a given subject. You're in a crunch to write a major project proposal? Your librarian can gather the statistical highlights, the documented evidence, the testimonies, freeing you up to do the other productive things. Like writing the actual proposal, and getting it out the door.

4. From blunders to homers. Some of your colleagues may make errors of fact or judgement that end up costing money or credibility. Or, because they don't know enough about your organization's culture, history and accomplishments, volunteers can make erroneous assertions or embarrassing statements. Your librarian can take charge of verifying facts for all internal reports, public statements and external publications. That can save the day.

5. From organizational amnesia to historical ownership. Say this big anniversary is coming up... You scramble to put together bits and pieces of your past achievements. Wow, sure looks like someone purposefully tucked away your historical photos in every imaginable places! A librarian can package your organizational memory for wider use. When a journalist or a researcher comes calling, you can be ready with your neat little folder. Your legacy is important. Make sure your contemporaries, and future generations, can access it.

6. From information overload to easy up-to-dateness. Your specialist can monitor your individual interests and keep tabs on the field for you. When a new book or interesting paper appears, you get an alert based on current files under your responsibility and your profile of interests.

7. From dusty archives to knowledge democracy. You may be spending too much time looking for information, instead of using it, and disseminating it. “Disseminating materials is the librarian’s foremost responsibility”, says Saša Madacki. Your librarian also doubles as a computer specialist. They can evaluate and manage the best possible software solutions for you. They can create databases to improve access to your internal records and key contacts, like membership, donors, and the media. They can train staff on how to use organizational databases and manage their own documents.

— Okay. Librarians are cool. Question: Now how do I get one?

Photo credit: ©2010 Carolyn Gallo

One Flew Over the Librarian's Nest

 Hello Tactical Bloggers,

I would like to thank to Phillipe for excellent summary of tactical notebook on libraries and human rights. Think about librarain as you will think about your dentist, shoemaker, baker...They are solving your needs. Librarians are here to solve information needs of users. Phillipe excerpted seven ways of assistance that librarians can offer. I would like to give you an example that really illustrates that enormous need.

"A company librarian was told by a chemist in a steel rolling mill about an xperiment which had solved a problem at a cost of $10,000. The librarian told him that the Germans had previously conducted the same experiment, arriving at the same conclusions, and that their report was on file. This report on shelf probably cost less than $5 when purchased; it brought the total cost of data to $10,005." (Janet Ahrensfeld, 1986)

This colorful example demonstrates savings. Not only money savings, but also time savings, workload...

And as Olivia Crosby said "Sorting data, finding answers, understanding what we need to know — these professionals are on the cutting edge. They use technology to manage knowledge."

It is time to get one librarian...

Information grows when shared

Some people like to hoard power AND information. But sharing information means that it grows and gains in power. (of course, so does power if the power is benign, democratic and participatory). 

There is so much information around nowadays that the challenge is HOW to organize it and HOW  to ensure that the people who can best use it, get it.  New Tactics notebooks do a wonderful job of sharing information in a way that makes it useful to human rights activists globally. Librarians are crucial to this work - and they can inspire young people - my daughter's elementary school librarian encouraged her innate love of books and sent her in all the right directions. Now she knows how to ask for information, who to ask and, hopefully, how to use it effectively.

The Human Rights center in Sarajevo does fabulous work that is part of the healing process in Bosnia. Let's train and fund more librarians! 

 

Using technology to manage knowlege

Philippe's comments about his memories of librarians as a youth are very similar to my own memories as a child. But I always had a tremendous passion for books - being able to dive into another time, reality, and really feel that I am in that world. Books continue to be one of my choice avenues for rest and regeneration.

I am also of an age when research meant having to go to the library and search about a topic through the card catelogues. I certainly needed the wonderful assistance of librarians to help me understand how to interpret the information on the cards and then to go find the actual document or information I was looking for in the book stacks in the library. But this provided me with a sense of power too, that I knew how to find the information I needed.

Sasa's concluding quote about libriarians "use technology to manage knowledge" got me thinking about the many kinds of "technology experts" we have today. Although there is access to so much information on the world-wide web, it can, in fact, make finding the information you really need more difficult. I find myself drowning in information and much of it not relevant to what I'm really looking for.

This makes me think of a great organization in India, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti
Sangathan (MKSS), which pioneered and worked together with a broad coalition of
organizations in “right to information” work. They have used the simple, "Right
to Know is the Right to Live" slogan to help grassroots illiterate
populations as well as the educated to win remarkable victories against
corruption at the village and national levels. (to read more about their work,
visit the New Tactics Database (http://database.newtactics.org/NewTactics/CaseList.aspx
) or use this link to read an article about their work: http://www.freedominfo.org/features/20040630.htm

Human rights organizations serve a tremendous role in ensuring that the gap
between the have's and have not's in terms of access to information does not
grow wider. Human rights organizations and librarians may be finding even more
pressing demands upon their time and resources to provide the bridge to those
who don't have access to computers, the internet and even basic education. This
may be especially the case as more people, institutions, governments, etc
believe that libraries - and therefore librarians - are becoming obsolete
because people can just access information, news, and communications via the
internet. How can we use technology, and those with expertise in the information fields, to provide this bridge more effectively?

 

You can buy excellent car, but who will be a driver?

Technology is just a tool. Mission of the libraries have not changed since the Library of Nippur - Mission of the Library is to collect, organize and to disseminate information regardless of type of information carrier. Be it clay tablet, papyrus, parchment, paper or digital disk -key element is still information. Latest research carried on the topic How Much Information? (U of C, Berkeley, 2003) stated that every year we are producing 800 megabytes of information per person per year. If you take into consideration that there are 6,3 billion of inhabitants on planet than calculation is like scene from horror movie. In particular situation you need just small portion of information, small piece of puzzle, and you are smashed with billions of pages on the World Wide Web. As Nancy said, we need skills even for library catalogue - the card one, which contian records on holdings in one library. To see it through a metaphor: searching for information in the library is like searching for stone in small river, but when you go to the Web is like searching for grains of sand in the ocean. Today role of librarian is not obsolete - it is much more needed than ever in human history. Librarians have 5000 years ago title Keepers of the Knowledge, but today we are Keepers of the gateway. Librarians have skills and tools to organize, manage, send and interpret information.

Nancy said that some people believes that  librarians are /becoming obsolete because people can just access information, news, and communications via the internet/. I will agree at one point :)

Yes, you can swim in the ocean without navigation, boat, helper...but at some point you will be exhausted relying only on your personal strength. Then you will need a boat. With librarian in it...

Librarians can also guide our beloved patrons through the multidimensional collective human memory, stored not only in libraries and cyberspace, but also in documents and collections that are still under wraps of private collections or undescribed archives.

Librarians should pay attention to lot of things that ordinary people are usually barely noticing.

"To think like a librarian is not to think differently from a non-librarian, but it is to concentrate the mind on problems most non-librarians don't think about."

Librarians are the keepers of the gateway.

 

Keepers of the Knowledge / Gateway

Thank you so much Sasa for raising these great points. I especially want to highlight your point about

Sasa Madacki wrote:
Librarians can also guide our beloved patrons through the
multidimensional collective human memory, stored not only in libraries
and cyberspace, but also in documents and collections that are still
under wraps of private collections or undescribed archives.

This is exactly the work of Youk Chhang and the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC Cam). DC-Cam collects
records of the victims of the Cambodia
genocide in order to offer families and friends an opportunity to learn the
precise fate of the disappeared. DC-Cam was established to keep the memory of
the Cambodian Genocide of April 1975 to January 1979 alive through the Family
Tracing File System. Once family and friends have collected this invaluable
information, they can feel a sense of closure. This service is provided to
encourage Cambodians to address their country’s past, with the hope that this
will allow them to heal from the trauma of the genocide. At the same time,
DC-Cam ihas also been on the quest to find legal evidence that can be used against
former Khmer Rouge leaders in a court of law to further bring justice to the
people of Cambodia.
They are currently involved with the Tribunal process taking place now in Cambodia. You can visit and access this information on-line at: http://www.dccam.org/Database/Index.htm

Another great example of this in another part of the world is Memoria Abierta - an alliance of eight human rights
organizations in Argentina that have combined their efforts to create a
publicly accessible database they hope will contribute to the articulation of a
collective memory that we can never allow to be forgotten. The system makes
accessible all the public archives of documents, photographs and interviews
that are a testament to the horrors of state terrorism in Argentina, its
victims and the people who stood against it. Anyone with Internet access can
search an online catalogue of the files. http://www.memoriaabierta.org.ar/eng/principal.php

One more example of information handling

Theresa Limpin, Asia-Pacific Regional Resource Center for Human Rights Education (ARRC), Thailand

The Asia-Pacific Regional Resource Center for Human Rights Education (ARRC) serves as a network for human rights education in the Asia-Pacific region, providing human rights training, workshops, development and exchange of instructional and other relevant materials, research and human rights education campaigns. The ARRC has developed a growing databank and resource center that makes training and other materials accessible to grassroots and formal human rights education campaigns.

documentation of violations

Thanks to Nancy Pearson for the references to the work of the Documentation Center of Cambodia and Memoria Abierta

Thanks to Ben Harris for the reference to Benetech (the text combines information about two rather different tools and consultancy services)

Monitoring and documenting violations is a core task of many human rights groups. It is sensitive work because the persons providing testimony went through a difficult experience and should not be further traumatised. It is precise work because the reputation of a human rights group can quickly be damaged if its reports contain only minor errors. It can also be dangerous work: repressive authorities may want to get hold of the data to take actions against victims, sources of information and the human rights defenders themselves.

Several organisations developed their own databases for recording and analysing violations. Often, they realised after some time that the database did not fulfil the expected requirements, for various reasons: the design of the database was seen as a technical matter and left to a developer without sufficient knowledge of human rights and the needs of the organisation; the "who did what to whom" structure where one or more perpetrators commit one or more acts of violations to one or more victims was not taken into account; the persons responsible for collecting information through fact-finding or those dealing with data entry were not sufficiently trained, etc.

A database that allows to produce quality reports and analyse trends should contain lists of terminology for a variety of fields, such as: types of acts; methods of violence used; characteristics of the victim which may have caused his/her/its being a victim; relevant national legislation and international law, etc. In addition, there should be space for free text descriptions of what happened.

HURIDOCS has been doing considerable work in this area, and I refer to the WinEvsys database, the Events Standard Formats and Micro-thesauri with terminology, available at http://www.huridocs.org/violations

 

Bert Verstappen

 

Simple Question Need Complex Answer

In addition to Bert's contribution on documenting violations, I would like to add reccomendation for one great book that can be found free of charge on the net.

The book is titled: Who Did What to Whom?

This handbook has grown out of work I've [Patrick Ball] done over the last five years in human rights information management. The two projects I worked with that have most directly influenced the ideas here were 1) work with the non-government Human Rights Commission of El Sal-vador (CDHES) in 1991 - 1992, and 2) work with the Haitian Na-tional Commission for Truth and Justice (CNVJ) in 1995. Although the technology -- both hardware and software -- has advanced tremendously, and the political contexts have varied widely in the six countries to which this work has taken me, the key issues have remained the same because the question at the root of this exercise is the same: Who did what to whom?
So, go to see the book:

Who did what to whom? Planning and Implementing Large Scale Human Rights Data Project
by Patrick Ball of HRDAG at BENETECH

Please read excerpt from the foreword: 

The most fundamental thing a human rights group can do is to tell the truth. A good information management system can help them to do this by maintaining systematic control over the various pieces of human rights stories that they receive. In the worst case, a bad information management system can mislead a human rights organization by introducing ambiguity or even distortion into information that was clear and unambiguous when it came into the organization. In the best case, a good information management system can help an organization to know more than the sum of all its members' relevant knowledge.

documentation of violations

Thanks to Nancy Pearson for the references to the work of the Documentation Center of Cambodia and Memoria Abierta

Thanks to Ben Harris for the reference to Benetech (the text combines information about two rather different tools and consultancy services)

Monitoring and documenting violations is a core task of many human rights groups. It is sensitive work because the persons providing testimony went through a difficult experience and should not be further traumatised. It is precise work because the reputation of a human rights group can quickly be damaged if its reports contain only minor errors.

It can also be dangerous work: repressive authorities may want to get hold of the data to take actions against victims, sources of information and the human rights defenders themselves.

Several organisations developed their own databases for recording andanalysing violations. Often, they realised after some time that thedatabase did not fulfil the expected requirements, for various reasons:

- the design of the database was seen as a technical matter and left to a developer without sufficient knowledge of human rights and the needs of the organisation;

- the "who did what to whom" structure where one or more perpetrators commit one or more acts of violations to one or more victims was not taken into account; the persons responsible for collecting information through fact-finding or those dealing with data entry were not sufficiently trained, etc.

A database that allows to produce quality reports and analyse trends should contain lists of terminology for a variety of fields, such as: types of acts; methods of violence used; characteristics of the victim which may have caused his/her/its being a victim; relevant national legislation and international law, etc. In addition, there should be space for free text descriptions of what happened.

HURIDOCS has been doing considerable work in this area, which started around 1990 by bringing together documentation experts who had developed information systems to record information in their own repressive countries. We came up with Events Standard Formats which reflect the reality of human rights violations. They are integrated, flexible and adaptable to the particular needs of individual organisations and networks. The lists of terminology in the Micro-thesauri allow for precise categorisation of violations, and the characteristics of victims and perpetrators. Cases can be systematically recorded in the WinEvsys database. These tools are available in different languages at http://www.huridocs.org/violations [1].

They are used and adapted by human rights organisations world-wide, and HURIDOCS regularly provides training on the "events method", the formats and the database.

Bert Verstappen

the role of the librarian

Thanks Sasa and Nancy for these nice and encouraging words about librarians. Yes, they do a good job and need to be praised for it. Though the role of the librarian has changed with the emergence of Internet and other ICT, they are still crucial staff for any serious organisation.

One aspect that is important for me in this context is that a good librarian should learn the persons she or he serves to find information themselves, through training and advice, rather than that the users need to come and see (or mail) for every piece of information they would require.

Also, a small "down to earth" comment in response to the introductory blog post by Philippe Duhamel: in a larger organisation, the tasks that he mentions under points 5. and 7. would be undertaken by several persons working in different sections: public information, archive, secretariat, as well as the library. In a smaller organisation, a secretary may have to take care of a small library in addition to various other tasks.

Bert Verstappen

www.huridocs.org

Librarian as Helper

I would like to agree with Bert at "down to earth" point

Of course, not every organization can afford to establish a big, modern library or information center. Nevertheless establishing the role of “librarian” within even a small organization can improve its efficiency dramatically. Ideally, the organization should designate an energetic, curious and dynamic person who would have access to various types of information and be a guide through the information jungle for the rest of the institution. This role might expand later as the organization’s demands grow and its
resources permit.

Libraries should not be the 'keepers' of the gateway

While I agree with much of your post, I fundamentally disagree with your conclusion that 'librarians are (or should be) the keepers of the gateway'.

This is too much alike the 'keepers of knowledge' of the past, which was in fact a position which prevented the 'masses' from accessing knowledge.

 Rather than 'keepers of the gateway', they are more 'navigators' to which people turn when they need...

 ie.

Librarians are navigators of the information ocean

 Regards

Mark 

Another way data collection can help

Benetech (http://www.benetech.org) also uses data collection and collation for "large-scale analysis... [to] strengthen the arguments
made by human rights defenders". From their website:

 

Benetech’s
Human Rights Program <http://www.benetech.org/human_rights> developed the Martus
Human Rights Bulletin System, a free and open source secure information
management tool. The Human Rights Program is also home to the Human Rights Data
Analysis Group (HRDAG). We help groups collect, organize and manage their
information. We also work with groups to think through their data streams and
structure their data collection and organization in a way that allows them to
analyze it more effectively at a later point. Additionally, the Human Rights
Program provides outreach and training on Martus use, as well as provide support
to Martus users around the world.
The Human Rights Program takes tens of
thousands of stories — most of them anecdotal evidence of individual and
community suffering — and systematically turns them into analysis that
strengthens the arguments made by human rights defenders. Such formal collection
and collation of data and large-scale analysis can prove that many cases of mass
violence are not isolated incidents, but rather planned and systematically
executed policy. Such findings can build strong, defensible claims about what
has been endured by victims and societies. The result: perpetrators can be
brought to justice, which then helps prevent the recurrence of
atrocities.

Martus, the Greek word for witness,
<http://www.martus.org> is a secure information management tool that allows you
to create a searchable and encrypted database and back data up remotely to your
choice of publicly available servers. The Martus software is used by
organizations around the world to protect sensitive information and shield the
identity of victims or witnesses who provide testimony on human rights
abuses.
The Martus software can be downloaded free from our website. An open
source software tool, Martus is used by human rights workers, attorneys,
journalists and others who need to secure their information from eavesdropping,
theft or equipment failure.
Some links you may find useful as you explore the
Martus website:

• The Martus overview (available in several
languages): <http://www.martus.org/resources/publications.shtml>


The Martus demo:
<http://www.martus.org/martusdemo/>
will introduce you to the Martus user interface and walk you through basic
functionality.

• The Martus case studies:
<http://www.martus.org/resources/case_studies.shtml>
will give you a sense of the kind of organizations that have used Martus in the
past.

• The Martus download page:
<https://tornado.he.net/cgi-bin/suid/~martus/download.cgi>
is where you can download the software.

• The Martus documentation
page:
<http://www.martus.org/downloads/>
is where you can view the software documentation, also available in several
languages.

The Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG)
<http://www.hrdag.org> offers expertise and tools for each stage of human rights
data projects: collection, management, processing and analysis. HRDAG provides
consulting in a variety of areas as well as standard and customized technical
tools and services. HRDAG provides assistance with data backup and security, as
well as building database and classification systems, and advanced statistical
analysis of mass atrocities.
Some links you may find useful as you explore
the HRDAG website:
• About HRDAG <http://www.hrdag.org/about/>

Guatemalan National Police Archive project <http://www.hrdag.org/about/guatemala-police_arch_project.shtml>

Other projects <http://www.hrdag.org/about/projects.shtml>
• Core
Concepts <http://www.hrdag.org/resources/core_concepts.shtml>
• HRDAG
publications <http://www.hrdag.org/resources/publications.shtml>

reconceptualizing librarians

I really like Phillipe’s opening words as well! They remind me that in a 2003 speech given by Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein (who wrote NO LOGO and THE SCHOCK DOCTRINE) at the Joint American Library Association/Canadian Library Association Conference [the year of SARS - remember that], she talked about “Why Being a Librarian is a Radical Choice”. She said: “When I look out at this room I see people who represent values that are distinctly different from the ones that currently govern the globe.  These values are, in no particular order: Knowledge (as opposed to mere information gathering); Public Space (as opposed to commercial or private space); and Sharing (as opposed to buying and selling). It so happens that those are three of the most endangered and embattled values you could have chosen to represent.  If you decided to represent “profit” or “global competitiveness” your lives would be easy.  But you didn’t and the very notion that that some things that are so important that cannot be fully owned and contained is under siege around the world.” Full speech is found here: http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles7/Klein_Librarian.htm

momentum is building

To date, individuals in more than 30 different countries have accessed the online abstract posted for my new book on Librarianship and Human Rights - posted on E-LIS (an open access archive for scientific or technical documents, published or unpublished, on Librarianship, Information Science and Technology, and related areas). The book is forthcoming out of Buenos Aires in 2008 in a special Latin American edition in Spanish translation. Even just one library and info worker in one country at a time can make a difference. And I think there is a momentum building each day for the human rights pushes worldwide within the LIS community.  The numerous strategies at play for social action connect to elements of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) that relate particularly to core library values, information ethics, and global information justice.  These elements include (but are not limited to): Respect for the dignity of human beings (Art. 1); Confidentiality (Art. 1, 2, 3, 6); Equality of opportunity (Art. 2, 7); Privacy (Art. 3, 12); Right to be protected from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Art. 5); Right to own property (Art. 17); Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Art. 18); Right to freedom of opinion and expression (Art. 19); Right to peaceful assembly and association (Art. 20); Right to economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for dignity and the free development of personality (Art. 22); Right to education (Art. 26); Right to participate in the cultural life of the community (Art. 27); Right to the protection of the moral and material interests concerning any scientific, literary or artistic production (Art. 27).Not to mention, we need to think about pushes for action on the right to communicate, to natural resources, and to participation in humankind’s heritage.See: http://eprints.rclis.org/es/index.php?action=show_detail_eprint&id=9208

Conference of interest October 2007!

Human Rights Archives and Documentation: Meeting the Needs of Research, Teaching, Advocacy and Social Justice. October 4-6, 2007. Columbia University, New York, New York, USA. Sponsored by the Centre for Human Rights Documentation and Research and Center for the Study of Humans Rights @ Columbia University, The Center for Research Libraries/Global Resources Network, and the University of Texas Libraries. This conference includes sessions concerning Human Rights Documentation including current approaches, grassroots activities and new forms of documentation, legal uses of documentation, and academic approaches.Keynote Address: A conversation with Juan Méndez, President of the International Center for Transitional Justice; former UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. Attendance at the conference is free but registration is required. More Information

Sharing Information is Power

Thanks for all of your very interesting comments.

As databases, applications and resources are created it is extremely important to involve librarians and people trained in the library sciences. These are the folks who understand knowledge management, taxonomy, categories, indexing and similar concepts. For instance, Google is a great search engine. And it's even better if you know the right search words and how to put them together to find what you need. It's the librarians who are going to help up index, catalog, search and retrieve the vast amounts of information quickly becoming available at the click of a mouse.

Many years ago there was a phrase that was often repeated in business management
-- Information is Power
Now, in the twenty-first century, the saying has changed into
-- Sharing Information is Power

I think the new saying is absolutely true. That's why it's very exciting to see the worlds of Human Rights, Information Technology and Library Science working together. There are so many ways in which these groups can be enriched and empowered by sharing resources and information.

One of the emerging technologies that can help make this possible is the Open Source movement. The open source community has recently developed software for use in library management, called Koha. It is the first open-source Integrated Library System (ILS). In use worldwide, Koha's development is steered by a growing community of libraries collaborating to achieve their technology goals. It's impressive feature set continues to evolve and expand to meet the needs of its user base. [ http://www.koha.org ]

If you have not heard of Open Source before, here's a bit about it from the Wikipedia website:  Open source is a set of principles and practices that promote access to the design and production of goods and knowledge. The term is most commonly applied to the source code of software that is available to the general public with relaxed or non-existent intellectual property restrictions. This allows users to create software content through incremental individual effort or through collaboration.  [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source ]

There are also many exciting databases that are going online as websites that can be searched by anyone. One of these is TANDIS, the Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Information System. This databases serves as a collection point for information related to tolerance and non-discrimination on the basis of information received from the participating States, civil society and intergovernmental organizations. The purpose is to share and promote practical initiatives and to provide information and raise awareness on issues related to tolerance and non-discrimination this website has been made available to the public. [ http://tandis.odihr.pl ]

Denise Dreher
Information Systems Administrator
Center for Victims of Torture

Information for Social Change website & journal

If you have time, check out the Information for Social Change (ISC) website and the journal of the same name. The last ISC journal issue addressed  libraries and information in the World Social Forum context and the upcoming issue (about to be published any day now) is on the theme of library and information work in conflict situations. Creative contributions acome from many corners of the world!See: http://libr.org/isc/

Book of interest

I would like to reccommend book: (it is little bit old :) but still usefull! And its free...

Redesigning Library Services: A Manifesto
Michael Buckland
Published in 1992 by the American Library Association. ISBN 0-8389-0590-0.

"This is a useful book because it is practical and an important book because it will color the way in which we see libraries. It is a wonderful antidote to the nihilism that has been induced in some by technological change. It affirms the importance of libraries and shows us how we can have faith in the future of libraries without taking refuge in nostalgia. It is, in the very best sense of the terms, progressive and forward-looking." - From the Foreword by Michael Gorman.

Libraries for All : How to Start and Run a Small Library

 

"Libraries for All :  How to Start and Run a Small Library" is a practical, hands-on guide to establishing and managing a library in a developing country. It is intended to be used by community leaders, librarians, library committees, aid workers and anyone who is interested in the practical aspect of starting and maintaining a successful library.

Many of these often have no formal training in library science and must overcome enormous difficulties in compiling collections of resources that enrich their communities. The manual focuses on issues that the community and the library founder need to address before establishing a library as well as providing practical information on getting established and managing the library. It contains a list of "action steps" at the end of each part summarizing what needs to be done at each stage of planning and running a library. To ensure its relevance in developing countries, it has been reviewed and field tested in eleven countries.

The document was made possible by funding within the framework of the UNESCO Network of Associated Libraries (UNAL), which is dedicated to promoting international co-operation and understanding between libraries and was prepared by one its members the World Library Partnerships (WLP). An HTML version is available from the WLP website at http://RTPnet.org/~wlp/lfa/1cover.htm

Libraries for all: how to start and run a basic library / prepared by Laura Wendell [for the General Information Programme and UNISIST]. - Paris : UNESCO, 1998. - v, 108p.; 30 cm. -(CII/INF-98/WS/08) (Full text in RTF)

Basic Training Manuals from UNESCO

How to set-up and run a Documentation / Resource Centre

Excerpt from the website of ALADIN (Adult Learning Documentation and Information Network), UNESCO Institute of Education.

Below you will find some of the links, and full list is available here 

While there are no specific how-to-do manuals for adult education centres available online, we have listed several sources that can be useful to NGOs planning to run their own resource or documentation center. This section includes also links to training materials and courses in library and information technology.

For Starters…Guidelines on Library Management, UN Library Network www.un.org/Depts/dhl/sflib/libmgnt/starters/starters.htm

A manual on the management of UN document collections. Maintained by the UN Small and Field Libraries Network includes descriptions of the UN documentation, indexes to it, and guidelines and procedures on classification, organizing of publications and documents, retention, loans etc. There are also sections with suggestions on answering to reference queries, and sections dealing with documentation in other forms (CDs, films, radio programmes, photographs).

Resource Centre Manual : How to set up and manage a resource centre  www.healthlink.org.uk/PDFs/resource-centre-manual.pdf
Resource Centre Manual : How to set up and manage a resource centre. – London : Healthlink Worldwide, 2003. – 266p.

This manual contains practical information on all aspects of setting up and managing a resource centre, from planning, fundraising and finding a suitable location, to collecting and organising materials, developing information services, managing databases and websites, and monitoring and evaluating the work of the resource centre.

Sharing Knowledge for Community Development and Transformation www.oxfam.qc.ca/html_en/publications_en/sharing_knoledge.html (full text)

Mchombu, Kingo J.: Sharing Knowledge for Community Development and Transformation. 2nd ed. – Ottawa: Oxfam Canada, 2004. – 104 p.

This handbook is designed for men and women who don´t have any information management skills. It is for those who don´t have experiences in library work, for people who want to learn about information, knowledge and development. You will learn how to identify, collect and provide access to the information that assists and supports community transformation. The handbook is the product of training and discussion, of questions and answers, shared by those working in development. It is also a statement of confidence in and support for rural people. But it not only tries to provide some ideas on “how to do it”. It first discusses some theories and ideas in a language aimed at ordinary people.

Contact for a copy:
Oxfam Canada, 880 Wellington Street Suite 400, Ottawa, Ontario K1R 6K7, Canada
Tel: (613) 237-5236 or Fax: (613) 237 0524 or e-mail: info@oxfam.ca

Where there is no Librarian: An Information Management Manual
Maya, E. W. and Macharia, D.: Where there is no Librarian : an Information Management Manual. – Nairobi : Environmental Liaison Centre International, 1992. – 92p.

Information management manual that describes in detail everything from how to classify and catalogue materials and store them properly to how to write project proposals to get the funding to do it.

Contact for a copy:
Environmental Liaison Centre International, PO Box 72461, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254-2-576114/576779 or Fax: +254-2-576125 or e-mail: herineo@elci.org or

Falls Brook Centre, 125 South Knowlesville Road, Knowlesville, New Brunswick E7L 1B1, Canada
Tel: 506-375-8143 or 375-4310 or Fax: 506-375-4221 or e-mail: ja@fallsbrookcentre.ca

the ideal librarian - job description

Hello Sasa,

Thanks for your inputs and resources.

Certainly after we have now convinced them that appointing a librarian can actually save money, all managers that subscribe to the list will jump to appoint a librarian, or an additional librarian. Maybe we can help them on the way and list the main characteristics of the ideal librarian?

I will make a start - the ideal librarian:

- has knowledge about the contents of the topics that her or his library covers

- follows ongoing technological developments which could be used in the library

- is service-oriented and takes initiatives in contacting present and potential users of the library

- has the necessary practical skills to carry out the daily tasks: cataloguing, classification, ordering of publications, management of loans

- monitors and evaluates the use made of the libary.

Of course, others can contribute as well!

Bert

www.huridocs.org

Mighty Librarian

Dear Bert,
I believe that our managers are not reading this blog any more. They are on the street trying to get/buy/kidnap Librarian. When they return from their librarian finding mission or before jumping to appoint librarian :)))) they can think about following statements what your librarian should/can do for their organization: 

Prepare research reports in response to staff requests for specific information;

Identify research done at other organizations to avoid unnecessary duplication;

Verify facts for external and internal reports and publications;

Create databases for organizations to access their internal information;

Evaluate and compare information software and sources of data prior to purchase;

Train other staff to efficiently and costeffectively use online databases.

(Special Librarians, Putting Knowledge to Work, SLA)

Librarian search

Sasa and Bert,

These are great tips for our Librarian search. I want to highlight a point that Sasa made yesterday - "Of course, not every organization can afford to establish a big, modern
library or information center. Nevertheless establishing the role of
“librarian” within even a small organization can improve its efficiency
dramatically. Ideally, the organization should designate an energetic,
curious and dynamic person who would have access to various types of
information and be a guide through the information jungle for the rest
of the institution. This role might expand later as the organization’s
demands grow and its resources permit."

As human rights organizations, our resources are always too few and usually stretched beyond capacity. But you've made a great case for how the attention to this kind of role within an organization - small to large - is so essential to actually better utilizing the resources we have.

I'm really on the look out now for our librarian!

Nancy

international contacts between librarians

Being a librarian can at times be a lonely job. Fortunately, in various countries there exists platforms and meetings where librarians can exchange experiences and learn from best practices.

For librarians and documentation workers working in human rights organisations and institutes in Europe, there is the annual meeting of the European Coordination Committee on Human Rights Documentation. The meeting consists of presentations of new tools and techniques for information and documentation work. There is sufficient space for thematic groups and informal gathering.

It usually takes place in spring and is attended by an average of 30-40 persons. Every year, it is hosted by another institution - the most recent meeting was held by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Lund, Sweden, but we have also been from Barcelona to St. Petersburg, from Bucharest to London.

For more information, see http://www2.law.uu.nl/english/sim/library/ecchrd/ecchrd.html

During the 90s, there was a similar network / meeting in North America, but unfortunately it is no longer taking place. There are also networks in other continents, but their meetings are less frequent. See http://www.huridocs.org/involved/networks

 

Bert

www.huridocs.org

Lonely Hearts : One Person Libraries

Since Bert said that being librarian is lonely job and that networkig among librarians is essential, there are sometips for lonely ones. Usualy in NGO's and small institutes librarianship is one man show. This is reason why within profession new term arised: OPL which stands for One Person Library.

Please read short article  ONE-PERSON LIBRARIANSHIP, A Short Overview
by Judith A. Siess that was presented at  The Library & Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa: Te Rau Herenga o Aotearoa (LIANZA) Conference that was was held in Auckland in early September 2004.

what to look for in a librarian

I think both the concept of intellectual freedom and of social responsibility are essential topics to discuss when interviewing a librarian for your organization. 

The below 10 point program reflects some common concerns asserted by  progressive librarians, who often consider the human condition above other professional concerns. A librarian already working within the critical or progressive library movement, is a likely candidate to take on the challenges of library and information work within the context of a human rights organization.

And also see:

Progressive Archivists
“Progressive Archivists is a discussion group and caucus for archivists (and anyone else) interested in social responsibility in the context of the archival profession.”

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
“A public-interest alliance concerned about the impact of computer technology on society. Members provide the public and policymakers with realistic assessments of the power, promise, and limitations of computer technology.”

Ten point program presented to the groups which met at the  
Vienna Conference of progressive librarians sponsored by
KRIBIBIE                       

We shall work towards an international agenda as the basis of common action of librarians everywhere actively committed, as librarians, to social justice, equality, human welfare, and  the development of cultural democracy.

We will unite librarians and information workers in opposition to the marketization of public goods, to privatization of social resources and to outsourcing of services and will oppose international treaties and institutions which advance destructive neo-liberal policies.

3.     We insist upon the equality of access to and inclusiveness of information services, especially extending such services to the poor, marginalized and discriminated against, including the active solidarity-based provision of information assistance to these groups and their advocates in their struggles.

4.       

We shall  encourage the exploration of alternative models of human services; promote and disseminate critical analysis of information technology's  impact on libraries and societies; and support the fundamental democratization of existing institutions of education, culture, communications.

5.     We shall undertake joint, interdisciplinary research into fundamental library issues (e.g. into the political economy of information in the age of neo-liberalism and corporate globalization)  in order to lay the basis for effective action in our spheres of work.

6.       

We will support cooperative collection, organization and preservation of the documents of people's struggles and the making available of alternative materials representing a wide range of progressive viewpoints often excluded as resources  from the debates of our times.

7.     We will investigate and  organize efforts to make the library-as-workplace more democratic and encourage resistance to  the managerialism of the present library culture.

8.       

We will lead in promoting international solidarity among librarians and cooperation between libraries across borders on the basis of  our joint commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related covenants  which create a democratic framework for constructive cooperative endeavours.

9.     We will organize in common with other cultural and educational progressives, to help put issues of social responsibility on the agendas of international bodies such as IFLA and UNESCO.

10.     

        We shall oppose corporate globalization which, despite its claims, reinforces existing social, economic, cultural inequalities, and insist on a democratic globalism and internationalism which respects and cultivates cultural plurality, which recognizes the sovereignty of peoples, which acknowledges the obligations of society to the individual and communities, and which prioritizes  human values and needs over profits.

Source: http://libr.org/plg/10-point.php

global information justice

Hi (HR) librarians! I'd like to post a comment regarding my concern when it comes to issues progressive librarians should take care of. A global political trend of depolitization, a typical liberal gesture, blurs the democratic arena becoming a place where conflicts are to be eradicated. In regard to that I ask myself how to oppose “destructive neo-liberal policies” if not by becoming rigidly political. If we are to discuss librarianship activism and active solidarity I agree it is extremely important to understand obstacles for progressive and responsible doing of our profession in order to fight for “equality of access and inclusiveness of information services” but I'd like to add that a clear defining who our political opponents are should be essential. I would advocate for allegedly obsolete and irrational demarcation to “us and them” since there is no way to be politically effective or to resist corporate globalization if promotion of international solidarity among librarians would not be based on a strict political agenda. Today’s democratic institutions, I am afraid, hardly manage the present globalized situation. We are all aware that there is insufficient legal agonistic possibility to fight against today’s hegemony.Few days ago I had a chance to hear lecture here in Sarajevo given by Chantal Mouffe who has been stressing her well-known points of radical democracy of agonistic pluralism but she acknowledged the problem of competing when it comes to terms about what justice is? Librarians are those ones who have responsibility in balancing the interests of two agonistic poles being in the same time actively involved in their regular professional duties. Is it possible to be at the same time both political and neutral? Indeed, sharing information is power but what to do and how to defend when those who share are in risk to be labeled as terrorists instead of freedom fighters?  

 

Bibliothecarius Politicus

hibertmario wrote:
Librarians are those ones who have responsibility in balancing the interests of two agonistic poles being in the same time actively involved in their regular professional duties. Is it possible to be at the same time both political and neutral? Indeed, sharing information is power but what to do and how to defend when those who share are in risk to be labeled as terrorists instead of freedom fighters? 

hibertmario asked crucial question for positioning of the profession. I believe that is necessary to understand that librarians are humans and not cyborgs, or to be more precise: Librarian is not and can not be Centaur - mythical being, in this case half neutral and half political. I will agree with you that librarians needs to be highly political - fighting for thier agenda, fighting for the values of our profession. To be more radical: Librarian who is not political, is not Librarian. He or she is just Shelver of the Books. Not more, not less. Just Shelver.

on neutrality

Despite the dominant view that librarianship is a neutral profession, Colin Darch observes, “librarians have always been politically engaged, despite themselves.”[ii] For example, the 2005 library seminar “Libraries in Times of War, Revolution & Social Change” examined: “books and libraries as agents of cultural memory to be protected, appropriated or obliterated; library collections and services as instruments of political power in providing, restricting or withholding access to information; libraries as places of refuge, solace and practical help in times of social disruption; libraries and their contents as cultural heritage and as booty; the nature of the revolutionary cultural and political regimes in which libraries are situated with regard to literacy and learning; [and,] the responsibilities of the international community in creating and enforcing policies and procedures of protection, reconstitution and restitution of cultural artifacts, including books and libraries.”[iii]  The problem indeed is the risk!!

[i] Kagan, Al. Living in the Real World: A Decade of Progressive Librarianship in the USA and in International Library Organizations. INNOVATION 22 (June 2001), 11. 

[ii]  Ibid., pages 6-9. 

[iii] 2005 Library History Seminar XI: Libraries in Times of War, Revolution & Social Change.  Sponsored by the Library History Round Table of the American Library Association (ALA).  http://www.lis.uiuc.edu/conferences/LHS.XI/papers.pdf 

when in isolation, find the network

Library and information workers, especially those working in isloation, should identify and learn about local, provincial, national, and international library and information groups, from the elite such as the international federation of library associations and institutions (IFLA) www.ifla.org to the  grassroots such as  the Progressive African Library & Information Activists’ Group (PALIACT) http://www.seapn.org.uk/PALIAct-new.html]

This goes back to the sharing ethic mentioned earlier on this blog.

Shiraz Durrani cautions that “while IFLA has done and can do a lot of good work, it remains a representative body of official Library Associations around the world, and most of them are conservative, establishment-orientated bodies.  One cannot expect IFLA to be a radical organisation for change in the interest of working people around the world.  But it is not necessary to have one or the other (IFLA or alternative, progressive organisations).  There is room for both types of organisations.  They may work together sometimes and have contradictions at other times; ­this is a healthy state of affairs.  At the same time, I think there is an urgent need for alternative progressive organisations” if libraries are to become “more relevant to the majority of people.”  Indeed, around the world, critical librarians engage in persuasion and consensus building through a diverse array of measures such as petitions, manifestos, resolutions, rallies, boycotts, alternative conference programs, publishing, lobbying, and daily information exchange to address historical inequities. 

Duranni, Shiraz. Submission to Culture, Media and Sport Committee (Session 2003-04.  26 October 2004. New Inquiry: Public Libraries. 19 November 2004), 1.

Human rights documentation: information management and security

Thanks everyone for a wonderful discussion so far! I’d like to add a bit more from the
perspective of the Benetech, where we work closely with human rights
organizations to help them document human rights situations.

As you read this post, I encourage you to think about information management and security
as critical components of the task of documenting human rights violations, and
ultimately of librarianship.

The challenge: human rights and social justice
groups throughout the world gather and collect large amounts of data, yet these
organizations often lack the resources to document human rights violations
systematically and securely.

The information
gathered by these groups was done so at great risk to themselves and to those
whose stories they document, but it remains on paper or in insecure electronic
formats. The result is that rich, raw information remains vulnerable to theft
and destruction. Often these formats prevent the information from being
effectively shared; worse, critical documentation is often lost to viruses,
computer theft, neglect and staff turnover.

Lost information is a problem with far-reaching implications. Social justice organizations know
that timely, accurate data distribution is one of their most powerful weapons
against human rights violations. NGOs gather information to draw attention to
the circumstances of victims, pressure perpetrators and encourage judicial
accountability. They also use field data to focus media attention and help
deliver justice in the form of truth commissions and tribunals. Without the
collection and use of such information, human rights campaigns have limited
chance of success.

As Ben noted, the Benetech Human Rights program has developed a tool called Martus, a
free, secure information management tool. Martus allows users to create a
searchable database that is highly customizable. The user can develop
standardized, customized templates for data entry, and share information with
other Martus users. It is flexible enough to allow sharing between a network of
field offices spread around the world, as well as between two co-workers in the
same office. Information can be shared securely (so that the information is
kept private) or made widespread and publicly viewable via a Martus Search Engine.

Martus is used by a diverse array of organizations, ranging from small NGOs to large
archive projects. Each has taken advantage of both the customizability of
Martus as well as the high level of security afforded by the tool. We work
closely with partners to develop an understanding of the information they have
and craft a structure of organization and data management. In this way, not
only is the information collection guaranteed a level of consistency and
detail, but the information becomes manageable. This also makes it more
likely that meaningful human rights data analysis can be done at a later point.

Another key aspect of human rights documentation, as Bert noted, is the highly sensitive nature of
the information involved. Increasingly, the computers of human rights
organizations are targeted by those who wish to destroy the information.
Martus has a high level of security built in. It automatically encrypts all
information on the local computer, and backs it up to remote servers each time you
connect to the internet. Because of this, even if your computer is stolen by
people who hope to access your data, all they get is encrypted 'bits and bytes',
and because Martus has backed up your data, it's not lost to your organization. As
an example, one of our partners in Colombia had her laptop stolen at
gunpoint. Martus worked in two ways: first, she could be sure that the thieves
were unable to access the sensitive information on her laptop, and
second, her organization was able to retrieve her data from the servers where it had been
backed up.

An example of a large Martus project is the Guatemala National Police Archives project. In
2005, the archives of the (now disbanded) Guatemalan National Police were
discovered in an abandoned warehouse. The warehouse was packed with over 80
million pages of documentation, including papers, books, photographs and floppy
disks. Some of the content dated back to the 1880s. The archives were damaged
by years of exposure to rainwater, animal droppings and decay. As the
Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman’s office works to clean the documents and
understand their contents, they are using Martus as a customizable database
that allows the data to be structured in multiple ways, in preparation for
later data analysis. The Martus team at Benetech has worked closely with the archive
team to develop the customization structure and plan for analysis. To date, they have have created over 30, 000 bulletins and backed them up over the internet to secure servers outside of the country.

Each human rights organization is unique, and has a unique collection of information. Our
goal is to help them collect, organize and manage their data, while ensuring
that it won’t be destroyed, whether by neglect, malicious intent, or any number
of other causes.

Read more about the Guatemala National Police Archives project here: http://www.hrdag.org/about/guatemala-police_arch_project.shtml

You can download Martus for free here:
www.martus.org

Since Martus is based on open source
technology, each improvement to the software benefits all users who can
download the latest release for free. Our partners and programmers in
the open source community are welcome to examine the Martus software code to ensure trust and transparency.

 

risk, preservation, security

The deep and highly valuable points contributed today (for example on risk from hibertmario and on preservation and security from vijayat) prompted me to revisit the British Library’s posting of the Diary of Saad Eskander, Director of the Iraq National Library and Archive (covering the period November 2006 - July 2007). See: http://www.bl.uk/iraqdiary.html

September 28 is RIGHT TO KNOW DAY

Fortuitous timing re our discussions this week ... “On 28 September 2002 Freedom of Information organizations from various countries around the globe meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria, created a network of Freedom of Information Advocates (FOIA Network) and agreed to collaborate in promotion of the individual right of access to information and open, transparent governance. The group of FOI Advocates also proposed that 28 September be nominated as international "Right to Know Day" in order to symbolize the global movement for promotion of the right to information. The aim of having a Right to Know Day is to raise awareness of the right to information. It is a day on which freedom of information activists from around the world can use further to promote this fundamental human right and to campaign for open, democratic societies in which there is full citizen empowerment and participation in government.” Source: (www.righttoknowday.net/index_eng.php)

.

Internet as Court of Last Resort article

I recommend this article in the forthcoming issue of Information For Social Change.

“DISSEMINATING TRUTH TO POWER: HUMAN RIGHTS INFORMATION AND THE INTERNET AS COURT OF LAST/ONLY RESORT by Clay Collins.

Clay Collins is pursuing an M.A. in library and information studies at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, USA.  He is a former research fellow at the University of Minnesota, USA Human Rights Center and a 2004 recipient of the Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellowship. Clay is currently interested in human rights informatics, informational politics, and transnational advocacy networks. He may be reached at claycollins@gmail.com.

Article Abstract:  Within the context of the concept of the internet as court of last resort for victims of human rights violations, this article explores the case of a Guantánamo Bay prisoner to illustrate the notion that, under certain circumstances, the internet may effectively serve as a court of only resort.  It then expands to consider the power of human rights information on the internet through the introduction of two important human rights information agencies, ventures a taxonomy for classifying human rights bloggers, and discusses needed library and archival work.  It discusses the plight of human rights bloggers as well as the human rights of information seekers and providers on the internet.  Finally, it concludes with thoughts on information technology, the crises in Darfur, and the future of internet-based human rights advocacy work.

unique university seminar course on topic

If you know of someone interested in taking a university course on librarians and human rights, they will not have much luck. I only know of one such course (but there may be others). The URL for this groundbreaking course, developed and taught by the incomparable Kathleen de la Peňa McCook, is found below. I hope Kathleen’s contribution leads to more such course offerings massaged for different world regions. http://www.cas.usf.edu/lis/mccook/librariansandhumanrights.htm

From dusty archives to knowledge democracy

Even in well resourced human rights organisations with professional librarians their potential beyond the shelves of their library is often ignored.

One area that springs to mind is the organisation’s website.

Most organisations have understood that they need a good website to be effective, and many have spent substantial funds to recruit web masters, programmers.. oh yes and most importantly graphic artists (the boss wants the site to look nice) or to buy/install state of the art content management systems. So how come websites are so often next to useless when it comes to finding information?

I have seen dozens of sites where almost every single page has the same html title tag and the same keywords or description. Just imagine if an organisation published books all with the same title and the same CIP information! Badly crafted webpages get lost deep in the result lists of search engines, never to be found, never to be read.

Is that why we spend time and money on our websites? So they look good?

So librarians!, open the source code of your organisation’s webpages, look at them from your perspective, is there any metadata? is it good metadata? how to they appear in search engine’s results lists? then go make your point!

I was in a major web conference not so long ago when one of the worlds leading semantic web specialists said “what the web needs is librarians”. He is right: Librarians have worked with taxonomies, metadata, keywords all their lives (webbies have just started to discover them) they have the skills to make sure that people find documents on shelves... and on the web.

So next time you brainstorm on your website, invite your librarian! 

(by the way... I’m not a librarian)

Youth and Librarianship

Since there seems to be such great discussion from many expert sources going on here, I'd like to take the opportunity to ask for some opinions on a topic.

I've long wondered what people (especially experts in the field) think the future of librarianship will be. Technology and information access is seemingly at an all time high, and growing constantly, so this would imply that perhaps the role of librarians sould be growing too. However, that same technology has been utilized widely by younger people, but sometimes in place of libraries. This seems to be a double edged sword.

It's no doubt that the future of good human rights practices depend largely on optimal information access and use. Librarians are key in accomplishing this; but how do you convince an audience of up and coming activists that their human rights causes are better served by librarianship and archivists than just a simple google search? How do we get people to use libarians to dig deeper for the hard to find info? Where (and with what tools) would you tell them to start?

Resources Referenced in the Tactical Discussion

An incredible wealth of resources have been offered during the course of the discussion. This is a collection to date which will be updated at the conclusion of the discussion.

Books:

Human Rights and the Internet. Editors: Steven Hick, Edward
F. Halpin, Eric Hoskins. Houndmills
[Hampshire] and London: Macmillan Press, New York: St. Martin's
Press.

Living in the Real World: A Decade of Progressive
Librarianship in the USA
and in International Library Organizations
. Al Kagan. INNOVATION
22 (June 2001), 11.

Redesigning Library Services: A Manifesto Michael Buckland. Published
in 1992 by the American Library Association. ISBN 0-8389-0590-0. http://sunsite3.berkeley.edu/Literature/Library/Redesigning/

Librarianship and
Human Rights: A Twenty-First Century Guide
. By Toni Samek.
Chandos Publishing (Oxford) Ltd, 2007. http://www.chandospublishing.com/

Who Did What to Whom? Planning and Implementing a Large
Scale Human Rights Data Project.
Patrick Ball. http://shr.aaas.org/www/cover.htm

Articles and Papers:

Making Sense of the
Information Wilderness
: Library and Information Services for the
Improvement of Human Rights Work. By Sasa Madacki, Human
Rights Center
at the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (This is a Tactical Notebook
from the New Tactics website)
http://www.newtactics.org/InformationWilderness
Also available In Bangla

Open Memory:
Cooperating to Facilitate Access to Human Rights Information. By Damian
Ferrari, Memoria Abierta, Argentina (This is a Tactical Notebook
from the New Tactics website) Also available in:
In Bangla

En Espanol
http://www.newtactics.org/OpenMemory

What is
documentation
By Bert Verstappen,
available along with many other great "how to" manuals and resources at HURIDOCS website. http://www.huridocs.org/tools/violations
http://www.huridocs.org/

“One-Person Librarianship” By Judith A. Siess, President,
Information Bridges International, Inc.
http://www.lianza.org.nz/events/conference2004/papers/siess.pdf

“Internet AND Intention: An Infrastructure for Progressive
Librarianship,” By Toni Samek one of our online experts. IJIE-International
Journal of Information Ethics Vol. 2 (11/2004) © by IJIE, ISSN 1614-1687
http://container.zkm.de/ijie/ijie/no002/ijie_002_23_samek.pdf

“Disseminating Truth to Power: Human Rights Information and
the Internet as Court of Last/Only Resort”
By Clay Collins (contact Clay at: claycollins@gmail.com)

“Why Being a Librarian is a Radical Choice” By Naomi Klein. Speech
at the Joint American Library Association/Canadian Library Association
Conference, June 24 2003. Transcribed- July 15, 2003. Found online at: http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles7/Klein_Librarian.htm

“Case Study: The Right to Know is the Right to Live - Profile
of a Remarkable Peoples' Movement in India that Links Information to Livelihood.”
http://www.freedominfo.org/features/20040630.htm

Websites/Organizations
on the Web:

Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems,
International (HURIDOCS):
http://www.huridocs.org

Huridocs search engine: http://www.hurisearch.org/

NOTE: This is a specialised search engine created to provide
access to information published by human rights organisations worldwide. hurisearch provides discovery tools
which guide users to pages by browsing by country, by language, by topic etc
much in the same way one does when browsing through the shelves in a
bookshop or library.
http://www.hurisearch.org/

Adult Learning, Documentation and Information Network
http://www.unesco.org/education/aladin/

European Coordination Committee on Human Rights
Documentation
http://www2.law.uu.nl/english/sim/library/ecchrd/ecchrd.html

Benetech: http://www.benetech.org/human_rights/

Martus, an online search engine developed by Benetech,
available for free download at:
http://www.martus.org

Human Rights Data Analysis Group- Guatemalan National Police
Archive Project (A Benetech initiative):
http://www.hrdag.org/about/guatemala-police_arch_project.shtml


Documentation Center of Cambodia
(DC-Cam):
http://www.dccam.org/Database/Index.htm


Memoria Abierta
(Open Memory) Argentine documentation
website:
http://www.memoriaabierta.org.ar/eng/principal.php

Right to Know Day website (in English): www.righttoknowday.net/index_eng.php

Introduction to Internet and Human Rights, by the Center for
Democracy and Technology http://www.cdt.org/international/000105humanrights.shtml

UNESCO Basic Training Manuals online:
http://www.unesco.org/education/aladin/resourceManuals.htm

Guidelines on Library
Management, UN Library Network
www.un.org/Depts/dhl/sflib/libmgnt/starters/starters.htm

A manual on the management of United Nations document collections.
Maintained by the UN Small and Field Libraries Network. It includes
descriptions of the United Nations documentation, indexes to it, and guidelines
and procedures on classification, organizing of publications and documents,
retention, loans, etc. There are also sections with suggestions on answering reference
queries, and sections dealing with documentation in other forms (CDs, films,
radio programmes, photographs).

Resource Centre Manual :
How to set up and manage a resource centre,
London : Healthlink Worldwide, 2003. – 266p.
www.healthlink.org.uk/PDFs/resource-centre-manual.pdf

This manual contains practical information on all aspects of setting up and
managing a resource centre: planning, fundraising and finding a suitable
location; collecting and organising materials; developing information services;
managing databases and websites; and monitoring and evaluating the work of the
resource centre.

 

Sharing Knowledge for
Community Development and Transformation,
Mchombu, Kingo J., 2nd ed. –
Ottawa: Oxfam Canada, 2004. – 104 p.

www.oxfam.qc.ca/html_en/publications_en/sharing_knoledge.html
(full text)

This handbook is designed for men and women without information management or
library work skills or experience. It discusses theories and ideas in a
language aimed at ordinary people and provides ideas on “how to do it.” It is for
people who want to learn about information, knowledge and development. You will
learn how to identify, collect and provide access to the information that
assists and supports community transformation. The handbook is the product of
training and discussion, of questions and answers, shared by those working in
development. It is also a statement of confidence in and support for rural
people.

Contact for a copy:
Oxfam Canada,
880 Wellington Street Suite 400,
Ottawa, Ontario
K1R 6K7, Canada
Tel: (613) 237-5236 or Fax: (613) 237 0524 or e-mail: info@oxfam.ca

Where there is no Librarian: An Information Management Manual,
Maya, E. W. and Macharia, D., Nairobi
: Environmental Liaison Centre International, 1992. – 92p.
This information management manual describes in detail everything from how
to classify and catalogue materials and store them properly, to how to write
project proposals to get the funding to do it.

Contact for a copy:
Environmental Liaison Centre International, PO Box 72461, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254-2-576114/576779 or Fax: +254-2-576125 or e-mail: herineo@elci.org

or

Falls Brook Centre, 125 South Knowlesville Road, Knowlesville,
New Brunswick E7L
1B1, Canada
Tel: 506-375-8143 or 375-4310 or Fax: 506-375-4221 or e-mail: ja@fallsbrookcentre.ca


Online Diary of Saad
Eskander
, Director of the Iraq
National Library and Archive:
www.bl.uk/iraqdiary.html

An online community
and informational site for Zimbabwean and other activists:
www.kubatana.net

International Federation
of Library Associations and Institutions
: www.ifla.org

The PALIAct Network
(The Progressive African Library and Information Activists’ Group): www.seapn.org.uk/PALIAct-new.html

Progressive Librarians: http://libr.org

Information on Social Change:
http://libr.org/isc/
10 point plan resulting from Progressive Librarians’ Conference: http://libr.org/plg/10-point.php

Progressive Archivists (Discussion Group and
Website): www.libr.org/progarchs/

Open Source Management Software/Website for Integrated Library Systems: www.koha.org

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility: www.cpsr.org

TANDIS (Tolerance and Non-Discrimination
Information System) Database: http://tandis.odihr.pl

Seminars (Current and Past):

2005 Library History Seminar XI: Libraries in Times of War, Revolution
& Social Change. Sponsored by the Library History Round Table of the
American Library Association (ALA).

http://www.lis.uiuc.edu/conferences/LHS.XI/papers.pdf

“Librarians and Human Rights: A Seminar,” By Kathleen de la
Pena McCook at the University
of South Florida
http://www.cas.usf.edu/lis/mccook/librariansandhumanrights.htm

Upcoming Conference:

Human Rights Archives and Documentation: Meeting the
Needs of Research, Teaching, Advocacy and Social Justice.
October 4-6,
2007. Columbia University, New York, New York, USA. More info (conference and
generally) can be found here: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/indiv/humanrights/conferences/2007/schedule.html

 

THANKS

THANKS TO ALL FOR THE MOST INFORMATIVE DISCUSSION.

PLEASE DO LET'S KEEP IN TOUCH AND COLLABORATE SOME MORE!

toni

Clay's article now online!

INTERNET AS COURT OF LAST/ONLY RESORT (Clay Collins)

now online here: http://www.libr.org/ISC/

TRUTH AND YOUTH article online as well!
Call for Conference Papers from Palestine

Call for Papers

"Libraries from Human Rights Perspective"
International Conference
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS)
Ramallah (Palestine)
31 March - 2 April 2008

Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS) in
cooperation with IFLA will arrange an international
conference on Libraries from Human Rights Perspective in
Ramallah 31 March ? 2 April 2008. The Center invites
interested writers and researchers to submit abstracts for
their papers in either English or Arabic in the following
topics:

Libraries and Human Rights:
- Relationship between libraries and human rights
- Violations in human rights in library environment
- Libraries and rights of less advantaged groups
- Women and children rights related to library work
- Minorities and libraries from human rights perspective
- Disabled
- Cultural rights and libraries

Libraries and freedom of expression, freedom of access to
information, academic freedom and libraries/ academic
libraries:
- Freedom of expression/ role of libraries in forming people's opinions
- Freedom of access to information
- Introduction to IFLA/ FAIFE
- Academic freedom
- Right to information
- Governance and libraries
- E-publishing and right to information
- Freedom of expression in digital age
- Case studies

Libraries and diversity, libraries and tolerance/ acceptance
of the other:
- Diversity and libraries (collections, librarians and
thoughts)
- Tolerance in library environment (religious, cultural,
political and ideology-based tolerance)
- Acceptance of the other in library environment
- Model libraries for all
- Case studies from other countries
- Case studies in violations and intolerance in library
environment

Abstracts are due by 30/11/2007. The Center will notify
researchers whose papers have been accepted by 10/1/2008;
full papers are due by 1/3/2008. The center will cover
participation expenses of researchers whose papers are
accepted with a symbolic cash award, in addition to
publishing all papers in Arabic and English in the
conference proceedings book.

Contact:
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies
P.O Box 2425 Ramallah, Palestine
RamaCall for Papers

Pilot Survey on the Information Needs of Human Rights Bloggers

Dear friends who have participated in the "Information is Power: Librarianship and Human Rights" discussion may remember the wonderful article sited in the discussion by Clay Collins, “DISSEMINATING TRUTH TO POWER: HUMAN RIGHTS INFORMATION AND THE INTERNET AS COURT OF LAST/ONLY RESORT.

Clay Collins is currently involved in conducting a Pilot Survey on the Information Needs of Human Rights Bloggers. If you are interested to participate in this survey, please pass the information along to others and use the following link and information to participate yourself:
http://mywebspace.wisc.edu/cycollins/web/survey.html

Please respond to Clay Collins <cycollins@wisc.edu>

Are you a human rights blogger? If so, please consider taking a pilot survey being conducted by a University of Wisconsin--Madison graduate student (Clay Collins) in an effort to broaden understanding of the information needs and uses of human rights bloggers. For the purposes of this study, a human rights blogger is anyone blogging with the intent to further human rights causes. Data is being collected with the ultimate goal of providing human rights organizations and institutions with a better picture of how they might best aid and facilitate the work of human rights bloggers. This survey is being conducted using proven and accepted methods and tactics to protect the confidentiality of each and every respondent; the confidentiality of every participant in the study is of the utmost importance.

If you have any questions regarding this study, please contact:
Clay Y. Collins, cycollins@wisc.edu.
University of Wisconsin--Madison
Graduate Student
Dual Program in Library & Information Studies (M.A.) and Law (J.D.),

http://mywebspace.wisc.edu/cycollins/web/

---------------

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

 

Free database based on U.N. statistics now available

HURIDOCS just sent out information regarding this free database based on U.N. statistics.

The MDG Dashboard presents the Millennium Development Goals indicators in a highly communicative format (see e.g. the gender equality World map below) aimed at decision-makers and citizens interested in the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development. This free database provides 60 MDG indicators for ca. 200 countries and 15 years (1990-2005) based on original United Nations statistics (updated in July 2007). The developers of this tool, IISD and the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, JRC, hope that these indicators will contribute to an informed debate following the MDG+5 High Level Event, the so-called Millennium Review Summit.

Links: [http://esl.jrc.it/dc/index.htm]
[http://esl.jrc.it/dc/index.htm#Gender]
[http://mdgs.un.org/unsd/mdg/Data.aspx]
[http://www.iisd.org/cgsdi/dashboard.asp]
[http://esl.jrc.it/]
[http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=12857&Cr=MDG]

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

East Timor Parliament's First Library and Information Center

I found this interesting note about the Asia Foundation
supporting an effort to build the capacity and
resources of East Timor's parliament through providing access to more information on the
issues being debated and, more generally, on the legislative role of those who are elected to serve in Parliament.

Do others have examples of how libraries provide an excellent building block for democratic political systems?

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

Library Journal Award for Toni Samek

Congratulations to TONI SAMEK who has won the First Annual Library Journal Teaching Award (Nov 16, 2007)

Toni Samek Library Journal Cover

Toni Samek, winner of the first annual Library Journal Teaching Award sponsored by ProQuest, "is a light for human rights and core values", writes John N. Berry III in Library Journal, 11/15/2007.

The award honours Toni's teaching of the core value of the Librarian profession, especially intellectual freedom and social responsibility. The benefits of the award include being featured on the Library Journal cover, a feature story, and a $5000 prize.

See Berry's article about Toni here: http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6497260.html
Learn more about the new award here: http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6497265.html

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

CONGRATULATIONS TONI !!!

Dear Toni,

It was pleasure to see that you have won Library Journal Teaching Award! Finaly real Librarian awarded !!!

Go ahead! Nobel is waiting for you :)))

Hugs,

Sasa

ISC CALL FOR PAPERS for Summer 09 issue

INFORMATION FOR SOCIAL CHANGE (ISC)

ISSN 1364-694X

CALL FOR PAPERS (please feel free to forward to other lists) --

The Summer 2009 issue of the online journal Information for Social Change
(ISC) will focus on the theme of SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY FOR UTOPIAS.

This issue of ISC aims to document 21st century science and technology
initiatives designed for utopian societies. The intended audience is
hands-on Utopian makers, as well as those individuals and groups who share
in the vision of Utopian futures.

ISC seeks submissions in the following two areas aimed at encouraging
adaptations, constructive intercultural dialogue, and international
participation:

1) General action research, development based participatory action
research, case studies, and DIY (do-it-yourself) aspects of creating low
cost, long term science and technology solutions to our present ecological
mess, which also make for viable long term social justice (e.g., ethical
aid, alternative transportation, living labs, green housing, and slow food
movements) and the role of library and information workers and work therein.

2) Thoughts on information ecology, sharing, and recycling as they relate
to the production of human and natural resources and how best to achieve
egalitarian societies in which there is free flow of information (e.g.,
social, cultural, communication, and information systems which combine ICT
within egalitarian decision making processes in the context of
non-proprietary systems and free information movements).

Anyone interested in contributing work related to the above expressed theme
is invited to share their ideas with issue co-editors Martyn Lowe
(martynlowe@usa.net) & Toni Samek (toni.samek@ualberta.ca).

Whilst encouraging rigorous debate, the journal exists primarily for
workers and practitioners, so simple and clear English is preferable.
Articles should, where possible, be between 500 and 2500 words. This is to
ensure a wide coverage of topics in each issue. However, longer articles
may be excerpted in the journal and the full text made available from the
author(s), if you wish. As well as articles we are also interested in
shorter pieces (including letters, review articles, and poems).

The closing date for final submission is December 10 (HUMAN RIGHTS DAY), 2008.

For more information about ISC, see: http://libr.org/isc/

Libraries - a key resource in anti-discrimination work

I wanted to share this excellent article on this International Day Against Racism. Librarians play a key role in makiing libraries accessible to new immigrant populations but also in anit-discrimination efforts.

Although this article is specially addressing discrimination toward Hispanic communities, the points made, with some excellent "tips", I think these could be transferable to any new immigrant community. Here's a brief excerpt of the article - you can find the full article with this link: http://www.criticasmagazine.com/article/CA6487725.html

U.S. Libraries and Anti-Immigrant Sentiment—How Librarians Are Coping with Discrimination To Better Serve Hispanic Communities

By Loida García-Febo -- Críticas, 10/1/2007

Last summer, controversy ensued in Lawrence, GA, when the Gwinnett
County Public Library board decided to cut $3000 from the annual budget
designated for Spanish-language adult fiction. According to one board
member, the decision was based on the premise that the library didn’t
need to cater to illegal aliens. Board chair Lloyd Breck told the
Associated Press at that time that they couldn’t “supply pleasure
reading material for all language groups,” even though the existing
collection had proved to be quite popular with the growing
Spanish-speaking population in Gwinnett. The decision was ultimately reversed, but only because the community was in an uproar.

Around the world, anti-immigrant sentiments are evident. In the
United States, pending immigration reform has everyone on alert.
Negative attitudes towards “New Americans” have invaded communities
everywhere, and libraries are not excluded. Librarians across the
country now find themselves defending their rights and those of new
immigrant customers from community-based organizations, colleagues,
other customers, and in some cases, even elected officials. One
librarian interviewed under promise of anonymity told Críticas
she suffered discrimination while looking for jobs. Another lost her
job as a bilingual library specialist after the library board
determined that it was in the best interest of the library not to
provide services to Latinos at the same level as those offered to
English-speaking or “American” customers.

[end quote from article]

I would be very interested to hear people's reactions to this article. Do you think these ideas and tips can be transferable to libraries in other countries facing new immigrant populations?

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics Program Manager

Topic locked