This probably isn't the place to discuss collection development or
diversity, but why should librarians have the authority to define
"pseudo-science" and "pseudo-mysticism?"  If our definition includes only
empirical science and fact, then we will be required to eliminate or label
most books about religion, philosophy, essay collections, etc.  We could
only allow materials that have a fact-based historical commentary on these

I disagree with many of the religious and "pseudo-mysticism" books in my
library, but I do not agree that I have the authority to discard or create
a "fringe" category for them.  This would go against all my assertions of
accepting and promoting diversity.

I do not adhere to Buddhism, but it's important we carry books about it,
both history and practice.  I do not believe in spirit animals, but books
on this topic are popular here and reflect one part of our diverse
community.  Neither Buddhism nor spirit animals have empirical science
behind them (science is based on physical matter, so really only philosophy
can challenge these), but they still hold value for our community.

We do make a decision to include them under religions, because this seems
most appropriate and where people will find them.   Although we do have
books on a Buddhist flavor of mindfulness in our medical section.  These
have some empirical science behind them, but it's not medical journal
terminology and quality.

Collection development is a difficult topic, especially since we are
inclined to want our own worldviews to be preeminent (even if just
subconsciously).  This is a good example of where we as librarians can
(must?) do practical things to encourage diversity.


On Tue, Nov 15, 2016 at 2:34 PM, Karen Coyle <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Eric, I think these are questions that go far beyond online services. My
> public library carries books with descriptions such as: "Learn to interpret
> and understand the cosmic language being spoken by the crystals, and unlock
> your own mystical potential." This is crap, to put it mildly, and shouldn't
> be in the library. If the shelves are filled with pseudo-science and even
> pseudo-mysticism, we aren't doing our job.  This is the whole "neutrality"
> thread - it's not "neutral" to serve documents without regard to their
> quality, especially since some of the anti-science/medicine things stated
> in books can do actual harm. We should at least do as much as Wikipedia
> does and label the fringe topics as *fringe*, not file them alongside the
> proven science without comment. (Yes, I know this has issues; I still think
> it's what we should do.)
> As for "safe from surveillance" etc., libraries are not miracle workers.
> Everything we do is in the real world. Given that the NSA captures every
> byte conveyed from point A to point B, how *could* libraries do anything
> about that? We've tried, we've honestly tried to shield our users from
> overt surveillance, but our only hope is against inept vendors who can be
> staved off with a simple proxy server.
> kc
> On 11/15/16 9:28 AM, Eric Hellman wrote:
>> I'm sure we've all read articles about the fake news that circulates in
>> an information environment anchored by social media, and the relation of
>> that information environment to the election.
>> Libraries are participants in this new information enviroment, so I have
>> some questions.
>> 1. Do libraries understand the algorithms and metadata that guide search
>> results and suggestions in the services they provide? Do these algorithms
>> reproduce biases in our society?
>> 2. Are libraries provide compelling enough services to be meaningful and
>> reliable participants in public discourse?
>> 3. When libraries connect their services to social networks (for example
>> with a Facebook "Like" button) are they making user's the information
>> environment better or worse?
>> 4. With many users fearing a more authoritarian state, are libraries
>> providing services that are safe from surveillance by commercial or
>> government entities?
>> Eric Hellman
>> President, Free Ebook Foundation
>> Founder,
>> twitter: @gluejar
> --
> Karen Coyle
> [log in to unmask]
> m: +1-510-435-8234
> skype: kcoylenet/+1-510-984-3600