+1 (x1,000)

Kari R. Smith
Digital Archivist, Institute Archives and Special Collections
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
617.253.5690   smithkr at

-----Original Message-----
From: Code for Libraries [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Michelle Lubatti
Sent: Wednesday, November 16, 2016 12:08 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [CODE4LIB] Post-election reflections for Code4Lib

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 subjects.

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