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(en) US, Orlando, Florida, [Infoshop News] Interview with Jenna Freedman on anarchist and zine librarians

From Chuck0 <chuck@mutualaid.org>
Date Thu, 22 Jul 2004 20:06:20 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
News about and of interest to anarchists
http://ainfos.ca/ http://ainfos.ca/index24.html

Radical and anarchist librarians recently met in Orlando, Florida as
part of the annual meeting of the American Library Association. We
interviewed several radical and anarchist librarians. Jenna Freedman is
the Coordinator of Reference at Barnard College in New York City. She is
active in the Social Responsibilities Round Table and many other ALA
groups and activities. Infoshop News editor Chuck Munson interviewed
Jenna Freedman near the end of the conference.
Infoshop News: Who is Jenna Freedman?
Jenna Freedman: That’s tough. What I’ve been saying in the context of
the American Library Association Conference is that I’m the Coordinator
of Reference at Barnard College. I have a zine collection there. I also
write my own zine called the “Lower East Side Librarian Winter Solstice
Shout Out.”

Infoshop News: Why would you call yourself an anarchist librarian?

Jenna Freedman: I’m very unschooled in the definitions of anarchism, but
I find that I think in terms of mutual aid. For instance, there was this
reference librarians program yesterday and they were talking about all
of these things like how do you provide service—they gave this example
and they ran this seminar style – so this professor, Joe Janes, who’s
this famous exciting professor at the University of Washington,
assembled a panel, and he posed a problem. It was this small city, a lot
of people were unemployed, a lot of them were Spanish-speaking, and
blah, blah, blah. How do you serve the needs of this community? So one
of the first things I thought of was that this is a community of skilled
workers who don’t have work. I thought that the library should, rather
than give information, what they could do is facilitate information
sharing, so I had this idea that they could run skills-sharing
workshops, which I think is an anarchist mutual aid kind of notion. I’m
not even sure what an anarchist librarian would be, but I think that’s
one aspect of thinking along anarchist lines. Sometimes it’s just not
organizing information, but helping others to contribute their knowledge
to your collection.

Infoshop News: How did you become political? When in your life did you
become political or have you always been political?

Jenna Freedman: I think I’ve always been political. I was raised by
parents who were Lefties. They went to grad school in Berkeley in the
60s. I think of Berkeley as the “old country” even though I never lived
there. I was influenced by that. I remember being six-years-old and
there was some test and you had to identify opposites. So you are
supposed to pair “girl” and “boy” as opposites, or “light” and “dark.” I
deliberately filled it out wrong because although I knew what the
answers they wanted were, I thought that a girl and a boy have a lot
more in common than “boy” and “light,” or whatever the choices were. So
I thought, “Those aren’t opposites. Those are practically the same
thing.” That’s not so blatantly a political thing to have done, but it
was the questioning of the model that was presented.

I was involved in overtly political stuff, too. I went to the White
House and got arrested when I was 18.

Infoshop News: What was the protest?

Jenna Freedman: It was the “April Actions for Jobs, Peace and Justice.”
It was sort of generic, but Reagan was in the White House and we really
didn’t need to have anything specific to complain about. That was a very
tangible act, a beginning, but I think it was always in me.

Infoshop News: That must be nice.

Jenna Freedman: (Laughs) You had a different upbringing?

Infoshop News: Yeah. What have the anarchist librarians been doing at
this conference and, more broadly speaking, how about the radical
librarians? They’ve been up to a lot from what I’ve seen.

Jenna Freedman: Yeah! I’ve been involved with any number of radical
librarian events this weekend. The first one was the Progressive Council
Caucus. I’m a member of Council, which I guess seems a bit contrary to […]

Infoshop News: Council being?

Jenna Freedman: Council being the governing body of the American Library
Association, which may seem a bit contrary to anarchism, but to me,
working on a smaller level seems more practical and … it just seems the
right thing to do in this case. A group of us who have more progressive
values get together and try to strategize and come up with things. So
that was Friday night. Saturday morning, Ann Sparanese and I had
organized a demonstration against a program called “Disney Service
Style.” We found it appalling that ALA would book this program run by a
“cast member” from the “Disney Institute,” to teach librarians how to do
service, something which, in my opinion, is what librarians do better
than anybody in the entire world. That’s the buzzword, that’s what it’s
all about, is service. In addition, we were disgusted by the
corporatization of Disney and them having sweatshops and all of the vile
things that Disney does to their workers being applied to libraries. We
objected to that corporate model. Also we wanted to draw attention to
copyright issues. Mickey Mouse should have come into the public domain
this year, but Disney successfully lobbied for copyright term extension,
which in the case of Disney is foul enough that Disney fought so hard to
keep Mickey their private property when they’ve profited so well off of
the public domain. You know, movies like Sleeping Beauty. They didn’t
write that! That came from the Brothers Grimm. Disney got that from the
public domain. I don’t remember Sleeping Beauty, but I’m sure that it is
a wonderful film that has brought joy to millions. They used something
that was available and did possibly a good thing with it. The third
aspect of the protest was also drawing attention to Disney’s attempt to
prevent the distribution of Fahrenheit 9/11. And in this case Michael
Moore is rich and famous and got his movie out, but there are a lot of
films that wouldn’t have gotten been released in the same circumstance.

Infoshop News: What kind of reaction to the protest was there from
people going into the session?

Jenna Freedman: Well actually, it was pretty benign. Mostly we were just
holding up signs and handing out flyers
[http://roeshad.com/freemickey.html]. When we protested Colin Powell at
a previous demonstration (ALA annual, New Orleans, 1999), people really
got bent about it. But in this particular climate librarians are a
little more politicized lately than they have been in the past, with the
PATRIOT Act and the war on Iraq. Librarians are, I think, a little more
receptive. Surprisingly, the convention center just put us in a New York
style “free speech zone”. We could only hand out flyers from beyond this
section of blue carpet. I think we were ten of fifteen feet away from
the doors to the auditorium, so we were close enough to hand people
flyers as they came up the escalators, but not as they went inside. It
was annoying, but not a horrible hindrance. At the previous protest that
I just referenced—that Colin Powell thing—they actually threatened to
arrest us. A convention center is private property, but I don’t think
they should have the right to squelch our free speech just because of
that. I was surprised that they were as tolerant as they were, though,
especially in a state like Florida.

Infoshop News: What other things have the radical librarians been up to
this weekend?

Jenna Freedman: There was the anarchist librarian dinner that one night.
It was this sort of funny thing, because you know the negative
stereotype of anarchism, it a little on the chaotic side. [Laughter]. We
were trying to go to one restaurant and it was packed—let me just tell
you for the record Orlando sucks! There is nowhere to eat, or there are
places to eat and but they are all Chili’s. Because there are so few
places you can get to on foot the choices are limited, and the wait is
two hours. The good news is that we ended up just walking over to our
hotel lobby and ordering pizza and getting a case of beer. The best part
of it is that we had two special guests. We had Amy Goodman and Denis
Moynihan from Democracy Now. Amy was there because she was speaking the
next morning, but she’d arrived that morning, and she was disappointed
that she didn’t realize the protest was Saturday morning. She said that
she and Denis definitely would have been there and she asked me for a
flyer and I gave her one. That was just awesome! I think there were
around 15 of us, just having some good old radical conversation. So the
next morning we heard Amy Goodman, which was a bit under-attended but
was still fantastic. We saw her film on media [“Independent Media in a
Time of War,” http://www.democracynow.org/static/IMIATOW.shtml], which
talked about the mainstream media. The spine of it was Amy’s talk for
the Mohawk-Hudson IMC. It’s really worthwhile. Run out and try to get a

That was Sunday morning. Next there was this panel on Sunday night
“Revolting Librarians, Redux,” it was based on a book which has stories
from library workers, and not just librarians, but other folks who work
in the library, too on revolting library issues. After that there was a
screening of Fahrenheit 9/11. It was special to the library association,
because you know Michael Moore kind of loves us, especially my
conference roommate, Ann Sparanese, who is credited with saving his book
“Stupid White Men.”

Infoshop News: She spearheaded the effort?

Jenna Freedman: She spearheaded the effort to save the book because
she’d been in the audience when he gave a talk saying that the book was
about to be pulped. He had said at the speech, “I can’t give you my
regular talk. I just want to tell you what’s happening.” He was just too
depressed to do anything else, but after the talk he said “don’t do
anything about it, my lawyers are working on it.” Ann, I think,
ruminated on that for a couple of days and then she said, “Wait a
minute!” She felt like she had to do something and what she did was
write a message to two radical librarians discussion lists: the Social
Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) and the Progressive Librarians
Guild. Ann didn’t even write a letter to HarperCollins herself, but
apparently a lot of other librarians did. All of a sudden,
HarperCollins—you may be familiar with this part of the story—they
called Michael Moore up and they said, “What did you tell the
librarians?!” Libraries buy a lot of books. The story exploded, as
people probably know. It got covered in Salon.com and a lot of other
places. So the book ended up being saved and then became a national
bestseller in no time flat.

Infoshop News: There was also the Free Speech Buffet last night?

Jenna Freedman: Yeah. I think I should mention even though I wasn’t in
attendance that there were Progressive Librarian’s Guild events on
Sunday night. They had a meeting and then a dinner. This other group of
radical librarians, SRRT, also met. SRRT has all of these task forces
that work on things. I’m a member of the Alternatives in Publication
Task Force, of which Chuck [Munson] is the new coordinator. There’s also
the Feminist Task Force, the International Relations Task Force, one on
Hunger, Homelessness and Poverty, and I’m probably forgetting a couple
of others, but they are all very important.

One of the great things the Alternatives in Publication Task Force does
is, every year at the annual meeting they throw what’s called the “Free
Speech Buffet.” It’s both free speech and a free buffet. They provide
food for hungry librarians and library workers…

Infoshop News: Free as in speech and as in buffet.

Jenna Freedman: (Laughter) Yes. And the free speech part of it is that
we invite local independent publishers or zine makers to come and show
their work for a fraction of what they would pay to show at the ALA
exhibit hall. This one wasn’t real well attended by local publishers,
because this is Orlando, Florida. There were still some interesting
people there.

Infoshop News: And today, there was a special even this afternoon?

Jenna Freedman: Chuck and I saw the Guerilla Girls
[www.guerillagirls.com], who were here promoting their new book,
“Bitches, Bimbos, and Ballbreakers: the Guerilla Girls’ Illustrated
Guide to Female Stereotypes.” So two of the Guerilla Girls were there
showing their slides and doing their thing. I was so excited to see
them. I went flying out of the Council meeting as soon as it finished so
I could get there in time. The house was packed, but it turned out that
the house was packed mostly because there were all of these librarians
waiting to see if they would win this raffle thing. One woman kept
screaming to them to stop and give out the prizes already. I don’t know
if she had a flight to catch or if she was just that ignorant. I was so
mad. The Guerilla Girls are some of my greatest heroes and I assume that
people know what they do. They draw attention to the fact that the art
world is—sort of like librarianship—dominated by men, especially white
men, so they do all of these creative posters and billboards and now
they make little video clips and they do presentations all over the
country, maybe all over the world. Just to bring attention to the
fact…what do they say, “All of the best actor and best actress awards
that have been given out in Oscar history, including when Denzel
Washington and Halle Berry won just a couple of years ago, only three
percent of those awards have gone to people of color. Was it 94% of
writing awards have gone to men? No women has ever won an Academy Award
for directing a feature film.

Infoshop News: There was a woman director up for an Academy Award this
year. Sophia Coppola. That was for “Lost in Translation.”

Jenna Freedman: I think that was only the second time a woman was even
up for best director. So they draw attention to those facts in really
creative ways. The one they did for that—they created an “anatomically
correct Oscar” billboard. Of course it was a man, it was a little, not
quite as sleek as the usual Oscar is. They do all of this great stuff.
What was that one they showed today? I don’t think I’d seen that one
before. It was about this cover of the New York Times Magazine. A while
ago the cover of it was this guy and his new hot artists and they are
all white and all men. Underneath the picture it said something like,
“Melanin deficient and hormonally challenged.” A great, simple jab at
it. It was a great program and my colleagues; it just makes me so
embarrassed for my profession that these people were shouting for them
to get off the stage so they might win a free laptop.

What we are looking forward to tonight is the Counterpoise [Post
Conference] opening reception. Counterpoise is a library journal that
features reviews of alternative publications. Why that is really
important is that most all librarians select materials for the
library—from just one or two review publications—and that’s one of the
most important things we do that people don’t realize. They think we
just stamp the books out or hand off the thing for the Internet. One of
the most important things we do is materials selection and a lot of
alternative materials don’t make their way into the primary journals
that we use for selection. Counterpoise goes out of its way to review
small press or political things, university presses, to get them into

So Counterpoise is sponsoring this post conference and the point of the
post conference is to explore alternative materials or even alternative
library services. One of the programs is looking at services to special
populations. There is a panel on anarchism and librarians, which
Chuck is one of the speakers on and Howard Besser is another. I’m doing
a report back on the Symposium on Media Literacy in Education held at
the Allied Media Conference, which I attended last weekend. One of the
other panels is a comparative study of library usage in urban low-income
areas by youth—in urban low-income areas versus suburban higher income.
Then there is a roadmap to African-American resources and a discussion
of how to support aggressive agendas with a small budget and funding and
operating an independent alternative library. To open the whole post
conference, there is this panel where they are calling themselves the
“three geezers’: Sandy Berman, Ken Kister, and Charles Willet. Sandy
Berman is the guru of alternative librarianship and he’s actually well
respected in mainstream library circles, too, as can be demonstrated by
the fact that at this conference he was given the American Library
Association’s highest award: honorary membership.

Infoshop News: It was right before a special keynote speaker.

Jenna Freedman: Right. It was right before a special keynote speech by
Richard Clarke, and that was really funny because during the Disney
demonstration one person came up to me and she said, “Oh, well you know
that this is all very interesting, but how come ALA only has left wing
speakers and presenters?” I didn’t even get into the fact that that’s
not actually true. I said, “You know what? We’ve got the ultimate left
and the ultimate right speaking tomorrow at the Opening General Session
in the form of Richard Clarke.”

He gave a pretty good speech if you are sort of like an NPR kind of
person. For those of us a little further to the left we still have one
or two criticisms of Mr. Clark. But in general, I think it was really
good and the general opening session is hugely attended. I don’t know
how many people were in that room [...]

Infoshop News: Thousands.

Jenna Freedman: Yes, really big. The room where the Disney demo was in
and the Fahrenheit 9/11 screening, seats 2300, and this was a lot bigger
than that.

Infoshop News: This weekend we also talked about a project that the
anarchist librarians will probably be doing, which involves doing
reference work for the people going to the RNC protests in New York
City, coming up in late August.

Jenna Freedman: The highlight of the conference was the anarchist
librarians caucus, where we discussed this idea and some others. I was
at a Republican National Convention demonstration clearinghouse meeting
where a lot of people that are working in New York get together and
share what they are doing and do a little bit of brainstorming. I was
thinking, “What can I do, especially me as a librarian?” So what I
thought is that maybe we could establish a project called “radical
reference,” where we would answer reference questions for local and
visiting demonstrators. I talked about it with a couple of people from
the New York City Independent Media Center when I was at the Allied
Media Conference last weekend and they thought it was a good idea. I had
originally presented it to the Progressive Librarian Guild’s New York
City list and it didn’t get the warmest response. It wasn’t terrible,
but it wasn’t enthusiastic either. I got two or three people who said,
“Great idea. I’ll help out, however I can.” Since then, talking to
anarchist librarians and independent media people I’ve gotten more
positive feedback and feel ready to get on it, especially having support
from people like Chuck who has some of the technical chops to get it up
on the site and who has a lot of experience doing radical reference,
although it necessarily isn’t called that. You answer lots of these
types of questions on Infoshop, right? I’m going to put this call out on
the anarchist librarians’ list and maybe some others. We have research
expertise but the other thing a lot of us have is access to databases. I
work at Barnard College, which is affiliated with Columbia University
and we’ve got 400 databases including LexisNexis and all of these things
that the average person on the street just doesn’t have access to. Or
sometimes they do, but a lot of people don’t know how to get at
it—librarians have particular skills and experience doing that. The
other part of that is that I want also to figure out how to do some
street reference, as Jessamyn West did at the “Battle in Seattle,” at
the WTO protests. I’d like to have a whole bunch of librarians in the
street and I think as Chuck suggested, maybe have banner or baseball
hats designating that we are radical librarians. People could ask us
where the IMC convergence center is, or, we could have some of the “What
are my rights?” flyers. Or even going to the IMC and serving as news
librarians and helping them out with some quick research or access to
databases. Or serving at the Welcome Center to help people figure out
what to do.

Infoshop News: And making bibliographies?

Jenna Freedman: Yeah! Doing bibliographies. We got into this discussion
of other ways that librarians could serve activists in creating
bibliographies or doing local information sheets.

Infoshop News: Let’s talk about your zine. Can you describe it? How
about zine librarians? Why are you interested in that right now? The
zine collection you are starting at Barnard? How do you get zines into

Jenna Freedman: My own zine is called the “Lower East Side Librarian
Winter Solstice Shout Out.” I think the best and worst feature of it is
the expansive reading log. People who aren’t really into reading kind of
just skip through it, and it’s half of the zine. I tried to use it not
just to say what I’ve read, but also tie it in with my life and help it
be a journaly thing. I do read a lot and so this is very handy for
people that are looking for good books. Then the other parts of it, I
discussed my trip to Cuba last summer with the Venceremos Brigade. There
was a little bit of straight-up journal in there. There was something
about how I love my street, and a piece about Coney Island. There was
one piece called, “What Librarians Do,” because a lot of people don’t
know. If you want the zine, I’ll make sure that Chuck has that info on
the site. ($2 + .60 stamp or $3 or library zine trade to Jenna Freedman
/ 521 E. 5th St., #1D / NYC 10009).

What does it take to get a zine collection into your library? In my
case, all it took was asking. The way you lead into it is that zines are
cheap. You can do a starter collection—zines cost two dollars. The Dean
of my library said, “Sure. Spend up to $500.” I asked her if I could go
to the Allied Media Conference and she paid for that too. (I travel
cheap!) I know that not everybody is as lucky as I am, but if you do a
literature review you’ll find that—of all places—the Salt Lake City
Public Library may have the largest zine collection in the world. In an
official kind of library, public or academic. They’ve got six or seven
thousand zines that circulate. That’s awesome. I don’t know of anybody
else that circulates their zines. Of course, a lot of independent and
alternative libraries do. Right now I’m speaking about “institutional”
libraries, if you want to call them that. But try not to take that in a
pejorative sense. One of the other things I’m going to try to do is I’m
working to legitimize zines as a research tool and show that they are
valuable. Even if people think that they are fluffy right now, I think
they will be worth a lot in fifty years. There will be a great
examination of pop culture. My collection focuses on women’s zines,
because Barnard is a women’s college and our strongest collection
supports women’s studies. That’s also how I pitched it—you have to
figure out what’s your angle at your library. That’s what I did. I
really hope that some academic library that’s attached to a library
school starts a collection of librarian zines, because there are a lot
of them. I hope that someone does that. You could easily do a collection
of anarchist zines. I think that Julie Herrada has a bunch at the
Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Part of the point of my zine collection is that the zines are included
in our online public access catalog. If you type in some search and if
we have a zine on that topic, it’s going to come up. So you are going to
find an encyclopedia and a bunch of scholarly books, but you are also
going to find three items by crazy zinester kids in Portland who happen
to write about your topic. I think that it’s a great way to expand the
literature or expand people’s imaginations about what they can look at
and talk about. These are primary sources. These are people writing from
their own experience and they are getting a voice into the library that
really hasn’t had a way in before. I think that Infoshop readers know
the value of zines so I don’t need to go into that too much. In my case,
because I’m in an academic library that has traditional aged students,
this is a chance to provide materials that are written by, for, and
about our community. I just feel like it’s a gift and it’s also a great
way to get them into the library. Then they’ll come in and they’ll say,
“Oh! Librarians are cool.” Then they’ll be less afraid to talk to us or
ask about things, and maybe they will even contribute zines to the

Infoshop News: It’s a tool to educate and a tool to inspire?

Jenna Freedman: Absolutely. My fantasy is that if this collection
really becomes recognized and important, it could eventually be the kind
of thing that would attract students and even faculty. I applied to have
a panel at the Association of College and Research Libraries conference
next spring. I feel that if I can get that panel in there that will be
one step towards really legitimizing zines as research materials.

Infoshop News: How about zine librarians? Did you get together with zine
librarians this weekend?

Jenna Freedman: It did happen. There were only three of us. One of them
is a zine reader—she is a punk from Virginia and she was really cool. I
hadn’t met her before, but I’d exchanged e-mails with her on and off the
zine librarians list (http://groups.yahoo.com/zinelibrarians). She would
love to start a zine collection in her library and she had the idea that
this would be the perfect tool to get 16- to 24-year-olds back into the
library. Because what happens is that after they learn to drive or want
to go smoke pot, they stop coming into the library because you can’t
really bring a car or get high in the library. Then they don’t come back
until they have kids that need to use the library. This is an age group
that—even in mainstream librarianship there is a lot of talk about how
to get them into the library—so if she had zines and zine workshops she
thinks that would be a way to get them in. The other guy that came,
another zine appreciator, is just interested in helping out. He’s a
cataloger, which is really useful because—we all have our ideas about
cataloging zines—for people who aren’t librarians the catalog is the
heart of the library, the most important part of the library. It makes
things accessible or buries them. Zines are messy and catalogers are
notoriously not messy, at least in their work. I don’t want to make a
blanket stereotype, because a lot of catalogers are really cool and are
creative, interesting people. The culture of cataloging is to be very
orderly and tidy—zines are neither orderly nor tidy. Half the time they
don’t have the author’s last name, maybe not even his/her first name.

Infoshop News: Or the author’s address!

Jenna Freedman: Or the author’s address. It might have a URL or an
e-mail address for the author, but it’s old or expired. They don’t have
the date of publication. They don’t have the place of publication. Some
of them don’t even have words. This drives catalogers crazy.

Infoshop News: Some of them have stuff that falls out.

Jenna Freedman: Or they will have stickers and they will all be different.

Infoshop News: Glitter.

Jenna Freedman: Glitter. Pieces of hair. These are the things I love
about zines, but they are the same things that catalogers may be a
little bit resistant to. It’s really great to have a bunch of catalogers
that are willing to work on this issue.

Infoshop News: You were at the Allied Media Conference this past
weekend. What was your take on that conference?

Jenna Freedman: I thought it was killer. It was really exciting for me
to be there. I knew that everyone there was into alternative media, but
I didn’t realize that it really was a radical meeting place. I was
surprised and pleased about that. I went to Ohio to meet a bunch of New
York radical activists. I met people from Paper Tiger Television, from
the New York Independent Media Center, one of the producers for
Democracy Now!, so I really hooked up with good people from New York and
from all over the country as well. We had a great zine librarians caucus
there. I co-facilitated it with Ellen Knutson from the Urbana-Campaign
Independent Media Center Library. The caucus was fifteen people or so:
both traditional librarians and also independent library librarians,
like people from the Denver Zine Library and a cataloger from the UC
IMC. There was a professor there from Ohio University who has written
about zines and is really interested in working with me to find ways of
legitimizing zines for the academic community. I collected a list of
five or six people who wanted to work on cataloging issues, but ten
people who wanted to work on publishing. What we discovered is that one
of the priorities that came out of the agenda we created was information
sharing. There’s already a zine librarians discussion list. That’s
actually been fairly active since I got to ALA.

Infoshop News: Don’t they have a zine?

Jenna Freedman: There is Zine Librarian Zine, and that’s a great
resource too. Greig Means, who put that zine together said to me—he sent
me fifty copies of the zine to give out at the conference—said, “It’s
kind of expired and I’ve got too many copies here.” So that is a perfect
way of zine librarians to talk to each other and to the public. What’s
really important from a traditional library point of view, or for us
academics, is to get the topic of zines into the literature. So it’s
great that a bunch of people said that they would like to work on that.
To get it not just into the library literature, but the Journal of
Popular Culture and other resources.

One of the most heartening things about the conference, getting back to
the Republican National Convention, was a caucus on coordinating media
at the RNC. It was a room filled with 75 people. Eight or ten of us were
from New York, no more than that. I’d say that all but five or ten were
planning to come to New York City for the RNC. It was so exciting to me
to know that. That was one piece of all the people who are going to come.

There were all these great things about the Allied Media Conference that
I’m going to report on tomorrow at the Counterpoise post conference. I’m
doing a report-back along with Erica Sagan from the People’s School in
Providence, Rhode Island. She’s starting a zine library there and she’ll
be sharing her experience of the Allied Media Conference, as well. I
went to a lot of workshops and I bought a lot of zines. I had some fun
bowling in Bowling Green. Mark Hostler from Negativland was there. I was
at two different sessions at which he presented—one of them as the
keynote speaker. He’s hilarious.

The Pink Bloque, I was really taken with them. They are a group of
activist women from Chicago who decided that protests are kind of boring
and not really speaking to people. They were also frustrated with the
macho culture of direct action. So they said, “What kind of direct
action do we want to do?” You can go look at their website. They wanted
to be approachable, so they do these dances or they hand out
heart-shaped flyers, so they can engage with the public that is
observing a demonstration. They also make it fun for their friends that
are political but not activists so that they might even want to come and
dance around and be silly. Their object is not to get arrested, in fact,
at one of their dances they had these little things sewed on to their
pink sweaters that said “2 Cute 2B Arrested.” They’ve gone to protests
all over the country. They participate in large demonstrations, but they
also do their own. October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so
they put on a show for that. They can work independently or as part of a
larger action.

Infoshop News: Speaking of Negativland, copyright and intellectual
freedom have been hot topics at this convention. These topics have been
popping up during sessions and they are a hot topic for librarians these
days. Disney ties into that.

Jenna Freedman: Copyright has been a hot topic in librarianship for a
while now. At ALA they do these little program tracks. There’s the
“administrative” track or the “reference” track. There should be a
copyright track because there are so many programs on copyright, which
is nice because if librarians aren’t necessarily leading the fight, they
are certainly a huge part of it. It’s really important in libraries
because it affects our ability to deliver information and
electronically. Back in the day, when I was in college, if you had to
read something on reserve it was a physical thing you had to pick up at
the library. Now it’s delivered electronically; you just go to the
library home page and go into the library catalog. You look up your
thing and there is a link to it. At my institution you type in your
university ID and your password and you can just get it. There are a lot
of clearance issues and a lot of other stuff that make that complicated.

I went to two different talks, one on the information commons and one on
the disappearing libraries issue. Copyright didn’t exactly tie into the
disappearing libraries thing, but one of the speakers, Howard Besser of
NYU, that’s what he’s known for, so they asked him to address it. He
does it all in a very entertaining and informative way.

Infoshop News: There was even a movie too.

Jenna Freedman: There was this film called “Willful Infringement” that
was about copyright issues. I didn’t see the film; I saw five minutes of
it in one of the programs I went to. A trailer if you will. Honestly,
the trailer didn’t impress me so I wasn’t sorry to have missed the
movie, but I heard from other people that it was good.

Infoshop News: You live in New York City, which is this big center for
intellectual culture, where do you go to get your intellectual stimulation?

Jenna Freedman: Coney Island: the Mermaid Parade, which I had to miss
because of this stupid conference in fucking Orlando. [Laughter] OK,
that may not be intellectual enrichment, but it really is my favorite
thing that happens in New York City. It’s on Coney Island and people
dress up as mermaids and it’s really fun. One of my favorite places to
go to hear a discussion or see a movie is Bluestockings, which is an
independent bookstore, fair trade café, and activist center
[www.bluestockings.com]. They sponsor really fantastic events. I once
went to a zine trading session also. I went there and met Fly and
exchanged zines with her. A lot of the participants there were nascent
zine and comics artists and writers. They really cover a spectrum of
things at Bluestockings. At one point I even asked if I could hold a
Progressive Librarians Guild New York City meeting there, but the timing
didn’t work, so we didn’t. I’ve walked in there at odd times and found
that the Radical Cheerleaders were having a meeting there. You just
never know. So that’s one place. I do go by Mayday—their hours are more
limited. I haven’t spend too much time at ABC No Rio, but I did do a
civil disobedience training there like ten or twelve years ago, before I
participated in an action blocking the Holland Tunnel. Those are some
favorites. I haven’t actually been to the Brecht Forum but I feel like I
should get around to going to one of the…they call it the Libertarian
Book Club, but it’s really like the anarchist forum. And I work at
Barnard College so there are one or two events that happen at Barnard or
at Columbia University that are good. Howard Besser works at NYU and
they’ve always got good stuff there that he tells me about. So that’s
New York City, there are always things to do. Go to a poetry reading in
a bar in Brooklyn, whatever.

Infoshop News: Our last question is a fair question, since you have a
reading log in your zine. What are you favorite magazines and what books
are you reading right now?

Jenna Freedman: I subscribe to Bitch and Bust and Utne. I subscribe to
Utne mostly to read my friend Chris Dodge’s column “Street Librarian.”
I’m also thrilled with Utne because the last issue they profiled my
friend Celia Perez who is a zinester in Chicago. Her zine is on its way
to my house right now. Her zine—one of them—is “I Dreamed I Was
Assertive.” It’s extraordinary and Celia is the best zinester ever.
That’s one of my favorite things to read.

I forgot to get books at the library before I came here, which is so
rare because I’ve always got six library books piled up in my house. I’m
reading an old stand-by favorite, which is “Fifth Business” by Robertson
Davies, who is a dead Canadian. He writes these trilogies and they are
fantastic. They are not overtly political, but I do recommend him to
anyone who appreciates good writing. A lot of them feature plots about
arts and artists and academics. It’s not surprising that they are about
religion, but it’s surprising that I enjoy reading the whole religious
angle because I’m not a fan of religion in general. I read incessantly.
I can tell you something that I’m embarrassed about—I just finished the
“Da Vinci Code.” [Laughter] One of the circulation supervisors lent it
to me. I was just like on a jones, I just needed something, a fix, and
there it was. That was also about the same kind of theme—about arts and
academics and religion, so what the hell, it was a page turner. But then
I started the prequel to that. It wasn’t really a prequel, he wrote it
first, before he got famous. It’s called “Angels and Demons” and I got
about a hundred pages into it and just wasn’t interested.

I mostly like literature but I read other stuff. I like biographies of
various activists. I was telling someone how much I enjoyed both Assata
Shakur and Angela Davis’ book and she said, “Oh, you gotta read this one
by Elaine Brown.” I just ordered that one from interlibrary loan and I’m
going to read that one next.


Previously in this series

Anarchist Librarians in Orlando: Preview

Fahrenheit 9/11: Cotton Eye Candy for the Usual Suspects

Orlando, Florida: Anarchist librarians at ALA annual conference

Infoshop Interview with Allyson Davis on alternative publications


On the web

Radical Reference

Counterpoise Magazine

Anarchist Librarians network

Social Responsibilities Round Table

Progressive Librarians Guild

Allied Media Conference

Free Mickey! flyer

Revolting Librarians, Redux

Pink Bloque

Chris Dodge

Labadie Collection

Zine Librarians e-mail list

Howard Besser

Guerilla Girls


People's School


ABC No Rio

May Day Books and Infoshop
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