Kathleen de la Peña McCook

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Librarians and Human Rights: A Seminar

Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Dignity and Justice for All of Us

Each December 10 as the world celebrates Human Rights Day, the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the world community builds solidarity and a unified vision.

Human rights, the assumption that all human beings deserve certain rights and dignity by virtue of their human existence, are most eloquently defined in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. [United Nations. (1948) Universal Declaration of Human Rights.]

The aim of the Seminar, Librarians and Human Rights, is to present a historical and cultural analysis of the role of librarians vis-à-vis human rights as defined by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The course will highlight the stated goals of the profession and the work librarians must do to achieve a more equitable society in the United States and a compassionate nation among others.

Readings and Resources in LIS | Professional Organizations | Human Rights Organizations| Primary Resources | ALA Policy 61


Readings and Resources:

Abilock, D. (May/June 2006). "So Close and So Small: Six Promising Approaches to Civic Education, Equity, and Social Justice." Knowledge Quest v. 34 no. 5: p. 9-16.

ALISE Information Ethics Special Interest Group, Position Statement on Information Ethics in LIS Education

American Library Association Policy Manual: “Article 19 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights." (Section 58.4.)

American Library Association. Core Values Task Force II Report.  

American Library Association. Libraries: An American Value.  

Bell, C. J. (2006). "Libraries and Human Rights Education." Catholic Library World v. 77 no. 2: p. 130-138.

Berman, S. (2006). Classism in the Stacks: Libraries and Poverty. 2005 Jean E. Coleman Library Outreach Lecture; American Library Association.

Birdsall, W.F. (Winter 2006-2007). "A Progressive Librarianship for the 21st Century." Progressive Librarian v. 28: p. 49-63

Britz, J. J. (May 2008) “Making the global information society good: A social justice perspective on the ethical dimensions of the global information society.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology v.59 no. 7, p.1171-1183.

Budd, J.M. (Summer 2006). "Discourse Analysis and the Study of Communication in LIS." Library Trends v. 55: p. 65-82

Buschman, J. (2003). Dismantling the Public Sphere: Situating and Sustaining Librarianship in the Age of the New Public Philosophy. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited.

Buschman, J., M. Rosenzweig, and E. Hareger. (June 1994). "The Clear Imperative for Involvement: Librarians Must Address Social Issues." American Libraries v. 25: p. 575-576.

Chaparro-Univazo, S. (2007). Where Social Justice Meets Librarianship -Truth Commissions as Information Spaces for Work and Activism in International Librarianship. Information for Social Change v. 25, Summer.

Civallero, E. (2007). When Memory Turns into Ashes ... Memoricide During the XX Century. Information for Social Change v. 25, Summer.

Clement, E., and Cullingford, A. (2007). A Library for Peace: the Commonweal Collection. Information for Social Change v. 25, Summer.

Collins, C. (2007). Disseminating Truth to Power - Human Rights, Information and the Internet as Court of Last/Only Resort. Information for Social Change v. 25, Summer.

Forsyth, E. (2005). "Public Libraries and the Millennium Development Goals." IFLA Journal v. 31 no. 4: p. 315-23.

Global Exchange.

Hauptman, R. (2002). Ethics and Librarianship. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.

Horton, M., and P. Freire. (1990). We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Human Rights Video Project. National Video Resources.

IFLA/UNSECO Public Library Manifesto (1994)

Ishay, M. R. (2008). The History of Human Rights From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era With a New Preface. 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press. Click here for more information.

Jensen, R. (2004/2005). "The Myth of the Neutral Professional." Progressive Librarian v. 24: p. 28-34.

Jimerson, R. C. (Fall/Winter 2007) "Archives for All: Professional Responsibility and Social Justice." The American Archivist v. 70 no. 2: p. 252-81.

Kagan, A. (2008). "An Alternative View on IFLA, Human Rights, and the Social Responsibility of International Librarianship."  IFLA Journal v. 34 no. 3: p. 230-237. The publication of the first book on the development of IFLA´s human rights involvement provides an opportunity to stimulate discussion about that history, with particular reference to the Free Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE) core activity. Several case studies (South Africa, Turkey, Israel/Palestine, and Cuba) are evaluated, the work of the IFLA Social Responsibilities Discussion Group is noted, and suggestions are made for the more democratic and effective functioning of FAIFE. Keywords: IFLA; FAIFE; human rights; social responsibility; freedom of expression.

Kirkpatrick, A. (2007). Truth and Youth: the First Victims of War - Military Mis-information and the Responsibility of Libraries. Information for Social Change v. 25, Summer.

Knuth, R. (2006). Burning Books and Leveling Libraries: Extremist Violence and Cultural Destruction. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood.

Kranich, N. (2001). Libraries and Democracy: The Cornerstones of Liberty. Chicago: American Library Association.

Krashen, S. and Shin, F. (2004). "Summer Reading and the Potential Contribution of the Public Library in Improving Reading for Children in Poverty." Public Library Quarterly v. 23: p. 99-109.

Lewis, A. (2008). Questioning Library Neutrality: Essays from Progressive Librarian. Duluth: Library Juice Press.

Librarians for Human Rights. (2008, blog). Click here for more information.

Lowe, M. (2007). Civil Resistance and People Power: a Web Based Bibliography. Information for Social Change v. 25, Summer.

Maddison, Z. V. (2007). Information’s Role in Emerging Democratic Societies: the Case of Indonesia. Information for Social Change v. 25, Summer.

Mahoney, J. (2007). The Challenge of Human Rights: Their Origin, Development, and Significance. Malden, MA; Oxford : Blackwell Publishing.

Maret, S. L. (Winter 2005-2006). "Formats are a Tool for the Quest for Truth: HURIDOCS Human Rights Materials for Library and Human Rights Workers." Progressive Librarian v. 26.

Masters, S. (2007). Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML). Information for Social Change v. 25, Summer.

May, L. (2005) Crimes Against Humanity: A Normative Account. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McCook, K.,

(2007). " Librarians as Advocates for the Human Rights of Immigrants. Progressive Librarian v. 29, Summer: p. 51-4

& Phenix, K. J. (2007). (forthcoming). "PublicLibraries and Human Rights." Public Library Quarterly v. 25(1/2).

(2005). "Social Justice as a Context for a Career in Librarianship." In Perspectives, Insights and Priorities: 17 Leaders Speak Freely of Librarianship. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.

(2004). "Public Libraries and People in Jail." Reference and User Services Quarterly v. 43: p. 26-30.

(2004). "The Librarian and Human Rights: Protecting Discourse against Repression." Catholic Library World v. 74: p. 23-28.

(2004). "Sustaining the Public Sphere in Libraries." Human Rights Project.

(2003). "Suppressing the Commons: Misconstrued Patriotism vs. a Psychology of Lliberation." Reference and User Services Quarterly v. 42: p. 14-17.

& Barber, P. (2002). "Public Policy as a Factor Influencing Adult Lifelong Learning, Adult Literacy and Public Libraries." Reference and User Services Quarterly v. 41: p. 66-75.

(2002). "Rocks in the Whirlpool: Equity of Access and the American Library Association.” Commissioned for the American Library Association, “Key Action Area: Equity of Access” Web site.

Ongley, D., & Roy, A. (2002). "Cultural Rresponsiveness, Tolerance and the Alaska Library Community." Pacific Northwest Library Quarterly v. 66: p. 16-19.

& Meyer, R. (2001). "Public libraries and comprehensive community initiatives." Public Libraries v. 40: p. 282-288.

Librarian at the Kitchen Table. Includes mailing list and 2-3 messages a week. Launched 7/8/01. Subscribers as of 1/01/05 : 780. http://www.cas.usf.edu/lis/a-librarian-at-every-table/ continued at the blog : http://librarianoutreach.blogspot.com/

& Brand, K. (2001). "Community Iindicators, Genuine Progress, and the Golden Billion." Reference and User Services Quarterly v. 40: p. 337-340.

(2001). "Social Justice, Personalism, and the Practice of Llibrarianship." Catholic Library World v. 72: p. 80-84.

(2001). "Poverty, Democracy and Public Libraries.” In N. Kranich (Ed.), Libraries & Democracy: The Cornerstones of Liberty. Chicago: American Library Association Editions, 28-46.

(2000). "Library Services and Diversity." Library Trends. (As editor, introduction, etc.)

(2000). "Ending the Isolation of Poor People." American Libraries v. 31: p. 45.

(1998). "Rural Poverty Programs: Library Services to Farmworkers." In K. M. Venturella (Ed.), Poor People and Library Services. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland Publishers, 154-164. 

Mehra, Bharat, and Srinivasan, Ramesh. (2007). "The library-community convergence framework for community action: Libraries as catalysts of social change," Libri: International Journal of Libraries and Information Services v. 55, September: p. 170-188.

Miller, R. & Bardales, A. (2006). "BetterTogether: The Joint Conference." Library Journal v. 131: 18.

Joint Conference of Librarians of Color as reported in Library Journal: "At a panel, Kathleen de la Peña McCook (Univ. of South Florida, Tampa) reflected on a dearth in cross-organization work. Within ALA, the creation of the various groups-feminist, gay and lesbian, ethnic, and the Social Responsibilities Round Table-"may have divided us up too much," she said. Then she argued that librarianship is human rights work and suggested displays on subjects such as secret detention and rendition, enforced disappearances, the meaning of habeas corpus, and more. She and others encouraged the librarians present to, in McCook's words, "commit to more active involvement in social issues."'

Montgomery, B. P. (1996). "Archiving Human Rights: A Paradigm for Collection Development," Journal of Academic Librarianship v. 22: p. 87-96.

OHCHR. (1996-2007). The International Bill of Human Rights. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Click here for more information.

Phenix, K. J. (2007). "Dignity and Justice for All of Us: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948-2008."  Progressive Librarian v. 30, Winter: p. 1-2.

Phenix, K. J., & McCook, K. (2006). A Commitment to Human Rights - Let’s Honor the Qualities Required of a Librarian Dedicated to Human Rights. Information for Social Change v. 25, Summer.

Phenix, K. J., & McCook, K. (2005). Human Rights and Librarians. Reference and User Services Quarterly v. 45 no. 1: p. 23-26.

Samek, T.(2007) Librarianship and Human Rights: A Twenty-First Century Guide. (Chandos, 2007).

Samek, T. (2006). "Freedom to Read Week: The Strength of Librarianship in a Fragile World." Feliciter v. 52 no. 1: p. 18-19.

Samek, T. (2005). "Ethical Reflection on 21st Century Information Work: An Address to Teachers and Librarians." Progressive Librarian v. 25: p. 43-61.

Samek, T. (2001). Intellectual Freedom and Social Responsibility in American Librarianship, 1967 -1974. Chicago: American Library Association.

Samek, T. (1996). The Library Bill of Rights in the 1960s: One Profession, One Ethic. Library Trends v. 45: p. 50-60.

Samek, T. (2001). "Library Ethics, Rights, and Values: Provocative Commentary on the Utility of Library Rhetoric." [Canadian Library Association's Code of Ethics and the ALA Library Bill of Rights]. PNLA Quarterly, v. 65 no. 3: 15-17.

"Tracked in America"

University of Washington. Human Rights Film Directory.  

United Nations. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 


Professional Organizations Committed to Diversity and Outreach:

Africana Libraries Newsletter

American Indian Library Association

American Library Association. Office for Diversity.

American Library Association. Office for Literacy and Outreach Services.

American Library Association. Social Responsibilities Round Table.

Asian/ Pacific American Librarians Association

Black Caucus of the American Library Association

Chinese American Librarians Association

Civil Rights Digital Library

Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) of the American Library Association.

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table (GBLTRT) of the American Library Association.

The Hunger, Homelessness & Poverty Task Force (HHPTF), a group within the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT), was formed in 1996 to help promote and implement Policy 61 (Library Services for Poor People) and to raise awareness of issues related to poverty.

The “Library Services to the Homeless” page provides recommended resources relating to the following four categories:

*Economic, Legal, and Human Rights Issues
*Local Statistics
*Selected Readings for Librarians
*Social Exclusions and Libraries

In addition, the page links to an archive dating back to March 2005 and offers a list of entries by topic.

Information for Social Change.

International Federation of Library Associations.

Progressive Librarians Guild.

REFORMA: National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking:

Other Sources:

Union Librarian (blog):

Human Rights Organizations

American Civil Liberties Union
This organization works to preserve and protect the civil rights delineated in the US Constitution.

Good Search
Good Search is a search engine which donates 50-percent of its revenue to the charities and schools designated by its users.

Human and Constitutional Rights
Their website is administered by the Columbia University Law School Library. It provides a comprehensive array of links to human rights organizations all over the world.

The Human Rights Institute

Human Rights Watch
An independent organization dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world.

New Tactics in Human Rights
from their page: "The New Tactics in Human Rights Project, led by a diverse group of international organizations, advisors and practitioners, promotes tactical innovation and strategic thinking within the international human rights community."

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
UNESCO promotes international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication. The organization is committed to educating about human rights.

United Nations Office of the High Commisssioner for Human Rights
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) represents the world's commitment to universal ideals of human dignity. The organization has a unique mandate from the international community to promote and protect all human rights.

US Human Rights Network
This Network provides ways for organizations and individuals working for human rights and social justice to connect with others working on those issues in the US and in other countries. A central premise of the organization is that the US does not provide many of its own residents with the rights it purports to demand of other countries.

Women's Human Rights-net
An organization dedicated to providing information and analysis on women's human rights around the world.


Foundational Sources: Human Rights

Key Documents, in Chronological Order

Vedas (ca. 2000-1000 B.C.E.)

Mahony, William K. (1998). The Artful Universe: An Introduction to the Vedic Religious Imagination. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Holdrege, Barbara A. (1995). Veda and Torah: Transcending the Textuality of Scripture. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Analects of Confucius (ca. 479 B.C.E.-221 B.C.E.)

Confucius. (2005). The Analects of Confucius. Stilwell, KS: Digireads.com.

The Eight Beatitudes (Appx. AD 30)

from the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus Christ

The Qur’an (ca. 632)

Haleem, M.A.S. Abdel. (2004). The Qur’an: A New Translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem. New York: Oxford University Press.

Magna Carta (1215)

Drew, Katherine Fischer. (2004). Magna Carta. Westport, CN: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.

Milton’s Areopagitica (1644)

Milton, John. (2004). Areopagitica. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, LLC.

Locke’s Letter Concerning Tolerance and Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690)

Locke, John. (2004). A Letter Concerning Toleration. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, Inc.

Locke, John. (2003). The Second Treatise on Civil Government. Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson Incorporated.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract (1761)

Rousseau, Jean Jacques, et. al. (2006). The Social Contract. New York: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated.

Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man (1791-92)

Paine, Thomas. (2006). The Rights of Man. Teddington, UK: Echo Library.

The Declaration of Independence (1776)

Library of Congress. (2006). Declaration of Independence: Primary Documents of American History (Virtual Programs & Services, Library of Congress).

Abigail Adams, “Remember the Ladies” (1789)

Massachusetts Historical Society. (2006). The Massachusetts Historical Society | The Adams Family Papers.

France: Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789)

Yale Law School. (2005). The Avalon Project: Declaration of the Rights of Man – 1789.

U.S. Bill of Rights (1789)

Library of Congress.

Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792)

Wollstonecraft, Mary. (2001). A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Madison, WI: Turtleback Books.

Kant’s Perpetual Peace (1797)

Kant, Immanuel. (1996). Perpetual Peace: A Philosophic Essay. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, Ltd.

Robert Owen’s New View of Society (1817)

Owen, Robert. (1991). A New View of Society. Oxford, England: Woodstock Books.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Declaration of Sentiments at Seneca Falls” (1848)

Women's Rights National Historic Park Website.

Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau (1849)

Thoreau, Henry David. (2002). Civil Disobedience. New York: Book Surge, LLC.

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)

Mill, John Stuart. (2004). On Liberty. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, LLC.

Declaration of the Rights of Toiling and Exploited Peoples (1918)

Bryant, Louise. (1918). “Chapter IX: The Constituent Assembly – Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited People.” Six Months in Red Russia. New York: George H. Doran Company.

International Labour Organization Constitution (1919)

International Labour Organization. (2006). About the ILO: Who we are: ILO Constitution.

International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children (1921)

International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children. The American Journal of International Law, 18(3), Supplement: Official Documents, 130-137. (1924). [Available through JSTOR]

Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1924) League of Nations

University of Minnesota. Human Rights Library. (n.d.). Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child of 1924, adopted Sept. 26, 1924, League of Nations O.J. Spec. Supp. 21 at 43 (1924).

Convention to Suppress the Slave Trade and Slavery (1926)

Yale Law School. (1998). The Avalon Project: Convention to Suppress the Slave Trade and Slavery September 25, 1926.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “Four Freedoms" (1941)

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. (n.d.). Annual Message to Congress, January 6, 1941, The “Four Freedoms” Speech.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

Adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations on December 10, 1948.

"Are There 'Human Rights' in Buddhism?" (1995)

Keown, D. Journal of Buddhist Ethics v. 2.

"Mahayana Buddhism and Human Rights: Focusing on Methods of Interpretation"

Shiotsu, T.


ALA Policy 61 (Library Services for the Poor)

The American Library Association promotes equal access to information for all persons, and recognizes the urgent need to respond to the increasing number of poor children, adults, and families in America. These people are affected by a combination of limitations, including illiteracy, illness, social isolation, homelessness, hunger, and discrimination, which hamper the effectiveness of traditional library services. Therefore it is crucial that libraries recognize their role in enabling poor people to participate fully in a democratic society, by utilizing a wide variety of available resources and strategies. Concrete programs of training and development are needed to sensitize and prepare library staff to identify poor people's needs and deliver relevant services. And within the American Library Association the coordinating mechanisms of programs and activities dealing with poor people in various divisions, offices, and units should be strengthened, and support for low-income liaison activities should be enhanced.

61.1 Policy Objectives

The American Library Association shall implement these objectives by:

  1. Promoting the removal of all barriers to library and information services, particularly fees and overdue charges.
  2. Promoting the publication, production, purchase, and ready accessibility of print and nonprint materials that honestly address the issues of poverty and homelessness, that deal with poor people in a respectful way, and that are of practical use to low-income patrons.
  3. Promoting full, stable, and ongoing funding for existing legislative programs in support of low-income services and for pro-active library programs that reach beyond traditional service-sites to poor children, adults, and families.
  4. Promoting training opportunities for librarians, in order to teach effective techniques for generating public funding to upgrade library services to poor people.
  5. Promoting the incorporation of low-income programs and services into regular library budgets in all types of libraries, rather than the tendency to support these projects solely with "soft money" like private or federal grants.
  6. Promoting equity in funding adequate library services for poor people in terms of materials, facilities, and equipment.
  7. Promoting supplemental support for library resources for and about low-income populations by urging local, state, and federal governments, and the private sector, to provide adequate funding.
  8. Promoting increased public awareness--through programs, displays, bibliographies, and publicity--of the importance of poverty-related library resources and services in all segments of society.
  9. Promoting the determination of output measures through the encouragement of community needs assessments, giving special emphasis to assessing the needs of low-income people and involving both anti-poverty advocates and poor people themselves in such assessments.
  10. Promoting direct representation of poor people and anti-poverty advocates through appointment to local boards and creation of local advisory committees on service to low-income people, such appointments to include library-paid transportation and stipends.
  11. Promoting training to sensitize library staff to issues affecting poor people and to attitudinal and other barriers that hinder poor people's use of libraries.
  12. Promoting networking and cooperation between libraries and other agencies, organizations, and advocacy groups in order to develop programs and services that effectively reach poor people.
  13. Promoting the implementation of an expanded federal low-income housing program, national health insurance, full-employment policy, living minimum wage and welfare payments, affordable day care, and programs likely to reduce, if not eliminate, poverty itself.
  14. Promoting among library staff the collection of food and clothing donations, volunteering personal time to anti-poverty activities and contributing money to direct-aid organizations.
  15. Promoting related efforts concerning minorities and women, since these groups are disproportionately represented among poor people.

ALA Task Force Member Survey on Policy 61 The Hunger, Homelessness & Poverty Task Force, in partnership with the OLOS Subcommittee on Library Services to Poor and Homeless People, reported the findings from the ALA Task Force Member Survey on Policy 61 at the June 2008 ALA Conference. Click here for more information.

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