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Steve Fesenmaier writes "REMOTE ACCESS: Distant Libraries of the World.
24 mins. 2005
A film review by Steve Fesenmaier March 7, 2007
During the last 29 years I have tried to watch every film made by anyone promoting the use of libraries. I have screened them at our state library conferences, and even helped make the single most interesting film I have ever seen about libraries, Julian Samuels's "Save and Burn." (He has made two films on libraries "Burn" and an earlier one, "The Library in Crisis," both available from Filmakers Library.) The San Francisco Public Library has asked me to find an amazing film about the Bibliotheque Nationale made by Alain Renais and I once hoped to screen a series of films at The New York Public Library Donnell Library made by librarian filmmakers. (Plans fell through a year or so ago" .. I am not sure why..)The Library of Congress produced "Memory & Imagination: New Pathways to the Library of Congress" (1990) a very good film several years ago hosted by Richard Saul Wurman (who wrote my favorite book on libraries and information, "Information Anxiety"The West Virginia Library Commission produced a very interesting film in the 1950s called ";Books, Books, Lots of Books" which showed store-front library collections. (I work for WVLC, serving as director of Film Services from 1978-99. In 1976 WVLC created the last major new 16 mm film collection in the world.) Presently WV"™s leading activist librarian, Allen Johnson, director of the Pocahontas County Free Libraries, and his colleague B.J. Gudmundsson, who have made two award-winning feature films together already, are working on a TV spot to promote financial support for his library system in the highest county east of the Mississippi. Thanks to the videolib listserv I learned about this new Canadian film, "Remote Access," that shows the importance of providing library services to people living in truly remote parts of Latin America and Africa. Three independent shorts show libraries on the banks of the Amazon River, in the outback of Chile, and in various parts of Kenya, far from roads. The segments should be expanded to feature-length stories given their amazing stories showing libraries that are truly important to the poor and illiterate people they serve. The visual images are stunning, and the editing is almost too tight. Absolutely all library students in library schools around the world, all library boards, all library staff, and all library patrons should have a chance to watch in amazement at the sheer joy of learning shown on camera. I also greatly enjoyed the summary segment at the end. Various Canadian library supporters discuss how totally important these libraries are in our Information Age. Of course, some of the staff who administers these remote libraries also presents the financial, educational, and even spiritual value these tiny institutions play in the local isolated communities. The scenes of donkeys and camels carrying books and materials in Africa were poignant as any animal scenes I have ever viewed, revealing how mankind should work with all possible resources to bring the excitement of books to everyone. They donkeys and camels seemed to be properly cared for, one scene even showing the fresh water given the two donkeys that pull the ultimate bookmobile. I recalled the opening scene in ";Amazing Grace" about William Wilberforce, the leader of the movement in England to end slavery, showing how he stopped to prevent some men from tormenting their poor horse that had fallen. Hopefully hundreds of libraries will purchase copies of this film, allowing the producers to continue traveling the world, showing remote libraries all over the world. There must be libraries in Antarctica, the North Pole, maybe even on the International Space Station. One other note. As a member of the group Freadom, trying to liberate the imprisoned librarians in Cuba, I have to note that none of the people shown in this film living outside of Canada probably had MLS degrees. The American Library Association has refused to fight for the freedom of the independent librarians in Cuba because they lack the proper credentials. Even Dr. Nancy Dunn, a Ph.D. in some field, who paid to build the library on the banks of the Amazon River, has her MLS. Certainly none of the other people interviewed do, and in some places, the libraries are housed in private homes just as they are in Cuba. If Dr. Mitch Freedman and the International Relations Committee of ALA ever saw this film, they may be forced to re-think their moral paralysis on Cuba. Websites : http://www.remoteaccess.ca/ Kenya National Library Service http://www.knls.or.ke/ My extended review of ";Save and Burn" http://www.counterpunch.org/ Librarians for Freedom " http://www.4freadom.org/ Friends of Cuban Libraries http://www.friendsofcubanlibraries.org/"