Latest Sandy Berman Video


Steve Fesenmaier wants to tell us about a new video featuring "unretired librarian" Sandy Berman:
Scott Lohman, who has lived in Minnesota for 14 years, interviews “unretired librarian� Sanford Berman about “libraries, books, and censorship.� This is Berman’s best video so far – he has the entire 25 minutes to precisely state what he thinks is going WRONG with the American public library as an institution. The interview he quotes, from New Breed, is not only his best single statement, but in my opinion, the best, most profound challenge to the contemporary corporatized public library. He was interviewed on June 10, 2003.
Read the continuation for more of Steve's comments and information about obtaining the video.Sandy begins by reading part of an interview he gave the New Breed Librarian website several years ago. They asked him, “Have libraries been dumbed down?� To this question he answers most emphatically, - “YES!� Libraries, he says, have become part of the corporate mainstream, downsizing and outsourcing. They care only about circulation numbers, digitization, and want to act like a Borders or Barnes & Noble store. They have forgotten the library values that American libraries have used for a century, presenting themselves as the “peoples’ university.� Rather, they are concerned with blockbuster books, bestsellers, and Martha Stewart products. They have been told NOT to examine the actual preview copies of children’s books they receive, but are told to use Baker & Taylor “best lists.� They have also dropped many government docs because of the time and effort spent on their cataloging. He points out that Los Angeles Public and Hennepin County Library system both have either eliminated including these valuable government-printed docs or greatly reduced their number. Sandy points out that the actual data produced by government agencies and Congressional hearings will no longer be included in the collections. Rather, libraries buy hundreds of copies of best sellers because the publisher promises to spend millions on promoting them. Another way libraries have dumbed themselves down is by dropping thousands of periodicals, many of which have very limited access on the web. Some library periodicals will no longer be made available to the public so they cannot read the main professional review sources – Library Journal, etc. Libraries have always self-censored themselves, not subscribing to local political publications, comics, zines, labor publications, etc.

The host asks – what can people do? Sandy answers that they should suggest titles of books, periodicals, and other sources to their local public libraries. “They are YOUR LIBRARIES!,� he says. Recommend titles – as a group or as an individual.

He finally spends the last five minutes talking about the implications of the Patriot Act for libraries and booksellers. In Section 215 of the Patriot Act the federal authorities including the FBI are given the right to inspect all library and book dealer records. And they cannot tell the patron/customer that they have had this information requested. The FBI no longer has to get a court order and give the librarian a warrant. He says that there has been a storm of protest by some librarians and others, and that two national leaders have proposed laws to fix the situation. Rep. Berney Sanders has proposed the Freedom to Read Protection Act -–HR 1157- and Senator Boxer of California has proposed S1158 – the Library and Bookseller Protection Act. People should write these two leaders and express their support.

You can purchase a copy of this excellent videotape [for $20 including shipping] at:

Humanists of Minnesota
P.O. Box 582997
Minneapolis, MN. 55455-2997
(651) 335-3800


How might it be arranged to show the video on local community access cable television?...

I hope to see it someday.Unfortunately, I don't think that HCL or LAPL are or will be the only libraries to reduce their collections of fed docs. Even though fed docs are 1) free, 2) come with their own classification system (and labels) and 3) are pre-catalogued by Marcive ... they are a major labour drain to be processed. The docs have to be opened differently, checked in and stamped differently, evaluated differently, shelved differently and finally weeded differently (if at all). In our most recent budget cuts at [library of research institution on West Coast], our depository percentage was lowered in order to save us at least a 1/4 of a billet.Not to mention, the Feds have spent the past few years switch from paper-only to electronic-only publications. So, the lack of physical access to documents is coming from both sides.

What is a proper complete bibliographic cataloging citation for this lastest Berman video?...

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