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A Question of Balance


At last summer\'s ALA conference, then President-elect (now President) Nancy Kranich gave a talk on the importance of seeking out the alternative press as essential in developing a balanced collection, a value expressed well in the Library Bill of Rights. That talk was published in the review journal Counterpoise and later electronically in Library Juice. It\'s called A Question of Balance: the Role of Libraries in Providing Alternatives to the Mainstream Media.\"Often absent from the review media, standard bibliographic tools, and
conference exhibits are the alternative, small and/or independent
publishers. While none of these labels is satisfactory, the term
\"alternative\" is most apt because these publishers counterbalance the
corporate media. Too often, however, they are outside the mainstream of
traditional distribution channels and the peripheral vision of libraries.
Some are even unaware of the potential of selling to libraries. Others are
confused how to do so. This is unfortunate. Alternative publishers are on
the cutting edge of important literature and issues. They make an important
cultural and literary contribution. And, they are an essential part of the
community of publishers with whom librarians must interact.\"

\"Little money, influence or prestige backs alternative publishers. They are
small, and their authors and editors are rarely known. Often, Library of
Congress cataloging is minimal or non-existent for their publications.
Booksellers omit them from approval plans, making it difficult for libraries
to acquire their titles efficiently. Librarians have to work hard to seek
out their titles. Nevertheless, we have a duty to guide users to the full
range of relevant facts and opinions; therefore, we must pursue these
publishers, who can provide us with more obscure fiction and literature as
well as vital information about our communities and diversity.\"

\"Unfortunately, alternative publishers do not always see librarians as their
alternative. They simply do not look to us as outlets for their resources.
They do not understand how to work with us. They do not see us as natural
allies. With media wealth so concentrated, so solidified, and so integrated
into the corporate-government elite, what role can libraries play to ensure
the public a more democratic flow of ideas and offer alternatives to the
narrow, corporate-media view of the world? How can we create real access to
information and participation for all sectors of our communities? How can
we counteract the market censorship that is shifting formerly reputable
publishers\' lists from serious titles to hype?\"