Library and archive culture
an eclectic collection of images and documents of the library, archive, and information management profession

"In 1831 Alexis de Tocqueville noted that there was scarcely a plowman In America who did not have a book or a broadsheet newspaper fastened between the handles of his plow so that he could read as he tediously trod the rows of earth turned by his prairie cutter plows. It was a time when books were expensive and hard to get, yet they were widely shared and much discussed by Americans of all classes. Today, I am told by book marketers that about half of all American households never buy a book in any given year. " -Joe Bageant, 4/3/2007

"My office was so low that people avoided me. One of my tasks was to register the names of people who came to read newspapers, but to most of them I did not exist as a human being."
-Mao Zedong, on working as an Assistant Librarian at Beijing University, 1918;
from Red Star Over China, by Edgar Snow.

Be nice to archivists graphic

Professional links and news
Library of Congress perforation stamp
Progressive Librarians Guild | Labor Archives Roundtable (Society of American Archivists)

Social Responsibilities Round Table
ALA | Community of Industrial Relations Librarians (CIRL)

Also - check out Urban Librarians Unite -
a professional group created to promote and support libraries, library staff, and librarianship in urban settings."

The New Archives for American Labor: From Attic to Digital Shop Floor, 2007, by Ben Blake

Articles, essays, and other documents by/about Lincoln Cushing

Letter in American Archivist, (Society of American Archivists) Spring/Summer 2014

Editor :

The debate between Greene and Jimerson (and Caswell) [about social justice activism and archives] was a good starting point on the subject. But rather than quibble with the points made, I thought I’d comment on an issue not raised.

First, full disclosure. I’m a partisan archivist who simultaneously wears several hats, including a corporate archives job and a decidedly noncorporate public museum job. This is a second career, and my first exposure to the politics of the field was Sanford Berman’s essential critique of Library of Congress Subject Headings. I thought, great, some good minds and big hearts here.

But my reluctant observation from over fourteen years in the profession is that exhorting archivists to take up the torch of social justice won’t make much of a difference. Smart, committed, and capable people, yes, but I believe that few work in archives to change the world. I’ve found very few political allies in the field, and even fewer in the professional associations.

I’ve been part of a Progressive Archivists listserv within SAA since 2008, and it bumps along with almost no member traffic. After Jimerson’s Archives Power came out in 2010, Kate Theimer started what I saw as a noble effort to invigorate the debate—an online book discussion group. Initial membership was 80—80!—but chapter by chapter, members and conversation dwindled to less than a handful. “Lurkers” may all have their reasons, but the net conclusion I draw is that this is not a profession of activists.

I’ve made my peace with that. I’m happy to jump into a good fight (e.g., The American Archivist’s “Sun Mad” poster cover [Fall/Winter 2003] or defense of Nicholson Baker’s Double Fold) and engage in private discussions, but I’m not expecting my brother and sister archivists to agree about the merits of politically informed and active archival craft. All I can do is publicize that path and hope they do the right thing when push comes to shove.

Lincoln Cushing
Archivist and author

Ex Libris: Bookplates from Cuba's Biblioteca Nacional Josť Marti

"A librarian champions political poster art," Library Journal Academic Newswire, 5/31/2007
LAUC-B Position on Retention of Librarian Positions at UC Berkeley 6/26/2006

Cutting-edge information management technology - from 1904
Unprocessed social movement collections at UC Berkeley - 6/2006
Review of flatbed scanner with unique applications for special collections
at rally supporting public libraries in Salinas, CA, 2005
"California Librarian: LIncoln Cushing," California Libraries, January 24, 2004
Review of Vandals in the Stacks? A Response to Nicholson Baker's Assault on Libraries
Clark Kerr collection donated to IIR Library, commemorative bookplate issued
"Taking a Stand in Information Management"- U.C. Berkeley SIMS (now I-School) graduation speech 5/12/2001 (PDF)
"Call for Papers," Modern Industrial Papermaking and its Consequences for Librarians and Archivists

Protection of images on the Web

samples from my archive of library and literacy graphics
Stained galss window, Cuba national library
Cuba litearcy graphic by Elizabeth Catlett

graphic by Rini Templeton


Graphic by Rini Templeton Detail of mural by Diego Rivera Bookplate from collection at Cuban national library

Chinese archives during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

"During the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), foreigners imagined that archival work had been fatally disrupted, with possibly the archives destroyed. Nevertheless, we later learned that after a short exile during the Cultural Revolution’s most intense years, some staff members had been able to carry on in make-shift offices. In 1974 when I was touring the Beijing palace for the first time, in a moment of excessive boldness I walked up to the great wood doors of the old Qing Hall of Chinese Culture and peeked inside. There I glimpsed people carrying papers and scurrying to and fro, checking documents at a central desk. Years later I learned that I had indeed stumbled on the very site where archival work was going on. When finally able to carry out research in Beijing I checked the Qing Grand Council inventories to ascertain possible Cultural Revolution damage but found no evidence that the Red Guards or “Four Olds” campaign had harmed the collection. The Grand Council inventories showed that the few missing items had already disappeared by the nineteenth century. Some Chinese scholars dealt with the Cultural Revolution imaginatively. One told me that the Cultural Revolution forced him to think up safe cover for research that interested him. After concocting descriptions acceptable to the authorities, he pursued his own interests in the archives but postponed publication.

Accordingly, the Cultural Revolution did not wreak permanent damage on archival holdings in the palace. But work was halted, resuming only slowly. The internal-circulation record of advisories and rules for archival work shows only one document (in 1967) for the entire Cultural Revolution era. More important was the fact that in the midst of the turmoil, directives had forbidden the Red Guards to disturb archival installations. This limited damage and spared the holdings ('On Looting of Files 1980,' in Hinton 3:321). "

-Beatrice S. Bartlett, “A world-class archival achievement: the People’s Republic of China archivists’ success in opening the Ming-Qing central-government archives, 1949–1998” Archival Science (2007) 7.

Old school
University of Durham, EnglandKing's Lynn, England
University library- University of Durham, England, 2002; Public library- King's Lynn, England, 2002

return to Docs Populi, Lincoln Cushing's webpage
last updated 10/4/2023