April 19, 2018

Rory Litwin | Movers & Shakers 2002

The Importance of Being Earnest

Founder, Library Juice

Rory Litwin does not do lip service. What he wants to do is change the world, and when he believes in something, he puts his heart, soul, skills, and inordinate amounts of time into doing something about it.

He’d like to make the world more like libraries, which he calls “a rare example of beautiful ideals actually functioning successfully in the world”–they are communitarian, in that they pool shared resources; libertarian, in that they provide a marketplace of ideas; and models for sustainability, in that materials are reused.

He’our profession. He’s excited by libraries in part because he thinks they need to be changed. He believes that they must provide more alternative voices and free access to all their resources, that library administrators need to become more democratic in their decision-making, and that our professional organizations need to be more responsive to the needs of ordinary librarians as well.

Litwin is willing to work within the system to bring this brighter world to pass; he’s an active and vocal participant in the American Library Association (ALA) and the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT). But he also applies pressure from outside. At his libr.org site, he provides web pages for Progressive Librarian, Progressive Librarians’ Guild, and SRRT. It’s also where he publishes Library Juice, “a sifting of e-mail of interest to librarians, with a share of issues-oriented stuff, from a Left perspective.”


Current position: Reference Librarian, California Research Bureau, California State Library

Degree: MLIS, San Jose State University, 1998

Active in: ALA, Social Responsibilities Round Table, ACRL

Editor: Library Juice

Every week he presents news items about libraries and censorship, interesting web sites and quotes, draft statements from library organizations on current issues, announcements of new electronic lists and discussions, exchanges of correspondence about issues within ALA, and more. In the hands of a convinced ideolog, this could be hard-going. But there’s a thoughtfulness about Litwin’s opinions, when he feels like stating one. He actually listens to his critics, considers the possibility that they might be onto something, and even, occasionally, modifies his ideas. As SRRT’s Mark Rosenzweig says, “Litwin always considers his positions revocable.”

Library Juice is a serious contribution to librarians’ community dialog, which makes it a little odd that people find

Library Juice when they search Google for topics like “bug juice,” “loony left schools,” and “anarchy pez.” Litwin gets a kick out of tracking these web site statistics and regularly reports on them.

Of course people also find Library Juice when they type “What is librarian,” which has to be all to the good. There are many people out there who don’t know that librarians can be young and hip, or that we stand ready to defend (well, in court, anyway) their privacy and their freedom to read, to know, and to think. If they’re going to find a librarian by accident, Litwin is one of the best models they could happen across.