Progressive Librarians Guild
radical views on library & info issues

PLG's history

Actions and ideas through time

Progressive Librarians Guild was formed in New York City on January 1990 by a group of librarians concerned with our profession's rapid drift into dubious alliances with business and the information industry, and into complacent acceptance of service to an unquestioned political, economic and cultural status quo. See the 1997 letter from Mark Rosenzweig to PLG members Why we keep on going, describing changes in the organization that had come about up to that point.

Other related texts to keep in mind are Rosenzweig's What progressive librarians believe and the Ten Point Program

PLG reaffirmed, significantly, that the development of public libraries was initially spurred by popular sentiment which for one reason or another held that real democracy requires an enlightened citizenry, and that society should provide all people with the means for free intellectual development. Current trends in librarianship, however, assert that the library is merely a neutral institutional mediator in the information marketplace and a facilitator of a value-neutral information society of atomized information consumers.

A progressive librarianship demands the recognition of the idea that libraries for the people has been one of the principal anchors of an extended free public sphere which makes an independent democratic civil society possible, something which must be defended and extended. This is partisanship, not neutrality.

Members of PLG do not accept the sterile notion of the neutrality of librarianship, and we strongly oppose the commodification of information which turns the 'information commons' into privatized, commercialized zones. We will help to dissect the implications of these powerful trends, and fight their anti-democratic tendencies.

PLG recognizes that librarians are situated as information workers, communications workers, and education workers, as well as technical workers. Like workers in every sector, our work brings us up against both economic and political issues. Cataloging, indexing, acquisitions policy and collection development, the character of reference services, library automation, library management, and virtually every other library issue embody political value choices. PLG members aim to make these choices explicit, and to draw their political conclusions.

The Progressive Librarians Council was the antecedant of today's Progressive Librarians Guild. PLG's Progressive Librarian journal includes an article about the Progressive Librarians Council and its Founders.

For additional information on the history and principles of PLG and progressive librarianship, see the following:

A 2016 interview with Elaine Harger by Rory Litwin for the Library Juice blog; the chapter on PLG in Al Kagan's book Progressive Library Organizations: A Worldwide History (McFarland, 2015); Elaine Harger's article "Looking Backward, Imagining Forward: Celebrating 20 Years of Progressive Librarian" (Progressive Librarian, 34/35); a Tribute From a Progressive Librarians Guild cofounder written by Elaine Harger in the Sandy Berman festschrift Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sandy Berman But Were Afraid to Ask (Scarecrow, 1995), Mexican Circle of Progressive Studies on Librarianship, Caroline Nappo's What is a progressive librarian?, and Taralee Alcock's paper Free Speech for Librarians? A Review of Socially Responsible Librarianship, 1967-1999. The PLG archives (1989-2003, 2009-) are currently held at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Last updated: 15 April 2022