My Notes on three books: Roots and Flowers: The Life and Work of the Afro-Cuban Librarian Marta Terry González; Labor Rising: The Past and Future of Working People in America; and Shop Class as Soulcraft

I’m generally reading several books at once, depedning on location with different print books in different places (home, office, gym bag because before class is time to read if emails are handled and work is under control, and then always online readings to be done). I also am generally reading for projects and for serendipity. Right now, my major reading threads include Caribbean librarians and librarianship, labor and unions, the nature of work, and socialism. Below are notes from the three books I’ve most recently finished (and finished typing notes on, which often comes much later after reading). Posting here for my reference and in case these might be of use to any others.


Abdul Alkalimat and Kate Williams. Roots and Flowers: The Life and Work of the Afro-Cuban Librarian Marta Terry González. Sacramento, CA: Library Juice Press, 2015.

2: “Marta is an eminent librarian of the Cuban revolution, having at various times been the librarian of record for institutions led by Che Guevara, Haydée Santamaría, Armando Hart, and (at the National Library) under the leadership of Fidel Castro. She herself has been a leader in both the Cuban and international library world.”

5: “Libraries are inclusive institutions for entire populations. ‘Big data’ research—including that carried on in the same academic unit as library and information studies—serves corporations and governments. This book also an argument for examining, sustaining and, where necessary, reinventing the libraries that serve a broad democratic role involving literacy, popular education, and recreation in local communities.”

5 “The library as a memory institution can be reimagined as a never center for society, with its capacity for collecting, processing, storing, and sharing our recorded perceptions. Here is a story of the emergence of a modern library system aimed at decolonization and social justice.  Librarians in the Global South, and many in the Global North serving immigrants from the South, will find this a useful study of their longtime colleague Marta Terry.”

63 “The group also included Antonio Núñez Jiménez, who, in Marta’s words, was the eternal unelected president of the faculty of philosophy and letters. He wrote the widely used Geography of Cuba at age thirty-one and became known as the Third Discoverer of Cuba.”

69 “A revolution is not an event so much as an historical process full of multiple events both simultaneous and sequential. Within the revolutionary process there are more events than can be counted; and while some that get recorded make up the great historical record, the most important in the long run are the often unnoticed day-to-day processes that change the people in their everyday lives. It is the people upon whom any successful revolution must depend. Policy and structural change, yes, but the people’s everyday lives are what count most of all.”

125 “Marta understood the relationship between reading and revolution. Fidel had said it: ‘Don’t believe, read!’ And Marta carried that philosophy forward to rationalize the existence of a comprehensive library of all the books.”

125 “Even while at Casa, Marta was linked to the broader professional network of librarians. She was teaching them at Casa and at the University of Havana.[…] Olinta and Marta, with a few others, planned and carried out the rebirth of the Cuban professional librarians association, the Asociación de Bibliotecarios Cubanos (ASCUBI), while Marta was at Casa in 1981.”

157, Chapter 10, on IFLA and Institutions

“The Cuban library experience is part of the global library experience. Its emergence in this global context is part of the history of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). Marta played a key role for Cuba in first learning from IFLA and later in representing the Cuban library experience and defending the national integrity of Cuba against attacks. This is a story—spanning more than four decades—of international and diplomatic significance in the library world and beyond. [para. break] IFLA was established in 1927 out of activity in the League of Nations on the one hand, and European and American professional development and international linkages on the other. As a measure of how intertwined professional activities and politics can be, its first official conference was held in 1929 in Italy and was opened by the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who received praise from the first IFLA president Isak Collijn. IFLA was led solely by librarians and scholars from Western (and more particularly Northern) Europe and United States for many decades. For instance, the Chinese Library Association was a founding member, but IFLA did not hold a meeting in China until 1996. That meeting was much helped by Marta’s consulting and sharing her experience.”

Screenshots of this chapter and the appendices are in my notes—all relevant for so much work that is needed.

Labor Rising: The Past and Future of Working People in America. Eds. Daniel Katz and Richard A. Greenwald. New York: The New Press, 2012.

Remes, Jacob A.C. “Solidarity, Citizenship, and the Opportunities of Disasters.” Labor Rising: The Past and Future of Working People in America. Eds. Daniel Katz and Richard A. Greenwald. New York: The New Press, 2012. Pages 143-153.

144: “individualistic values are a dangerous lie. The left needs to promote its own, truer ‘quality value’: solidarity. ” explains solidarity as opposed to individual values and hierarchies, not “’helping others,’ which emphasizes the ‘others’ and suggests and individualistic and hierarchical notion of charity, solidarity is mutual and reciprocal.”

145 “The mutual aid is successful precisely because it is not charity, but rather because it is solidarity. King, with his ‘active brotherly kindness,’ understood that the solace comes jointly and inseparably from the aid offered and from the relationship with the person or organization who offers it.”

148 cites Naomi Klein and dangers of disaster capitalism, continues “But it need not be this way. Since disasters are also moments of solidarity and creativity, they can be opportunities to craft new forms of citizenship.”

Fletcher, Jr., Bill. “Organized Labor: Declining Source of Hope?” Labor Rising: The Past and Future of Working People in America. Eds. Daniel Katz and Richard A. Greenwald. New York: The New Press, 2012. Pages 191-200.

198 “The labor movement generally and unions in particular have been a source of inspiration in US history when they have been the voice from ‘outside.’ In other words, when unions have been seen, to borrow from A. Philip Randolph, to be the instruments and advocates for the dispossessed they create an aura around themselves that generates and culture and practice of mass struggle. […] When organized labor has played the ‘insider’ game, it has tended toward increasing isolation, except and insofar as others have sought out the financial coffers of mainstream labor to support their endeavors, for better and for worse.”

Crawford, Matthew B. Shop Class as Soulcraft. New York: Penguin, 2009.

2 “there are fewer occasions for the kind of spiritedness that is called forth when we take things in hand for ourselves, whether to fix them or to make them.”

2 “manual competence, and the stance it entails toward the built, material world.”

6 “arguments on behalf of work that is meaningful because it is genuinely useful.”

7 “self-reliance—the kind that requires focused engagement with material things.”

14 “craftsmanship has been said to consist simply in the desire to do something well, for its own sake.”

17 “Street-level work that disrupts the infrastructure (the sewer system below or the electrical grid above) brings our shared dependence into view. People may inhabit very different worlds even in the same city, according to wealth or poverty. Yet we all live in the same physical reality, ultimately, and owe a common debt to the world. [para. break] Because craftsmanship refers to objective standards that do not issue from the self and its desires, it poses a challenge to the ethics of consumerism.”

19 “Craftsmanship entails learning to do one thing really well, while the ideal of the new economy is to be able to learn new things.”

26 “Any mechanic will tell you that it is invaluable to have other mechanics around to test your reasoning against, especially if they have a different intellectual disposition.”

45 “With its reverence for neutral process, liberalism is, by design, a politics of irresponsibility.” Reminds of Haraway, calls for situated perspective, to be accountable, to be responsible.

51 “The truth, of course, is that creativity is the by-product of mastery of the sort that is cultivated through long practice.”

82 “I believe the mechanical arts have a special significance for our time because they cultivate not creativity, but the less glamorous virtue of attentiveness. Things need fixing and tending no less than creating.”

99 “Iris Murdoch writes that to respond to the world justly, you hfirst have to perceive it clearly, and this requires a kind of ‘unselfing.’”

124 “Amy Gilbert writes that practical wisdom entails ‘the full appreciation of the salient moral features of the particular situations we confront. Our awareness of these features enables us to respond properly to them.’”

138 “Learned Irresponsibility”

170 “the expert is an expert not because he has a better memory in general, but because the patterns of chess are the patterns of his experience.”