Fort Atkinson, Wisc.: Highsmith Press, 1995
Pp. XXIII + 296
Review by Enrica Garzilli, December 1, 1996
This is an excellent book. It is based on an international conference sponsored by the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America and held at Radcliffe College (Cambridge, Mass.) in June 1994. Two main concepts are at the core of this book: 1) power and information are indissolubly linked; 2) women have an essential role in sustainable human development. In planning the conference the organizers wanted to explore the ways these basic principles interact with each other.
Other fundamental convictions inspired the conference: women need full and unrestricted access to information; women should be involved at every stage of gathering and disseminating information and should determine what information should be collected, how, in what form, and how is to be shared; all information gathered by the UN and its 185 member countries should include complete data on women; this information should be disseminated in a form accessible to women in every geographic and demographic setting. As the conference aimed to help the further collection and preservation of information by, for, and about women worldwide, the proceedings printed in this book help the reader to understand this process and share experiences of this process. Another major theme which has been investigated in many of these papers is the relationship between information, human rights, and women's rights.
The book includes 47 articles. They have been divided into four categories. Part I is "Information For and About Women" and includes 5 articles; Part II is "Information Institutions" and it is divided according to the countries: Africa with 4 articles, Asia/Australia with 4 articles, Europe with 12 papers, Latin America with 2 papers. Part III is "Information for Information Workers" with 9 articles. Part III is "Outside Library Walls" with 10 articles. These papers include descriptions of libraries, resources, and information services for women in many nations: Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Denmark, Ghana, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Nigeria, Malaysia, Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands, Peru, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, UK, USA.
The majority of papers are very short and, according to the editor, have had to be heavily edited; nevertheless, the editor has tried "to preserve the different 'voices', which reveal not only individuals but also cultures". The papers describe the most varied and lively cultural and geographical situations and locations. They have no footnotes, almost no citations and only very occasional references to published works. The choice was made by the editor to prepare the book for the Beijing Conference in September 1995. This choice has saved the freshness and elegance of an oral presentation which is usually, or it should be, fluent, and not crammed with abstruse words and dry, scholarly, and often useless and unintelligible jargon.
These papers are short, clear, informative, and almost never conjectural, so, they are rarely boring: they are themselves an example of what information quality by, on, and for women is, or should be. They are all written by women. The short index helps the reader to find the names of authors, institutions, and organizations mentioned in the book.