When the UCSF Library closed its buildings on March 16, 2020 to comply with shelter-in-place orders, library staff, like everyone, had to adjust to a significant change in work routines and responsibilities. In particular, our Access Services staff — who normally greet visitors at the front desk, check out books and other materials, manage interlibrary loan deliveries, and provide in-person help and information — faced a sudden need to shift their focus to remote activities.
Meanwhile the interest in online access to library materials was surging, and the Archives and Special Collections (A&SC) and Industry Documents Library (IDL) staff were working hard to expand digitization-on-demand services and to create and update descriptions for digital collections.
In light of these rapidly changing developments, the Access Services and A&SC/IDL teams came together in April 2020 to pilot a new initiative, which has resulted in increased access to our digital collections and a wonderful opportunity to work with colleagues across departments. Read more about this exciting ongoing project in Library News.
This week, we join the International Council on Archives and colleagues around the world in celebrating archives and their role in empowering knowledge societies. Against a pervasive backdrop of disinformation, manipulated facts, and extreme prejudice which has fostered such horrific pain and suffering in our world, we recognize the value of archives and all those who uphold truth, accountability, and justice.
Archives perform an essential function as keepers of the records of evidence of human activities and experience. They directly encourage the creation of knowledge, the affirmation of the histories and identities of individuals and communities, and the transparency and accountability of government and other entities of power. Archives are not dusty enclaves of archaic knowledge for the privileged; they are living repositories of information which should reflect our societies, our decisions, and our lived experience. To celebrate archives is to celebrate a record of human progress, and to celebrate our collective ability to scrutinize and call out disparities and injustices embedded in that progress.
The theme of this year’s International Archives Week is Empowering Knowledge Societies. The concept of a “knowledge society” emerged from work first attributed to the management theorist Peter Drucker in the 1960s, and by the 1990s was being defined and contrasted against the idea of an “information society” as the proliferation of technologies like the internet and World Wide Web increased the production and spread of data. A crucial difference is that an information society is one which simply creates and disseminates raw data, often relying on technological innovation; a knowledge society is one which can study and evaluate that data in context to create knowledge which informs action.
Beyond our validation and promotion of these principles, archives and libraries must design our workflows and services to actively enable and empower these pillars of knowledge societies. Here at UCSF Archives & Special Collections, we strive to empower knowledge societies by providing open access to our collections, to the greatest extent possible, to all users, regardless of location or affiliation. We practice collection development which is aware and inclusive of diverse cultures and communities in the history of the health sciences, and we work to amplify voices which have historically been silenced or marginalized. We preserve evidence of harmful activities in industries which influence public health to enable researchers, policymakers, and members of the public to thoroughly investigate these sources and determine the best course of action to protect the health of our communities and our environment.
In 2005 UNESCO published a World Report titled Towards Knowledge Societies to lay out the global benefits of building knowledge societies, and the challenges many countries face in reaching that goal. The report emphasizes that “knowledge has not only become one of the keys to economic development; it also contributes to human development and individual empowerment. In this sense, knowledge is a source of power because it creates a capacity for action.”
We continue to work towards empowering knowledge societies through archives, to enable the action that’s urgently needed to address the systemic inequalities, racism, violence and injustice threatening the lives of people of color and the future of our communities worldwide. We are committed to building this capacity in partnership with and in awareness of the histories and experiences of all people, in respect and solidarity.
Image of a grocery store aisle with packaged foods.
The UCSF Archives and Special Collections and Industry Documents Library (IDL) are pleased to announce the launch of the Food Industry Documents Archive, a brand new collection of over 30,000 documents related to the food industry and its impact on public health. These documents, available online for the first time, highlight marketing, research, and policy strategies used by food companies and trade groups, and reveal the communications and connections between industry, academic, and regulatory organizations.
The Food Industry Documents were digitized and made available online through partnerships with other libraries, archives, and related organizations, bringing together historical and contemporary materials to support inquiry into long-standing industry practices.
Topics include the Sugar Research Foundation, the International Sugar Research Foundation, the Sugar Institute, cane sugar and beet sugar production, sugar-sweetened beverages, sugared snack foods advertised to children, the U.S. Public Health Service, and the National Research Council and Food and Nutrition Board.
These documents have been used as the source for a number of publications including:
The Food Industry Documents Archive collection joins the existing Tobacco, Drug, and Chemical Industry Documents collections, allowing users to search across industries and identify common tactics used to sway scientific research, shape public opinion, and influence policies and regulations meant to protect public health.