Problematic Global Metrics

Jim Church


An added benefit of doing library instruction is you learn things from students and faculty. This knowledge informs both collection development and research consultations. It is especially interesting when a new faculty member arrives and issues a revised syllabus for a popular course. One such class at UC Berkeley is in the Global Poverty and Practice (GPP) minor, founded by Professor Ananya Roy ten years ago. Her book, Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development, makes the uncomfortable point that people and institutions profit from poverty: it is a lucrative business. But there are also those who attempt to create and influence “poverty knowledge.” The 1998 subtitle of the World Bank’s flagship publication, the World Development Report, was “Knowledge for Development.” In 2017 the World Bank wrote a feature news article (about itself) as a “knowledge institution.” There are articles that trace the history of the World Bank’s vision of itself as a “knowledge bank,” a term I find both amusing (do they charge “interest”?) and problematic. Yet a library is also a knowledge institution, and what we purchase or recommend influences the thinking and research of students and scholars.

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