Monday, August 30, 2010

A Glimpse of the Future

This last weekend I caught a glimpse of the future …

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Collecting Context

Sometime libraries get confused about what they are for (e.g., lending tools?). Is the Library of Congress’s Twitter archive an example of this? See this article, which sets the Twitter acquisition in the context of LC’s collections of “historic missives in various formats that were considered in their day to be the fastest form of communication.”

Friday, August 27, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

An Atlas of Change

Speaking of atlases, the Image Permanence Institute has created an atlas of printing techniques that provides “sophisticated print identification and characteristic exploration tools.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Right to Archivism

I recently read Cloud Atlas, a novel that consists of six stories connected through transmission: a character in one story reads or watches the previous story. As an archivist reading this while on my way to an archival conference, I was immediately struck by how this book is very much like an archival collection: it includes a journal, correspondence, a literary manuscript, a movie treatment, an oral history, and an oral tradition. Imagine my surprise when, as I approached the middle of the book (before the apocalypse), I came across an archivist conducting an interview with someone who had claimed her “right to “archivism” (Rule 54.iii).

In a BBC interview, the author David Mitchell said that he moved from structure to world to character.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Caught in media(s) res

To Mr. [Dan] Cohen, the most pressing intellectual issue in the next decade is this tension between the insular, specialized world of expert scholarship and the open and free-wheeling exchange of information on the Web. “And academia,” he said, “is caught in the middle.”

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Other Washington

The other day I toured the reading rooms, vaults, and conservation lab at the Folger Shakespeare Library. I picked up a copy of the summer issue of their magazine, which has an interesting extract from Hamlet’s Blackberry about writing tables (table books). (On the same day I visited the Library of Congress across the street. I always enjoy browsing Jefferson’s (reconstructed) library.)

I’ve been in D.C. for the SAA conference, which has been really good. (Although we’re in one of those complex hotels that seems like Borges’s Library of Babel—but without the books. Fortunately, guides have been stationed throughout.)

Before last night’s reception, at the National Museum of American History, I took the picture below of the Smithsonian Institute Castle. The man memorialized by the statue is Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the Smithsonian. This is ironic, because he hated to see the money from the Smithson bequest squandered on what he called a “norman cenotaph.”

Monday, August 9, 2010

Shifting Senses of Place

Such changes [i.e., libraries with fewer printed books] are coming first in fields related to science and technology because academics in those disciplines favor journals as the scholarly literature of significance, Mr. Lowry said. And unlike books, most journals are available online and accessed online by their users.

Even as scholars in the humanities and social sciences become more accustomed to doing their work online, Ms. Kenney and her colleagues say the digital world is not yet ready for all types of research. "Our special collections will continue to grow and develop," she said, though online collections are "definitely the future for many disciplines."
For an interesting case of the library as a place of inspiration, see “University Library, or Fortress From a Sci-Fi Dream World?” (The Chronicle). Similarly, the Radcliffe Camera may have been an inspiration for J. R. R. Tolkien.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

it survived beyond/ what could be known at the time

From the announcement of the appointment of W.S. Merwin as the Library of Congress’s Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2010-2011:
"William Merwin’s poems are often profound and, at the same time, accessible to a vast audience," Billington said. "He leads us upstream from the flow of everyday things in life to half-hidden headwaters of wisdom about life itself. In his poem ‘Heartland,’ Merwin seems to suggest that a land of the heart within us might help map the heartland beyond—and that this ‘map’ might be rediscovered in something like a library, where ‘it survived beyond/ what could be known at the time/ in its archaic/ untaught language/ that brings the bees to the rosemary.’"

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Welcome to the Shared Digital Future Library

From “Building ‘Above-Campus’ Library Services” (EDUCAUSE Review):
Libraries have an unprecedented opportunity to bring together preservation and access in a way that can change the scale at which they work. What our culture has called the "Universal Library" is now more realistic than ever, and the opportunity comes at a critical time for higher education institutions. Through deep collaboration previously only imagined, libraries can now create and maintain a comprehensive digital collection and a well-coordinated and shared print collection. The cost for doing this work can be significantly reduced compared with previous ways of managing collections, allowing libraries to devote increasing amounts of attention to building better services and more dynamic relationships with the teaching and research staff at their institutions. Although the models for multi-institution, above-campus services are still being developed, HathiTrust provides one contemporary example for how that aspiration can be achieved.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Physical Library as Digital Laboratory

From “The Landscape of Digital Humanities” (Digital Humanities Quarterly): 
The link between digital humanities and libraries is robust, but not static, and the expansion of the digital humanities and changing roles for libraries may lead to a new set of dynamics and a renewed sense of library as laboratory as well as a physical and digital repository. The idea of the library as a space for collaborative scholarship is strengthened through the introduction of more study spaces for (primarily) students, project spaces for digital humanities and technical infrastructure such as large, interactive screens. Perhaps libraries have always been the analogue to laboratories, in that they are sites for knowledge production, a repository or archive, and a place of exchange. In this sense, the contemporary moment re-sensitizes the traditional function of the library in order to extend its dynamic qualities, rather than those that may be strictly archival.
Regarding the repository as place or function, see “Accessioning the Digital Humanities: Report from the 1st Archival Education and Research Institute” (Digital Humanities Quarterly): 
As the digital humanities community continues growing in the direction of data collection and curation for born-digital (and not only paper-to-digital, or "digitized") materials, the field must begin to plan for regular surveys and monitoring of these valuable collections.

Monday, August 2, 2010

More on Local Missions

Like libraries, “museums need to understand their own strengths. What is unique about your collections, institutional culture, staff, and relationship to other institutions and the local community?” (From “Getting Real at the Natural-History Museum, Part 2” [The Chronicle].)

The Network is the Focus of Attention

On Friday I heard Lorcan Dempsey talk about discovery and disclosure in a networked environment. He discussed a number of changes—discovery beginning at the network level and attention, workflow, and consumer switches—and how these challenge libraries, which have developed rather complex systems for pre- or extra-network behaviors. Dempsey encourages libraries to consider what business they are in: infrastructure, product innovation, or customer relationship management. He pointed to the repurposing of library buildings as an example of libraries shifting from a focus on infrastructure to one on customer relationship management. (A recent article in College & Research Libraries provides evidence of this, supporting the perception that library buildings are becoming glorified study halls.)

But the network is not the exclusive concern of libraries. Libraries remain local institutions with physical stuff, spaces, and services; not everything is or is deliverable online and not everything can or should be externalized. A particular library can still have a vital physical presence as an archive, place, and educator.