Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Misplaced Trust

From “Trust Online: Young Adults’ Evaluation of Web Content”:
Our findings suggest that students rely greatly on search engine brands to guide them to what they then perceive as credible material simply due to the fact that the destination page rose to the top of the results listings of their preferred search engine.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

From Cultural Institution to Pop-Culture Wave

once you've got Old Spicy on your side and you can sell a couple of YouTube parodies [e.g.] in a couple of months, you're standing on the edge of your pop-culture moment. Librarians: prepare.
Here is an idea from Thomas Frey:
I’ve suggested libraries install “time capsule rooms” as a way to help archive their communities. The more a library can do to establish itself as an archive of everything local, the better it will be at touching the hearts and minds of everyone it serves.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Epistemology, Experience, and the Library

Presentations from the 2010 Annual RLG Partnership Symposium are available from OCLC’s site.

Adrian Johns’s talk, “As our Readers Go Digital,” touches on the three Ps of reading—places, practices, and publics. With the rise of digitally displaced reading practices, libraries are under pressure to justify their spaces. But we still need well conceived and calm places that preserve opportunities for discovery, which requires a variety of resources (digital and analog), the application of scholarly methods, and the possibility of serendipity. Places shape practices and publics.

Richard Luce’s presentation, “Change in Emphasis: Recasting Resource Investments and the Rise of Special Collections,” focuses on the value of special collections. Universities emerged out of libraries, now the challenge is reintegrate universities into libraries. Luce stresses the need to focus on what is unique, which he claims is only about 5% of current library activities (which are funded at about that rate). Libraries can build interactive experiences around special collections—“living archives”—that teach what it means to be a scholar.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP) has a new website and a new blog.

Below are a couple photographs from the 2008 conference in Oxford. (In the first, at the Bodleian Library, I’m the one with the backpack; in the second, at Magdalen College, I’m the one waving his hand):

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Library as (Dance) Place

I spend a lot (most) of my time in libraries, but I’ve never seen this before:

NARA's Oldest Film

Via AUTOS, “the oldest film in the National Archives motion picture holdings … filmed by Thomas Edison on a kinetoscope” (1894):

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Materiality and Meaning

Rare Book School Director Michael Suarez is quoted in “The Career Risks of Scrutinizing the Physical Side of Books” (The Chronicle): 
"We sometimes wrongly believe that literacy means knowing how to read and interpret these linguistic codes in the books … Meaning resides in the materiality of books as well."
In his opening address at Rare Book School a few weeks ago, Suarez said: “There is no meaning without materiality.”

More from the above article:
"What book history does, particularly for students, is make them aware of how suspicious and changeable text can be, and that's really good," [Ann Hawkins] says. That applies to texts being produced today as much as it does to anything from the early modern period. So having bibliographic skills becomes part of students' arsenal for life. "I hope it helps them think more critically about all the texts that surround them and who's producing those texts and the agendas of those texts."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Modes of Discovery

From The Chronicle’s interview with Nicholas Carr:
We know that as human beings we love new information. … Because there's so much information at our fingertips, we can get stuck just constantly uncovering new relevant information and never stopping and actually reading and thinking deeply about any one piece of information.
Related, from the Christian Science Monitor, “Should your child be learning the art of slow reading?”:
Like the slow-eating movement, the slow-reading movement is focused on enhancing the elements of pleasure and discovery. Among other techniques, Newkirk favors a return to practices like reading aloud and memorization to help students "taste" – rather than fly by – the words that they read.
Also related, from The Times, “The Medium Is the Medium”:
The Internet-versus-books debate is conducted on the supposition that the medium is the message. But sometimes the medium is just the medium. … These different cultures foster different types of learning. … The Internet helps you become well informed … But the literary world is still better at helping you become cultivated, mastering significant things of lasting import.
Also relevant: Edward Ayers makes “The Case for Digital Scholarship” (The Chronicle) and Bob Stein envisions “Book 2.0” (NPR).

Preserving Simulacra

Unlike the Beowulf manuscript, which is an artifact that can accommodate scientific and forensic exploration of aspects of its materiality that have lain dormant for centuries, digital objects are always absolute and finite as representations in the formal sense. As Luciana Duranti has stated, “In the digital realm, we can only persevere our ability to reconstruct or reproduce a document, not the document itself.” Digital preservation, in other words, must model the event conditions that permit future access to a digital work; since there are no artifacts as such in the digital world, only simulations and simulacra, that which is not formally captured and articulated within the preservation model will not be available for subsequent inspection and interpretation.
From David Levy’s Scrolling Forward (Arcade Publishing, 2001):
a digital document, because its perceptible form is always being manufactured just-in-time, on the spot, can’t ever sever its relationship to a set of manufacturing technologies. It requires an elaborate set of technological conditions—hardware and software—in order to maintain a visible and useful presence (152, emphasis in original).
Without such things as “the self-authenticating nature of print” and Long Now Locations in the digital realm, we can only archive authentic simulacra.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


In “How Cognitive Surplus Will Change the World” (TED), Clay Shirky discusses what happens when ancient human motivations—curiosity, creativity, civility—meet modern digital technologies. For a critique, see “Clay Shirky's Optimism” (The Chronicle). For a complication, see “Adrian Johns's ‘Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars From Gutenberg to Gates’” (Washington Post).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Collection as Memory

Modern life, if we can still call it that, occurs as a sequence of gleeful apocalypses. One world constantly gives way to another. …

Libraries … are our collective bookshelves, the memory theater for a community.