Monday, September 20, 2010

A Truly “Bookless” Library


From “A Truly Bookless Library” (Inside Higher Ed):
More interesting than the fact that San Antonio’s newest library has no printed books in it is the fact that more and more libraries are devoting less space to printed books, and are thus reimagining the physical space of the library … Whether the building houses half of its former print collection or none of it, the evolution of the library as a physical hub is something nearly every library is dealing with.

As a shared space for discovery, socializing, and studying, the library is still very much relevant and in demand, says Krisellen Maloney, dean of libraries at San Antonio.
I would argue that discovery (and much more) is enhanced by the presence of physical collections.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Medium Rare



From an interview with Andrew Pettegree, author of The Book in the Renaissance (Yale, 2010) (The Boston Globe):
PETTIGREE: The most astonishing single fact that’s emerged from the work we’ve done: We’ve documented I think now about 350,000 editions published throughout Europe before 1600. Of those, around 40 percent of those items survive in only one copy.

Many of the books that are best known are actually not at all rare. Because they were collected near the time, they survived in a great number of copies. The famous Nuremberg Chronicle, one of the great 15th-century books — I think something like 500 copies of that survive.

But these little books, they weren’t collectible. They were pragmatic announcements by the town council that bread prices would go up, or they were indulgence certificates, or they were almanacs for the following year, which would lose currency, or they were little schoolbooks which the school kid would be only too pleased to throw away when they got out of the class.
Image: Whitman College’s copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Being Valuable

The Association of College and Research Libraries a released a report today titled The Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report.

From the executive summary:
Community college, college, and university librarians no longer can rely on their stakeholders’ belief in their importance. Rather, they must demonstrate their value.
Six pages of 22 selected recommendations follow.

From the conclusion:
When academic librarians learn about their impact on users, they increase their value by proactively delivering improved services and resources—to students completing their academic work; to faculty preparing publications and proposals; to administrators needing evidence to make decisions.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Cost of Place



Last weekend I was at the Library History Seminar, where I presented a paper on the importance of the library as place. Place, if it includes keeping library materials on shelves for easy access, is costly.

Paul Courant recently spoke at OCLC about economic perspectives on academic libraries. Near the end of his talk, he gave estimates for the annual costs of keeping books: on a shelf, $4.26; in high-density storage, $86; in a digital repository, $.15.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What’s the Big Idea?

The Chronicle recently published a serious of opinion pieces on what will be “the defining idea of the coming decade.” Some excerpts:
If you are only a reflector of information, are you really there? (“The End of Human Specialness”)

Over the next decade, the ability to search for information and to analyze it will mature dramatically … An enhanced ability to search for and analyze data will facilitate research, communication, and knowledge. (“Dizzied by Data”)

[I]n 2020, will The Chronicle of Higher Education ask a handful of intellectuals to come up with the big idea of the 2020s, or instead aggregate the answers from thousands of readers? (“The Maddening Crowd”)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Last Book

I recently saw The Book of Eli, a post-apocalyptic story of a man going west (to Alcatraz, to be precise) with the last Bible. The final plot twist is that the last copy of the Book is in Braille and then, after that copy is lost, it exists only in the man’s memory. It’s sort of a reverse history of transmission, from printed to oral/aural text.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Library As Purchaser

From "Open Access and the Library's Missing Mission" (Inside Higher Ed):
Right now a huge percentage of our library budgets go to renting temporary access to walled gardens planted by publishers who decide what grows there.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Enduring Ideal of the Republic of Letters

From Robert Darnton’s review of Lewis Hyde’s Common as Air (The New York Times):
If we reassessed our history, [Hyde] teaches, we would reassert our citizenship in a Republic of Letters that was crucial to the creation of the American Republic—and that is more important than ever in the age of the Internet.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Reading Revolutions

10 Reading Revolutions Before E-Books” (The Atlantic) discusses more than ten reading revolutions: intensive and extensive reading; the print revolution; the emergence of the alphabet; the coming of the codex; the shift from papyrus to parchment and then to paper; the industrial revolution; the development of electronic communication and computing; intensive and extensive media; and vertical and horizontal writing and reading.