Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Revelatory Power of Books

At the Northwest Archivists annual meeting last week, I gave a presentation called “The Apocalypse of the Book.” Here is the description submitted to the program committee:
We have all heard about the end of the book. As books migrate en masse into digital repositories or offsite depositories, it is important to remember that new revelations—apocalypses—can be found in old books, which are both records and artifacts. With a focus on teaching and research, this presentation will highlight some of the ends for which archival books can be used.
Here are the slides that accompanied the talk:

At the other Penrose Library (the one I work at is named after a younger cousin), there is “No Room for Books.” According to Inside Higher Ed, the University of Denver plans “to permanently move four-fifths of the Penrose Library’s holdings to an off-campus storage facility.” Rather than housing “legacy collections” on site, the library will maintain a “teaching collection.”

In the article’s comments section, one student writes:
The University of Denver's library has some incredibly beautiful, incredibly old, incredibly useful books--regardless of whether they've been checked out or not. The ambiance of a library is supposed to be stacks and stacks of books that allow students to get lost in subjects outside of their own area of study. No one will be drawn to the library without books. We will study elsewhere. We already have places to "hang out". Leave our books in peace.

Monday, April 18, 2011

About the So-Called Information Age

Robert Darnton’s 5 Myths About the ‘Information Age’” (The Chronicle):

  1. "The book is dead." 
  2. "We have entered the information age."
  3. "All information is now available online."
  4. "Libraries are obsolete." [Another myth is challenged here: “Libraries never were warehouses of books.”]
  5. "The future is digital."

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Rest of the Records

Kenneth Price of the Walt Whitman Archive talks about his discovery of Whitman documents in the national archives:

These types of archival discoveries can be both exciting and enlightening. A few years ago I found a cache of business correspondence in Princeton from the writer Charles Williams, which revealed much about his publishing and literary careers. (I presented a paper and published a chapter on the material.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Between the Past and the Apocalypse

From Behind the Wizard’s Wand: Making the Harry Potter Films” (The Times), a review of “Harry Potter: The Exhibition” (which I saw last November in Seattle)
The Harry Potter films and books are suffused with a reverence for the past. They almost seem to be about the past. And in the exhibition, we feel its weight. ...
Ms. Rowling looks forward and backward simultaneously. The heroic figures are the hybrids, the orphaned, the outcast, the eccentrics, the true inheritors of a great and long tradition. The villains are the pure-blooded absolutists who threaten to overturn it all.
This places the Potter tales right at the center of the 20th-century fantasy tradition that grew out of the work of two British writers around World War II: [C. S.] Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. It also gives the series an almost touching nostalgia for a world about to be destroyed.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Two Questions

First (again): What is a library? See Barbara Fister’s “What Is a Library? An Attempt at Common Sense” (Library Journal).

Second: What has Blondie to do with Gutenberg? See this:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Maintaining the Many Roles of Academic Libraries

The Chronicle reports on a new Ithaka survey, “Ithaka S+R Library Survey 2010: Insights from U.S. Library Directors,” which was previewed at last week’s ACRL conference. 

Key findings of the report include:

  • “Library directors at all types of institutions see supporting teaching and learning as one of their primary missions ...
  • “Library directors believe that it is strategically important that their libraries be seen by users as the principal starting point in the discovery process ...
  • “The librarys role as a buyer of materials remains of primary importance ...
The archive role remains important, too (see pages 12-15).

I was on a panel at ACRL that focused on primary source literacy and included a discussion of using an archives as a learning laboratory. Slides from my part of the presentation are below.