Are paper books becoming obsolete in the digital age, or poised to lead a new cultural renaissance? [more inside]
“I was there in Moscow for a year and a half, without anything, we thought we were going there for only a few days. I didn’t even have a coat with me. But the Rebbe had a policy: You don’t come back until you come back with the books.”
Hearing complaints that the Fairfax County Public Library was throwing away tons of books, County Supervisor Linda Q. Smyth (D-Providence) decided to peer into a Dumpster. Twice, she found stacks and stacks of high-quality books, bought by the taxpayers, piled in the trash. The second time, she filled a box. The discarded books have opened a broader discussion about the library’s long-term plan, which would eliminate the requirement for fully trained librarians, reduce branch staff and cut the amount of time children’s librarians spend helping families inside their libraries. [more inside]
The new central library of Birmingham (England), the largest public building of its type in Europe, is officially opened tomorrow by Malala Yousafzai. Reviews, pre-opening, have been largely positive [Independent] [Telegraph] [Guardian] [Residents] [Financial Times]. [more inside]
For you to borrow, some libraries have to go begging: NPR story about public library funding, featuring MeFi's own jessamyn. (previously)
MetaFilter's own Jessamyn West (jessamyn) interviewed in today's NPR feature, For Disaster Preparedness: Pack A Library Card?
Burma's Lucky Bibliophile
When the Ministry of Information’s director general visited Ye Htet Oo’s library in 2010, it could have been disastrous. Ye Htet Oo, then a recent college graduate, was running his new library in downtown Rangoon on the sly, without approval from the former military regime, and was told he could face three months in jail for every book he lent without permission from the censorship board. Unable to get a library license from the government, which saw libraries as a way to spread subversive ideas, he fronted his operation as a bookshop but kept a collection of unapproved library books hidden in a back room. Then one day, unknown to the young bibliophile, the ministry’s director general—who has since become the deputy minister of information and President Thein Sein’s spokesman—entered the “bookshop” and walked straight into the secret room.[more inside]
The Memory of the Netherlands is an image library making available the online collections of museums, archives and libraries. The library provides access to images from the collections of more than one hundred institutions and includes photographs, sculptures, paintings, bronzes, pottery, modern art, drawings, stamps, posters and newspaper clippings. In addition there are also video and sound recordings to see and listen to. The Memory of the Netherlands offers an historic overview of images from exceptional collections, organized by subject to provide easy accessSearch 833928 objects from 133 collections from 100 institutions.
The Seattle Public Library has set a new record for the longest domino chain... made of books (full video)
For starters, he’s preparing for a career in librarianship, an industry largely dominated by white women. As an African-American male, Alston is what some would consider a double minority. Many of his friends and relatives wonder about his future after having spent many years earning a master’s and now a Ph.D. in library science. “What will you be doing all day?” “What’s the future viability of libraries?" Someone even teased him once, “That’s no kind of profession for a man.”
Toute la mémoire du monde (1956: 21 minutes) is a remarkably lovely documentary short by Alain Resnais about the Bibliothèque nationale de France in the age of print. Via The Funambulist. [more inside]
Do you like libraries? Do you like comics? Then Library Cartoons, Comics and Drawings is relevant to your interests. Need more? There's always Libraries in Pop Culture. Not satisfied yet? Unshelved is the internet's longest running librarian comic, previously featured for its pimped out bookcarts contest, but also worth visiting for the regular Friday bookclub.
The folks at Mellow Pages, a community-run library/salon in Brooklyn (recently profiled in the NYT), have put together a how-to guide for building a similar kind of space in your neighborhood: short version here, long version (and Google Doc) here.
"On a beautiful sunny day last week, the Turning Over a New Leaf project team decided to take a day off from the office to visit a spectacular chained library in the small town of Zutphen (located in the eastern part of the Netherlands). Built in 1564 as part of the church of St Walburga, it is one of only five chained libraries in the world that survive ‘intact’—that is, complete with the original books, chains, rods, and furniture."
Guantánamo prison library for detainees. [tumblr] New York Times reporter Charlie Savage set up a Tumblr dedicated to cataloging some of the books available in the Guantánamo prison library for detainees.
Today at noon eastern time, the Digital Public Library of America launched its beta website... The Digital Public Library of America, having worked since 2010 to try and find ways to organize and group an array of disparate digital resources, finally launches it's beta today. While it's come under some criticism from parts of the library community, the DPLA is moving forward by providing both access to resources and an API upon which existing libraries can build their own tools. Previously on the blue.
When it first surfaced in 2005, it was hailed as 'the most important Galileo find in more than a century'. Then, in June 2012, news broke on the Ex Libris mailing list that the unique 'proof copy' of Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius containing his original drawings of the Moon was in fact a highly sophisticated forgery. The full story is still unclear, but the finger of suspicion points at Marino Massimo de Caro, who in his brief reign as director of the Girolamini Library in Naples removed thousands of rare books in what has been described as a 'premeditated, organised and brutal' sacking of the library. Meanwhile, experts are still marvelling at the quality of the forgery: "We’ve seen missing pages replaced in facsimile, but no one dreamed that an entire book could be forged, something that is now more easily possible because of modern technology."
The Cleveland Memory Project is an archive of photos, postcards, videos, recordings, clippings, ebooks, personal papers, maps and other historical "goodies" about the city. "It's a collaborative endeavor of many local historical societies, public libraries and government agencies who have mounted their own local history." On Flickr. [more inside]
"We can't give everything away under the public purse. Books are part of the entertainment industry. Literature has been something elite, but it is not any more. This is not the Roman empire, where we give away free bread and circuses to the masses."UK children's author Terry Deary (Horrible Histories series) on Britain's public libraries. Neil Gaiman and others respond.
In theory: the unread and the unreadable - "We measure our lives with unread books – and 'difficult' works can induce the most guilt. How should we view this challenge?"
Dale Askey is a librarian. He blogs. In August 2010, Dale was a tenured associate professor at Kansas State University, where librarians are granted faculty status. There, Dale blogged about the quality, and prices, of publications from Edwin Mellen Press. Edwin Mellen Press has served McMaster University (Dale's current employer) and himself with a three million dollar lawsuit, alleging libel and claiming aggravated and exemplary damages. [more inside]
Saving the ancient manuscripts of Mali from Islamic extremists.
The Library of Congress posted a Jan 2013 update on its mission to archive public tweets, announced back in April 2010 (previously). 170 billion tweets so far, adding more than .5 billion per day. Search for a term? Prepare to wait ~24 hours. [more inside]
Trove, an initiative of the National Library of Australia, is a vast online repository of digitised books, images, historic newspapers, maps and more.
"New Englanders learn quickly to dismiss the chowder where tomato ruins its gorgeous broth, where references to New York tarnish its name...However, few know how such distinctions came about in the first place, what processes were involved that resulted in one person's disgust of another's beloved creation, and why, to this day, do we stand by such convictions?" The New England Chowder Compendium, from the McIntosh Cookery Collection at the UMass Amherst library. [more inside]
Ehrich Weisz may not have had much formal education, but he grew up to be Harry Houdini, self-educated stunt performer, escape artist, and owner of "one of the largest libraries in the world on psychic phenomena, Spiritualism, magic, witchcraft, demonology, evil spirits, etc., some of the material going back as far as 1489." Houdini bequeathed much of his collection to the Library of Congress, which received 3,988 volumes from his collection in 1927, including a number of magic books inscribed or annotated by well-known magicians. Archive.org has more of the Harry Houdini Collection online. He also put a great deal of research into his tricks, as seen in his letter to Dr. W. J. McConnell, a physiologist at the U.S. Bureau of Mines, written up after Houdini's watery grave stunt in 1926.
This week in Scotland, it is Book Week. Many note authors are supporting it with free events. And so is the mysterious sculptor who seized the imagination of people worldwide with her books made sculpture. She (one of the few things known about the sculptor) has done a series of five mystery hidden sculptures to help celebrate Book Week. Each of them is related to a Scottish story or author. [more inside]
The author Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a popular MetaFilter topic, was born 177 years ago today (November 30th 1835) in Missouri. The printer, riverboat pilot, game designer, journalist, lecturer, technology investor, gold miner, publisher and patent holder wrote short stories, essays, novels and non-fiction under the pen name Mark Twain. This included The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (recently adapted into a musical), one of the top five challenged books of the 1990s, published in 1884-85 to a mixed reception and with an ending that still causes debate. [more inside]
My 6,128 Favorite Books - "Joe Queenan on how a harmless juvenile pastime turned into a lifelong personality disorder."
No one expected the force of the tempest that hit the New York Public Library in late 2011—not its new president, Anthony Marx, and maybe not even the literary lions up in arms over plans for an ambitious, $300 million renovation. Will the “palace of culture” on Fifth Avenue become a glorified Starbucks, as some fear? Interviewing all sides, Paul Goldberger walks the controversy back to its flash point: the nature of the library’s 21st-century mission and the values at the center of the Norman Foster–designed project. - Paul Goldberger, Firestorm on Fifth Avenue
What really concerns librarians; what do they discuss when they self-organise and decide for themselves? After the inaugural UK event, the second UK Librarycamp, with around 200 attendees, was recently held; reflections by Frank Norman, Carolin Schneider  , Sarah Wolfenden, Amy Faye Finnegan, Shambrarian Knights, Michelle, Jennifer Yellin, Jenni Hughes, Bookshelf Guardian, Amy Cross-Menzies and Simon Barron, and by one of the organisers. [more inside]
"Some remarkable Books, Antiquities, Pictures and Rarities of several kinds, scarce or never seen by any man now living."
Musæum Clausum is a catalog of invented books, pictures and antiquities written by 17th Century Englishman Sir Thomas Browne. It is a fantastical and witty meditation on the ravages of time on literature and other works of man. The Musæum Clausum is perhaps the finest example of the invented, or invisible, library, a genre which seems to have originated with Rabelais. The genre has been of special interest to Beachcombing's Bizarre History Blog (older posts), where he has written about the invisible libraries of writers such as Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, H. P. Lovecraft and invisible libraries in video games. The natural medium for invisible libraries might be pictures, and Musæum Clausum inspired a suite of etchings by Erik Desmazieres.
Want to make historic recipes? You can help transcribe the University of Iowa Libraries age old assortment of handwritten cookbooks, ca. 1600s-1960s, documenting culinary history in America and Europe and how tastes have changed over the years. Copy the text as is, including misspellings and abbreviations. [more inside]
The universe (which others call The Twitter) is composed of every word in the English language; Shakespeare's folios, line-by-line-by-line; the Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, exploded; Constantine XI, in 140 character chunks; Sun Tzu's Art of War, in its entirety; the chapter headings of JG Ballard, in abundance; and definitive discographies of Every. Artist. Ever... All this, I repeat, is true, but one hundred forty characters of inalterable wwwtext cannot correspond to any language, no matter how dialectical or rudimentary it may be. [more inside]
The Hathi Trust, a partnership between 66 universities and 3 higher education consortia, is breathing a little easier now that Judge Harold Baer, Jr. of New York's Southern District has found that the Trust was within its fair use rights to allow Google to scan member library holdings, and then making the resulting files available for the reading impaired, and for use in search indexing and data mining. While this is excellent news for the educational institutions involved, it doesn't completely exonerate Google's role in the scanning project. It's notable that just last week Google abandoned it's own fair use claim in settling a different case involving the same book scanning project. Of the four factors used when considering fair use cases, Judge Baer ruled on the side of the Hathi Trust on all four.
On the day he turned thirty-eight, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne retired from public life to the tower of the Château de Montaigne, there to spend the next ten years composing an assay of his life's experience. That his mind might thrive, he turned the tower into a "Solitarium" and its top floor into a sumptuous library, lining its round walls with some 1,500 books. Even the roof beams were made to bear his thoughts: on them he inscribed 46 quotations, here collected and translated.
"From off the streets of Cleveland" goes the tagline for American Splendor, but in fact, from 1972 to the end of his life, Harvey Pekar lived in nearby Cleveland Heights. Much of that time was spent inside the Cleveland Heights Library.
On October 14, a memorial and statue honoring Harvey Pekar's work will be dedicated inside the library, "Harvey's first love and second home". [more inside]
On October 14, a memorial and statue honoring Harvey Pekar's work will be dedicated inside the library, "Harvey's first love and second home". [more inside]
Tomorrow is the end of Banned Books Week. It's been 30 years. The American Library Association has a list of frequently challenged books. [more inside]
The American Library Association fires the latest response in its tussle with publishers over e-books in public libraries, while in England, a government review of e-books in public libraries is announced.
'At 123,000 square feet, the new Main Library may very well be the largest single floor public library in the nation.'
The McAllen, TX Public Library won a 'Best-Of-Category' award in Interior Design for its new layout. It's in an abandoned Wal-Mart. [more inside]
Libraries all over the US and Canada are wrestling with bedbug infestations. In fact, the Travel Channel has named libraries the #1 bedbug infestation spot. Some libraries are closing temporarily due to bedbug problems; others have had to destroy valuable historic books due to serious infestations caused by well-meaning patrons (who then contemplate suing to get their library privileges back). The problem has become so common that some libraries are posting their bedbug management policies on their websites, and several have detailed them to the news media. Rest assured, however, the bedbugs are not a terrorist attack. [more inside]
"Although best-known for its restoration of feature films, UCLA Film & Television Archive has been preserving animated films for more than three decades, with over one hundred titles to its credit. The short subjects, trailers, and promotional films presented here provide a representative sampling of that work. They have been preserved from best-surviving and sole-surviving 35mm nitrate and 16mm prints, showcasing many forms of animation spanning the entire silent film era." The UCLA Preserved Silent Animation project, one of over 80 collections made available through the UCLA Digital Library Program.
Your change, with thanks — Among the refinements of middle-class Victorian shopping was the giving of change not directly from hand to hand but in paper packets. The envelope, known as a ‘change packet,’ measured some 60 mm (2 ½ in) square and was printed with the legend ‘The change, with thanks’, often in a decorative roundel or other device. [more inside]
The beautiful library of the Abbey of St. Gall in Switzerland contains over 2000 manuscripts, including hundreds from the Abbey's glory days of the 9th and 10th centuries. The library is open to the public and to scholars, and the Codices Electronici Sangallenses project is making selected codices - 436 so far - available online.
Award winning campaign saved the Troy, Michigan Library. The library needed to pass a .7% tax increase to stay open. Anti-tax crusaders (*cough* Tea Partiers *cough*) took over the conversation to get it voted down. So, faced with dwindling prospects a group supporting the library worked with an advertising agency to develop a provocative campaign to get the tax increase passed. [more inside]
"Despite the challenges it faces, the Digital Public Library of America has an enthusiastic corps of volunteers and some generous contributors. It seems likely that by this time next year, it will have reached its first milestone and begun operating a metadata exchange of some sort. But what happens after that? Will the library be able to extend the scope of its collection beyond the early years of the last century? Will it be able to offer services that spark the interest of the public? If the DPLA is nothing more than plumbing, the project will have failed to live up to its grand name and its even grander promise."