Knowledge and Power in the Neo-Assyrian Empire may sound like a dry website, but its subject and content is fascinating. In the 7th Century BC King Assurbanipal of Assyria built a library that was to contain all the world's knowledge. Destroyed by the Medes in 612 BC, the library was not rediscovered until the 1840s. 28000 clay tablets written in Akkadian have been found. 1600 can be read online, all translated into English. It's a somewhat overwhelming amount, but there's a lovely highlights section, which even includes pictures of the pillow-shaped writing tablets. For a thorough overview, you can listen to the In Our Time episode about the Library of Nineveh. The most famous text to have been found in Nineveh is undoubtedly the Epic of Gilgamesh. The story of its decipherment and the controversies that ensued, is interesting in its own right.
Open Library has a new collaborative open source website that aims to catalog every book ever published. About the project. The vision is one Wiki page for every edition of every work with description details.
A letter by Rene Descartes, stolen in 1840s, recovered in 2010 by online detective work. The letter was stolen by Guglielmo Libri, inspector general of the libraries of France, who stole thousands of valuable documents and fled to England in 1848. Since 1902 it's been in the collection of Haverford College, its contents unknown to scholars, and nobody there realized that it was an unknown letter. But because they had catalogued it and recently put their catalogue on line, Dutch philosopher Erik-Jan Bos found it "during a late-night session browsing the Internet". (A Haverford undergraduate thirty years ago had translated it and written a paper on it, in which he recognized that the letter was unknown -- but nobody followed up and the letter had sat in the library since then until it was listed online.) The letter includes some last-minute edits to the Meditations, and some thoughts on God as causa sui. Haverford, whose president was a philosophy major, is returning the letter to the Institut de France.
New York Public Library is crowdsourcing the rectification of maps in their digital gallery. Help match rare maps of NYC to more precise current maps, browse rectified maps, or lend a hand rectifying maps of Haiti to help relief efforts.
In 2000, the Library of Congress celebrated its 200th birthday by inviting representatives and members of the public from each of the 50 American states to nominate folk traditions, local customs, and special places to a "century's-end time capsule" called the Local Legacies Project. A nice little introductory catalog to points of local pride, like Fountain Green, Utah's Lamb Day, Oakland, CA's Black Cowboy Parade, Kentucky's Bourbon tradition, and Binghamton, NY's Spiedie Fest, and plenty more. [more inside]
Timelines: Sources from History is a decade-by-decade visual index to the holdings of the British Library from the 1210s to the present.
Visitors to the Morgan Library in New York will have a rare opportunity to view one of the great masterworks of medieval illumination, the Hours of Catherine of Cleves. But if you don't have a chance to visit, all 157 miniatures have been digitized.
Rock band reunions normally involve, at minimum, a little live music. But as The Velvet Underground are not your typical rock band, maybe none of us should have been surprised that the reunion of The Velvets at LIVE from the NYPL on Tuesday December 8th had none.
Marin County Oral History "From 1974 to 1984, Carla Ehat, with partner Anne Kent, and later Genevieve Martinelli, traveled from one end of Marin County [California] to the other, interviewing a broad spectrum of Marin's long-time residents, ranging from ranchers to politicians and including descendents of early pioneer families." Each link on the list includes a photo, bio, full text of the interview, and, the best part, short audio excerpts from the interviews. Many of the folks interviewed were born in the 1880s or 1890s.
When the Jessamine* County Public Library acquired a copy of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, two library workers conspired to keep it out of the patrons' hands, checking it out for an entire year. After an eleven-year-old girl put a hold on the book, they removed the hold; upon discovering this, the library director fired them. [more inside]
Book of the Month is a feature that the University of Glasgow Library has been running for over a decade now. The format is simple, a single book is selected from their collections, written up and accompanied by pictures, maps and photographs scanned from the books. With over a 100 books to select from, it's hard to know where to start, but anywhere is good because they're all lovely. Still, here are a few, Charles Darwin's The Expression of the emotions in man and animals, a beautiful 15th century illuminated copy of Livy's Roman history, Treatises on Engines and Weapons, Valentines and Dabbities, The Birds of Australia, Facts and Observations on the Sanitary State of Glasgow, Ibn Jazla's The arrangement of bodies for treatment and finally, The Curious Case of Mary Toft, MetaFilter superstar.
Biblioburro is a library that schoolteacher Luis Soriano Bohorquez of La Gloria, a small town in northern Colombia, carries around on his donkeys Alfa and Beto. Another video of Biblioburro by Al Jazeera English. Here's some further footage in Spanish. [Biblioburro previously]
"I wanted that kid to lose sleep that night," a grinning Xinos says Wednesday, as he invites me for a nearly two-hour interview in his Mercedes-Benz in the gated Oak Brook community where he lives. "This is the real world and the lesson, you folks who brought your kids here, is if you want something, pay for it." [more inside]
1969: The Year of Gay Liberation is an online exhibit of the New York Public Library focusing on the radical gay rights movements of the late sixties and early seventies, focusing on the organizations The Mattachine Society of New York, Daughters of Bilitis, Gay News, Gay Liberation Front, Radicalesbians, Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries and the Gay Activists Alliance, and the events of the Stonewall Riot and Christopher Street Liberation Day. This is but one part of the NYPL's fine LGBT collection, which includes, among other things, resources for teens, AIDS/HIV collections, and digital collections on ACT UP, Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen, Bessie Bonehill, Gertrude Stein, Gran Fury, Julian Eltinge, Richard Wandel and Walt Whitman.
Biohistorical research • Wax engraving • The Thinker after the bomb • Alfred Stieglitz's palladium photographs • Tibetan bronzes with interior contents • The examination and treatment of a pair of boots from the Aleutian Islands — A small sample of the articles available from the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation (JAIC).
As part of what Mayor Michael Nutter has dubbed the "Plan C" budget, the Free Library of Philadelphia (the Pennsylvania city's public library system), chartered in 1891, will close all its branches and cease all services October 2, 2009, unless measures to raise sales tax and delay some pension payments are approved by the State Legislature in Harrisburg. The closing could be a huge blow for a city whose most famous citizen, Benjamin Franklin, founded The Library Company of Philadelphia, the United States' first successful lending library, there in 1731. [more inside]
"When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books," said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus. Instead of a library, the academy is spending nearly $500,000 to create a learning center. Where the reference desk was, they are building a $50,000 coffee shop that will include a $12,000 cappuccino machine.
"Then there are the classification errors, which taken together can make for a kind of absurdist poetry. H.L. Mencken's The American Language is classified as Family & Relationships. A French edition of Hamlet and a Japanese edition of Madame Bovary are both classified as Antiques and Collectibles (a 1930 English edition of Flaubert's novel is classified under Physicians, which I suppose makes a bit more sense.) An edition of Moby Dick is labeled Computers; The Cat Lover's Book of Fascinating Facts falls under Technology & Engineering. And a catalog of copyright entries from the Library of Congress is listed under Drama (for a moment I wondered if maybe that one was just Google's little joke)." —Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg on Google's little metadata problem.
Wow. I was going to say something witty and clever, and I got nothin, so: "The new Web-based Sony Library Finder tool can be used to find e-books in the local library that can be checked out, downloaded onto a desktop computer and then loaded onto a Sony Reader device -- all without charge." [Note - Probably USian] [more inside]
Miss Information. The desperate life of a tormented library clerk.
"If you told me we would be going through a book challenge of this nature, I'd think, 'Never in a million years.' " [more inside]
We Chose the Moon: The JFK Library and Museum has just launched this interactive web experience using archival audio, video, photos, and recorded transmissions to re-create, in real time, the July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
British Printed Images to 1700 is a fully searchable (if somewhat buggy at this early stage of release) online library of over 10,000 printed images from early modern Britain. As a taster, here is the naughty Cully Flaug'd [NSFW] of the title.
The Rangeview Library District in Adams County, Colorado, has become the first library system in the US to drop the Dewey Decimial System in favor an in-house, word-based cataloging system. Termed "WordThink", the replacement is based on BISAC, "a retail-based standard for organizing materials[, s]imilar to what you might see in a bookstore." Library Journal's treatment of the switch.
Travel Posters — a Flickr set from the Boston Public Library. "Combining superb illustration and hand-drawn typography, they produced dazzling images in rich vibrant colors rendered through the magic of stone lithography." (via)
"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved" .... and mad enough to play fantasy baseball. In the new book Kerouac at Bat: Fantasy Sports and the King of the Beats, a NY Public Library archivist considers documents revealing the author's detailed obsession with the imaginary exploits of players like Pictorial Review Jackson and teams like the "Pontiacs, Nashes, and cellar-dwelling LaSalles" in his finely grained, fictional Summer League.
In June of 2004, fifty-eight friends and acquaintances joined in a collaborative labor project that lasted for eight days. They were instrumental in organizing the Prelinger Library in San Francisco, CA. One month from today will be the little library's fifth anniversary celebration. The library project/ public art project/ art installation/ archive/ part information center is an appropriation-friendly collection of books, periodicals, zines, and print ephemera. The library isn't organized by the Dewy Decimal system, but sorted by Megan Prelinger into four constant threads: landscape and geography; media and representation; historical consciousness; and political narratives from beyond the mainstream. The library is the less-known work of Rick Prelinger, and his wife, Megan. Rick is most commonly known for his video collection, which is the primary source of ephemera films on archive.org. (All things Prelinger previously)
Readernaut. Share your reading experience by writing notes, tracking progress, and engaging in meaningful discussions with friends.
The World Digital Library is set to open on the 21st of April, but appears to be operating as of now. Coral Cache
After two years of work of collecting, scanning, and tagging, the Government Comics Collection at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln library has gone live. This digital collection features "comic books affiliated with state and federal U.S. government agencies, as well as the UN and the EU (and a couple from Canada and one from Ghana)" and includes comics and art by Will Eisner, Scott Adams, Hank Ketcham ("Dennis the Menace Takes a Poke at Poison"), and more. [more inside]
William Gass's personal library. The photos accompany this article by Gass about his love of books -- specifically about collecting them over his life and "living in a library." [more inside]
In the early 1980s, Roni Horn travelled to Iceland and lived alone for a few months in the (supposedly haunted) lighthouse at Dyrhólaey. While there, she made rocky, earthy drawings. They formed the first volume of a currently incomplete, abstract encyclopedia of the country [flash navigation] which has now progressed to include beautiful photographs of hot pools, glaciers, lava and rivers. A river's surface has appeared in different guises within a university. She has even made a library of water in a little Icelandic town. However, those currently in or near London can visit an exhibition in Tate Modern. [more inside]
Orton and Halliwell first came to the public attention not as writers but through an elaborate and extended prank played out at their local library, altering book covers and adding new blurbs to dust jackets. Incensed at the poor choice of books at Essex Road, their local library, they began stealing books. These were smuggled out, dust jackets altered, new blurbs written on inside flaps and then surreptitiously returned. [more inside]
Making use of the space left between short shelves and high ceilings, Pentagram worked with some artists to make some fantastic murals in New York City elementary school libraries.
What the Hashtag?! is a Twitter wiki (a twiki?) that explains most of those inscrutable acronyms and helps users find the sweetest tweets on any given topic. If you set up the TwitterBot, you can investigate hashtags on the fly. For other topics, though, you may wish to tweet your local librarian.
It's almost as good as being at John Ashbery's home (bio) and there's more, including a preliminary inventory of his library* (search for "inventories" or scroll down). Ashbery's poetry is still very much invested in the reader's pleasure—more so than many supposedly "approachable" poets. You can hear him read his poems (more), watch him (here's -transcript- a brief taste and a half-hour video) or read a few of his poems. [more inside]
"It would be naïve to identify the Internet with the Enlightenment. It has the potential to diffuse knowledge beyond anything imagined by Jefferson; but while it was being constructed, link by hyperlink, commercial interests did not sit idly on the sidelines. They want to control the game, to take it over, to own it. They compete among themselves, of course, but so ferociously that they kill each other off. Their struggle for survival is leading toward an oligopoly; and whoever may win, the victory could mean a defeat for the public good. ...We could have created a National Digital Library—the twenty-first-century equivalent of the Library of Alexandria. It is too late now. Not only have we failed to realize that possibility, but, even worse, we are allowing a question of public policy—the control of access to information—to be determined by private lawsuit."—Robert Darnton on what the proposed Google Book Settlement could mean for the pursuit of knowledge—Google and the Future of Books
Inauguration 2009 Sermons and Orations Project The Library of Congress invites you to submit digital audio or video recordings of speeches made between January 16 and january 25, 2009 on the occasion of Barack Obama's inauguration. The speeches will be archived in a collection for future scholarship, much like the Day of Infamyand other collections capturing signifcant American moments.
Videos from the NYPL: watch curators and librarians "share their passion for the treasures of our remarkable collections." Take a tour through the extensive photos and prints collection, explore the archives of the 1939 New York World's Fair, do some menu and cookbook research with Lidia Bastianich, see original manuscripts from the Jack Kerouac Archive, and much more. "Travel the Spuyten Duyvil Creek in 1777, hear music recorded 100 years ago on wax cylinders, marvel at rare 1920s Japanese comics and other pop ephemera..." This is just one part of the extensive digital offerings made available by the library (disclaimer: some resources require an NYPL card). You can also subscribe to the video series via iTunes (link will open iTunes).
What happens when a NYC Library Closes. Sad story of the NYC Donnell Library that closed to make room for a luxury hotel. The blog post is written by one of the workers who was rushing to scan information for the Internet Archive. He took photos on the last day. Coral Cache of the images via boingboing [more inside]
Milton turns 400 today. The Morgan Library celebrates by exhibiting the last surviving pages of Paradise Lost manuscript. Just you wait for the movie! [more inside]
It's been a busy week for presidential libraries. The Nixon Library released 200 hours of tape (excerpts) and 90,000 pages of documents (excerpts) that detail his obsessive attempts to destroy his political enemies. The LBJ library released MP3s of dozens of phone calls, including one where he accuses Nixon of treason for stalling Vietnamese peace talks in advance of the 1968 election. Finally, the Reagan Library released 750,000 pages of documents (NYT, reg. req.) to researchers. [more inside]
First libraries started loaning records, then toys, then films and games - now they're loaning out people. The Living Library Project allows members to hear people's stories not on the page, but in person.
In economic hard times, public libraries generally get a lot busier. With that in mind, here's a handy list of the top 20 things librarians in public libraries wish patrons knew or did (original article here).