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.
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.
Remembering the pleasures I enjoyed, I renew them, and I laugh at the pains which I have endured and which I no longer feel. Of Giacomo Girolamo Casanova de Seingalt ‘s Histoire de ma vie, Kenneth Rexroth wrote: Purity, simplicity, definition, impact — these qualities of Homer are those of Casanova too. … He has equals but no superiors in the art of direct factual narrative. ... Time and its ruining passage color all the book. His sense of his own imminent death lurks in the dark background of every brilliantly lit lusty and bawdy tableau. After an unusually colorful history, the manuscript has been donated to France's National Library. [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.
Bobbie E. Burnett is suing her employers, the Free Library of Philadelphia, for discrimination. She's been employed there for nearly 20 years, but transitioned to a female gender identity in 2001, at which point she says discrimination set in. "Slurs hurled at Burnett by some staffers include 'freak,' 'man in woman’s clothing' and 'nigger,' according to the suit. On one occasion, when Burnett expressed wishes for a nice weekend to a coworker, the employee responded with, 'Burn in hell,' according to the lawsuit." [more inside]
Banned Books Week, held annually on the last week of September, emphasizes the importance of intellectual freedom and the threat of censorship. [more inside]
Kindle is coming soon to a library near you. Amazon is sending mixed messages about the concept. Librarians are having an online conference to the discuss the issues.
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.
Mapping sound at the British Library. The British Library has organized several of its archival sound collections on Google Maps. The results include Accents and Dialects, wildlife and soundscape recordings from Britain, music from India and Uganda, and a whole mess of noisy frogs. [more inside]
Public Collectors is an eclectic archive of off-line and on-line collections to which anyone can contribute. It is "founded upon the concern that there are many types of cultural artifacts that public libraries, museums and other institutions and archives either do not collect or do not make freely accessible." [more inside]
The MIT faculty unanimously adopted a university-wide Open Access mandate. Open Access got a big boost yesterday because of MIT's move. [more inside]
Cologne City Archive is a six-story building containing 26 kilometers of shelves, 65,000+ documents dating from 922 AD, 104,000 maps, 50,000 posters, 500,000 photographs and 780 estates and collections, including Irmgard Keun, Hans Mayer and Jacques Offenbach. Considered a state of the art institution when built in 1971 and copied around the world, the building simply collapsed on Tuesday, destroying most everything. ,(via) [more inside]
Europeana is the new EU digital library. It gives multilingual access to two million digitized books and other items of cultural and historical significance held in over 1,000 institutions in the 27 EU states. There will be 10 million by 2010. Soon after its launch the website froze, its servers overwhelmed by over "10 million hits an hour".
Jay Walker's Library was just profiled by Wired [via], but they failed to mention where many of those books came from. Big players like Maggs, Simon Finch and the Baumans still compose most of the rare book world. (Heritage is gone but Michael Sharp got four of their employees.) They're all excellent places to shop if you're building an Überlibrary, but, if you're Jay Walker, you start with Phillip J. Pirages. [more inside]
Library Finds is seriously beautiful photography and explication of little-seen gems in the library stacks, from a self-confessed "techie, not a librarian, who is quite fortunate to be surrounded by books everyday". From the green to the teal and now to the blue.
Sustainability of Digital Formats : a repository of mostly technical information about digital content file formats related to storing images (moving and still), text, sound and websites
Writer's Rooms, portraits of the spaces where authors create: Martin Amis. Simon Armitage. Diana Athill. Jane Austen. Berly Bainbridge. JG Ballard. John Banville. Nicola Barker. Ronan Bennett. Alain de Botton. William Boyd. Raymond Briggs. Charlotte Bronte. Carmen Callil. Jung Chang. Roald Dahl. Charles Darwin. Margaret Drabble. Geoff Dyer. Anne Enright. Joshua Ferris. Jonathan Safran Foer. Margaret Forster. Antonia Fraser. Michael Frayn. Esther Freud. Simon Gray. Mark Haddon. David Hare. David Harsent. Seamus Heaney. Russell Hoban. Eric Hobsbawm. Michael Holroyd. Siri Hustvedt. AL Kennedy. Judith Kerr. Rudyard Kipling. Hanif Kureishi. Penelope Lively. David Lodge. Michael Longley. Hilary Mantel. Eamonn McCabe. Charlotte Mendelson. John Mortimer. Kate Mosse. Andrew Motion. Julie Myerson. Edna O'Brien. Andrew O'Hagan. Adam Phillips. Caryl Phillips. Craig Raine. Ian Rankin. John Richardson. Michael Rosen. Will Self. George Bernard Shaw. Alan Sillitow. Posy Simmonds. Helen Simpson. Ahdaf Soueif. Graham Swift. Adam Thirlwell. Colm Toibin. Claire Tomalin. Sue Townsend. Barbara Trapido. Rose Tremain. Sarah Waters. Jacqueline Wilson. Virginia Woolf. (Step into the reading room for a wee bit more...) [more inside]
You're planning on baking a cake, but you're bored of your plain old square pan, round pan, or bundt pan? If you live in the US Midwest, it's very possible that your nearby library allows you to check out cake pans. [more inside]
The end of Moore’s influence came when, years later, she tried to block the publication of a book by E. B. White. Watching Moore stand in the way of “Stuart Little,” White’s editor, Ursula Nordstrom, remembered, was like watching a horse fall down, its spindly legs crumpling beneath its great weight. [more inside]
"Schools should continue to require library research so they can see how old folks used to Google stuff."
The continuity I have in mind has to do with the nature of information itself or, to put it differently, the inherent instability of texts. In place of the long-term view of technological transformations, which underlies the common notion that we have just entered a new era, the information age, I want to argue that every age was an age of information, each in its own way, and that information has always been unstable. Let's begin with the Internet and work backward in time.The Library in the New Age by Robert Darnton, historian and Director of the Harvard Library. A wide-ranging overview of the status of libraries in the modern world, touching on such subjects as: journalist poker games, French people liking the smell of books, bibliography at Google, news dissemination in the 18th Century, book piracy and the different texts of Shakespeare. Some responses: Defending the Library of Google, The Future in the Past and Librarians Need a Better Apologetic.
Room 26 Cabinet of Curiosities features strange and surprising things from the rare book and manuscript collections of the Beinecke Library in Yale, including death masks, the philosophy of origami, the real adventures of Tintin, famous people and their pets, and American transvestite magazines from the 1960s.
I See Dead People's Books (wiki) is an impromptu project by LibraryThing members to catalog the libraries of famous dead people, from Tupac Shakur to Ernest Hemingway to John Adams. Many more in the works, anyone is able to create a dead library with all the attendant features of LT.
OPAL Libri Antichi from the University of Turin offers over 3,000 books as free, open PDF files. Most of these date between AD 1500 and 1850 and most are in Italian, with many in French. They tend to be plain books with few illustrations. A few English titles are present, including David Hume's 1800 Essays on Suicide and the Immortality of the Soul; several texts by William Wycherley such as Love in a wood: or St. James's-Park (1735); and Richard Lassels 1686 work The voyage of Italy: or, a compleat journey through Italy with the characters of the peaple, and the description of the chief towns ... (volume 2) - an early travel guide. The PDFs are unsearchable plain scans. via this thread in the W4RF forum which contains hundreds of links to free online historical documents
"Bill Blackbeard is a writer-editor and the founder-director of the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art, a comprehensive collection of comic strips and cartoon art from American newspapers. This major collection, consisting of 2.5 million clippings, tearsheets and comic sections, [spans] the years 1894 to 1996... [more inside]
Harvard's Faculty of Arts & Sciences voted unanimously last week to mandate "Open Access" to published articles - a first at a U.S. university, though the dean will apparently grant a waiver to anyone who wants to opt out. More to follow? Peter Suber's Open Access News is tracking reactions. [more inside]
Housing, preserving, and providing access to these small-scale, homemade rags that document some corner of [often do-it-yourself and punk rock] culture, zine archives can be found via independently operated centers in Georgia (physical library in construction), New Orleans (myspace link, www address out-of-commission), Florida, Minneapolis, Denver, Cambridge, Olympia, Chicago, Seattle and... [more inside]
Library usage, newspaper circulation, and educational attainment are primary factors used by researchers to determine the 'most literate cities.' Minneapolis has regained top honors from Seattle, though both cities have ranked at the top since the original study in 2003. Other studies here and here show minor shifts in the intervening years. Most relevant now is that there seems to be a correlation between literacy and voting patterns. [more inside]
An obscure 1911 British law requires a copy of every published book, journal, newspaper, patent, sound recording, magazine etc.. to be permanently archived in at least one of five libraries around the country. The British Library has the most complete collection and is currently adding about 12.5km of new shelf space a year of mostly unheard of and unwanted stuff. A new state-of-the-art warehouse is being constructed with 262 linear kilometers of high-density, fully automated storage in a low-oxygen temperature controlled environment. It is not a library, it is a warehouse for "things that no one wants." BLDG Blog ponders on what it all means.
The Library Arcade features one surprisingly entertaining flash game about pleasing library patrons, and one less entertaining, but probably more directly applicable, game about shelving. You can also try to discover the cause of a mysterious disease using your research skills in an arcade-like game [username: Tammy, password: Allgood]. More on the discussion of the role of games in libraries.
Almost 1700 Carnegie Libraries (wikipedia) were built in the US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, from Pennsylvania to California, from Florida to Oregon, and almost every other single place in between . (Scotland, too!) Some of them are still in use as libraries. Others aren't. This person is trying to collect post cards of as many of them as possible.
Public libraries with Online Content: Residents of Missouri can get a free account at the Kansas City Public Library that will let them access digital databases including the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and downloadable audiobooks. Residents of the Empire State can get a digital library card at the New York Public Library to access a wealth of digital databases. (The rest of us can get a NYPL card for $100.) And the Boston Public Library will give digital access to most of the above, plus JSTOR and (sigh) the Early American Imprints collection of nearly everything printed in North America to 1820. Unfortunately you have to show up at a branch of the BPL and prove Massachusetts residence to get your card. Your turn--what other public libraries offer access to subscription online information databases?
Librarians and book collectors have many tales about ephemera left in books. While the legend of the bacon bookmark may be among the more pervasive reports of strange finds, a smallpox sample is probably the most bizarre. There are blogs and discussion boards that record other makeshift markers. Some readers prefer designated over spontaneous markers. Mirage Bookmark has an extensive collection of bookmark ephemera, with Bookmark of the Week and Bookmark Collector also offering noteworthy collections.
What they didn't teach us in library school. An article written by a former public librarian in Salt Lake City, concerning the dilemmas of dealing with the homeless. [via alternet]
Fairfax County Public Library system ditches the classics. If titles remain untouched for two years, they may be discarded--permanently. "We're being very ruthless," boasts library director Sam Clay.... Books by Charlotte Brontë, William Faulkner, Thomas Hardy, Marcel Proust and Alexander Solzhenitsyn have recently been pulled.
"Learn me to read, book lady.... Please if you learn me, I won't be lonesome any more. I broke my back last year. It wan't mended yet." A look at WPA Travelling Libraries. See also: Free traveling libraries (Wisconsin), Lighthouse libraries (Coastal U.S.), Blue Trunk Medical Libraries (Africa), Bus Libraries (China), a few miscellaneous mobile libraries, and this one from the 16th Century. And yes, there's some YouTube.
Banned Books Week -- 25th anniversary year. How to deal with a challenge, what you can do generally, and of course, lists, and more lists. Captain Underpants is a more recent entry, i notice.
Help wanted: must be eligible for government secret clearance, and willing to forget everything you learned about intellectual freedom in library school.
Red-Hot and Filthy Library Smut. Scanned photos of the insides of some of the world's hottest, youngest and dirtiest libraries. Some of the best from the book by Candida Hofer.
The Dewey Donation System is site that helps re-stock libraries devastated by Katrina, by posting wishlists of Louisiana and Mississippi libraries and letting anyone buy books for them. Cool looking site, to boot. [via mefi projects]
"...this clip of a Japanese show called Gaki No Tsukai stands out not for what it includes, but for what it lacks - talking and screaming. It takes place in a studio made up like a library, with the participants (including Kickboxing champion Ernesto Hoost) stifling their laughter, screams of pain and retching noises, just like any student did in their own junior high school library." [youtube video, text shamelessly lifted from wfmu]
Well over 100 universities around the world have set up searchable digital repositories to make available journal articles, datasets, theses and other academic materials using the DSpace repository system. DSpace at MIT alone hosts over 11,000 theses. Also, the software running the sites is freely available and open source.
"How are EPA scientists supposed to engage in cutting edge research when they cannot find what the agency has already done?" Good question. As noted in an earlier post, the EPA is one of the agencies that is facing cuts to finance BushCo's America. How? By shutting down its network of libraries and its electronic catalogue.
While Not All librarians are "militant radicals" apparently we're not all your "stereotypical librarians" either. Incensed by the USA Patriot Act and irate over a memo between FBI agents, the American Library Association debuted a button at its annual midwinter meeting, which winds up in Texas today at the Convention Center. Boasting that its wearers are "Radical Militant Librarians," the button was one of the convention's biggest sellers.
[TotalitarianismFilter] Don't be asking your college librarian for a copy of that Little Red Book to do a class assignment, or your parents might get a visit from the good folks at the Department of Homeland Security. More evidence that the Bush administration cannot restrain itself when granted enhanced surveillance powers.
The paper analogue of the blog is not the diary, but rather the commonplace book. With the availability of relatively cheap paper beginning as early as the 14th century, people began to collect knowledge in commonplace books. Bits of quotes, reference materials, summaries of arguments, all contained in a handy bound volume. This merchant's commonplace, for example, dates from 1312 and contains hand-drawn diagrams of Venetian ships and descriptions of Venice's merchant culture. An English commonplace dating to the 15th century, the Book of Brome, contains poems, notations on memorial law, lists of expenses, and diary entries. John Locke devised a method for keeping a commonplace. Thomas Jefferson kept both legal and literary commonplaces, and owned a copy of Sir John Randolph's legal commonplace, published in 1680.