11 May 2011

Secret Life of Librarians

Brilliant article on the importance of public libraries. Read the full article here - http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/may/01/the-secret-life-of-libraries

""If someone suggested the idea of public libraries now, they'd be considered insane," says Peter Collins, library services manager in Worksop. "If you said you were going to take a little bit of money from every taxpayer, buy a whole load of books and music and games, stick them on a shelf and tell everyone, 'These are yours to borrow and all you've got to do is bring them back,' they'd be laughed out of government." ...

The old clichés do not help the cause, given that libraries are meant to be austere places smelling of "damp gabardine and luncheon meat", as Victoria Wood put it, and librarians are either diffident, mole-eyed types or disappointed spinsters of limited social skills who spend their time blacking out the racing pages and razoring Page 3. ...

 In London during the Second World War, some authorities established small collections of books in air-raid shelters. The unused Tube station at Bethnal Green had a library of 4,000 volumes and a nightly clientele of 6,000 people. And what those wartime readers chose were not practical how-to manuals on sewing or home repairs, butphilosophy. Plato and his Republic experienced a sudden surge in popularity, as did Schopenhauer, Bertrand Russell, Bunyan and Burton'sAnatomy of Melancholy. ...

"In the 60s, before the Lady Chatterley trial," says Ian Stringer, "you used to get block books – literally, wooden blocks in place of any books the librarians thought were a bit risqué, like Last Exit to Brooklyn. You had to bring the block to the counter and then they'd give you the book from under the desk. So of course you got a certain type of person just going round looking for the wooden blocks."...

[Collins] says that reading seems to be becoming an increasingly alien concept for children. "The pace of life is different now, and people expect art to happen to them. Music and film do that, a CD will do that, but you have to make a book happen to you. It's between you and it. People can be changed by books, and that's scary. When I was working in the school library, I'd sometimes put a book in a kid's hands and I'd feel excited for them, because I knew that it might be the book that changed their life. And once in a while, you'd see that happen, you'd see a kind of light come on behind their eyes. Even if it's something like 0.4% of the population that that ever happens to, it's got to be worth it, hasn't it?""

Digital Images of Yale’s Vast Cultural Collections Now Available for Free

"Scholars, artists and other individuals around the world will enjoy free access to online images of millions of objects housed in Yale's museums, archives, and libraries thanks to a new "Open Access" policy that the University announced today. Yale is the first Ivy League university to make its collections accessible in this fashion, and already more than 250,000 images are available through a newly developed collective catalog.
The goal of the new policy is to make high quality digital images of Yale's vast cultural heritage collections in the public domain openly and freely available...."

You can view a slide show of some of their items here - http://opac.yale.edu/images/slideshow/Slideshow-Open-Access/slideshow.html

Why did the BL archive Wendy Cope's emails?

Wired.co.uk spoke to two of the British Library team working on that project -- Modern Literary Manuscripts curator, Rachel Foss, and Jeremy Leighton John, e-Manuscripts curator, to discuss the benefits and difficulties of capturing an author's digital life and what researchers of the future will have to root through [...]

He explains: "Digital preservation is about things like being able to read file systems and physical media. It's a question of how to read particular files in the future. Future-proofing formats is a big challenge."