Sunday, September 6, 2009

Libraries ...

Yesterday, on Mrs. Blandings I read about another library being disposed of in favor of new technology. I mentioned in passing in my posts Immensely Chic and Exit Libris something of my experience with that. Despite being able to augment my own library, I neither subscribed to the theory behind the decision nor did I believe the justification that was given to it, and my skepticism remains strong.

Decisions such as these can be driven by the empire-building nature of administrators - a bid for glory, the justification for which has no long-term research behind it: theory expressed as necessity.

However, there are clear indications that universities whether for-profit or traditional, schools public and private, are having to make decisions about real-estate in a bad economy. Therein lies the nub: the cost of maintaining what has been the norm is considered too high and because education is a business, expenditure has to be cut and an acceptable means of keeping profits high must be found and be justified. The frequent justification is that technology is a means of delivering a better education for less cost. That may well be so, but the language of the salesmen is very interesting and would make a fascinating paper for a graduate student in a traditional university.

To some of us, deaccessioning a library can seem like an act of cultural vandalism. Whether truth or delusion, we know that the historical record is a log of what accidentally survived and what was intentionally destroyed.

The Edward Ardizonne drawing above shows how we go to our bookshelves for something and remain transfixed by the connections we make and the thoughts that flow from it all. Can the internet and digital data-bases do the same?

Edward Ardizzone, 1900 -1979. Self-portrait 1952.


  1. I read both the post at Mrs B. and the link. I think and sadly- the library will become a thing of the past-a Museum. Your last thought is so right and chilling too. I find blogging such a new way to knowledge, though the books I surround myself with are priceless to me, I constantly tell a niece and nephew of their value- So they will not toss them someday(it may be what I have to leave them!)I was sent to the shelves at school and at home- I fear that the 20 somethings now and certainly those creeping up behind -do not and have not, and just will not value a book of any sort-witness the educator in Mass. Great thought provoking post(obviously)PGT

  2. I find it all terribly shocking - I cannot conceive that it is a good thing. Perhaps we are on the brink of a new leap into the future and it may be I'm too luddite for that kind of future. Fahrenheit 451 comes to mind.

  3. I am in agreement about Fahrenheit 451 with a bit of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery to approximate what a crazy community will do to protect itself. Our own local library (in a university city) has always been dismal. Today it is the daily home of the homeless and kids on the internet.

  4. Libraries without books - brrrr! What about the universities that have e-courses (e for electronic and economic)and never meet with profs and other students? We are all supposed to shut ourselves into our germ-free spaces. What just happens if there are technical difficulties? sm

  5. What happens when technical difficulties occur is that someone calls ITS and calls, and calls, and ...

  6. My 15 year old niece is bright, articulate and funny, a born debater and righter of wrongs. She wants to be an investigative journalist, but hardly has a book in her room and although belongs to a public library, rarely goes, but is often glued to the internet.

    Perhaps it's a generational thing, I don't know. I love the internet and I am constantly stretching my knowledge boundaries. I do have an online library, but I also have a big physical library that continues to grow and I will not stop that. I love real books, even the smell and weight of them, maybe it's a junkie thing.

    Physical libraries are a minority affair as there are a lot of people out there who barely read a book a year, and that is usually only because everyone else is reading that particular title.

    We may well be seeing a shift in the parameters of on and offline libraries, with the emphasis on 'online'. However, there is always a sunny side, if institutions and individuals are dumping books then there is more for the rest of us and our physical libraries.

    Anyway, it's a sunny day and I'm off to the local car boot sale to see if I can pick up any more gems to add to my ever expanding library!