Library News

Italy, Multiculturalism and Libraries

Italy Italy, (along with most European countries), has experienced an influx of immigrants in last few years, and with that there have been some ongoing (and escalating) tensions down racial and ethnic lines.  This has also been reflected in the election of an increasingly conservative government.   While this recent New York Times article certainly demonstrates a mixed outlook, I was pleased to see that the reporter interviewed two Italian librarians who were trying to promote cultural diversity in their country and the ways in which libraries and art organizations are uniquely positioned to do that.   

What are original editions worth?

At nearby Margaret Clapp Library at Wellesley College, students have been able to pore over the 1566 printing of Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres.  It’s the third such “threshold work” for science-the Library has first printings of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica-in the Wellesley collection.  Reading about this acquisition made me think: How different is the experience of reading a first or second printing?  Does more power lie in the text, or the book? What sort of impact does it have on a student’s study? 

New Journalism?

Rebecca’s post and its ideas about how the ways we read and think may be changing led me to want to share a recent article about how journalism is changing in these ways too.  It focuses specifically on the figure of media blogger Jim Romensko, and it’s written by Howell Raines. One quote really stuck out to me:
Newspaper publishers assumed that even if the printing press disappeared, the internet would still have an insatiable need for their basic product-verified facts, hierarchically arranged by importance. But Romenesko’s rapid growth showed that even newsrooms are part of the emerging market for an unprocessed sprawl of information, delivered immediately and with as few filters as possible between the fingertips of one laptop user and the eyeballs of another. In short, it’s not technology per se that’s killing newspapers; it’s plummeting demand for quality information.
What do you think? Sometimes I worry that I too, have developed a taste for new, unverified and immediate information-I feel panicked by the thought that something hugely significant could be happening that I have no idea of, but I must find out about it right away.  Or do you think that Raines has a biased (and possibly bitter) view? Roy Harris, author of Pulitzer’s Gold spoke about the history of public service journalism this spring, as part of the Library’s Meet the Author Series.  He specifically talks about Howell Raines, Gerald Boyd and the Jason Blair scandal.     

Changing Reading Habits?

I just read an interesting piece from the latest Atlantic Monthly, entitled Is Google Making Us Stupid? The author, Nicholas Carr, observes that he and colleagues have all noticed a change in their reading habits — an inability to concentrate or focus when reading texts longer than a page or two. I’ve noticed this myself — I’ve become far more distractible when reading, especially when reading online, where I may link from article to article without ever finishing one. Or I may skip one entirely, dismissing it as “too long,” if it involves more than one full scrolling of the screen. When and how did this happen? Since when is a two-page article “too long”? It bothers me that I find it so difficult to sit down and pay attention to a book for any length of time these days (unless it’s a really compelling book, and I do still find some of those around, luckily) — I’m a librarian, after all! 🙂 Have others noticed this phenomenon? Does it bother you, and if so, have you found ways to overcome it? (And if it doesn’t bother you, why not?)

Conference Twittering

Observation: Three pages worth of twitters…not so much fun to read, not informative. It’s like reading a couple thousand lines of chat backlog. I signed up for Twitter when I read that SLA (Special Library Assocation) had set up an account for backchannel chatter at this year’s conference. Sounded fine to me, but I think in practice, it’s just too much. BUT. I could see where it would be fun if you were keeping up with specific friends and colleagues at a conference or other large event because in those cases, I’d *care* about their flights and how long they are waiting for a table at a restaurant. Random people I don’t know…not so much. I wonder how many pages of conference twitters will accumlate tomorrow, after it’s in full swing! I haven’t heard about using Twitter for conferences, not sure how well it’s worked or what other people have thought about it. Perhaps people like myself will just lurk and mostly not read the posts while a few groups take better advantage of it.