Interested in library history? I want to mention two sites that I enjoy very much. I have linked to Judy Aulik’s historical library postcard site before but I want to mention it again. I am a collector of vintage postcards myself, although I collect in different subject areas. Old postcards are an amazing visual record of popular culture, as well as, social and political history. Judy has a particular interest in Carnegie libraries and her collection, from almost every state that was given grant money, is simply wonderful. Although I have lamented in the past that there don’t seem to be many Alabama cards to be found anywhere, she managed to find two Alabama Carnegie Libraries: the Montgomery Public Library and the Decautur Public Library, pictured here (by permission!)

The Decatur Public Library was built in 1905

The Decatur Public Library was built in 1905 (used by permission)

Judy is working on a section of university libraries. I imagine she would be very interested, if any of us could send her a scan of early views of any of our libraries. They must surely exist, even though I have never seen a single one.

 Postcards are one obvious sort of postal memorabilia. But there is quite a bit more to “going postal” and Larry T. Nix is your man, if you are interested. He has a more general library history blog: Library History Buff Blog , so named to differentiate it from his website, Library History Buff . There are many links on the blog (and on the web site) to other library history sites. I must say that the website is worth visiting just for the Tribute to Bookmobiles and Travelling Libraries alone. If you are interested in postal memorabilia, his website is the place to find information and photos of library-related stamps, covers, post cards and much more.


A wonderful essay in the Telegraph (UK),  Grand Theft Auto, Twitter and Beowulf all demonstrate that stories will never die reflects on the fundamental place story-telling has in our lives. The author, Sam Leith, was led to write the essay, apparently, after reading reports that we are “running out of narrative”. This fear has gone so far as to lead to the creation of group to fight it; at MIT of all places:

 A group of academics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in cahoots with some Hollywood moguls, have announced the opening of a “Center for Future Storytelling”.

What possible purpose could such a thing have? The author says:

Their announcement does not tell us, offering instead a feast of bilge about “next-generation synthetic performer technologies”.

But there we are. The Center for Future Storytelling is a sign of the times. The notion that the narrative arts are under threat from information overload, shrinking attention spans, text messaging, social networking sites and slam-bam CGI blockbusters is one widely given voice.

The article goes on to explore the place of shared narrative in our lives and criticizes the short-sighted thinking that supposes that libraries and books are redundant. But, best of all, he excoriates the thinking that supposes that the human need to tell stories can ever change.

I can’t really do justice to the article, so I highly recommend reading it for yourself!

I was looking at our blog stats today and was amused, though not surprised, to find that my post last February on “Library-themed Wedding Invitations” continues to outpace all other posts in numbers of hits by at least a factor of 2.  I can only suppose that lots of librarians are getting married and looking for ideas! The only post that challenges its status are my two posts about Dewey, the library cat. Well, who didn’t know that there are lots of cat lovers in the world? Of course, Dewey’s “biography” has generated a lot of attention everywhere.

Almost as popular has been my post “Dinosauers with Blogs”. I can’t prove it but, since visitors are finding it by searching on the single word “dinosauers”, I suspect that I have disappointed an awful lot of children trying to do school reports!

We continue to get many hits thanks to a site called alphainventions.com.  All the more reason that I want to solicit input from my fellow Cussers! We can now let the world know what cool things are going on in Alabama libraries.

Information, please!


Where do people with questions turn?


Over the last weekend RefDesk featured Library Spot as its Site of the Day. This proved to be an amazingly well organized portal to an incredible array of sources of information. On the right sidebar are the top level links. The first is libraries; the second is Reading Room from which you can select the following:

    Literary Criticism

And on and on it goes. Many library web pages would benefit from studying Library Spot’s organization.

I clicked on magazines and was amazed at the sheer number of full-text general interest magazines available. Moreover, they are organized into useful subject categories.

On its “about” page the creators of Library Spot say:

We created LibrarySpot.com to break through the information overload of the Web and bring the best library and reference sites together with insightful editorial in one user-friendly spot. Sites featured on LibrarySpot.com are hand-selected and reviewed by our editorial team for their exceptional quality, content and utility. 

Does this man look like a reference librarian? 

 Library Spot is definitely worth a visit but I don’t really think reference librarians need to worry.

I have a guilty pleasure. I love children’s literature; the older, the better. There are some wonderful digital collections online and you will find treasures there. The New York Public Library has an excellent collection of children’s literature links (full-text sites and sceondary literature). Of particular note in its historical children’s lit section is the full text collection at the University of Florida. The Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s literature (BLHC) is simply wonderful. I found books there that my mother had read as a child and, because she had saved many of them, I also read them as a child. One of the reasons I like these older works is that I so love the illustrations in them. Here are some examples from books held in UF’s Special Collections and digitized by them:Beauty and the Beast, ca. 1880




These two are from one of several different versions of Beauty and the Beast that are available.





Here is an illustration from a book that may sound familiar: Sara Crewe, or, What happened at Miss Minchin’s :


This book was also published under the title: The Little Princess. Indeed, a movie (more than once) has been made of it. Can you recall which famous child star played Sara? 

Of course, I found many more titles I had never heard of. One such that caught my attention is called Strangers from the South and Other Stories (ca 1877).  kiddy-lit3-strangers-from-the-south-and-other-stories

It illustrates nicely one problem that we do need to keep in mind– these books reflect the attitudes and beliefs of their era which are not always acceptable to us anymore. This one is a good example of that.

There are other sites that contain classic children’s literature and many of these are found listed at the New York Public Library site. Nineteenth-Century Children and What They Read has a small collection (scroll down to get to the list of texts) of mostly pre 1850 titles. children’sbooksonline.org is another wonderful site

Aesop’s Fables are available and some have audio.

American Folklore, despite its name, has everything; and some of it has audio. There are holiday stories, tall tales, nursery rhymes, and much more.

Finally, the Fairrosa Cyber Library of Children’s literature has a very nice collection of classics, fairy and folk tales and more. Some are plain text; others are HTML. Unfortunately, the site does not appear to be as well maintained as one would like. I noted several broken links, which is always annoying. 


I would be very interested to hear, if any of you find an old forgotten favorite.

In this installment of interesting library sites, I thought we might look at what other libraries are doing internationally.

The Online Gallery of the British Library has to be seen to be believed. In the category Sacred, for example, there are the objects and pictures themselves, but also 78 texts that can be read and searched. The Library uses a Shockwave plugin called Turning the Pages™, to allow viewers to leaf through some of the featured texts. There are searchable maps, video, audio and interactive features that make exploring just this section of their web site an all day affair.
Lambeth Palace Library is, according to its website, “the historic library of the Archbishops of Canterbury and the principal library and record office for the history of the Church of England. The Library focuses on ecclesiastical history, but its rich collections are important for an immense variety of topics from the history of art and architecture to colonial and Commonwealth history, and for innumerable aspects of English social, political and economic history. It is also a significant resource for local history and genealogy”.


Mary, Queen of Scots

What will you find at the Lambeth Palace Library? Well, it recently acquired a contemporary copy of the warrant for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots (the original went missing, apparently, not long after her execution). The library also recently obtained 26 sermons by Robert Pullen. Well, ok. What is so special about that? Lots of our libraries have sermon collections. However, not very many have manuscripts of sermons dating to the 12th century. According to the Library’s website Pullen died in 1146 and is noted for being one of the first recorded lecturers at Oxford and for being the first English Cardinal.

Next stop, Sweden. I have seen maps of the university on web pages before but Uppsala Universitet has an unusually interesting map of its departmental libraries. If you put your cursor over one of the numbers on the map, a picture of the library appears (and the buildings are rather impressive).

 If you then click on the name of the branch in the sidebar, full information about the library appears (URL, contact information, address) as well as a map which one can zoom in on or zoom out of to more precisely locate the library. Like many international libraries, the home page does have an option for the user to choose English, although one may not find that every page available in English.

American University at Bulgaria

American University at Bulgaria

The American University in Bulgaria has an interesting selection of links on its top page. One of them takes theuser to a list of the three most popular daily newspapers online (Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times) and indicates which database to find them in. 

Another link takes the user to a list of the 5 most read books from Ebrary. There is a link to eBrary in the list of databases in the sidebar on the right.  


The Universität St. Gallen (Switzerland) includes the holdings of twenty five other libraries in its catalog. For that reason, it gives location information for any item that a search retrieves. Next to the call number (labelled “Library”), you will find an information icon. When you click on it, a window opens with full information about the library.

Another feature that I find quite amazing is something called Media Scout. On some items, an icon indicates that Media Scout is available. If one clicks on it, up pops a floor plan which allows the user to precisely determine where the desired item is. This is what turned up when I clicked on the location of a book by Friedrich Schiller. Unfortunately, the navigational aids could not be captured.

Floor plan showing the location of the German literature collection

Floor plan showing the location of the German literature collection

It is possible to click on a “3D” view of the plan. In both cases, if you place your cursor anywhere on the map, you will get a description of exactly what is shelved in that particular place, eg. “newspapers 10 years old or older”.

If you would like to try this out, you might do the same search I did. I looked for “Schiller, Friedrich von”.  I then chose Philosophische Schriften / hrsg. von Benno von Wiese. Click on the first of the three locations listed. 

I used Libweb, of course, to locate libraries to visit. You might enjoy visiting libraries in countries of particular interest to you!

Well, OK. That’s a bit hyperbolic. But a piece in the Globe over the weekend, Group Think, got around to noticing a phenomenon I wrote about a while back. Essentially, the ease of doing research online is actually limiting the scope of scholarly research to that which can be found only in the targeted search and it misses older research that may very well be relevant:

This study adds weight to concerns, shared by other Internet analysts, that the rise of online research has costs as well as benefits. Internet search tools are not neutral: they tend to privilege the new and the popular. And for all the frustrations of older research methods, their very inefficiency may have yielded rewards. Leafing through print journals or browsing the stacks can expose researchers to a context that is missing in the highly targeted searches of PubMed or PsychInfo. The old-fashioned style of browsing, some say, can provide academics with more background knowledge, and lead to serendipitous insights when they stumble upon articles or books they weren’t necessarily looking for.  

This article and the Science Magazine article on the subject to which I linked in an earlier post are well-worth reading.