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Posts Tagged ‘Books’

I ran across a little story from Columbia on the lengths to which a dedicated teacher has gone to bring books to children. Biblioburro or, Donkey Library, is an effort by one teacher to take books to children on weekends. He started with just a handful of books and one donkey but his effort has grown to thousands of books and 8 donkeys thanks to donations. There is video and, I confess, I was somewhat taken aback to see a full grown man with a load of books riding on a patient, overburdened donkey. Nevertheless, it is another reminder, were any needed, of how lucky we are to have libraries and how important books and reading are to young and old alike.

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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!

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I found a lovely essay, Of Bibliophilia and Biblioclasm, by Theodore Dalrymple (whom I always enjoy reading) in the New English Review. It is a meditation on the pleasures of used books, the joy of discovering unknown treasures in used bookshops and much more.  Of one of his finds, he writes: 

One of my treasured books is a little classic of which I should never even have heard had I not browsed in so many bookshops. It is William Blades’ The Enemies of Books, first published in 1880. The frontispiece is an engraving of John Bagford, described as ‘shoemaker and biblioclast,’ and another of the delightful pictures is of a furtive charwoman feeding pages of a Caxton Bible to feed a fire. The enemies of books are ranged in chapters in a great chain of being: first come inanimate forces such as fire and water, rising to the lower animals such as bookworms and other vermin, and finally rising to the pinnacle of biblioclasm, that is to say the conscious book-destroyers, the bookbinders and book collectors. … Now William Blades was a civilised man who loved books and knew that one never really owned books: one was their trustee.

I have loved used books and bookstores since childhood. In fact, my mother and I used to haunt Haslam’s Bookstore (St. Petersburg, Fla.)  which was enormous, or so I believed as a child. I googled it just now, expecting to learn that it no longer existed. Not only does it still exist, it has thrived (it has grown to 30,000 square feet with over 300,000 (new and used) books, according to its website). As if that weren’t cool enough, there is also a history page upon which I found a picture of the store.

This is the store that nourished my love of books

This is the store that nourished my love of books

Thanks to Google, I have learned that all the second hand bookstores that I have loved over the years are still going strong.

So while Dalrymple mourns the passing of such shops in England, my experience suggests that they are not in any obvious danger here. Or so I hope!

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Like most, if not all, blog software, WordPress tracks what search terms have led people to this site. Today I was surprised to see that we turned up in a search for “Dewey Readmore Books”. I suppose that I have mentioned Melvil and, certainly, the word books has shown up, but Readmore?

However, I was struck, chiefly, by the coincidence that I just finished reading Dewey’s biography Monday night. No, not Melvil’s but Readmore’s.

Who is Dewey Readmore Books, you might be asking? Well, a picture is always worth a thousand words:

 

I am a beautiful boy!

Dewey the Magnificent!

 

This handsome fellow spent 19 years delighting the Spencer (Iowa) Public Library staff and the people of Spencer, children and adults, alike, until his recent death. Despite my fondness for cats, I am not usually drawn to books of this sort. However, I came across a review that piqued my interest and so I read the book. It seems to me that it was at least as much about Spencer and the role libraries play in small rural communities, as about Dewey. In any case, I enjoyed it very much.

Cats in libraries are a well-known phenomenon. In fact, there is a Library Cats Map. You can click on any region of the US (and much of the world) and read a description of the library cats in that area. It doesn’t appear to have been updated in more than a year but its maker, Iron Frog productions, is, allegedly, interested in creating the most comprehensive compilation of library cats possible.

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The New York Review of Books published a terrific article called The Library in the New Age back in June. I have only just gotten around to reading it. The author, Robert Darnton, is the director of the University Library at Harvard. He writes:

In fact, the strongest argument for the old-fashioned book is its effectiveness for ordinary readers. Thanks to Google, scholars are able to search, navigate, harvest, mine, deep link, and crawl (the terms vary along with the technology) through millions of Web sites and electronic texts. At the same time, anyone in search of a good read can pick up a printed volume and thumb through it at ease, enjoying the magic of words as ink on paper. No computer screen gives satisfaction like the printed page. But the Internet delivers data that can be transformed into a classical codex. It already has made print-on-demand a thriving industry, and it promises to make books available from computers that will operate like ATM machines: log in, order electronically, and out comes a printed and bound volume. Perhaps someday a text on a hand-held screen will please the eye as thoroughly as a page of a codex produced two thousand years ago.  

Elsewhere in the article I was delighted to find that Prof. Darnton loves the smell of old books, too. While this was quite peripheral to his thesis, it struck a chord with me. As a newly minted librarian eons ago, I told a search committee, when asked what had attracted me to librarianship, that I had always loved walking in to used bookstores (we had a fabulous one in St. Petersburg, where I grew up) and later into the stacks of the University Library and breathing in that unmistakable smell of scholarship. Unfortunately, however, library school had taught me that I was detecting the smell of books mouldering and that was not a good thing. As you can imagine, that remark brought the house down.

OK. I know better now and have for years. But, even so, that odor still says *scholarship* to me and still evokes an emotional and positive response from me. If I must be drummed out of ALA, so be it.

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The New York Review of Books has published a long essay by Robert Darnton entitled, The Library in the New Age:

“Students today still respect their libraries, but reading rooms are nearly empty on some campuses. In order to entice the students back, some librarians offer them armchairs for lounging and chatting, even drinks and snacks, never mind about the crumbs. Modern or postmodern students do most of their research at computers in their rooms. To them, knowledge comes online, not in libraries. They know that libraries could never contain it all within their walls, because information is endless, extending everywhere on the Internet, and to find it one needs a search engine, not a card catalog. But this, too, may be a grand illusion—or, to put it positively, there is something to be said for both visions, the library as a citadel and the Internet as open space. We have come to the problems posed by Google Book Search.”

Well worth a read.

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Another find via Library Link of the Day; a very funny item about a book published by Princeton University Press and withdrawn because of numerous grammatical and spelling errors.

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