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Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

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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Not too long ago I posted a bit about Twitter. While I am still not sold on it, I have discovered Twitter for Librarians on College at Home. The guide discusses why a library might want to use Twitter but also gives a list of libraries that are using it. I checked out the Nebraska Library Commission  which is using it for ready reference. It is found under the tab “Ask a Librarian” at the very bottom of the page. Here is a sample of the questions it received:

I would like a list of all IRS liens filed  in the last month in Nebraska.
How do I find out if I am registered to vote?
Do you know how to find transcripts of state supreme court cases? 

 The Guide appears to be one-stop shopping for those who want and like to keep it short.

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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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