Librarians, publishers, grad students, are all dead this week and the rapture hasn’t even come yet!
1. POWERHOUSE: UChicago has got a new library with an underground storage space that uses 5 separate cranes to find your books for you within a median 5 minutes. Cue Raymond Scott’s ‘Powerhouse‘ when you watch this for some UChicago-style Looney Tunes assembly line fun. $0.02: This puts librarians on par with the patrons who order the books in terms of the service they can provide, for better or for worse. For better: These systems of organization can’t possibly accommodate special collections, so it will give us more time to spend in said collections. For worse: It’s a super-sinister way of de-professionalising library staff in order to phase them out. My tainted optimism leads me to think that these digital/architectural innovations are developing too out of sync with the information they actually provide access to, and moreover creates problems totally outside the purview of staff (unless they are good at spelunking). So it will lead to a deterioration of the service libraries provide, which will in turn be met with a backlash that will cause developers to rethink their organizational strategies. The question is, how long it take for them to notice when the threshold of technology becomes less than efficient and thus needs to regain some of its humanity to be useful…
2. WHITHER[ED] PUBLISHING: Two great calls-to-arms came out this week: Dale Peck over at The Daily Beast/The Book Beast says that we gotta demand excellence from our publishers, that this whole ‘death of the industry thing’ is the perfect opportunity to claim some bargaining terms, like, oh, why not do a good job? Related: Chad Post points out that profit-driven publishing companies mean that no body can or does advocate for literature among the arts, much to the detriment of everyone. I say, Chad, thank you. And also, I am a 20-something and I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and it’s basically something I’m developing the skills toward getting involved with. There’s no one to mediate between the camps of librarians, writers, and just readers and those of economists and policy-makers and look where we are! Everyone’s talking about the death of everything. If anyone else wants to why not e-mail me and we can be friends and eventually save the state of literature together? Because I’m ready to get political about it, and it’s silly that things are going to hell because not enough people do, especially not beyond those who appeal to audiences already on their side. So let’s start powering up about this together!
3. THE PENAL COLONY: A BBC report discusses the successful use of prisoners in digitizing archives, images, etc. Cool, I guess. but ‘in the old days’ I’m pretty sure that’s what grad students used to do. (And between you and me, from my experience with Books Through Bars, this article on the typewriter in prisons, and now this report, the History of the Book & Incarceration is like, a totally worthy book topic I wanna take up now…)
5. HOW TO LOOK PUNK: A fanzine has been unearthed ca. 1977 telling you how.
6. SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL: BibliOdyssey has put up a post of maps by John Speed. Really interesting: Part of my job entails checking up all pre-1640 items in pretty much all American, British, and Continental Auctions, and I always wonder, how does the market affect scholarship and general awareness? And John Speed in particular has been a figure of interest, because since this time last year the geography section of pretty much every sale has had a REALLY healthy Speed section. He’s been flooding the market, so it only makes sense that acquisitions would start to generate interest.