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Posts Tagged ‘Libraries

“Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often”*…

 

bodleian

Interior of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, by David Loggan, 1675. Rijksmuseum.

 

In the nineteenth century some librarians became preoccupied with the morality or lack thereof displayed in some of their texts. Consequently a number of libraries created special shelf marks or locations for restricted books to ensure that only readers with a proper academic purpose might access them…

Take a tour of the restricted collections in remarkable libraries: “Do Not Read.”

* Mae West

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As we cover our eyes, we might consider censorship’s close cousin, misinformation: it was on this date in 1964 that Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.  A response to a reported attack by the North Vietnamese Navy on the destroyer USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin, the Resolution gave President Lyndon B. Johnson authorization, without a formal declaration of war by Congress, for the use of conventional military force in Southeast Asia– a right that Johnson exercised vigorously.

In 1967, A senate Foreign Relations Committee investigation determined that the incident had not unfolded as earlier reported, and repealed the Resolution.  An NSA study of the incident, declassified in 2005, put it bluntly: “It is not simply that there is a different story as to what happened; it is that no attack happened that night.”

275px-Tonkin_Gulf_Resolution source

 

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library”*…

 

In the ninth century, Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant from Tunisia’s Kairouan, arrived in Fez and began laying the groundwork for a complex that would include the Qarawiyyin library, the oldest in the world, the Qarawiyyin Mosque, and Qarawiyyin University, the oldest higher education institution in the world – with alumni including the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, the great Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun, and the Andalusian diplomat Leo Africanus…

Now, after years of restoration, the library is finally set to reopen – with strict security and a new underground canal system to protect its most prized manuscripts.

The library’s restoration comes at a time when extremists are rampaging the region’s heritage. Across Syria and Iraq, the militants of the Islamic State have carried out cultural atrocities that include ransacking the great library of Mosul, burning thousands of manuscripts, bulldozing ancient Assyrian cities like Nimrud and Hatra in Iraq, blowing up the Temple of Bel in Palmyra and sacking the oasis city’s museum, in addition to destroying tombs and mausoleums of Shia and Christian saints…

“The people who work here jealously guard the books,” says one of the caretakers. “You can hurt us, but you cannot hurt the books.”…

Read the whole story at “World’s oldest library reopens in Fez.”

* Albert Einstein

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As we browse in bliss, we might spare a thought for S. R. Ranganathan; he died on this date in 1972.  A mathematician and librarian, he is best remembered for his five laws of library science and the development of the first major faceted classification system, the colon classification (in which books are classified by facets rather than in a hierarchical taxonomy). He is considered to be the father of library science, documentation, and information science in India and is widely known throughout the rest of the world for his fundamental thinking in the fields. His birthday is observed every year as the National Library Day in India.

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“I intend to put up with nothing that I can put down”*…

 

Mary Kelly and Holly Hibner, two Michigan public librarians, have struggled for years to prune their collections.

As The New Yorker notes, librarians call it “weeding,” and the choice of words is important: a library that “hemorrhages” books loses its lifeblood; a librarian who “weeds” is helping the collection thrive. The key question, for librarians who prefer to avoid scandal, is which books are weeds…

Seven years ago, we visited the blog on which they memorialize their choices.  Now Kelly and Hibner have written a book, Making a Collection Count: A Holistic Approach to Library Collection Management, which proposes best practices for analyzing library data and adapting to space constraints.

Learn their lessons at “Weeding the Worst Library Books.”

* Edgar Allan Poe

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As we dither over deacquisition, we might recall that it was on this date that “the brave engineer” Casey Jones died in a train wreck in Vaughan, Mississippi, while trying to make up time on the Cannonball Express.  He was killed when his passenger train collided with a stalled freight train on a foggy, rainy night.  His dramatic attempt to stop his train and save lives made him a hero; he was immortalized in a popular ballad sung by his friend Wallace Saunders, an African-American engine wiper for his line, the Illinois Central, and later recorded, among others, Mississippi John Hurt, Pete Seeger, Furry Lewis, Johnny Cash, and played live by the The Grateful Dead (hear it on Spotify here).

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Written by LW

April 30, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I would be the most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves”*…

 

From Library planning, bookstacks and shelving, with contributions from the architects’ and librarians’ points of view, Snead & Co. Iron Works, c. 1915.

Before the early 20th century, public libraries typically used wooden bookcases with fixed shelves to house their volumes. In the 1910s, new public literacy initiatives like Andrew Carnegie’s library-building projects, as well as institutional expansions at the Library of Congress and many universities, drove the need for a different kind of library shelf. The new wave of libraries—bigger and more comprehensive than their predecessors—needed bookshelves that could accommodate their rapidly growing collections of books. The New York Public Library, for example, installed 75 miles of new bookshelves in 1910 in preparation of its grand opening the next year. And the shelves from earlier decades simply weren’t going to cut it.

So where were these new libraries going to get bookshelves that were up to the challenge?  Snead & Company, of Louisville, Kentucky, was a cast-iron works business that manufactured everything from window frames to tea kettles to girders to spittoons. In the 1890s, the company took its expertise in metal work and turned its attention to the design of bookshelves, when it became apparent that metal shelves offered a unique solution to the turn-of-the century’s bookshelf crisis. From 1890–1950, Snead & Company designed, patented, manufactured, and installed an unprecedented measure of shelves, generating hundreds of miles of new shelf space.

Snead shelves were multi-tiered, self-supporting bookstacks that, simply put, allowed more books to be packed onto more shelves. The bookshelves were architectural as well as aesthetic. Snead bookstacks were characterized by narrow aisles with very closely spaced shelves. The stacks rested on marble, glass, or slate slabs that were robust enough to support the massive weight of the shelves and the books they housed. The bookshelves had a “z” notch that would allow each shelf to be moved up and down to best deal with the height of the books being stored there. Early Snead bookstacks were built out of exposed steel or cast-iron columns that served as structural reinforcements for the building.

Snead & Company dominated the bookshelf industry for two generations. The company’s influence on the American bookscape diminished in the 1950s—due, in no small part, to the changing nature of library design, which de-emphasized large public institutions in favor of smaller library buildings. But Snead & Company’s behemoth bookshelves are still housing books at countless older libraries across the country, from the Library of Congress to University of Michigan…

* Anna Quindlen

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As we agree with Anthony Powell that “Books Do Furnish a Room,” we might send soaring birthday greetings to Mary Violet Leontyne Price; she was born on this date in 1927 (though yesterday’s date in given by some sources).  As a child in Laurel, Mississippi, Price played the piano and sang in her church’s choir through high school, then headed to Wilberforce College (in Ohio), where she began training to b a music teacher. Her singing talent got her an audition at Julliard; Paul Robeson performed a benefit to her her with the tuition.  She rose to international acclaim in the 1950s and 1960s, one of the first African Americans to become a leading artist at the Metropolitan Opera.  Among her many honors are the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964), the Spingarn Medal (1965), the Kennedy Center Honors (1980), the National Medal of Arts (1985), numerous honorary degrees, and 19 Grammy Awards (13 for operatic or song recitals, five for full operas, and a special Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989– more than any other classical singer).  In October 2008, she was one of the recipients of the first Opera Honors given by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Written by LW

February 11, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Don’t join the book burners… Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book”*…

 

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) receives reports from libraries, schools, and the media on attempts to ban books in communities across the country, from which they compile lists of challenged books in order to inform the public about censorship efforts that affect libraries and schools.

From Persepolis and The Kite Runner to The Bluest Eye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower  the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2014.

* Dwight D. Eisenhower

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As we celebrate Banned Book Week by taking the General’s advice, we might recall that it was on this date last year that thousands of students in Jefferson County, Colorado stayed home to protest School Board action that “edited” the District’s AP History curriculum to “promote patriotism” and not to “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”  Two days later, the School Board backed down.

Student protestors (who will, one hopes, be catching up in spelling class on their return to school)

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Written by LW

October 1, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers; a librarian can bring you back the right one”*

 

Recently some folks at the New York Public Library discovered a box containing old reference questions from the 1940s to the 1980s.  They’re posting the questions to their Instagram account each Monday, noting that “we were Google before Google existed.”  Some of the examples include answers; others are…  well, probably unanswerable– but all are a reminder of the extraordinary value of the Library and its reference librarians.

People still use an updated version of the service, Ask NYPL; the Library reports that they receive about 1,700 reference questions a month via chat, email, and phone.

Read more at “Before Google, Here’s What New Yorkers Asked The NYPL.”

* Neil Gaiman

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As we keep it down, we might send bibliographic birthday greetings to Archibald MacLeish; he was born on this date in 1892.  A Pulitzer Prize-winning poet (Conquistador) and dramatist (JB), MacLeish became “America’s Reference Librarian”– the Librarian of Congress– in 1939.

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“What is more important in a library than anything else – than everything else – is the fact that it exists”*…

 

Library built by ex-slaves, Allensworth, Calif.

Since 1994, photographer Robert Dawson has photographed hundreds of the over 17,000 public libraries in this country.

A public library can mean different things to different people. For me, the library offers our best example of the public commons. For many, the library upholds the 19th-century belief that the future of democracy is contingent upon an educated citizenry. For others, the library simply means free access to the Internet, or a warm place to take shelter, a chance for an education, or the endless possibilities that jump to life in your imagination the moment you open the cover of a book.

The first Carnegie library: the Braddock Carnegie Library, Braddock, Penn. “The once glorious but now faded interior included a gym, a theater, and a swimming pool, as well as book collections and reading rooms.”

See more at American Library, and peruse Dawson’s The Public Library: A Photographic Essay.

* Archibald MacLeish

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As we check it out, we might recall that it was on this date in 1895 that the two then-largest libraries in New York City, the Astor and Lenox libraries, agreed to combine with the Tilden Trust (a bequest left by a former Governor to fund a public library) to form a new entity that would be known as The New York Public Library. Sixteen year later– on this date in 1911– President William Howard Taft presided over the dedication of the Library’s new home, the beaux-arts masterpiece on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street– at the time the largest marble structure ever erected in the U.S.  Originally the Library’s only location, it became the “main branch” as a bequest from Andrew Carnegie funded a system of branch locations across the city built out over the next few decades.

The Library building, near completion. (Note that the signature lion statues have not yet been placed at the steps.)

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Written by LW

May 23, 2014 at 1:01 am

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