Who would be a librarian now? You know what, I’ll have a go

Remy Cordonnier, librarian in the northern town of Saint-Omer, near Calais carefully shows an example of a valuable Shakespeare “First Folio”, a collection of some of his plays, dating from 1623.

About the only drawback is dismissiveness from my friends and family. A working-class male taking a degree to be a what? Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images

 

“Who would want to become a librarian now?” asked an anonymous public servant on National Libraries Day, seeing before them a graveyard of dead libraries and old reference desks filled by volunteers. A valid question, and one to which I’ll reply: “You know what? I’ll have a go.”

I’m training to be a professional librarian, having just finished a lecture on “semantic web ontologies” and “linked data”, and sat dumbstruck in front of a “Dewey Decimal assembler” without a clue as to what I’m looking at. The course is challenging – it’s a three-year master’s degree that bites eye-watering chunks out of my wages. Why am I doing it to myself?

The fact is, I can’t not. It’s a sort of calling – like becoming a priest, only with warmer business premises. I can’t stand by and let public libraries sink. I won’t.

Forget all about reading as a pleasure, forget that children should have unlimited access to books, throw away arguments about libraries being lifelines for those less fortunate – they’re falling on deaf ears. You just have to look at the comments beneath pro-library articles to gather a general response: Kindles, the internet replacing information needs, and so on. And the one we wheel out about libraries being the centre of the community – there’ll be someone swatting that old classic aside with a “and yet the majority of the population doesn’t use them”. Read more…

 

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What Libraries Can (Still) Do James Gleick

Deutsches Historiches Museum/Arne Psille/Art Resource Heinrich Lukas Arnold: The Reading Room, circa 1840

Of the many institutions suffering through the world’s metamorphosis from analog to digital (real to virtual, offline to online), few are as beleaguered as that bedrock of our culture, the public library. Budgets are being slashed by state and local governments. Even the best libraries are cutting staff and hours. Their information desks are seemingly superseded by Google, their encyclopedias are gathering dust. And their defining product, the one that lines their shelves, now arrives in the form of a weightless doppelgänger that doesn’t require shelves.

In the technocracy, all the world’s information comes to us on screens—desk, pocket, wrist, goggles—and no one trudges through wind and rain with library card in hand to find a single worn object. After all, when you want the text of Magna Carta, you don’t track down the original. Same with books? “Libraries are screwed,” said Eli Neiburger, a Michigan library director, in a much-quoted presentation at a Library Journalconference in 2010. “Libraries are screwed because we are invested in the codex, and the codex has become outmoded.”

So is the library, storehouse and lender of books, as anachronistic as the record store, the telephone booth, and the Playboy centerfold? Perversely, the most popular service at some libraries has become free Internet access. People wait in line for terminals that will let them play solitaire and Minecraft, and librarians provide coffee. Other patrons stay in their cars outside just to use the Wi-Fi. No one can be happy with a situation that reduces the library to a Starbucks wannabe.

Perhaps worst of all: the “bookless library” is now a thing. You can look it up in Wikipedia.

Read more:http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2015/oct/26/what-libraries-can-still-do-bibliotech/

Reinventing the library by Alberto Manguel

The Oberlausitzische Library of Sciences in Gorlitz, Germany. Credit Florian Monheim/Arcaid via Corbis

Plato, in the “Timaeus,” says that when one of the wisest men of Greece, the statesman Solon, visited Egypt, he was told by an old priest that the Greeks were like mere children because they possessed no truly ancient traditions or notions “gray with time.” In Egypt, the priest continued proudly, “there is nothing great or beautiful or remarkable that is done here, or in your country, or in any other land that has not been long since put into writing and preserved in our temples.”

Such colossal ambition coalesced under the Ptolemaic dynasty. In the third century B.C., more than half a century after Plato wrote his dialogues, the kings ordered that every book in the known world be collected and placed in the great library they had founded in Alexandria. Hardly anything is known of it except its fame: neither its site (it was perhaps a section of the House of the Muses) nor how it was used, nor even how it came to its end. Yet, as one of history’s most distinguished ghosts, the Library of Alexandria became the archetype of all libraries.

Libraries come in countless shapes and sizes. They can be like the Library of Congress or as modest as that of the children’s concentration camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where the older girls were in charge of eight volumes that had to be hidden every night so that the Nazi guards wouldn’t confiscate them. They can be built from books found in the garbage, like the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass., set up in 1980 by the 24-year-old Aaron Lansky from volumes discarded by the younger generations who no longer spoke the tongue of their elders, or they can be catalogued in the mind of their exiled readers, in the hope of resurrection, like the libraries plundered by the Israeli soldiers in the occupied territories of Palestine. It is in the nature of libraries to adapt to changing circumstances and threats, and all libraries exist in constant danger of being destroyed by war, vermin, fire, water or the idiocies of bureaucracy.

Read more: http://nyti.ms/1R0E2G8

25 Vintage Photos of Librarians Being Awesome – Flavorwire

Librarians, in case you hadn’t heard, are essential members of society — likely to expand minds wherever they go — and, as such, are fully worthy of hero worship (whether they’re among the coolest librarians alive or just pretty cool). That’s at least part of the impetus behind My Daguerreotype Librarian, ”[a] tumblr dedicated to literally or figuratively hunky and babely librarians from the past.” Inspired by the website, here’s a little extra literary goodness: 25 awesome vintage photos of librarians from ages past.

minnie

Minnie Oakley and Florence Baker Hayes, two Wisconsin State Historical Society librarians, 1896. [Photo via]

 

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The changing world of librarians

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The Very Heart of it: The Timeless, Nourishing Value of Libraries by Peter Bromberg

The NMC Horizon Report: Emerging technologies for teaching, learning and creative inquiry by Stephen Abrams

2012 horizonk12toolkit.