12 July 2011

where are the books? and the bookkeepers?


hello, dear readers

it's time, according to time magazine, for me to revisit the basis for which this entire blog was founded (more or less)...the naked library. see what i did there? "time," according to "time" magazine. oh, i crack me up.

the library without books. which would be called something else, i'm sure, maybe a warehouse, or an empty room, or i guess it depends on what else is inside it.

ask any joe or jane on the street to name a building with books in it, probably 8 out of 10 would say library. the other 2 might say bookstore. so if a building doesn't have books in it, can it still be called a library?

what if it's a building with chairs, computers and e-book collections that you can access through those computers. would that make it a library? what if you add a cafe?

now, of course, i'm only talking about the physical structure. the library as 'place' (ugh!). but on time magazine's website, there is an article titled, "bookless library trend: designing space for digital learning." isn't bookless library an oxymoron?

oed (oxford english dictionary, of course) definition of library: a place set apart to contain books for reading, study, or reference. (Not applied, e.g. to the shop or warehouse of a bookseller.) note that the definition says contain books (but not what kind - could be e-books, perhaps?)

merriam-webster dictionary: a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale. hmmm, interesting. not specific to books. there is also an alternate definition: a collection of cloned DNA fragments that are maintained in a suitable cellular environment and that usually represent the genetic material of a particular organism or tissue. who knew? doesn't mention books at all.

encyclopedia brittanica:
collection of information resources, in print or in other forms, that is organized and made accessible for reading or study. double hmmm, more interesting still. the word "OR" regarding other forms. not "AND." curious?

the most striking part of this blog post - i got none of these definitions from a book. okay, hold on...brb.

okay, 78 steps and 3 minutes later (i work in a library close to the research assistance desk), i have gone to the webster's 3rd new international dictionary (the physical print volume) for the definition of library: a room, a section or series of sections of a building or a building itself given over to books, manuscripts, musical scores or other literary and sometimes artistic materials, as paintings or musical recordings usually kept in some convenient order for use but not for sale. i love the term "given over" as if there was some sort of invasion of marching tomes. i do find it interesting that this was the only definition that mentioned "some convenient order" as opposed to organized.

now, i'm not complaining here, but in less time than it took me to walk over to that dictionary, i got the previous 3 definitions online. in using the actual book, i had to look up the book as opposed to having the book look it up for me. minor inconveniences, yes, but i blame the industrial revolution!!

now, back to the time magazine article. it mentions drexel university's new library learning terrace, with nary a book in site. "we don't just house books, we house learning," they say.

kansas state's fiedler library - "fiedler library is designed primarily as an electronic library," they say.

stanford university's terman engineering library - pruned all but 10,000 volumes to make room for tables and study space. everything else is (or should be) available e-lectronically.

univ of texas-san antonio/applied engineering and technology library - labeled "the nation's first completely bookless library on a college or university campus."

what's a library for? books or information? information or guidance to information? where are the bookkeepers?

as for bookkeepers, i really mean librarians. who are they? what are they? if there are no books, does that make a librarian any less a librarian? is he/she now an informarian? hey, i like that. although i hate the term, maybe librarians really are media specialists now. or information manipulators? or locators? human divining rods? will they be any less so if a library doesn't contain actual books?

maybe our love of libraries comes from its physical, tactical nature. we are, after all, human. humans, usually, judge things through the senses. if something's rotten in denmark, we know it. can we still find a love for literature if we can't wander the stacks, using our sight to guide us. our brains to process the information on that all-important inside flap? maybe we're afraid that we won't be able to get as much if it's not laid out in front of us in a physical manner. maybe we're just . . . afraid. is this evolution or revolution?

just something to think about...while you're wandering the stacks of your librarian or the aisles of your bookstore, or the electronic bookshelves of amazon or google books. because no matter what or how, a good story is still a good story.

happy reading, no matter the format!

book review: two thumbs WAY up for these YA titles: the girl who circumnavigated fairyland in a ship of her own making by catherynne valente (author of palimpsest-definitely NOT a YA title) and noah barleywater runs away by john boyne (author of the boy in the striped pajamas-definitely another wonderful YA title).

two thumbs down, so far: the borrower by rebecca makkai (annoying protagonist)

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