25 Year of the Web + Future of Libraries

September 29th, 2014

It’s not a secret that I love the Berkman Center. A recent Berkman Buzz email points to John Palfrey’s reflection on 25 years of the Web alongside David Weinberger’s thoughts on the future of libraries and how other influencers will create that future.

Many people think the Web will make libraries obsolete. Well, it’s been 25 years and many changes have happened, but how many libraries have embraced those changes and run with them? How many of us use libraries more because of their digital resources or because we found a pointer to something in a collection while searching the Web or because we can access something remotely through a library’s website?

David writes:

That’s why it’s a tragedy that libraries are barely visible in the new knowledge infrastructure. What libraries and librarians know about books and so much more is too important a cultural resource to lose.

That’s also why we need libraries to be out where ideas and knowledge are being raised, discussed, contested, and absorbed. Everywhere there’s a discussion on the web, everything that libraries know ought to be immediately at hand. Yet this hope for libraries is unlikely to be realized primarily by libraries, for two reasons.

John writes:

[The Web's] impact is a consequence of the brilliance of the design, how it builds upon other networks, and how it allows for others to build on top of it through new ideas.

As we celebrate twenty five years of the Web and what it has meant to societies around the world, we ought also to consider what we might accomplish in the next twenty-five years. Consider three institutions that have already been changed by the Web and which will no doubt change more in the coming two and a half decades: education, libraries, and journalism. Each of these institutions is essential to healthy democracies and relies upon a web that remains free, open, and interoperable. In an increasingly digital world, the importance of these institutions is going up, not down. And yet, in each case, the Web is too often perceived as a threat, rather than as an opportunity, to these institutions and those who work in them. And if the Web itself becomes closed down, controlled by private parties or by government censorship, we will curtail opportunities for extraordinarily positive social change. With great imagination, compelling design, sound policy, and effective implementation, each of these institutions might emerge stronger and better able to serve democracies than before the advent of the Web.

Both posts are worth a closer look. Some of you will appreciate what John says about journalism and the Web.

The Map Thief by Michael Blanding

September 14th, 2014

I finished reading The Map Thief by Michael Blanding this morning, the account primarily of the actions of map dealer E. Forbes Smiley III and thefts to which he admitted and others attributed to him, mostly in the 2000s. The book reveals a bit about how more support is needed to adequately catalog and care for rare books, manuscripts, and maps to preserve them for the future while making them available now. It’s both a book that is a bit alarming and helpful by teaching how some people steal materials. If I were still the guardian of a collection, I would definitely review practices to figure out how to better protect materials. The book also summarizes the history of map making and certain key maps and takes a look at some institutions Smiley visited.

WordCamp Boston 2014 MIT Media Lab/Workbar August 23-24, 2014

August 17th, 2014

WordCamp Boston 2014 is being held at the MIT Media Lab on August 23, 2014 while the Contributor Day is being held at the Workbar in Cambridge on August 24, 2014. The cost is $20.00 to attend both days.

Wordcamp, which is held across the country and the world, deals with all aspects of the WordPress blogging program.

For more info:
 http://2014.boston.wordcamp.org/

Posted by Rich

BarCamp Boston 9, October 11-12, NERD

August 3rd, 2014

Yepper. Save the date. Awesome sessions. Nifty networking. Informal. Like usual. And yet unique, like every year is a new experience.

BarCamp Boston 9
October 11 & 12, 2014
Microsoft NERD on Memorial Drive, not too far from the Kendall T station

(BarCamp Boston, by the way, played a major role in me having the job I have today.)

The (new) Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Journalism Entering the Digital Era

July 26th, 2014

After hearing through the family grapevine that the new version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is worth seeing, I caught it last night at LSC at MIT for free. What my family didn’t tell me that I’ll tell you is that the “real life” parts of the movie are completely different from the 1947 version’s storyline. Instead, they deal with Life magazine shutting down and the transition the publication and its staff go through to begin entering the digital age. Sound familiar? Walter is a “negative asset manager,” aka photo negative librarian/archivist—one of us news and photo librarians. Like many of us, he must figure out what to do next with his career and, well, life because of changes to the media industry and its downsizing.

Several scenes happen in the physical photo archive. I guess I gasped audibly when the characters entered that area the first time because I saw my companion glance at me. Levels of classic metal shelves in a common library architecture. Hollinger boxes. Memories.

I’m not a big Ben Stiller fan by any means, but I did enjoy the film, especially because I can relate to the plot line involving Walter’s job. Going through another job transition, I’ve been pondering my own career path, where I’ve been, and what various changes might mean for my professional future. Someone recently asked me where I see myself in five years. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have predicted I am where I am now. (But, amusingly, I may have just done a loop and ended up in a position that makes great sense based on where I was five years ago.) Where should I be in five years? Where do I want to be in five years? Sitting on a Himalayan mountainside photographing and observing snow leopards seems terrific to me, but quite orthogonal from where I am now.

Anyway … LSC shows The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) again tonight at 8 pm in 26-100 at MIT.

Bored tonight? Go see the Magna Carta for free.

July 18th, 2014

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is free today thanks to a special Free Fun Fridays program from the Highland Street Foundation. One of the four original copies of the Magna Carta is there this summer. I saw it Wednesday night. When in your lifetime are you going to have the chance to admire such a fine document from almost 800 years ago (799, really)? It’s amazing to think about how someone had the presence of mind that long ago to try to preserve that thin parchment and those elegantly penned lines that became critically important to many governments.

The exhibit does not allow photography, so alas, I personally have no proof. (Yeah, no selfie with 800-year-old parchment.) It made me wonder how, in this age of sharing, it would change things if the museum or the document’s owner, Lincoln Cathedral, or someone would provide an image or something we could all share, send to friends, and view to get closer looks at this amazing piece of history.

Like the gorgeous quilts on display now, it makes me ponder why some people keep some things and not others, why go to the lengths to preserve some of the things we do. Not that I’m saying these things are not worth preserving, just how is it that some of these things that are hundreds of years old have survived, been handed down, found their way into hands that would cherish them, etc. And items like the quilts end up telling us so much about how people lived and what they had in the 1800s or so. What cultures influenced others; what colors, patterns, and fabrics were available; what was likely to end up in a blanket. But talking about the quilts, even though some tell terrific stories and, of course, they’re fibre arts–hobbies closely associated with librarians–is not nearly as germane as talking about a major historical document. It would be way too off topic, perhaps, for me to say that the collectors focused on the same pattern as my Mom’s quilt, the one she and some women made when our church experimented with a quilting group a while back. The ones on display were amazing variants on that pattern, one of which in particular caused more people than just me to gasp and admire it in wonder. Oh, the patience and creativity that went into some of those threads!

Besides, what else are you going to do tonight? It’s not like there’s a football game.

Free Web Presentations for Librarians, Including a Solo One Thursday, 6/19

June 18th, 2014

Through an American Library Association group on LinkedIn, I found a list of free programs offered over the Internet for librarians in June. Sure, the month is almost over (*gasp!*), but materials related to past ones may be available online still and a few of the upcoming ones could be quite useful, including a Thursday (6/19) discussion about solo librarianship. (OK, maybe that’s a bad example because registration is closed, but it’s still possible to register to receive the presentation materials.) They also offer leads on people and organizations who offer training, like Florida Library Webinars. (See that, Lincoln?)

MIT Libraries Sponsors Showing of The Monuments Men, 4/30, 8 p, 26-100

April 25th, 2014

For National Preservation Week, the MIT Libraries are sponsoring a free showing of The Monuments Men via LSC at MIT, Tuesday, April 29, 2014, at 8:00 pm, 26-100 (that’s Building 26, room 100, a big movie theatre lecture hall not too far from the landmark Stata Center). Did I mention the showing is free? Come out to show support for the MIT Libraries!

*yells “LSC … !”

Liz Donovan: Infomaniac Behind the News

April 9th, 2014

I can’t help sharing this tale with you. Besides, Liz would love that I blogged it!

While doing a search in Google tonight for something somewhat random, a link to Infomaniac: Behind the News popped up in the first page of search results. I gasped.

Liz Donovan’s blog is still out there. Her words are still floating around on Blogspot. Terrific! It’s good to know her words live on. She was such an amazing woman, one very respected by her news librarian colleagues. She definitely influenced me and my career. You’re reading one outcome of her persuasiveness. I can recall several conversations years ago where she asked me if I had heard of this thing called a “weblog” and how she thought I should start one. She was often an early adopter and evangelist. And she was absolutely right (even if I don’t get around to writing here much these days). So in April 2003, I started a new hobby.

The match to my search terms was not even a good one. Seven words grouped with parentheses in a pattern of 5 and 2. Only two words of the first set of five were in the particular post Google pointed me to. Why is it that Liz’ blog is popping up now? It makes me laugh. Hello, Liz!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

December 25th, 2013

Wishing everyone a safe and wonderful Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Let’s hope 2014 is a great one!

Cheers!

Posted by Rich