A holiday treat

This story of the mystery  artist who left a series of book sculptures in various Edinburgh institutions  “in support of libraries, books, words, ideas…” isn’t new but only recently came to the attention of MLibrary, so we’re passing it on for the holidays.


Speaking of digitization…

We were (ahem), weren’t we?

A post on an NPR blog (“Hard Choices: Do Libraries Really Destroy Books“; hint: the answer is yes, sometimes), which follows up on another blog, has some worthwhile things to say about the process that we in the library delicately call “deaccessioning.” More often than not this process doesn’t mean the destruction of books, but the reality is that we can’t keep everything on the shelves forever. Digitization may not be the complete answer, but authors who oppose  digitization of their work might want to consider some of the alternatives.

Don’t try this at home

Window removal

Last week, workers (very carefully) removed one of the large windows from the connector between the Shapiro and Hatcher Library buildings to facilitate the delivery of materials for construction of the Stephen S. Clark Library for Maps, Government Information & Spatial and Numeric Data Services. The new library is scheduled to open this Fall.

More photos here.

A place for books

The Chronicle of Higher Ed reports on the University of Chicago’s new Mansueto Library, which is remarkable for its book shelving facility. It’s designed to hold 3.5 million volumes, all of which can be shelved and retrieved via computer-controlled robots. But how does an urban university find room for such a facility on its central campus?

As an older university, Chicago was unusually lucky to have so much central campus space to expand its library system, and the reason has to do with a historical quirk. In 1940, the university’s president canceled football. He saw the sport as “a waste of time,” Mr. Abbott says. The stadium was torn down, and Regenstein went up where it once stood. To build Mansueto, Chicago sacrificed even more athletic space on the altar of books, displacing tennis courts that had occupied the site.

That last line seems designed to raise eyebrows if not ire in certain quarters, but the conundrum many universities face isn’t books versus athletics; it’s book storage versus central campus places for study as well as technological and other facilities. As the article makes clear, despite digitization libraries continue to acquire new print materials all the time. Even the most brilliantly designed print storage isn’t infinitely expandable. Eventually, something has to give.

Digitizing history

James Gleick, writing in the New York Times, takes on the argument that mass digitization of the raw material of history diminishes scholarship and the “mystery of history”:

It’s a mistake to deprecate digital images just because they are suddenly everywhere, reproduced so effortlessly. We’re in the habit of associating value with scarcity, but the digital world unlinks them. You can be the sole owner of a Jackson Pollock or aBlue Mauritius but not of a piece of information — not for long, anyway. Nor is obscurity a virtue. A hidden parchment page enters the light when it molts into a digital simulacrum. It was never the parchment that mattered.

The thrill of seeing or handling venerable works may never fade; but wider access to their content has an equally thrilling potential to reach us all.

Copyright, all day

In a series of pieces on copyright, the Chronicle of Higher of Education has covered Golan v. Holder, an upcoming Supreme Court case that challenges a 1994 law that reinstated copyright on a large number of public domain works; the challenges that libraries face over the sharing of orphan works in their collections; and two current copyright infringement lawsuits brought against universities. It is also running a slide show, “Major Works Affected by U.S. Copyright Law,” and a copyright primer for academia called “What You Don’t Know about Copyright, but Should.”

It’s a good resource if you’re looking to get up-to-speed on matters of copyright, and particularly how they affect academia and libraries.

But perhaps the most interesting, or hopeful, among these stories is “Pushing Back Against Legal Threats by Putting Fair Use Forward.” The article features a pair of authors from American University—Patricia Aufderheide, a film-studies professor, and Peter Jaszi, a law professor—who have written a book called Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright.

The book, due out this summer from the University of Chicago Press, is the latest step in the duo’s fight against what they call misperceptions about the fair-use rules of U.S. copyright law. While some copyright reformers lobby Congress for new laws, and others fight existing laws, Ms. Aufderheide and Mr. Jaszi have focused on educating scholars and artists about rights they already have but may not know about. The professors’ guidelines note that risk is often overstated, and that the law allows more latitude than people often think.

Fair use rights have arguably been made smaller by people’s failure to exercise them. If Aufderheide and Jaszi are right, it’s not too late to restore them.

HathiTrust April update

The big news in April is the advent of the new PageTurner interface (brought to you by staff at the California Digital Library and MLibrary). You can flip through pages, view thumbnails, and more. Check it out, if you haven’t already.

The full update is available here.


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