A Great Sorting

“…we are witnessing a Great Sorting within the library, a matching of different kinds of scholarly uses with the right media, formats, and locations. Books that are in high demand; or that benefit from physical manifestations, such as art books and musical scores; or that are rare or require careful, full engagement, might be better off in centralized places on campus. But multiple copies of common books, those that can be consulted quickly online or are needed only once a decade, or that are now largely replaced by digital forms, can be stored off site and made available quickly on demand, which reduces costs for libraries and also allows them to more easily share books among institutions in a network. Importantly, this also closes the gap between elite institutions such as Yale and the much larger number of colleges with more modest collections.”

-Dan Cohen, “The Books of College Libraries Are Turning Into Wallpaper.” The Atlantic. May 26, 2019.

The Oldest Treasures From 12 Great Libraries – Atlas Obscura

In the history of writing, bound books as we know them today arrive fairly late, so there are no actual “books” on this list. Instead, this is a wondrous collection of illuminated manuscripts, papyrus scrolls, and clay tablets. Some of these items you can even see in person, if you pay a visit.

—Sarah Laskow. “The Oldest Treasures From 12 Great Libraries.” AtlasObscura.com. October 26, 2017.

Card Catalogs

“In Control Through Communication, her study of 19th century information management, JoAnne Yates identifies five breakthrough technologies. There’s the telephone and telegraph, which handle external communication. For internal communication, the big three are the typewriter, carbon paper (and other duplication technologies), and filing systems, especially the vertical file and card catalog.
The others made information producible, reproducible, and transmittable, but the file systems made information intelligible. If the telegraph was ‘the Victorian Internet,’ the file cabinet and standardized filing were the Victorian operating system. For over a century, it was Windows.”

—Tim Carmody, “Card catalogs and the secret history of modernity.” kottke.org. October 24, 2017.

Keepers of the Secrets

“Lannon said that Google had changed the way people sought information. ‘They only want information based on the information they think they want,’ he said. As a rule, he said, archivists at the library should give you the box you’ve asked for — but also suggest another box. There are fewer opportunities, now, to stumble into a world you don’t already know. ‘It’s important to look outside of your own existence.'”

—James Somers, “Keepers of the Secrets.” The Village Voice. September 20,2017.

A love letter to archives.