BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age by John Palfrey

By John Palfrey

Libraries at the present time are extra very important than ever. greater than simply ebook repositories, libraries can turn into bulwarks opposed to essentially the most the most important demanding situations of our age: unequal entry to schooling, jobs, and information.

In BiblioTech, educator and know-how specialist John Palfrey argues that any one looking to perform the twenty first century must know how to discover and use the enormous shops of knowledge on hand on-line. And libraries, which play a vital function in making those abilities and data to be had, are in danger. so as to live on our swiftly modernizing global and dwindling govt investment, libraries needs to make the transition to a electronic destiny once possible—by digitizing print fabric and making sure that born-digital fabric is publicly to be had online.

Not all of those alterations should be effortless for libraries to enforce. yet as Palfrey boldly argues, those variations are very important if we are hoping to avoid wasting libraries and, via them, the yankee democratic ideal.

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There is reason to fear that we will lose much of the digital information that we are creating—and perhaps exactly the material we most want to preserve—at a terrifying rate. We are much better at creating digital information than we are at storing it. Court records, for instance, are often created as digital files but then stored as physical books because librarians fear losing the digital versions more quickly than the analog. Librarians and archivists often emphasize the need to take precautions with digital materials.

For either type of work in the digital humanities, big or bespoke, librarians are called upon to offer new services to their scholarly patrons. To take a simple problem, imagine a scholar of history and literature who wants to use a new computer system to compare the works of Marlowe to the works of Shakespeare. The big data scenario requires skills on the part of librarians in finding and providing access to data sources (the literary texts that can be subjected to computerized analysis) that rarely can just be ordered from a publisher.

The same might be said of the correspondence of Harvard President Drew Faust. A historian, President Faust wrote a pathbreaking book about death that draws upon the letters sent home from the front during the American Civil War, entitled This Republic of Suffering. Unless we come up with new strategies, Faust’s own electronic correspondence, recorded 150 years later in history, may be less accessible in the future than the bloodstained letters recovered from the 1860s. We may be left to wonder if there are lost emails of David Foster Wallace that will never resurface the way lost letters of J.

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