September 3, 2008

Back to School Series: Part I

Over the next few weeks I will be chronicling the juxtaposition of my two fall courses, History of the Book and Foundations of Digital Libraries. So far, the overlap is clear. Both professors, in different buildings, on different days, in different quadrants of the District--and they have different native languages and home countries--uttered this maxim: "There is nothing new under the sun." Professor Delfino drove this message home by tearing up a copy of From Fields of Gold by Alexandra Ripley, and then having us narrate our reactions as he pulled the pages from the spine. We learned that our feelings about destroying an "old" medium would likely not be replicated by watching him delete an electronic text file, but there would still be some analogous loss. There is nothing new under the sun. The issues we are dealing with with e-books are not so different from the issues we dealt with when transitioning from orality to literacy. We also learned that we are still in said transition (and we got to play with a Kindle!). Perhaps the most important moment in class was when Professor Delfino said, "Wikipedia is a fact of life." Later in the semester each student will fact-check and enhance the content of a Wikipedia entry about publishing.

Professor Choi wisely made us go all the way back to Vannevar Bush's As We May Think to ground our study of digital libraries and prepare us mentally for the digital collections project that will account for most of our semester grade. We got one hell of a history lesson from her on Day 1, which occurred conveniently less than 24 hours after Delfino's dramatic spectacle. There is nothing new under the sun. As humans we will continue to create and synthesize content, and then automate access to that content, whether our medium be digital libraries, hypercard stacks, or compact shelving.

Stay tuned for more confluence and collision as I navigate my penultimate semester of library and information science!


Steven Jeffery said...


One thing I have always had trouble with was taking classes like History of the Book and applying the knowledge gained to present-day problems. Have you found these types of classes to be useful?

EileenBoswell said...
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Embedded Librarian said...

Thanks, Steve...and yes, I am still working out the details of how to reply to comments on my own blog!

I would say that, at a minimum, the "Nothing New" concept inspired my Task Mastery 101 post this week. I also feel I get some general benefits out of being in library school classes while working as a librarian (maybe I will do a post about that one of these days). But to address your specific point, you have inspired me to note in my school notebook margins not only what I notice about the two classes that I can blog about, but also some immediate application of those points to my work here. Thank you.