Monday, May 28, 2007

Prelinger - the post-digital library

The May issue of Harper's Magazine has a 'Letter from San Francisco" called "A World in Three Aisles" about The Prelinger Library. The Prelinger Library is, according to its blog, "an appropriation-friendly, image-rich, experimental research library. Independent and open to the public" and it was partly inspired by the Warburg Institute Library. (I don't recall hearing about the Warburg Institute when I was in library school. The first I remember learning about it was from this book. )

Here's a quote from it that I liked very much:
The executive director of the digital-library initiative at Rice University is quoted as saying that "the library is not so much a space where books are held as where ideas are shared." This is odd. Most people might suppose, to the contrary, that a library is exactly a space where books are held. There are many, many places on a college campus where ideas are shared: lecture halls, seminar rooms, computer clusters, dorm lounges. The library happens to be the one where ideas are shared precisely because books are held.
I'd recommend reading the article because the Prelinger Library - though special, small and unscaleable - makes one consider a serious rethink of libraries, communities and collections, searching and browsing. (Prelinger certainly made my head spin). Thinking about it again brought up a particular memory from library school. In a seminar course, I made a presentation to my class on the matter of zines and libraries. After I spoke, my professor started off the question and answer portion with a dismissive, "isn't this just really about ephemera?"

So its not altogether unsurprising that the most exciting library projects as of late - like the Prelinger Library and LibraryThing - have originated from non-librarians.

No comments: