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Above the Fold

A weekly newsletter for the changing world of libraries, archives and museums

November 25, 2009
Vol. 2, No. 41
ISSN: 1943-1457

In this issue:


Spiegel Interview with Umberto Eco  (External site)

Der Spiegel   •  November 11, 2009

List mania. Author Umberto Eco believes we make sense of the incomprehensible "through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries." He talks about lists as keepers of culture and about his new exhibit at the Louvre titled "The Infinity of Lists." Read on for a whole new perspective on your daily to-do memos.

All of us with "librarian" instincts ought to enjoy this brief interview. He does, after all, offer quite the apologia for a lot of our traditional behaviors. "The list doesn't destroy culture; it creates it." All the talk of lists put me in mind of a novel well-known to librarians and preservationists — A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. — which turns on the discovery of an "ancient" 20th century grocery list. If you haven't read it, get it now, it's wonderful on a number of levels just like many of Eco's own works. ( Michalko)


The Upstarts Are Here!: What Can You Possibly Learn from Entrepreneurs in Their Twenties?  (External site)

Change This  •  November 4, 2009

It's all about community. Author Donna Fenn's new book Upstarts chronicles the ways that entrepreneurial 20-somethings are successfully using online communities to counterbalance their inexperience, tapping into social networks to raise money, launch their businesses, build corporate cultures and make the transition from startup to high-growth. Fenn's conclusion applies to libraries as well as businesses: "We live in a collaborative economy and those business owners who know how to build tribes and create communities of invested business partners, customers and employees are the kinds of companies that will have a long-term future."

Fenn properly diverts attention from Gen Y's facility with technology in order to establish their relationship and community-building as the foundation for their entrepreneurial success. It's a ubiquitous phenomenon that she makes sound different and revolutionary. While acknowledging the importance of the dynamic, I'm not sure that it is the latter. ( Michalko)


Scientists Nose Out Clue to Preserving Books: Their Smell  (External site)

The Guardian   •   November 13, 2009

Passing the sniff test. It turns out that it's possible to ascertain the age of books by analyzing the gasses given off by VOCs in the paper.

You librarian readers knew this, of course, but it is amusing to read about the "grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla..." I hadn't thought about the smell of old books and old-school California Sauvignon Blancs. I may no longer be able to sniff either one. ( Michalko)


Listen, Watch, Read: Computers Search for Meaning  (External site)

Science Daily   •  November 16, 2009

Multimedia search. The European MESH project has produced an integrated semantic search platform that can search text, video and audio files. This appears to be a significant step toward the goal of a Semantic Web.

I haven't been following this project and haven't had any direct experience of its outputs. Nevertheless, this particular article might be worth a glance if for no other reason than its charmingly brief explanations of some very complex topics (you can click, for instance, and get an explanation of "streaming media"). If you want a video explaining the project this one is pretty simple and has an unintentionally funny scene of a woman getting hysterical from news overload. This is the actual MESH project site not to be confused with the Mapping European Seabed Habitats project which is abbreviated the same way and gets some of its funding from the same EU sources. ( Michalko)


Bookless Libraries Increase Accessibility  (External site)

The Tartan   •  November 16, 2009

Pushback. Carnegie Mellon librarians offer their opinion on Cushing (Mass.) Academy's decision to replace its 20,000-volume library with electronic versions. Their conclusion — pixels will never entirely replace paper and a hybrid approach is best.

Warning: This short article contains another "artifact" defense of the book, cf. the smell article above. It also correctly calls out the inadequate range of interactions we can have with — and actions we can take on — e-books. ( Michalko)


URL Shorteners Working with Internet Archive for Long-Term Preservation  (External site)

301Works.org  •  November 11, 2009

Save the links. 301Works.org — a group of about 20 URL-shortening services — is taking action to preserve the links its members generate, even if the service shuts down. This is an important reminder that our access to knowledge is only as robust as the links we create.

We should definitely applaud this effort. The importance of shortened URLs in our current communications has grown enormously. Having this kind of a fail-safe seems crucial if the services that depend on them are to continue growing. ( Michalko)


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Above the Fold is a Web-based newsletter published by OCLC Research. It has been developed to serve a broad international readership from libraries, archives and museums. News items are supplied weekly under contract by Suzanne Douglas, Ibis Communications Inc. Research items are supplied by staff in OCLC Research. Please send comments and questions about this or other issues to rlg@oclc.org.
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