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Stupid: The Extreme Sport version - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Stupid: The Extreme Sport version
Okay, take a major urban research library.

And remove the microtext and newspapers.

This would be after getting rid of the science and humanities departments (the former replaced by a coffee shop, no less), and creating a single "service point" for fine arts, music, and prints research, and alongside the effort to weed 15% of the circulating collection because "there's no room"--despite a plethora of meeting rooms, space used for private events, and of course, restaurants. There's a whole floor that's out of sight in McKim.

No, seriously, this is going on.

Even if you love databases and find them easier to search--and they are--there are two major problems here.

The first is that not everything on microtext is digitized yet. You'll be losing a couple of CENTURIES of newspaper reports, thereby forcing people to use secondary sources instead of primary ones.

The second is that database articles do not generally have the contextual information that you can get from the microfilm. Was an issue important enough to have a big headline on the front page, or was it just a little notice? What ads were surrounding it? These are important questions for serious historical researchers. The only reason to remove microtext is to say that the library is no longer a place for the serious researcher.

I'm sure you're all sick of hearing about this from me, but the BPL is worth saving. It's insane that it has to be saved from its own management, but apparently, it does.
33 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 21st, 2010 03:16 am (UTC) (Link)

is there anything useful the rest of us CAN do????

honestly this is eating me up inside. it's so Unfair.

is there ANYTHING that Can be done?? At all? or all it's lost and done with?

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 21st, 2010 03:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: is there anything useful the rest of us CAN do????

Spread it around. They seem to be trying to do this under the radar. You can always make your opinion known to the administration, or write to the newspapers. Do you live in Boston? If so, contact your city councilman. If you live in Massachusetts but outside Boston, contact your state rep about the state budget, to put pressure on it. After all, the library belongs to the whole Commonwealth.
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: April 21st, 2010 03:57 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: is there anything useful the rest of us CAN do????

Even if you live in Boston, contact your state rep and state Senators. Jack Hart, in particular, is a very good choice. And the entire Boston delegation of state reps has already taken steps to protect the branches -- I'm sure if they understand what's in danger at the research library they'll take steps for that too.
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 21st, 2010 03:40 am (UTC) (Link)

DONE! *on my part*

posted it on my blog, my facebook page.
And send a message to my public librarian *who is not in boston or massachussetts, but she knows about stuff like this so she probably knows people*
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 21st, 2010 06:06 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: DONE! *on my part*

Excellent. :D
sonetka From: sonetka Date: April 21st, 2010 03:40 am (UTC) (Link)
I've never been to Mass in my life, so I doubt my expressing an opinion to them would do much, but good LORD. I'm at best a dilettante researcher (sell the occasional essay into a random, fairly trivial but interesting historical side story and that's about it) and even I have some inkling of the boggling amount of material that ISN'T online in any form.

At least they're not destroying the films. Yet.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 21st, 2010 06:06 am (UTC) (Link)
No, but they may become seriously inaccessible, which is equivalent.
lilacsigil From: lilacsigil Date: April 21st, 2010 04:25 am (UTC) (Link)
No, keep posting! At the very least, it's an early warning for everyone else!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 21st, 2010 06:07 am (UTC) (Link)
It is--it definitely won't stop in Boston.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: April 21st, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hell, I live in Colorado, and AFAIK only university libraries and the main Denver branch still have the 'film and the 'fiche. If anything, Boston is a holdout.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 21st, 2010 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
In that case, we REALLY have to hold the line!
mcgonagalls_cat From: mcgonagalls_cat Date: April 21st, 2010 04:43 am (UTC) (Link)
If there are actual research libraries available how will the Tea Party-ers be able to continue with their non-info based claims?
Surely you don't want Beck and Limbaugh to be shown for the lying, lack-of-facts based miscreants they are, do you?

What can you be thinking?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 21st, 2010 06:07 am (UTC) (Link)
This definitely not a partisan issue. I mean, from the left, you're denying access to great sources to anyone who can't afford a private subscription library, and from the right, you're cutting down a great historical institution. Libraries are one of those oddball things that everyone pretty much agrees are a good. Except Mayor Menino and library President Umbridge.

Edited at 2010-04-21 06:47 am (UTC)
mcgonagalls_cat From: mcgonagalls_cat Date: April 21st, 2010 07:00 am (UTC) (Link)
First. I was being sarcastic.

Second, it is a partisan issue. Since Reagan started the practice of actively "dumbing down" the populace, the educational system has been undermined and dismantled, which has lead to abridging of The Constitution and The Bill of Rights. Without the tools to learn, one can't see what's being done. Destroying Libraries is part of that.

Third, I think you have your "...from the Left...the Right" reversed. The Right tends to want access to be by subscription/exclusive to the moneyed class, while the Left tends toward supporting historically important aspects.

However, it seems you and I are in agreement in principle, just using different vernacular.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 21st, 2010 07:13 am (UTC) (Link)
(I got the sarcasm a little late. I'm a little burned out, sorry.)

Actually, what I said was that it would be a problem for the left because access is being denied. In my experience, the right has been more concerned with preservation (hence "conservative," from "conserve"), therefore, it's a lose-lose proposition.

And of course, in Boston, nothing's a partisan issue, because it's a one party town. ;p
vytresna From: vytresna Date: April 21st, 2010 05:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Serious abridgement of the Constitution and Bill of Rights really seemed to take off with FDR, if not Prohibition (what with federal enforcement agencies being a holdover from the '20s and all).

I believe the sentiment that today's children just can't handle the stuff they used to get on standardized tests in the '60s is a distressingly bipartisan trend - it's pretty much E.D. Hirsch (himself pretty bipartisan) versus absolutely everyone else - but sure, I would like to know what part Reagan played in the mess.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 21st, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, it goes longer than the '60s. I was reading one bizarre history of education or another, and in the '30s, there was a school of thought that it didn't really matter if girls could read well, so they ought to be given classes in how to put on their make-up and do their hair. It's this weird strain in American education schools (aka, teachers colleges) that wants school to be about useful skills rather than that high-falutin' academic nonsense. It's weird.

(As for Reagan, my only real Reagan-related memory of being in school was being told by an acting principal that I wasn't allowed to make fun of the president in his earshot. When I told him I had rights, he told me, "Not in school.")

Edited at 2010-04-21 06:27 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 22nd, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hate to undermine the sally, but the problem is older than that. I'm working at the moment on constructing a document trail (read skeleton) linking opinions satirised by George Eliot in Mill on the Floss to a 1910 book by Janet Erskine Stuart "The education of Catholic Girls"(interestingly kept in print by the schools in the Sacred heart tradition who give it to all of their teachers upon appointment). I don't believe that the reduced emphasis on girl's studies in the WWI and depression era is a new influence in educational philosophy -- its just the same tired old arguments being resurrected.

What Reagan does, I think, is largely unrelated, and extremely partisan. There are well documented reforms in America following WWII where government sought to construct the population as ideal consumers, thus bolstering the American producing machines in the absence of war (scarily a la Huxley and "Brave New World").
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 22nd, 2010 11:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was actually in school during the Reagan years, and I don't remember all that much going on. We took our Regents exams, went through English, social studies (that was changed from history before the Reagan era, I think), math, etc. It was after the '70s Summerhillian reforms, where children were expected to somehow form their own curricula when their minds were saying, "Wow! Sandbox!", but before the NCLB sorts of things.

I'm really not trying to challenge (as you might guess from the anecdote, I was no Reaganite), I'm just really not sure what educational reforms we're talking about here.
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 22nd, 2010 11:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm just actually trying to remember. The theory is stuck in my memory from one of last semester's lectures, but the evidence seems to have disappeared.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 23rd, 2010 12:39 am (UTC) (Link)
One thing I've remembered since I wrote the above--we were always having trouble holding onto our gifted program. The parents finally had to threaten to pull us (and our test scores) out of the school before they could guarantee that we'd get requisite attention.
ladyelaine From: ladyelaine Date: April 21st, 2010 10:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Is there an actual paying job for digitizing information, or is that just folded into the other librarian duties--or worse yet, is it a spare-time, volunteer thing?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 21st, 2010 01:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
You know, I'm not sure, as I've never been involved directly. It's conceivable that they outsource it, but I just don't know.
toastedcheese From: toastedcheese Date: April 21st, 2010 08:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
They seem to be mainly participating in this.
sreya From: sreya Date: April 21st, 2010 11:24 am (UTC) (Link)
That doesn't sound like a library anymore at all, more like a conference center with a reading room.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 21st, 2010 01:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
And a coffee bar. Don't forget the coffee bar.
mollywheezy From: mollywheezy Date: April 21st, 2010 12:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have never been to Massachusetts, but as a lover of history I am horrified at the restricted access to primary source documents! Sreya is right. It's not a library anymore, but "a conference center with a reading room." *feels sick*
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 21st, 2010 01:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's crazy. And it's not like we're talking about putting a moratorium on purchases until the budget crisis blows over--they're talking about getting rid of materials already owned in order to fit some "transformation" plan.
From: maxzook Date: April 21st, 2010 03:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

Is there a reason you can't tell us ...

... which library we're talking about?

If there is I can respect that, otherwise it would give us ex-New Englanders a handle on who to complain to.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 21st, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Is there a reason you can't tell us ...

Oh, sorry, I thought I had! It's the Boston Public Library, Copley Square location. Main branch. GRRR.
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 21st, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Is there a reason you can't tell us ...

Thanks, I just posted this on Facebook. L.A. is cutting back on their hours, many aren't open on Sundays any more. And yes, our main branch has a coffee shop, but as I recall they didn't get rid of any library resources to make room for it.
toastedcheese From: toastedcheese Date: April 21st, 2010 07:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Out of curiosity I checked the Boston Public Library mission statement:

"The Boston Public Library's mission is to preserve and provide access to historical records of our society, and to serve the cultural, educational, and informational needs of the people of the City and the Commonwealth."

Except apparently this first part is optional.

Obviously it's challenging to prioritize when money and space is tight. Everything a library does is important to some of its patrons (yes, even serving coffee). This is why you craft a mission statement - so that when hard choices come along, you can look at it and ask, are we still doing what we set out to do? Are we acting or reacting?

I don't expect every member of an organization to go around with the five-year plan tattooed somewhere prominent on their bodies. But there is a reason people write these things down, and it's not to make ourselves feel better!
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 21st, 2010 09:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd like to tell them that I completely get where they're coming from. Ignorance is like a delicate fruit. Touch it, and the bloom is gone.

But I'm afraid they wouldn't get either the reference or the sarcasm.

33 comments or Leave a comment