Another Chapter Submission

Good news: I submitted another book chapter, this one covering our library’s implementation of the Summon discovery tool by Serials Solutions. The bad news is that the chapter is late. But it’s under the stated word count, well written, and I’ve worked with this editor before, so one hopes she’s not of a mind to reject it our of hand. We shall see.

In the mean time I need to finish working on another chapter for the same anthology (which is on the use of Google products in libraries); I promised to have that ready in a few days. I suppose I should get to it.

Back to work.

Neil de Grasse Tyson’s Intelligence-Priming Reading List

Neil de Grasse Tyson answered a recent post on Reddit that asked which books the whole world should read. Openculture.com printed his list here.

Tyson’s reading list is as follows:

1.) The Bible (eBook) - “to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.”

2.) The System of the World by Isaac Newton (eBook) – “to learn that the universe is a knowable place.”

3.) On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth.”

4.) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (eBookAudio Book) – “to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos.”

5.) The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (eBookAudio Book) – “to learn how the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world.”

6.) The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”

7.) The Art of War by Sun Tsu (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.”

8.) The Prince by Machiavelli (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn that people not in power will do all they can to acquire it, and people in power will do all they can to keep it.”

I like the list a lot, but I think the commentary could use some tweaking. The Bible, for example, is far too complicated a work of literature to be summarily dismissed as a mind control tool, even though he’s right in observing that’s how it gets used more often than not.

The Wealth of Nations, for another instance, is a more fully  developed continuation of Smith’s earlier work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which deals much more fundamentally with the ethical and moral construction of modern industrial commerce than the later book does, which is one reason it’s less widely studied in business schools.

Similarly, Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War as a primer in how to defeat an opponent in any contest of power. Its principles apply to the political and commercial realms as well as to the battlefield.

Lastly, The Prince is widely thought of as an instruction manual for achieving and maintaining power, but there’s a school of thought that says Niccolo Machiavelli intended it to be a sarcastic screed against the machinations of the great houses of Europe.

Anyway, Paine, Darwin, and Newton are the three on this list I still need to actually read over a weekend. How about you?

The Government is Toast, but MCNY is Still Here

Or, as CNN  put it in today’s news:

Washington (CNN) — The game of chicken failed. Neither side blinked. Now millions will pay the price.

Americans watched a colossal failure by Congress overnight and the shutdown of their government.

For weeks, the House and the Senate blamed and bickered, each claiming they’re standing up for what the public wants.

In the end, it led to the one outcome nobody wanted — one that will stop 800,000 Americans from getting paid and could cost the economy about $1 billion a week.

“Agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a note it sent to federal employees.

This is the first time the government has shut down in nearly 18 years. The last time it did, the stalemate lasted 21 days during the Clinton administration.

Which, we all remember, was initiated by a southern fried lunatic named Newt Gingritch (GA-R). History repeating itself? Well, yes, as far as I can tell, it is. But city and state governments are still running, and while that is eminently useful, the two entities are not really interchangeable.

This situation is a bit nerve wracking as MCNY gets a fair amount of support from student loans which are run through the federal government, but today and for the forseeable future, we are here.

And because we are here, we have a new display going up shortly. Here’s a look at the stack of books we pulled from the shelves:

photo

 

As you can tell, the theme is “Monsters: Real & Imagined.” I’ll post another pic when it’s properly arranged.

 

RIP Richard Matheson, Story Teller

Richard Matheson, best known as a science fiction writer, died Monday night. He was 87.

I say ‘best known as a sci-fi writer’ because that’s how the obituaries are identifying him. Reuters did so, The Atlantic Wire says that he “defined sci-fi”. Others, like io9.com, remember him as the author of I Am Legend.

I don’t want to take any of that away from him. It’s just that I never thought of Matheson as strictly a science fiction writer. I thought he had a greater range than that. He told fantastic, memorable stories that spoke to legions of fans.

My first encounter with Matheson’s work was a copy of his Shock! anthology that my parents bought me when I was ten. I had encountered his work earlier than that–multiple episodes of the Twilight Zone (including favorites like “Mute“, “Death Ship“, “Steel“, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet“, “Night Call“, “Spur of the Moment“) and a particularly wacky episode of Star Trek TOS (“The Enemy Within“)–but it wasn’t until much later that I started paying attention to him specifically. Shock! has a bunch of sciencey-type stories between the covers: “Dance of the Dead”, about battlefield zombies harnessed by unscrupulous nightclubs for entertainment; “Lemmings”, a very strange short-short about a country-wide suicide episode, and “The Creeping Terror” about a madness-inducing fungus that spreads across North America, are three that stay with me.

Other works from that collection have nothing to do with empirical reality but are just plain fun to read: “The Ledge”, about a wager gone horribly wrong; “The Legion of Plotters”, about a touch of persecution, and “Death Ship”, about three astronauts forever trying to get home and failing miserably, are three without any science at all but which are compelling fiction nonetheless.

Then there are stories like “The Splendid Source” (which was recently turned into a Family Guy episode) which are just a good, weird flavor of awesome.

Anyway, I got older, and I read everything from Matheson I could find. Luckily, his work was in constant circulation and I come from a long line of old school sci-fi geeks, enabling me to find original prints of stories like “Born of Man and Woman” which appeared in the Year’s Best Science Fiction of 1950. Considering that gems like “The Weapon Shop” by A.E. van Vogt and “It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby were in the same volume, Matheson had excellent company. “Steel” of course gave rise to the Twilight Zone episode of the same name and while I haven’t seen Real Steel yet, I want to eventually. I mean, come on, who doesn’t really want to see Wolverine teach a ten foot robot how to box like a pro?

I purposely stayed away from his longer works for years. I liked his short stories so much, I didn’t want to ruin the appreciation I had for them. But I was in the habit of seeing the films that had been made of his longer work before reading the books. (That was how we rolled in the 70s, yo.) Films like The Omega Man and The Incredible Shrinking Man were enjoyable in their own campy ways. They weren’t great works of art but they were fun. The Legend of Hell House was a fair adaptation of the frankly terrifying book of the same name–except the movie managed to be even creepier in the way that only 1970s ghost movies can be. As for the film Robin Williams made of What Dreams May Come . . . well, after having finally read the book, let’s just say the film didn’t quite measure up. I read I Am Legend for the first time around the time the Will Smith film came out (never saw it, not planning to) and thought it one of the bleakest books I’ve ever read.

I admit I haven’t read The Incredible Shrinking Man yet, either, although it sits on my shelf. That book is a big deal, or became a big deal once I found out that Scott Carey was a stand in for Matheson’s father who lost his job and his confidence some time in middle age. That hits a little close to home.

Then there are books like The Path. I read that one years ago, right after reading What Dreams may Come . . . which, Matheson swore in the acknowledgements, was written purely from research except for the characters. I’m still not sure if it’s meant to be fiction or not.

If you’re a good enough story teller, then the science doesn’t really matter. Richard Matheson was. He will be missed.

 

A Book A Week: Old Man’s War

I have a dilemma: too little time to read and too damn many books on my “To Read” pile. So, this is the day that I do something about it.

Jonathan Coulton got a project going back when where he would write, record, and release a new song every seven days for a year. He called it A Thing A Week and it gave him a platform to establish himself as a geek song lord. I’m not going for anything that ambitious other than the ambition of purchasing all of JoCo’s work, which I’ve already done. But I do like the discipline of getting through and reporting on the texts one week at a time.

So, every Friday I’ll post a reader advisory of a book off my shelf and I’ll call it A Book a Week. It gets its own category and everything so you can set the pages to scan according to tags or category filters.

I figured I’d do a bit on Old Man’s War by John Scalzi to start. One because I like Scalzi’s work, and two I just finished the book so it’s still fresh in my mind. A not-too distant third is that the novel is a clear riff on Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein, and I’ve been a giant Heinlein freak for a very long time.

Here we go:

John Perry has just turned 75. And he does what any other red-blooded American septugenarian might do on his birthday: he visits the grave of his dead wife, wraps up his affairs, and joins the Colonial Defense Forces.

Perry’s experience in boot camp gives us the basics. The CDF is Earth’s first and only line of defense in a universe that has nothing good to offer humanity except new planets to colonize, and the rare alliance with an alien race that doesn’t want to kill us. This has been going on for centuries, and we’ve learned a few important lessons while traipsing among the stars.

First, there are more of them than there are of us. Second, many of them don’t like us except as a potential hors d’hourve with dinner (if not as dinner). Third, even those alien races who do like us, think of us as too evenly matched to really fight with. Fourth and most importantly, they all want the same real estate we do and are willing to kill us for it.

The Colonial Defense Force is therefore very necessary and recruits from the best Earth has to offer: the oldsters.

It makes a wacky sort of sense. Older people have interpersonal skills, life experience, and job-related skills that no nineteen year old can hope to match. The main thing the kids bring to the party is the physicality of youth: strength, endurance, stamina, and-near limitless energy.

The CDF can fix that, though. We learn that the Colonial Defense Forces have access to technology that nobody on Earth ever even sees, because well, the folks back home don’t need it. The fancy stuff–the beanstalk and orbital space station, the skip drives, the starships, the weapons and armor, and especially the new genetically enhanced bodies that each soldiers is wired into during their orientation–is due to the trade the CDF has managed with other, more advanced, alien races. Humanity gets technology, yes, but it’s universally applied to colonizing and defending other planets. That includes defending said colonists, and that means a huge infantry.

Oh, and nobody who enlists, either as a colonist or as a soldier, ever sets foot on Earth again. Ever. One more reason to take the old ones rather than the kids. People with a lifetime’s worth of experience have a better basis from which to choose to leave.

It’s a fun read, both for the main character’s personality, and the way that Scalzi unfolds the universe for us. There’s not a lot of descriptive verse which works, as it’s an action story, but I happen to like that sort of thing. Similarly, space battles and boots on the ground sequences are told explicitly from Perry’s POV. None of this is problematic and it’s all fun. But Starship Troopers included enough of the wacky bureaucratic nonsense one expects of the military to give the story an extra dimension that I didn’t feel coming off the pages from this book.  On the other hand, the story engages to the point where that added bulk isn’t necessary.

Besides which the book’s main character is an old guy. As I plod through middle age, it’s easier to identify with older characters–one reason why I liked the movie Red so damn much–and I thought that Scalzi brought out that aspect of John Perry’s character nicely. You get old, you watch everyone you know die, then you sign up, get young again (Woo!), make some new friends who then die half a galaxy away . . . After a while, it gets to you. But in the meantime, you do your job, you check your rifle, and hope the guy leading your platoon knows his business.

This book came out in 2004; there has since been a sequel to it (The Ghost Brigades), but I’ll get to that a future post. I just got a copy of Scalzi’s Redhirts and need to deal with that first.

Top Genre Fiction Titles

Our reference librarian asked me to think about what we might want on the shelves to represent genre fiction titles.

My writing for genre fiction has been limited to a couple of RPG adventure books a long time ago and an epic SF series (The Blockade) that I hope will be published sooner rather than later. I have shared opinions on Andrew Burt’s Critters workshop. I’ve taken writing workshops in college, which, to my mind, is the only time anyone needs to take such classes, because, hey, 3 credits!  I know my own writing here can be kind of rushed sometimes (like, when I’m in a rush) and I try to avoid that.

On the other hand, I know what I like to read. I can tell a good story from a bad one. I know what good writing looks like, or I think I do. And God help me, I know what bad writing looks like. That said, I do enjoy thinking about what titles I’ve read recently (or not) that remain with me.

Granted, the genre stuff I read these days  is limited to sci-fi. I have read and enjoyed fantasy books in the past but it’s been years since I found anything in that space that I like enough to suggest.

At the same time, I’m slogging through titles which I think are amazing (The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson, for one) which I don’t think our students are likely to enjoy. My favorite horror write of all time is Joe R. Landsdale, but unless you really enjoy reading about the freakish things that happen in East Texas, you’re unlikely to share that opinion. We got requests for Urban fantasy, too, but in that realm, your guess is as good as mine.

Anyway, because your guess is as good as mine I’m looking for feedback on this one. I’d appreciate hearing from readers (all three of you) what you’d suggest for the genre fiction shelf.

My nowhere nearly exhaustive sci-fi list is as follows:

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

Redshirts by John Scalzi

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Long Earth by Terry Prachett and Steven Baxter

On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers

Expiration Date by Tim Powers

Good Omens by Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman

Moonfall by Jack McDevitt

 

And on the fantasy side:

The first two Thomas Covenant series by Stephen R. Donaldson

The River of Dancing Gods series by Jack L. Chalker

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein (obviously)

 

What do you think? What did I miss?

BBW 2012: Brave New World

In my experience, no one uses the word “utopian” correctly. The incorrect way is to do so in a hyperbolic sense rather than the literal one. For example, those who say that our tax system could use some progressive tweaking are being utopian. Not true, as the tax system gets tweaked all the time. The offenders intentionally misuse the word in order to halt the discussion.

Utopia comes from a pair of Greek words: ou, or ‘no’, and topos, or ‘place’. Utopia, therefore means ‘no place’.  A perfect society is a logical and moral construct rather than an expression of reality, so it can’t exist. We don’t even really want to live there. We just like to dream about it.

Dystopia is the rhetorical opposite of Utopia.  In this case the stem dys (also from Greek) means ‘bad’, so ‘bad place.’ Except in this sense, it’s a place as bad as we can imagine. That’s easy–work a shift in a Foxconn factory for a few weeks. Get yourself a cup and beg in the slums of Calcutta for a while. I guarantee a life lesson or two.

I sometimes tell my students that I think calling Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World dystopian is unfair. That gets a discussion going pretty quickly, as the allure of utopian societies remains subject to opinion. One writer’s paradise is another writer’s hell. There are elements of both extremes in this story, but the book isn’t usually taught that way in classrooms.

First a few historical bits. Brave New World is #52 on the ALA’s list of most frequently banned books. It’s been banned for its politics (communism, socialism) and for the sexual content (pornography). As far back as 1932 the book was being challenged for its language and for supposedly being anti-family and anti-religion. In 1980 it was removed from a classroom in Miller, Missouri, and in 1993 an unsuccessful attempt was made to remove it from California readings lists due to its “negative activity.”

The year is 2540 (or 632 A.F. –After Ford–as it’s known locally). In terms of physicality, it’s not that different from the world we see around us now.  No flying cities (there are personal helicopters), no teleport booths. But . . . all aspects of human behavior and physiology have been standardized. People are cloned in factories, raised to specifications in education centers, and every aspect of their lives is predetermined by a centrally planned state. Society is completely managed, but the level of stimulus-response training people receive as they grow up avoids the need to micro-manage the population. Once grown, people are sent into careers of the government’s choice based on economic need and they live out their lives. They wake up, go to jobs, do their work, eat, sleep, and take a hangover-proof wonder drug called soma when they need a break from reality.

And that’s it. Literally, that’s all there is to this world. There are no new discoveries about the universe or insights about people themselves. No sexual hangups, no real problems other than deciding how to entertain oneself. No real skills except for those needed to do one’s job. No parents, no children, no psychological trauma. No emotions, which means no drama, so no comedy or tragedy. No illness. It’s a well managed world where where everyone is perfectly average. Everyone is happy, healthy, and productive literally until they day they die.  The world is homeostatic.

So . . . what’s not to like?

Quite a lot, actually. For example, the happiness that is considered normal here is more like a self-reinforcing apathy. No one has any real worries about work because jobs are there, waiting for every human being who emerges from the education centers. Famine and disease are unknown. Personal relationships as we understand them don’t really exist. Death is inevitable, but the lack of connection between people makes grieving unnecessary. Monogamy is considered a social disease, and wanting to be alone is thought pathological. Sex is cheap and soma use is mandatory, at least, at certain times of the month. (A state pseudo-religion which glorifies sex and soma allows co-workers to bond and blow off steam on Friday nights.)

We learn about this world by watching Bernard Marx (Huxley named every character after a real life fascist or communist), a state-employed psychologist, run through the matrix as it were on his way toward what he thinks are laudable goals. Understanding how society operates curses him to awareness of just how low in the pecking order he is; he craves status, sex, and authority. Bernard is the physical and mental antithesis of what people expect: he’s short, smarmy, socially inept, and thinks much too much. He is a loser. And that’s what makes him wonderfully human, but that comes at the end of the book.

He pursues a co-worker, Lenina, who likes him well enough but no more than her other male partners. Bernard figures his chances with her will improve if they go on vacation together, but his idea of a vacation is a visit to a “savage reservation” in North America. When they arrive, they ooh and aah at the natives, but they get a surprise. They meet a young man named John who is the son of a civilized woman who was herself stranded there decades ago.  Lenina is utterly fascinated by John, while Bernard plans to use him to bolster his career.

They bring John “home”. Things get worse when Bernard’s supervisor threatens to send him to an island, i.e., banish him to the equivalent of a leper colony in the North Sea. Things get horrible when Bernard exposes his supervisor as John’s father, which to civilized morals is so freakish that the gentleman resigns in disgrace and the matter is literally never mentioned again.

Bernard shows John around the equivalent of high society and gets his status (and Lenina for a while), then mishandles it rather badly when he mistakes his new admirers for friends. John’s mother dies in hospital, and John handles it badly. John stops co-operating with Bernard. Barnard handles it even more ineptly. Mustafah Mond, the World Controller of West Europe, finally takes an interest in the savage’s integration into civilization, and things end badly for everyone.

Or do they?

John and Bernard have a lot in common: neither belongs in civilized company, and both try to use the other to access what they want (status for Bernard, Lenina for John). Both exacerbate their own misery and make the people around them miserable in turn. Square pegs jammed into round holes tend to do that.

One of the more absorbing aspects of this novel is the fact that the protagonists are the State’s failed subjects. Think about it.  Bernard is responsible for maintaining paradise but is physically and mentally ill-suited to living in it. Lenina’s perfect man is one that was born outside civilized society. John wants no more than to be accepted by the tribe of natives he was born into, and is rejected out of hand due to his foreign origin. Even Mustafah Mond, the Guy In Charge of Western Europe,  began his career in social control by being too smart for his own good. The fact that he was offered an out by going into politics was a fluke. Had things really worked properly, he should have been banished decades ago.

There are holes in the plot. Giant holes that you could drive a UPS truck through. One is John’s exposure to the English language by way of an old Shakespeare collection his mother just happened to be stranded with way back when. There is no way that John could have learned his absorbing command of the bard just by reading it. For that matter, his mother is described as a twit, and the idea that she’d have any book in her bag when they arrived is not exactly credible. As Neil Postman noted in Amused to Death, Orwell feared the banning of books, where Huxley feared a lack of respect for and interest in them. The only books we ever see live in Mustafah Monnd’s office safe.

Another problem (and one that Huxley acknowledges in the introduction) is the either/or nature of the world as presented in the text. There is civilization and there is savagery, but there’s no in-between. Neither universe informs or acknowledges the other. We’re told that the islands are numerous enough to house the total sum of all social misfits but we don’t get to see what life there is like. We’re told by Mond that an entire society of elites was sent to an island to carve out what life they could and have to take his word that the situation imploded rather quickly.

There are similarities to our here and now, too. Economics is the reason given for everything that happens in BNW. The economy isn’t everything–it’s the only thing. A person’s entire meaning in this world is the sum total value they can add to the machinery of commerce. His labor feeds it, his money lubricates its guts, his leaders direct it. In Huxley’s world, the economy is purely mechanical. All humans are its servants, one way or another.  Worse, there is no place on Earth to get away from it. Our current political discourse, where the lower orders are placed in the position of defending their right to eat at every turn, differs from the reality of BNW in degree only.

So. Are we there yet? Well, yes and no. The book assumes that all the wacky assumptions of utopian science fiction–unlimited energy, resources, and perfect balance with nature–have already been achieved, in defiance of history and the laws of physics. Since new inventions that don’t directly serve consumption are illegal–you will be banished if you try to pursue what Mond calls “real science”–it’s expected that there’s no new information about the world or the universe is being discovered, either.  Material concerns reign supreme. Clone people, give them jobs, feed them, extract their labor, convert the dead to fertilizer for crops, repeat as necessary. The modern idea of economic growth has no place in a world that depends on homeostasis. I doubt we’ll go there.

On the other hand, in the respect that iron-clad social control is maintained by a central authority standardizing human behavior for the sake of the wheels of commerce, you can argue the details all you like, but I think we’ve been there for at least 50 years.

Bookless Libraries Should Provide Cultural “Third Space”

David A. Bell, writing in The New Republic, has this to say regarding the future of libraries:

 

IF LIBRARIES ARE to survive, and thereby preserve their expertise, their communal functions, their specialized collections, and the access they provide to physical books, they must find new roles to play. The critics of the NYPL Central Library Plan claim that it has put the library’s standing as a premier research institution in jeopardy, but they finally fail to acknowledge that the very nature of premier research institutions—and all other libraries—is changing in radical and inexorable ways. Clinging to an outdated vision of libraries is in fact the best recipe for making them look hopelessly obsolescent to the men and women who control their budgets, thereby ensuring that the nightmare scenario that I have laid out actually comes to pass.

In imagining new roles, it is important to think about the way that the digital revolution has already changed the world of learning as a whole—above all, in its democratizing effects. To be sure, the world of learning has always had its democratic institutions, with the NYPL itself among the greatest. Anyone can walk in off the street into the Schwarzman Building, get a reader’s card, and have immediate access to one of the greatest troves of learning ever assembled. And yet, in practice, most people have not had the resources, physical or intellectual, to make use of such a wonderful resource. Doing so required time that working adults could not easily spare. And in most cases it also required a high level of education. For every autodidact who found in its collections the keys to a new universe, many other well intentioned readers, less motivated or less skilled, ended up turning away in confusion.

Today interested readers, or aspiring amateur scholars, have far more help available, most of it at their Internet-enabled fingertips. There are full undergraduate courses online, complete with lectures, free from the likes of Harvard and MIT. There are excellent and accessible lecture courses geared explicitly to the general public from sources such as The Teaching Company, for a low cost or for free from a public library. There are half a dozen allegedly “educational” television networks, even if ones such as The History Channel have increasingly shifted to routine entertainment programming. And of course there are an infinity of websites offering introductions to every subject under the sun. Caveat lector, yes—but what an embarrassment of riches.

 

I took the title for this post from librarian Kate Adler, who pointed out that Bell’s argument rests on the idea that even if somehow all books disappear as physical objects, there would still be a need for a meeting space of the type that only libraries provide. I think the entire thing is worth reading and considering.

Anyway, I’m heading to Vermont for two weeks, where the internet is rather more spotty than in NYC. As a result, no posts next week apart from Twitter and Facebook tidbits. Back on the 14th.

 

Ten Things I Care About More Than The 2012 Olympics

Lara and I are heading to Vermont for two weeks on the 2nd. (I’ll post pics and tidbits to my Facebook and Twitter accounts along the way.)

My ribs hurt. That’s what happens when you try to be funny in a dark movie theater and fall into the seat the wrong way. I suffer for my art.

A senior paraprofessional here has been out for a month on medical leave. Productivity has doubled in her absence. No, I am not kidding. I wish I were.

Our RFID Tagging/Weeding/Inventory project is more than half done. We’ve weeded something like 3,000 books and tagged roughly 15,000 books. The Director is very pleased. He suggested that Emma and I write an article about the project. I’ll let you know what happens with that.

Our book budget looks like it will not be cut before the end of the year.

I have a full cart of donated books to catalog and process before I leave on Thursday.

I have a cash receipts balance sheet to finish before tomorrow.

The new RFID tagging station was successfully installed on our third Circ desk PC. Now all I have to do is get IT to make the use of the platform available for all user accounts on the PC.

I opened the library today at 9.00 as usual. The first student who walked in gave me a big smile and said “Good morning.” Just like that. Awesome.

Finally: a time delay on all broadcasts from London, NBC? Really?

The Educational Power of Libraries

Here’s a testimony on the self-educational power of libraries from the now late Ray Bradbury, forwarded to me by the ERIL-L listserv care of Walter Miale, who nicked the link from Andrew Sullivan, and excerpted here:

…I’m completely library educated. I’ve never been to college. I went down to the library when I was in grade school in Waukegan, and in high school in Los Angeles, and spent long days every summer in the library. I used to steal magazines from a store on Genesee Street, in Waukegan, and read them and then steal them back on the racks again. That way I took the print off with my eyeballs and stayed honest. I didn’t want to be a permanent thief, and I was very careful to wash my hands before I read them. But with the library, it’s like catnip, I suppose: you begin to run in circles because there’s so much to look at and read. And it’s far more fun than going to school, simply because you make up your own list and you don’t have to listen to anyone. When I would see some of the books my kids were forced to bring home and read by some of their teachers, and were graded on—well, what if you don’t like those books?

I am a librarian. I discovered me in the library. I went to find me in the library. Before I fell in love with libraries, I was just a six-year-old boy. The library fueled all of my curiosities, from dinosaurs to ancient Egypt. When I graduated from high school in 1938, I began going to the library three nights a week. I did this every week for almost ten years and finally, in 1947, around the time I got married, I figured I was done. So I graduated from the library when I was twenty-seven. I discovered that the library is the real school.

Read the whole thing here.

And when you’re done with that, drop me a comment to let me know what the best way of tracking a trail of resource breadcrumbs like the above situation might be. We have four online and disparate sources that just happen to be connected through my clicking habits.  There has to be an OpenURL gadget that does that, doesn’t there? Yes? No? Anyone?

 

 

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