Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bambú. Framing.

They eat up millions of your hard earned tax dollars. It's money that could be used to keep your child's school running. So with the internet and e-books, do we really need millions for libraries?"
That's how a Chicago television station framed the issue of the changing role of the library in today's society. If you get past the headline and actually watch the story, it turns out to be almost pro-library, but the way the story was framed has inflamed a lot of discussion.

Truth be told, the internet and especially ebooks are causing change, and libraries struggle to adjust. That's why Library Journal and School Library Journal are putting on a "Virtual Summit" called ebooks: Libraries at the Tipping Point. It's a fascinating idea, reasonably priced, and the list of speakers is impressive.

To help provide framing for the issues to be discussed at the conference, the organizers have asked me to write a series of articles for Library Journal about ebooks and the changes they will bring to libraries. I'm really excited to be doing this. If you have suggestions for topics, I'd love to hear them.

Yesterday, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to see the installation at the roof garden, Big Bambú, by Doug and Mike Starn. The Met's roof garden han a spectacular view of Manhattan and Central Park, and the installations it hosts are always visitor-friendly. If you don't like the art, you can always get a cold drink (or coffee, in cold weather) and enjoy the beauty of the setting.

I really liked Big Bambú. It's a structure built from bamboo that allows the visitor to stroll inside it. If you have appropriate shoes and a free ticket, you can climb up on it like you were Han Solo visiting the Ewoks on Endor. What I loved about is was the way it related to people. Big Bambú isn't about the sticks, though they are strong and graceful. It isn't about the way the sticks are tied together with colorful nylon line. Rather, it's about cutting up space and putting it together in a way that forces people to navigate that space differently. You wander through and encounter objects and people that you didn't expect to see, viewpoints that open and close. It creates conversations by framing them, in the same way that a museum demands attention for art by putting a frame around a painting.

Should we be spending millions for that?

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  1. I was just reading an ebooks-vs-print article earlier today, and thinking that it really reminded me of how Plato was all freaked out about the rise of the book-book, because people would lose their capacity for memory or whatever, and thinking
    a) that looks kind of silly in retrospect, given the amazing cultural history of the book;
    b) hey, look, fear of change! it's always exactly the same!;
    c) he was right: oral cultures have skills that literate ones lack, and the fact that the tradeoff is, from my perspective, more than worth it does not mean there wasn't a cost.

    And then I was thinking, huh, I could write a really interesting blog post about this if I actually remembered any Plato.

    So maybe you could write that, if you remember any Plato :). Of course I might review and write the post anyway.

    (P.S. Why no name/URL comment options?)

  2. <-- Wrote that blog post.