We love libraries: From brick-and-mortar to digital

Two terrific radio segments from NPR and WNYC caught my ear this week. Both touch on the housing of stories and data.

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I’m not going to rehash my library love, but it’s clear that NPR feels the same. They’ve devoted a segment to the “library” as star of film, stage and screen.

digital archives, public libraries, community assets, technology, saving digital legacies, libraries in entertainment

From the simple library we see in The Breakfast Club to the vast, strange library world visited by The Doctor and his companion in Doctor Who, the  entertainment world is filled with love for this subject. Be it the librarian or the structure.

Listen to this wonderful segment of All Things Considered as Bob Mondello explores heightened versions of our warehouses of memories. As the character, Mr Atoz, from the original Star Trek series states, “…the library serves no purpose unless someone is using it.”

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This is a good story too from WNYC’s New Tech City. One that I hadn’t even stopped to consider – since I occasionally send snail-mail cards, and write letters (I love paper, pens and ink). I know that I’m in the minority there.

But, for biographers, as hard drives and/or the cloud replace photo albums and shoe boxes filled with decades of correspondence, how will they assemble narratives for future generations with no paper trail?

digital archives, public libraries, community assets, technology, saving digital legacies, libraries in entertainment

Electronic correspondence, of course. Emails, texts and online chats are the new source material – our digital legacies. But will the subjects, or their estate surrender them? Ilya Marritz speaks with Walter Isaacson, biographer to Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin, among others, and currently working on a book about the dawn of the digital age.

Well worth a listen. [This story starts at 2:15 and ends at 6:47.]

And as a footnote to both stories, the New York Public Library’s Digital Archive is in Beta. Check it out and enjoy.

Top photo: © Newmarket Films / Rachel Weisz as Hypatia of Alexandria attempts to save library scrolls from destruction in Agora. Bottom photo illustration: ©2013 Janet Giampietro

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