Library and Museum

Another bit of woolgathering speculation, this time prompted by headlines about the closing of the Chapel Hill Museum and letters linking it with the funding voted for library exansion as an either-or choice. 

In the town where I grew up, one room of the library was devoted to town history, a full gallery of maps, artifacts, letters, photos, etc.  In the process of visiting libraries for some academic research, I discovered that many town libraries house town-history collections of varying scope, often showcased around the building if not featured in a specific room.

I guess we can't quite put a whole fire engine in the library, and I'm sure every square foot of the proposed expansion has already been spoken for, perhaps twice over.  But insofar as libraries are (whether electronic technology champions like it or not)  as much archives as "information centers," there's an opportunity here, regarding at least some of the museum's holdings, for the library to be even more of a Chapel Hill cultural star attraction. 



The article in todays CHN re. the CH museum was extremely sympathetic to the CH museum.  You'd have thiought it was a national tragedy to let the CH museum die.The exisetence of the CH museum is a de facto expansion of the CH library.  The CH library used to sit on that site.  When they built the new library and they then had to pay for both the new site and the old site.  I've been to the CH museum once.  It was a couple years ago when a friend of mine, who lived in CH for several years before moving away, visited town and we were looking for things to do and we decided to visit the CH museum.   After seeing it, both of us thought it was ridiculous.  I realize that such an assessment will annoy some people, especially after reading the article in todays CHN, but it's the truth.  But even if the CH museum wasn't ridculous, is that reason enough to keep it?  Should we keep it because somebody goes there?  How few is "somebody?"  Me?  You?  How many?  Do schoolchildren, who are happy to do anything that gets them out of class, count?   Re. making an area in the soon-to-be expanded CH library for the CH museum, here's something I noticed in todays CH News.  Consumer Reports magazine is now available online at the CH library.  That's one publication.  Does anyone think there will be more magazines/books that will eventually be available online?  Or will we instead continue the 20th century model of using paper to communicate idea?  Of course, progress says we'll continue having more communication electronically, since the point of communication rather then the medium.  What could be done with the land on which currently sits the CH museum?  How many thousand UNC workers currently live in Cary and Raleigh and Durham and northern Chatham and Mebane and on and on?  If we were really environmentally sensitive, as so many pretend to be, would we have these people living in Cary or Raleigh or Durham or northern Chatham or Mebane, or would we insetad have them living less than one mile from the UNC campus?

(Jose, you do know that thousands of residents from Cary and Mebane would not fit on the two sites involved in this discussion, right?  Hyperbole, I assume.) Otherwise, your attitude toward print culture and history is well known to me and others. I've given seminars and classes in the relationships between old and new media, and between print and non-print media, but I'd have a little trouble summarizing here all the reasons why it's nutty to presume that ALL information storage and communication henceforth will be and should be exclusively electronic.  There are things electronic media do very well, much better than print on paper or chisel on stone would.  This constitutes the kind of "progress" that's the only way to keep up with the mushroom clouds of information that now dominate our lives.  A lot of contemporary life depends on the presumption of an uninterruptedly open net, endless power sources, and protected e-communication. But there are things that - for various reasons, including what people feel most comfortable with and what corporations make the most profit on - will continue to work better in other forms.  It doesn't detract from recognizing the utility of newer electronic technologies to understand and accept the concurrent continuation of older "technologies" with differing functions.  It's not an either-or proposition.  But if you expect civic support for one and deny it to the other, you're missing some major issues.As to maintaining the records and artifacts of history, it's easy to dismiss them as useless and meaningless until, oh say, you get audited by the IRS, your child wants to know who her greatgrandmother was, or you decide you want to write a book/blog about old vs. new media and there's no old media around to look at.   Yup, more and more is being "stored" in digitized form but a lot isn't and may well never be. Everytime this reverse Luddite attitude surfaces - get rid of the old, only accept that consecrated-to-the-new - it reminds me of what happened to British libraries during the Reformation.  Some of the most critical documents and archives were burned, and the remainder survived largely thanks to the Jesuit librarians.

Yes, I know thousands of people won't fit into small spaces.  My point was that if people around here were really interested in the environment they'd worry about getting people that work at UNC to live near UNC instead of ignoring that and focusing on cutting down trees to make storage space for things that are currently made of cut down trees and are also in the process of going obselete. And I never said all information should be exclusively electronic.  But do you think it's preferable for a library to have physical copies of Consumer Reports instead of a computer terminal that provides access to Consumer Reports in addtion to a thousand other magazines and a million other books?  I don't.  The reason people like books isn't because they take up physical space and have a spine and pages and a musty smell now and then.  Imagine a book that had all those things but that had blank pages.  Do you think they'd be popular?  Better yet, pretend ordinary books and e-books were invented on the same day, say, a hundred years ago.  If so, how many ordinary books would exist today?  We both know the answer to that question is zero.  And as far preserving information from people trying to destroy it, thats a heckuva lot easier when the information is stored electronically.  If information was stored electronically during the Reformation then it would have been impossible for someone to burn it all and the librarians wouldn't have had to preserve it.  The burners could have burned down every library in the land and there still would've been a large number of copies of the information.  Some books and magazines are worth preserving cultural for and historic reasons but when it comes to creating and preserving new information, physical books are out of date.

1. If both "ordinary" books and e-books had been invented on the same day, they would have ended up serving different functions, although in 1910 electricity wasn't extensively available. We didn't lose books when radio came along, we didn't lose radio or film when TV came along - we shifted around our preferences and habits depending on economics and effectiveness.  Movies serve a different purpose from TV, despite considerable duplication and overlap in content and production. 2. Periodicals with transient information such as Consumer Reports are very good candidates for electronic media. So are phone books, newspapers (I'm sad to concede), and scientific journals; and encyclopedias have disappeared entirely with considerable justification. Archival, historic, and art books work much better on paper, with ink.  As for trade fiction and non-fiction, I honestly think they can go both ways, depending on how long someone wants to keep them and whether the owner wants to write in the margins (sorry, doing that on e-text is very clumsy), wrap it up to give to a friend, or have it to read when the power grid fails. Don't expect Barnes & Noble to go away anytime soon, and take a look sometime at the shelves devoted to electronic communication.  People keep writing books - published on ink and paper - discussing things like electronic communication and how books are going to die . . . 3. Information stored electronically lasts only as long as 1) it's not expunged or altered, 2) the encoding format is standard, 3) people have standardized hardware to access it, and 4) the network used for access is not controlled by third-parties such as governments or corporations.  There's a reason I print out drafts of important documents.  And there's a reason serious researchers look for primary materials rather than digitized facsimiles.4. Finally, there is a substantial environmental cost to the production, powering, and disposal of electronic-text hardware; appealing to supposed liberal/environmental sensitivities re: killing trees (the horror, the horror) because of their stubborn refusal to accept new technology just doesn't wash.  

Has anyone considered returning this building to the library and creating a branch rather than expanding the current library?  It seems to me that this would expand access and be less expensive.On the subject of the museum, I visited the museum as a chaperone years back.  It was so boring and lacking content that the teacher, other chaperone and I started talking. In fact, the museum employee yelled at us for not paying attention.  You can imagine what the kids thought.

I've  visited the Chapel Hill Museum twice and did not find it boring. I'm sorry that anonymous  felt that since s/he and the other chaperone and teacher felt it was boring it was appropriate to talk and create a bad example for the kids. Why not try to listen and discover something new? Most local museums have mostly volunteers rather than employees. I don't know what the situation was at the Chapel Hill Museum but I thought it was basic courtesty to not talk while presenters are trying to share information (be it exciting or boring.) Wilson Library on the UNC campus has some interesing exhibits on local history. Having a history room at the public library would be better than nothing. I'm sorry the chapel hill museum decided to close.  It would be nice if the schools and community did a better job of teaching local and state history. I guess we will just have to depend on the historical markers.


Amazon's Kindle has sold out. article says that instead of making more they may just introduce a newer version.  Of course, the new version will be better than the Kindle.  And more expensive.  For now.  After it's out awhile they'll lower and lower the price.  Eventually they'll "sell out" of that one too and introduce tne next newer, better version and it will be more expensive at first and then as time passes its price will lower and lower. I was reading a bit recently about how there are different standards as far as how e-books are stored, etc.  There are standardizations issues.  People are haggling over what should be the standard for the industry.  One wants this, another wants that, etc.  This happens with most new technologies. A new technology comes out that is superior to the old but although people agree the new technology is superior in general, they can't agree on exactly how to implement it.  Standardization is required for efficiency.  Haggling and competition happens.  Something wins.  Things become settled and the new technology supplants the old.  And then eventually another new technology comes along and the cycle is repeated. There was an article online recently about how for the first time Amazon had outsold new books in e-book version than hardcover and there were reader comments at the bottom, some for, some against. It was interesting to see what people said.  Lots of people against it were saying "I'll never use and e-book because it can't do X."  And as I read this I knew that e-book makers were having their people read those same comments in order to find out what people want it do so do they can figure out how to make the next version do it.It's an interesting paradox.  One one hand you want to think "Why are people holding onto a technology that they know is dying?" but on the other hand the fact that they're hanging onto it and complaining "The new technology doesn't do X" is helping the old technology to die.  Here is what will happen re. the CHPL.  The building will be expanded.  By the time it is expanded, all that space won't be needed for the old way of storing things, but since the space already exists it will be used for something else.  People will get used to doing that 'something else' in that space.  And after they do people will say "It's a good thing we expanded the CHPL because if we hadn't then we wouldn't have room to do 'something else.'"  But note that in the proposals to expand the CHPL nobody said "Let's expand it to do 'something else''" and instead they said "Let's expand it so it can do more things that libraries in the 1980s did."

What are people's thoughts about having a library branch at the University Mall?   Mine:  1. That it adds a peculiar but possibly welcome dimension to the tension between the severe upscaling of the rest of the Mall and the endurance of Roses; 2. That it may bring in the foot traffic lost when Kerr Drug left - and increase the community sense, which is a Good; but 3. Why couldn't some of the museum's treasures also become part of the Mall community environment?(Jose, I despair of convincing you that when New arrives, it does not necessarily nor even desirably completely replace Old, especially in the realm of technology.  Rather than a mutually exclusive binary relationship, there's usually adaptation, synthesis, or re-ordering.  In fact, it's often the case that when Old is completely jettisoned, something important is lost, to the detriment of the future --  the Beta versions of all sorts of things are often good examples.  We can certainly embrace the New, but it doesn't definitionally require wholesale discard of the Old.  )

This is a wonderful idea. It's already served by buses, more than the current library is. Drawback is that it is just a couple of blocks down the hill from the current library. Maybe it could be more of a cyber location, much like the one in Carrboro in addition to a home for museum artifacts. 


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