We know!

September 8, 2007

SNMNMNMThese attractive gents not only form the rocking Chapel Hill band SNMNMNM, but they also have a deep love for librarians. And can you blame them? Check out their page for their very catchy song “Addy Will Know” — and if you are feeling participatory, you can try to guess the books described in the verses (or look up the call numbers that are helpfully sung in the song), and even enter a video contest. I think you will know the right thing to do.

[I know Addy, and I do not doubt that she will know too.]


Back to School Shopping

August 21, 2007

In the words of my former retail manager, “I think JCrew does fall best.” Meaning that their clothes in the fall season are better than their clothes in spring or summer.
Evidence– the August 2007 catalog. As is appropriate for Back to School, there’s a whole library/book/reading theme happening–cashmere tees folded in the stacks alongside old bound issues of Pennsylvania Magazine, boots displayed on the h-k drawer of the card catalog, etc.


So committed to the reading theme, JCrew folks did a photo shoot in an actual library. On page 028 we have two young ladies perched precariously in the alcoves wearing a not-very-flattering combo of the cropped pants and deep v neck sweaters. The butch one is wearing the “men’s tartan patchwork driving cap” and the femme one has her hair in an oh-so authentic co-ed messy bun. She passes a book down from the balcony to her eagerly awaiting tartan clad friend. And there’s a little bit of trivia in the right hand corner, and suddenly its like reading Martha Stewat Living, “WHO KNEW? The library pictured here is one of the world’s oldest, most distinguished independent libraries…Can you guess the name of this beautiful Boston landmark?”

Well I was hoping to flip the catalog upside down, Highlights style, to find the answer, but instead I had to look it up. Why of course! Its the Boston Athenaeum. Any self respecting back to schooler would know.

read the rich

August 14, 2007


Reading Brooke Astor’s lengthy Times obit yesterday, I was struck by the attention paid to her patronage of the NYPL. Having far more knowledge of greatest generation socialites as a young someone from Texas really should, I was vaguely aware of her persona  (she drank Campari and soda) and her legacy in New York. And I did recall that she celebrated her 100th birthday by having a party with 100 librarians.  Her support of New York’s libraries (she was also a major patron of the Morgan Library) over the latter half of the 20th century had a major impact on those libraries’ life as city institutions, and more specifically, as vehicles for philanthropy. Ahead of her time, Astor was not only generous, but also personally involved with the institutions she supported.

Library development has in the ensuing decades become a beast all its own, but in a lot of ways I think we’re still talking this talk of the old guard rich as essential financial supporters and indicators of our real societal worth. How uncomfortable this makes me! But this outdated narrative is probably a sweetly arcane alternative to the post-globalization reality. The university library where I worked last had as major contributors to its capital campaign one of the most notorious white collar criminals in recent history, some major war profiteer corporations and the Saudi consulate- and this was met with chuckles.

I think archives and special collections are especially attune to the pressure to fundraise- they are often the flashiest parts of their parent institutions and a must-stop for donors. And it’s my impression that doing targeted stuff to appease and attract donors is necessary and expected. Some of it is survival, I understand, but it’s kind of a bummer. And it’s also no secret that any decent fundraiser or development director can command way more in salary than a librarian. So what does that say, when fiscal perpetuation takes equal or greater priority than library services? And recognizing the importance of private support for libraries, how can we do this better?

Summer Roadtrip Brainstorm Part Deux

August 2, 2007

Books are pretty much the ultimate insulator, but in the heat of summer their coziness can be down right oppressive. (This may be one of the reasons why places like the University of Texas change their undergraduate libraries into things called “academic centers.”)


Consider cooling off this August by paying a visit to Roni Horn’s VATNASAFN/LIBRARY OF WATER in Stykkisholmur, Iceland. Her work, installed in an former library building, features translucent columns filled with melted H20 from Iceland’s receding glaciers. Most of the text in Horn’s library is actually a “field” of English and Icelandic adjectives inscribed into the floor. So no worries about sweat droplets warping your summer reading!

But if your desperate for paragraphs, try Weather Reports You, Horn’s related project.


July 29, 2007

Tiny book

Ever wished you could move yourself through works of public domain fiction and non-fiction just a bit at a time? Nostalgic for the days of serialization? Just want something to read on your e-mail when you’ve finished reading the Internet? Then sign up for one of the hundreds of books available on DailyLit and have small chunks sent to your email at the frequency of your choosing.

I’m trying out Alice in Wonderland in daily chunks — I haven’t read it since I was a kid, and it seemed somehow appropriate to the medium.

You can read more about the DailyLit project here.

[Tiny book photo comes from here.]

What’s WACK? No index.

July 17, 2007

Ever since the WACK! catalogue hit the shelves of my museum’s gift shop a few months ago I have been pretty obsessed. So thick it is with information about feminist art! And so lovely to look at! The different sections of the book are printed on different types of paper, so you get that nice stripy effect when you look at it from the side**. The book jacket features Martha Rosler’s Body Beautiful…, 1966–72, and there has been a bit of a hubbub over all those naked ladies (totally busted staring at it by coworker). But the thing about the catalogue that gets me in a huff is this: NO INDEX!.

Maybe the editors felt that the organizational structure of the catalogue was sufficient. Maybe critical essays are too much of a pain to index. Maybe they ran out of money and/or time. Now, I did not see the exhibition at LA MoCA and it isn’t scheduled to dock on the east coast until this Fall, but from what I’ve read the exhibition is purposely dense and loosely organized, freeing the visitor from the didactic chains of, say, wall text or chronology. Maybe the indexlessness of the WACK! catalogue is supposed to mimic this experience–which is said to mimic the experience of the feminist art movement itself–forcing its readers to re-experience what Carol Armstrong in May’s Artforum depicts as “the thrilling (and exasperating) chaos of the moment, the all-over-the-place-free-for-all that was those two decades,” liberated from “lame categories.”


I could talk forever about whether or not categories are lame, but there is a general expectation that any volume hovering around 500 pages should have an index. It’d be nice if, for example, while reading Howardena Pindell’s bio on page 281, I could flip to the index, learn that she’s in an essay on page 429, and see shiny reproductions of her works on page 167. I propose that, in the spirit of the movement, we organize a collective indexing effort. Contributions welcome. I’m serious.

**color reproductions of the art (white glossy); brief bios of the artists (beige matte, purple text!); critical essays (off white matte, black text and purple footnotes!, color reproductions); a chronology of all-women group shows and WACK! checklist (beige matte, purple text!)


Summer dispatch

July 11, 2007

You may have noticed that this blog, like so many fashion magazines, has slowed to a halt in the middle of summer. As for me, I’m in the midst of a cross-country move, a career-track change, (more later) and some fun times visiting friends abroad. (I write this from a cafe in Istanbul. No joke!)

But I can earnestly say I’ve missed this, and great stuff around:

  • Sara Piasecki of Historical Notes from OHSU  posted a bit about this year’s RBMS preconference, including a post about a session on Minimal Processing . For those unfamiliar with the divide,  the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section  of ACRL covers a lot of the same ground as archival organizations, but there are precious few who are truly active in both spheres- thus, transparency and communication is, in my opinion, so necessary.
  • archivematica has a post about ICA-Atom’s GoogleMaps mashup. So cool. This isn’t the first foray into integrating geographic data with finding aids- I seem to recall a UNC project that integrated GIS data with finding aid indexes. Moreover, I’d look for more work in the near future that does this sort of thing- linking physical spaces and places with related archival materials.
  • And not really related but long overdue, check out Jeanne’s post on (and Google Code page for) ArchivesZ, a tool for visualizing collections.

And, I hate to even bring this up, Hip shushers. Sheesh! I’m not going to try to track the wide and varied, over-serious and goofy reactions to this. But I’m gonna give in and spill mine. The article seemed to deal first and foremost with NYC area LIS grad students, and not working librarians. I bristle at the idea of trying to live anywhere in America, much less in gentrified Brooklyn, on what NYPL and BPL pay their entry-level librarians. But what I haven’t seen addressed is that the newfound preciousness of going to library school isn’t about anything job or education related- it’s about a mass of college graduates, mostly female, with both real and percieved lack of career options casting their lot onto an arcanely feminized public serivice sector with a lot of inherent problems. I think that any enthusiasm or momentum coming to libraries and archives is ultimately good, but I also think that we should be talking about these things really critically.