Library collections, archives and other information that aren't accessible online, and how to find them. Use the links at top right to ask a question or submit a post. Contact: jacquelinekbarlow [at] gmail [dot] com or tweet @thatsnotonline

Jacqueline's posts / Jennifer's posts

Read the Printed Word!

Textbooks: are those online or not?

Image from Ace Online Schools

Image from Ace Online Schools.

Digital textbooks are frequently cited as a way to cut the ever-rising costs of higher education.  While e-books aren’t necessarily cheaper than their print counterparts (see a price breakdown here) they do have distinct advantages for students, including searchability (who reads the whole textbook?), cutting and pasting options, and convenience (more e-readers and affordable e-textbook options might result in healthier backs for everyone).

On the other hand, The New York Times claims that students prefer print, and that e-books don’t work for pedagogic reading.  Mashable counters that students just aren’t readyThe Student PIRGs summarize how to get digital textbooks back on track.  JISC negotiates with publishers to provide affordable ebooks for schools, colleges and universities in the UK.

Textbooks are increasingly moving into digital format, but without a strong response from the student body, will the growth continue?  The cheapest options remain buying a used copy — something that can’t be done with ebooks — or borrowing a copy from your institutional library (ebooks in libraries are still a sticky issue).  For the time being, for practical purposes, textbooks remain squarely in the paper-and-ink department.

Not Online: 57 times the Earth’s diameter in archival materials, at the US National Archives and Records Administration

In response to the common question "Why isn’t it all online?", NARA says:

Laid end to end, the sheets of paper in our holdings would circle the Earth over 57 times!

In addition to all of this paper, we have:

  • over 93,000 motion picture films;

  • more than 5.5 million maps, charts, and architectural drawings;

  • more than 207,000 sound and video recordings;

  • more than 18 million aerial photographs;

  • nearly 35 million still pictures and posters;

  • and more than 3.5 billion electronic records.

The volume grows at about 1.4 billion pages per year. Creating copies for our web site, and preserving those copies, simply exceeds our resources at this time.

Indeed, the sheer effort involved in digitization is not one commonly considered by the average user.  While online searching is offered, it is quite likely that a serious researcher would have to visit one of these archives facilities to get their hands on the right documents.

NFB - The Egg

Still from the National Film Board vignette The Egg.

In 2009, the National Film Board of Canada started the $1.3-million project of putting all of its films online.  According to their institutional website, of the 15,000 films the NFB has produced, around 1,600 are now online.  Like “The Egg” (above), they can be watched at NFB.ca.

1,600 is nothing to sneeze at.  But according to our math, this means that there are about 13,000 films which have yet to be added to the online archive.  You might be able to find some of those films in one of these places.  Digitization work is ongoing, and here is a list of upcoming releases.

austinkleon:

Book Lovers Fear Dim Future for Notes in the Margins - NYTimes.com

[Marginalia] is a rich literary pastime, sometimes regarded as a tool of literary archaeology, but it has an uncertain fate in a digitalized world.
“People will always find a way to annotate electronically,” said G. Thomas Tanselle, a former vice president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and an adjunct professor of English at Columbia University. “But there is the question of how it is going to be preserved. And that is a problem now facing collections libraries.”
…Marginalia was more common in the 1800s. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a prolific margin writer, as were William Blake and Charles Darwin. In the 20th century it mostly came to be regarded like graffiti: something polite and respectful people did not do.
Paul F. Gehl, a curator at the Newberry, blamed generations of librarians and teachers for “inflicting us with the idea” that writing in books makes them “spoiled or damaged.”
…Studs Terkel, the oral historian, was known to admonish friends who would read his books but leave them free of markings. He told them that reading a book should not be a passive exercise, but rather a raucous conversation.

I’ll type that again: reading a book should not be a passive exercise but rather a raucous conversation.
As you might imagine, I love marginalia.

Marginalia might be put online via a scanned copy of a book, but it can’t be created in a digital environment.  And unless it was of some significance, a book with scribbles in the margins likely wouldn’t be scanned, but eschewed for a more “perfect” copy.  For more marginalia, visit your secondhand bookstore, local library, or perhaps your own book collection, and think about the difference it makes.

austinkleon:

Book Lovers Fear Dim Future for Notes in the Margins - NYTimes.com

[Marginalia] is a rich literary pastime, sometimes regarded as a tool of literary archaeology, but it has an uncertain fate in a digitalized world.

“People will always find a way to annotate electronically,” said G. Thomas Tanselle, a former vice president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and an adjunct professor of English at Columbia University. “But there is the question of how it is going to be preserved. And that is a problem now facing collections libraries.”

…Marginalia was more common in the 1800s. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a prolific margin writer, as were William Blake and Charles Darwin. In the 20th century it mostly came to be regarded like graffiti: something polite and respectful people did not do.

Paul F. Gehl, a curator at the Newberry, blamed generations of librarians and teachers for “inflicting us with the idea” that writing in books makes them “spoiled or damaged.”

…Studs Terkel, the oral historian, was known to admonish friends who would read his books but leave them free of markings. He told them that reading a book should not be a passive exercise, but rather a raucous conversation.

I’ll type that again: reading a book should not be a passive exercise but rather a raucous conversation.

As you might imagine, I love marginalia.

Marginalia might be put online via a scanned copy of a book, but it can’t be created in a digital environment.  And unless it was of some significance, a book with scribbles in the margins likely wouldn’t be scanned, but eschewed for a more “perfect” copy.  For more marginalia, visit your secondhand bookstore, local library, or perhaps your own book collection, and think about the difference it makes.

In "Google-eyed pupils keep missing the point, says library chief" (the Times [UK], 14 August 2010, by subscription only), British Library Head of Learning Robert Walshe says the BL has “an unrivalled sound archive of voice and radio recordings and 750 million pages of newspapers, of which only three million are online.”

British Library Newspaper Reading Room at Colindale (London)

These newspapers may be read at the Newspaper Reading Room, Colindale, London.  If you’re nowhere near London, take a look at their Newspaper Copy Services.  Or just look at the online ones (and try not to think about what you’re missing).

Lots of the BL’s sound recordings are online and can be heard here.  To find out what’s not online, here’s their Sound Archive Catalogue.  Feeling flush?  They do a Sound Archive Transcription Service.

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