Gaming the library

A couple of weeks ago while reading Jerome Lettvin’s obituary I noticed this gem:

“At MIT, his office in Building 20 was crammed with books, most overdue from the college library. Dr. Lettvin claimed he did not return them because the library would send him the students who wanted those books, and he would interview them as potential assistants.”

Jerome was gaming the library. He was holding onto resources that like-minded individuals desired in order to make professional connections. Cool.

Jerome’s approach clearly has some scaling problems and some issues surrounding content that can’t be stacked in an office (digital content), but he was onto something. People connect through works held at the library and the library should encourage these connections. How do we do that? I’m not sure, but I’m giving it some thought.

Live from the DPLA

Here are some more short interviews with folks who attended the Digital Public Library of America meeting in Amsterdam.

Stefan Gradmann (humbold Universitaet) on libraries after books become mere temporary configurations of small pieces:

Doron Weber of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation on his hopes for the DPLA:

Chris Freeland of the Biodiversity Heritage Library on supporting collaborative scientists:

Live from the DPLA: Orphaned works

Here are two podcasts from the DPLA meeting in Amsterdam this week. Jonathan Rothman of the HathiTrust and Paola Mazzucchi of Arrow talk about their projects for identifying the copyright holders of “orphaned works,” i.e., works that are in copyright whose copyright holders are not known and/or findable.

I’ll post more interviews tomorrow.

Library Lab/The Podcast 001: Concrete Digital

Listen: 23:59
Also in ogg

There’s a lot of talk about what the future of publishing looks like. Designers and innovators draw up these artistic visualizations of tablets, touchscreens, and interactive multimedia literature mashups to illustrate the possibilities.

But one designer is thinking a lot more about what is lost in the transition from the physical book to the digital. In fact, his visualizations often flip the script by placing digital literature in the physical context.

James Bridle is an editor, publisher, designer, and innovator. One of his most recent projects was a physical production of the complete changelogs from the Wikipedia entry on the Iraq War. The project amounted to twelve volumes of almost 7,000 pages, including all the changes, discussions, and arguments logged in the process of producing the never-complete Wikipedia article from December 2004 to November 2009.

He’s created a number of other projects to highlight the impermanence of the web and provoke conversation on the e-book, both the efficiencies and deficiencies thereof. The Harvard Library Innovation Lab’s very own David Weinberger spoke with James by Skype about his work for the first ever episode of Library Lab/The Podcast.


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Creative Commons music courtesy of Brad Sucks