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Of books and libraries and innovation

Last week was a whirlwind and I was not a good office mate because I was still coughing–after-effect of my post-travel cold–so I worked at home when I could. Thanks to the VPN (Virtual Private Network for those, like me, not in the know) Trevor has set up, this worked very smoothly. Who’s to know I was in bed with a tray of tea and box of tissues, papers spread around me, while emailing and Skyping?

The retreat worked out, too, because with several books coming out before the end of the year, there was a good deal of copy to write: jacket text and introductions and press material. Heart of the Community: The Libraries We Love finally went to press, and it is simply gorgeous. Here’s a preview.

And to preorder, here’s the page you need

I’m also guest-editing the December/January Midwinter issue of Against the Grain magazine with the theme, “A New World Order: Innovation Across Boundaries.” When I proposed this theme to Katina Strauch, I had in mind boundaries of geography, discipline, format, and platform. As I’ve talked to contributors and colleagues about it, I began to realize how large technology looms for most people, and how often Innovation = Technology. In my excitement about social media, I may seem to support a belief that is common and that I don’t agree with: that all new technology will make life better and should be embraced.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of books and libraries, and about the way we tend to overvalue technological innovation and undervalue innovation of other kinds. The public library in itself is a remarkable innovation, and the way libraries respond to changing needs and pressures is one of the themes of Heart of the Community: The Libraries We Love. When we were choosing photos for the book, I asked that we make sure there were plenty of books in view. One of the results of adding computers has been less space, or less prominent space for books, and that made me think of the approach of Mary Leonhardt, author of wonderful books about how to encourage kids to love reading. One of her simple tips is to make sure there is lots of reading material around: magazines, books, comic books, cookbooks, anything and everything. I wonder how many children or young people are actually around lavish quantities of reading material? Except, of course, at Barnes & Noble, and what a fine thing that is. Shouldn’t libraries be the same? (Some are, but not all of them, and academic libraries seem to be retreating from any display of books.)

By the way, here’s what I posted on the LIBREF listserv: “What moves you or worries you? What issues do you think we in the library community haven’t been facing? What opportunities lie ahead, and what kind of resources and collaboration will they require? and have articles in preparation on social media, cross-cultural thinking, and more. But following recent discussions here at LIBREF, I have an idea that there must be some of you with strong feelings about what constitutes real innovation in the world of libraries and knowledge communities. Even if it’s just a line, I’d love to know what you think is changing our world. What kind of innovation, no matter how small, gives you a thrill of possibility–or fear?” Comments welcome.

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