That Reading Room again

More about the The British Museum Reading Room, which was until recently a part of the British Library – until the latter moved to its new accommodations at St Pancras. Some years ago I was asked to contribute an article to a British Library publication on digital libraries. I wanted to write about place, and … Continue reading That Reading Room again


Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!: they are all massive data presences on the web. In various ways, they open up access to that data through RSS and Web Services so that others can build out on top of their data, recombining it in new services. Now the BBC has taken a large step in a similar … Continue reading Backstage

Aura again: habent sua fata libelli

This post continues the discussion of aura, digitization and ‘mechanical reproduction’ initiated below, and relates it to remarks of Fintan O’Toole reported in another post. JD is right to suggest that aura is about more than uniqueness. It is about the ‘historic testimony’ of the object, the traces it bears of where and what it … Continue reading Aura again: habent sua fata libelli

Aura and digitization

Writing here about the digitization initiatives in the “Google 5” libraries a while ago I referred to aura: Walter Benjamin famously asserted that “that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art”. In his terms, the aura is that which is original or authentic about a work. … Continue reading Aura and digitization

The complement of books

We spent several days in Washington DC over the Thanksgiving period. We were intrigued by Rachel Whiteread’s Untitled (Library) in the Hirshhorn. Since the late 1980s, Rachel Whiteread has used resin, rubber and, as in Untitled (Library), dental plaster to cast overlooked domestic spaces. Like earlier works by Bruce Nauman and Joseph Beuys, Whiteread presents … Continue reading The complement of books

Westerville web

I like Westerville Library’s web presence. It thinks about itself in terms of user interests, rather than library offerings. It incorporates news headlines. It gives you access to the catalog directly from a search box on the home page (all libraries should do this), has some materials from the interesting Anti-Saloon League Museum, and packs … Continue reading Westerville web

MLA survey on museum attendance

From the UK, another survey of use. The most comprehensive survey in five years of museum satisfaction rates and visitor numbers, published today by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), shows that more people visit museums each year than go to live sports events, theme parks or the theatre. [MLA – Press Releases – … Continue reading MLA survey on museum attendance

LAM and memory

The policy framework for libraries, archives and museums has come together in several contexts, although actual services have not converged much. IMLS in the US, MLA in the UK, and other bodies have cross-domain responsibilities. I have just come back from visiting the newly formed Library and Archives Canada, but that is as yet an … Continue reading LAM and memory

Libraries and Learning

Bob Martin has been emphasizing the role of libraries and museums in support of learning. I now notice that the Institute of Museum and Library Services tagline includes the phrase “dedicated to creating and sustaining a nation of learners”. That the end of libraries is learning has been a constant refrain of Bob Martin’s. Now … Continue reading Libraries and Learning