Charles Simic pens a thoughtful essay on the decline of public libraries in The New York Review of Books. It’s thoughtful and sad.
When you count the families all over this country who don’t have computers or can’t afford Internet connections and rely on the ones in libraries to look for jobs, the consequences will be even more dire. People everywhere are unhappy about these closings, and so are mayors making the hard decisions. But with roads and streets left in disrepair, teachers, policemen and firemen being laid off, and politicians in both parties pledging never to raise taxes, no matter what happens to our quality of life, the outlook is bleak. “The greatest nation on earth,” as we still call ourselves, no longer has the political will to arrest its visible and precipitous decline and save the institutions on which the workings of our democracy depend.
According to entrepreneur/motivational speaker Seth Godin, librarians of the future will “take the world of data, combine it with the people in this community and create value”:
We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don’t need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime.”
Hardly Vannevar Bush country, but still interesting as a challenge. I’ve been doing a lot of work with data and data curation lately, but I’m not sure that the future library will head down the Wisdom-Knowledge-Information-Data food chain. I heard a great presentation from a computer scientist yesterday about knowledge management and trust: I imagine that will be as much a part of the future library as atomized data that can be recombined into new facts or interpretations.
Raspberry Pi is not a delicious dessert, but a foundation that’s trying to build cheap computers “to promote the study of computer science and related topics, especially at school level, and to put the fun back into learning computing.” This sweet computer costs $25 bucks, is smaller than a deck of cards, and runs Ubuntu.
I am forbidden to buy anymore bikes or computers until I clean up the chop shop I have assembled in my tiny apartment, but I’m tempted to try to build one like this myself.