Bring Back the Card Catalog?

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In this piece from Inside Higher Ed, Matt Reed argues that “older” technology, while it may not be the best fit in today’s lightning-fast electronic world, still has practical value as something on which to fall back if newer technology crashes. If nothing else, it is a reminder that there are alternatives to zipping off text messages at the speed of light.

This issue is not just about individual pieces of technology being able to perform such-and-such a task at such-and-such a speed, however. It also involves an entire mindset, a certain way of doing things. Reed notes the lack of the human element in today’s world of online communication. Even a technology, such as chat, that requires a flesh-and-blood individual to be on both ends, still lacks the interpersonal aspect of face-to-face communication. (Ironically, as technology becomes more advanced–with videoconferencing, for instance–some of that face-to-face element is restored.)

For older library users, this pre-Internet technology has the value of nostalgia. Even if some of the technology does not necessarily have practical value, it still brings back memories of a world in which things were done differently. (For adult students who have been out of school for a while, the older technology can serve as a lifeline while they re-acclimate themselves to the classroom and library research.) For younger users, it is a learning experience, about not just library use, but also what everyday communication entailed before e-mail and texting.

Regarding the library, what technologies whose use has been discontinued might it be most helpful to bring back, even as simply a hedge against a system failure? Would students use the card catalog if the Internet crashed? Would some of them maybe come to prefer the card catalog over the online one? If nothing else, the sheer size of the physical card catalog might impress upon students the large number and variety of resources a library has available, something that is not immediately obvious when scrolling through a list of databases.

What about other technologies, such as mimeograph machines or typewriters? Any thoughts?

Featured eBook: Encyclopedia of Education

The Encyclopedia of Education, 2nd ed. (2003) edited by James W. Guthrie is a complete view of institutions, people, processes, roles and philosophies in educational practice in the United States and throughout the world.

This 8-volume resource includes biographies of influential educators, profiles of historical colleges and universities and of organizations active in the field.

Encyclopedia of Education

Honoring Veterans

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On November 11 American’s celebrate Veteran’s Day.
Established in 1919 to honor those who fought and died
in the First World War, Veteran’s Day continues to be a
day to reflect on the sacrifice of all the men and
women who have served in the armed services throughout
America’s conflicts overseas. The library is featuring a display of
books to honor our Veterans. The display is on the 3rd floor.

Academic Libraries and Future Trends

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Brad Lukanic argues that, contrary to the claims of those who believe academic libraries are no longer relevant (because of the shift of library resources to the Internet), they still have a vital role to play.  In particular, they are redefining themselves as hubs of intellectual curiosity and scholarly collaboration–places to which Lukanic refers as “intellectual conveners”.

Lukanic identifies four areas in which academic libraries must make changes in order to embrace fully this new role.

Having a say in campus-wide strategic planning–Libraries need to ensure that their long-term goals match those of the broader institution, especially with many departments competing for financial resources and campus space.  At the same time, institutional leaders must take an active role in determining what the library’s needs are, through staff surveys and other direct feedback.

Making technology a core part of customer service–Academic libraries have long embraced new technologies and integrated them into service.  With the pace of technological chaining increasing, however, and with mobile technology in particular becoming ubiquitous, libraries must harness this technology to reach as many students as possible.  More importantly, libraries should encourage users to take advantage of opportunities that mobile technology gives them to connect with each other; this greater interconnectivity can result in the curiosity and debate that results in new ideas.

Embracing flexibility–As part of long-term planning, academic libraries must consider how future trends will impact them, and whether or not current resources can be adapted to meet these challenges.  These are not just technological trends, but also changes in educational philosophies.  Collaborative spaces such as media labs, in addition to individualized study spaces, can serve a range of future purposes as needed, while at the same time making the library appear more “cutting edge” and attractive to potential students.

Creating places for engagement–Building on the first three areas, Lukanic suggests that the shift from libraries being merely spaces for storing materials will culminate in their becoming places for engagement across the entire campus community.  In addition to demonstrating the library’s organic role in the larger campus community (instead of simply being a stand-alone entity), engagement also gives libraries the opportunity to set the pace in determining what direction a particular campus, and higher education as a whole, will take.

Here is the link to the article: 4 Ways Academic Libraries are Adapting for the Future

Any thoughts on how we have already met some of these challenges, or could use current resources to do so?  More generally, despite the necessity of embracing technological change and becoming centers of engagement, is there a point at which libraries might be moving too far from their “traditional” role as storehouses of information?

“Wonders of Italy: Pompeii” app

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The “Wonders of Italy: Pompeii” app (the series has apps for Rome and Florence, also) presents a photographic tour of the ruins of that city. The app includes background on each set of ruins, including their probable use. The ruins cover a range of public buildings, from amphitheatres to eateries. From a multimedia perspective, this is a fairly worthwhile app to peruse. The photography is sharp, and the 360-degree panoramas of the ruins are give one a “you are there” feeling. There are also close-up views of artwork and other interesting features of the ruins.

There is not much on the history of Pompeii itself, however, nor is there much detail on the excavation and preservation of the ruins. A reconstruction of the city as it appeared before the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, and maybe even an animation of the eruption itself and the resulting burial of the city in ash, would have enhanced the educational and entertainment value of this app significantly. As it is, there is information on only eight sets of ruins to peruse, giving a piecemeal approach to understanding the city and its history. While the app does give a nice introduction to some of the ruins of Pompeii and the related history, it doesn’t really go into the depth that one would expect, especially given the archaeological value of the site and its popularity as a tourist attraction.

November 1: All Saints’ Day

From the Communion of Saints tapestry created by John Nava for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, California.

As we prepare for Halloween, we must not forget to celebrate the following day as well which is All Saints’ Day!  Back in old England, saints or holy people are called “hallowed”, so All Saints’ Day was also known as “All Hallow’s Day”.  Thus the evening before the feast became popularly known as “All Hallows’ Eve” or “Halloween”.

Learning about the saints can be fascinating.  According to Fr. Robert Barron, “The saints differ in a wide variety of personalities, styles, backgrounds, and education. They have vivid, memorable, and striking personalities. Saints are not simply there to be our models or heroes, but are there to be our friends and guide us along the path of holiness. When we celebrate “All Saints Day” we celebrate the source of radiance they bring, which is brought on by their burning love for Christ.”

Our library collection is a rich resource for information about the saints.  For example, you can learn more about All Saints’ Day in the New Catholic Encyclopedia.

Are you looking for information about a particular saint? Look them up in Butler’s Lives of the Saints in our Reference Collection (3d floor Kindlon Hall) or search the Library online catalog for books in our collection.

Example of a Keyword Search

Review Results List

Locate Official Subject Heading

Happy and blessed All Saints’ Day!