Libraries: because you cannot have a conscience without a memory.
For some time now I’ve been meaning to write about why libraries (and librarians!) are important. After all, I’m a child of the library. In particular, I’m a child of this library, where I spent many happy hours growing up. As the son of a blue-collar family that was anything but “bookish”, well, I don’t know where I’d be without libraries.
What follows are a collection of random thoughts (linky-blurbs, really) about the general amazingness of libraries and librarians:
- Librarians fought, and are still fighting, surveillance-state idiocy like the PATRIOT Act.
- Librarians have the courage to contest National Security Letters, unlike most commercial entities which, even though they have access to vastly more resources, don’t punch at their weight and are happy — no, “thankful” — to cooperate.
- Librarians continue doing their important work even though libraries are often the victims of budget cuts. (That report is from 2012; hardly ancient history.) If you prefer instead to read about how school budgets are setting aside less for school libraries, see the 2014 report.
- The Internet Archive has a status board that auto-updates to show the books they’re scanning. It’s mind-blowing. If you don’t believe scanning library books is important, go read this story about a fire in Russia’s largest library for social science research, which included works dating to the 16th century. (This is not to say that digital books are somehow better than paper as a storage format; I prefer paper for a number of reasons, which I hope to write about here some point. But backups are important.)
- On a lighter note, the Internet Archive also has this collection of classic MS-DOS games that you can play in your browser. When I saw titles like Street Fighter, Sim City, Donkey Kong, and Castle Wolfenstein in this list, I have to admit I kinda freaked out. The future is amazing. Growing up, I had to memorize my friends’ phone numbers! And now we have magic tiny emulated computers in our browser tabs.