Marvelous Metadata

It’s interesting that we live in an age when getting rid of information seems to be as big a problem as acquiring it.  Witness those information management trucks (read: mobile shredding units) whirring away outside of downtown business institutions.  In the case of  a library that has just converted those cases of catalog cards to Machine Readable Records (MARC), the question becomes: what ever are we going to do with these old library cards?  In the case of my old haunt, the Thomas Cooper Library at the University of South Carolina, the solution was to hold a contest, post videos like this one, even stage a card catalog boat race, as well as to load all of those card images, into a cooliris app. One wonders whether they ever had this sort of a problem in the library of Alexandria.  What would papyrus do to a modern shredder? Who needs a shredder when you have Julius Caesar? (okay, so it almost certainly wasn’t Caesar, although you get the impression that the man wanted to be thought of as the man who accidentally burning down the biggest library in the ancient world).  The dilemma of libraries and their card catalogs demonstrates two further points of interest: first, that all of this information suddenly has a life of its own (make all of the artsy catalog card projects you want, the “Platonic” idea of that card lives on, unmarred by  your so-called “creativity” and second: people, or at least some people, get quite nostalgic for that world of physical manipulation where we accessed information in old-timey card format.  Ready, set, discuss.  Too boring?  Instead, rent or download Desk Set, 1957, starring Katherine Hepburn as a research librarian matching wits with the new-fangled EMERAC computer, that threatens to put them out of a job.

-Ed Scripsi

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Published in: on December 1, 2009 at 5:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

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