Library Unlimited

Earlier this week, Amazon broke news about it's Kindle Unlimited subscription for $9.99/month. This lets Kindle users borrow from 600,000 available books and audiobooks. While some people are suggesting getting rid of libraries and buying everyone Kindles, many others pointed out, like Barbara Fister at Inside Higher Ed and Donna Tam at CNET, Kindle Unlimited isn't so "unlimited."

I'm a Kindle owner, but also a librarian. When I read books, I tend to default to libraries first. Because I like free things, even if they take a little more effort.


Space, Size, and Videotapes

The Langsdale Library Special Collections Department has finished our move from the library's previous building to our current location in the University of Baltimore’s Learning Commons. We were scheduled after the rest of the library and took over twice as long. This was due to the vastness of our collections: we have thousands of boxes of unique, historical primary sources that we care for and provide access to.

After the move we have about 40% less physical space. While we have been able to weed a few items and boxes here and there, the collections are extremely cramped. The majority of the collections that I manage consist of videocassette tapes: the WJZ collection itself has over 20,000 videos! Now that I have a video reformatting station set up (not fully operational yet), I can begin transferring the content from these tapes to digital files. This needs to begin as soon as possible as videotape does not have a long life expectancy. In fact, it may already be too late to digitize some of the older and more problematic tapes. 


The Problem with What a Library is?

The National Archives building (via Wikipedia)
Throughout my life, I’ve had a bizarre relationship with libraries. Bizarre because, as a child, I didn’t particularly like to read, though, for some reason, I still liked going to the library. I’m sure I didn’t intellectualize it back then, or even examine my reasons for enjoying a space designed and functioning as the dispensary of a product (books) that I didn’t much care for. Then it also dawned on me that the pleasant feeling I got from being in proximity to books, with the disdain I felt toward reading them, isn’t all that unusual. Libraries are not just a place where one might go to indulge in a particular recreation. There is, at once, both a simplistic and really complicated and convoluted metaphysics to Libraries, the idea of a library: what a library is. And it's bigger than the books they carry.


A Librarian's First Impression of Langsdale

My first encounter with Langsdale Library happened in 2006, when I was a graduate student at a university about 45 minutes down the road. Sure, I'd already lived in midtown Baltimore and worked at an art school up the hill for five years, walking to work every day through UB's campus. But my eyes opened wide when I learned that an influential community history initiative known as the Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project, written about so honestly by the public historian Linda Shopes, was held in Langsdale's Special Collections.

Thanks to the efforts of UB librarians to put information about archival collections online, I was able to browse related material on Baltimore City history. Wow, was I impressed! All these years, I'd walked right by the library, completely unaware of the unique resources it held! Eight years ago, the question struck me: "Why is all this stuff at UB?"


Library (2007) by Brooklyn artist Lori Nix

Library (2007)  by Brooklyn artist Lori Nix

World Cup @ Langsdale

Like much of the world, Langsdale has been bitten by the World Cup bug--which may or may not be the same or similar to those crazy giant moths occasionally flying on the field (or "pitch," as any self-respecting soccer fan (read: 'football fan') would clear their throat and correct me).

And unlike so many years where the US was just pushed aside and written off as a minor league squad that because of some clerical error happened to be brought up to the majors, but not this year, this year we are looking quite good, thank you very much. In the group stage the US not only made it through one of, if not the most talented group (The Group of Death, as it was so ominously called in the media, pre-kickoff), but we did so with command, finally all but shouting to the world for some respect. And on top of that, Americans are actually watching the beautiful game in record numbers!

So, in light of soccer's new found popularity, which I'm sure is at least in part due to the excellent performances by the US, we at Langsdale are going to celebrate by inviting the entire university--students, staff, faculty--to watch US's first game of the elimination round in our newly settled home: the Learning Commons, third floor. Come by at 4 pm tomorrow, room 319, for some soccer and light refreshments.


Dark Rooms: Simon Schama's "The Power of Art"

In 2008 I moved out on my own, like completely on my own, like no roommates (good riddance), no dorms, nothing but me and a room. I was just about to start my first semester at UB, so a couple days before the start of class I moved into a tiny but still pretty comfortable studio apartment a few blocks north of the Washington Monument, on Calvert Street. The initial weeks were a mess. It was mid-August, so: hot. And, BGE wouldn’t come for almost two weeks—something to do with the previous tenants not paying their bill—so when I was at home, which I tried to be as little as possible, I sat around as the day squeezed me out onto the linoleum floors, and at night I tried to savor every crisp drop of the coldest beer I could find at the local liquor store.

I’ve never been happier to go to class than during those weeks. After class, I went directly to the library, picked a spot in a study room and rooted myself to the chair. The glittering potential and resultant optimism I felt signing the lease had started slipping into some kind of maelstrom of stress as the hot, dark days turned to weeks. This was five years ago. Though, in retrospect, it wasn’t that bad. Like most things that don’t physically hurt you—and even some that do—problems seem bigger and the barbs longer as they’re happening; what, in the moment, stresses us out, when looked at differently, big-picture-wise, are just mild inconveniences. Those first weeks on Calvert were such weeks. Painful in its dull time, chock full of boredom and stubbed toes and unanswered emails and uncharged cell phones that sat on the bed next to me like a pouty and spiteful child, unwilling to acknowledge my presence.