The renovated Langsdale Library could feature
a copy Bill Woodrow's Sitting on History
sculpture that is in front of the British Library
via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 3.0]
At Langsdale, this naturally got us thinking about the role libraries play in the way people access information and develop knowledge. While much of the digital resources that can be accessed through Langsdale are things like scholarly journal articles that can’t be fully understood without investing the time to read and consider them carefully, we do provide almost all of them solely in digital format. So that begs the question of what might happen in the event of a disaster, such as a Zombie Apocalypse. OK, so obviously the Zombies part is a joke meant to make the material more engaging, but that link goes to CDC website with lots of great suggestions about what to do in an actual emergency. However, the useful information there would be completely unavailable if there were a massive disruption to the power grid. If a calamity were to happen, how would people get the information they need, especially when time may be of the essence?
In response to this conundrum, Langsdale is proposing that the 2nd and 3rd floors of the renovated library building be dedicated to housing the essential books and documents of our generation. While that is a good first step, in order to ensure that this material would be available in the event of a disaster, Langsdale is going to have to change some of its operating procedures. For instance, we can’t have someone borrowing an important book and risk that it won't be available when it is crucially needed. Plus, if the power goes down, our current system would not even be able to detect if someone were trying to sneak a book out of the library without checking it out.
An artist's drawing of a bookcase like the ones that
could be used in Langsdale. Bookcase in Hereford
Cathedral [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Historians have pointed out that in these chained libraries, books needed to be shelved with their spines facing inward, so that the chains did not become tangled when a book was taken off the shelf. In preparation, Langsdale staff has started inscribing the call numbers along the outside of the books, so that people will be able to find the items they need quickly and easily once the renovation is complete.
The basement of Langsdale, which sits below ground level, seems like an ideal place to congregate in a disaster, so we will be stocking the basement with lots of paper and pencils. Anyone there will be able to go up to the floors with the books and copy all of the pertinent information from them as needed. There was some concern that chaining the books would prevent students from being able to check them out or even make copies of them during times when we did not have an active emergency. However, recent surveys indicate that most students own a smart phone upon which they could download and free scanning app. So we assume that students will be able to use those to make any personal copies they might need. Within the parameters of copyright law, of course.
|Langsdale's books could be shelved this way in the not too distant future.|
Wimborne Minster: the chained library © Chris Downer [CC BY 2.0]