Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What's the next microfiche?

I'm entering my last semester of my MLIS, so I'm just beginning my internship. Yesterday, I got a very thorough tour of the academic library where I'll be doing my fieldwork, including the periodicals room where they keep all the microforms. Said the head of reference, "Of course, we can't wait to get rid of all of this."

How unloved is a format when even librarians are eager to toss it? As far as I can tell, microfilm and microfiche are charmless and universally loathed; even Nicholson Baker wouldn't defend them. Microforms lack both the history of true primary documents and the search functions of digital documents, and they're terribly unwieldy.

Other evolutionary dead-ends don't induce this urge to purge: Betamax and laser discs at least have their defenders who claim their technical superiority to VHS or DVD.

But it would be the height of arrogance to assume that microforms are historically unique. History repeats itself, and we're going to make this mistake again. So what is the current format or pratice that patrons are reluctant - and someday will simply refuse - to use?

My pet peeve is Word documents in websites, that require downloading instead of embedded viewing like an Adobe Acrobat document, but I'm not sure that rises to the microfilm level. Any other nominations?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

History Pathfinders

Timothy Burke, history professor at Swarthmore, has a list of tips for undergraduates looking for primary sources. It's nice to see faculty specifically encouraging concrete information literacy skills, and these are tips that librarians could incorporate into their own pathfinders for history topics.
 
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Libri & Libertas: Books & Freedom in a Web 2.0 World by Laura H. Wimberley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - Share Alike 3.0 United States License.