Wednesday, May 17, 2006

da vinci code debate

I haven't read The DaVinci Code yet... I might get around to it some day, but I'm more interested (and have been for years) in what Stephen Hoeller has to say about church origins than I am in what Dan Brown says about it. I don't mean to knock Mr. Brown -- I haven't read any of his novels. But if we're arguing about doctrine and history, let's go to the historians and theologians, no? Instead of the novelists? It's like, you know, entertainment and education aren't exactly the same thing.

There's a metaphor now loose, though, and what ever mean-eyed arguments may continue erupting around the novel (and now the movie), it will be very dangerous to lots of Christian faithful -- the metaphor is something like "Christ is in us & he always was". Something like that.

Will believers go to their libraries and look deeper than the pro and con shout-down-books? Will they read the Nag Hammadi scriptures, and decide for themselves? Our patrons are better off (that is: better enabled to dig deeper and empower their own arguments for or against the "code") if we dig a little deeper too... Pull out the Margaret Starbird alongside The DaVinci Deception... Put out the Bethany House stuff alongside the Disinformation guides...

For my part, the fact that so many people have called for the movie to be censored pretty much guarantees that I'll go watch it. Are they trying to get me to see it? I don't cotton well to being told what information I shouldn't have access to... and if I like the movie, I might just read the book after all.


Watching: Ask A Ninja: "Net Neutrality"

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

image problem? reports on a couple of famous authors (Rowling, Rushdie) getting out to support public libraries. It seems that libraries in the U.K. have an image problem?

In the Guardian Unlimited article that the story's drawn from, Alain de Botton is quoted: "It's in walking into a library that most people first get the sense of how little they know... Surrounded by so many books, we are liable to feel how great our ignorance is, next to all the accumulated wisdom and insight of others."

Huh. Don't quite know how to respond to that... except to say that I hope that's not the cause of Britons' avoidance of libraries. I don't agree with it -- I lived in England, and I never got the impression that folks were scared of their books, or intimidated by the insights of others. If that is the problem, they've got bigger worries than dwindling library circulation. Anybody know more about this issue?

"ideological exclusion"

Via The Kept-Up Academic Librarian:

"Since passage of the USA Patriot Act after Sept. 11, 2001, a number of academics have been denied visas or had them revoked. Universities and scholarly associations have written letters to the government to no avail."

So foreign scholars are being kept out of the U.S. seemingly because some in the government are worried about what they might say (link to Christian Science Monitor story) to us Americans. The DHS claims that these academics are kept out because the Patriot Act's section 411 gives the government the power to exclude anyone who espouses or endorses terrorism.

How long before we librarians are given a list of illegal books -- books that are said to espouse or endorse the viewpoints of terrorists? And since the t-word has such a broad definition, I reckon we'll all have lots and lots of weeding to do.

See also: Patriot Act in the U.K.

meta / universal library

In a previous post, I went daydreaming about a sort of universal library. Kevin Kelly's "Scan This Book!" just over at New York Times Magazine is a good overview of the dream of a "universal library", a library collecting all information in all media (across all time). Of course such a thing is impossible, despite the apparent optimism in Kelly's article -- and I think he makes the complexities of implementation abundantly clear. See also The Gypsy Librarian for more good questions about this subject. Angel is right to point out the obvious hitch in these bold dreams: not many of us, on balance, have computers.

I don't think it's possible to detangle the politics from the question of universal access. Kelly doesn't get into it, but there is a reason (besides the obvious technical and litigious barriers) that such a universal library doesn't exist. There's a reason that such a library will probably never exist. Simply put, it's not in the interest of the powerful to allow universal access to the world's information.

Not until the nature of "power" and leadership is radically altered will true empowerment for all people be seen as a good by the world's governors. It would take a true democracy, at least (if not an even more radically distributive and open system), in which "all" the people who have an interest in access are able to legislate and execute such access for themselves -- in other words, a system where every person actually has meaningful self-governing powers.

We're lucky that we can even have such conversations about the possibilities of universal access -- most aren't so lucky. And Google as the great enabler? Google censors searches in China to keep cozy with those in power. As long as it makes better political/business sense to keep people and information apart, this "universal library" won't be possible.

Who benefits from a universal library? Who takes a hit when we get the information to the people with impunity, or when people get the information to themselves? File "universal libraries" under post-Singularity daydreaming.

But that doesn't mean we have to give up.


Watching: Harold Bloom on BookTV
Feeling: churlish as hell

Sunday, May 14, 2006

homework, librarians

Basic information literacy skills: for any book, website, lecture, film, e-mail, or conversation, you've got to be able to determine if it's accurate, authoratative authoritative, current, objective, and what the scope of it is. At least that's what we like to teach our patrons around here: think critically about your sources.

Here's a spot of homework, then... does the following video (embedded from Google Video -- 9/11 Loose Change - 2nd Edition) meet these criteria?