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April 8, 2014

Harvard discovers three of its library books are bound in human flesh

harvard-discovers-three-of-its-library-books-are-bound-in-human-fleshBy Greg Newkirk.

There’s something undeniably creepy about big, expansive libraries. The hushed whispers, the almost artificial quiet, and the smell of dusty tomes combine to create a surreal experience. But when it comes to creepy libraries, Harvard University might take the cake… you see, three of its books are bound in human skin.

A few years ago, three separate books were discovered in Harvard University’s library that had particularly strange-looking leather covers. Upon further inspection, it was discovered that the smooth binding was actually human flesh…

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January 24, 2014

The 10 Weirdest And Most Wonderful Libraries In The World

MatrixBy Kimberly Turner

Let’s do a word association exercise. When I say “books, borrowing, building…” you’d say, “library.” Great. We’re off to a good start. Let’s try again: “Donkey, tank, phone booth, UFO…” Anybody? No, it has nothing to do with donkey versus alien combat. This one’s a little tougher. Okay, I’ll give it to you. The answer, once again, is “library.” See, although the libraries most of us visit on the regular are dull municipal buildings that we’d avoid were they not full of thousands of free books, some communities have fanciful architectural wonders, animals who deliver books to children, repurposed phone booths full of reading material on the street, and other wonderfully unexpected ways of bringing reading to the people.

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October 30, 2013

The Best Books on Writing, NYC, Animals, and More: A Collaboration with the New York Public Library

nyplbookpickings_fullby Maria Popova

A celebration of timelessly wonderful reads in an elaborate diorama of papercraft book sculptures.

As an enormous lover and patron of public libraries, I was beyond delighted when the fine folks at the New York Public Library asked me to curate a selection of books for their bookstore and gave me free range to do whatever I wished. My original thought was to do a single reading list around a specific theme, much like I had been doing for the TED bookstore. But my chronic maximalism soon kicked in — the single reading list swelled into four reading lists (wisdom on writing, great reads about New York City, heart- and brain-stirring books on pets and animals, and timeless treats for young readers) and the simple tabletop display became an elaborate installation in the bookstore’s main window. That’s when I reached out to the impossibly talented Kelli Anderson, with whom I’d previously collaborated on the Curator’s Code and The Reconstructionists projects, and invited her to bestow her singular gift for disruptive wonder upon the library as we both donated our time and resources to the project.

Kelli, with her own brand of idealistic maximalism, decided to turn the reading lists into a magnificent papercraft wonderland featuring oversized three-dimensional sculptures of each of the books amidst an intricate paper cityscape of the Manhattan skyline.

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June 27, 2013

The reader on Robben Island

nilanjana_s_royBy Nilanjana S Roy

The prison rules on Robben Island allowed the incarcerated to study, with some caveats. Their most famous prisoner, Nelson Mandela, meant to continue reading, no matter how small his cell.

The Robben Island library was limited, though prisoners could ask for books to study. Mr Mandela wrote in his autobiography, “We had access to many unremembered mysteries and detective novels and all the works of Daphne du Maurier, but little more.”

Political books were off limits, especially if they had “red” or “war” in the title. South Africa’s censors, more literal than literary, would not allow “Little Red Riding Hood” or The War of the Worlds into the prison library.

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May 23, 2013

So You Think You Want to Be a Librarian?

By Brian Kenney

Most people’s knowledge of librarianship is a mash-up of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in Desk Set, some warm and fuzzy memories from an elementary school class visit, Rupert Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even fuzzier memories of all-nighters in their college libraries, and maybe a high-minded article or two about the Digital Public Library of America.

If this sounds familiar, don’t be embarrassed. Librarianship is a notoriously opaque profession, and most Americans have about as much understanding of what we do as they have of cloistered nuns, or actuaries.

Here’s the first shocker: most professional-level library positions require a masters in library or information science, most commonly known as “the M.L.S.” Since the M.L.S. involves a serious commitment of time and money, then you better be doubly sure that this is the right decision, at least for the next decade or two.

Fortunately, librarians are the original oversharers, and they’ve produced a body of literature—from blogs posts to articles to books—to help you with your decision. This is especially useful since librarians come in different stripes—public, academic, school, special—with some significant differences among them. Librarians also conduct a lot of their professional lives online, so blogs, Twitter, and e-mail lists are all great places to soak up information.

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May 22, 2013

The Library’s Future Is Not an Open Book

Interior of the 2004 Seattle Public Library.

Interior of the 2004 Seattle Public Library.


Talk about imposing: the ceremonial stone stair leading to bronze gates and carved doors; the frieze of inspiring names and the vaulted hall that seems the very definition of hallowed. And the books, bound portals opening to anywhere imaginable, available to all comers.

In cities across the nation, the central public library came into being when the country was young and striving to impress. Charles F. McKim’s Italianate palazzo-style library opened on Boston’s Copley Plaza in 1895; in 1921, Renaissance austerity suited Detroit’s Main Library designed by Cass Gilbert, while architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue chose Egyptian Deco for Los Angeles’s downtown Central Library of 1926. Architecturally grand, the central library was both beacon and monumental tribute to learning and civic pride; a people’s palace with knowledge freely available to all. But, really, when was the last time you spent any time there?

For the first time since Henri Labrouste (1801-1875), currently the subject of an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, formulated the conception of the new, democratic library, the central library is fighting for survival. The relevance of these gloriously inflated book boxes is being questioned in an age that looks to the Internet for its intellectual resources.

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May 8, 2013

E-Books and Democracy


WRESTLING with my newspaper on the subway recently, I noticed the woman next to me reading a book on her smartphone. “That has to hurt your eyes,” I commented.  Not missing a beat, she replied, in true New York style, “My font is bigger than yours.” She was right.

The information revolution raises profound questions about the future of books, reading and libraries. While publishers have been nimble about marketing e-books to consumers, until very recently they’ve been mostly unwilling to sell e-books to libraries to lend, fearful that doing so would hurt their business, which is under considerable pressure.

Negotiations between the nation’s libraries and the Big Six publishers — Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Group, Random House and Simon & Schuster, which publish roughly two-thirds of the books in America — have gone in fits and starts. Today Hachette, which had been a holdout, is joining the others in announcing that it will make e-books available to public libraries. This is a big step, as it represents, for the first time, a consensus among the Big Six, at least in principle, that their e-books should be made available to library users.

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94% of Parents Think Libraries Are Important for Their Children

pewlogoBy Jason Boog

Think that libraries are obsolete in the 21st Century? A whopping 94 percent of American parents agree that “libraries are important for their children.”

Last year, Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project surveyed 2,252 Americans aged 16 or older to find out more about library attitudes in America. Here is more information from the inspiring report:

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April 24, 2013

Library in a Shipping Container

aminlibrary_01By Michael Lieberman

Welcome to The Amin Library in Batu, Indonesia, a new eight-room public library and clinic designed by dpavilion architects and made entirely out of recycled shipping containers!

 Eight containers in all were used with each color corresponding to a different function.

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April 23, 2013

Nazi-Looted Books Spell Decades of Labor for Libraries

An almanac that once belonged to Arthur Goldschmidt, a Jewish businessman persecuted by the Nazis and a book collector who amassed 40,000 volumes. His grandson recently reached a settlement with the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, which will keep the books.

An almanac that once belonged to Arthur Goldschmidt, a Jewish businessman persecuted by the Nazis and a book collector who amassed 40,000 volumes. His grandson recently reached a settlement with the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, which will keep the books.

By Catherine Hickley

Arthur Goldschmidt, a Leipzig dealer in animal feed and an exporter to South America, was more passionate about books than business. His private collection numbered 40,000 carefully indexed volumes and he engaged a librarian to take care of it.

After the Nazis seized power in 1933, Goldschmidt was persecuted as a Jew; his assets were liquidated and his company confiscated. For survival, he sold his treasured collection of 2,000 almanacs — spanning three centuries — for a pittance to the Goethe and Schiller Archive in Weimar. He fled in 1938.

His grandson Tomas Goldschmidt, who was a toddler when Arthur died in poverty in Bolivia in 1951, had no idea the collection had survived until he was contacted by the London- based Commission for Looted Art in Europe — 70 years after his grandfather’s escape. The commission traced him at the request of the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar.

The library has since reached a restitution settlement with Goldschmidt and, just as importantly for him, helped to illuminate an era of family history. He described his first visit to see the almanacs in 2007.

“I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t touch those books, I couldn’t swallow,” he said over coffee in a Berlin cafe. “I felt so proud. It put my family in a new light. I never knew they were so wealthy and so educated. In South America my grandfather had nothing to live on — they were poor.”

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