Wednesday, January 25, 2012

library material

Its not yours... its ours.

Soon, the question may not be so much about how we catalog, access, store and generally treat library materials, the question may be a much simpler one: what library materials?

It is true that information that was once contained only in books is becoming more and more digitized, resulting in the very material-ness of information slowing fading into the past. But the time when all of the physical items that we store in, and lend out of our libraries, evaporates into memory, is not here yet.

In the meantime, we have library materials. Analog, baby. But its not just books anymore, and I'm sure we all know that, but what seems to have escaped us as a public-library-using society, is that even though the materials have changed, the way we use them has not.

But it should.

Books, frankly, can take a beating. On the surface, books seem pretty delicate. They're made of paper (generally) and other natural materials, easily ripped, folded, or marked up. They are susceptible to broken bindings, lost pages, water damage, rot, and even flames. But walk into your local library and you'll easily find volumes that are 30, 50, even 100 years old. Standing in stodgy defiance of our notions of their delicacy, they are still readable, and as fully functional as the day they were added to the collection. What differs today, is the more modern technologies used to deliver library content. These newer materials are certainly new-fangled and very techie, but seldom are they as durable as a 50-year-old book.

Books are easy: You can drop a book on the coffee table, throw it in your bag, read it at the beach, even set it on the sand. Try that with a DVD. Or a Kindle. Good luck! I'm not complaining about these new technologies, I love them! actually, I don't love ereaders. * I just wish they worked when I take them home from my library. But they don't work, because they've been damaged by careless handling.

Did you get a little of that popcorn grease on the book you took out of the library? Or did you drop it on the floor in the dark, and then kick it? While this may be a problem if everyone does it to library books, the truth is, if it does happen now and again, we can still all read and enjoy that book. Not so with a DVD, CD and maybe even an eReader. You need to be MORE careful with these materials, because unlike our old (old!) friend, the book, info-tech delivery systems are typically delicate.

You like to eat a bag of Cheetos, or a bucket of KFC while watching a movie? Have at it. But wash your hands before smearing up the DVD. Grease will wash off, but it also attracts dust and dirt, which can scratch, and scratches don't wash off. And that's bad.

you may be confusing DVDs with hockey pucks.
hint: hockey pucks are black.

And don't think you can just set a disk down, just for a second, on your coffee table, which is really, really clean! Because it isn't, and you won't, and it it will get ruined, and you know it will. Can't find the box it came in? Put it back in your player, put down your Funyuns and find it. This level of responsibility is what you agreed to when you borrowed this material from the library. Its an implied contract that you've made with the library and all of its users (us!) So do your job.

Here's some advice from the Kindle Fire User's Manual:

" could break if the device is dropped or receives a substantial impact. If the glass breaks, chips, or cracks, stop using your Kindle Fire and do not touch or attempt to remove the damaged glass."

Ooooo... yeah, you're done. Oh, and don't leave it where it could get hot or cold, like in your car. Because its not a book, and when you do, you could ruin it.

And its not yours... its ours.

* I might love eReaders; I don't know, I've never used one.

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