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LIS 950: Libraries and community

The purpose of this seminar is to explore an important topic in library and information studies in depth — in all its intertwined historical, cultural, philosophical, and political aspects — through a graduate reading/discussion seminar. The topic varies each time the course is taught; this time around, we will focus on "libraries and community"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Money VS IT Capitalism

I think the ideas from the book denote the ongoing era of capitalism – the use of Carnegie’s money. This makes me to think about our era today. I am seeing it as an information technology era, and there are evidences that IT capitalism, not only financial capitalism, play pivotal roles in library. So, this marks another milestone in library history that IT becomes one of the major causes of reshaping library architecture, culture, processes or cycles of library and information transaction in this era. Is it true that we now need all kinds of richness—IT richness, financial richness, knowledge richness, access richness, and the likes. Whether it is true or not, then, why do we or do we not need them all? Who are actors that can facilitate the ideas on these needs, and how? Although at first I think the book seems plain and straight forward with stories about Carnegie's libraries, I finally think it implies so many concepts that bring out the big picture of American library and its history to me to think about.

I find this book “Free to All” is another very pleasant to read one. It allows me to explore through circumstances and evidences while adding to my knowledge many invaluable points on how the cycles in history illuminate concepts and their causes (why something exists or happens in a particular way) of reality, actions, and relationships among human subjects as well as processes of such action toward the aspects on social, cultures, and the professional. To me, the reading draws my thinking back to the idea of building as a venue for people with or without something in commons. They can choose to use it as a place to socialize with others or even socialize with information, or to become isolate in their private worlds. It is amazing to see many controversial transactions occur inside the frame of architecture and building that planned to serve as provider and controller at the same time. Also, the issue that Carnegie’s libraries have similar patterns or floor plans make me wonder if this is a way to introduce the profession that the service should flow within this particular design. I am wondering how much and to what extent do the impacts of the design have on the library transactions, task orientations, users understanding of the service and their perception of the global picture of the library structure, and etc.

The quote that reads “we must look at all buildings as evidence of social processes in which a variety of attitudes are negotiated in specific social and cultural settings” (p.xxi) is very provocative to me and unburdens my thinking. I am wondering how this uniqueness in Carnegie’s libraries reflected to or was reflected by American libraries in the following decades. Is there a similar trend imprinting the roles of Carnegie’s libraries in other parts of the world?

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