I’ve been meaning to write this housekeeping post on changes, upgrades, and new sections of the site for awhile, but I’m very excited that it’s also the announcement of a new tool called Otlet’s Shelf, a bookmarklet and Tumblr theme for Amazon.com created by Andrew LeClair and I.
Yesterday, I received this message from the Open Reading Group:
This spring, Dexter Sinister is busy morphing from a “just-in-time workshop and occasional bookstore” into an non-profit institution-of-sorts called The Serving Library. This involves incorporating (The Serving Library Company, Inc.), describing (A Statement of Intent) and fundraising (here):
The idea is to build on the haphazard, contingent clutter of activities assembled during the five-year lease of our basement space on Ludlow Street in New York (which expires just before the summer) towards a more explicit, coherent set of intentions that can be condensed into the following equation:
“The Serving Library is a cooperatively-built archive that assembles itself by publishing. It will consist of 1. an ambitious public website; 2. a small physical library space; 3. a publishing program which runs through #1 and #2.”
The longer story involves two collections of books and artifacts, an online and printed successor to Dot Dot Dot called Bulletins of The Serving Library, a speculative Foundation Course modeled on the Photoshop Toolbox, a rotating Guest Librarianship, and a 12-year Black Whisky. Further elaboration is offered in A Statement of Intent, available from our existing library:
“I don’t complain about institutions! I complain about institutions that I don’t like.” (Michelangelo Pistoletto)
Please circulate this announcement freely.
Regards, David Reinfurt, Stuart Bailey, Angie Keefer
Please give what you can — one Ben Franklin will go a long way toward supporting The Serving Library and will ensure your copy of the first issue of the library Bulletin.
[There was an] answer which Anatole France gave to a philistine who admired his library and then finished with the standard question, “And you have read all these books, Monsier France?” “Not one-tenth of them. I don’t suppose you use your Sevres china every day?”
In sharing this quote, Andy observed (rather poetically I think),
Benjamin’s a good starting point to wonder about the nature of collecting as objects become de-objectified. Building private PDF libraries, for instance, will lack a certain spirit once these libraries are localized on devices that will be able to access any PDF from any library, ever. Why continue to collect? At that point we’ll no longer be collecting so much as rearranging, recommending various combinations of texts for others rather than hoarding for ourselves. The continued ubiquity of playlists.
More on the quote by Umberto Eco that Jason Kottke posted yesterday and the pithy quote I was trying to remember in response. Su emailed me a few hours after the post went up and managed to track it down. The quote comes from Eco’s essay “How to Justify a Private Library” (available here on Google Books in full), part of his collection How to Travel with a Salmon and Other Essays:
In the past I adopted a tone of contemptuous sarcasm. “I haven’t read any of them; otherwise why would I keep them here?” But this is a dangerous answer and invites the obvious follow-up: “And where do you put them after you’ve read them?” The best answer is the one always used by Robert Leydi: “And more, dear sir, many more,” which freezes the adversary and plunges him into a state of awed admiration. But I find it merciless and angst-generating. “No, these are the ones I have to read by the end of the month. I keep the others in my office,” a reply that on the one hand suggests a sublime ergonomic strategy, and on the other leads the visitor to hasten the moment of his departure.
The gist of the quote, which is what I was trying to remember, is that Eco knew of three possible answers to the question about the scale of his library: 1) He’s read none of them. 2) He’s read all of them and more. 3) What’s unread is only what’s visible; what’s read is left to the imagination.
Taleb paraphrasing Umberto Eco:
Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allow you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.
I was trying to quote this bit of wisdom at dinner the other night and drew and utter blank about where I’d heard it. Thanks to Mr Kottke, as usual. (Also: Eco has another pithy quote about the volume of books in his library that I’ve forgotten. Anyone remember?)
A wonderful project, Out of Order, by Laurenz Brunner and Marianne Vierø in which the two designers explored the Gerrit Rietveld library collection and developed patterns from their research. One of their first examples includes the backs of faded fabric-bound books arranged by color. I love this idea of exploring the library in unexpected ways.
The engrossing WorldCat, “the world’s largest network of library content and services. WorldCat libraries are dedicated to providing access to their resources on the Web, where most people start their search for information.” It’s a card catalog of card catalogs with all the simplicity of Google. And it’s incredibly useful: after searching a book, you can find out which library has it closest to your house, and how to cite it in APA, Chicago, Harvard, MLA, and Turabian formats. WorldCat was created by the Online Computer Library Center, or OCLC, and they’ve already been data-mining WorldCat with some pretty interesting results.