[Foundation-l] 6 reasons we're in another book-burning period in history

Federico Leva (Nemo) nemowiki at gmail.com
Sat Oct 15 06:47:12 UTC 2011

Amir E. Aharoni, 14/10/2011 23:01:
> 1. It's not really news for me: My professors have been talking very
> angrily about the secret book destruction operations for years and
> Asaf Bartov, the founder of BYP [1], who now works for the WMF, have
> been frequently lecturing about this. But Cracked have put it in a
> very understandable format.

Well, I think it's worse than what one can understand from that article; 
but other problems are even worse.

> 2. Since Cracked is rather popular, this is an opportunity to
> publicize Wikisource, one of Wikimedia most wonderful endeavors.

I doubt it.

> It is
> criminally under-publicized now.


> 3. Is there any project, anywhere, to systematically find books that
> are going to be irrecoverably destroyed and to digitize them? I'd
> argue that it's more important to digitize them before the more
> popular titles, which are less likely to be lost forever. I would also
> support the WMF investing money in collaborating with libraries doing
> it. BYP, mentioned above, is doing something like this; it is a bunch
> of volunteers, working on a shoestring budget in a small country. Is
> anybody else doing it?

I don't think anyone else could do it currently: you need to think in 
the scale of millions books. The good news is that the IA needs only few 
millions dollars for such a project, perhaps they'll be able to 
replicate it in Europe. Or, let's hope that some public entity will copy 
their pragmatic approach.
	In my university we managed to save some thousands books which should 
have been destroyed, selling them to students. Perhaps we managed to 
keep it a zero losses operation, but it still needed some lobbying, a 
bureaucratic niche (it's not so easy to sell public properties) and most 
of all a very committed librarian.
	But, note that nobody will ever take our hundreds (thousands?) of 
shelf-meters of super-old medicine journals. Perhaps we'll find some 
millions euros to build a new deposit where they'll be piled up in a 
huge compactus nobody will ever access, just for the sake of 
preservation, but it's more likely that they'll just rot where they are 
without any decision, until we'll be forced to throw them away even 
according the most generous librarian standards.

Finally, this is just a minor problem, if you think of the hundreds of 
thousands of uncataloged books piled up in the damp cellars of the 
Florence National Central Library, going rot for lack of funds... just 
to mention the biggest Italian example, because it's the same everywhere.


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