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Science fiction author Nalo Hopkinson, a professor at UC Riverside, sounds the alarm about a change in management at the Eaton Science Fiction Collection, the largest public science fiction and fantasy in the world.
The new library administration has alienated long-term staff (according to Hopkinson, it shades over into actual abuse), triggering waves of resignations, and is planning to drastically reduce the collection size.
Many of the messages presented in respectable scientific publications are, in fact, based on various forms of rumors. Some of these rumors appear so frequently, and in such complex, colorful, and entertaining ways that we can think of them as academic urban legends. The explanation for this phenomenon is usually that authors have lazily, sloppily, or fraudulently employed sources, and peer reviewers and editors have not discovered these weaknesses in the manuscripts during evaluation. To illustrate this phenomenon, I draw upon a remarkable case in which a decimal point error appears to have misled millions into believing that spinach is a good nutritional source of iron. Through this example, I demonstrate how an academic urban legend can be conceived and born, and can continue to grow and reproduce within academia and beyond.
From The New York Times:
The two-day event, called the MTA Zine Residency, had been organized by a librarian and an archivist at the Barnard College library, which they said has the largest circulating collection of zines in an academic library. After producing zines on the F train, the group was planning to reconvene Monday on the Staten Island Ferry to put the finishing touches on their creations. The organizers of the residency said they hoped that the participants would sell or donate copies of their completed zines to the Barnard collection.
Jenna Freedman, the zine librarian at Barnard, said that the relative quiet and lack of phone and Internet connections made the subway a natural place to compose zines.
“There really is a pleasure to writing while you’re in motion,” she said. “I’ve always felt that time is most my own.”
A sweet surprise was waiting for Cambridge students during the exam period – hidden within the pages of a library book. During a stock check of the Newnham College Library, a student discovered a secret stash of chocolate concealed within the pages of The Oxford Companion to English Literature by Margaret Drabble, herself a Newnham alumna. The mysterious treat-giver had hollowed out the pages of the book and stowed a Crunchie and a Dairy Milk bar within.
Scrawled inside the pages is a message encouraging the lucky finder to enjoy the contents.
The note reads: “Dear student, congratulations on finding this book.
“Take your prize and return with one for the next person.”
The tome is not a Newnham College library book, and it believed to have been spirited in for the express purpose of concealing the chocolate bars.
Jo Tynan, a spokeswoman for Newnham College, told the News: “We do regular stock checks at the library and a student stock taker came across this book last week. “It didn’t have any issue numbers on it so she opened it and the inside had been completely hollowed out.”
Indeed, Academia.edu, PLOS, and Arxiv.org are doing something remarkable: They’re mounting a full-frontal assault on a multi-billion-dollar industry and replacing it with something that makes much, much less money.
They’re far more efficient and fairer, and they vastly increase the openness and availability of research information. I believe this will be nothing but good for the human race in the long run. But I’m sure the executives of Elsevier, Springer, and others are weeping into their lattes as they watch this industry evaporate.
Maybe they can get together with newspaper executives to commiserate.
This spring, universities across the United States have fielded requests from students for “trigger warnings” to accompany certain books, films, lectures and works of art that they deem troubling. And more recently, several colleges have found themselves dealing with protests from students outraged by their institutions’ choice of graduation speaker, and thus recipients of honorary degrees.
A member of the Goshen College staff has resigned in part because of the college’s policy against hiring people in GLBTQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning) relationships.
Tabi Berkey, who worked in the college’s library, resigned Monday, May 19, and posted an open letter on Facebook explaining her decision.
Within two hours, the post had garnered more than 100 likes and had been shared 40 times.
Changing the culture of a university requires shifting goals, values and attitudes at all levels of the institution. BALSA is redefining the role students and postdocs play in effecting change at WUSTL, empowering them to shape their research training as they envision and providing them with another avenue to express their passion for research.
This is, then, one way in which books are far from obsolete: They are the best intellectual chaperones money can buy, both the creators and the preservers of the contemplative space that every university needs if it’s not to turn fully into a strip mall with frats. Yes, it is expensive to house a robust, accessible collection of what will soon be a forgotten format. But it would be more expensive to come up with an adequate replacement that still had the same irreplaceable effect on students—so expensive and involved, in fact, that it wouldn’t be worth doing at all. Not when the boosters could pay good money to use that space on game day, for a 95-foot TV.
Many of these buildings are iconic structures on their campuses, and have housed generations of studying students. Others were built more recently, and show how technology can shape the future of education.