Quad Quotes: May-June 2001


Author Nicholson Baker argues in his book, Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper, that librarians “have lied to us shamelessly about the extent of paper’s fragility, and they continue to lie about it.”
Is this correct?

Somewhere between Baker’s hyperbole and gross generalization and the nation’s library community’s collective defensive statements of outrage, lies a fundamental set of issues that should be of concern to all educated citizens. Custodians of our cultural heritage, in the name of preservation (and mostly in good faith), have made decisions that have, in fact, resulted in damage or loss of the original “artifact.”
Baker, following in the footsteps of his muckraker great-grandfather, Ray Stannard Baker, has challenged librarians to rethink their attitude toward and treatment of materials printed on highly acidic paper. Having rescued early American newspapers from a deaccessioning project at the British Library, he has firsthand experience with a body of literature printed on paper that has not fared very well over time.
His arguments are valid: While the edges of the paper are certainly brittle and disintergrating, most of the printed page is still in good shape and very readable; microfilm is a poor substitute both in reproduction quality and the aesthetics of reading print; many preservation programs have, in fact, resulted in the discard of the original after the microfilming has taken place; with proper conditions and treatment, paper can last for a very long time.
Ideal environmental conditions of both temperature (cold) and light (none) ensure the long-term life of valuable early materials. As Baker noted at the dedication of Duke’s new Library Service Center, a state-of-the-art facility for the storage of our paper collections: “Storage! That’s what this building is about. Keep it cool, keep it dry, but above all—keep it.”

—David S. Ferriero is vice provost for library affairs and university librarian

We asked several students still on campus in late May: Why are you in Durham this summer?

School’s out and college students should be away vacationing, relaxing, and generally escaping campus life for a few months, right? For some maybe, but for most Duke students, summer is a time to seek out internships, catch up on academic credits, or just make some money for the fall semester. While many may be pursuing these goals in New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, or their hometowns, a small number of students stick around Duke.

For Laura Harrington ’03 and Henry Ho ’02, it’s a chance to focus more time on individual research, without the hectic schedules. “I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity this summer to concentrate on my lab research, without having to worry about classes. It is an opportunity to use the knowledge I have gained during the year and apply it practically to a job in my intended career field,” says Harrington.

After enrolling in an independent-study program in the spring semester, Ho says staying at Duke was an easy decision. “There is no reason to look for lab work elsewhere, given the quality of research conducted at Duke. So, I requested a paid position for the summer, which allows me to make some money and engage in an exciting line of work.”

John Tran ’02 likes the freedom to pursue research, but also finds staying at Duke less of a burden. “Sometimes it’s just easier to stay in Durham for the summer. There’s less moving, a familiar environment, and, hopefully, some friends around. Plus, Central Campus apartments are pretty nice for the price.”

Of course, summer isn’t all about working and studying. Anda Cornea ’03 says she just wants the time to experience Duke a little more. “Since I will be taking a break from my studies here at Duke all of next year to study in England, I wanted to spend some more time with my friends. Besides, not going home for the summer is an excellent way to escape parental pressures.”

The summer population isn’t limited to undergraduates. Staci Hemmer, a first-year graduate student in physics, was found peacefully studying in the Bryan Center’s Alpine Atrium, where there was plenty of available seating, unlike during the regular school year.

For others, summer at Duke is more of a necessity than an option. Luke Palmisano ’02 is enrolled in a biochemistry class because he is “way behind in required classes.” With many students pursuing double majors or studying abroad, this is a common occurrence. But Palmisano ran into another problem: “I took too many electives.”

—compiled by Shawn Nicholls ’02.

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