A Commitment to Community

by bjs | Thursday, March 23, 2017 - 6:00 AM

In the introduction to a recent special issue of the journal Library Trends , the guest editors simply state that “libraries are part of the fabric of society.” That kicks off the discussion of “Libraries in the Political Process,” the topic of the Fall 2016 issue edited by Christine Stilwell, Peter Johan Lor, and Raphaëlle Bats.

Lor, an extraordinary professor in the Department of Information Science at the University of Pretoria who also serves on the journal's Editorial Board, and Bats, a conservateur de bibliothèque at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Sciences de L’information (ENSSIB), in Lyon, France, also provided essays for the issue. The print publication grew out an open session called “Libraries in the Political Process: Benefits and Risks of Political Visibility, ” part of the Library Theory and Research (LTR) section of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) World Library and Information Congress in Lyon, France, in August 2014.

Stilmann, a professor emeritus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in South Africa, joined the editorial team during the process of putting the issue together. The three guest editors participated in a Q&A about...Read More

Behind the Book: The Snake and the Salamander

by krm | Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - 6:00 AM

When Matt asked if I was interested in writing a few paragraphs to accompany each of the illustrations he was creating for a book on the amphibians and reptiles of the northeast, I jumped at the chance. A quick check of his website convinced me that he could produce really wonderful, high quality, scientifically accurate illustrations. He wanted to explore the fantastic colors and body forms exhibited by this group of lesser known vertebrates. I wanted to explore the diversity of lifestyles and habitats used by these critters. Our goal was a book that would excite the interest of naturalists and students as well as be of interest to the general public.

Our first discussions centered around how to define the northeast for our purposes and which species to illustrate. If we only dealt with New England we would have about 60 species to work with. And we would be missing a number of very colorful species found in the New Jersey Pine Barrens as well as the states as far south as Virginia and West Virginia. Defining the northeast as Maine to Virginia would also correspond to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Region 5 and Partners in...Read More

Ten Principles of Good Sustainable Design History

by krm | Tuesday, March 21, 2017 - 6:00 AM

1. Good sustainable design history is aware of contemporary design strategies. Industrial designers in recent years have adopted several strategies for sustainable design. Among them are use of life-cycle assessments , developing related voluntary certification programs (such as Cradle-to-Cradle ), and upcycling. Understanding what the profession is attempting to do to reduce its effects on the environment is important.

2. Good sustainable design history uses history to critique contemporary design strategies. History allows us to see how decisions made in the past affected society and the environment. We may use it to understand how past design decisions in architecture, fashion, and industrial design had effects on the waste stream, on the health of consumers, and on resource use. Contemporary efforts at sustainability may be responses to problems of the past, and they may also repeat problems of the past. Because upcycling has a history, history can investigate the opportunities and limits of past upcycling practices.

3. Good sustainable design history recognizes history as an important contributor to contemporary design approaches . By evaluating past practice, history provides...Read More

Five Things That Will Surprise You about Civil War Medicine

by krm | Monday, March 20, 2017 - 6:00 AM

I once heard historian Drew Gilpin Faust tell an audience at the National Humanities Center that at least one book about the Civil War had appeared for every day since Lee surrendered at Appomattox. That’s a major challenge for the historian who seeks to say something new about the topic. So, in the spirit of the common blog theme . . .

Here’s Five Things That Will Surprise You about Civil War Medicine!

1. Surgery was humane and, often, successful.

Surgeons used both ether and chloroform during the war, performing all of those amputations that are emblematic of their craft. The Mutter Museum recently surveyed visitors to a Civil War medicine exhibit and found that 89% thought these operations were done without anesthesia. Perhaps the scene in Gone with the Wind in which Scarlet hears a man screaming off stage has created this impression, and indeed the peculiar circumstances of the Atlanta siege may have led to such medical horrors, but most men were asleep as they lost limbs to the surgeon’s saw. And around 75% of major arm and leg amputations healed, leading to a brisk business in prosthetics...Read More

In Defense of Equity

by bjs | Friday, March 17, 2017 - 6:00 AM

By Virginia Brennan, Ph.D., MA

As society used to be, or as I used to understand it, equity shone brightly, a star that society reached for. The great machines of universal progress as seen during and after the Enlightenment—medicine, law, education—were to build ships capable of sailing us across the heavens towards universal well-being, justice, and knowledge.

The new Smithsonian Museum of African American Culture and History.

Photo by Virginia Brennan

The recent U.S. federal elections, and the complex societal and economic tensions that underlay them, call into question whether equity remains an ideal in the United States today. They call into question whether the ship of state is guided by self-interest—sometimes rhetorically identified with another American ideal (liberty, or freedom, in the narrowest sense)—rather than the polestar of equity and its bright companion, freedom in a deep and broad sense. This self-interest is interest in one’s own wealth, power, and well-being and those of relatives and friends.

An individual with this extremely narrow idea of freedom, of liberty, may well reject taxes that support programs enhancing the health, education, and legal protections of all....Read More