Friday, November 15, 2013
Weeding, Echidnas and Gravity
If you're like me, you've probably thought of a library as a place where books find a home pretty much permanently. (I know my college library, back in the '80s, had tons of books that were a good 30 years old or more.) But ideally, that isn't the case at all. Librarians regularly weed their collections, removing outdated books or volumes that don't get checked out. Studies have shown that a well-weeded collection actually gets used more robustly than one that is permitted to simply accrete material over time.
We're involved in weeding at work. Yesterday one of the librarians pulled a bunch of metaphorically dusty books from the shelves and we all looked through them, deciding whether we should keep any of them. One slim volume was all about the Australian echidna -- a spiny anteating critter. The librarian was uncertain whether to dispose of this book, even though it had not been checked out since 1994, because it is our only book about the echidna.
So we got to looking through it, wondering whether we really even need a book specifically about a spiny anteater from the other side of the planet. We were laughing at some of the pictures. (Echidnas can be remarkably cute for something so spiny.)
It struck me that this is what's cool about working in a library. Where else could I get paid for reading about echidnas?
(We kept the book.)
Last night, Dave and I went with some people from work to see "Gravity," with Sandra Bullock. It was excellent. The special effects were amazing, and the time passed so quickly -- the movie is virtually all action, in the here-and-now, burdened with very little exposition or backstory. I was a bit reluctant to see it because being in outer space is my idea of a nightmare, but I'm glad I went. (We even saw it in 3-D, which I almost never pay extra to do, and that made a difference, I think.)
(Photos: An old Volkswagen Karmann Ghia parked on the street near our flat. My brother or father, both Volkswagen enthusiasts, could probably tell us what year it is.)