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controversy

Oct 2 2009

Library of the Future?

by Jesse M

library-without-books “When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books.’’

So says James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing Academy, a prep school located west of Boston with a student population of about 420. It is a radical statement, and one which is being followed to what some would consider a radical conclusion: the gradual transition from a 20,000 volume collection to a mostly bookless, digital library. Despite the small size of the school, the announcement has made waves throughout the library world ever since being reported on by The Boston Globe on September 4. Much of the reaction has been negative. Jessamyn West of Librarian.net writes that she is “skeptical”” of the idea. Commenting on the school’s decision to spend $10,000 to purchase 18 Kindle Readers to replace the library’s collection of books, Keith Michael Fiels, executive director of the American Library Association, worried that “unless every student has a Kindle and an unlimited budget, I don’t see how that need is going to be met.’’ Author Nicholas Basbanes had very little positive to say in an article for finebooksmagazine.com entitled Philistines at the Gate, wherein he suggested that college admission officers might look askance at an application from a student at a school “that does not require its students to read books at all”.

Criticism of the plan is not limited to those outside of Cushing. Liz Vezina, Director of the Fisher-Watkins Library and librarian at Cushing for 17 years, expressed dismay. “I’m going to miss them…there’s something lost when they’re virtual…the smell, the feel, the physicality of a book is something really special.’’

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Nov 14 2007

Norman Mailer (1923 – 2007)

by Heather O

Mailer Controversial, abrasive, and prolific, Norman Mailer outlasted most of his generation of writers remaining an influential literary figure until his death this past weekend. Pioneering the creative non-fiction/biographical novel genre, Mailer contributed to journalism, activism, theater, and the screen in his prodigious body of work. From his seminal 1948 work Naked and the Dead, a semi-autobiography of his WWII experience to Hitler’s alternate childhood in The Castle in the Forest in 2007. Two-time Pultizer Prize winner with 1968 The Armies of the Night (also a National Book Award winner) and The Executioner’s Song 1979. His larger-than life persona and abrasive behavior belongs to an earlier era: the writer as celebrity, the Hemingway school of huge ego and even bigger lifestyle. Heavy drinker, womanizer, existentialist hipster, protester, politician, brawler- Mailer was as provocative in life as his writings. From his infamous feuds with Arthur Miller and Truman Capote to his brief imprisonment for stabbing one of his six wives, Mailer never shied away from the spotlight or backed away from conflict. While Mailer may never have written the ‘Great American Novel’ his body of literature truly represents America: from the 1968 Democratic convention, Marilyn Monroe, Lee Harvey Oswald, the Apollo mission, feminism, McCarthyism, and the death penalty – Mailer was a keen observer and critic of the epic that is American culture.

Check the online catalog or your DeKalb County Public Library branch for more Norman Mailer life and literature.

New York Times obituary

NPR obituary and interviews.

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