Old v New

Listed on July 31, 2013 in Blogs!
Library Books

Our neat & tidy library shelves

Yesterday I spent almost the whole day sorting out our library. The books had got into a mess and there wasn’t any room for new additions donated by our students and customers. It was a day well spent. Not only do the library shelves now look fantastic but we created the space for new books as well. It was achieved by taking everything, yes, everything, off the shelves. Dusting and polishing each shelf and then replacing the books carefully – some into new sections. It hopefully all makes sense. Ruthless decisions were made about some old and tatty stock and there were inevitable casualties. Of course, in doing this task (and I was helped by two fantastic volunteers) I couldn’t help ponder in the ways in which new technology is helping us source information and knowledge. The magnificent volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica were been retained but who uses it these days? Wikipedia – despite the early years plagued with errors – is an amazing resource available in an instance in the palms of our hands – almost everywhere and at anytime.

How we negotiate the old with the new is a really interesting subject. It was claimed that photography would replace painting and that television would be the death of cinema. Both claims not true. The airplane did replace the ocean liner for long distant travel but out of this came the new cruise business and modern ships are astonishing things that would rival the old Queens in terms of luxury, style and endurance. The red telephone box seems threatened following the advent of the mobile phone but many red ‘phone box locations are now BT hotspots providing fast wireless internet connections. Video conferencing has its place but I believe it can never replace the dynamic of a face-to-face meeting – especially so when there are a group of you assembled. Newspapers may survive as ‘comics for grown-ups’ or as ‘forums of opinion’ but the threat of internet news is very real to the traditional newspaper business model as the internet is for old ways of advertising and promotion. So where does this leave us? My hunch is that new technology will impact on many ways of doing things but that out of the turmoil will come new adaptations. Some aspects of normative life will change forever and new concepts will emerge. It will seem like three steps forward and one step back… but that is still progress. It seems to me that we are experiencing the sort of upheaval that was encountered when the industrial revolution took hold. That totally transformed society for good and ill. And as for books? Well, they extraordinary things. They’re robust and they don’t (once produced) rely on technology to do their thing. Long may they continue but perhaps their value will be reassessed and they will become important objects – locations – of quite reflection and deep slow thought. Now that surely represents a development we would all welcome.