Symposium on Amazing Stories: Inspiration, Learning, and Adventure in Science Fiction
Date: Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, 9:00AM-5:00PM
Wednesday, November 30, 2016, 9:00AM-5:00PM
Location: New York City College of Technology, 300 Jay St., Namm N119
“By ‘scientifiction’ I mean the Jules Verne, H. G. Wells and Edgar Allan Poe type of story—a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision … Not only do these amazing tales make tremendously interesting reading—they are always instructive.”
-Hugo Gernsback, 1926.
When the widely recognized “Father of Science Fiction,” Hugo Gernsback first coined the term that captured the essence of the genre we now call science fiction (SF), he envisioned SF as a new form of literature that inspired with prophecy, taught with scientific and technical facts, and engaged with adventure. These traits unique to SF have launched many of its readers on trajectories into the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) fields.
Join us for a one-day symposium exploring SF as a medium for engaging imagination, a means for exploring STEM/STEAM fields, and an instrument for discovering interdisciplinary connections, and also celebrating the new City Tech Science Fiction Collection held in the Archives and Special Collections of the Ursula C. Schwerin Library.
We invite presentations of 10-15 minutes on SF and how it fulfills learning, inspiration, and fun in STEAM-focused environments. Possible presentation topics include, but are not limited to:
• SF inspired STEM careers (or what SF inspired you to enter your field?)
• SF as a teaching tool (or what SF have you used or want to use in your classes?)
• SF’s imaginative functions (or Gedankenexperiment, considering ethical issues and unintended consequences, visualizing the influence of science and technology on society)
• Bridging STEM and the humanities via SF (or SF as an interdisciplinary cultural work that embraces STEAM)
• SF and place (or SF’s deep roots in Brooklyn and New York City)
• The fun and learning in archival work in SF collections (or making the City Tech Science Fiction Collection work for faculty, students, and researchers)
Please send a 100-word abstract, brief bio, and contact information to Jason Ellis (jellis at citytech.cuny.edu) by Oct. 31, 2016. Schedule will be announced Nov.15, 2016.
Organizing Committee: Jason Ellis (Chair), Aaron Barlow, Jill Belli, and Mary Nilles.
When I met with Georgia Tech Library Archives’ Department Head Jody Lloyd Thompson and Digital Collections Archivist Wendy Hagenmaier to donate three vintage computers (a Dell Dimension 4100, Apple Performa 550, and Apple iMac) and other computing hardware a week and a half ago, I noticed that they had room for one more computer, so I pitched them the idea of my making another donation to fill the gap between the Performa 550’s 68030 processor and the iMac’s G3 processor: an Apple Power Macintosh 8500/120. They agreed to accept, so I set about preparing the computer for them.
My Power Macintosh 8500 was in very good shape, but like many vintage computers with persistent clocks, it needed a new lithium battery.
I replaced the battery, installed Mac OS 7.5.5, a number of different software titles (including Apple’s Plaintalk Speech Recognition–I threw in a Plaintalk powered microphone, Project X/Hot Sauce, and Cyberdog). I discovered that the plastic inside the case did not age well. The PowerMac 8500 has a lot of plastic components that are held together with flexible tabs or clips. When I applied a small amoung of pressure on the tip of these clips to release them, most of them would break. Luckily, the case ties together very well, so I only had to piece some parts back together with clear tape (the power button/light assembly) and metal duct tape (one drive plate cover on the front of the case). To help dissipate heat, I added a rear slot fan made by Antec.
I made a video demoing the finalized system, which I’m including embedded below (I apologize for the flicker, but my digital camera doesn’t have enough adjustment features to match the refresh rate on the Apple 14″ Color Display).
In addition to the Power Macintosh 8500, I gave the Archives a box full of software and late-1990s/early-2000s video games for Macintosh. These might help facilitate more connections around campus (Computer Science, Media Studies, and Game Studies).
As I’m leaving soon for City Tech, I believe that we can do more together in our work with vintage computing. I floated the idea of a symposium, conference, or some other kind of connected project. Also, from what little I have learned so far, there’s a lot of investment and interest in computer technology in NYC (and Brooklyn in particular). I am looking forward to making new connections with others studying retrocomputing and New Media. I know that many opportunities await.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of making the first donation of three computers to the Georgia Tech Library Archives, which is launching its own Retrocomputing Lab for scholars and students to use. The Georgia Tech Library Archives is already well-known for its significant Georgia Tech Science Fiction Collection and other holdings.
I met with Department Head Jody Lloyd Thompson and Digital Collections Archivist Wendy Hagenmaier to setup the three computers and talk about each machine’s provenance and current operation. We set the computers up on the right side as you enter the Georgia Tech Library Archives. This is a temporary location as the Archives makes plans for their use in Archives for the time being and possibly more in the future as part of the on-going Georgia Tech Library renovation project.
From my personal collection–which I am having to cull before moving to Brooklyn for my new job at City Tech, I donated three computers: an Apple Performa 550 (1994), Apple iMac (1999), and Dell Dimension 4100 (2001). Before donating the computers, I refurbished each to be in as factory-fresh condition as possible.
For the Peforma 550, I installed a PDS ethernet NIC and replaced the SCSI hard drive with one that was less noisy than its original one. Then, I installed Mac OS 7.6.1 and some software including the AfterDark Star Trek: The Next Generation screensaver and ClarisWorks, and utilities for working with files and disk images.
For the slot-loading, DV iMac, I replaced the motherboard battery and performed a fresh install of Mac OS 9.2.1. The optical drive suffers from a weak ejection mechanism. I made sure that the bottom plastic bezel fit properly, but reseated it had no effect on improving the drive’s ability to eject discs correctly. I warned the librarians about this, and recommended buying an external, Firewire optical drive and using the paperclip ejection method in the meantime.
For the Dell Dimension 4100, I installed a 3Com NIC donated by Mark Warbington. I installed Windows 98 Second Edition and painstakingly installed the drivers for the components in the Dell (this was a laborious process, because despite having the Service Tag number, some recommended drivers did not work on all of the components).
I provided two sets of speakers–one for the Performa 550 (it’s internal speakers had stopped working about a year ago) and one for the Dell Dimension 4100. In the event of future hardware problems, I gave them spare AGP video cards, optical drives, a 3.5″ floppy disk drive.
Also, I gave them some spare motherboards, controller cards, and hard drives that might be useful for displays in the Library.
The Georgia Tech Library Archives have big plans for making digital archival work and learning an integral component of what they do. If you have functional and working computer hardware or software, you should consider donating it to the Georgia Tech Library Archives, or if you have technical skills for working on older hardware and software, you can donate your expertise and time, too. Contact Jody and Wendy by email or phone here: Georgia Tech Library Archives contact information here.
UPDATE: I made these four Google Glass videos while working on the iMac DV:
On May 4, 2014 at 11AM, Wendy Hagenmaier and I will give a co-presentation on Digital Archives and Vintage Computing @ Georgia Tech at the Vintage Computing Festival 2.0 in Roswell, Georgia. This post includes a support video embedded below, a link to our PowerPoint presentation, and a transcript of our talk.
During my part of the presentation, I will discuss this Google Glass captured demo of the Voyager Expanded Books series ebook of William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy on a Powerbook 145:
We have provided a PDF of our Powerpoint presentation here: ellis-hagenmaier-vcf-presentation_20140429.
We have provided a transcript of Jason’s part of the presentation below (and Wendy’s follows):
Digital Archives and Vintage Computing at Georgia Tech
Jason W. Ellis and Wendy Hagenmaier
Hello and welcome to our presentation on Digital Archives and Vintage Computing at Georgia Tech. I am Jason Ellis, a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow, and this is Wendy Hagenmaier, Digital Collections Archivist at the Georgia Tech Library.
In the first part of our presentation on digital archives and vintage computing at Georgia Tech, I will describe how these fit into my research and teaching before suggesting how the library can fulfill those needs for the communities it serves. Wendy will conclude with a discussion of the trajectory of the Georgia Tech Library as a place of research, learning, and making beyond the traditional image of a library.
[JASON W. ELLIS]
My primary work at Tech is to teach first year composition, tech comm, and occasionally, science fiction.
[HOW I CAME TO FOLD VINTAGE COMPUTING INTO MY WORK]
While I have long considered myself a computer hobbyist and I was an IT professional before going back to school to finish my degrees, I have leveraged my interest in computer technology and the human brain to do innovative research on the interplay between the digital and the biological. This raises issues of accessing digital culture on older media and making meaning from these significant forms of culture. These things are important to my research, but I want to enrich my teaching and help my students develop their digital literacies, too.
What specifically led me down this path professionally was that I needed to find a citation for a text I found online. It was an intriguing article attributed to the cyberpunk SF writer William Gibson on a Russian website (cyberpunk.ru). In it, he talks about the ephermerality of technologies—a very interesting idea in light of the fact that he wrote his novel Neuromancer on a typewriter. The afterword seemed ephemeral, too, because I couldn’t find a trace of this afterword in any printed book. A friend of my tweeted Gibson (@GreatDismal) and gave me a lead on a floppy disk-based ebook by the Voyager Company. After a search in Worldcat, the massive library database, I found a copy at the Michigan State University Library: the pictured Voyager Expanded Book series floppy disk of Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy (Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive). Unfortunately, I had no way of reading it.
After calling around northeast Ohio area schools and libraries without any luck finding a Macintosh with a 3.5” floppy disk drive, I turned to eBay where I acquired this Powerbook 145 (one much like the first computer I carried to Georgia Tech as a freshman in 1995). While I could have purchased an external floppy disk drive that connects with USB to access the ebook software, I wanted to experience the ebook as it was meant to be.
[VOYAGER EBOOK SOFTWARE]
With my Powerbook 145 and the Voyager Expanded Books floppy disk, I copied the self expanding archive’s contents to the Powerbook’s 80 MB hard drive. I observed that the Voyager ebook software is Hypercard-based. While it is made for the Macintosh Portable, it works fine on the later model Powerbook 145.
You can navigate the complete text of the novels and afterword with the trackball or arrow keys. While it has a global search box, you can also search by clicking on a word to see where else the word appears (much like Apple’s iBooks today). It supports annotations and bookmarking with virtual paperclips—an issue of remediation.
[AUTHOR’S AFTERWORD IN VOYAGER EBOOK]
This was the prize that I was looking for—the original author’s afterword available only in this ebook. In fact, Gibson did not even include it in his recent collection of nonfiction writing—Distrust That Particular Flavor. If you visit my blog at dynamicsubspace.net, you can watch an experimental video that I made with the Powerbook 145, Gibson’s ebook, an iPad Air, and my Google Glass.
[LET ME DO THAT FOR YOU]
Besides my research with and on vintage computing, I believe that these technologies should be an important part of teaching. Our students and young people need to have an idea about how the technology we enjoy today came to be the way that it is and to know that the past is full of ideas that might be repurposed, retried, or rediscovered as we continue developing ever new digital technologies.
For example, when I was researching Philip K. Dick in the Eaton Science Fiction Collection at the University of California at Riverside—the largest SF collection in the US if not the world—I had to stop a young, special collections librarian-in-training from jamming a one-of-a-kind cassette tape interview into a VHS machine on the AV cart. I directed her attention to the record/cassette combo on the bottom rack and offered, let me show you how to do that. These issues of use, operation, and support are passed on through teaching and first-hand experience.
[HOW I CONNECT RESEARCH AND TEACHING]
In my research, I have built a personal “Retrocomputing Lab” of Macs and PCs that support my research in the development of reading on screens just prior to and after the widespread adoption of the Internet. You can learn more about these on dynamicsubspace.net.
Most recently, I have embarked on a new way of sharing my research with others. In addition to writing essays for publication in journals and online, I am using Google Glass to record my experiences as a raw dataset that I can share on YouTube to support my scholarship and connect with others.
In my teaching, I encourage my freshmen students to learn how our computing technologies in the past and present have an influence on our neurobiology—put another way how we create computers with our brains and how do computing technologies change the way that we think over time. In Tech Comm, I have students research problems on the Tech campus that can be fixed with a technical communication solution. In one case, students resurrected an online printing solution that had died before they were students. Finally, in Science Fiction, I invite students to read Gibson’s afterword on the Powerbook and play the DOS video game interpretation of Neuromancer on an IBM-compatible PC.
[A VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF GEORGIA TECH]
My suspicion is that the need for accessing older media, studying vintage computing hardware and software, and teaching others how to use and preserve these technologies is not limited to literary and cultural studies. Obviously, computing is an interdisciplinary endeavor— specifically, I am thinking what Steve Jobs said about Apple being at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts—I think that this is a long tradition in computing not confined to the fine work at Apple.
I told Wendy, Sherri Brown, Alison Valk, and Elizabeth Rolando about my hopes for the Georgia Tech Library to serve as a synthesis of vintage computing research and teaching. The library’s archival mission can simultaneously maintain access to knowledge while preserving hardware and software as important artifacts of study. The library’s learning mission can support theoretical issues such as archival work and the history of science and technology alongside practical issues of training, using, and making. The library can do this through acquisition and on-going support, providing space for this kind of work, coordinating across institutions and the private sector, outreach, and more. Already, the Georgia Tech Library is a nexus of research and teaching that evolves to meet the research and learning needs of the communities that it serves. Wendy will tell us more about that in the next part of our presentation.
We have provided a transcript of Wendy’s part of the presentation below:
Hi everyone, I’m Wendy Hagenmaier, the Digital Collections Archivist at the Georgia Tech Library. I’m responsible for digital archives (similar to the work Al and Anne have discussed).
Reimagining the Georgia Tech Library
In light of Jason’s insights, I want to talk about some exciting changes happening at the Georgia Tech Library—changes we’ve been referring to as “reimagining the Library.” Though some of these changes are unique to Georgia Tech, many of them reflect how libraries everywhere are evolving to anticipate the needs of future library users, including people like Jason and all of you, the attendees here today.
The GT Library is transforming into a technological research library for the 21st century, but its mission remains the same: to be a creative partner and essential force in the learning community and the Institute’s programs.
At the GT Library lately, we’ve been asking ourselves: How can we support the research and teaching needs of faculty like Jason and inspire the scholarship of our broader community? And how can we invite the community to explore the past and design the future? As an archivist, I’m always interested in what the past can teach us about the future, so let’s take a quick look at the GT Library of long ago…
The Georgia Tech Library of the Past
Welcome to the Library of the 1960s.
Like many research libraries of the era, the GT Library provided services to support traditional, print book and journal-based research. The emphasis was on creating the most massive collection of print material possible, to position the library as a secluded, exclusive repository of knowledge that could only be found within a print collection. Imagine the shushing librarian, no food, no drink, no talking.
This worked well for a while, but radical changes in research and daily life on campus—mobile/ubiquitous/wearable technologies, Massive Open Online degrees, flipped classrooms, project based learning, digital repositories, university history now enacted on YouTube and Twitter—have made it essential that the Library undergo its own transformation. Print book checkouts are declining, but the number of visitors to the Library is exploding and users are accessing our e-resources over a million times a year. So here we are, at the Georgia Tech Library of the Present:
The Georgia Tech Library of the Present
In light of the cultural shifts I mentioned, the Library is presently planning its own shifts, both literally and metaphorically, on several fronts:
Here’s the first literal shift: the GT Library and Emory Libraries are partnering to construct a large climate-controlled facility to house the majority of our collection. This means we’re moving perhaps as much as 90% of our print collection to Emory’s Briarcliff campus. Books will be delivered to users on demand, and traditional browsing of physical library stacks will have to be translated into the digital realm.
Another shift: the Library is conducting user research with students and faculty, including focus groups, interviews, and surveys, to develop a shared vision for the Library’s future.
The walls of our 1960s buildings are now covered with post-it notes from dozens of internal brainstorming sessions, where we’re defining and innovating future services.
And another literal shift: we’re working with an architectural team to completely redesign the interiors of our buildings over the next five years.
Through reimagined spaces and services, the Library is becoming an interdisciplinary platform for scholarship, an integrated network of human and technological resources, and a champion of innovation.
The Georgia Tech Library of the Future
My colleague Sherri Brown and I interviewed Jason a few months ago as part of the Library’s user research, and he brought up the idea that the GT community has unmet retrocomputing needs. Faculty members from all sides of campus are encountering the need to access information stored on outdated media and to teach their students about the history of technology.
This academic interest in retrocomputing parallels the digital archaeology work being conducted in libraries and archives—everywhere from Emory’s Digital Archives to the New York Public Library. Archivists at these institutions are using old hardware and software to access and preserve content created with obsolete technologies (such as Salman Rushdie’s manuscripts saved on floppy disks). To date, however, all of the retrocomputing work in the library world has been conducted by library staff. These digital archaeology labs are not accessible to the libraries’ user communities.
My colleagues Jason, Sherri, Alison Valk, Lizzy Rolando and I are trying to imagine how we might do something different at the GT Library: offer our technologically-savvy patrons a chance to use the retrocomputing equipment typically restricted to library staff.
This might take the form of one or two retrocomputing consoles—or perhaps a larger lab—within the Library, which would be available to users who would be vetted by Library staff.
The idea is to take the digital forensics and archaeology work occurring behind the scenes in archives, plus the rise of hacker and makerspaces in libraries, plus collaborations with campus and community partners (perhaps even you?)…to imagine creating a retrocomputing lab. This space would not only serve as a hands-on historical reference point; it could activate new ideas about future technology and preservation of tools and ideas.
So how could we make this space happen, and how might we collaborate? Collectors, experts, and community organizations like the Atlanta Historical Computing Society could support an idea like this through:
-IT support and expertise, knowledge of the history of computing
In return, a project like this might someday offer collectors, experts, and community organizations:
-a collaborative meeting and hacking space, for making connections with like-minded people and hacking the past, present and future
-space dedicated to preservation (libraries specialize in preservation environments in a way that most individuals and community groups can’t)
-as well as infrastructure, branding, and support for community organizations seeking institutional allies
In many ways, the retrocomputing space we’re envisioning resembles the high tech computing lab of Georgia Tech’s past, which once seemed so futuristic and advanced, bringing us full circle, so that imagining the future of our Library becomes an act of reimagining our past.
Last Friday, I brought my ENGL1101 (College Writing I) and LCC3403 (Technical Communication) students to the Georgia Tech Library for a tour of the facilities and services (and archives for LCC3403).
I believe that libraries are an incredibly important part of one’s on-going learning, personal development, and professional distinction. Libraries aggregate knowledge for its readers through books, journals, databases, and other media. Libraries make it possible for readers to build connections between sources of knowledge, visualize relationships between books on the shelf or articles in a database, and discover things chaotically, serendipitously, and orderly. Libraries, in their own right, are a university for the self-motivated, curiosity-fueled learner. It is the kind of place where people like Ray Bradbury earn a cap and gown.
For these reasons, I am a firm believer in taking my students to the library early each semester and reminding them of its virtues and possibilities throughout the semester. I tell my students that the library is one place where you can grow beyond your peers and become part of a larger conversation in your field of study (or in other domains of knowledge that might enrich their success in untold ways). Furthermore, the Library is the embodiment of interdisciplinarity, because it unites all the disciplines’ collected knowledge in one place for all students and faculty.
Practically, I encourage them to use the library early and often so that they won’t think that it is difficult or hard later on when it might count a lot more in their studies.
With the help of Sherri Brown, the reference and subject librarian for the School of Literature, Media, and Communication and the Writing and Communication Program, I easily reserved a time for each tour and she coordinated with the other librarians and staff to pull off a well-orchestrated, hour-long tour.
We began in the rotunda entrance of the Library for a brief introduction to the library and its computing resources.
Then, we walked downstairs into the basement to visit the Multimedia Studio and its terrific wide-format plotter.
We stopped by the first floor, east to see the circulating Science Fiction collection before going upstairs to the second floor, east to see the periodicals and microfiche area.
Then, Justin Ellis, Library Associate in charge of Gadgets talked with my students about the many technologies from cameras to laptops to tablets that can be checked out for fun or study (or both).
My LCC3403 students had a special treat on their tour, because we visited the Georgia Tech Archives where Jody Thompson, the Head of Archives, introduced institute-oriented holdings (e.g., the Technique or planning reports) and how to search them. They will be using the Archives as part of their final project to propose and implement a technical communication solution to a problem that they identify around campus.
Many thanks to Sherri, Justin, and Jody for helping my students navigate and use Georgia Tech’s incredible Library!
This morning, I met with an ESL student from one of my ENGL 1101 classes. She sought advice about how to improve her English reading speed and comprehension. We discussed various strategies for about 40 minutes. While we were talking, I thought that our conversation might be useful for other ESL students (as well as many native English speakers wanting to boost their reading abilities). I have included the notes from our meeting below.
- Takeaway ideas: If you want to improve your English reading ability and reading comprehension, you need to read and think about the reading on a daily basis. Improvement comes through applied practice over time. If you track your progress with a journal written in English, you will be surprised by the advancement after a semester, a year, or longer. Practice and reflect–then, repeat.
- Three substantial hurdles to advancing your reading skills are grammar, vocabulary, and confidence. More exposure to English grammar and syntax through reading and writing in English will lead to improvements in those areas. Building your English vocabulary will improve your comprehension and the speed of your reading (i.e., if you spend time figuring out meanings by context or looking up words in a dictionary). Accomplishing more reading (“Yes, I just finished another novel in English!”) will improve your confidence in your English comprehension abilities.
- General reading strategies can be found on this site: <http://www.nclrc.org/essentials/reading/stratread.htm>.
- The important things to try is build your confidence by reading everyday and writing a note in English about what you read in a journal. This writing practice reinforces your English reading practice the expression of your ideas in written English. Over time, you will find your ability improving based on reviewing your notes.
- Don’t be frustrated by the difficulty some texts might present. It usually takes about 30 pages before you “learn” the author’s writing style. If you can make it through 30 pages, the book will generally become easier to read. Other texts might simply be difficult to anyone–ESL or native-English speaker alike.
- Don’t be afraid to skim or skip parts of a text. When you hit a word that you do not know, underline it and keep reading. You might figure out its meaning by its context, or you can come back to the underlined words after finishing the section or chapter. Look up the word in the dictionary, and re-read the sentence or paragraph to capture its meaning.
- While it does take extra time, it is extremely useful to re-read sections and chapters in order to gain a better understanding of the text. I do this regularly even though I hold a PhD.
- Skim the section headings before reading a chapter (if it has these), because these headings provide clues to the topics covered in the chapter’s sections.
- A trick for growing your vocabulary is to write down a list of words that you hear or read during the day that you do not know. At the end of the day–before you go to bed–look up those words, read the definition, and write down a sentence using that word. Putting the word in context will improve your brain’s remembrance of that word.
- Instead of aiming for greater reading speed in the short term, you should focus on the quality of your reading. Consider this analogy from weight training: Before you begin lifting heavy weights, it is important to learn the proper form and technique of lifting. By spending time in the short term to improve your form and technique, you maximize the effectiveness of your workouts in the long term. Similarly, by spending time now to develop your English reading skills and effective reading comprehension, you will increase the effectiveness of your reading over the long term. Connected to this technique is the necessity for patience. Improvement will come through practice over time.
- Make an appointment for a one-on-one consultation with Georgia Tech’s Language Support Center: <http://www.esl.gatech.edu/language-support-center>. They have trained tutors who can give you advice on a number of topics important to ESL students. The Georgia Tech Language Institute has a number of online resources here, too.
- Reading novels is a great way to build your reading skill. If you find a novel that thematically interests you (campus narratives, romance, science fiction, everyday life, etc.), you will be more engaged with your reading than if you read something that does not interest you as much. Building your reading ability through enjoyable novels will make reading less enjoyable things easier.
- Participate in a book club. I found this one, the Midtown Book Club, which meets once a month to discuss a book at the Georgia Tech Bookstore/Barnes and Noble: <http://midtown.patch.com/events/midtown-book-group>. Book clubs generally pick interesting books to read. Members have one month to read the book. After everyone has read the book, they meet to discuss its story, meaning, and interpretations.
- You can find many new books in the Georgia Tech Library on the first floor (see map above). There are other books in the stacks located upstairs.
- Young adult novels (a literary genre in which the story usually involves young people and might be perceived as easier to read–though this is not always the case) are a great place to read entertaining and exciting stories as practice in English reading. Very popular examples include the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games series, and the Twilight series. Some of these can be found in the GT Library (see map above), or they can be easily purchased at the GT Bookstore/Barnes & Noble at Tech Square or Amazon.com.
- Here is a large list of Young Adult novels with reviews: <http://www.npr.org/books/genres/10121/young-adults/>.
- Cory Doctorow, a science fiction writer and promoter of open culture, shares his novels (some of which are Young Adult–Little Brother is one example) online for free: <http://craphound.com/?cat=5>.
- You can find many classic (and public domain novels on Project Gutenberg for free! Click here to find the most recently downloaded books from Project Gutenberg.
- For more technical kinds of reading, you likely will have to do research in your field. This will involve reading journal article abstracts, or short summaries of the research presented in the article. Noah Gray, senior editor of the science journal Nature, gives advice about how to break down the abstract into its component parts for easier understanding: <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/noah-gray/abstract-science_b_1923214.html>.
- Good luck with developing your mastery of the English language!
Thanks to Y (my wife) for helping me think about some of the strategies presented above. Thanks to my student for making good use of my office hours and for presenting me with a question that led to new pedagogical thinking.
If I get a chance, I would love to browse the MIT Science Fiction Society’s (MITSFS) open-shelf collection of science fiction. There are a number of items that I have had trouble tracking down for my research that I believe could be in their collection. It sounds astounding!
On the fourth floor of the MIT Student Center, roughly 60,000 books and thousands of magazines crowd the narrow, overstuffed shelves of the MIT Science Fiction Society Library. Mobiles and paper bananas dangle from the ceiling, an infamous multivolume erotic SF series has been chained in place to prevent its awfulness from infecting nearby books, and newly donated boxes make it hard to navigate without tripping–or stopping to check out an intriguing title. Established in the early 1960s, the library now houses more than 90 percent of all science fiction ever printed in English, making it the worlds largest open-shelf collection of the genre. Fans and scholars alike make pilgrimages to W20-473 to lay reverent eyes on rare finds.
The OED defines a library as, “A place set apart to contain books for reading, study, or reference. (Not applied, e.g. to the shop or warehouse of a bookseller.) In various applications more or less specific.”
Over the summer, the Kent State University Library systematically removed several floors of books and periodicals to make the library less of a library according to the definition above. In fact, they removed about half of the library’s former book holdings and moved them to an off-site storage location [read more about the move here].
Certainly, some of the innovations put into the space where there were once thousands and thousands of books are nice: the fourth floor has comfy couches and bar tables with chairs. The second floor is now home to the “Math Emporium,” which is a large computer lab to help students with their maths. These additions will provide students with great learning opportunities if students embrace them. However, I wonder if these things should crowd out the resources of researchers at the institution? Should these these things be housed in a different building other than the library so that there would not be a detrimental loss of valuable on-hand books?
As it is, the removal of books from the Kent State Library has further eroded its already lacking bibliomaniacal excellence . In the past, I generally expected to have to find my books elsewhere through Ohiolink or interlibrary loan. However, it was always a happy event to find a book that I needed held here, on-site, and quick to access.
So, while I recently followed several bits of quoted material in one book, I tried to reach out to the Kent State Library for the primary sources. Amazingly, the catalog reported that they were in deed here. Unfortunately, it also told me that they were only technically “here.” Instead, they were owned by Kent State, but they were held in off-site storage. This means that I have to request the books and wait for the titles to be found, trucked, and processed before I can use them. The turn around time for one title was about 24 hours. I am still waiting on another book that I requested two days ago.
This state of affairs isn’t so much different than my usual experience with this library, but it is frustrating nonetheless. In this case, those books could have been within a short walk from my study carrel. My research would have been done, recorded, and integrated into my dissertation. As it is, I get to cool my heels on that point while I dash off to look at something else. For my kind of thinking, this is jarring.
It is certainly one of my deeply held hopes that I have the privilege of working at a university with a fine and fully functional on-site, book-holding library.
Originally spotted on Slashdot here, Peter Murray of SingularityHub.com writes:
You enter the 8,000-square foot elliptical Grand Reading Room of the Joe and Rika Mansueto library, admiring the arched dome of glass panels overhead. You walk past the circulation desk, gaze at the stylish furniture and think: Where the heck are all the books?
Murray’s concern has to do with the apparent lack of books in the new library on the University of Chicago campus. Borrowing inspiration from robotic inventory management systems, the University of Chicago buried their books beneath the ground-level reading area topped by a glass dome. A robotic crane ferries books in and out of circulation based on computerized requests by library patrons. Is the way of the future that preserves books rather than destroying them by scanning (as described in Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End)?
In addition to the YouTube video above, you can watch the construction of the library here.