MIT Science Fiction Society’s Open-Shelf Collection of SF

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.

via An Astounding Collection – Technology Review.

Kent State University’s Library Off-Site Storage Frustrations

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.

Robotic Librarians and No Visible Books at New University of Chicago Library

Originally spotted on Slashdot here, Peter Murray of 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.

Out of This World, Science Fiction Exhibition at British Library Opens Friday, May 20, 2011

Andy Sawyer, science fiction librarian and my former advisor at the University of Liverpool’s MA in Science Fiction Studies programme, is guest curating the upcoming exhibit, “Out of this World: Science Fiction But Not As You Know It” at the British Library in London. Opening this Friday, May 20 and running through September 25, it will be the first science fiction exhibition at the prestigious library. Y has entered many UK trip contests, so I hope to visit the exhibition. If you are in or around London, I guarantee you that Andy will have assembled an impressively kick-ass exposition for the uninitiated and aficionado alike. Visit the official site here, or read the library’s press release here.

Study Carrel at the Kent State Library

Y and I applied to share a study carrel at the Kent State University Library with a fellow English Literature PhD candidate.

When we first come up to the office in the library, we were surprised by how much dust and dirt was in the office. I don’t believe that it had ever been cleaned. Y and I returned with a mop, duster, and rags to give the office a good going over. Unfortunately, the grime was too much even for the heavy weapons we brought to contain the mess. We will need to clean it a second time at least.

The carrel has one window overlooking part of the library’s flat roof, one large desk with a tiny drawer, and a five shelf metal book case, which I have been populating with books from home. One side of the office is dominated by a concrete support column, which substantially detracts from the floor space and room volume as compared with other carrels. Nevertheless, I believe this will be a useful office for our dissertation research and writing.

It is an interesting experience having an office in the library. I enjoy not having to pack up my laptop every time that I want to search for a book or use the restroom. Now, I can leave my things at my desk and lock the door on my way out. It also feels like I have a place to go to at the library now. Before, I never liked staying in the library for extended periods of time. I would go, find resources that I needed, and take them home. Library theft and uncomfortable chairs turned me off of using the KSU library as a place to do serious work.

Looking out over the black tar infused with small rocks and bits of buildings sticking up circled by an expanse of trees, I wonder if I will see this same scene in the future when my dissertation is done.

Another Busy Day on Spring Break

Y and I had another busy day on Monday of our Spring Break.

I found an iPad 2 at Target in Streetsboro and brought Y home a special surprise.

In the afternoon, Y and I went to the Kent State Library and obtained a study carrel. We also found two books for our friend M, who turned them in to the library’s drop box but as we suspected, the library employees had not checked them. Luckily, both books, one an interlibrary loan and the other from KSU were placed back on the shelf. Lesson: always get a receipt when you return books.

I went on my third run since the weather improved, but it was cold outside.

Watching Star Wars Tech now, but more reading ahead after a call home to my folks.

Kathleen Ann Goonan Speaks at Georgia Tech on “Consciousness, Literature, and Science Fiction”, Oct 12, 2010

Lisa Yaszek sent the following announcement out about the upcoming talk by award winning science fiction author Kathleen Ann Goonan at Georgia Tech on “Consciousness, Literature, and Science Fiction.” The presentation will take place on October 12 at 11:00am in the Library East Commons. I wish that I could go, because I think this Ms. Goonan’s presentation would be useful for my dissertation. She’s also a kind person with amazing ideas. Unfortunately, I am far away in the environs of Northeast Ohio, and I have job applications to prepare and a dissertation to write. I highly recommend you go to the event if you live in or around Atlanta!

The School of Literature, Communication, and Culture presents

critically-acclaimed science fiction author

Kathleen Ann Goonan

“Consciousness, Literature, and Science Fiction”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010, 11:00 a.m.

Library East Commons

Meet Kathleen Ann Goonan at a reception and book signing to follow the reading.

The author’s works include:


British Science Fiction Award Finalist


Hall of Fame Darryl Award Winner


Arthur C. Clarke Award Finalist


Nebula Award Finalist


Nebula Award Finalist


Campbell Award Winner

ALA Winner, Best SF Novel


Forthcoming from Tor Books, 2011

Kathleen Ann Goonan, presently a Visiting Professor at the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at Georgia Tech, is an award-winning science fiction writer.  The author of seven novels as well as myriad short stories, talks, essays, and commercial articles, she is interested in and writes about emergent trends in science and technology and their influence on culture.  Her web page is

Kathleen Ann Goonan’s lecture is part of the 2010-2011 LCC Distinguished Speaker Series. Visit for more information about Goonan and other Speaker Series events.