Friday, February 03, 2012

The hoarfrost that wasn't -- picturesque trees in the countryside outside Madison near Verona

Trees Painted White by Freezing Temperatures
Trees in the Madison area turned frosty white after colder temps moved in after last night's misty, foggy weather.

Not So Much Hoarfrost As Thousands of Tiny Icicles in the Trees Melting in the SunAt first I thought it was hoarfrost that had covered treetops with delicate white brushstrokes. But looking closer, I wasn't so sure. I didn't see the usual filigree of frost. Instead, it looked as if the trees were covered with thousand of tiny icicles (click on photo to enlarge). Maybe the trees had been wet, and the water dripped downward in the direction of the wind and froze as it dripped. From a distance it looked like hoarfrost, but up close it was a strange effect I had never seen before -- all these slanting, icy little daggers, which were starting to fall to the ground around me, clinking as they fell.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Recycling the cards from the analog library catalog as art in today's digital world

Recycling the Old Analog Card Catalog As Art
Back in 1994, author Nicholson Baker wrote a passionate lament in the New Yorker called "Discards" in which he mourned the disappearance of card catalogs, not only because they were cool and old, but because he thought they carried information that was forever lost in the switch to digital catalogs. For example, cards that were dog-eared and covered with thumbprints subliminally suggested that the book had been popular with readers. There were also hand-written annotations on many of the cards that were lost. Baker's jeremiad didn't stop the conversion to digital catalogs, but librarians have since come to appreciate Baker's argument for "metadata" that analog cards used to carry, and have been looking for ways to incorporate more of it into electronic catalogs. Basically, what Amazon does -- allowing for comments, reviews and tips on what other books users were interested in. (MPL's new LINKCat does more of that than the old one did, for example.)

Souvenir of the Days of Analog Information Retrieval
But for the cards themselves this is all water under the bridge. The ones that haven't been disposed of yet, are on the way out. I can't think of a better way to give them a send-off than to allow them to be recycled as art or kept as souvenirs. Both happened at "Bookless," the 1-day art and music festival, celebration and fundraiser at the downtown branch of the Madison Public Library, now closed for renovation.

Cards were used as part of installations at "Bookless," and the event also provided materials to turn old catalog cards into artistic souvenirs of the old, analog library with stickers and rubber stamps. It was one of the cooler interactive activities at "Bookless."

Personally, I couldn't stop playing with the Maurice Sendak rubber stamp that I found on the counter. This is the result that I took home.

Everyone who ever wanted to paint graffiti on a library wall had a chance Saturday

Everyone Who Ever Wanted to Paint Graffiti on a Library Wall Had a Chance Saturday
Kids of all ages covered a long interior wall of the Central Library with paint Saturday. For one day, the wall vibrated with the creativity of young and old alike, ranging from graffiti to doodles to just plain colorful scribbles. Whether it was the semi-illicit pleasure of being able to violate the inviolable, or just the sheer joy of playing with paint, the Painting Wall was one of the most popular interactive features at "Bookless," the 1-day art and music festival, celebration and fundraiser at the downtown branch of the Madison Public Library, now closed for renovation. It was the best kind of participatory art.

We don't have to leave Madison and go all the way to Delphi to consult an oracle. We have librarians.

Ask the Oracle
We don't need to go to Delphi anymore. We've got the library. Sure, Internet search can help, but only if we know enough to use the right search terms, and if what we're looking for is on the web. What if it isn't? What if we can't even really articulate our question? We need an oracle. We need a librarian.

(Photographed at "Bookless," the 1-day art and music festival, celebration and fundraiser at the downtown branch of the Madison Public Library, now closed for renovation.)