Saturday, April 27, 2013

Extended Library Hours for the End of the Semester

The Library will be open an extra hour - until midnight - for a number of days over the next two weeks. 

These days are:

Monday, April 29
Tuesday, April 30
Wednesday, May 1
Thursday, May 2
Sunday, May 5
Monday, May 6
Tuesday, May 7
Wednesday, May 8

On Thursday, May 9th the Library will close at 7, and on Friday, May 10th the library will close at 5. The Library will be closed Saturday, May 11 and Sunday, May 12. Starting Monday, May 13th, the Library will be open reduced hours for the Summer.

Check current and future library hours here:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Digital Public Library of America Has Launched!

On April 18, the Digital Public Library of America was launched. The aim of the DPLA is to bring together content from the country's libraries, archives, and museums in one central location. Here is the DPLA's vision in their own words:
The vision of a national digital library has been circulating among librarians, scholars, educators, and private industry representatives since the early 1990s. Efforts led by a range of organizations, including the Library of Congress, HathiTrust, and the Internet Archive, have successfully built resources that provide books, images, historic records, and audiovisual materials to anyone with Internet access. Many universities, public libraries, and other public-spirited organizations have digitized materials, but these digital collections often exist in silos. The DPLA  brings these different viewpoints, experiences, and collections together in a single platform and portal, providing open and coherent access to our society’s digitized cultural heritage.
The DPLA will serve as a great resource for Primary Sources. In addition to search, the casual browser can explore via location or date using interactive maps and timelines. The site has a short, easy-to-remember URL:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Concordia St. Paul librarian responds to Princeton librarian’s "Libraries and the Enlightenment"

That Concordia St. Paul librarian would be me, Nathan Rinne, the author of this blog post (as they say, “shameless self-promotion”). 

Recently, I read this book written by the Princeton librarian, blogger (“The Academic Librarian”), and Library Journal contributor Wayne Bivens-Tatum. 

I had wanted to read this book when it was published a couple years ago, but I became particularly interested in it when Bivens-Tatum published an article on Library Journal’s website provocatively titled “Librarians as Indoctrination Mills” (read it here) 

That web article drew a response from me at the time, and after reading “Libraries and the Enlightenment”, I felt compelled to respond again in the form of a short article.  I called the article “Should libraries ever be ‘neutral’?  Can any library? One Christian’s perspective” , and sent it to Bivens-Tatum himself. 

His response?  “We seem to be the perfect foils for each other.”  Although I would have rather persuaded Wayne, I take that to be about the best complement I could have received from him!  (also, please note that Bivens-Tatum, like myself, does not believe that there is any true neutrality).

In any case, the article strikes me as a bit long and heady in its present form, and so here I am going to provide a brief summary of its contents.  For those who are interested in reading the more dense and developed argument, you can read parts I, II, and III at my well-intentioned but perpetually neglected philosophical-theological blog.  Please note that all of the points I make do not necessarily respond to points that Bivens-Tatum made in his book or article.

In part I I note that although libraries are defined by their missions or the missions of the institutions they are a part of, Bivens-Tatum is right to highlight the appeal of a “universal library” where any learned and reasoned opinion has a place in the “conversation”.  This is a dream I think Christians can certainly share, and even as some kinds of materials are always unconsciously or consciously passed over (and even deliberately “censored”), Bivens-Tatum notes that the desire for such an extensive and all-encompassing collection has actually been reached in part through the miracle of interlibrary loan.  That said, what does “any learned and reasoned opinion” really mean anyways?  Citing the influence of the Enlightenment in libraries, Bivens-Tatum notes in his web article that academic libraries in particular indoctrinate students “into methods for how they should form beliefs about the world”.  For him, this means that views formed by religious beliefs are inevitably marginalized due to a lack of grounding in evidence and reason.  On the contrary, I contend with the Christian philosopher Alvin Plantiga that belief in God is a “basic belief” – meaning that it is a belief one argues from and not one we argue to.

In part II I further explore this issues of religious faith, knowledge, and “neutrality”.  As 20th century thinkers like Michael Polanyi, E.F. Schumacher, and Charles Taylor have demonstrated in spades, much of our real knowledge is “personal” and so “subjective” in this sense.   Therefore, it cannot always be demonstrated, articulated, made explicit, etc… contrary to the hopes of many Enlightenment thinkers.  In any case, if we think we may indeed gain at the very least some interesting knowledge from feminist or Marxist perspectives, for example, we certainly can say the same for religious views (if one objects here, note the Christian librarian Gabriel Naude, 1600 – 1653, said: “God permits us to profit from our enemies”).  All this said, concerns for the “objectivity” of knowledge – and the efforts to suppress our personal biases that go with this concern – are certainly justified.  Interestingly, when Bivens-Tatum claims “the burden of proof is on the person without [the publicly available] evidence, not the skeptic”,  the Christian in particular can respond by saying that the Biblical writings not only presume that just such evidence exists, but that Christian claims are largely based on such evidences.  For example, when the Apostle Paul writes of the crown of God’s interventions in history – the resurrection of Jesus Christ – he speaks of it in a way that completely undercuts modern secular understandings of what “religion” is all about (see Acts 17 and 26 in particular).  

In part III, the idea of neutrality in libraries is explored in more depth.  I maintain that “neutrality” is both desirable and impossible.  It is desirable in that “neutrality” can simply mean giving a voice to persons who attempt, by their learning and reasoning, to persuade others regarding issues that are very important to them and others.  On the other hand, the reality that evidence which is public, relevant and convincing is (evidently) important to many of us cannot change the other reality that we are all either hard or soft idealogues – for there are always some things unique to this person or that group which are not readily doubted.  This means neutrality in this sense is impossible.  Again, the current reality of interlibrary loan helps address both of these issues.  Of course, given the fact that some knowledge is dangerous in the wrong hands and some knowledge is simply dangerous, all will desire in certain circumstances to place at least some limits on any desired library neutrality.  From the Christian perspective, we can add three more points:  1) while persons pursue knowledge for reasons of power and curiosity, the greatest reason is to better love one’s neighbor with knowledge ; 2) those influenced by more secular views may “dislike or even fear freedom and autonomy” as much as religious persons ; and 3) saying persons should be convinced something is true and “beating [persons] over the head with [one’s] version of reality, truth, beauty, or goodness” (p. 79, Christenson, Tom, The Gift and Task of Lutheran Higher Education, Augsburg Fortress, 2004) are two very different things! 

The final conclusion: libraries – and perhaps “Enlightenment libraries” most of all – are a wonderful gift of God. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Glimpse Concordia library’s treasures with Rich Carter on Wednesday, April 10 at 11:45

In the early 16th century Luther’s reformation burst upon the scene in Wittenberg Germany.  Spurred on by the recent technology of the printing press, the message spread far and wide, as the ideas of Luther and other Reformers were the “hot topic” that everyone was talking about.  Concordia has some of the very printed materials from those times, and our own Dr. Rich Carter has a great “show and tell” presentation you won’t want to miss!

Join the Library as we celebrate National Library Week (one week early) with a classical “multimedia” presentation (meaning: old books) by Dr. Carter.  This will take place on the Main Level of the Library Technology Center on Wednesday, April 10th at 11:45.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The world of digitized newspapers: what’s out there?

Here at Concordia St. Paul we have access to the New York Times in digitized form from 1851 and up.*  We also have full-text coverage from the 1980s and up to over 300 of the best-known U.S. newspapers through ProQuest Newsstand - albeit not in digitized form.  Finally, Concordia's own student publications - going back to the 1920s - have been digitized (see here)

But what else it out there?

A few weeks ago, I heard the news that key historical newspapers from 1836-1922 had now been digitized by the Library of Congress and could be keyword searched from online.  The project called Chronicling America: Historic Newspapers.

The Ohio Historical Society has done a series of helpful videos giving a tour of the database.  The one called What is Chronicling America? is found below

For those newspapers that have already been digitized (a substantial amount) you can, for example, limit your search by state, ethnicity, and language.  In addition to this, the Library of Congress also now has a complete U.S. Newspaper Directory which lists all the newspapers published from 1690 by state and title and also contains information about repository holdings (who has what)

This project, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a big deal (as best I an tell, it is attempting to scan many more pre-1922 papers than the private company Newsbank has already done).  This makes all kinds of historical and genealogical research much more feasible (note this pay-to-play site just launched by as well), and opportunities for all manner of creative history projects abound!  And who isn't a little interested in the cartoons, funnies and advertisements from long ago?

Regarding newspapers that are currently under copyright protection (this would be post-1922 in the United States unless they have relinquished those rights), there are a few papers that offer their archives for free on the web and many of these can be found on this Wikipedia page (which covers papers worldwide).  Google has indexed many of these and they can be searched via their Google News site.  Some have been digitized and others not.

For access to comprehensive runs of the best-known U.S. newspapers from 1922 and up in digitized form, one must look to ProQuest Historical Newspapers.  This database is the only place all of these papers can be consulted at once and its access fees run into the thousands of dollars.  In reviewing the source, Dr James Mussell says “Given the cost of producing a digital resource on this scale, especially one that republishes content that is still in copyright, we can be sure that ProQuest know their market.”**

Looking to Minnesota in particular, you can get links to every state newspaper from the Minnesota Newspapers Directory site.  If you want to do research in the state's historical papers, you won't want to rely on keyword searching alone (made more imperfect by the limitations of Optical Character Recognition [OCR] scanning) but will want the help of the available newspaper subject indexes at the University of Minnesota as well.

*And the Minneapolis Tribune from 1867-1922 

**Dr James Mussell, review of ProQuest Historical Newspapers, (review no. 1096) ; URL: ; Date accessed: 14 March, 2013

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