Badass Librarians and Libraries

Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

I’ve caught some interesting stuff about libraries and librarians lately.

The first was an episode of Now or Never on CBC Radio, called Beyond the shelves: Discovering the magic in public libraries. Primarily about the opening of the new Calgary Library, the episode went on to talk about how today’s libraries are changing – becoming the new ‘centre’ of all types of services for communities. Personally, I really like the notion of a library as a ‘community hub’ – I think this type of thinking – and congregating could go a long way towards fixing a lot of what’s broken with society today. Check out the episode for the full meal deal.

Second, a recent episode of the 99% Invisible podcast called Weeding is Fundamental (har har) discusses the process – yes there is one – and it even has an acronym, MUSTY – by which libraries decide when to retire books. It includes discussion of a landmark dispute (and subsequent Librarian show-down) in San Francisco triggered by, of all things, an earthquake in 1989. Fascinating stuff. The capper of the episode is a bit of a ‘bonus feature’ by The Kitchen Sisters about the The Packhorse Librarians of Eastern Kentucky. Amazing stuff. Even if you’re podcast -averse – the link above has an article with most of the info from the episode and some cool related links interspersed.

Architects Should Wield Their Power for Sustainable Spec

In an article over at DeZeen, Christine Murray makes the argument that “It’s time for architects to choose ethics over aesthetics,” or as she goes on to elaborate, over business relationships and patronage. I couldn’t agree more.

Yet architects are lazy and unprofessional when it comes to material selection. A major survey by the AIA reveals seven out of 10 architects specify products based solely on their personal relationship with the supplier, and rarely do any research at all. “It’s an extremely relationship-driven market,” said Nik Werk, manager of the research. In short, it’s who you know, not what.

In addition, the study found that 57 per cent of architects copy-and-paste their spec from a previous project, with 16 per cent reusing it wholesale. The result is an industry stuck on repeat and plagued by corruption and nepotism.

I would think this mentality could apply to contractors and private citizens doing their own renovations as well. Making small efforts to use better, more climate-friendly products could pay off over time.

At current rates of warming, most places will become uninhabitable due to floods, wildfires, drought and heatwaves – triggering mass migration. War and famine will follow as we move inland and scrabble over resources. This is not happening in the distant future. Read the news: from cyclone Idai to the Central American caravans, Southern Californian fires to the war in Syria, the process has already begun.

It will unpredictably, radically, grow worse. One quarter of Boston will be underwater at some point in the next 25 years. By 2100, southern Europe will be in permanent drought and the areas burned by wildfires in the US “could quadruple”, David Wallace-Wells writes in The Uninhabitable Earth. By then, 1.5 million homes in the UK will face coastal flooding and 100,000 homes will fall into the sea. We’ve been given 12 years by the UN to dramatically lower carbon emissions to reduce the chances of the earth’s sixth extinction. Instead, CO2 is rising.

What is the point of firmness, commodity and delight in the face of crop failure, nothing to drink, or breathe? Forty per cent of insect species are in decline; if we lose them all, we have no pollination – nothing to eat – and the entire ecosystem collapses due to starvation. What matters is now, not whether your stone facade is still standing at the fall of mankind.

On a side note, I listened to a podcast with David Wallace-Wells, the author who’s book Ms. Murray cites in the quote above. Fascinating – and terrifying – stuff. His book seems very interesting – it’s premise being that everyone is talking about the maximum targeted earth temperature change as a result of climate change (2º warmer) and its impacts. His angle was to assume for a moment that we can’t hit that and things get warmer. What happens then? Apparently, if architects keep it up, there’ll be a lot of really nice buildings and no inhabitants.

https://www.dezeen.com/2019/03/28/opinion-christine-murray-climate-change/

Told a False Story

“Everyone listening to this will know someone who works really hard, at a job they hate, to buy a load of shit they don’t need, that they display on social media to get people to go “OMG so jealous”, and then they feel a peculiar emptiness, because they’ve done what they’re meant to do. They’ve worked really hard, they’ve bought the shit they see in adverts, they’ve displayed it on social media, but they feel terrible. So what happens? … They work even harder, they buy even more shit that they display even more aggressively on social media. We’re in these cycles – we’ve been told a false story about what it is to be human, we’ve been told a false story about what it is to be happy.”

Johann Hari on the Making Sense Podcast #142

All Minus One: John Mill’s Ideas on Free Speech Revisited

Was listening to Jonathan Haidt on on an episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast from awhile back. So much good conversation and ideas there, especially with regards to the current state of education and social media’s effects on kids. One thing that came out of that as well was Johnathan’s mention of this book – really a short essay, a new version of the second chapter of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty that pertains to arguments regarding free speech. Edited to be more relevant to today and easier to read, along with illustrations – a sort of ‘graphic novel’ treatment to an essay if you will. Available as a free PDF download, or paid Kindle and printed versions.

Download and purchase information, brief bios of Haidt and co-editor Richard Reeves and Illustrator Dave Cicirelli, as well as info on the Heterodox Academy all available at the Heterodox website.

A great read – and the illustrations are a fantastic addition as well.

Powering Down

Cal Newport’s latest book, Digital Minimalism, is on my to-read list. I came across this blog post of his recently about a Sam Harris podcast with Stephen Fry.

In response to Sam comparing the practice of meditation to the human development of the skill to read, Cal writes;

“Meditation, by contrast, is more palliative than instrumental, especially in its modern secular applications. It’s meant to soothe mental dis-ease, not to unlock accomplishment previously unobtainable to our species.”

I agree with most his points, though I don’t know that advances couldn’t be made if more people hit the meditation cushion. Probably not in as tangible a way as say, the effects of reading have been felt, but surely in terms of human relations and perspective on our world and existence.

“A big part of waking up, in other words, should probably involve powering down.”

Cal Newport

Definitely on board with that though.