Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper

Double Fold Libraries and the Assault on Paper The ostensible purpose of a library is to preserve the printed word But for fifty years our country s libraries including the Library of Congress have been doing just the opposite destroying hundreds

  • Title: Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper
  • Author: Nicholson Baker
  • ISBN: 9780375726217
  • Page: 268
  • Format: Paperback
  • The ostensible purpose of a library is to preserve the printed word But for fifty years our country s libraries including the Library of Congress have been doing just the opposite, destroying hundreds of thousands of historic newspapers and replacing them with microfilm copies that are difficult to read, lack all the color and quality of the original paper and illustratioThe ostensible purpose of a library is to preserve the printed word But for fifty years our country s libraries including the Library of Congress have been doing just the opposite, destroying hundreds of thousands of historic newspapers and replacing them with microfilm copies that are difficult to read, lack all the color and quality of the original paper and illustrations, and deteriorate with age With meticulous detective work and Baker s well known explanatory power, Double Fold reveals a secret history of microfilm lobbyists, former CIA agents, and warehouses where priceless archives are destroyed with a machine called a guillotine Baker argues passionately for preservation, even cashing in his own retirement account to save one important archive all twenty tons of it Written the brilliant narrative style that Nicholson Baker fans have come to expect, Double Fold is a persuasive and often devastating book that may turn out to be The Jungle of the American library system.

    One thought on “Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper”

    1. DON'T LISTEN TO HIM! Nicholson Baker is NOT a librarian or archivist; he does not understand the missions of these institutions. His argument, therefore, is uninformed and inherently romanticizes the concept of preservation. He is, in short, a nutcase willing to spend his life savings on a crumbling anti-legacy. For a scholarly response (from an eminent archives scholar), look to Richard Cox'sVandals in the Stacks?: A Response to Nicholson Baker's Assualt on Libraries.

    2. Nicholson Baker’s Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper is a fiery polemic dedicated to the task of protecting what he sees as one of our nation’s most important resources: our libraries’ massive stockpile of seldom-used older books and newspapers. As Baker explains, the extent of our paper reserves of old newspapers and rarely read old books is dwindling, often being chopped up and “preserved” (that is, their content, rather than their form, is preserved) in either microform [...]

    3. Unbelievably stupid.In his first (and as far as I know his best) book The Mezzanine, Nicholson Baker displays a charming affection for the antique, the mechanical, the ingenious. But in Double Fold this charming affection is stripped away, revealing an impractical Ludditism. Baker argues that libraries shouldn't throw away card catalogs once they've been replaced with online databases, and instead they should preserve these hulking and impractical monstrosities for the subtle data they contain: [...]

    4. It took me a ridiculously long time to finish this book, for reasons into which I shall not go, but that is no reflection on the book itself. It is about the decimation of our libraries by fiendish proponents of microfilm. Untold treasures of periodicals and books have been lost due to the persuasion of librarians by "preservationists" that the paper would soon crumble into dust. One test that would be done to prove the incipient crumbliness of a page was called the "Double Fold" test. Nicholson [...]

    5. The elegance and irreverence Nicholson Baker usually brings to his fiction work (especially the sublime vignette "The Mezzanine") is completely absent in "Double Fold", Baker's screed about the replacement of library books with microfiche and other digital storage. While the author's quest -- to rally for the preservation of rare and old tomes -- seems noble enough, his methods are more in line with conservative news reporting. Whenever he interviews someone who shares his viewpoints, they are d [...]

    6. I decided to be honest with myself. I read several chapters of this book in school. I intended to go back and read the whole thing, because there is some very interesting ideas in the book. However, I realized it's just going to make me MAD. Now, I am all for reading things that challenge your assumptions, I am. But not this topic. Not at this point of my life. So If I ever decide at a later time to read it. I'll start again.

    7. A fascinating book, but incredibly biased. Needs to be balanced with Vandals in the Stacks by Richard Cox.

    8. In the process of purchasing Double Fold by Nicholson Baker, I read several blurbs for and descriptions of the book. The way these blurbs and descriptions presented the book it seemed as though Baker had set out to find something bad about libraries and from there had proceeded to research the issue so he could sensationalize it and rally his readers to the downfall of libraries. I was prepared to be cynical. I was prepared to do my own research to combat Baker’s points of view. What I wasn’ [...]

    9. A little more than a year ago, I was chatting with my boss about a New Yorker article that I'd read many years before; the piece concerned card catalogue information (I believe it was at the San Francisco Library) being input into a computer database and discarded, losing all of the notes that scholars and others had written in the margins of the cards over decades. He knew exactly what I was talking about, went to his bookcase, and pulled down his copy of this book, which he loaned me on the sp [...]

    10. I probably read 80% of this book. For the first two hundred pages, I enjoyed Baker's crusade against microfilm, his horror at the destruction of collections of primary sources (particularly newspaper collections); I even laughed when another reviewed charged him with "hoarding." No, I would counter. He's not a hoarder. He understands that there is something about having access to the original documents when trying to understand a period of history that is more instructive than surveying a few ar [...]

    11. "The library has gone astray partly because we trusted the librarians so completely." Nicholson Baker has written a heavily researched retelling of when the first digitization (microfilming) movement hit the major libraries in the United States, leading many to dump the only originals of major newspapers, journals, and books. He zeroes in on the Library of Congress and other government agencies (CIA, NASA, and the NEH) who have had major roles to play in the destruction of print. While I found s [...]

    12. Attention college students: a great crime is being committed and right under our noses! It is no longer possible to enter reputed libraries like the San Francisco or New York Public Library, and call up a wonderfully preserved copy of say The New York World from 1912, because said issue no longer exists in its original form. All that remains is a badly lit photograph of each page on low-resolution microfilm. And what did the library do with the original copy they once possessed? Why, they threw [...]

    13. This is Nicholson Baker's obsessive treatise on the "assault on paper". I am somewhat sympathetic to his cause where he describes how libraries in the name of "preservation" and/or "creating space" have replaced rare newspaper collections with subpar technologies. In doing so, we have lost information that isn't being captured by microfilm, microfiche, and other technologies. These early technologies led to the destruction of irreplaceable collections. He instead advocates the preservation of pa [...]

    14. Baker has some serious hoarding issues. The premise of the book is that libraries are throwing away tons of old newspapers and books and we're supposed to feel bad about it. He even mixes in some conspiracy theory to connect this practice to the military. Overall I just didn't buy any of it. Really all it did was make me wonder how Baker's wife could stand living with him, since he blew all of their savings to buy a bunch of old newspapers, and spent his free time bending the pages in all of the [...]

    15. I get what he's saying, but I'm still not sure if I agree. Yes, there is value in saving the stuff of daily life. But I'm not convinced that libraries in general are obliged to try and keep everything. Yes, when you convert from one medium to another, you lose something (maybe an awful lot if you choose a dead-end medium like say Betamax). But paper isn't always the answer.It's going to become an even greater question this century, I suppose: what do we keep, and how do we keep it? And how do we [...]

    16. Baker has some good points but largely knows absolutely nothing about libraries, preservation and microfilming.

    17. Nicholson Baker feels strongly about the importance of libraries as depositories of information. They are to hold for us now and future generations of information-seekers the original, physical texts of newspapers and books regardless of their current or past popularity. What may not be popular today may be tomorrow and if the original is gone, we may be left with an unreadable copy in the form of illegible or deteriorated Microfilm or even an obsolete digital form. Double Fold is a critical and [...]

    18. Equal parts elegy and screed, Double Fold mourns the disappearance of paper and the ascendancy of microfilmic and digital mediums in contemporary libraries. Although that makes it sound like a total yawn, Baker, the author of that phone sex classic (?) Vox, manages to make Double Fold an absolutely absorbing page-turner. This is due in part to the outraged first-person narration through which Baker communicates his personal fury at the space-saving measures undertaken by libraries and especially [...]

    19. His non-fiction is just as top quality as his wonderful novels.Reading notes:12rmed the non-profit Am News Repository (since taken over by Duke U)14.e Yellow Kid cartoon begat "yellow journalism"micro-madman Herman Fussler15US Newspaper Program.t project .talog as many US papers as possible17OSULucy CaswellCartoon Research librarianBill Blackbeard collection (SF)19Historic Newspapers Archives, Incrthday keepsake $40/issue25roying to preserve39.ading the original (vs microfilm) makes an amateur [...]

    20. Baker basically makes his point in the first chapter. Libraries across the country are putting all of their newspapers onto micro-film and discarding the originals. Microfilm and its cousins are bad because they degrade easily, do not record text clearly, are incapable of capturing the color of images, cartoons and are often incomplete. Libraries would actually save money per volume if they simply rented warehouses to store materials in, instead of paying to have the newspapers photographed and [...]

    21. I read this for my class on preservation and conservation in library school.Nicholson Baker is a very passionate writer, but his disgust with library preservation policy is often misdirected in this rather caustic critical work. While he does have solid points, for example the problems of preserving the various editions of each newspaper and the microfilming of color illustrations, he seems to imply that these weren't issues of concern in the library world before he brought them up. However, Dou [...]

    22. Honestly this book was fascinating, and it makes me want to do my own poking around on the issue. I would like to think that the picture Baker paints isn't as dire as all that, but I really can't know, because he's tackling issues that to me are integral parts of the basic librarian profession, that we're all told in library school. He's rejecting the wisdom shared with me by the head of preservation at the Library of Congress. So this book is a lot to think and wonder about. There were many sen [...]

    23. read this book during my nicholson baker phase. which came right on the heels of my john updike phase. in hindsight i only liked bakers non-fiction works, this, a tirade against microfiche which i thoroughly support and his literary stalking of updike in u&i. i kept trying to read his micro-detailed fiction like the mezzanine (ie, what i think about while tying my shoelaces during a lunch break) thinking it must be genius till i gave up thinking i dont give a shit about genius if its this fu [...]

    24. I think Baker suffers from the same disease that the people who are (vilified and exploited) on the television show "Hoarders" do - irrational refusal to dispose of anything that is now useless. It's darling but also sad and overwhelming. Where does he think we're going to keep all these books that don't even have a legitimate research use? Better yet, WHY? His other tragic flaw is that he argues more on emotion than logical argument, despite supplanting the book with numerous anecdotes and fact [...]

    25. The sort of book that makes one feel like an expert on a very specific topic, a topic which they may never have encountered before. Not only do I feel like an expert on destructive library "preservation" tactics, I feel like quite a passionate expert. Mr. Baker is, of course, exactly right about everything, and his opponents should be ashamed. He is also an enormously talented writer--one of my favorites. Who else had a chance in hell of making this book interesting? This book has been one more [...]

    26. I got to page 50 and just couldn't take it anymore. The whole point of the book is that the author is pissed off at the destruction of physical newspapers in favor of microfilm - this is made clear on the inside of the dust jacket. My problem with the book is that the author keeps saying the same thing in slightly different ways. He gives new facts, lays bare outrageous actions and irresponsibilities on the part of librarians - things that should keep me hooked - but everything is just a variati [...]

    27. This was an excellent tour-de-force and an eye-opening warning about the destruction of heritage. The idea that the Library of Congress and the major US university libraries do not have anywhere between them the majority of American newspapers in original form - ie a newspaper! They microfilmed them, and then either sold them or binned them! Hundreds of thousands of books went this way too. And in addition, the idea that the LoC is the repository of one of each copy of every book in the country [...]

    28. I have been a fan of Nicholson Baker since reading "The Mezzanine." This book talks about public libraries and the way that old books and newspapers are handled. Baker is of the belief that all books and newpapers need to be saved- at least at the Library of Congress, and has been outraged to find libraries simply destroying books and papers that have been weeded. He is a tad idealistic, but I can definitely see where he is coming from. Even if things are saved digitally and to microfiche, the q [...]

    29. Baker has a bone to pick with libraries and librarians. Complete series of newspapers dating back through the decades are being mutilated in order to digitize the content. He is enraged. He contends that the papers should be preserved, as printed, because the texture, quality of illustrations and the romance of paper itself is lost through digitization. And, he says, newsprint paper is not as fragile and prone to deterioration as we are all led to believe. He has spent time, money and energy to [...]

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