"Double Fold" by Baker- discussion questions
Hello! Hopefully everyone is staying sane in their end-of-semester crunch time, and you've got enough brain power left over from all your hard work to ponder some questions on this week's reading.
1) Baker defines the difference between conservation and preservation in that conservation aims to preserve or repair the original document, preservation aims to maintain or preserve the words or images from the original document (107-108). Do you agree with this distinction? If so, if your goal is to preserve a book, is it also possible to conserve it?
2) With the Google Book project and UW’s participation in it, according to the UW website there are three main reasons that are listed for joining the project, storage, preservation and access. Do these motives differ from the motives that created the push to move newspapers, periodicals and books to microfilm? Do you think projects like Google Book learned from the past and the first push to move text from being bound to being available in Microfilm? What do you think Baker would think of Google Book? Do you think librarians as a profession and our society as a whole are doing enough to keep digital books and PDFs from being the next version of microfilms and optical disks?
3) The title of the book is Double Fold, based on the test that is used to determine the brittleness of a book. Baker dismisses that test because he believes it doesn’t test the true factor in deciding whether a book is in usable condition and offers his own test to determine the viability of a book. Do you think the double fold test is valid? If not, is Baker’s test valid? If it’s not valid, then why has the double fold test almost universally been accepted as reasonable libraries?
4) Baker quotes G. Thomas Tanselle in stating that Tanselle believes libraries should “aspire to the condition of museums. All their books are treasures, in a sense; the general stacks become a sort of comprehensive rare-book room – not staffed and serviced as rare-book rooms are,obviously, but understood as occupying the same kind of unreformattable sensorium.” Baker also quotes Philip Mores and his view of the modern library “cannot now be operated as though it were a passive repository for printed material.” Which statement do you think lines up more with the purpose for the library today?
5)A reoccurring theme in Double Fold is the idea that those involved in the destruction of newspapers and books to be microfilmed are destroying important public historical artifacts without the publics knowledge or consent. Is Baker overstating this, or are the advocates of microfilming and digitizing documents really robbing us of our heritage?
6) Baker spends a lot of time discussing how funding was procured for projects like Brittle Book and attempts to “deacidfy” books, using both private and government funds. In Double Fold, was motivation for these projects ways to get funds for the library or did the people running these programs truly believe in their programs cause? How much does the drive to fund libraries and library projects determine what projects are taken up in the library world?
7)Baker claims that storing books and newspapers is less costly than microfilming them, and that library professionals are overselling the "space limitations" quandary. Are libraries really that pressed for space? If so, are there other alternatives for storage than Bakers "large building near Washington"?
8)Do you think his ideals of having multiple copies of each bound item in the library is something that can be achieved? Think in terms of our society today: one bound (pun not intended) by budget cuts and job cutbacks...is this something that can happen?
9)How can ordinary citizens who are opposed to the destruction of newspapers and books for microfilming get involved? What political recourse exists for them?
10) Contrast Baker's work with Levy's "Scrolling Forward". One noteworthy factor in comparing the two authors and their point of view is their background and experience. While Baker is a well-known novelist, Levy has real-world experience both as an IT expert (working at Xerox PARC) and a print culture expert (working with historic forms of calligraphy). How do you think their divergent backgrounds have an impact on their viewpoints?
11) Every great story has its villains. Baker has no shortage of evil henchmen in this book- Verner Clapp comes to mind as the Lex Luthor of "Double Fold". However, more often than not, the key players in the microforms push often come across as characters and not real people. Do you think there's more to their opinions than simply a displeasure for old books, a desire to save space, and a love of new gadgets? Do you think that a desire for heightened academic and professional standing factored in their viewpoints? Do you think that these "villains" would have been as successful at their public awareness-raising and corresponding funds-getting if they would have pushed for simply more storage space or improved conservation?
12) What do you think of the fact that Print Culture History as a valid field of academic study has practically no mention in "Double Fold"? Keep in mind that the field rose to prominence in the late 1970's, yet the film "Slow Fires" was developed in the late '80s and its subsequent result on discarded collections didnt happen until the 1990s. In addition, Baker constantly laments the fact that technology enthusiasts ("preservationists"?) far outnumber those with actual bookbinding and paper chemistry experience ("conservationists"?). Do you think the Print Culture Historians and conservationists in the world would benefit from a piece of PR like "Slow Fires"?
13) After all his huffing and puffing, Baker comes up with a pretty simple, concise list of recommendations for improving the current state of library affairs. What do you think of the viability of these suggestions- specifically the idea of libraries keeping their discard records public, and the LOC adding more shelve space to hold everything they're sent?