Harvard University's Houghton Library

Dispatches from the Houghton Library, Part One

As an academic librarian with a deep interest in historical and contemporary book censorship, I can’t imagine a better way to spend my vacation than with the very books deemed too dangerous to read. This post is my first dispatch as a visiting fellow in publishing history at the Houghton Library, Harvard’s main repository of rare books and manuscripts.

Library

Privacy v. Personalized Services in Libraries

Society has evolved to expect personalized recommendations from providers like Amazon and Netflix. (Who doesn’t love the suggestions for what to read or watch next, right?) I think most of us have even gotten used to seeing personalized advertising in our Facebook feeds or Google ads. However, a Library Journal article on OCLC Wise points out that this level of personalization requires data collection. Data collection by libraries can risk compromising patron privacy.

Created by Lisa Hooper reads "My father had spent every penny on his books. They were his life. After the bonfire, I could tell that something had happened to his mind." From Knuth, Libricide: The Regime Sponsored Destruction of Books and Libraries in the 20th Century.

Librarians as Cultural Warriors & Protectors

Likewise, it says a great deal about the importance of librarians, library paraprofessionals, museum curators, archivists, educators, and anyone else involved in the protection and promotion of cultural heritage and protection of intellectual freedom. Knuth’s book demonstrates that librarians can be active participants in protecting cultural history, or they can be twisted to add legitimacy to the regime’s propaganda.