Library Hand

How cool is this? From Atlas Obscura: Library Hand, the Fastidiously Neat Penmanship Style Made for Card Catalogs.

In September 1885, a bunch of librarians spent four days holed up in scenic Lake George, just over 200 miles north of New York City. In the presence of such library-world luminaries as Melvil Dewey—the well-organized chap whose Dewey Decimal System keeps shelves orderly to this day—they discussed a range of issues, from the significance of the term “bookworm” to the question of whether libraries ought to have a separate reference-room for ladies.

They then turned their attention to another crucial issue: handwriting. As libraries acquired more books, card catalogs needed to expand fast in order to keep track of them. Though the newly invented typewriter was beginning to take hold, it took time and effort to teach the art of “machine writing.” Librarians still had to handwrite their catalog cards. And this was causing problems.

“The trouble in handwriting,” said Mr. James Whitney, of the Boston Public Library, “is that there is apt to be too much flourishing.” [continue]

Of course you’ll want to read the rest of the article to learn about the solution they came up with, and see the photos of the results.

Meet ‘The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu’

From the Washington Post: Meet ‘The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu’.

In front of you, a mosque built of mud and clay that served as a center of learning in the Middle Ages. Here, scholars once gathered to discuss fine points of jurisprudence and philosophy. Poets set down their verses. Artisans created beautiful manuscripts, original works as well as copies of volumes from faraway times and places.

Now turn around and take in a different scene: a sandy square, where not long ago Islamist extremists meted out severe punishments for playing music and other crimes against Sharia law. Children kick a soccer ball, the dust flies. All around you is an economically depressed, psychologically traumatized city wondering whether it has a future. (…)

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu,” by Joshua Hammer, vividly captures the history and strangeness of this place in a fast-paced narrative that gets us behind today’s headlines of war and terror. This is part reportage and travelogue (there is a great deal of “setting off” in Land Cruisers, camels and small boats along the Niger River), part intellectual history, part geopolitical tract and part out-and-out thriller. [continue]