Library of / Library As Text – Part 1

Myron Tuman in Word Perfect: Literacy in the Computer Age (1993) asks a provocative and interesting question: “Is it possible for the ascendancy of hypertext to do anything but push literacy in the direction of information management?” (78). Since I’m coming from a particular professional “place,” (academic librarianship) which I often characterize as a cultural practice that, historically, has been devoted to establishing and tweaking curatorial roles in relationship to texts, but also coming from a place where I’m attempting to manage and direct a multimedia production space as an experientially significant library service, I find questions like Tuman’s stir up deeper waters that submerge, maybe even drown, contemporary professional debates about scholarly communication, the nature of authorship, the economics of publishing, and the broadening notions of what constitutes a text and what it means to be literate. Tuman’s interesting book was published at a time when all sorts of challenges to the traditional “book” were ramped up, most particularly the event-driven phenomena of playful textual interaction and navigation metaphorically characterized as “hypertext.” Although some of Tuman’s (and others) remarks seem, on the surface, a tad dismissive, what’s clear is that the ascendancy of “hypertext” (or perhaps we can insert another anything 2.0 here) challenged deeply entrenched and romanticized notions of authorship and signaled the need to articulate a more expansive notion of “author” in order for one to characterize the writing of “hypertext” (or any interactive, technology dependent learning event) as more than just an exercise in “information management.” And while the professional literature of library and information studies abounds with discussions that attempt to understand, dismiss or promote the vocational challenges posed by and captured in such extravagant metaphors as the information society or postindustrial society, students arrive each year, less interested in the reading of books in the library and more interested in reading (and writing) their own texts.

Where might “the library” fit into a discussion of texts and of textuality? It’s clear that as a repository of texts, the modern academic library is a place where the reader and text intersect, but it is also a place where readers intersect, but it should also be a place where the texts themselves are encouraged and expected to interact with each other. These “conversations” are made possible by evolving (I hope) conventions of “bibliographic” control and description (metadata) that in their own right, I’d like to suggest, generate “texts” or new and intentional textual genres for our users. Although a university’s research library plays an often unquestioned (and, at times, uncritical) role in the preservation and access to a university’s institutional and cultural record, more interesting to consider is how the cluster of activities that situate librarianship as a cultural practice devoted to hypertextualizing or intertextualizing the entire bibliographic universe can be appreciated for and identified by their non-neutral and generative contributions to the discussion of what constitutes a text and thus what might constitute literacy. (Troy Davis)

Part II: FRBR: Intentionality and Intimacy in a Universe of Entities…

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One Comment on “Library of / Library As Text – Part 1”


  1. […] The Library As Text Part III: Or The Finest Possible Communication Apparatus in Public Life Part 1/2 […]


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