Brian E. C. Schottlaender, ALCTS President
I like to read-a lot. That is, I read a lot and I like it a lot. Fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers, online, hardcopy: you name it, I like reading it. A good many of you reading this probably do too. For me at least, it helps me be who I am. For you too, I suspect.
Very little I have read in the last five years has affected my thinking more profoundly than Stewart Brand's The Clock of the Long Now: Responsibility and Time (Basic Books, 1999)-and nothing, perhaps, as profoundly as its chapter entitled "Burning Libraries." Why, Brand wonders, do people (from Shih Huang-ti in the third century B.C. to Hitler in the twentieth century A.D.) burn libraries? In order to wipe clean the slate of history, he concludes, noting: "Burning libraries is a profound form of murder, or if self-inflicted, suicide. It does to cultural continuity-and hence safety-what destroying species and habitats does to nature's continuity, and hence safety." (75)
"Cultural memory" provides society with continuity, a mechanism for preserving the knowledge of generations past and present for those to come. Cultural memory resides not only in the products of civilization (such as books or art), but also in myriad communication channels and processes. Brand's book depicts the increasingly complex task of preserving cultural memory in an era whose "pathologically short attention span" may compromise a long-term perspective. In a time when information permanence is increasingly in question, how do we shape and sustain the legacy of our culture? And where do libraries fit in this process?
With generous support from Firma Otto Harrassowitz in Wiesbaden, Germany and Basic Books in New York, the ALCTS President's Program 2004 will explore the dimensions of cultural memory and the roles libraries can and should play in preserving for the future the artifacts and processes of the past and present. Speakers Doug Greenberg (President and CEO of The Shoah Foundation) and Bill Ivey (Director of The Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy), and Moderator Abby Smith (Director of Programs at CLIR, the Council on Library and Information Resources]) bring rich perspectives to bear on both the practical and policy aspects of cultural asset management for the long term.
Won't you join us in sunny Orlando for what promises to be a very thought-provoking program? I look forward to welcoming you all!