by Jack Kessler, firstname.lastname@example.org
3.00 FYI France: Enewsletter and archive
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From kessler April 14 1992
April 14, 1992 FYI France : The Bib.de France at Berkeley -- parts 1-4 by: Jack Kessler email@example.com The Bibliothe`que de France came to Berkeley last Friday, with grace, flair, and a Gallic panache which would have made Cyrano proud. A team of well-informed, well-spoken, enthusiastic representatives of the giant library project overcame obstacles of light, heat, language and technology to convey their message, to a three-day audience of 2-300 polite and admiring, although at times sceptical, architects, professors, and professional librarians. This conference report will appear in four parts -- one covering each of the four sessions -- in the interests both of giving me time to digest some pretty wide-ranging information and of avoiding posting anything longer than 8 screens at any given time. What follows is only my version: I sincerely hope that others who attended will give their own, and we'll get some disagreements going on the vast range of material that was discussed. The first session presented the B.de France. Session #2 presented other projects, including that of San Francisco Public Library (which has both provided and received inspiration to and from the B.de France in interesting ways). Session #3 saw some interesting thinkers consider where all this is headed, and #4 saw some famous thinkers consider what it all means. For many of us, it was our first venture beyond the large and growing but still limited world of US-dominated Internet libraries. First, a few current numbers: the new French library, 1) will occupy a site measuring over 500 by 1200 feet, or nearly 650,000 square feet -- 15 acres -- of central Paris: larger than the Palais Royale, nearly the size of the Place de la Concorde, with enough room for a half dozen football fields with bleachers -- construction cost alone will be US$1.2 billion (with a "b") 2) will contain over 3 million square feet of floorspace, in subterranean levels and in four 250-foot towers, the latter becoming among the tallest points in Paris 3) will house a collection of 12 million books in nearly 250 miles of stacks, employing 2000 personnel to care for them and for users 4) will offer this collection to 4000 seated readers, and innumerable dial-in users via networks using the latest library technologies and, 5) is under way, lest you think all this is a dream -- the architect proudly showed us pictures of foundations being poured. UC Berkeley professors and conference organizers Howard Bloch and Carla Hesse introduced the first session, comparing the underlying concept of the B.de France to moments such as antiquity's development of the papyrus roll, the 4th century's of the codex, the Middle Ages' of the chained library, or the Renaissance's of the printed book: each involved, said Bloch, "a mutation in our ways of perceiving and thus of our understanding our world". Professor Roger Hahn of UC then introduced the first French speaker, who reinforced Bloch's emphasis on the new library as being a new concept, and not just a new building: He'le`ne Waysbord, "De'le'gue' Scientifique" to the B.de France, delivered an eloquent and articulate keynote address. She first focused upon current events, noting that construction began March 23, and that, "the free exercise of the creative mind always is in conflict with the calendar": she said that compromises had been made, but that now the time for realization had arrived. She described the project history, from the Miquel Report, to President Mitterand's announcement at the Bastille Day Anniversary, to the noisy but ultimately productive debates which caused many alterations in the original plan (from the historians' revolt which caused the President to drop plans to divide the collection at the year 1945, to the recent removal of the top two floors of the towers). Waysbord then emphasized that throughout, two purposes are to be served -- 1) conservation of the famous collections, and, 2) an entirely new approach to disseminating information to the public, relying largely on new electronic technologies -- with neither purpose taking precedence over the other. She mentioned several of their techniques for this, but only to say that the others who had come from Paris would explain more. Her role, she thought, was more to assure the audience that this double purpose -- "conservation et diffusion" -- is uppermost in the minds of all who now are working on the project. It is their hope that their new library, furthermore, can become one of the "nerve centers" of the expanding information network which is growing around the globe. But she warned that, although their library will be open for use by 1995, the broader concept of which it is a part may never be finished, "like all the great adventures of the spirit". Dominique Perrault -- looking very much the wild-eyed creative architect, with wavy black hair, black tie and shirt, and much Gallic passion -- then enthusiastically described his dreams for his building. The architectural problem, he says, was to create both a monument and a functioning library service center, all the while housing and caring for an enormous and unwieldy collection of books. His idea is that this home of the "patrimoine culturel" of France should be symbolized by these four great towers -- which others have said resemble four open books -- while services for readers are provided below, in congenial reading rooms opening into a beautiful garden. Perrault is proud of his combination of wood with steel and concrete: throughout, views will open onto wood architectural features, or onto large live trees in the garden, giving visual relief from the impressive but overpoweringly massive forms of the building. Ge'rald Grunberg, head of library management for the project, then descibed how they foresee Perrault's building working, as a library. His is an unenviable task. The librarians in the audience began sharpening their knives during his talk, bringing them out a bit during his colleague Alain Giffard's talk the next day. One could hear them chanting under their breath, "how will they keep it warm?", "how will they keep it dry?", "how will readers find anything and how long will they wait?", and, of course, "how will they keep it quiet?" Grunberg insists that, in keeping with Mme. Waysbord's "conservation/ diffusion" ideal, the project management will serve, simultaneously, both the researchers whom the old BN has served so well, and their new "study" clientele, composed of the school and public users who have not been able to penetrate the BN in the past. He outlined the new subject classification system, which Jacqueline Sanson discussed in greater detail later. He described, with slides, the three divisions of the new library space: 1) reception -- including bookshops, exhibition halls, restaurants and, "naturellement" he says, cafe's 2) reading rooms -- public areas, including newspapers and journals and popular literature, and including a 12,000 square foot area with 300 seats just for children 3) research rooms -- providing all the old amenities of the BN, and more, for the scholarly use of the collections. Grunberg also described preservation at the B.de France. Their acid-paper problem, he says, involves 2.6 million volumes, their emergencies-in-need-of-microfilming 500 million images, their rebinding and reconditioning problems 1 and 4 million volumes each: not a single day's work, he pointed out. Their double approach is, 1) maintenance -- preservation of the existing collection, which will be handled both in ateliers at the library and in a hi-tech conservation center being constructed at Marne-la-Valle'e, outside Paris, and, 2) prevention -- digitization and other preservation techniques to be used on all new materials to be acquired. All new approaches to materials-handling, microfilming, photocopying, dust removal, and digitizing are being considered. (Information on this can be found in my PACS-L/EXLIBRIS posting of January 13, more copies of which I'll be happy to send out.) Grunberg raised the tantalizing point that the B.de France might negotiate fee-for-service site licences with online publishers. A few questions and problems became apparent this first day. Dorothy Gregor, UC Berkeley's new head librarian, turned in a stellar performance as emcee-with-a-malfunctioning-mike (proving that the French had no monopoly on aplomb in difficult situations). For some reason the microphone kept turning itself off then, during Mme. Waysbord's speech, every time she uttered the word "sound" -- several of us wondered whether, if she said "lumie`re", the lights would go out as well -- although she herself remained as cool and composed as Ms. Gregor. The more general point occurred to most of us though, that the French were saying nothing about backups: if they convert their patrimoine culturel to electronic formats, and someone or something pulls the plug, accidentally or otherwise, how will they provide against a devastating loss? Then too, this building has begun to resemble a horse-assembled- by-a-committee. The bold concepts remain -- both the library idea and the architectural idea -- but it gets hard to imagine how the combination of high-minded research with democratic public access will work. French public libraries collect comic books -- the famous bandes dessine'es -- and French public readers are not much more quiet or well-behaved than are their US counterparts, as any visitor to the BPI library at the Centre Pompidou can attest: the combination of these activities with those of painstaking academic research inherited from the old BN is going to be a neat trick if they can make it work. They may need reminding of Abe Lincoln's aphorism about the difficulty of pleasing all the people all the time. Finally, as to M. Perrault's building, it is easy but simple-minded to find fault. It is easy, for example, to call it an "upside-down table", or "four-big-books-in-search-of-a-shelf" -- easy to laugh or it is easy to bemoan the windswept plaza which the structure will become in winter, or the furnace that it will be in summer, when most US visitors will see it. It is hard to imagine the neighborhood boulangerie which will fit in with this giant megalith next door, as Perrault so whimsically suggests one might. Their building is being built, however, which is more than can be said for most library dreams elsewhere. Its design also represents, to a European, a dream very difficult for Americans to understand. Urban open space is a priceless commodity in their ancient, dense cities. It has been won only at great expense, usually by urban totalitarians like Haussman, who arranged great boulevards down which cannons could be shot in case of insurrection. US cities take their great parks and wide avenues for granted. In Europe, the vast space of Perrault's design will give much-desired relief for the densely-packed quarters which border it. The point which Mme. Waysbord emphasized, though, ultimately seems to be the key: that what the French are constructing is not just a building, but also a new approach to library service, realizing dreams which many have had, both in and outside of France. Next: the French are not alone -- others, including San Francisco PL. *** April 20, 1992 FYI France : :The Bib.de France at Berkeley -- part 2 of 4 by Jack Kessler firstname.lastname@example.org This is the second of four reports on the four-session conference held April 10-12 at UC Berkeley, on "The Bibliothe`que de France and the Future of the Library". There were presentations at this session of other new, large projects, resembling that of the Bibliothe`que de France, which are being pursued by the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and the San Francisco Public Library. Dorothy Gregor, UC Berkeley's new head librarian, played the role of emcee a second time. She stated, as the theme of this session, a question which might have served as the theme of the entire conference: "What mix of library with and without-walls are we building?" William Walker, New York Public Library's associate librarian, had a specific answer: libraries must shift, he said, from offering comprehensive programs to offering "targeted" services. NYPL currently supports 86 libraries: 4 privately-funded research centers, and 82 publicly-funded branches around the New York City area. In all, they have 8 million users per year for their over 47 million items. Their most recent trend, said Walker, has been the establishment of "targeted" centers: 1) the Humanities, Social Science and Special Collections, at Fifth Avenue, 2) the Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, 3) the Schomberg Center for Black Culture in Harlem, and now, 4) SIBL -- a new Science, Industry and Business Library, to be located in Manhattan's old B.Altman's building -- 200,000 square feet, 1/3 of the building, at 34th and Madison. This is not all that NYPL has been doing, Walker emphasized: 1.5 million volumes were moved only last summer into 88 miles of new shelving built beneath the park behind the Fifth Avenue building. But "targets" now are in. NYPL's SIBL will contain 2.5 million non-circulating reserve volumes, obtained from an unbundling of the Economics and Public Affairs collection and a unification of various Science collections. Walker bowed in the direction of the French, saying that he well-appreciated the political difficulties they no doubt were having changing the old BN classifications to suit the new B.de France system. SIBL will contain a circulating collection as well as a closed reserve. One key to its service will be new materials handling and document delivery techniques derived, in some part according to Walker, from consultations with the French and from ideas from the US National Library of Medicine. He wants, "to move scanners and photocopying machines to the requested materials, rather than move the materials" and, to this end, will locate copying stations within the closed stacks at the end of shelf rows. SIBL will have, in addition, 500 reading room seats, all wired for laptop use, a 100-station Electronic Information Center offering Internet connectivity, and a formal training center for teaching both staff and users online techniques. (This arrangement it seems must change, as workstation definition now is changing: users won't want to do their word processing in one place and their network use in another, now that their laptops have modems and Windows and even a little multi-tasking -- those 500 laptop positions are going to need telephone connections, so Walker can save on expense by combining them with his Electronic Information Center, and now he gets to undertake the thorny problem of defining online user policy for plug-in laptops.) Prosser Gifford, of the Library of Congress, gave a very different answer to Dorothy Gregor's question, "What mix of library with and without-walls are we building?" He concentrated on LC's efforts to establish library service for the new legislatures of Eastern Europe. For 40 years there, from 1948, there has been a lack of information not only from the outside world but among neighbors, Gifford said. There even was a Kafkaesque, anti-information bias: "what one knew was less important than who one knew". Operating in the dark is not a good "adaptive strategy for democracy", he said, and LC wants to help the countries "rebuild the fabric of civil society". Library and information service as policy, then: very different from the economic motivations which appear to prevail in New York. LC's first approach is to establish some sort of online connectivity for Eastern Europe: an Internet or an EARN connection, said Gifford. The Frost Task Force report, on the information deficits of the legislatures, produced $15 million for fiscal 1991-2 for collection acquisitions, for hardware and software, and for staff training. The greatest need, however, said Gifford, was for an "intelligent server on a network to be used to search multiple databases". You could sense the mouth-watering beginning in the room. The front- end designers and intelligent interface theorists present sat up in their seats. Shoulders hunched down immediately, though, when Gifford announced that LC had chosen ASTRA, the Italian scientific information system's interface, as the front-end for their WEBNET, their East European information system now to be operated from the Radio Free Europe installation in Munich. One wonders whether Gifford or LC know of WAIS or Z39.50 or other US-based efforts to design an "intelligent server on a network to be used to search multiple databases"? It then was San Francisco's turn in the limelight. Kenneth Dowlin, librarian of the San Francisco P.L., put on a remarkable performance. His presentation appeared at first glance to be somewhat distracted: he wandered over topics, casually assembling a list of seemingly- interesting but apparently-unrelated ideas. Suddenly, then, shafts of light began to pierce through. Demolition for his project had begun that morning, he announced as proudly as had architect Perrault the day before the commencement of the French project. Dowlin observed that his building is one of the few libraries designed before it was handed to the architects: he and his staff had worked out their concept well in advance. He observed that, architecturally, "a library building is almost a textbook example of reconciling opposites": readers, tourists, and books -- some like light, some don't, some are quiet, some aren't. Then Dowlin took, to the delight of the always-conceptual French and of many others in the audience, his plunge into concepts: 1) A library project like his, he said, represents a competition between a need for "connectedness" and a need for relevant, timely information. We are "awash in bits and bytes" in the age of electronic information, Dowlin contended. This "information" comes to us in undifferentiated "glops": we need current news, which typically is packaged in small, unrelated, pieces, but there is little systematic, critical approach to electronic information. This last he calls our need for seeing the "connectedness" of what we are shown. It is to this latter effort -- the effort to show connectedness -- that all libraries, including any new "electronic" library such as his own or the Bibliothe`que de France, should be dedicated. 2) Dowlin then made a distinction between learning and credentialing, bemoaning the latter and praising the former as being the true purpose of a library. The idea that schools will "educate" by awarding "credentials" to students who have learned nothing infuriates him. That said, said Dowlin, "a public library is not an educational institution -- we are a learning institution". Training students to handle concepts is school but not library business, he contended. "We have reached the point in our society where the human mind cannot contain all the knowledge known to humankind -- the library now becomes the knowledge bank of our society." Interactive information systems, Dowlin asserted, are the key media which will enable learning to take place amid the great mass of electronic and other information which is being assembled in his library, at the Bibliothe`que de France, and elsewhere. "I would contend," Dowlin told the audience, "that what cracked the Berlin Wall was technology". He was there when the Wall came down, he said, and was greatly moved by the idea that if it hadn't been for all those radios and television sets in the Eastern sector, with antennas and rabbit ears pointing to the West bringing in a constant flow of information about the quality of Western life, the Wall might never have come down. There is a risk, though, he warned, that on our shrinking globe we may create, via information technologies expensive in both time and money, a separation between the information "haves" and the information "have-nots". He perhaps consciously here was echoing the original mandate of the French President, evoked by Mme. Waysbord the day before, that the B.de France should bring information to the people, and not just conserve the books. Dowlin perceives, he said, a gradual merging of technology occurring. The different techniques which once handled the storage (printed works, film) and the transmission (telephones, telegraph, mail) of information now are being united in electronic techniques -- computer, video, audio -- which can handle both and increasingly these electronic techniques "talk" to one another. He has on order, he said, a briefcase-sized system which will "contain" the contents of hundreds of books, which he'll be able to transfer to other places via its cellular telephone. For libraries, Dowlin hopes this technology will become both a tool and a driver. Basic paradigm shifts are needed, he said. From being pointers and retrievers, libraries must become facilitators and organizers from fortresses, libraries must become pipelines information banking must yield to information connectedness "just in case" collecting must yield to "just in time" delivery of information he echoed Walker's comments, saying that old collection emphases on the "whole world" must give way to new "focused resources". "The book is a technology, not an icon or a religion", Dowlin declared. He sees the move contemplated by San Francisco as being a "move from a warehouse to a communications center". His views might infuriate book antiquarians, and perhaps might be better presented in the delicate manner of Mme. Waysbord, as a balance between "conservation et diffusion" rather than a choice between the two. Still, Dowlin's views provide the driving force for one side of that equation, the side which largely is motivating the moves to upgrade library service both in his city and in Paris. Cathy Simon, architect for the SFPL project, also was a forceful and effective speaker. Her erudite allusions to the world outside that of library service -- the world of City Beautiful movements, Daniel Burnham, the grand facades of the Bibliothe`que Ste. Genevie`ve, and of the existence of neighboring communities which might not use the library but still might care what it looks like -- were much appreciated by the non-librarians in the audience. The SFPL building looks now, even more than does the B.de France, as though it was designed by a committee: neo-classical facade on the outside, steel and glass modernism and functional post and perhaps post-post-modernism on the inside. Simon defends the design vigorously, insisting that the old building, which faces the new, also is a two- sided "L" shape classical exterior containing a functional core, and that the new building echoes and reinforces the old. How odd this argument must sound to the French, who have completed a glass pyramid in the courtyard of their venerated Louvre, erected the Tour Maine-Montparnasse in the center of one of their more famous old city neighborhoods, built the new Arch of La De'fense at the end of the visual Louvre-Champs Elyse'es-Arc de la Triomphe axis, plonked down the Pompidou "urban oil refinery" in the middle of the quartier des Halles, and now are erecting the B.de France on their Left Bank! Simon's community perhaps has more concern for "what the neighbors might think" than does Perrault's, or perhaps it has less imagination. Next: the Library of the Future, theory and practice. *** April 27, 1992 FYI France : :The Bib.de France at Berkeley -- part 3 of 4 by Jack Kessler email@example.com The promise of the conference's subtitle, "...and the Future of the Library", was realized in the third session, on Sunday afternoon. In his superbly-titled talk -- "Les Non-bibliothe`ques", or "the Non- libraries" -- Goe`ry Delaco^te made a superb presentation. Delaco^te's background is fascinating. He directs the Exploratorium in San Francisco, is a physicist by training, is a graduate of the Ecole Normale Supe'rieure, was a member of the group which assembled the Me'diathe`que de la Villette in Paris, and was the architect of the CNRS' INIST: the Institut de l'Information Scientifique et Technique. He is a leading figure of the science establishment in France. Delaco^te described his primary effort at INIST as having been to establish a "built-in process of adaptation and transformation": without these elements, in balance, Delaco^te insisted, any institution like a museum or a library will atrophy. INIST, Delaco^te teased, was a librarian's dream: "no visitors, no users, only the documents". (Another, perhaps teasing, suggestion was that at Nancy windows had been inserted into the INIST building design, "so that the towers might be usable later" once they might no longer be needed for documents, according to Delaco^te: the realists and the cynics in the audience immediately thought of the B.de France's much-vaunted and much- criticized "book" towers -- Delaco^te's face gave no clue that he was alluding to those.) The INIST project had been to establish document delivery and database services for France's giant CNRS science research operation. From the first, this was conceived as a non-library project, more like the US' National Library of Medicine or even the anti-library approach of UK's Boston Spa center, than like a conventional book-and- journal library. Throughout, the emphasis at INIST was on the delivery of information to users, rather than on its storage and preservation. The driving concepts of INIST became 1) production and 2) marketing: both ideas foreign to the traditional library. France is reorganizing all its culture, not just its sciences and its libraries, Delaco^te observed. The key to this for any institution, he said, is integration, and a strong research and development component: otherwise one might establish a fantastic flagship, but a flagship only, and one unable to adapt to change. The Exploratorium has, he said, 1) exhibitions, 2) teaching and learning programs, and 3) media and communications work, to provide their R&D component and to give their institution flexibility. Speaking directly to his friends from Paris he advised, even warned, that without similar approaches they would find their new library institution to be lacking. Even more important, asserted Delaco^te, was the development of a "marketing attitude". This sounded strange to the US audience, but perhaps was familiar to the French. Commercial marketing ideas -- much of it taken from US sources -- are the rage now in French education and government circles. French business schools -- unthinkable as a concept in the 1960's -- are over-subscribed and multiplying in number now. But Delaco^te's institution at Nancy is built, the B.de France people are building theirs, and the institutions of the US sceptics in the audience, who were shocked by his "marketing" ideas, are on the ropes or are closing. The problem of education in the US and in France is a worldwide problem, he asserted, demanding a revolution in approach. His suggestion is that only some new mix of cultural, educational and professional networks will be able to serve the new realities. Ideas like marketing and built-in processes of adaptation and transformation will be keys to the success of any new institutions, including museums and libraries, Delaco^te concluded. Geoffrey Nunberg, of Xerox PARC and Stanford, then gave an intriguing talk, fascinating his French and American audiences alike. He was concerned, he said, to discuss "the place of books" in a new information age, without indulging in either of the two extremes, as he described them, of "bibliophilia" or "cyberphilia". He is not a determinist, he asserted, and believes that we must understand that the future will be every bit as subtle and as complex as is the present. Discussions of libraries, said Nunberg, too often "mistake the cultural content for the artifacts". He said that "information overload" always has been with us, and in ways which we often haven't recognized: the printed output of the Traveller's Insurance company, he pointed out, would fill the Bibliothe`que Nationale's shelving within six weeks. Cultural forms are at work constantly, he suggested, sorting and organizing our information. Nunberg then spoke about some of the artifacts. He talked about the opposition between print media and the screen, saying that he thinks books will be with us for some time, for some things: "paper documents are a superior medium for sustained reading," he believes. From the "electronic samizdat" of the Internet, he suggested, old media forms are perhaps being reborn, as well as new forms created. The pamphlet, for example -- the short format, immediate news source of the printed text revolution -- may be experiencing a rebirth, in the bulletin board and e-conferencing formats of the Internet. Electronic publication, said Nunberg, resembles the 14th century scriptorium more than it does the recently-modern printing house. Printing's distinctions among different printed forms -- journal articles, monographs, books -- are blurred in electronic media as they were in the scriptoria. Once again, as then, it is hard to "locate" texts. Perhaps in a bow to the presence of Le Roy Ladurie in the audience, Nunberg praised what he called the "shimmering inter-textuality of annales": the fascinating suggestion that the electronic media may contain the very inter-disciplinary possibilities which have so attracted the annales historians, and other thinkers who have crossed traditional disciplinary boundaries. He has little trouble with the so-called problems of electronic journal publication, he said: for some time, in science, publication has confirmed rather than created -- there is room for both, he thinks, both the publication which confirms discovery after the fact and for publication so immediate that it takes part in the act of discovery itself. One interesting corollary to the "library without walls" idea, said Nunberg, is that "the permeability goes both ways". Just as the information can get out, the users can get in: copies can be made with great ease, one can't "burn" electronic texts, he said. Electronic texts, so easily reached, furthermore can become a locus for "imagined communities": any active e-conference participant can attest to the truth of this assertion -- tele-commuting and tele-communities are only two of the phenomenal social by-products of the technology. The _Tatler_ and the _Spectator_ are the two older parallels closest to modern electronic publishing, Nunberg asserted. Electronic publishing supplies the modern ideal of community in anonymity, he said. Despite the gains of electronic media, though, he continues to believe there will be a role for paper publishing, if only as a ceremonial practice, to endow with legitimacy efforts made using other media as well. Alain Giffard's presence on this panel was curious. He is no doubt as concerned with the library of the future as are the others, but his charge of actually implementing his own and others' dreams at the B. de France made his talk that much more interesting to his audience. To accomplish this, said Giffard, the B.de France has divided the task of implementation among six domains: 1) administration -- he reminded us that his library will have 2000 employees 2) technical management 3) collection management -- selection, acquisition, conservation, and so on, all the traditional activities of the Bibliothe`que Nationale, following much the same system 4) public information -- accreditation of readers, reception, document delivery, circulation -- his hope is to achieve a single sequence of information processing which will serve all these needs 5) electronic management of documents and 6) management of audio-visual spaces -- there will be many, for conferences, meetings, films and videos. The bidding process for all of this has been completed, Giffard said, and the French firm Cap-Gemini Sogeti, in association with the Canadian firm GEAC, won the bid. He expects the process to cost about US $ll million, and employ about 100 people, and he bravely asserted that it "would be complete": as a concept by the end of 1992, as an operational reality by the end of 1993, and as a working system by the library's opening in 1995. It would seem that Giffard's ability to complete his particular task will be the key to preventing the B.de France's being merely a badly-overstocked book warehouse by the date of its opening. Giffard then turned to perhaps the most exciting, "gee-whiz" feature of the B.de France project, in the minds of many in his audience: the digitization of texts. By 1995, he said, they now hope to have between 150,000 and 200,000 titles digitized. (This represents a retreat from previously-announced estimates of 300,000 and 415,000 but those were not official, and one sensed that the more modest figure might in fact be realised.) These are to be the "grand texts of reference, those which will be the 'classics' of the 21st century, and 'rare and precious' works". The librarians in his audience wondered who might be on the selection committee as Umberto Eco has warned in this context, "even Plato and Dante have known their periods of disgrace." (Nouvel Observateur no 1406, 17-23 Oct., 1991, p.16) Two techniques are being used, said Giffard. Fragile, ancient works are being microfilmed. (nb.There is a project at Yale devoted to the question of digitizing microfilmed texts.) More recent works will be scanned in. (He mentioned nothing about optical character recognition or compression algorithms, or the resolution levels at which this scanning will be performed and stored: one can only hope that the ocr and compression will work, and that resolution levels will be high enough for later reproduction technologies to use well.) Already 9,000 works have been digitized, Giffard said, some using robot page-turners to speed the process. They are determined to establish a production rate, this year, of 40-50,000 works to be digitized per year. Giffard then mentioned the need to develop a single workstation which would enable a user to assemble documents, make notes, make marginal notes, and compose a final document: they are dedicated, he said, to the idea that their workstation will combine such functions. One key idea, though, is to make their approach modular, so that as any particular aspect of the technology pulls ahead of the others, its component might be replaced, without having to replace the entire workstation system. Experiments are being run already, he said, using a digitized file of the works of Henri Bergson, and using Sun, Apple and Next equipment. For this sort of development the B.de France is relying upon liaisons with Grenoble, the CNRS, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes, the University of Toulouse, MIT, Project Xanadu, and Cornell. Giffard is concerned to keep pace with the pc's coming transformation into a vehicle for multimedia. He sees, however, great continuity between what they are undertaking at the B.de France and information work of the past. "Digitized text is the paper of the computer", he declared, the "word processor is the successor of the printing press". There no doubt might be revolutions to come in the meaning of text, particularly as to its relations with its context and with its "linearity", Giffard said. But hypertext and cybertext are old ideas, he reminded us, it's just that some new electronic techniques at last perhaps are making them realizable. The last speaker of this second day, John Gage of Sun Microsystems, told us of Donald Davidson's idea that language is only a theory, a "way of knowing your way around the world". He then reminded us that theories change: he brought in Richard Rorty's idea of language and culture, "as a process of change of metaphor": "when you wish to change the world you change the metaphor" -- that's the old power of magic, Gage said, "to break our common ideas". The B.de France's broader purpose, then, provides just such a metaphor -- that of the world library -- and, like other powerful metaphors it has within itself the power to change our perceptions. One example we'd just heard, Gage continued. That was Giffard's references to "reaching in" and "reaching out" at his new library: a metaphor, asserted Gage, with powerful suggestions as to the type of institution which Giffard's may become. Are libraries "containers of precious objects", Gage asked, or are they "conversations among people" are they "windows into the treasures of France", or are they "windows onto the world"? Unless these ideas are addressed, said Gage, as they appear to be at the B.de France, we are in some danger of being drowned in a "babble of languages of passing theories". Gage suggested that although the metaphors might be new, the ideas themselves very often were old. Much of the new today derives from the ideas of Bell in 1876, or of Otlet in 1934 or Bush (and others) in 1945. Gage mentioned Sutherland, Engelbart and Furness, all of whom worked in the 1960s. Sakamura, Kahn and Cerf, and the groups at Bell Labs, Harvard and SLAC during the 1970s were mentioned. From all this we now have a New Information Technology, Gage says, but what seems to be lacking is a New Intellectual Technology to go with it. We need, he concluded, to extend our previous oral civilization beyond our current writing civilization, into some sort of "new object civilization" if we truly are to take advantage of our new information tools. The day ended with a panel discussion, ably chaired by Gage, consisting of Giffard, John Garrett of the Coalition for Network Research Initiatives, Jean-Pierre Sakoun of GEAC, a firm which has entered the library information market very successfully in Europe, and William T. Crocca of Xerox, who personally has been working on well-known experiments in digital preservation at Cornell and Harvard. Crocca told us that the Cornell project now has 1000 books online, and he projects digitization costs of no more than $4 per book. He showed us a very handsome volume, reproduced using their techniques, which did not at all have the "feel" of being a "reproduced" book. Sakoun then lamented the lack of financial support in the US for public libraries: not the case in France, where currently public libraries are getting plenty of support, he said, although there academic libraries still are lacking resources. He mentioned the good efforts of the EC's DGXIII, with their Projects of Cooperation for Inter-connection, and other European efforts, such as those of the Deutschebibliotek, the British Library, the Swiss Union Catalog, and PICA efforts in the Netherlands. Gage suggested that the problems no longer are technical: with advances in Z39.50 and public key encryption, most of the remaining barriers to shared information over the networks are political and social. John Garrett then waded into one outstanding social and political problem which politely had lain quiet until then. "I challenge the French", he said, looking directly at the B.de France visitors from Paris in the front row, "to join the rest of the networking world, and join the Internet!" The Internet is present now in 78 countries, he said, linking over 500,000 computers, handling over 2 million simultaneous transactions, sustaining a 15% per month message growth rate, and serving untold millions of individual users. The French are faced, said Garrett, with two choices: either they can build pretty buildings which contain lots of books, or they can join a world information system which already is thinking through its technology decisions in the framework of a world network concept. Giffard bravely tried to answer. Much work has been done, he said, to advance information networking within France. One barrier to its success perhaps has been, he suggested, the immense success of Minitel, which has robbed French networking of some of the incentive to take its development forward. Giffard might also have mentioned the great amount of work which has been done to improve European X.25 e-mail techniques, including the development of the ASTRA query system which the Library of Congress itself had said it was adopting for its own European projects at the conference only that morning. Ultimately, though, all this was a passing reference to the "protocol wars" which have smoldered for a while between US and European efforts in networking. It provided the conference's most delicate drama, but no resolutions: more on this in a later posting, as there are some new developments. Next: Final analysis -- the Grand Historians, and "will it be built?" *** May 7, 1992 FYI France : :The Bib.de France at Berkeley -- part 4 of 4 by Jack Kessler firstname.lastname@example.org Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie treated us to a virtuoso performance in the fine art of being a French intellectual, on the final day of the conference. Professor Le Roy Ladurie came to the conference wearing several different hats. As one of the world's most well-known historians, he commanded the attention of all the academics in our largely-academic audience. As Administrateur of the Bibliothe`que Nationale, he occupied a stratospheric position in the world of the librarians in attendance. As a key, some might say crucial, figure in the entire Bibliothe`que de France project and its controversies -- he might have taken an aloof, "back-seat" stance and instead has been "historien-engage'" -- Le Roy Ladurie had earned the respect of the non-academic, non-librarian, in-fighters present. Adulation is the price of fame, but it does not seem to have turned his head or dimmed his wit. He did not disappoint any of us. The title of the talk, "La Vie Quotidienne..." -- "Daily Life..." -- of an Administrateur of the BN, itself was a gentle play on words, and characterized the gentle, tongue-in-cheek, character of Le Roy Ladurie's entire presentation. The reference was to his fascination -- and that of the "school" of history which he represents (he made a charming reference to "my master, Braudel") -- with the commonplace features of daily life, as containing evidence for an historian as valuable as any act of kings or popes or parliaments. As is his practice in his writing, then, Le Roy Ladurie built his talk around little stories, vignettes, homilies drawn from daily life, in this case his. First came the story of his reaction when he was chosen for the position: he fled -- first to hesitation, then to indecision, then to not answering telephone calls, and finally to England. It was only in England, on the twenty-first telephone call, he told us -- by then secure in the knowledge that he no longer could escape, and also in the satisfaction of having upset a number of important French politicians -- that he accepted. His reasons for avoiding the job were the usual, he said -- distraction from his own work, commitment to a human tangle -- but apparently there is a stoic side to Le Roy Ladurie. The mission, he told us, was that of "giving the impression that someone is piloting the aircraft". His somewhat unique situation, however, was that in this case he believed he was the first Administrateur to have been a mere reader before -- the first pilot to have been a passenger before becoming pilot. This gave him special insight, and ideas for fulfilling his mission. He remembered having been an impatient student-reader, standing in the Paris rain at 15 minutes past the opening hour, waiting for the BN doors to open: so now he arrives before the appointed hour himself and sees that the doors are open -- "now the first and last reader each day," he told us, "is the Administrateur." Then too, he said, there was the problem of "en panne": the notice, posted perpetually on all BN public telephones and copiers, advising readers that the devices were out of order -- a particular inconvenience, he added, for a young reader with a wife and sick baby at home. Now, the Administrateur gives a franc from his own pocket to a BN employee each morning, to be returned with the assurance that all said devices are in good working order. Le Roy Ladurie and his audience had fun with his characterizations of relations between the BN and its "sometimes very demanding" US readers. There were phrases like "semi-permanent insurrection", and "lunatic fringe": never quite clearly aimed at either the Americans or the French. No, he protested, the librarians are not the "Gestapo of the BN", as some Americans apparently feel. For both Americans and the rest of the BN reader-world, he said, "the affair of the letters" had now been closed: on a given day, due to staffing budget problems, a particular classification number category used always to be posted as "unavailable" for that day. No longer, he assured us. This has been resolved, as have the thorny questions of launching into automation. "We French have been called dinosaurs," said Le Roy Ladurie, "but the dinosaur is a very sympathetic animal, and at least now we will become electronic dinosaurs." Perhaps the greatest insight offered in this rambling, brilliant talk, though, was contained in the little note Le Roy Ladurie offered about his own upbringing. That took place, he said, in a small French town, and his own happiest memories are of the life of that little town, in which the full range of human existence -- the loves, the hates, the bitterness, the jealousy, the failures, the achievements -- could be found played out in the daily life of the town's cafe's. The Bibliothe`que Nationale, said Le Roy Ladurie, is very like the little town of his childhood: a human community, containing all that same complete range of human emotion and experience. In "administering" it, he said, one never attacks, as attacks always come back to haunt the attacker -- administration at the BN as in the village is the practice of the art of "persuasion". Le Roy Ladurie's talk was a gentle, amusing, ultimately-profound presentation by a master of the medium. Jacqueline Sanson, the second of the day's speakers, then proceeded to tell us of what the BN staff has been "persuaded". It is a formidable task. They are undertaking no less than an entire re-classification of one of the world's largest library collections. Mme. Sanson does not describe it as such. But Cle'ment's 23-letter classification system of 1688 basically is being squeezed down into the four basic departments of the new B.de France. (The coincidence that the new building contains four towers prompted murmurs of "architectural determinism" among the more cynically-minded of the audience. One does wonder, though, whether "alphabetic determinism" is that much better.) The two governing principles of the transfer to the new site, Sanson bravely asserted, are, 1) that the old Cle'ment codes will be preserved, and, 2) that frequency will determine location. We knew already that the less-used books would be up in the towers. But the old classification codes contain 23 letters: A-E for Religion, F for Law, G, H, and J-P for History, R for "Philosophy, Physics and Chemistry", V for "Arts and Sciences" and X, Y and Z for "Literature and Miscellaneous". One might write an intellectual history of France just by tracing the development of those codes. Now such a history might have to be re-written: "D1" now will be "History, Philosophy, Human and Social Sciences" "D2", "Political Science, Economics, Law" "D3", "Science and Technology" and "D4", "Arts and Letters": Procrustes would have a hard time fitting Cle'ment's classifications into that. The old books will keep their old Cle'ment codes, new books will be assigned new "D1-2-3-4" codes, and elaborate charts and road maps have been drawn up to show how it all will work well together. One hopes that they won't have open stacks. Mme. Sanson proudly described the great pains that are being taken to preserve the rare and valuable book "Reserve", to ensure that books and periodicals may be obtained from the same building, and to provide adequate paging from one B.de France "section" to another. She is convinced that it all will work, and that in fact it will be an improvement. Not so convincing was her assurance that although the transfer process will take two years, no particular book will be unavailable to a reader for any longer than two weeks -- that will be quite an achievement in logistics. Professor Roger Chartier then turned our attention once more to history, laboring, through a very bad cold, to convince us that the dream of a "library without walls" -- a "universal library" -- has an ancient and very respectable pedigree. The modern miracle, he said, is that whereas earlier dreams had been of universal bibliography -- vast lists of texts -- now the computer has brought within reach Borges' dream: a universal library of the texts themselves -- of all the books ever written, and of all the books ever to be written. "Print ruined the dream of universal bibliography," Chartier asserted, by forcing us to make choices and selections of the type which Naude' and classifiers and librarians since have had to make. Compilations and extracts, rather than universal knowledge, became the rule. The electronic "library without walls", however, will be one which not only "holds" all texts, but which also allows them to be manipulated directly by the users -- the lessons of real user access, of the detachment of text from that which used to "contain" it, and of the integration of the old containers and forms into "multimedia", are being learned now - - and the old metaphor of the world as a book is becoming a world on a screen and, as such, is changing our perception of the world. The question by now in the audience's mind, however, after three days of conference, was, "who is going to do it?" All very well for the competence of the technical wizards, the brilliance of the conceptual thinkers, and the experience and dedication of supporters and staff on all sides and at all levels. Still, who would be -- where was the person who would be -- the prime mover, who would lead the charges, fight the fights, and get the war won in getting all of this done? We met him. He was the last speaker. His name is Dominique Jamet, he is "President of the Administrative Council" of the B.de France, and he conveys the impression of being someone who can accomplish anything which he sets out to do. He is a heavily-built, athletic, and buoyant man, direct and aggressive, the type with whom you wouldn't want to arm-wrestle, much less fight a down-and-dirty political battle: a bad man to have against your cause, and a good -- perhaps indispensable -- man for the B.de France's side. Jamet opened by saying, in good, assertive, English, that he was surprised -- almost disappointed -- at the lack of acrimony in the conference proceedings: the library had not been discussed so peacefully elsewhere, he said, certainly not at home in Paris. It is a big project, but it is not a megalomaniac fantasy, he asserted: "it is a clear answer to the effective needs of this society." He reassured us that the B.de France would have, "one foot in the past, one foot in the future," recognizing its dual role in both preserving old information and communicating new. But it will be built, he said, and it will be successful. He closed with a paraphrase from, he thought, Lenin, who said that revolution was the soviets plus electric power: the Bibliothe`que de France, Jamet asserted, will be the Bibliothe`que Nationale PLUS computers PLUS the latest techniques of communication. Those of us who had been through the full three days remembered architect Perrault's proud photos of the site excavation and announcement of the foundations being laid, and nodded. The French will have their library. The conference attracted 300 attendees the first day, and between 200 and 250 on each of the following two days. It was an immense success. The microphones didn't work the first day, both guests and audience survived the inevitable translation problems only through the near-miraculous personal efforts of conference organizer Professor Howard Bloch (at one point aided very ably by Professor Susanna Barrows), and there never was enough time for questions. One would have thought contentious Berkeley would have brought to contentious Paris precisely the type of knock-down-and-drag-out contention which Dominique Jamet, at any rate, relishes and appears to have expected. Still, all sides learned very much, and very much was covered. Both the French and the Americans in the audience learned of the existence of other networked information worlds than their own, and in each case their own undertook a salutary shrinkage as a consequence. Would it be too much to ask -- of Professors Bloch and Hesse, and of other like-minded and similarly-energetic individuals -- for a continuation of such efforts to look at networked information worlds and libraries outside of the US? There may be some interesting things out there. *** ISSN 1071 - 5916 end XXX FYIFrance (sm)(tm) e - newsletter ISSN 1071 - 5916 * | FYIFrance (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic newsletter, | published since 1992 as a small - scale, personal, | experiment, in the creation of large - scale | "information overload", by Jack Kessler. Any material / \ written by me which appears in FYIFrance may be ----- copied and used by anyone for any good purpose, so // \\ long as, a) they give me credit and show my e - mail --------- address and, b) it isn't going to make them money: if // \\ if it is going to make them money, they must get my permission in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their permission. FYIFrance archives may be reached online at http://infolib.berkeley.edu , or via gopher to infolib.berkeley.edu 72 (path: 3. Electronic Journals (Library-Oriented)/ 6. FYIFrance/ or http://www.univ-rennes1.fr/LISTESemail@example.com/ (BIBLIO-FR econference archive), or gopher.well.sf.ca.us , or via telnet to a.cni.org , login brsuser (PACS / PACS-L econference archive). Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison - pen letters all will be gratefully received at firstname.lastname@example.org . Copyright 1992- by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved.
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