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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book Review: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever

BiblioTech: A Review

Barbara Fister | May 7, 2015

I was delighted to get a copy of John Palfrey’s new book, BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More than Ever, from the publisher, Basic Books. Generally, I find Basic Books’ list full of interesting and valuable titles and I have enjoyed reading other works by John Palfrey. He has a way of making complex things simple, as he and Urs Gasser did in their book, Interop: The Promise and Perils of Highly Interconnected Systems. I admire the ability to write clearly and advocate for practical solutions to pressing problems – something Bruce Schneier did so well in his masterful Data and Goliath.
While BiblioTech is enormously readable, if not always deeply compelling (perhaps it’s simply harder to make a case for libraries than for the need to throttle back the out-of-control surveillance engine that took over and now drives so much of the internet), it frequently frustrated me. I suspect that is because I am not the audience for this book. As the author explains it in his introduction, he is writing for “all those who do not work in libraries and who should be taking a greater interest in the fate of these essential knowledge institutions on which we rely more than we seem to realize.” He’s writing for people who might care about what libraries could be but are not caught up in nostalgia about what they used to be.

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