Theatre, the Arts & Libraries: The Power of Storytelling

One of the things that strikes me most about working in a library is how much overlap there is between libraries and theatre.

In my MLIS program, there were several of us who came from a career in theatrical tech / stage management and were transitioning into librarianship. As I’ve noted before, theatrical technician-to-librarian is a fairly common path.

The professor who taught my Intro to Library Science class (the ever-delightful Dr. Janice Del Negro) once commented that “librarians tend be a little bit off of center”. Theatre people tend to be a lot off of center, so we feel right at home in libraries.

Theatre is about telling stories—librarianship, at heart, is about sharing stories. Both passions are founded on a love of storytelling, a recognition of the irreducible importance of storytelling in society. Even history, science, math… All forms of human communication and the sharing of knowledge are forms of storytelling.

So when I read this article about the nature of arts and theatre, I couldn’t help but think of how it applies libraries, too.

The Truth About the Arts: Art is Activism by Lisa A. Kramer (posted on her blog on August 25, 2013)
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The True Scope of History, Part II

Homo sapiens is unique on this planet in that we’re the only genus with only one species. It’s not normal to be the only species within a genus! All other animals exist in a world in which there are others very like themselves, but not them.

Humans, by contrast, take it for granted that there are no other species in the world like us.

It didn’t used to be that way, though. We used to share this planet with other people who weren’t us.
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The Purpose of Human Imagination

The Internet Librarian International 2012 conference wrapped up yesterday. Perhaps the most widely circulated tweet from the conference came from Airport Librarian (@airprtlibrarian):

We have libraries because people need a place to dream. The collection is not the main goal. #ili2012

— Airport librarian(@airprtlibrarian) October 30, 2012

“People need a place to dream.” Yes!

[Edit: At the request of Airport Librarian, I’d like to credit David Lankes as the original source of the quote, from his keynote speech.]

The human ability to dream and to imagine is one that has fascinated me from a very early age. The scientist in me wonders: Why do we dream? What necessary function is served by our imagination?

Why do people need a place to dream?

I had an experience during my freshman year of college that informed my understanding of the purpose of imagination more than any other…
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The True Scope of History

Human anatomical modernity began approximately 200,000 years ago.

Human behavioral modernity began approximately 50,000 years ago.

The entirety of humanity’s known written record dates back approximately 5,000 years.

Consider what this means: Our brains have been as complex as they are now – we’ve possessed the same curiosity, drive, wanderlust, intelligence, and creativity – for at least 50,000 years. We’ve been exploring, experimenting, testing, learning, and figuring things out this whole time. It may be that we’ve been this curious and intelligent for the full 200,000 years of our existence.

If we take the 50,000 year mark – this means we only know, at most, 10% of everything we’ve done in that time. 90% of our own history is unknown to ourselves, except through some cave paintings and fossils.

If we take the 200,000 year mark – that percentage drops to 2.5%, leaving 97%-98% of our own history completely in the dark.

Humbling, ain’t it?

The Potential of Ebooks: A Modest Proposal

A colleague of mine recently recommended the book Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. It looks like a perfect creepy read for Halloween! I’m looking forward to it.

You can preview the first three chapters (plus the Prologue) through the publisher’s website. So, I clicked the link to the PDF and started scrolling through.

I was actually a bit disappointed. Not with the book, it’s really good (the Prologue and first chapter are, anyway!)

No, I was disappointed because the images don’t move. Reading it online, I found that I really wanted the images to be animated gifs.
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Towards a New Literary Culture, with a Note on Secret Identities

Inspired by this blog post, I started to think about my secret identities. I, too, tend to sing a lot – but only when no one is around to hear it. Since sometime around third grade, I began to see myself as a physicist at heart – or, more accurately, a cosmologist – and I still do. On the other hand, I also see myself as a philosopher. And an anthropologist.

I do realize that I’m none of those things. While I’ve read extensively in popular science titles, I’ve had no formal education in any hard sciences beyond high school. I did study quite a bit of philosophy in college and took a few classes in anthropology. But I’ve never done any of the real work that’s essential to actually being a cosmologist or philosopher or anthropologist. To claim that I am is an insult to those people who really are.

But this is about my secret identities. The ways in my heart-of-hearts that I’m the hero of the movie of my own life.
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