preservation and persistence of the changing book


obama library

An Obama library will straddle the boundary between physical and electronic collections. This is a side issue beyond all the other activities that presidential libraries perform, but it is a curious side issue.

The era of 2008 to 2016 will see the eclipse of paper correspondence, the advent of phone text and a more pervasive migration of communication away from in-person exchange. Certainly handwriting will disappear as a skill and a compositional method and governmental publications and records will be pervasively electronic. A book centricity of libraries will decisively shift both to non-book media and to off-site resources. So the side issue of collections at presidential libraries is also a more central issue.

I think that the presidential library is a modern phenomenon. Isn’t Hoover the first?
As such it may not transmit well to a post-modern context. Perhaps the better formulation would consider the future of the library and the sub-set of a presidential type.

But then there is the growing mountain of books about Lincoln or Obama. Here the keyword is “growing”. Perhaps what we need to consider is a futuristic anachronism of a continuing role for the book centric presidential library. In that case the better formulation is the future of books.


Unsustainable growth and unstable climate have many tethers. One of these is shared volatility or unpredictability. Given this circumstance the models of previous natural ecologies are less relevant or even deceptive. A paradigm of sustainability, or the quiet Holocene, is extinct.

One strategy, aside from apocalyptic doom, is direct response to volatility and unpredictability. This is a strategy of resilience where quick reaction and diversionary initiative counters degradation; sudden and surprising actions of negative entropy. (reference Zolli, Resilience, why things bounce back, 2012) more

Leaving the empirical, and even leaving the scientific, approach to complex, rate-related changes a resilience strategy suggests a volatile ever-shifting behavior including risk and failure as productive. Resilience has resilience.

Experimental, innovative ecologies of feral over-growth of vacant land, micro urban food production, up and down cycling of waste, non-extractive industrialization based on information economies, respiratory rights configuration, gravity charged batteries, and an endless variety of counter responses to volatility itself will exercise and confirm the resilience strategy.

Most promising of all the unanticipated consequences that emerge between actions of resilience behavior will themselves be productive. This is a living future that returns to persistent ecological behaviors in a novel way.

positive negative

“Material books must reveal to us more than things we already know or only what we want to know; they should be able to reveal to us things we do not know, or even more significantly, things we do not want to know.” Joseph Dane, What is a Book, 2012.

Dane makes an issue of the inconclusive and transient search negative provided by database screen books. The self-authenticating print book also engages every new query but it confirms and explains a negative search. The physical book overtly confirms the absence of evidence. This print affordance alone goes a long way to compromise the celebrated self-indexing affordance of the screen book. The researcher cannot be convinced that the screen evidence is not, not there.

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