Read This: NYPL is ‘Shelving Its Past for High-Tech Research Stacks’

The books will begin arriving in April, and by the end of spring library officials expect to be using a new retrieval system to ferry the volumes and other materials from their 84 miles of subterranean shelving, loaded into little motorized carts — a bit like miniaturized minecars carrying nuggets of research gold.

To fit all the books in the allotted space, the library will have to abandon its version of the Dewey Decimal System, in which shelving is organized by subject, in favor of a new “high-density” protocol in which all that matters is size.

Question: What will the librarians do without Dewey!?

Read more at “Beneath New York Public Library, Shelving Its Past for High-Tech Research Stacks


Read This: Can Reading Make You Happier? (Of course!)

So many quotes from this fascinating New Yorker piece. Where to start:

In a secular age, I suspect that reading fiction is one of the few remaining paths to transcendence, that elusive state in which the distance between the self and the universe shrinks. Reading fiction makes me lose all sense of self, but at the same time makes me feel most uniquely myself. As Woolf, the most fervent of readers, wrote, a book “splits us into two parts as we read,” for “the state of reading consists in the complete elimination of the ego,” while promising “perpetual union” with another mind.


For all avid readers who have been self-medicating with great books their entire lives, it comes as no surprise that reading books can be good for your mental health and your relationships with others, but exactly why and how is now becoming clearer, thanks to new research on reading’s effects on the brain. Since the discovery, in the mid-nineties, of “mirror neurons”—neurons that fire in our brains both when we perform an action ourselves and when we see an action performed by someone else—the neuroscience of empathy has become clearer. A 2011 study published in the Annual Review of Psychology, based on analysis of fMRI brain scans of participants, showed that, when people read about an experience, they display stimulation within the same neurological regions as when they go through that experience themselves. We draw on the same brain networks when we’re reading stories and when we’re trying to guess at another person’s feelings.

Other studies published in 2006 and 2009 showed something similar—that people who read a lot of fiction tend to be better at empathizing with others (even after the researchers had accounted for the potential bias that people with greater empathetic tendencies may prefer to read novels). And, in 2013, an influential study published in Science found that reading literary fiction (rather than popular fiction or literary nonfiction) improved participants’ results on tests that measured social perception and empathy, which are crucial to “theory of mind”: the ability to guess with accuracy what another human being might be thinking or feeling, a skill humans only start to develop around the age of four.

read thisCheck out Can Reading Make You Happy? in The New Yorker

Read This: Why we shouldn’t worry too much about the “technology of books”

…wondering aloud why some are in such a rush to discard a technology that has endured for centuries. “It’s not as if books have lost an argument. The problem is there hasn’t been an argument. Technology always gets a free pass. … [People] take it for granted that if the technology is new it must be better.

read thisCheck out Technology of Books Has Changed, But Bookstores Are Hanging In There from NPR

Read This: The perils and pitfalls in academic publishing

All of this has led to a new model of disseminating social science research through the media. Several economists at top departments said colleagues were now tailoring and pitching their academic papers to journalists, rather than writing papers and allowing the news media to discover them on their own.

One danger is that many journalists are not equipped to distinguish good science from shoddy science. That is a particular risk when the work does not wend its way through the usual academic channels before entering the
news media’s consciousness.

Having interned at a scholarly publisher while in graduate school … and still being very interested in the field … and having once wrote a research paper on this subject that was named a national finalist for an information science and technology organization …  I found this article particularly fascinating.

read thisSee Beyond Publish or Perish: Academics Seek a Big Splash in the New York Times


Read This: 100 Best Books of the Decade So Far

Given my penchant for reading older classics and backlist titles, I’m relieved that I’ve read at least a few of these books from this list put together by the Oyster Review, including two books from the top 10 (The Emperor of All Maladies and A Visit from the Goon Squad). This is actually a great list of titles I’ve really wanted to read, so I’ll probably be using this as a reading guide for quite awhile going forward. Because I don’t typically read “newer” books on a regular basis, I can’t speak to the ranking of these books, or comment on the books that are missing. However, this seems like a good mix of fiction and non-fiction, from a wide variety of writers. Since one of my overarching reading goals for the year (and going forward) is to read more recently-published books, as well as more quality non-fiction, this list is as good a place to receive inspiration as ever.

Keep up with my progress, and check out what I thought about the titles I read from this list, here.

read thisThe 100 Best Books of the Decade So Far from the Oyster Review


Read This: “Exhaustion is not a status symbol”

Since I’m a little behind on the blog-writing front, I want to note that I found this article only a few months ago, even if it’s from 2012. However, as a former 60-hour-a-week worker, I can definitely understand the strange competition that exists among who is the “most exhausted”:

I have really seen that more in the past two years than any other time in my work. And I think it’s a combination of technology and the economic realities, where so many people are doing more than one job. It’s the whole adage of doing more with less. To be really honest with you, I don’t think it’s doable. The expectations of what we can get done, and how well we can do it, are beyond human scale.

And because there’s always this readily available technology and you can get your emails all night long, there’s no stopping and celebrating or acknowledging the accomplishment of anything. Instead of feeling pride or recognition, what everyone is instead made to feel is, “Thank God, I can get to the next thing on my list.”

In the piece, Brené Brown discusses her book Daring Greatly as well as issues of professional and personal fulfillment. Even if the article is three years old, it’s still worth revisiting. There’s so much to take and apply to our own lives:

‘Crazy-busy’ is a great armor, it’s a great way for numbing. What a lot of us do is that we stay so busy, and so out in front of our life, that the truth of how we’re feeling and what we really need can’t catch up with us.


One of the things that I found was the importance of rest and play, and the willingness to let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth. A lot of people told me that when they put their work away and when they try to be still and be with family, sometimes they feel like they’re coming out of their skins. They’re thinking of everything they’re not doing, and they’re not used to that pace.

read thisCheck out Exhaustion is not a status symbol” at The Washington Post.

The need for mediators in the “age of information”

This article is interesting on three fronts.

First, I was just reading an article about the rise of MOOCs (massive open online courses) in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and this article from the New York Times opens with an anecdote about a 52-year-old who essentially acquired a degree in philosophy by taking advantage of the wealth of educational resources now available – for free – online.

Mr. Haber’s project embodies a modern miracle: the ease with which anyone can learn almost anything. Our ancient ancestors built the towering Library of Alexandria to gather all of the world’s knowledge, but today, smartphones turn every palm into a knowledge palace.

And yet, even as the highbrow holy grail — the acquisition of complete knowledge — seems tantalizingly close, almost nobody speaks about the rebirth of the Renaissance man or woman. The genius label may be applied with reckless abandon, even to chefs, basketball players and hair stylists, but the true polymaths such as Leonardo da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin seem like mythic figures of a bygone age.

They don’t make geniuses like they used to.

Also, this is cool:

Google estimated in 2010 that there were 300 exabytes (that’s 300 followed by 18 zeros) of human-created information in the world, and that more information was created every two days than had existed in the entire world from the dawn of time to 2003.

Also, didn’t the author of this piece realize that he finished his piece with a rallying cry for librarians?

For many who don’t share that kind of vision, the response to information overload is simple: Just search and forget (repeat as necessary). Even more ambitious absorbers of knowledge like Jonathan Haber will most likely find that the key to lifelong learning is a human mediator, someone who has engaged in the ancient task of searching and sorting through knowledge.

read thisCheck out In the Age of Information, Specializing to Survive in The New York Times.