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Library in the News: January 2014 Edition

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With the new year, the Library of Congress rang in lots of news. Here is a sampling of the headlines.

The Library last month announced its acquisition of the collection of jazz great Max Roach.

“Admiration, invective, scrutiny — the sense you get is of a man determined enough to take it all,” wrote Ben Ratliff for the New York Times after having an opportunity to go through some of the archive.

Brett Zongker of the Associated Press caught up with the Library’s jazz curator, Larry Appelbaum, to talk about the importance of Roach and his collection.

“He’s a major figure, not just in jazz but in American music,” said Appelbaum.”Max represented much more than just a musician or even a composer. He was at the nexus of music, civil rights and black power because he was among that wave of socially conscious musicians.”

News of the acquisition also appeared in The Washington Post and D.C. jazz blog, CapitalBop.

In science-related news, Science Friday ran a feature on physicist Carl Haber and his pioneering work in extracting sound from historic audio recordings – many in the Library of Congress’s collections – using Haber’s IRENE, a preservation technology that can create a digital audio file from the analog information found in the grooves of an audio disc. (You can read more about it in these Library of Congress blog posts here and here.) Haber was as the Library last fall working on a collection of audio recordings held by the National Museum of American History, produced by the long-defunct Volta Laboratory.

“Haber and his teammates are working on an unusual disc from the Volta collection, made of bookbinder’s board topped with wax—it looks like a primitive record. Wearing purple surgical gloves to protect the media from the griminess of human hands, a curator takes the recording and places it on a clear plastic turntable connected to specialized optical equipment,” wrote reporter Andrew P. Han. “She must be careful—nobody really knows what is on these files.”

Also spending time at the Library were astrobiologists Steve Dick and David Grinspoon, incoming and outgoing astrobiology chairs at the John W. Kluge Center, respectively. The Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach moderated an event last month featuring the two scientists.

“Yesterday I moderated a discussion about astrobiology at the Kluge Center of the Library of Congress and lobbed questions at two eminent astrobiologists, Steve Dick and David Grinspoon. Here’s one: ‘If you were to make contact with an alien civilization, what’s the first question you’d ask?’” Achenbach wrote. “I always thought we’d want to know what the aliens were made of – whether they had DNA, for example, and were carbon-based and water-based, and so on. But Grinspoon suggested a more practical question: How do we become sustainable?’

“That’s not really a science question, but it’s the one we should all be asking. It’s the question that pulls in science, technology, engineering, political science, social science, and efforts on behalf of human rights, justice and education.”

On the literary front, the Library in January named Kate DiCamillo as the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

“The huge popularity of young-adult books like ‘The Hunger Games’ series might leave the impression that children’s literature needs no added promotion,” said Julie Bosman for the New York Times. “But librarians and reading advocates say children’s books are constantly under pressure from other forms of entertainment like video games and television, a collective feeling that prompted the Library of Congress and other groups to form a new post in 2008 dedicated to promoting literature for children.”

“‘Stories connect us,’ DiCamillo says, and she believes this so strongly that she’s decided to make it the platform of her two-year ambassadorship. She hopes to encourage communities to engage in reading projects together — retirement homes reading with elementary schools, or entire towns launching on the same book,” wrote The Washington Post’s Monica Hesse.

DiCamillo also spoke with Jeffrey Brown of PBS Newshour: “I want to remind people of the great and profound joy that can be found in stories, and that stories can connect us to each other, and that reading together changes everybody involved.”

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