This Week in LIS - 10 January 2014

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Headline of the Week: Burning Books at Preus Library?!
In anticipating the upcoming Center Stage performance, I recently re-read the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Dystopian fiction (everything from Brave New World to Hunger Games) is one of my favorite genres, so I was delighted that this task became part of my official to-do list as we launched some complementary programming at the library this week.  

For those of you unfamiliar with the text, the book takes place in a future society where buildings have been made fireproof. Firefighters, no longer needed to actually put out fires, have now been charged with the task to start them. They start fires to burn books (fahrenheit 451 being the “temperature at which books burn”). The story centers on the experience of one firefighter, Guy Montag, who begins to question his role as well as the society in general.  

What struck me most about reading the book this time around was the following quote where the character Faber explains how this book-burning society came to be:

. . . Good God, it isn’t as simple as just picking up a book you laid down half a century ago.  Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord. You firemen provide a circus now and then at which buildings are set off and crowds gather for a pretty blaze, but it’s a small slideshow indeed, and hardly necessary to keep things in line.  So few want to be rebels anymore.  And out of those few, most, like myself, scare easily. . .

The people did it to themselves. In the beginning books were burned, not by firemen’s flame throwers, but by the collective decision not to read them.

We live in a fast-paced, information overloaded society. Librarian confession: I live in a world surrounded by books and filled with brilliant people who are passionate about learning and wrestling with complex ideas.  There are no flame wielding firefighters here.  And yet, if I am honest, more often than I would care to admit, I start my own fires. At the end of the day, instead of settling in to read a thought provoking book or discussing philosophical ideas with others, I fire up the Hulu+ queue and relax in front of a screen.  

Maybe you find yourself doing that sometimes, too.  

It’s okay.  

I’m pretty sure binge watching a season of *insert your guilty pleasure here* occasionally isn’t going to plunge us all into a dark dystopian reality.  

Yet, January is a season of new beginnings and clean slates.  It is a time for us to reflect on being the best versions of ourselves.  As we consider Bradbury’s dystopian vision of the future, we can be inspired to make time to delve deeply into our favorite books and challenge ourselves with new ones. 

On that note, this week in LIS on behalf of Preus Library I invite you to. . .

Breathe. (Thanks for the reminder, Campus Ministries and Wellness!)


And of course, we invite you to do all of these things as part of the community here in the library (whether in person or online on our Facebook page), because collective action--for good or for ill--is powerful.

Jennifer Rian
Innovative Services Librarian

LIS Blog Highlights from the Week

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