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Farewell Bibliocw-soc, welcome Library 333

8 Aug

Due to the growing workload – which has prevented me from blogging after the New year’s post of last January 10 (!) – my colleague Janneke Staaks and I have decided to join our efforts and replace our subject specific blogs with a common one meant for the whole UvA Social Sciences library: Library 333.

library 333

By alternating our contributions to the blog we’ll guarantee an higher publication frequency, which might even become higher if colleagues Agnes Dessing and Judith Opitz will join us on the new blog, completing the team of UvA Social Sciences’ subject librarians.


New year new library

10 Jan

… sort of, since the library I came across while leafing through a magazine actually dates to 2011. Yet I found it such an inspiring building that I couldn’t resist the temptation of using it in this first 2014 post.

LiYuan Library interior

The LiYuan Library, in the Beijng district of Huairou, is the work of Li Xiaodong Atelier and amazingly succeed – as the pictures show – in the designers’ aim of using «architecture to enhance the appreciation of the natural landscaping qualities. So instead of adding a new building inside the village center, we chose this particular site in the nearby mountains, a pleasant five minute walk from the village center […] Because of the overwhelming beauty of the surrounding nature our intervention is modest in its outward expression. We can’t compete with nature’s splendor» (pictures and quote from

The use of locally sourced wooden sticks on the library exterior and the intimate play of light and wood in the interior are but two of the fascinating solutions adopted by the architects.

Have an inspiring new library year!

LiYuan Library exterior

The abyss

20 Dec

A busy schedule at work, a new blog to (partially) take care of, an end-of-the-year mood which has to do with some concerns expressed earlier on this blog. What better opportunity for writing this post than to rely on:

– someone else’s blog, yet properly dealing with libraries and the idea of the “common good”;

– Marguerite Yourcenar’s wonderful novel L’oeuvre au noir – whose English translation has the same title I have chosen for this post, and where the following quote – aptly dealing with numbers and men – comes from: «Man is as yet an enterprise, beset by time and necessity, by chance, and by the stupid and ever increasing primacy of sheer numbers.[…] It is men who will kill off man» (from Farrar, Straus and Giraux’s edition of Yourcenar’s book, found here; as for the French original: «L’homme est une entreprise qui a contre elle le temps, la nécessité, la fortune, et l’imbécile et toujours croissante primauté du nombre […]. Les hommes tueront l’homme», p. 305 of Gallimard’s 1968 edition, available at the UvA Library).
scuolapubb_altan smallAltan privatizzare small
– a thorough inquiry, from the Department of Mathematics at the University of York, on the origin of the well-known saying “lies, damned lies and statistics”, which is to the point of this post’s mood as well;

– two witty cartoons from one of Italy’s best known and most appreciated children book’s illustrators and political cartoonists, Francesco Tullio Altan: not only a gripping visualization of some of the above mentioned concerns, but also a convenient link to a forthcoming post on the Blog Nostrum. As for the cartoons’ texts: the two ladies (found here), “We stand for State schools. You really are a bunch of losers!”. The two gentlemen (source), “Water privatization: it is just like privatizing air! Keep calm: one thing at a time”.

Season’s greetings from Amsterdam.

Italian studies at the UvA

28 Nov

Roma UvA websiteAs from next December 1st Italian studies will become part of my responsibilities at the UvA Library, as I have been asked, and have eagerly accepted, to replace my colleague Margriet van Oerle, who is retiring at the end of this month.

The Blog Nostrum: UBA Blog Romaanse Talen en Cultuur has been, just as is the case of Bibliocw-soc, an additional activity of Margriet (who is presently in charge of all Romance languages), together with colleague Marta Adsarias Rivero.

My newly appointed colleague for French and Spanish, Yasmina el Haddad, and myself will be henceforth working together (also) on the blog.

Photo of Rome comes from the UvA-website for Italian studies.

Abbreviations, the revenge: Nepal, Shakespeare and online sharing

4 Sep

sherpa_little_girl_bA while ago, posting on Sakai and the UvA in the context of research data management (RDM) gave me the opportunity to discuss my unease with abbreviations.

A topic which is not only just as relevant as RDM in present-day academic life, but seems to be somehow affected by the same ‘abbreviation fever’ as well, is online sharing of scholarly publications, i.e.: what can scholars do online with their papers and articles?

The (excellent, to prevent any misunderstanding :-)) University of Notthingham’s SHERPA/RoMEO project helps answering the above question. Just go to the project website, search the journal title or ISSN where you have published, and get “a summary of permissions that are normally given as part of each publisher’s copyright transfer agreement”.
By the way: SHERPA stands for “Securing a Hybrid Environment for Research Preservation and Access”, and RoMEO for “Rights MEtadata for Open archiving”.

As for the illustrations: the “very happy little Sherpa girl” belongs to a webpage by Pete Poston at Western Oregon University, while Shakespeare’s title page comes from EEBO Early English Books Online, a database containing “digital facsimile page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473-1700”.

UvA’s Spanish “competitor”

7 Aug

Short “back-to-work” post, with the University of Valladolid’s acronym, which I came across while on holiday in Spain.UVa

Summer break (and readings)

10 Jul

On the eve of my summer leave, here follows two quotes (relevant for topics I addressed earlier on this blog) from books that might be worth taking in your luggage.

Milan Kundera, The book of laughter and forgetting
«The bloody massacre in Bangladesh quickly covered over the memory of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, the assassination of Allende drowned out the groans of Bangladesh, the war in the Sinai Desert made people forget Allende, the Cambodian massacre made people forget Sinai and so on and so forth until ultimately everyone lets everything be forgotten. In times when history still moved slowly, events were few and far between and easily committed to memory. They formed a commonly accepted backdrop for thrilling scenes of adventure in private life. Nowadays, history moves at a brisk clip. A historical event, though soon forgotten, sparkles the morning after with the dew of novelty. No longer a backdrop, it is now the adventure itself, an adventure enacted before the backdrop of the commonly accepted banality of private life». (pp. 7-8 of Penguin’s 1983 edition).

Communication overkill in the mass media: does this necessarily reduce news to a product, ever changing in order to provide the thrill of adventure to the ‘banality of private life’? Or can there still be – nowadays even more than at the time (1979) of Kundera’s book – mass media as a source of information to build knowledge from? Are periodicals such as Le Monde Diplomatique and Die Zeit examples of informative mass media?

newsPhoto from the News & events page of King’s College, London.

Marc Bloch, The historian’s craft
«What is it, exactly, that constitutes the legitimacy of an intellectual endeavor? No one today, I believe, would dare to say, with the orthodox positivists, that the value of a line of research is to be measured by its ability to promote action. Experience has surely taught us that it is impossible to decide in advance whether even the most abstract speculations may not eventually prove extraordinarily helpful in practice. It would inflict a strange mutilation upon humanity to deny it a right to appease its intellectual appetites apart from all consideration of its material welfare. Even were history obliged to be eternally indifferent to homo faber or to homo politicus, it would be sufficiently justified by its necessity for the full flowering of homo sapiens». (pp. 9-10 of Manchester University Press’ 1954 edition)

marc blochAs far as higher education and democracy are concerned, I think that few people better than French historian Marc Bloch embody the idea of critical thinking as essential to political freedom (and courage) and a healthy democracy. In case you don’t know: despite age and his position at the Sorbonne, Bloch not only volunteered for the French army at the outbreak of World War II, but also joined the Resistance in 1942. He was arrested, tortured and killed by the Nazis in 1944. Bloch was also a Jew «if not by religion, which I do not practise, no more than any other, at least by birth. […] I never claim my origins, with one exception: when facing an anti-Semite» (English translation – from Bloch’s L’Étrange défaite. Témoignage écrit en 1940 – is mine; original French text available online at the website of the Université du Québec à Quicoutimi).

Marc Bloch’s photo from the website of the Association Marc Bloch.