In Praise of Browsability and Serendipity

The University of Chicago is about to open their newest library, [the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library][mansueto], which stores all of its items in a fully-automated underground vault. Library users can request a book online and the system will automatically fetch the appropriate container, from which library staff can retrieve it.


It’s all very cool, but I find myself wondering about the implications of a library where users can’t browse the collection. At [my own library][Woodson], we have a [research collection][Harsh] whose stacks are closed to the public. While this means that material can be preserved – there are some extremely rare, valuable and fragile works in the collection – the opportunity cost of such a setup means that patrons can’t browse the collection and discover things they didn’t know they wanted.

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Dump the WWW!

Here we are, in 2010, and I’m still seeing ads and other links to websites that include the “www.” at the start of the web address. Now, thankfully, most people have gotten the message already that there’s no need for the “http://” in front of a URL, but I am still baffled as to why we’re still hanging on to the “www.” part, which is about as useful to a web site as the appendix is to the human body.

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