Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Tennis in the Fridgid Morning Air and Libraries - On Line

· It is good to be healthy again, recovered from a flu that began the day after Thanksgiving, continued through a near-voiceless week and then through subsequent days of coughing and sinus – this seemed to pretty much the way it was for a lot of the campus, with end-of-semester sleep deprivation creating an environment like a petri-dish culture for flu germs.
· I celebrated by renewing a tennis competition of nearly 20 years with a close colleague – in other words we began before many of my Anderson Hall neighbors were born (have I written about this before). So long as the courts are not snow covered (then we move indoors) we play; heat or cold; rain or shine. We are exactly even and have remained so over the years. In fact, it seems to both of us that our respective games are getting better, however perhaps they are only deteriorating at roughly the same rate ( think I have written about this, before).
· Tennis has been a sport in my family ever since I was a small child. My father was a nationally ranked player and a natural athlete in virtually any sport he attempted – and he loved, and still loves to win. Like many ‘naturals,’ however, he was not a particularly good teacher. Sports were so easy for him, it was hard for him to understand why ordinary folk like me could not “get it” at once.
· I lost this morning – 8-6, and then, with complete loss of concentration, 3-0, before we had to return to the more mundane tasks of the University.
· I even rode my bike to AU’s computer center on Wisconsin Avenue, this afternoon – and didn’t fall.

Libraries on – line
If you listened to public radio this morning or read the paper, you learned that Google will be putting the entire collection of the University of Michigan’s great library on line. The implications will be profound and it will be interested to see how they play out at AU if they do. Libraries (and librarians) have a distinct, resilient culture, with traditions harking the great classical library of Alexandria and the Great Medieval Libraries of Paris, Cambridge and Oxford. Often it is a culture that seems resistant to change. To some degree I can understand this because I love the look feel and odor of books.

At Dartmouth College, where I was an undergraduate, I wrote my thesis in Medieval History, focusing on the rise of central government institutions in 12th and 13th century France. I relished the experience of going to the stacks, withdrawing musty books written in Latin and pre-renaissance French, blowing the dust of the pages, and reading on the charge card that they had last been withdrawn in 1928 (probably by my thesis advisor). This is not an experience that many students – even then – found arousing, or would today. I wonder if Google will be scanning tomes like Le Rois Thaumatage, Manuel de Institutions Francais, or the collected Documents Inedees sur L’Histoire de France. As I was bringing the project to completion, stumbling to bed with stacks of these books and similar ones on my desk, I would dream in French, which was not very restful.

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