Libraries and the Assault on Paper
The fascinating and alarming truth behind the destruction of our written heritage
Since the 1950s, some of the world's greatest libraries have, as a matter of common practice, dismantled their collections of original bound newspapers and books, replacing them with microfilmed copies. The originals, often irreplaceable, are cut up to be sold as birthday gifts, or are pulped. In this passionately argued book, the acclaimed author Nicholson Baker reveals the real motives behind the dismantling of our recorded heritage. The libraries argue that paper is too fragile to be stored in their archives, and point to the so-called brittle paper crisis; Baker shows us that paper can be stored for years without deterioration, and that libraries are under budgetary pressure to save space. The players include the British Library, the Library of Congress, the CIA, NASA, microfilm lobbyists, newspaper dealers and a colourful array of librarians and digital futurists, as well as Baker himself - who eventually discovers that the only way to save one important newspaper archive being disposed of by the British Library is to buy it.
“'One can only gasp in outraged disbelief as he describes the men and women who, while supposedly serving as responsible custodians of our history, have chosen instead to decimate it. Startling'”
“The Erin Brockovich of the library world-A blistering and thoroughly idiosyncratic expos- of how libraries are destroying our historical records in order to "save" them-An incantation to bring back the dead”
New York Times Book Review