Letters

It's not dark metaphysical or ideological forces that drive Nicholson Baker and other library activists. They are working in the San Francisco tradition of resisting the kind of pseudo-progress that would have ripped out the cable cars, crisscrossed the city with even more freeways, destroyed more neighborhoods, and intensified the Manhattanization of downtown.

Do the experts and bureaucrats feel thwarted in their efforts to turn the library into an information mall of pay-per-use services? Are they bothered that someone has noticed that a great many books are missing and that the on-line catalog is a work of fiction? Are they upset that patrons complain that library workers have been replaced by corporate logos? Perhaps they are witnessing the beginnings of an information freeway revolt.

Many are discovering that "the information revolution" means the destruction of "the information commons" to the advantage of the fast-buck artists of computer manufacturers, conglomerate publishers, and communications companies. They are also finding out that "computer literacy" means training to become information burger-flippers at jobs that are no more "creative" than watching TV or ringing up sales at a cash register.

Library activists have made significant gains in recent months. The SFPL administration and the Library Commission find themselves in the unfamiliar and uncomfortable position of being watched by an informed public, which is, after all, what democracy is all about.

James Brook
Noe Valley

The Un-Catalog
Great article by Gordon Young on San Francisco's World War 3 x 5! If library chief Ken Dowlin is as much of a technocrat as he sounds, he should take a look at the elegant golden oak card catalog which presides over San Francisco Zen Center Library's extensive collection of Buddhist books.

Librarian priest Celeste West has this baby wired with microchip memory, while maintaining the esthetics of wood and brass, as well as all the tactile, slightly fuzz-edged 3 x 5 cards of record. Leave it to the Buddhists to buck dualism!

The day I first saw Zen Center's card catalog, one drawer held a small crock of red chrysanthemums for a Zen Center priest in memento mori. I noticed several drawers had free seed packets interfiled with the cards plus a harmonica in the "H" drawer and other "artifacts" readers had left over the years.

Maybe our public library could hire an out-of-work artist or Zenoid to reify our card catalog as an "art installation," and end up pleasing both sides. Only in San Francisco!

Rosa Mendoza
Mission

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