Onnie Middendorf

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Aaron Lansky has noble reasons for saving Yiddish literature, both real and virtual.  And, you've shared your opinions on how he might react to Jason Merkoski's digital revolution.  Yet Merkoski admits in his book that eventually there will be a disconnect in authentic reproduction between print books and their e-counterparts.  So, consider that if we recognize that there is a "world culture" of books and reading held in common, which would be just one element of our globalized existence, where, when, and how will this disconnection take place, according to Merkoski?  Education in Third World nations? The ability of libraries - both general public ones and university/scholarly libraries - throughout the world to provide legitimate texts?  Will all of this eventually lead to a misinformed understanding of culture and heritage?

Examine Merkoski carefully in this regard, providing supporting quotes from his book.  Additionally, explore one library in another part of the world (i.e., non-United States and Canada) and what it is doing to share its holdings, both traditionally and innovatively.  Please note that each of you must select a different library so you will have to read each other's posts to avoid duplication.  For your outside source, provide the full url or bibliographic citation.

The same guidelines apply as for the first Discussion Board topic.  Responses are due by 8:00 am, Tuesday, February 18. You will have five days to post your response, and these responses typically are two-three meaningful paragraphs in length.  Responses must not be simply an agreement with a previously-posted response, nor a general comment.  To earn the full ten points for each post, you must contribute a solid opinion that is backed by a quote and citation from a supporting source.

Onnie Middendorf

Professor Grace

Culture of Books and Reading

17 February 2014

The Loss of Cultural Transmission

I think that the “world culture” of books and reading is more than the content within them, but the stories behind the physical books. For example, families used to use their Bible to keep a record of the births in a family, making the book not only important religiously, but historically and personally as well. With physical books, a grandmother can pull out a grade school primer and tell her granddaughter how they used to sit under the monkey bars at recess sounding out the new words, or a dad could show his son where he had spilled grape juice and peanut butter on his favorite comic book. Each piece of reading carries a different meaning from person to person, and there is something special about someone sharing their book with you. “Be very careful with it, it was my mom’s,” or “I remember reading this book in high school, there was this girl in my class who was obsessed with Heathcliff” and then you proceed to discuss why it was abnormal that she could be attracted to such a terrible character. The disconnect will come not in how we read, but in the fact that we cannot pass on our ebooks. A person cannot hand down an ebook. He or she could try to hand down an ereader, but already it would be or soon become obsolete. This out of date nature is typical of technologies, and the need for a constant upgrade can make the readers feel less connected. Lansky speaks of how, when elderly Jewish people would give him their books, they “were enacting a ritual of cultural transmission” (45). They explained how the acquired the books, why they kept them, and what they hoped Lansky could accomplish by taking care of them. It was truly handing down culture from one generation to the other. Will this be possible with ebooks?

The library that I really took notice of is the Arid Lands Information Network, which is a library that connects communities in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. They use Maarifa centres, or knowledge centers, to meet the communities’ information needs, allowing the people to gain skills that are necessary to thrive in modern society. The ALIN strive to “improve the livelihoods of arid lands communities in East Africa through delivery of practical information using modern technologies” such as mobile phones, the internet, workshops, etc. I love that they are working to improve their communities by implementing knowledge in a practical way that allows them not only to achieve a “knowledge driven society,” but also improves upon their current way of life. This is a prime example of keeping up with the fast pace of change while still keeping a strong tether to the community and their way of life.


Lansky, Aaron. "A Ritual of Cultural Transmission." Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin of Chapel Hill, 2004. 45. Print.

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