What I’m reading this week

Book I am reading

Shockingly, not all the books I read relate directly to the topic of this blog or even tangentially inform my daily work in the archive. As the weather starts getting warmer and the cherry blossoms begin to bloom around the city, I am treating myself to some spring fiction (a bit heartier than beach books, but not nearly as heavy as winter ones. Don’t get me started on autumn reading!). So if you’re interested in the fantasy worlds that have consumed me, email me. Here, I’ll continue keeping a record of the archive-related material that comes across my desk.

Digital content I am reading

This article focuses on the way e-books impact “social reading” especially for those of us that use our local public library systems to read e-books. The authors remark,

Reading is both a solitary and a social activity. We read in solitude then come together to talk about what we’ve read. Our desire to talk about books is the same whether we read ebooks or print. The digitization of books did not change our desire to talk about books, but it has given us new possibilities for how we can share ideas and connect to one another.

As an archivist and public historian, I am constantly concerned with the “user;” that mythic and nebulous abstract that perches on my shoulder every day and asks, How will I read this material? How will I find it? images-1

Any good archivist worth her weight in manuscript materials will tell you that the user is one of the most important factors of her job. A figment of her imagination, at least in the beginning, yes. Still, ever important in the process of arranging, describing and promoting materials. This post urges me to think  a step beyond the user and consider the interaction of users, this kind of social activity that broadens the scope of use.

This article also adds something to the mix! For a helpful definition of social reading, check out this blog.

This blog post from the Society of American Archivists blog “Off the Record,” asks about establishing legal rights that would uphold “archival privilege.

I have heard some archivists argue that an ‘archival privilege’ of confidentiality exists, or should exist, to shield an archives from a hostile court’s order. They assert that, like spouses sharing the daily intimacy of life, a priest counseling a penitent, a psychiatrist caring for a patient, or a lawyer talking to a client, an archivist’s relationship to a donor is such that a legally sustainable sphere of privacy should extend to any material donated with donor-imposed restrictions on use.

For the most part, I completely agree with this statement. A case at Boston College over subpoenaed oral histories convinced me that archivists are the first, and sometimes, only line of defense of historical records. But, the other part of me, especially the part that comes to work at the federal government everyday, that thinks…nah, that kind of inner circle confidentiality is tempting but quite difficult to navigate in reality. The materials are for use by the people and if those people include other, more litigious members of the government, then we have to accept that. I wonder, in the end, if “archival privilege” is a limiting perspective, one that censors more than it helps.


This article is for fun! The New York Times covered a phenomenon of people posting videos detailing ways to behave in different situations: while at the gym or over dinner. This phenomenon also includes etiquette for the digital age: the code of manners one should follow while on Twitter or Instagram, for example. Of course, many people weighed in on text etiquette, which I can sum up on only a few words: Don’t be rude. Value present, human interaction. Don’t be rude!

I spend so much of my time pondering the endless possibilities of digital technology, tools, and environments, but not nearly enough time understanding the consequences of such a connected world. In fact, I am eating dinner with a friends as I type this!

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