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Flying Information

/By Barry Silverberg

Depressed by footage of mass disaster --both abroad and at home? Come take a break and listen to what's going on in the wild world of libraries:

There was a time in this fair land when all a librarian had to do was collect fines, make shushing noises and keep that copy of "My Secret Life" out of the kiddies' section. As soon as that was taken care of, she could spend the rest of the day polishing her glasses and working on her librarian look. But that is no longer the case. Somewhere in the last 20 years since I moved to Kiriat Shmona*, something awfully important must of happened in the library business.

(*Kiriat Shmona doesn't really have a library, so I couldn't see the change taking place. Drive up the hill to our house and you will see a very nice building that says Edlestien Library, but it was taken over by city hall many hears ago after the old city hall had its priorities rearranged to rubble by a Hizbolla efficiency engineer. As for the meager array of books that the library used to possess, they were distributed to local residents who were stuck in inadequate shelters with non existent plumbing, quaking and more -- in their shoes during Operation Wipe-up the Galilee.)

But in the rest of the civilized world, today's libraries are no longer to be called libraries, rather, they are to be called Native Canadians. No, that can't be right. Those are Indians. Libraries are to be called Information Storage and Retrieval Centers. And as for our classic librarian, her pert behind is now sitting on today's most valuable resource: Information with a Capital I. And she is no longer a 'librarian.' I know all this because I had lunch with an old friend who once a Chief Librarian but is now a Professor of Information Science, if you please. Information Science? you ask. As in D = MC2, where M is the mass of the book, C is the number of calls to your house and D is the amount of dues you owe? Sounds more like Information Science Fiction! In Hebrew it's even sillier: For the field is now called 'May-d'annoot,' Making her a 'May-danneet' And if I crack any jokes about using her to keep my water bottle cold she's liable to throw a book at mein the form of 500 volumes condensed into one hard disk . Bloody hard!


My Information Informant tells me that Google, the little search engine that could, is about to put 35 million books into electronic form and make them available to every girl or boy, not that any girl or boy is ever going to look up from the ICQ or 'Race to Oblivion' to actually notice them. Besides, where is Google going to find thirty five million books? There ain't that many books!. Unless they mean to scan ten thousand copies of the same book. What would be the point? To get into the Guinness? They'd do better by trying to break the record for kissing a luxury car (see Maariv, Jan 4! Someone really did this, and if the idea appeals to you, please note: the current record is only 54 hours so pucker up.), or for kissing a luxury person of the opposite sex . Even a librarian. All that shushing they do is really to get their lips ready for the kissing contest at the Information Scientists Ball. ( the record so far is 65 hours, 4 minutes, 12 seconds, .004 bananoseconds. And 81 sloppiseconds.)


My inside Library person says that I'm a sexist relic of primeval times and besides, 35 million volumes is nothing. In fact, where she works, in the Information-Regurgitation Centre of the Jewish National Funn, they are at work on a similar project, but for antique Jewish books. Apparently, she tells me, over a fast librarian-type snack of matbuha on Lachmit crackers, there exist tens of thousands of ancient tomes of historical pricelessness that can't even be read because as soon as you hold them up to the light, the acid from your fingers eats right through the vellum. I didn't even know my fingers had any acid. No wonder I sucked my thumb until my Bar Mizva. What's actually in these books that is so important I have no idea. For all I know, it's full of early editions of "My Secret Life" in in Proto-Indoyiddish or Aramaic (Chapter 748: Rambam Thankyou Ma'am). Whatever the case, somebody is obviously putting up the money to get them scanned. Maybe she needs the attic space for her old socks.

So what they're doing is building these special sterile rooms, see; And from the ceiling they suspend huge optical scanners, (this is birtseenootly true) and beneath the scanners, teams of Meidaniot, Information-Handling Operators wearing sterilized mechanical gloves turn the pages one at a time, as the ceiling cameras beam up all the information. The drawback is that is this is all done painfully slowly. If they work page by page, sage by sage at this rate, maybe they can complete the Ramban and Rashi by 2525, and not even begin to scratch the Rashbum, The Richrach, the Rif, the Rav and the Riffrav.

We need a much faster way to do things. Now I've come up with this great scheme that is sure to net me a fortune: I call it 'Mass Reproduction:' Here's how we do it: We have a whole lot of people with these cars where the roof window rolls open? We have to get them really scrubbed down, and we load one of these books into each one. The technician in each car jacks up the volume to be processed up against the glass, and then we drive the whole convoy up and down Kvish Shesh!

Now, that's what I call an Information Highway.


Barry Silverberg, Kiriat Shmona, January 6, Claire's Birthday, 2005