Roundtable

The Rest Is History

Overworked librarians, bog bodies, and the impossibility of making a dictionary.

By Jaime Fuller

Friday, August 10, 2018

Librarians working with catalog cards, c. 1920. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

• Don’t go back in time and become a librarian: “In 1900, the Brooklyn Public Library Association proposed ‘to build a seaside rest home for those who had broken down in library service,’ McReynolds writes. One speaker at the American Library Association’s 1910 conference claimed he knew fifty librarians who had become incapacitated by the work, including some who died before their time.” (JSTOR Daily)

• How a botulism outbreak triggered the modern food safety system. (Smithsonian.com)

• Book reviews from Sing Sing inmates in 1911: “You’re a lobster if you don’t read this one.” (The New York Times)

• Spike Lee is “begging us to educate ourselves about our history.” (Time)

• On dictionaries and trying to understand English in all its contemporary complexity: “I’m not implying that Merriam-Webster has or should abandon the philosophy that guides its lexicography, but it seems that the way the company has regained its relevance in the post-print era is by having a strong opinions about how people should use English. It may be that in spite of Webster’s Third’s noble intentions, language may just be too human a thing to be treated in an entirely detached, scientific way.” (TheAtlantic.com)

• A sign serving as a memorial for Emmett Till has been vandalized for the third time. (Hyperallergic)

• Easter Island wants its statue back, British Museum. (The Telegraph)

• This week in obituaries: an incredibly influential chef, the man who found the “best preserved bog body in Britain,” a Tuskegee Airman, a gambler who solved roulette, and someone who survived through a “washing machine from hell.”