Friday, 27 December 2013

Les Murray and 'The Privacy of Typewriters'

Philip Harvey
Les Murray is not a Luddite. He drives a tractor, watches television, and relies on Rolls-Royce engines to take him in jets to conferences in antique lands. From time to time he writes wistfully of outmoded technology or design, a riding implication being his hostility toward the things that have replaced them. I think here especially of his poem about library card catalogues and the cabinets that carry them. When he visited the Carmelite Library earlier this year, Les made several unequivocal statements about computers that some would construe as harsh. A recent example of this kind of Murray poem was sent to me via email, after the sender cut-and-pasted it from a poetry website in the United States. It has been published in paper print, but in a journal (‘Little Star’) that is also a weekly mobile mini-magazine with app, only lending to the irony of the poem’s own existence on your screen:

The Privacy of Typewriters

I am an old book troglodyte
one who composes on paper
and types up the result
as many times as need be.
The computer scares me,
its crashes and codes,
its links with spies and gunshot,
its text that looks pre-published
and perhaps has been.
I don’t know who is reading
what I write on a carriage
that doesn’t move or ding.
I trust the spoor of botch,
whiteouts where thought deepened,
wise freedom from Spell Check,
sheets to sell the National Library.
I fear the lore
of that baleful misstruck key
that fills a whiskered screen
with a writhe of child pornography
and the doors smashing in
and the cops handcuffing me
to a gristlier video culture
coralline in an ever colder sea. 
Les Murray knows that poetry is means to escaping the traps of life, of saying words to free us from the bindedness of the world. Yet in that process, poetry often succeeds just precisely in admitting that we are trapped. The poem is expression of the need for freedom, while being an admission that we are bound by dilemma. It’s a bind, wherein the poem still must be written.

Les Murray articulates the state of mind of many modern readers. He is always good at exploiting binary opposites in his writing and here he presents graphically the distinctions between print and digital, typewriter and computer console, book and e-carrier. Though tongue-in-cheek, Murray nevertheless touches on certain aspects of modern media delivery that are cause for concern and not just the paranoid complaints of conservatives: the worrying awareness that anything we do online could be being tracked and recorded; the sense of the text on a computer as just endless words without a human creator; the fear that our society is captive to a media entertainment nightmare. Murray’s belief in writing comes from a lifetime of intrinsic acceptance of the rightful connection between the poet's written (or typed) page and the printed page.   


‘The Privacy of Typewriters’ first appeared in Little Star #5, 2014

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Kim Robinson, Senior Librarian

Thirty years ago the first meetings of theological librarians were held to plan for a professional collective that soon became known as the Australian and New Zealand Theological Library Association. As was only right, one of the people involved in the early planning was the Librarian of Moore College Library in Sydney, Kim Robinson. Kim had been working at Moore since 1974 and became the College librarian in 1975. This meant running both the Library and the College’s remarkable archive of historical documents.

To meet Kim means you meet one of his owls, whether as a brooch, pendant, lapel clip, tee-shirt stud, or other attachment. I defy anyone to say they have seen Kim without an owl. Who knows how this owl thing started, but it extended to the Moore College Library, where rows of every kind lined windows and desks, a veritable Parliament of Owls. Entry to the Library was a friendly experience as you were met by dozens of pairs of eyes gazing at you wisely. Colleagues have always known which gift to get for Kim. The only time this benevolence came under threat was when a Malaysian student at Moore complained that such birds should not be kept in a study space; as he explained, in his country owls are bad luck. The owls stayed.

Kim has been engaged in many of the roles of an ANZTLA member. He was the first ANZTLA Newsletter editor. He has been both an indexer and editor of the Australasian Religion Index. He has been Treasurer, but most significantly President of ANZTLA from 1997 to 2001. After the death of the first President, Trevor Zweck, in September of 1996, Wendy Davis enjoyed a brief moment of glory as President before passing the decision on to the vote of the members at the 1997 AGM in Brisbane. Kim came to the position at a time of incipient change in library practice, when technology was taking increasing hold of daily life in the workplace. Kim saw it as necessary to keep focus on the core purpose of ANZTLA as an Association of dedicated libraries and librarians, able to achieve a lot given the limitations of size and resources.

Kim has always been a familiar figure at ANZTLA conferences and we hope that will continue. As well as offering papers Kim has given of his knowledge and experience, both inside and outside the seminar room. This dedication to good works has not precluded him sitting during conference dinners at the ‘naughty’ table and it was no doubt as a result of mingling freely in such a milieu that he suffered the wine stain incident referred to earlier by Helen Greenwood, and I quote: “I have the distinction of personally baptising his presidential personage with red wine at a memorable Brisbane conference dinner.” The garment in question was a magnificently laundered white Indian shirt, the wine a very fine Hunter River vintage selected for the occasion by Carolyn Willadsen’s husband. It was perhaps as a result of this incident that Kim kept a watchful eye on carousers at subsequent conference dinners.

Curiously, Kim’s attendance at conferences seemed always to coincide with some stunning new opera production or theatre milestone in the same city, at the same time. How Kim managed to align all of these cultural events together, like some line-up of the planets, was a source of wonder to those of us who just happened to be around at the same time.

Kim’s vast knowledge of theology and related disciplines was used to good effect at Moore College when he took on the role of Senior Librarian Acquisitions. This would have given him much satisfaction in later years. Kim Robinson will retire from work at Moore College on December 31st, 2013.  His substantial contribution to ANZTLA was recognised in 2005 when he was made a Life Member of the Association.

Thank you Kim for blessing us with your presence and your thoughts. Thank you for collegiality, thoughtfulness, leadership, and good company.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Koalas, Parrots, Snakes and other Library Visitors

Stephen Morton of Christian Heritage College in Carindale, Queensland posted the following message on the list of the Australian and New Zealand Theological Library Association:

Hi Everyone

Perhaps this email can start a round of shared experiences of unexpected “guests” in the Library.

Today I had to have evicted, a “bookworm” who didn’t want to leave, and whom should never have been in the Library in the first place. Now, I know we are a higher education institution, even offering teaching awards, but I think actually living in the stacks among the 370s (Education) is really going too far. No, it wasn’t a student, it was a 4 foot long Green Tree Snake (see attached photos) that had decided that this was a good place to set up home. Our resident snake catcher did the deed and moved him on after a short tussle in which numerous books were used as defensive barriers by the snake.

Other “critter” tales from my Library lifetime include…
·       possums giving birth on the window sill outside my office, two years in a row
·       8-10 foot pythons knocking on the window with their nose, right in front of several very startled students
·       a koala in the tree at the front door
·       a 3 foot water dragon who decided life in the Library was too good to miss out on, and,
·       the usual assortment of spiders ranging from masses of tiny baby Huntsmen, to Red Backs, to one of the largest Huntsmen I have ever seen (spread him out and he would his legs would have extended off the edge of a dinner plate)

Rosemary Hocking, of Adelaide Theological Library in South Australia, responded:

All our visitors to date have been mostly outside, thankfully, and nothing as startling as you have in your more tropical climate!

A short list includes:

·       A small gecko – well past its due date when we found it on one of the bookshelves, and virtually mummified
·       A pair of Adelaide Plains rosella parrots who can be seen playing and swinging on the loudspeaker cord outside our workroom window
·       Various birds who try to fly into the library through our reflective-coated windows – fortunately, they are mostly only stunned, and after a brief recovery period on the awning over the ground floor under our windows, they fly off safely, if a bit groggily
·       Breeding pairs of swifts who nest under the stairs at each end of our building, then they like flying upstairs and zooming up and down the long corridor. Luckily the floor is concrete and washable, and they eventually find their way out again – but we do have a couple of people who are bird-phobic, and it’s very upsetting for them. And this year, one of the pairs managed to hatch a brood of four which they brought upstairs to visit. But the young ones had not quite developed their echo-sounding, so kept flying straight into the windows; luckily they were fairly easy to capture and take back outside.
·       And assorted other parrots and larger birds occasionally find their way upstairs – and they need a lot more help in finding the way out.

And this was my response on behalf of the Carmelite Library:

Birds, always small flighty birds, enter via the side doors in summer. It’s cool inside. They sit on the light fittings where they enjoy a magnificent view of the whole collection. Unlike Stephen Morton, I cannot supply photographs as I am too busy fetching bowls of water to lure the in-house bird toward the door and out-house. Broom handles, forget it. Speak nicely, fascinating but irrelevant. Patience alone will move the bird back toward its usual flight path.

Cats have a way of acquiring humans, rather than the other way around, as we assume in our superior way. A cat will walk into the library every so often, inspect various corners, march past reference, and find a comfy position in the sun. They are local cats. As a cat person myself this means certain rules are relaxed. It will be five-to-five before the cat is fetched and placed on the front step of the building, ready for its next adventure.  

Dogs amble in, very rarely. Then amble out. One visitor has a lapdog who gains plenty of affectionate attention. Dog owners have to be prepared for Susan Southall, Library Assistant, who takes photographs of dogs and posts them on her Facebook column.

Silverfish enter via the ‘trojan horse’ known as a box of donations. Crush them on sight. Alternatively, squash, if that does the job. Or wack. Penguin paperbacks are very effective, if one is close to hand. Things have never got out of control with silverfish, but if they did we would need to let off a pesticide bomb in a controlled environment.

Unicorns. As medieval specialists we are always ready for the unexpected.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

How do we name Hagia Sophia?

Today on Atlantis, the list of the American Theological Library Association, John Thompson of Pennsylvania posted this cataloguing conundrum. My reply to John on Atlantis follows his well-worded presentation.

Hi, everyone. I have a question about the authority record for Hagia Sophia Church. I sent this query to the ATLA Tech discussion list and didn’t hear a response, so I’m sending it to all of you.

I have just been cataloging the book OCLC bib 780398207, "Tasting Heaven on Earth: Worship in Sixth Century Constantinople." After adding the authorized form of the church, Ayasofya Müzesi, to the record, I discovered that that the “see from” references aren’t adequate.  I have submitted an error report through OCLC Connexion, but am interested to see if anyone else on this list has any input on this. I have pasted below the message I sent along with the error report that I sent to OCLC. I have not heard any response.

Anyone have any thoughts about this?

John Thompson
Waynesburg University
Waynesburg, PA 15370


This authority record [for Ayasofya Müzesi]  apparently applies to the ancient church "Hagia Sophia" which was converted into a mosque after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. If you examine this record, however, only one of the "see from" references refers to the church, and it is in Italian (Chiesa di S. Sofia a Costantinopoli).

As is evident in the 670 fields, however, there are an number of works that are about the pre-1453 church only. One recent example is OCLC bib 780398207, "Tasting heaven on Earth: Worship in Sixth Century Constantinople."

The best way to deal with this would be to have a separate authority record for the church. Although the church and mosque (and now the museum) occupied the same building, they are, it could be argued, completely different identities.

If this is not possible, it seems ESSENTIAL to provide 410 references from some corresponding "church" entities. Here is what I would recommend.

Saint Sophia (Church : Istanbul, Turkey)
Hagia Sophia (Church : Istanbul, Turkey)
Hagia Sofia (Church : Istanbul, Turkey)
and so forth.

This is very important because if a library user enters a search here that includes the word "church" (and the building is much better known as a church than it is as a mosque) the search might come up with no results, depending on the automated system.  

Here is the data as it stands in the authority record, with subfield codes removed for the purpose of clarity.

Authorized form of name
110 2   Ayasofya Müzesi

“See from” references
410 2   Haghia-Sophia (Mosque : Istanbul, Turkey)
410 1   Istanbul.  Ayasofya Müzesi
410 2   Hagia Sophia (Mosque : Istanbul, Turkey)
410 2   Museum of St. Sophia
410 2   Saint Sophia (Mosque : Istanbul, Turkey)
410 2   St. Sophia (Mosque : Istanbul, Turkey)
410 1   Turkey.  Maarif Vekâleti.   Ayasofya Müzesi
410 2   Chiesa di S. Sofia a Costantinopoli
410 2   Ayasofya (Museum)
410 2   S. Sofia (Mosque : Istanbul, Turkey)
410 2   Santa Sofia (Mosque : Istanbul, Turkey)
410 2   Sainte Sophie (Mosque : Istanbul, Turkey)

Books used in establishment of authorized form.
670     Eyice, S. Ayasofya, 1984.
670     Michelēs, P.A. L'esthétique d'Haghia-Sophia, 1963.
670     Antōniadēs, M.A. Ekphrasis tēs Hagias Sophias, 1983: v. 1, added t.p. (Sainte Sophie de Constantinople)
670     Bonfiglioli, G. S. Sofia di Costantinopoli, 1974.

And here is my response on Atlantis:

Well we all know what happened in 1453. Some of us also know what happened in 1935, when the Turkish government converted the mosque of Holy Wisdom (Ayasofya) into a museum: Ayasofya Müzesi. LC is bound by convention to apply the current name of the building as an authority.

That said, I agree with John Thompson. The references are, to all effects and purposes, non-existent. Arguments for having church references include these:
1.     The literature treating Holy Wisdom as a church is massive, indeed the whole of church history talks and thinks of the place as a church, whether before or after the Fall of Constantinople.
2.     Architecturally, Holy Wisdom was built as a church and its influence on church architecture (not to mention mosque architecture) to this day is extensive.
3.     Its place in the collective imagination of Christianity is beyond measure. It is impossible, in Christian terms, to separate the surviving building with the fact that it was built as a church and to see it, in eternity, as a church.
As said earlier, LC is time-bound. It is locked into its own principles, which is why John Thompson’s recommendations

Saint Sophia (Church : Istanbul, Turkey)
Hagia Sophia (Church : Istanbul, Turkey)
Hagia Sofia (Church : Istanbul, Turkey)
and so forth.

while excellent, will come up against the in-house practices that are wary of precedent-setting. That said, there is every reason to have his recommendations used as references. I personally agree that it should have separate church name authorities, in fact it’s long overdue given the books even in our Library on this subject.

Before proceeding though, we need to confirm too if Holy Wisdom was a cathedral. Certainly it was a church, but am I right in saying it was also the seat, literally the cathedra, of the Patriarch of Constantinople? An historian may be able to untangle the Byzantine net on this question. Anyone with an appreciation of where the Bishop of Rome actually sits, and sat, will see why I raise this question. Is it ‘Saint Sophia (Church : Istanbul, Turkey)’ or ‘Saint Sophia (Cathedral : Istanbul, Turkey)’?

Postscript: My favourite reductio ad absurdum with LC is a heading for a book on relations between the Russians and the Rome of the East in the Middle Ages. Because the book was published before 1991, and because of the rule that we use the current name of a country, the heading went: ‘Soviet Union – Relations – Byzantine Empire’.