Brian Michael Murphy. We the Dead: Preserving Data at the End of the World. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2022. 316 p. Hardcover $32.95 (ISBN: 9781469668284); ebook $23.99 (ISBN: 9781469668307). LCCN: 2021-058924.

Jeffrey Garrett


Librarians tend to look askance at commentators on their work and profession from outside the guild. Henry Petroski, an engineer, wrote Book on the Bookshelf (1999), looking at the practical construction principles of bookshelves through history, and was never taken seriously by librarians—perhaps also in light of his (joking?) recommendations to arrange books on bookshelves by the author’s first name, or by the first letter of the second-to-last word of the title. Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose (1981) was nothing if not a roman à clef about the perfidy of librarians hoarding secrets—which of course we know we never do. A final example, the pharaonic undertaking by two other outsiders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, to create a universal digital library, was, as Deanna Marcum and Roger C. Schonfeld argue in Along Came Google: A History of Library Digitization, brought down largely through the opposition of major library organizations, ALA, ARL, and ACRL.

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