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The Book: Endangered Species?

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A list of cultural historian Robert Darnton's publications and accomplishments would alone fill this space. So, let's simply state that Darnton is currently a professor and head librarian at Harvard and, as such, oversees the university's dozens of libraries. He's also been instrumental in establishing the Digital Public Library of America, an online, open-access resource drawn from libraries across the country. Its digitized books and visual materials, free to readers everywhere, launched in April.

Who better, then, to discuss the role of libraries today and the future of the book? Darnton will be doing just that on Thursday, October 10th, at the University of Memphis in a lecture titled "Digitize and Democratize: Libraries, Books, and the Digital Future," a free event organized by the Marcus W. Orr Center for the Humanities at the U of M in partnership with Rhodes College.

And Rhodes is where Darnton will be the following morning, at another event that's free and open to the public. That's when Darnton will serve as respondent to papers delivered by Lucas Erne of the University of Geneva (Switzerland) and Michael Witmore, director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. The symposium's focus may be Shakespeare, but the broader topic will be the Bard in light of the past and future of the book.

What of that future? According to Darnton, reports of the death of the printed book have been greatly exaggerated. As he said in a recent interview with the Flyer, "We all know the future is going to be overwhelmingly digital. But meanwhile, analog printing is still going strong. ... So it's not that books are extinct. The issue facing us today is one of access: How in this mixed world of digital and printed media are we going to promote the public welfare ... the right of the public to access information?"

Robert Darnton lecture: University Center Theatre, University of Memphis, Thursday, October 10th, 6 p.m.; Shakespeare Symposium: Blount Auditorium, Buckman Hall, Rhodes College, Friday, October 11th, 9 a.m.-noon.

For more information, go to memphis.edu/moch/events and rhodes.edu/book.

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