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Double Fold

by Nicholson Baker

Book list Is it the librarian's job to preserve books as intrinsically valuable objects in themselves, or is it more important for a librarian to create and preserve access to the information contained within those books' texts? How one answers that question will in large part predict that reader's reaction to Baker's provocative volume outlining libraries' recent attempts to control the ever-increasing amount of paper in their collections. Baker focuses on libraries' conversion of newspaper collections from their bulky original formats to technologically efficient microform. Baker sides with those who believe that the medium is just as important as the message, and he takes library managers to task for exaggerating the destruction wrought by acid paper in their rush to embrace microforms' putative space-saving and reproduction advantages. Along the way he reveals startling, suspect links between leading twentieth-century librarians and the Central Intelligence Agency. Baker's retelling of the Library of Congress' sorry mass-deacidification program makes readers wonder if a library-industrial complex exists paralleling the military version. Over the course of his library investigations, Baker evolved from dispassionate reporter to vocal advocate for preservation of newspapers, culminating in his establishment of his own corporation to buy and preserve libraries' discarded newspaper folios. Librarians and their public supporters will find Baker's controversial allegations disturbing and not glibly answered. --Mark Knoblauch

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal Pulling no punches, novelist Baker (Vox) is a romantic, passionate troublemaker who questions the smug assumptions of library professionals and weeps at the potential loss of an extensive, pristine run of Joseph Pulitzer's New York World. For him, the wholesale destruction of books and newspapers to the twin gods of microfilming and digitization is an issue of administrators seeking storage space not of preserving a heritage. He contends that the alarmist slogans "brittle books" and "slow fires" are intended to obscure the reality and the destruction. Throughout his book, Baker hammers away at the Orwellian notion that we must destroy books and newspapers in order, supposedly, to save them. Particularly singled out for opprobrium are University Microfilms Inc. and the Library of Congress. This extremely well-written book is not a paranoid rant. Just this past October, Werner Gundersheimer, director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, said at LC's "Preserve and Protect" symposium that, amid all the smoke and fury, Baker was essentially pleading for "a last copy effort of some kind." Double Fold is the narrative of a heroic struggle: Picture Baker as "Offisa Pup" defending "Krazy Kat," of the printed word, against the villainous "Ignatz Mouse" of the library establishment all in glorious, vivid color on brittle (but unbowed) newsprint. Highly recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/00.] Barry Chad, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly All writers of course love the printed word, but few are those willing to start foundations in order to preserve it. Not only has noted novelist Baker (The Mezzanine; Vox; etc.) done so, he's also written a startling expos of an ugly conspiracy perpetuated by the very people entrusted to preserve our history librarians. Baker started the American Newspaper Repository in 1999, when he discovered that the only existing copies of several major U.S. newspapers were going to be auctioned off by the British Library. Not only were U.S. libraries not interested, it turned out that they'd tossed their own copies years before. Why? Baker uncovered an Orwellian universe in our midst in which preservation equals destruction, and millions of tax dollars have funded and continue to fund the destruction of irreplaceable books, newspapers and other print media. The instruments of that destruction microfilm, microfiche, image readers and toxic chemicals are less to blame than the cadre of former CIA and military operatives at the Library of Congress in the 1950s who refused to acknowledge that those technologies were, in fact, inferior to preserving and storing the originals. They were more concerned with ways to (in the words of one) "extract profit and usefulness from" old books while at the same time "prevent [them] from clogging the channels of the present." Baker details these events in one horrifying chapter after another, and he doesn't mince words. One can only gasp in outraged disbelief as he describes the men and women who, while supposedly serving as responsible custodians of our history, have chosen instead to decimate it. (on-sale Apr. 10) Forecast: The genesis of this book, an article in the New Yorker, generated quite a fuss, and this book is bound to receive attention in the print media. The subject and the passion with which the case is made guarantee healthy sales. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Baker keeps going after libraries, this time for microfilming old newspapers and brittle books. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.