The joys of the digital deluge

I read this interesting snippet in my April issue of Literary Review today, it’s extracted from John Sutherland’s review of Dear Mark Twain: Letters from His Readers, ed R Kent Rasmussen, University of California Press:

“… the internet is revolutionising historical research methods, and this volume is a testament to the possibilities.

Among the online resources Rasmussen used were, the digitised American census records, the Library of Congress’s digitised local newspaper archive,, Google Books and Rasmussen’s explanation of his working methods should be pondered by all scholars active in literary-historical research. A new era is dawning. New tools are in one’s hands”

Conversely I was, today also, shown the ‘library’ of the newest educational establishment to pop up in Milton Keynes. It comprised a half-dozen, half-filled dexion shelves. ‘Of course, most of the materials are in e-books,’ I was told. I’m sure that’s so – but …

Actually, I can’t think of a ‘but’ that would satisfy that brand new institution. All I know is, I’m very happy to have extra tools at my disposal and the power of electronic searching is wonderful. But I wouldn’t want to let go of my own library. And I’d hate to think of all university libraries wafting away into the ether.


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