Libraries Are Obsolete

Is the Motion of an Oxford-style debate at Harvard tomorrow. Harvard Libraries Strategic Conversations reports that…

On Wednesday, April 18, Harvard Library Strategic Conversations will sponsor an Oxford-style debate on the role of libraries. … Oxford Union debates are similar in format to the British House of Commons, and are known for combining a degree of wit and whimsy with serious argumentation.

In keeping with the Oxford Union format, the debate will revolve around a controversial and timely proposition:

MOTION: Libraries are Obsolete

Chairman: Professor Jonathan Zittrain, Professor at the Harvard Law School, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Professor Zittrain will become Harvard Law School’s Vice-Dean of Library and Information Resources in July 2012.

Speaking in favor of the proposition: Dr. James Tracy (Headmaster, Cushing Academy), and R. David Lankes (Professor and Dean’s Scholar for the New Librarianship, University of Syracuse iSchool and Director of the Information Institute of Syracuse).

Speaking in opposition: Susan Hildreth (Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services), and Professor John G. Palfrey (Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources, and the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law at Harvard Law School).

At the end of the debate, the audience will vote yea or nay on the motion, with the results announced over gin & tonics at a reception following the debate.

I emailed a co-organizer, Donna Viscuglia, to ask if the debate would be broadcast live in any form. Her reply was; “We are planning to record the entire event and will probably post a shorter, edited video on our website:

The outcome should be very interesting to say the least. But, my feeling is there is nothing in this topic that warrants wit or whimsy.

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