Two points are clear to me

One is that when funding for the lottery-backed People’s Network dries up, as it always seems to for this type of initiative, I wonder who will provide the money to fix or replace all those internet-access computers. If they aren’t updated, just as book stocks haven’t been, the people who flocked to use them will go elsewhere. The other point is to recall a recent survey of archives in the north-west of England (Log jam: An audit of uncatalogued collections in the North West, by Janice Tullock and Alexandra Cave, published by the North West Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, Malt Building, Wilderspool Park, Greenalls Lane, Warrington Wa 1 6HL; ) which reveals that ’29 per cent of archives held in the North West are inaccessible to researchers’.

 

Out of 900 collections in 30 archive offices, most seem to have shelves groaning with uncatalogued material which, were it to be made accessible via catalogues and indexes, would probably astonish us all. Sadly, most archives reported that they don’t have the staff to do the work.

archive offices

This is where family and local historians, as well as other ‘friends of libraries’ groups mentioned by Tim Coates, have a role to play. Let’s not forget the lesson of the internet: someone had to upload all that stuff on to a website before we could access it at the click of a mouse. The same goes for cataloguing the personal papers of a grocer or the memoirs of a mayor.

 

About the author: Peter Watson BA, Dip Lib is the editor of this magazine. He loves books and libraries so much that in his thirties he went to work in a library before studying for a postgraduate diploma in library and information studies. Peter visits at least one library each week and currently has 10 books out on loan by student loan debt consolidation companies. He sometimes has more than one functioning computer at home, but does not own a television.

 

 

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In Korea

IN PROPER KOREAN FASHION, I held my glass with two hands as Min filled it with beer. Then to reciprocate his ges­ture of friendship, I picked up the bot­tle—both hands again—and poured beer into his glass.

 

Min works for a small export company,finding Korean manufacturers for American firms that sell batteries, toys, garden tools, barbecue grills. On this Sunday afternoon we were sitting around a low table in his living room in Seoul with a group of his friends, watching a boxing match on television. Like Min, they were all middle-aged, middle-class, and male, but unlike most Korean friendships, which center around the same school class or hometown, these men were drawn together by a tennis court in the huge apartment complex where they live. “Frankly, we don’t go out with our families often,” said Min, a short, rectangular man. “I love tennis too much.”

 

A key rattled in the lock, and Min’s wife en­tered the apartment. Compact and all direct current, she is a rarity, a working wife, man­aging a large crew of women who sell chil­dren’s books door-to-door. In the past, women were not permitted outside the home after dusk, and today few Korean men—Min is one—encourage their wives to work.

house in Seoul

“Have you offered anything to eat?” Mrs. Min asked. “No,” said Min impishly, “be­cause there was no woman around to serve it.” She waved away their laughter, removed her coat, and bustled around the kitchen.

 

Professor Lee, an economist, had sold his house in Seoul before going to the States for his Ph. D. , and now, having returned, he felt trapped by the soaring real estate prices. “Suppose you want to buy a $60,000 apart­ment,” he said. “You save $30,000 and raise the other $30,000 from friends or quick loans. Then, with the deed as mortgage, you borrow $30,000 from a bank to pay back your friends. But the bank wants its money back in three years. Practical­ly speaking, there is little credit in Korea.”

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A major problem in the Arctic

Some men make carvings out of soapstone, whale bone, or ivory, while the women sew sealskin mittens and boots. Business is budding among the Eskimos, in the form of cooperatives. These sit well with a people who traditionally shared the fruits of the hunt. They range from Pond Inlet’s fledgling venture, which markets handicrafts, to the burgeoning Pelly Bay cooperative with its general store, bakery, coffee shop, self-service laundry, and tourist camp.

With these forces of change afoot, I look forward to the day when the administrators and other officials will all be Eskimos. Elec­tions came to the eastern Arctic in 1962, and since then the inhabitants have balloted with gusto for territorial and federal officials. A host of busy civic groups flourish, and these give training in leadership and self-government. In Pond Inlet, for example, men and women meet regularly as members of the community council, the co-op association, the rent-setting committee (often a scene of intensive lobbying), the movie-selection com­mittee, and the PTA.

Since 1960, when the Eskimos were granted the “right to alcohol,” drinking has clearly become a major problem in the Arctic. We in remote Pond Inlet, however, having no liquor store, must order ahead and pay air-freight rates to fly in alcohol. The drinking problem shrinks when beer costs $27 a case. I remember reading that a 19th-century naval officer, taking possession of a Pacific island, said of the natives: “Let us create needs for them; then they will not be able to get along without us.”

In some ways this is happening in the Arc­tic. If the white men were to leave one day, a large part of the population would be incapa­ble of surviving in a country where their an­cestors were able to live for ‘thousands of years. When we speak of the traditional Eskimo, we evoke one of two very different concepts: the image of man uncorrupted by civilization, or that of a savage lagging millenniums behind the white man.

These two images breed opposite attitudes: “Let us leave him alone and not change him,” or “Let us fashion him as soon as possible after our own image.” I stand somewhere be­tween the two positions. It seems to me that although evolution is inevitable, it can be selective. Already I see encouraging signs of increased respect for Eskimo culture among government representatives in the north.

Was the Eskimo of earlier times happy? I will answer with an anecdote. Two years ago I recorded the childhood recollections of Atuat, an old Eskimo woman from Arctic Bay. The life she described was not at all attractive: murders, famine, old people devoured by vermin or dying of the cold…. Yet, Atuat finished her story by describing the games of her childhood and crying out:

“Ah! We really had a lot of fun and we were happy. The kids today don’t know how to amuse themselves… .”

I believe it would be a mistake to see in this comment merely an old person’s idealization of childhood memories. The Eskimos proba­bly were happy, enjoying life. After difficult periods they appreciated the good times all the more. In Eskimo country, the bitterness of the struggle for life has always heightened the sweetness of living.

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