“Monday Musings” for Monday July 11, 2016
Volume VI. No. 28
James B Hunt Library, North Carolina State University (NCSU),
Raleigh, North Carolina
Textonics: Democratizing Knowledge
By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*
One of the most exciting events of the twenty-first century which holds much promise for the future of this country and the world is Textonics. The first half of the twentieth century saw many inventions including the flight of the Wright’s brothers, Salk vaccine, and the discovery of antibiotics. The second half of the century saw the stunning and most important discovery in the ten thousand year history of Neolithic man, namely DNA, in February 1953. Its discoverers, American James Watson and British Francis Crick were awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1962.
Already 16 years into the 21st century, we have begun to see the possibilities of offering mankind the most important undertaking of Textonics. It is digitizing the literature of the world and making it available to every child even in the most remote villages in all corners of the world. Just think, it will bring the content of the world’s libraries to students everywhere. One is reminded of Al Gore’s comment, several years ago, that we should strive to bring the content of the Library of Congress to every student in America.The Librarian of Congress, James Billington, who stepped down from his post in September 2015, in several commentaries emphasized the staggering problem of copyright laws, just to mention one drawback. But over the past several years an enormous amount of progress has been made to overcome these barriers. There are a number of incentives in the form of awards created by academic centers and devoted to the fostering and encouragement of rapid development of this field. Among these awards are the A. R. Zipf Award and the Richard Lyman Award given by the National Humanities Center, RTP. Dr. Jerome McGann, Chair, Department of Textonics at the University of Virginia was the recipient of the 2002 Lyman Award. He has a large department with no fewer than 16 doctoral candidates working on various aspects of this exciting field. The 2003 Lyman Award winner is Dr. Roy Rosenzweig of the College of Arts and Sciences of George Mason University. He is known as “Digital Democratizer”. The Award ceremonies were held in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress, an elegant venue, on May 13, 2003. Those of us privileged to attend were witness to an exciting event not dissimilar to the first flight of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
The field of Genomics, which has produced eight Nobel Prize winners, and Proteomics, with its three Nobelers, are merging with the field of Textonics (no Nobel Prize yet) and asymptotically approaching the holy grail of artificial intelligence.
One of the best kept secrets of NCSU is its program of Textonics. Through an intense labor of love and costly initiatives North Carolina State University’s D.H. Hill Library and its new twenty-first century, fully digital, Hunt Library have become leaders in the digitizing world. In my travels, I have spent much time at the British Library, conferring with its Director and the person in charge of its information technology and digitization. I can tell you that we are far ahead of UK. I am also in touch with the University of Paris and the Sorbonne. They, too, are nowhere near where NCSU and UNC Libraries are. NC’s program of digitization is admirable and most progressive. We applaud the leadership of Susan Nutter, her able staff, and the leadership of Chancellor Randy Woodson. In addition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has initiated a program where documents are not only digitized but according to its program director, Dr. Nick Graham, “sometimes we need to take the archive to the people…” What they are doing in UNC and NCSU Libraries in archiving books and historical documents to the public reminds me of the days doctors made house calls. Nick Graham and his staff will deliver digitized material to the public and communities, from Manteo to Murphy, on demand. No school child should be left behind because of lack of material. Congratulations to the UNC Library system and its leaders.
*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association; Life Member, American Medical Association; Life Member, Southern Medical Association; and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He is a Raleigh, North Carolina writer and dramaturge.