Smart libraries: transatlantic culture for the 21th
Culture is energy; never destroyed but perpetually transformed.
Rick Dalton, the B-movie actor portrayed by Leonardo Di Caprio in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ (2019), accepts his role in a Spaghetti Western as an unequivocal sign of the decline of his career. Years later those films, shot in Europe in imitation of the American film genre, would feed the compulsive love of cinema of a young employee of a Tennessee video store. That young man’s name: Quentin Tarantino. He would become one of the most influential film-makers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
The spaghetti westerns that nourished Tarantino’s love of moving pictures are a clear example of culture feeding itself. There is no waste, everything is fertilizer. These films evidence that the culture of the masses can trace its foundation to historic moments when the American spirit of enterprise collaborated with the talent that came from across the pond.
During the 30’s and ‘40’s of the last century artists, authors, actors, directors and producers, fleeing Nazism, sought to re-establish their careers in the nascent American film making industry. It is not by chance, the period that followed came to be known as the ‘Golden Age’ of film. Over the last century no industry, such as this factory of dreams born in the Hollywood hills the child of transatlantic collaboration, has so deeply ingrained itself in the imaginations of peoples around the world.
Ernst Lubitsch, Josef von Stenberg, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, Douglas Sirk, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Ingrid Bergman, Rodolfo Valentino, Audrey Hepburn, are but a few. All of them, Europeans in America, helped to found an Olympus that continues to echo in the world’s consciousness.
Then again, in the 1980’s, when the comic industry slowed, there came a great tide of English authors and artists such as Dave Gibbons, Neil Gaiman, David Lloyd and Eddie Campbell, who helped to revitalize the youthful discourse that continues to prosper today as the 9th art, the graphic novel.
In this spirit, inspired by a foundation of fertile collaboration between old and new worlds, imagination takes flight giving birth to Smart Libraries.
Smart Libraries wishes to bring the extraordinarily productive exchange of experience and energies that so enriched cinema, to the world of libraries. Transatlantic cooperation will mutually enrich libraries beyond the sum of their parts. Launching from the Iberian Peninsula seems a natural fit; given, Spain’s numerous connections to the booming Latin American community in the United States and the unprecedented successes of its library system. While many libraries have closed in the United Kingdom; Spain’s libraries have survived the difficult years of the crisis by betting on ingenious innovation and adaptation of its spaces and services.
Smart Libraries, with offices in Miami, aspires to translate its most successful library projects from Spain to American libraries.
Rethinking the library in the digital age requires a reimagining of library services and spaces. Successfully accomplishing this goal demands a profound understanding of what libraries are today and have been in the past. Co-starring with native American, Burt Lancaster in Luchino Visconti’s 1963 film, The Leopard, Alain Delon, playing Tancredi Falconeri says: “Everything must change, so that everything can remain the same.” Yet another example of European – American collaboration.
The Libraries’ objectives have not expired. While the principles cited in 1994 by the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA)/United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) regarding public libraries is still valid; the methods by which these objectives are met have been ravaged by time. While Smart Libraries is a new enterprise, we carry with us the experience accumulated over Infobibliotecas’ long history of service to the burgeoning Spanish library system.
Smart Libraries facilitates administration of vast library catalogues in any language and format, as well as digital platforms for management of online e-books, audiovisual content and magazines, that adapts to the needs and budget capacities of each institution. Currently boasting more than 20,000 e-pubs encompassing an expansive array of subjects and growing, in addition to over 9,000 thematic magazines and thousands of titles of varied audio visual content, Smart Libraries is geared to satisfy the demands of even the most sophisticated bibliophiles.
Library from your sofa, one successful program, is a great way to combat digital content piracy, in addition to refocusing the concept of the library as a physical and public space, that can longer be constrained by the ideas that until now have shaped what the public perceives it to be.
The German writer, Bernhard Kellermann, wrote one of the most successful novels of the 20thcentury: The Tunnel. It was based on the construction of a transatlantic tunnel from Europe to the United States. A best seller turned into a movie, it corroborated the mutual fascination between continents. Almost a century later, the British artist, Paul George placed a telectrescope underneath the Brooklyn Bridge in New York with a transatlantic counterpart on the London Bridge.
Through this ingenious artifact the populations of both cities could interact in real time and send each other messages. It was a representative illusion of a great tunnel unifying people from across both shores of the Atlantic.
Smart Libraries is born of a vocation to nurture a cultural flow in both directions. Our goal is to serve as a veritable Kellerman’s tunnel for culture and libraries. We would like to be a transatlantic library telescope with which you can examine the panorama new technologies in communication and information have made possible.
It is rightful that presenting society with such a lofty project should come full circle to where it all began: the factory of dreams forged, arm in arm, by the incomparable American spirit of enterprise and the creative innovation of the old world. As, the unforgettable Bette Davis said in All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts.” The tsunami of ideas is about to begin on this voyage with Smart Libraries.