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Libraries and reading in the computer age

Published: 13 Nov 2000

Is the personal computer replacing books in the hearts and minds of North Americans?

Major public lecture explores topical issue

Is the personal computer replacing books in the hearts and minds of North Americans? Certainly prophets of doom have been predicting the death of books for several decades at least. Despite the popularity of the Harry Potter series, many argue that the digital revolution is making libraries obsolete and reading ’the sport of kings.’ Vartan Gregorian, who transformed the New York Public Library, raised millions for Brown University and now directs the Carnegie Corporation of New York, will engage the debate with a major public lecture at McGill, "Libraries and Reading in the Computer Age," to be delivered on Thursday, November 16, in the Fieldhouse Auditorium, Leacock Building, downtown campus, at 6:30 pm. Admission is free.

Described as phenomenally brilliant, able and attractive, with an almost childlike enthusiasm, Vartan Gregorian was born to middle-class Armenian parents in Tabriz, northern Iran. After the war, he studied in French at the Collège Arménien in Lebanon. Thanks to a scholarship, he entered Stanford University in California and earned his BA, then his PhD in history. He subsequently taught and published at several American universities, before becoming dean of arts and sciences at Pennsylvania University. From 1981-89, he headed the New York Public Library, a network of four research libraries and 83 circulating libraries, and helped position the institution as a significant cultural force, re-energizing the declining public library system. Vartan Gregorian then moved to the presidency of Brown University, where he initiated far-reaching changes and substantially boosted the endowment. In 1997, he became the president of the Carnegie Corporation, which awards more than $80 million annually to projects promoting education and world peace.

Established in the early 1950s to honour Sir Edward Beatty, chancellor of McGill University from 1920 to 1943 and former president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Beatty Memorial Lectures series aims to bring distinguished visitors to Montreal for the benefit of both the University and the general public. It has gained a reputation for the high calibre of its speakers and the thoughtfulness of their topics. Most recently, British author, director and physician Jonathan Miller was invited to speak on the subject of humour and comedy.

Vartan Gregorian’s visit to Montreal is being co-sponsored by the Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society.

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