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Love Libraries

February 14th, 2007

As well as being Valentine’s Day, today is Library Lovers Day.

Libraries are one of the great institutions of our society, and the public library was the first great manifestation of the idea that ‘information wants to be free’.

These days, I do most of my library use online, and physical visits to libraries are more of a consumption experience. It’s great to browse through stacks of books and enjoy the odd contiguities created by cataloging systems – in my experience, Dewey has a particularly large random element. Of course, the Internets have their own versions of this kind of thing, but the magic of the stacks is still there.

A really great experience not long ago was touring the New York Public Library, one of the great public libraries of the world, which benefits hugely from endowments provided by once-poor migrants who got their education in its reading rooms. Over the fold, there’s a picture of one of its treasures, a Gutenberg bible (it turned out I wasn’t really supposed to photograph it, but I wasn’t asked to delete the photo so I assume it’s OK to share it in the general spirit of library love).

Gutenberg

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  1. O6
    February 14th, 2007 at 11:20 | #1

    Libraries contain books and journals, and of course electronic access resources. Yes, online is ideal for research, especially if one only needs English-language journals from 1990 on and one works in an institution with lots of on-line subscriptions. Project Gutenberg and its like are wonderful things but they’re going to take a while to offer, say, minor writers in Ga from the 1920s.
    For anyone outside major institutions who wants to know what has been written about something, libraries are indispensible and should be encouraged. Furthermore, it’s hard to censor libraries, especially retrospectively, against dangerous ideas.
    Perhaps a generation is growing up which gets no pleasure from picking up a book and starting to read it, but there are many of us who rate this pleasure very highly. Web surfing is no replacement for library browsing. Is this what JQ meant by ‘consumption’?

  2. Jonno
    February 14th, 2007 at 11:39 | #2

    Libraries (particularly local ones – I don’t have university library access) are an institution that has really taken new technology and used it to add to their service. The ability to search the web for a book (yes – the internet only goes so far), click and reserve it, and then receive an email announcing that it is ready for collection is one of the few unalloyed benefits of the web (as opposed so say Internet banking which appears to be desirable for banks as a significant cost and risk shifter).

    Long may our libraries prosper.

  3. Aidan
    February 14th, 2007 at 12:28 | #3

    I agree Jonno.
    One of my greatest pleasures is going with my daughter to the library on Saturday morning (I walk, she cycles). She is allowed to pick up to four videos and four books while I select my weekly novel. She sometimes meets up with schoolfriends there, there are toys for the toddlers and one of the librarians sometimes brings in tadpoles or insects. Through my library card I also have access to a large number of online resources such as Choice and Encyclopedia Britanica.
    Of course, I pay for all this through the rates, but I wonder how long before it becomes a user pays facility.

  4. Lang
    February 14th, 2007 at 17:34 | #4

    I am now old, I left school at the age of twelve to help support my then family so did not gain a formal education, work kept me from going back to a school or other institutions to gain paper proof of gaining education, however from the age of fifteen I have always belonged to a Library, and living in rural settings all my life, was not always easy, from a Library over the years I have self taught, I still travel one hundred kilometers every second week to get my six or so books, I collect crime genera , have a good eclectic collection of books at my home, I found the internet, I have friends who have become the local Mayor, others who have been to University and gained degrees who ring and ask for advise or opinion on issues they are dealing with,I don’t consider myself the smartest fellow around, but, I have always read, and I thank the Library for getting me to where I am today, where I can hold an intelligent conversation and be asked or give a considered (sic?) opinion. For people like me, we would be lost without the knowledge we obtained from a Library, especially we who had to forefit schooling for necessity. ( I have to also thank , for my younger years Capt; W.E. Johns, and now Saturday SMH, and with regret the Weekend Australian, although the book reviews are good, the Murdoch stamp I ignore).. Thanks Lang……

  5. Damien Eldridge
    February 15th, 2007 at 01:57 | #5

    I must admit that I also love libraries. Simply browsing through the stacks and allowing serendipity to come into play is a wonderful experience. I seem to recall seeing an interview with Michael Caine, the actor, on Parkinson I think, in which he described his view on the importance of public libraries.

  6. February 15th, 2007 at 11:07 | #6

    The new Brisbane Square library is rather flash and has the entire collection of BCC minutes on the shelves – which make for pretty interesting reading!

  7. milano803
    February 15th, 2007 at 15:26 | #7

    One of my daughters cannot stay away from the 42nd Street library in NYC. She particularly loves the architecture section, a small room off the main reading room. I think she’s read everything in that room. If you run across a 14 year old in there, she’s mine.

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