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).