Monday, December 27, 2004

There Will Still Be Libraries

I stumbled across a wonderful piece in the London Times (online version) about the place of libraries in human civilization and history. The author is optimistic about the future of libraries . Google's announced plan to digitize the book collections of five of the world's greatest libraries, encompassing 15 million volumes, is not a threat to these "citadels of memory," because human beings will always need the physicality of books, and the "paradise of paper, vellum and dust" that can only be found in the bookstores and libraries of the world.

Veneration for libraries is as old as writing itself, for a library is more to our culture than a collection of books: it is a temple, a symbol of power, the hushed core of civilisation, the citadel of memory, with its own mystique, social and sensual as well as intellectual. Even people who never enter libraries instinctively understand their symbolic power.
I'm an absolute sucker for articles like this. I think books must be my second religion, and anytime I find an article like this one that rhapsodizes about books (which are tangible by definition: Shakespeare online may be a wonderful way to democratize access to books, but a book put online is still only the contents of a book, not the book itself), I pounce on it.

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