Here are my raw notes of the book: Library: An Unquiet History – by: Matthew Battles (associate director of metaLAB at Harvard University), a sweeping history of what we today know of as the library. There are several interesting “aha’s” throughout.

Here’s a link to the book: Library: An Unquiet History

Please excuse any typos and the all lowercase presentation – the focus here was on speed.

  • widener library origins
  • pages were printed/custom bound much of early/middle ages
  • jorge luis borges: library vision in story – of infinite/hexagon rooms.
  • alexandria – papyrus capital, modeled on aristotle’s “peripatetic” (walking around) approach, first universal library. Ptolemy family used knowledge as means of control and status – see again later many times, including caliphs, cosimo medici.
  • parchment came to front as alexandria stopped exporting papyrus.
  • codeces around 2K+ years.
  • example of cave – entire library is etched into walls so people could make carvings.
  • harvard founded originally as library bequest of 260 books by john harvard, minister educated at emmanuel college/cambridge – area was called village of “newtowne” – named school harvard, and renamed village to cambridge as he went to school there.
  • british library gained prominence as it was venue of record for copyright registrations.
  • industrial production mid-1800’s advanced w/iron-framed buildings – now could have gas inside w/out fire risk.
  • melvil dewey – amherst student/frustrated, came up w/system. also business owner, founded american library association, journal, etc. – pugnatious – like john adams of the library world.
  • boston athenaeum first library to hire women – dewey coopted that – dumbed down roles (focus is filing, women shouldn’t be studying/be experts in content/knowledge) – did same for college admissions while head of library school he founded at columbia university.
  • germans destroyed louvain university library both ww1 and replacement in ww2 – believed to be monument to allied victory. mentions nazi book burning 1933 – banned books lists, seized/sold 600K jewish-owned books for cash for example. hitler stated reading should be ‘instinctual’/based on intuition rather than by educated discrimination.
  • libraries – jewish ghettos, tibet, sarajevo,
  • geniza” (container) – book tomb in synagogues for worn out books. Rabbi solomon schechter: “when the spirit is gone, we put the corpse out of site to protect it from abuse. in like manner, we hide the book in order to preserve it from profanation. the contents of the book go up into heaven like the soul.”