Rethinking the library

An excellent article describing more broadly the notion of a library. Something to mull over. For the author notes a great library is something that cannot be fully experienced. That is, there’s always more to learn, connect and understand. All the while keeping its full richness always out of reach.

How inspiring, if not maddening!

A library is, at its most essential, a space that holds a collection of books. A dedicated room or building is not technically necessary. In his Book of Book Lists, recently released in the United States, author Alex Johnson offers examples of portable libraries—“sturdy wooden cases” of books and magazines that “were passed between lighthouses around the United States,” for instance.

In Benjamin’s view, a real library is always “somewhat impenetrable and at the same time uniquely itself,” as intriguing, loved, and yet unknowable as a close friend. Borges, in his famous story “The Library of Babel,” imagined a library that could hold every possible book, which the narrator calls, simply, “the universe.”

But if Kells wants to show that libraries are human places, he has also chosen stories that reveal their venal side. His librarians can be thieves, hoarders, or shameful caretakers. Even when they love books, they can’t be trusted with them. In its ideal form, a library protects books, celebrates them, and also makes them available to a wide group of readers. In this history, any single library rarely achieves all of these goals at once. […]