Friday, February 24, 2012

Another Apologia for the Personal Library

Leon Wieseltier, over at the The New Republic, contemplates his personal library as it is being moved. (Sound familiar?) He says: 
The library, like the book, is under assault by the new technologies, which propose to collect and to deliver texts differently, more efficiently, outside of space and in a rush of time.
But as he considers the crates piled high in the hall, he defends his volumes: 
My books are not dead weight, they are live weight—matter infused by spirit, every one of them, even the silliest. They do not block the horizon; they draw it. They free me from the prison of contemporaneity: one should not live only in one’s own time. A wall of books is a wall of windows. And a book is more than a text: even if every book in my library is on Google Books, my library is not on Google Books. A library has a personality, a temperament.
Much of this resonated with me, but then he quotes Borges—“I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library”—and concludes that, “if paradise lies in the future, it will certainly not be a library. A different arrangement awaits our minds.”

Perhaps the promise of the paradisiacal library is that it will manifest a different arrangement or pattern. Until then, our libraries “reveal and represent to us what was, what is, and what is to come” (that’s me, defending my library”).

Monday, February 13, 2012

Envisioning Bibliotheca 2.0

From Project Information Literacy, an interview with Jeffrey Schnapp
the most exciting design tasks of our era lie at the seam where the digital meets the physical. So designing libraries for the digital millennium is less a matter of updating a building type with tens of centuries of history and tradition than an endeavor that cuts right to the heart of some of the most pressing challenges confronting contemporary architecture: how to devise new typologies of public space, new kinds of furnishings and appliances, new places for research, teaching, learning, and of interaction and play around/with knowledge, new citadels of expertise that “speak the language” of the era of mobile devices, ubiquitous networks, and the world wide web. What is a public space in an era in which a majority of individuals walk around in bubbles containing information and social networks?
I'm confident about the enduring vitality of the library as a public institution. What is in crisis is a certain historical iteration of the library, not the library itself. …
The notion of the library as a place of retreat … bespeaks an urge to seek out alternatives to the everyday: expanded horizons; deeper states of being (concentration, communion, silent contemplation); participation and inclusion in the life of communities dedicated to knowledge, science or faith; travel to distant real or fictional worlds.