Libraries in Literature

This older article from The Conversation explores what libraries mean to society by looking at what role they play in our beloved fiction stories. The author argues that when we fear the loss of libraries we are fearing disorder. With the advent of the digital age we are being introduced to a new type of library. This new library doesn’t promise the comfort and order it once did; now the information we want to organize goes far beyond the bindings of a book. This theme is explored through looking at some of the most famous fictional libraries. You can find some of the examples the author gives below.

Strahov Library, Prague. Moyan Brenn/flickr

“Terry Pratchett imagined a labyrinthine library in Discworld overseen by an orangutan where students occasionally get lost and are forced to eat their own boots to survive. It may sound absurd, but this is perhaps the library that is most immediately relevant to today – with its endless shelves and connections to every library and every collection of books in the Multiverse. “

“In Jorge Luis Borges’ 1941 short story The Library of Babel (which you can read here), the universe itself is imagined as a library of infinite dimensions. It is perfectly symmetrical and has existed throughout eternity. Contrasting this architectural order is the chaos of the books it contains. The library holds every book ever written, but the texts themselves are indecipherable and shelved with no apparent system. Repetition and symmetry undo the library’s orderliness, erasing any intrinsic meaning, as the conclusion makes clear:

The Library is unlimited and cyclical. If an eternal traveller were to cross it in any direction, after centuries he would see that the same volumes were repeated in the same disorder (which, thus repeated, would be an order: the Order).

Borges’s library promises order but reveals disorder: repetition shows that order and chaos are ultimately the same thing.”

Biblioteca José Vasconcelos, Mexico City. LWYang/flickr

Instead of ending with a prediction, the author ends by asking the reader what the worlds last libraries might look like and how different that might be from the libraries of today.

You can read the full article by Anthony Mandal from Cardiff University at .

– Elizabeth Phyle INFO 653-01

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Posted in Classification, Knowledge and Truth, Libraries, Library, Uncategorized

by Hugh McLeod

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Pratt Institute School of Information
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