Limitations of the library

Several months ago, Iraq’s national libary and archives were destroyed. Afterward, Matthew Battles and others chastised the U.S. government for failing to protect Baghdad’s cultural treasures. In Library: An Unquiet History, Battles reportedly argues that “great libraries, while often the repositories of what is best in human civilization, tend to provoke the worst in humanity.”

A reviewer for Canada’s National Post summarizes Battles’ thesis this way:

“Libraries are as much about losing the truth … as about discovering it,” writes Matthew Battles, pointing out that much of what has survived through the ages is owing not to public institutions but to private collectors, who were better able to weather the tides of biblioclasm — the destruction of books — that have periodically swept the world.

(National Post link via Arts Journal.)


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