Wednesday, 14 February 2007

The library as a locus of passion. A place of pleasure and contemplation. The librarian as a unique species. Three items placed online in recent days bring our attention back to the library.

First, there's David at communal blog Sarsaparilla, who uses the State Library of Victoria as a springboard to other things. In his case: musings on the nature of history and our relationship with it.

What bothers me as a historian is that people seem so happy to typify attitudes of the past in such basic ways. It’s all very well to say this is a convenient shorthand (tell your students, basically, that old attitudes were a bunch of crap, end of story) but isn’t this a little limiting? By which I mean, isn’t the past more interesting than that?

Yes, he thinks, it is.

...all historians ever want to do (if they’re good historians) is say ‘it’s more complicated than that…’ and go into an eternal discussion.

Also using a Melbourne library as a springboard, Germaine Greer in The Guardian says that a library is a place of extremes. In her case, extreme pleasure.

Dying of boredom in my parents' bookless house, I was tall enough at 13 to con my way into the Melburne public library. I didn't know how to use the catalogue or even what I wanted to read; I just grabbed a book, any book, off an open shelf, pulled a chair up to one of the red cedar desks that rayed out from the supervisor's high pulpit at the centre of the panopticon, clicked on the reading light in its green glass shade, and read away with might and main.

She then looks at the designs of two recently-constructed libraries that have fallen within her purview: Peckham library in Southwark, London and Cavan library in Ireland. She weighs up the various beneficial features of each and concludes with a statement of preference.

Finally, there's Georg at the City to Sea (and back) blog. She has located an intriguing video on YouTube.

Borrowing heavily (and ironically) from the visual and narratological lexicons of the nature filmmaker, the creators of the video present us with a short vignette about librarians. Specifically, we are invited to 'study' them as they participate in an annual conference. It took place this year in Seattle. I found the video very amusing and, in a quiet way, I think it says much about our abiding affection for this particular breed of service provider.

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