Posted by: bluesyemre | May 29, 2017

What is a #Library? by Tim Gorichanaz


If you ask Google Images what a library is, you’ll get a very clear answer: books on shelves in a column-faced building.

Like Google, most of us think of the library as a storehouse for books. We can be forgiven for thinking so. Our word library comes from the Latin librarium, meaning bookcase. It’s the same for the Latin and Greek equivalents for library — bibliotheca and bibliothiki, respectively — which led to the word for library in most modern Indo-European languages. It’s also notable that the Latin word for book, liber, originally referred to the kind of bark that was used in book construction. All this is to say that, through and through, we have conceptualized the library in terms of physical objects. Bark, books, shelves, buildings.

This being the case, we tend to paint libraries as havens for book lovers. Take, for example, the novel Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami, in which young Kafka Tamura runs away from home on his 15th birthday. Kafka is muscular and good-looking, but also introverted and bookish. As he says, “Ever since I was little I’ve loved to spend time in the reading rooms of libraries . . . Even on holidays that’s where you’d find me. I’d devour anything and everything — novels, biographies, histories, whatever was lying around. Once I’d gone through all the children’s books, I went on to the general stacks and books for adults.” Naturally, then, as a runaway, Kafka took refuge in a library. (Perhaps it’s worth noting that in Japanese, too, the word for library, toshokan, amounts to a building for books.)

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