Monday, April 19, 2010

the story of libraries i

I've been pounding through Fred Lerner's The Story of Libraries: From the Invention of Writing to the Computer Age for a few week now; interesting but not riveting is how I'd put it. Some books just can't be put down, while others can, and are. I'm not finding fault mind you. The material is interesting, but this is, after all, a history book, about a subject that I am interested in, but nevertheless, its a little dusty at the beginning.

The story starts, as the subtitle suggests, with speculation about the earliest forms of writing, which no longer exist, and then moves on to cuneiform tablets, of which many examples still exist. Amazingly, these tablets were stood on end, packed tight together, and the ends held simple index data so information could be retrieved. Many of these tablets contain state information such as records of sales, rules and regulations, etc. These early 'libraries' sound more like files to me, although there are some examples of story-like information being recorded on multiple tablets, that could therefore be considered 'books'. So, like I said, interesting.

I'm a little past the halfway point, and we're just beginning to get into the advent of what we would consider the modern public library. I was interested to learn that earlier libraries were opened to the 'public' but only some of the public. Another fun fact: what really happened to the library at Alexandria? No, I'm not going to tell you, you'll just have to read it.

More later!

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