Sunday, February 12, 2012

Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew Battles

   Have you thanked a librarian today?  There's a reason why that bumper sticker exists - to highlight the importance of a service that is underutilized and under-appreciated.  The library is a staple of the community that is too often taken for granted, but Matthew Battles has provided us with an addition to the collection - a book about the history of the library, chronicling the centuries old struggle to provide the public with access to information.  In the age of Google and Wikipedia this might not seem so exciting, but a lot of blood has been shed (literally) in the fight for intellectual freedom.  You probably never considered a librarian to be a warrior, did you?  Being a librarian is basically like being assigned to a special ops task.  Just remember that next time you see one of those bumper stickers!  Anyway, from the ancient world of Alexandria to today's small community library, the story of how the library has evolved "from there to here" is quite extraordinary.

   As a librarian in training, I found this book to be very fascinating, but if you're not a library enthusiast, this book might be a little on the boring side.  It's definitely not a light read, but to be fair, the history of the library could potentially fill volumes and volumes, so Battles did his best to highlight the major turning points and events. It's still pretty dense at times, but even so, many people use the library fairly consistently but are unaware of its history - of the struggles to overcome censorship, inaccessibility, book-burning, and prejudice.  For a place with a mantra of "Shhhhhh," Battles has truly provided readers with an "unquiet" account of the institution.  Now, wouldn't you feel better if you thanked a librarian today?

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