“The hallmark of public libraries — the printed book, bound by covers and centuries of page-turning — is being shoved aside by digital doppelgangers,” the Washington Post wrote this month. It’s true. And because of the recent incineration of hundreds of thousands of printed volumes across the Western world, libraries are of increasing interest to the “general intellect.”
As it happens, too, they are of interest to the specialized mind. Thankfully, the two intersect in The Meaning of the Library, an excellent collection of essays on the cultural history of the library in the Western world, edited by Alice Crawford and out this month from Princeton University Press. One of the many virtues of Crawford’s collection is that it situates the contemporary library’s precious present within a long history of upheaval and general weirdness. Below is a sampling, from the book, of that history. continue reading: 8 Weird ... Library flavorwire
The book: The meaning of the library : a cultural history
/ edited by Alice Crawford. New Jersey : Princeton University Press, 
About the book
"From Greek and Roman times to the digital era, the library has remained central to knowledge, scholarship, and the imagination. Generously illustrated, The Meaning of the Library examines this key institution of Western culture. Tracing what the library has meant since its beginning, examining how its significance has shifted, and pondering its importance in the twenty-first century, significant contributors—including the librarian of the Congress and the former executive director of the HathiTrust—present a cultural history of the library.
Whether relishing an account of the Alexandrian Library or a look at the stylish railway libraries of nineteenth-century England, readers will find a sparkling survey of the library through time. Here, too, are the imagined libraries of fiction, poetry, and film, from Scheherazade's stories to The Name of the Rose and beyond. In an informative introduction, Alice Crawford sets out the book's purpose and scope, and an international array of scholars, librarians, writers, and critics offer vivid perspectives about the library through their chosen fields. Contributors to this collection include David Allan, James Billington, Robert Crawford, Robert Darnton, Stephen Enniss, Richard Gameson, Edith Hall, Laura Marcus, Andrew Pettegree, John Sutherland, Marina Warner, and John Wilkin.
A landmark collection, The Meaning of the Library addresses the significance of the library—both physical and virtual—in the past and present, and will appeal to readers, librarians, and all who are interested in this vital institution's heritage and ongoing legacy."
Introduction / Alice Crawford -- Part 1. The Library through Time. 1. Adventures in ancient Greek and Roman libraries / Edith Hall ; 2. The image of the medieval library / Richard Gameson ; 3. The Renaissance library and the challenge of print / Andrew Pettegree ; 4. From printing shop to bookshelves : how books began the journey to Enlightenment libraries / Robert Darnton ; 5. "The advantages of literature" : the subscription library in Georgian Britain / David Allan ; 6. Literature and the library in the nineteenth century / John Sutherland -- Part 2. The Library in Imagination. 7. The library in fiction / Marina Warner ; 8. The library in poetry / Robert Crawford ; 9. The library in film : order and mystery / Laura Marcus -- Part 3. The Library Now and in the Future. 10. "Casting and gathering" : libraries, archives, and the modern writer / Stephen Enniss ; 11. Meanings of the library today / John P. Wilkin ; 12. The modern library and global democracy / James H. Billington.
On the same shelf
Labels: book burning, history of the book, Library history