23 June 2008

The Library in the New Age

Robert Darnton, writing in the New York Review of Books, makes a good case for the future of the library as... a repository of books. At least, the research library.

He makes some great points, and professes to be a fan of Google, but why is it that every writer on this topic, while stipulating that it's the content that really matters, finally gets to the smell and feel of books. There's a romanticism that seems inescapable, at least with intellectuals who where educated in a certain age. (I'm making an assumption here, not knowing Mr. Darnton's age or background. After I wrote this initially, I looked him up - he graduated from Harvard in 1960...)

So nobody I know questions that there's an important role for the Bodelian, and the Library of Congress, and UCLA Library, and other great libraries around the world. For me, the question is what is the role of the other 95% of libraries? This is more difficult to foresee.