Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Libraries of the Past

A library, by definition,is a central, organized collection of a community’s documentation (historicalaccounts, artwork and resources) preserved, and made accessible forreading, reference and borrowing. The library was conceived to make public, theprivate spoils and treasures of a community.

The first libraries date asfar back as 2600 BC in Mesopotamia, containing clay tablets of cuneiform script,the earliest form of writing. The early libraries of this region also containedevidence of an early classification system used to catalog and organize theircollections, and most notably established the starting point of our world’s history.

Photo Credit:
Library ofAshurbanipal – The Flood Tablet/The Gilgamesh Tablet

As civilizations developedand evolved throughout the world, libraries played a critical role as the central repositoryfor their laws, artwork, historical accounts, census data and genealogies, andacademia. By providing citizens with access to the arts andliterature on every discipline, communities prospered and advanced. JuliusCaesar, among many others, even targeted the library for destruction duringconquests, as in the case of the famous Library of Alexandria, as he believedit would severely handicap his enemy. While most of us identify our schoolingand early learning with our frequent (or infrequent) trips to the library,these physical buildings have served a critical role in the development and preservation ofcivilization, since the beginning of man.

Traditionally, librariesserved as the physical repository where our books, magazines, newspapers,manuscripts, maps, artwork and films were housed and made accessible for thoseeager, or by necessity, “had” to learn. The Dewey Decimal Classification Systemwas implemented in 1876 and became the metadata classification standard forlibraries in over 135 countries, and for the last 136+ years. (See earlier blogfor brief history of the DDC: technology advanced, the physical library collection grew to includemicrofilm, microfiche, VHS, cassettes, CDs and DVDs. Many of us were firstintroduced to microfilm and fiche viewers, CRTs, Apples, and other earlycomputer devices for aural learning, games, and digital media in its infancy atthe library, of our past.    

“Book lovers willunderstand me, and they will know too that part of the pleasure of a librarylies in its very existence.” - JanMorris (Quoted in Heart of theCommunity: The Libraries We Love)

Blog Reference:
NPR: New York PublicLibrary:

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