Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Moscow Library

apparently went up in flames overnight....reports here Downunder are still sketchy but it seems that, at very least, massive damage has occurred.
There were more than ten million books in that library - along with a massive amount of other valuable information in the form of national and international papers from parliament and international organisations. The Slavic languages content was massive.
Imagine the entire holdings of the British Library, the Library of Congress or the French National Library going up in flames and you have some idea of the loss.
It scares me. It makes me realise how fragile our hold on the past is - and, because of that, how fragile our future is. We need the past. Without the past we cannot have the future.
The news about the Moscow Library made me think all over again about other libraries. All libraries are different but all libraries are important. We can't just discard them. We can't just discard the information in them.
I was talking with someone yesterday. She was telling me that there is renewed talk at the school her children attend. They are debating whether to "get rid of the library books". They "need the space for computers". My reaction would be the reverse "get rid of the computers" because they "need the space for library books". 
I asked my acquaintance, "How many of the kids own a laptop?" The answer was a shrug and "Most of them and those who don't can borrow one from the school".
And they need space for computers? I think not.
The Senior Cat can use the internet. He was prowling through there last night looking for another humane solution to the problem with the family of fruit rats who have invaded us from next door where the garden is a mess. There were some ideas there - and then he remembered that "somewhere in a book..." and he went through his gardening shelves and pulled one out and compared it with what he had found on the internet. I suspect that some of his day will be spent trying to construct something to catch the rats. He will use the book. Yes, he could use his i-pad but I suspect he will be happier with the book in the dust and dirt of the shed.
The notion that we don't need libraries, that any information we need can be obtained from the internet, that we don't need to read books but can read a screen instead seems wrong to me. A book, a real paper book is a different experience.  I still prefer to work with books around me. I detest scrolling backwards and forwards. In my job I might be using four or five dictionaries all at the same time. They will be foreign language dictionaries or specialist dictionaries for medical personnel, engineers or architects. I can keep pages marked with endless slips of paper and I can go to them instantly. I can have four or more open at the same time without the need to go backwards and forwards. I can hold a book - or even hug it when it gives me the answer I was searching for.
If people take away libraries from us they are stealing from us. They are stealing our past and our future. If they do that to children then they are guilty of child abuse.
It has to stop.

4 comments:

jeanfromcornwall said...

May I boast? Younger Daughter is so imbued by the family obsession with books that she spent years earning a proper job in the place where supervisors will say things like "Have you seen the Gutenberg Bible yet?"
The city library in Norwich burned, some years ago, and has been replaced with a super new building with masses of books and also restaurants, meeting places , etc. But a burned library is always a miserable disaster. Not everything can be replaced.

catdownunder said...

You most certainly may boast Jean. Unbelievably the matter was not even mentioned on our news!

jeanfromcornwall said...

P.S. Nothing on the headlines, provided by the BBC, that come up on my home page. All I have seen is a one inch short in an obscure corner of the foreign news in the Sunday Times.

virtualquilter said...

Looks like I have to come to you to find out what is happening in the world.

I have been busy elsewhere and just now catching up with nearly two weeks of your blog, and cannot believe that any national library could be burnt down without it reaching at least the tail end of a news service, and at least make the headlines for a few minutes on the internet. I haven't cut myself off totally from the news, just not reading blogs!

I would hate to lose my own library, and though I rarely use public libraries that is mainly because I have reference books, novels and all sorts of information waiting in my own collection of books. I expect public libraries to be the book collectors of the local area, and hate seeing books being cleared from shelves even if it is to make room for more books.

As Jean said in her comment, not everything can be replaced ... including old books..