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Role of libraries

On a quiet Sunday, here are two quotes that I find both memorable and inspiring when I think of the role and future of libraries. These days we see so much emphasis placed on fast access to current, popular, “must see” information. Although libraries have a role to play in that as well, few if any institutions have the long-term role that libraries have.

We mustn’t model the digital library on the day-to-day operation of a single human brain, which quite properly uses-or-loses, keeps uppermost in mind what it needs most often, and does not refresh, and eventually forgets, what it very infrequently considers — after all, the principal reason groups of rememberers invented writing and printing was to record accurately what they sensed was otherwise likely to be forgotten.

— Nicholson Baker. Double Fold. NY: Random House, 2001. p245.

Libraries exist to preserve the thoughts and deeds that no one else has time for anymore, to collect items that might not be used for another ten, fifty, one hundred years — if ever. It is this last uncertainty that makes libraries the most heroic of human creations.

— Paul Collins. Banvard’s Folly: Thirteen Tales of People Who Didn’t Change the World. New York: Picador, 2001. p.285-286.

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