The printed word

Is not a spent force.  On October 11 I attended the dedication of the University of Chicago’s new library, the Mansueto library.  At a time when many libraries, public and private, are cutting acquisitions to the bone, or moving books to remote storage facilities, the U of C has made a bold and strong commitment to the printed word. The building itself, designed by Helmut Jahn who perhaps can be forgiven in time for the United Terminal at O’Hare, looks like a space module, but the students adore it; kids wait in line for seats in the reading room.

The Mansueto library at sunset

The library has underground storage space for 3.5 million books, whose call numbers we hope have been entered correctly, since all the retrieval will be done by robots.  The library is space age meets writing.

I learned a few fun factoids at the opening, which I’ll pass along.  The famous library in Alexandria, whose collection burned down, stole some 200 scrolls from Athens–the collected works of Euripides, Sophocles and Aeschylus disappeared forever when the library burned down.  The Sorbonne library is the oldest university library in the west, and the first institution to work with Arabic numerals instead of Roman.

Google books has digitized original works in a random way, so that you get parts of different editions of books by Eliot or Dickens or Austen–if you want to get the complete copy of a particular edition, do try to use the printed book. Which, I also learned, is called a codex.


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