Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The library of Philadelphia

We still talk about the time when the library of Alexandria was destroyed. It is still considered one of the worst events in the history of civilised culture; works of great repute by leading authors were lost for ever.

Today I read that the library of Philadelphia will be closed. The buildings, the collections will all still be there. What will be broken is the trust that libraries are there; what will be broken is the practice to take your child to the library to get a book. What may be broken is the constant care of the collections that are uniquely stored part of the Philadelphia museums.

Access of the public to these collections is gone. People are asked to bring in the books they have lend before October 2. When material of these libraries is no longer available to the public, it loses its social relevance while its cultural relevance has lost nothing of its luster.

When libraries need funding, they will seek money wherever they can find it. A good example of this is the recent action of the University of California, Santa Barbara. All their material is now only available at cost and there is a clear distinction between commercial and non commercial offerings.

Much of their material is in the public domain but, they do not have to make public domain material at no cost. There argument that this is to make their digitisation effort sustainable has merit.

It is not a pretty sight to see American culture degenerate.
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