1059 Mon 27 Aug 2001
I have been thinking about libraries this morning.
Part of my reading about early Church history has been about
the destruction of libraries and the preservation of libraries
in monasteries. This morning I happened to read part of "The
Ancient Engineers" by L. Sprague de Camp, talking about
the library at Alexandria. Here are a few extracts:
While it endured, the Library made Alexandria the unquestioned
intellectual capital of the world. ...
A series of fires and depredations during the Roman period
gradually destroyed the Library. ...
Modern apologists for the Arabs have denied this story and
put all the onus of the destruction on the Christians. Christian
apologists, on the other hand, have striven to exculpate the
godly Theophilus and put the blame back on the Muslims.
In fact, we shall never know just how many books were destroyed
at each devastation. Nor shall we know to what extent the destruction
was due simply to the agents of time and neglect - mice and mould,
thieves and termites - which were suffered to work their will
unchecked when, with the rise of Christianity, governments lost
interest in the preservation of mundane writings. All we can
say for sure is that monotheism proved a deadly foe of learning
as war and barbarism.
With the rise of Christianity and Islam, the ancient custom
of burning the books of one's foes, to torment them or simply
to enjoy the bonfire, was aggravated by the fanatical animus
of dogmatic theology. ...
A similar situation today seems to be the use of viruses and
wrecking websites. But it also reminds me of some of the issues
in the Background Briefing radio show I wrote about in the journal
a couple of weeks ago.
Today in "The Australian" newspaper (page 11) there
is an article:
After 25 years, authors receive their dues - for now
Book producers are at last being rewarded for propping up
the shelves of educational libraries, reports Adrian McGregor.
Public lending right and educational lending right is supposed
to be paid to creators and publishers to compensate for royalties
forgone on sales when public and educational libraries stock
The PLR and ELR payment per book stocked is determined by
the Minister for the Arts. ...
It is the first I have heard of this. On the one hand governments
support the libraries - I think they can receive "tax deductible
donations". But to keep books on the shelves they are required
to pay "PLR and ELR". Computerised catalogues make
Here are some images from George Orwell's 1984:
The diary would be reduced to ashes and himself to vapour.
Only the Thought Police would read what he had written, before
they wiped it out of existence and out of memory. How could you
make appeal to the future when not a trace of you, not even an
anonymous word scribbled on a piece of paper, could physically
Hopefully I am worrying about nothing. We have excellent libraries
today and improving methods of distributing information. But
it might not stay that way. It worries me to learn about an extra
cost to keep books on library shelves.
Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 27 August 2001.