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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 their books.

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 it possible.

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 survive?

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.

 

Links to other sites:

"The Ancient Engineers" at www.amazon.com