The Great Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt might have been destroyed eons ago, but public libraries in every continent across the seven seas are going strong both as municipal assets and cultural repositories. Libraries are no longer elite academic institutes for the esoteric religious and the moneyed echelons of society whetting their intellectual vanity and superiority. The democratization of libraries as a public institution of shared and exchanged knowledge has made it possible for every class to access the symbolic fortresses of universe knowledge.
According to Stuart Kells, author of The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders and Shakespeare’s Library, libraries are “civic infrastructure,” which functions as pathways to literacy and social engagement where an exchange of information and propagation of knowledge occur voluntarily. In fact, a library is something of a public educational enterprise without expensive tuition, which provides various kinds of educational programs for all ages and all classes and of administrative services (e.g., passport service). That is why a government should fund its public libraries to encourage and fortify communal integrations and progresses instead of grandstanding on its discordant political vitriols to manipulate the number of constituents.
People might deem the future of public libraries to be rather bleak because of the advent of electronic books and online libraries. Yet, as time has been changed, so have libraries with modern resources, catering to the needs and interests of today’s library users. Public libraries have become democratic forums of learning and exchanging knowledge and information. They are vibrant cultural atriums in which the abstract and the physical become wondrously and liberally consummated. For this reason, I think that the future of public libraries is reasonably auspicious.
Author’s Note: This is my thought on a new radio interview with Stuart Kells on the future of public libraries. The subject is universal beyond Australia. Readers are encouraged to listen to the interview and to visit their local libraries.
To come upon Word of The Day, Tsundoku, as I was checking messages on Facebook during my lunchtime at a regular Starbucks shop gave me a fillip to thinking of my unread books I have piled up, untouched, since my new job became my primary reality. A Japanese word for a pile of unread books, Tsundoku has become something of new word that describes a tertiary group of books attempted but disinterested, or tried but forgotten. Which is what my tsundoku are comprised of. My books pending my reading speak to me: “Have you deserted us?” Nary a One Bit, My Dear Textual Friends.
In fact, looking at a stack of unread or partially read books imparts me a sense of subtle satisfaction and small wonder: these books of mine indicate that there’s still unknown knowledge of the world I need to know and that my literary vanity is worth the indulgence. They are part of my personal library built upon flotsam and jetsam of sundry interests, which are similar to the Mathom-House in the Shire, inhibited by Hobbits. The Mathom House is basically a museum of paraphernalia, a sort of odds-and-ends things but not to be discarded for what they are worth. The House is ever-expanding as a Hobbit fills it with this and that to his heat’s content. Likewise, my library is ever-expanding as it is filled up with new ideas and fresh inspirations drawn from the world of writers with unique voices but who always manage to express the universality.
Tsundoku, the Mathom-House… they are terra incognita in the mind of any adventurer of knowledge. The importance of unread books reminds us that reading is a never-ending activity but an ongoing process of becoming who we want to be because we become what we read. Reading is not a competition but a creation of a reality of the reader by passing over to the minds of the author and the characters. All books , finished and unfinished, are possible to help you get there too because they are unknown unknowns. Therefore, a sight of Tsundoku is not a sign of a failed literary or academic ambition but a display of a wondrous mind whose intellectual/academic/artistic odyssey is still on.