Monday, January 25, 2010

The Library: An Illustrated History

This book is a must for bibliophiles. Stuart A. P. Murray does an excellent job tracing the origins of libraries from ancient to modern times. The book is nicely illustrated with many, many images. After reading this, I wanted to take a world wide trip devoted to touring libraries.

The book is broken up by time period, starting with ancient times tracing the rise and fall of civilization. Some chapters are further broken down by country or regions. I found it interesting, despite primitive living, that civilizations tended to record their lives and collect information. Books were gathered and then lost due to political upheaval or war. Other books were merely lost due to fire or water damage. What is amazing is that we still have remnants of those early times.

As the book moves forward in time, we get more information on how libraries were organized and established in the new world. I found these chapters the most interesting. I liked learning about the origins of the Library of Congress - thanks to Thomas Jefferson. I know there is more to the story of Melvin Dewey and Andrew Carnegie who both contributed much to modern libraries. Since I work in a public library, I see the dynamics of politics, funding, and collection management on a daily basis. I see how my little library came about because of the desire of the community to better itself. I liked the last chapter which had a sketch of various libraries around the world.

The weakest chapter, for me, was the chapter on library organization. I expected a bit more information on the history of the dewey decimal system versus the library of congress. But I can understand why it wasn't there. Such details would only be of interest to library cataloging geeks like me. So not much of a complaint there.*

The book is nicely bound, which is only fitting for a book about books and libraries.

Book Rating: 4 stars

The books I select for review are books which I personally select from my local library. I do not receive any reimbursement from authors or publishers or free books. I do provide links to Amazon as a convenience to the readers of this blog. I do earn a small referral pittance which is not even enough to buy a soda.

*The book has one curiosity. I discovered many references from Wikipedia/Wikimedia in the sources list. Many, many librarians and academics despise Wikipedia (I'm not one of them). This author had no problem with it either.

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