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Ancient Libraries

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Library of Alexandria

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House of Wisdom

 

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French sinologist Paul Pelliot in the Library Cave (Credit: The Musée Guimet)

French sinologist Paul Pelliot in the Library Cave at Dunhuang in 1908 reading the manuscripts (Credit: The Musée Guimet)

On the edge of the Gobi Desert in China, part of a network of cave shrines at Dunhuang called the Thousand Buddha Grottoes, it was sealed for almost 1000 years. In 1900, Taoist monk Wang Yuanlu – an unofficial guardian of the caves – discovered the hidden door that led to a chamber filled with manuscripts dating from the fourth to the 11th Centuries.

The Vatican Secret Archives (Credit: Capitoline Museums, Rome)

The Vatican Secret Archives includes Pope Leo X’s 1521 decree excommunicating Martin Luther (Credit: Capitoline Museums, Rome)

The location of another hidden stash of religious texts has been known since it was founded in 1612 – yet that hasn’t stopped it being the subject of conspiracy theories. The Vatican Secret Archives feature papal correspondences going back more than 1000 years, and appeared in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, as a Harvard ‘symbologist’ battled the Illuminati. They say the collection includes alien skulls, documentation of the bloodline of Jesus and a time machine called the Chronovisor, built by a Benedictine monk so that he could go back in time and film Jesus’ crucifixion.

Solomon Schechter (Credit: Wikipedia)

Solomon Schechter recognised the significance of the manuscripts in the Cairo genizah (Credit: Wikipedia)

Hidden in a wall of the Ben Ezra synagogue were almost 280,000 Jewish manuscript fragments: what has come to be called the Cairo Genizah. According to Jewish law, no writings containing the name of God can be thrown away: those that have fallen out of use are stored in an area of a synagogue or cemetery until they can be buried. The repository is known as a genizah, which comes from the Hebrew originally meaning ‘to hide away’, and later known as an ‘archive’.

 

 

 

Over A Century Ago Being A Victorian Librarian Was Dangerous

Melvil Dewey predicted they would suffer ill health, strain, and breakdowns.

What Do Librarians Do?

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Click Here To Find Out

 

Free Mini Library @ New York City’s Subway System

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Free Books Now Available at Tiny Library in NYC Subway Station
NYPD Officer Damieon Frey unveils the new Free Little Library at the 145th Street and St. Nicholas Ave subway station.

Free mini-library was unveiled this week in a New York underground subway station — @ 145th Street & St Nicholas Avenue station right next to NYPD’s Transit District 3 Precincth allows for constant supervision

The little library stands about five-feet tall. Open the door and anyone can take a book. All the organizers ask it that readers leave a book behind, to fill the gap. The non-profit organization started the initiative in the hopes it would get more people reading.

Little Free Library has outlets all over the world. There are over 10 in the city already, but this is the first in an underground station. NYPD Transit plans to place a Little Free Library in each transit precinct eventually.

Little Free Library founder Todd H. Bol said there will be books for all age ranges and many that will appeal to young children.

“We did this partnership with Marvel, and Marvel is going to give an ongoing supply of books… Disney will send two years supply of Marvel books and comics.

Readers aged 13-18 would act as mentors to the younger children, reading with them after school at the Little Free Library outside the precinct, as part of the NYPD Explorers Program.

 
 
 

Libraries

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS // USA

Images courtesy of NCinDC’s and BamaLawDog’s Flickr streams.

The Library of Congress, is the largest library in the entire world as ranked by both shelf space and number of books. Among its several buildings, the oldest is the Thomas Jefferson Building, which just might be the most beautiful structure in the library system. Completed in 1897, the library’s neoclassical style features some of the most intricate interiors of any building in the U.S., including murals and sculptures from a variety of classically-trained American artists. Interestingly, the building’s exterior was even more lavish than it is now, as it was originally gilded, but this was criticized as it was believed to draw attention away from the Capitol Building. These days, the roof consists merely of copper that has aged to a sea green shade.

The main hall of the Strahov library in Prague

‘Biblioteca Vallicelliana, Rome

The library of Trinity College, Ireland
Bibliotheque Mazarine, Paris
Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris
‘BNF, site Francois-Mitterrand, Paris
The Sir Duncan Rice Library, University of Aberdeen
Stift Admont – Bibliothek, Austria
The State Library of New South Wales (also known as the Mitchell Library) in Sydney, Australia
Melk Monastery Library, Austria
Biblioteca Geral University of Coimbra, Portugal
Images courtesy of Miguel Bernas’and Beth Hoffman’s Flickr streams.

The Library of El Escorial, Spain

Image courtesy of Jose Maria Cuellar’s Flickr stream

Biblioteca Geral, University of Coimbra, Portugal

Images courtesy of Taco Ekkel’s and Mick L’s Flickr streams.

HANDELINGENKAMER, NETHERLANDS

Image courtesy of Jackie Kever’s Flickr stream.

The library of the Dutch Parliament contains every record of parliamentary hearings and discussions. Because it was built before electric lighting made the storage of books a lot safer, the building was constructed with a massive leaded glass dome in the ceiling to allow in light and minimize the need for candles and gas lamps inside the library.

8. DELFT UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY LIBRARY // NETHERLANDS

Images courtesy of Robert Lochner’s and Thomas Guignard’s Flickr streams.

ABBEY LIBRARY OF ST. GALLEN // SWITZERLAND

Image courtesy of Wikipedia user Stibiwiki.

This lovely library is not only the oldest in Switzerland, but one of the oldest and most important monastery libraries in the world,

10. ADMONT ABBEY LIBRARY // AUSTRIA

Built in 1776, the Admont Abbey Library is the largest monastery library in the world.

11. Melk Monastery Library, Austria

The Baroque-styled abbey and the library within were completed in 1736 based on designs by Jakob Prandtauer. The library includes a world-famous collection of musical manuscripts and features stunning frescoes by artist Paul Troger.

12. AUSTRIAN NATIONAL LIBRARY // AUSTRIA

Images courtesy of Craig Elliot’s and Jessica Curtin’s Flickr streams.

Austria’s largest library is located in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna and houses over 7.4 million items in its collections. The library was completed in 1723 and features sculptures by Lorenzo Mattielli and Peter Strudel and frescoes by Daniel Gran.

13. WIBLINGEN MONASTERY LIBRARY // GERMANY

Image courtesy of volzotan’s Flickr stream.

 

14. STRAHOV MONASTERY LIBRARY // CZECH REPUBLIC

Image courtesy of Claudia Dias’ Flickr stream.

This impressive library collection contains over 200,000 volumes, including just about every important title printed in central Europe by the end of the 18th century.

15. CLEMENTINUM NATIONAL LIBRARY // CZECH REPUBLIC

Image courtesy of Bruno Delzant’s Flickr stream.

The series of buildings that make up this National Library owe their inception to an 11th century chapel dedicated to Saint Clement (hence the name).

16. THE ROYAL PORTUGUESE READING ROOM // BRAZIL

Images courtesy of Luciano Joaquim’s and Sebastian R.’sFlickr streams.

The Real Gabinete Português de Leitura in Rio de Janeiro holds more Portuguese works than anywhere else outside of Portugal, including a number of rare titles.

17. THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF BRAZIL // BRAZIL

Image courtesy of Patricia Valeria’s and Yuken Chen’s Flickr streams.

Another amazing library of Rio, the National Library of Brazil was constructed back in 1810 and has since become the largest library in Latin America and the 7th largest in the world.

18. The National Library of Chile

Image courtesy of Ejercito de Chile’s Flickr stream.

Featuring a similar style to the National Library of Brazil, this beautiful building was designed in 1913 and completed in 1925 with a neoclassical design meant to commemorate the country’s centenary anniversary. Aside from housing the National Library, the building serves as headquarters to the country’s National Archives.

19. THE LIBRARY OF THE SAN FRANCISCO MONASTERY // Peru

Images courtesy of Sierra Michels Slettvet’s and dgphilli’s Flickr streams.

The library in Lima’s San Francisco Monastery is one of the oldest and most beautiful on the continent. The stunning convent was completed in 1672, with renovations and improvements continuing up until 1729. The 25,000 volumes contained therein are extremely rare, chronicling a massive variety of knowledge dating from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries.

20. HOME OF PERUVIAN LITERATURE // PERU

Image courtesy of Chimi Fotos’ Flickr stream.

If you think the architecture of this building looks familiar, that’s because it was a commonly used design for train stations around the early 1900s. As for why this library looks like a train station, well, that’s simple—it used to be one. In fact, it wasn’t converted into a library until 2009. In an effort to get more of the country’s citizens to read and to support the country’s artists and writers, the library features over 20,000 works, mostly written by or about native Peruvians.

21. PUBLIC LIBRARY OF LIMA// PERU

Image courtesy of The Librarian is In.

The previous home to the National Library of Peru, the Public Library of Lima was completed in the 1940s with a small addition completed in 1974. It’s been declared a historical monument by the country’s National Institute of Culture. The main gallery features marble floors and stairs, sculptures of the library’s founders, and gorgeous high ceilings.

22. NATIONAL LIBRARY // COSTA RICA

Images courtesy of The National Library System of Costa Rica and Alex Watkins’ Flickr stream.

With a massive upside-down arch above a glass window and concrete levels sandwiching a fragile-looking glass central story, the National Library of Costa Rica is quite striking. It still appears modern despite being over 40 years old. Unfortunately, the location has been subject to a number of earthquakes, leading to a number of closures over the years.

23. VIRGILIO BARCO LIBRARY // COLOMBIA

Images courtesy of elroquero’s and Colombia Travel’s Flickr streams.

If you are a fan of modern architectural design, then you’ll really love what Colombia has created in the last decade or so. Famed architect Rogelio Salmona designed this library, completed in 2001. Featuring red brick walls, blue water pools and green lawns, this creative design looks like a maze of colors housing a labyrinth of books inside.

24. SPANISH PARK LIBRARY // COLOMBIA

Images courtesy of Daniel Echeverri’s and dfinnecy’sFlickr streams.

 

25. EPM LIBRARY // COLOMBIA

Images courtesy of Guia de Viajes Oficial de Medellin’s and Biblioteca EPM’sFlickr streams.

 

26. VILLANUEVA PUBLIC LIBRARY // COLOMBIA

Images courtesy of Nicolas Cabrera via Dezeen.

A child approaches a Biblioburro, a donkey carrying books.Biblioburro, a traveling library in Colombia. Photo by Acción Visual/Diana Arias, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA

Today,  you’ll find libraries doing more to serve their communities these days than ever. All over the world, libraries are becoming one of the last holdouts of the commons and the source of an amazing array of things you can borrow.

While adults and little kids have their approved spaces in public. Libraries are doing more to cater to teenagers, like the libraries in New York City, Austin (TX), Billings (MT), and Dayton (OH), are finding that giving teens some say in design choices and providing rooms where they can meet, study, listen to music, play video games and even eat, means that libraries are becoming more than relevant to young people again.

Being the neighborhood commons has a darker side, as well. In one year alone, 12% of Pennsylvania’s public libraries found themselves dealing with people overdosing on drugs. Libraries around the country have similar stories. As a result, there are libraries doing more to help combat the opioid crisis by stocking and dispensing Naloxone, an overdose reversal medication. Even in conservative Salt Lake City (UT), anyone can obtain Naloxone, “no questions asked.”

Libraries are hosting Maker spaces, providing free lunches for kids on summer vacation, and even (as an aside) improving public literacy.

Public Libraries Are Rocking This Summer

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