Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Warehousing Books

Some time ago, the Guardian reported on the British Library's construction of a warehouse to house surplus volumes. " The British Library's UK national collection is currently expanding at the rate of 12.5 kilometres of shelf space a year, and somewhere has to be found to put it all." The warehouse, which will provide "262 linear kilometres of high-density, fully automated storage in a low-oxygen environment ... is being meticulously constructed to house things that no one wants."

Geoff Manaugh, writing on BldgBlog, comments that this warehouse and others like it being built by Oxford and Cambridge "aren't libraries, of course; they're stockpiles. Text bunkers. ... No matter if no one actually visits these places; they're our era's equivalent of pharaonic tombs. They're time capsules." Elsewhere he notes the religious influence on library construction: " Interesting, though, that religious beliefs could affect both the shape and the very existence of libraries."

Yes, but what is this religion that values books by the kilometer?

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