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Friday, Sept. 15, 2006 | There are two reasons for maintaining a central library: serendipity and rarity.
People talk about the way the web allows for serendipity – a person on the web swings from one subject to another like Tarzan. This also happens physically in a library and much of this would be lost without the presence of stacks and rows. Color, graphics and heft are influences in what one picks up and reads. Mere catalogs, as most library onlines sources are, don’t tantalize.
A couple of years ago, I was in the city library and asked the librarian about kitchens from the 1960s. Amazingly, I was given stacks of image clipped from magazines and very accurately labeled and slipped into manila folders. A rare resource like this is something that doesn’t distribute well. The labor-intensive nature doesn’t lend itself to replicating in enough volume to supply the entire system. It is hard to imagine how gems like this (and others that I wouldn’t know about or need unless I got under the roof of the central hub) would continue to be built-upon, maintained and proffered up.
I am a technologist by trade, and a book lover and library lover by nature. Both are important to encourage expansion of our ideas, education of our citizens and creation of community.