The Library as Text: Part 2 (transition)

“Information storage and retrieval by means of data banks and computers are far more than technical devices. They constitute little less than a new way of organizing human knowledge and the relations of present inquiry to past work. All taxonomies are, in essence, philosophical. Any library system, whether by size or Dewey, enacts a formalized vision of how the world is put together, of what are the optimal sight-lines between the human mind and phenomenological totality.” George Steiner, “After The Book.” in Disch, R. (1973). The Future of Literacy. 154-155

All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born on a street-corner or in a restaurant’s revolving door. “ Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

I wanted to put up a provisional/transitional post, as I continue with the “library as text” idea. I mentioned FRBR and intimacy (in the same sentence no less!) in my last post, and I’m getting there, but for now, I’m bringing in Steiner and Camus for backup here as I continue to probe around the philosophical underpinnings of the “library,” explore the apparent pragmatism of library work, and to put forth an idea that will inform the rest: Practice is never more than an extension of theory.  For humorous foreshadowing, I also came across an image collage type thing (above) that I created to accompany a talk I once gave at a faculty research luncheon a couple years back, which I entitled, “Finding Another Way Down: Detraditionalization, Privatization and the Problem of Boundaries,” which was my first introduction to the psychological hazards and risks that accompany an intemperate and vulnerable exposure of my GenX roots, when, in the format of a “scholarly” presentation that, I naively thought, put forth a radically new philosophy of librarianship, I began speculating that meaning, not information, is the librarian’s gig, all the while trying to synthesize a new analysis of library and information science, in a pastiche, rock-star wannabe multimedia overload, through the works/ideas of Adorno, George Jefferson, Gramsci, Camus, Weber, T.S. Eliot, Fat Albert, Heidegger, Dewey (Melville and John), Brian Eno, David Bowie, Brecht, De Tocqueville, and Marshall McLuhan, to name just a few! Aahh, young, idealist librarian without a library. I can probably find the presentation, if anyone is interested. Even if it is easy to dismiss this serialized “essay” as a philosophical train-wreck, which I am always prepared to do myself, at the very least, it is the continuation of a wrought manifesto of sorts, an invitation to explore and expand library work in an imaginative direction, expose librarianship as fundamentally pre-occupied with creating milieu that provoke, awaken, refine and support the authorial intentions of “users,” and to fluently move in directions that are as expansive as the human mind, and as perilous as the human heart. More to come on FRBR and intimacy, I promise.

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One Comment on “The Library as Text: Part 2 (transition)”


  1. […] like Budd and others, is simply contribute to a growing repertory of ideas, to chat in Camus’ revolving door and street corner, to expand the imaginative base that could inspire practices, maybe new practices. As I mentioned […]


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