Friday, February 26, 2010

57 / A World Class Library

I love libraries. Some of my favorites: The Santa Cruz City-County Downtown Main Branch; The UCSC McHenry Library; the public library in Toronto, Canada; the "stacks" in the Stanford University Library; the British Library on Euston Road in London.

Here is the latest edition to my list of wonderful libraries: the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in Alexandria, Egypt (pictured), which I just visited yesterday.

During the time of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt, the Royal Library of Alexandria was the most famous, and probably the largest, library in the world. It, and a replacement library, were both destroyed by fire. The current library, dedicated in 2002, is another "world class" library, and it has intentionally put itself forward as a worthy replacement for the historic Library of Alexandria, and is aiming to provide a comprehensive library service for the entire world. That means that we all have a free "library card" for this spectacular library.

On the library's main website, investigate the its special projects, found under the "initiatives" tab, and specifically including its ISIS project - the International School of Information Science.

You would have to be a pretty "old hand" in Santa Cruz to remember the name Bill Hinchliff, but I do remember Bill, who looked very much like Walt Whitman, and who had his same exuberance, and who was actively engaged in the public life of the Santa Cruz County community in the 1970's. Bill waxed ecstatic, at every opportunity, about the power of knowledge, and about the power, above all, of making human knowledge available to all, through the human invention of the library.

My visit to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, yesterday, brought tears to my eyes - and a fond memory of Bill Hinchliff.

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