by Tyler Cowen
on September 8, 2007 at 7:35 am
The world’s most beautiful libraries, amazing photos, and this picture of course is from Glasgow. Portugal and Brazil do surprisingly well in this category. But how about that Berlin library shown in Wings of Desire?
amazing pics, although I would have appreciated some more modern selections.
Appropriate. Today is International Literacy Day.
Also see the saxon state library in dresden, germany:
Seattle. Parts beautiful. Parts strange.
There’s a couple in Prague, at the Strahov Monastery, that are just amazing. Here’s one. Here’s another.
jb – I don’t know whether to love or hate the fact that your second picture is marred by a big placard with a “no pictures” pictogram on it.
Jeff — the library provides these various types of books because that is what the public reads.
Are you joining Bryan Caplan in believing you should impose your taste on the rest of the world for the so called “greater good”?
Jeff: In a pure libertarian sytem a library would be unjust. Tyler Cowen, however, is not a pure libertarian and thus gives the library (among other things) a pass. I’d be happy without public libraries, but it’s certainly not on my list of first things to eliminate.
spencer: Do explain (with real examples) where Bryan Caplan says he wants to “impose [his] taste on the rest of the world for the so called ‘greater good’?” Saying “his book” is not a proper example.
No Spencer, I don’t want to interfere or judge what others read.
I’m just not sure why taxes should go toward buying pulp fiction and popular-film DVDs, both of which are available for cheapat many other places.
I am in library school and work at a public library and honestly I don’t know what I think about the function of the institution.
I suppose once you have accepted the idea that providing books and other media is a public good, it is silly to grouse about the specific items chosen.
But for what it is worth, the system I work for has precisely zero copies of Discover Your Inner Economist (which I will rectify indirectly by requesting it) and has purchased 29 copies of the various installments of the Saw movies on DVD over the last few years (about half of which are still circulating).
And from a circulation standpoint, this is wise investing on the libraries part. Those DVDs will circulate until they are unplayable (and probably for a little while after). No offense to our host, but Inner Economist may very well be checked out about 10-15 times before it is weeded from the collection, judging by the track records of other non-Freakonomics economics books.
I am an elitist in that I don’t think the library should focus on providing free alternatives to easily and cheaply available materials. I wish it served more to supplement/augment the community’s other media alternatives like B&N and Blockbuster.
I get a little depressed walking through the adult section of the library. The children’s section is much cheerier. And I like their mission more. Children’s books tend to be expensive and of course they don’t take long to read. It’s probably no coincidence that the children’s section in the library is generally bustling while the one’s in B&N are far emptier.
jeff, great post.
I feel the same sentiments after moving to a large metropolitan area which I thought would have better material.
I’ve checked out HBO’s Entourage, which is nice. but there are no copies of Discover your Inner Economist. and there are no copies of other rare but great pieces of literature, music, and video. Indeed, NO cd copies of Saint Matthews Passion by Bach.
I have the same thought conflict as you. the library should provide copies of great pieces of art. Not stuff you can find at Blockbuster. We shouldn’t subsidize crap you can easily find at the store. On the other hand, I feel elitist saying that.
wufnik, the materials budget at our system has risen each year since I’ve been there. This year it is up over 10% from last, so in our case it is not a question of money. DVDs, adult fiction, and adult nonfiction each comprise about 20% of our circulation, though the DVD collection is “only” a couple thousand titles. Generally about 75 percent of the DVDs are out at any given time. Circulation numbers are very important in justifying our budget (and lobbying for a new, state-of-the-art facility), and from that perspective DVDs make perfect sense. Maybe 2% of our shelf space generates 20% of our “business.” And the only DVD’s that will sit on the shelf for more than 1 day are black and white classics or BBC series.
Another irksome aspect of the way we handle our collection is that we don’t even do a good job choosing movies. We have all those copies of Saw (which are spread out among the 7 branches in our system), but you might (or might not) be surprised what we don’t have. Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, Glengary, Carlito’s Way. Movies that are popular and “respectable.” We did have them at one point, in much smaller numbers than Saw, but they do not get replaced when they are worn out. And I am being hypocritical here, as these are available at Blockbuster. But we certainly don’t carry anything much more obscure than that. Very few foreign films or AFI top 100’s, for example.
But I’m pissing in to the wind on this one. I suspect movies will be primarily-downloaded long before books, so libraries in 10 years may look more like libraries in 1995 than we’d expect.
Unfortunately, I was personally foolish like someone who loves sipping java at Starbucks and decides on a career as a barista.
Recently, may wife and I had the pleasure of visiting the Strahov Library in Prague (Strahov is one of the first pictures you link to.)It is an inspiring experience to walk into a beautiful building filled with important books. How fortunate are we to be able to learn from the wisdom from the ages? The beauty of Strahov and other magnificent libraries stems from the combination of architecture, art, and books of beauty and knowledge.
I have frequently witnessed people entering a great library like the main research library of the New York Public Library, The Library of Congress, or the British National Library. Infrequent and first-time visitors visibly express their joy and awe at being in these special places – similar to the reactions upon entering a great church.
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