The library at night

I get to see a lot of new books about library / information science: part of the perks of being a journal editor, and part of the penance of being a postgraduate course tutor. Some are good, a few are very good, a few are bad, most are ordinary. Just occasionally a strikingly unusal one comes along.

Alberto Manguel’s ‘The Library at Night library-at-night-cover‘ is such a book. The author himself is unusual since, apart from having the good fortune to have spent his life as a scholar and bibliophile, he has been able to build his own library in a reconstructed barn in the French countryside. Lucky fellow.

The book is equally unusual. The Observer (London) newspaper said that it ‘evokes a magical, living universe’ of books, and the London Times that it comprises ‘a series of enchanting and reverential essays’. For once, when reviewers agree they’re not wrong. The book is erudite in the nicest way, and manages to get across the magic of books, and more specifically of ordered collections of books, in a manner that might even convince a thoughtful Wikipediaphile. It helps that Manguel is not a technophobe, and is able to write convincingly about e-books, digital libraries and so on.

Sadly, in these utilitarian days I’m probably not going to be able to convince anyone that this should be essential reading for my Library Science students. But I will recommend it wholeheartedly to them anyway.

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