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A library is thus a book or a collection of books kept for use, and one kind of book kept for use, 

and one kind of book kept for use is the original or official copy of a public document.



What Is A Library?

By Ernest Cushing Richardson


In English, according to the concise Oxford dictionary, there are at least five or six right meanings for the word library--a building for books, a collection of books, a body of persons keeping books, a series, the works used by a certain author.

The London Library and the library of universal knowledge are different kinds of things and the "London Library" is a phrase misleading to those who think of a library as a free municipal library.

The phrase  a "Carnegie library" is right by the dictionary but it has "mislead" millions who think of a library as having books. Mr. Carnegie has given hundreds of library buildings (and has thereby made the greatest contribution to popular education of any man of his time) but he has given few libraries in the sense of book collections. The John Crerar Library of Chicago, on the other hand, is a superb library which existed for many years in the Field building before it decided on a building of its own. It was the John Crerar Library, but there was no John Crerar Library building at all. In the same way thousands of public libraries have no buildings to their names, although of course they are housed somewhere--in a city hall, school building, church.

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[According to Assyriologists] A library, therefore, to be a library, must be both literary and big "an extensive literary collection--a real library"--"very extensive literary collection," a "large literary archive." It appears farther that even this is not enough and in order to be a library a collection must not only be large and literary but it must be like that of Ashurbanapal, in being gathered from many centers "since an extensive literary collection--a real library--could only be brought together by gathering besides local texts "such as were used elsewhere."

"In other words the only library as yet found in the Mesopotamia excavations is the royal collection of Ninevah." This is the "only collection . . . that merits the name of library, in the sense in which that term is ordinarily understood" or "at all events the term having been peempted by the general consensus of Assyriologists for Ashurbanapal's collection we have no right to apply" to anything but one just like it and "the term library" should be restricted to the collection made by Ashurbanapal.

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A library then "in the proper and ordinary sense of the term" or "in the sense in which that term is ordinarily understood (by Assyriologists) is very big, wholly literary, gathered from various geographical sources, not associated with schools. No such library is known save that of Ashurbanapal and no other is likely save for Babylon--(Marduk temple) and perhaps Borsippa (Nebo temple).

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With this latter alternative conclusion and with the constructive conclusions no one will quarrel: it is only the conclusion that no library smaller than that of Ashurbanapal or less literary should be called library, which needs attention.

The constructive conclusions are as follows: (1) the temples had extensive archives, (2) these contained primarily temple business records including letters, (3) they contained also private business documents, contracts, deeds, wills, etc., while private business firms kept their own collections of records as well an in their own counting rooms, (4) temples had schools and (5) these schools had their outfit for instruction, sign lists, exercises, etc., also religious texts, and these ranged perhaps into the hundreds if not thousands, (6) religious texts used in the temple were also kept if not in the schools, then in some other part of the temple area.

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The matter is too obvious. The Report of the United States Commissioner of Education for 1912, for example, recognizes 10,329 public high school libraries having an average of only 600 volumes each. In many states the average high school library according to this is under 300 volumes. In the same report again statistics are given of 458 special school "libraries" of which 79 have 200 volumes or under and 29 have actually under 100 volumes. there are thousands of public libraries in the United States with less then 300 volumes which have state and national recognition as libraries and tens of thousands called libraries less formally.

The United States government also recognizes officially a library of exclusive public documents, while, in this era of "special libraries," there are not a few which consist almost exclusively of business documents, public or private, railway reports, insurance company reports, government and state documents, law reports, collections of statutes and the like.

Size of course does not count. The smallest man is yet a man and even the smallest private library is yet a library. When Mr. Fleming said that his "whole library, like that of Abraham Lincoln, consisted of a Bible and a blue-back speller" nobody either misunderstood or objected. Indeed a small man may be much more of a man than a big one, and a library of 10 volumes more valuable than another of 10,000--for every purpose. So of documents.

"Business" character too does not count; many a farmer's library is made up almost wholly of free government documents and railroad literature: and it any indeed be a rather large, well selected and  useful library at that. certainly neither collection is a man's "archive."

So again, and obviously, locality does not count: There must be many libraries in Italy, say, containing only Italian books printed in Italy.

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In brief, thus there was at least one school library and one theological library as well as one archive, or record office in the broad sense, in every city.

It appears, therefore, that on the face of it in "the proper and ordinary sense of the term" there were at least two libraries in every place even if an archive is not a library, and it may confidently be hoped that Assyriologists will accept this much at least.

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A library is thus a book or a collection of books kept for use, and one kind of book kept for use,  and one kind of book kept for use is the original or official copy of a public document. Collections of these are archives, but they are none the less libraries, as would appear to all, if all the documents were made, as some are, in printed book form.

It may at least be confidently hoped that with this full explanation no one will object to the use of the word library in its "right" sense in this essay, if care is taken not to make "a Bible and New England Primer" library pose as the British Museum Library.

Source: Ernest Cushing Richardson, Biblical Libraries: A Sketch of Library History from 3400 B.C. to A.D. 150. Princeton University Press, 1914

posted 23 June 2008

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According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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