Order seems very much a part of the public perception of the library, often counterposed to the potential disorder of the materials themselves. I was struck by this looking at recent entries.
I mention aura below. I plan to come back to Benjamin’s discussion of aura in a future post, pulling in his discussion of books in his essay ‘Unpacking my library’. In that essay, he notes:
“The only exact knowledge there is,” said Anatole France, “is the date of publication and the format of books.” And indeed, if there is a counterpart to the confusion of the library, it is the order of its catalogue.” [from the essay ‘Unpacking my library’ in the collection Illuminations]
I noted Fintan O’Toole’s image of the chicken coop in the last entry:
The struggle of libraries since then has been to categorise knowledge in as comprehensive a manner as possible. A library at one level is like an orderly chicken-coop, where the books sit brooding in their neat rows of nests. But every library user, on the other hand, is a fox among those chickens, frightening the established order of knowledge into panic-stricken scatterings. … [Fintan O’Toole quoted in Lorcan Dempsey’s weblog]