Rhyming Libraries and Loops

A mobile division of the New York Public Library

 Getty Images / Universal Images Group/via Image Quest

I’ve always been fascinated by the seemingly endless repetition of phenomena that after my eye has been drawn to just one occurrence, no matter how insignificant, they begin to appear everywhere. It’s as though their lights and the lights of all their brethren have been turned on, simultaneously, out of the dark. The novelist Paul Auster calls these repetitions rhymes, and in many of his novels they are intricately linked to fate. I have to admit, viewing one’s life as a piece of long (or short, depending on how you look at it) piece of structured poetry, with repeating rhythms, small flourishes and a pattern of descending consonance which pull and link and make each piece feel as if it belongs, as if they are meant to be part of a whole, are whole… that idea is very pleasing to me, no matter how out of vogue it may be. But of course, the world may not really act that way. That view only really works in a metaphorical sense, and not even that well as a metaphor. Yet, to me, that doesn’t make it any less pleasing .

And, unlike Auster, I’m not sure that I would go as far as to say that these seemingly banal coincidences are linked, or, worse yet, are the harbingers of coming events, directed by the godhead (whomever He or She may be), but I am nonetheless interested in the source of these repetitions. Were they always there and I never noticed them? Do I notice them only because their existence has been pointed out and now I can’t help seeking them out everywhere? If so, what else am I missing? Or, is it a sharpening of the eye that, without my knowing why, subconsciously seeks them out and brings them to the attention of my consciousness? If so, why select one object and not another, why one strange tessellation and not one of the other infinite possible varieties?

Here it would be very easy to go all Freudian and indulge in some good old fashioned dissection of the subconscious, complete with reasoned explanations as to the possible meanings behind one objects psychic attention. This would be good fun to write, though probably less fun to read. So I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say that these patterns more than likely have as their origins, not nature or a godhead of any kind, but the strange and stringy world of bridges and connections that is this lump above my shoulders. We (humans), I (me, being a human), make the patterns. But as far as the outside, objective world is concerned, these similarities are just meaningless and haphazard coincidences.

So let’s get to the story part of this entry. Lately, or to be more specific, just a few months ago, I started this job at Langsdale, and it seems ever since then I’ve noticed just about every article or editorial or flat out tirade about libraries or archives or library related stuff. Now, there’s really no secret as to why this may have happened – I just started a job at a library so of course I’m more conscious of libraries in general. But, though I just started this job, I’ve been working for a library for a while now and can’t say I ever noticed these “rhymes” before. But don’t expect me to try to answer why I’ve never noticed, I’m just saying that I haven’t. And it’s in the me not noticing, and the me now noticing that I find to be equally weird… and without answer.

Now, you may think that this is all just a long winded wax to bring up some links that I’ve found about libraries. And you partially right, but the wax is important too, I think. To just let the phenomena pass before you like the slide of a magic lantern seems to me unsatisfying. For my sanity, these images, these flashes of information, must be grouped, pondered upon, dissected, ripped apart and put back together. Otherwise what do you have… just a bunch of stuff.

So anyway, here is some stuff that I’ve found and linked and categorized under my memory heading “Recent library stuff.” It may just be me or the Great Zeitgeist, who knows:

Here and here are links to articles (and the accompanying add campaign video) about the popular outrage against the decision to shut down two public libraries, one in the UK, and one in Troy, Michigan. And here is an article discussing the problems (and benefits) of tinkering with an archive that has been run in basically the same fashion  for over a hundred years. And another link that publishes citizens comments about the aforementioned change. And again in the NYRB, yet another lament for the loss of local libraries, this time written by the poet Charles Simic, who I have mentioned in other blog entries, and who comes just about as close as another man can at relating my exact sympathies on the issue. And one last link  to a truly interesting piece about the history of information and libraries and archives. Which, as it turns out, links to more books about archives and and libraries and the history of information technology. So it’s kind of an archive about archives…very meta (and kind of interesting, I may have to write more on this last one next month).

              –By Adam Shutz

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