Top 5 Big Library Ideas in History

18 July 2021

GLAM Blog Club has the first in a new approach to themes this month - Top five big.... I'm also taking a new approach, with some shitty drawings to spice things up. I hope you enjoy.

5 - Found in translation (Academy of Gondishapur, Persia)

The Academy of Gondishapur (modern day Iran) was centred around a library of medical books from around the world known to Persia, and a school of talented translators to make it all readable in Persian.

Apologies Shahanshah, we have not found the cure for gout

4 - Oppression through "standards" (Library of Congress, United States of America)

Most libraries in the Anglosphere use Library of Congress Subject Headings or variations based on them, for classifying knowledge. It's pretty ridiculous for a primary school library in Fiji to organise knowledge according to the worldview of American politicians, but it sure is effective soft power.

Say Chad, let's do cultural imperialism

3 - Shelve it like you stole it (Library of Alexandria)

The Ptolomies wanted their library to have a copy of every book in the known world. Woe betide anyone foolish enough to turn up with a boatload of books.

We keep the original, they get the copy

2 - Give communists somewhere to write (British Library, London)

World champion grump and famous communist Karl Marx washed up in London after he was thrown out of everywhere else in Europe. The British Library famously became the place he wrote most of his world-changing book Capital.

Karl Marx at the library

1 - Read in the bath (Baths of Trajan, Rome)

The enormous Baths of Trajan in ancient Rome were commissioned by Emperor Trajan and included several cold and hot baths, a swimming pool, sports stadium, and two libraries (Greek, and Latin).

A great idea for Trajan