writing updated as of friday 13th 20h49

1. Preface

![The librarian](https://uploads4.wikiart.org/the-librarian(1).jpg!HalfHD.jpg)

My reflexion arose while I was thrifting for books, I was wondering "Can you be a socialist and a collector?"."Can a simple private collection be shared with a larger public"? This vastly political question started me down a rabbit hole of how can a private "collection" have a public use and be accessed by the community. I personally love looking around and thrifting for objects. My passion is in finding the "rare" items, to stumble upon them by chance. Serendipity. I have no interest in owning the items, I get my joy out of the thrill of the hunt. So once I find something it sadly ends up somewhere on my library shelf or in the pile of books that I still have to classify and order. I wish there were more though, I wish to share what I find, not let it "rot" on my shelf for whenever I might want to consult it. I want others to have the opportunity to browse around my small but ever growing collection of graphic design books, (maga)zines, typography books, art books, guidebooks and printed ephemera, almanacs...

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I firmly believe in the notion that information should be free[^1], that access to information should be easy, that monopolising assets for private gain is wasteful. Although I'm passionate bibliophile I'm a graphic designer at the core, I'll look at the book in all its aspects. The cover. The shape of the book. The paper used. The typeface. The design and layout. The printing method. The binding. The illustrations. And the subject matter. All what makes a book a book is interesting to me. I'm fascinated by its history, I use them for leisure or reference for other books I'd like to typeset or create. Along the way I have assembled this little library but sadly solely known to me and my roommate. This sparked my thought process about collectors and if having a collection could have a more public/social use. It’s indeed quite political, is collecting solely an act of amassing or can it be something more social to be shared with others. Can private property be shared with the public? I for one wish I could share my library and browse to the collection of others.

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Collector and collections might not be the right word, or you might have preconceptions while reading these words. What I understand under book collectors in my paper are individuals with their own private big or small library. Individuals who are students, workers, baker, professors, barista, shopkeeper, academics,... people from the community who have their own collection of books. The books they have at home, the books they selected and bought for themselves.

So no a collector doesn't have to be this passionate person with an excessive book collection although these are of course included in my thought process.

A more accurate word might be a bibliophile but I'll stick to collector and collecting.

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I started writing these reflexions on my laptop but I would get nothing done. All around me were distractions, maybe I could do the dishes, watch the homeless man on the bench in the street in front of me, water the plants, or go to the kitchen to find some food in the fridge. But most of my time I was just sitting behind my screen, scrolling endlessly on various platforms, reading tidbits of random information on twitter, checking my notifications, refreshing my mailbox but not reading emails. This isn’t new, we have all had this experience and so right now I started writing with pen and paper, coming to appreciate my subject matter, the creation of interconnected physical private libraries much more. There’s too much constant information and distraction on a screen compared to the black letters on a static white piece of paper. The information is right there and it just needs to be picked up. This is one more reason why I’m interested in the book as a physical object and not just virtual copies of books.

2. Introduction

((Write these pages as last))

3. Evolution of libraries: a public and private affair

The emergence of libraries can be traced back to the earliest days of writing in Mesopotamia dating back to the midst of the fourth millennium B.C. My interest in tracing the evolution of the library is in seeing the interlacing of the public and the private in the creation of libraries. I also want to look into the library as a non-circulating collection, a physical collection that can be accessed in the reading room. The concept of a lending or circulating library is a recent one, having been introduced in the 19th century. In our collective imagination libraries have shifted to being lending libraries, although that's just a recent development. This will not be an extensive and exhaustive historical analysis of the evolution of the library but a brief overview to paint a picture.

3.1. Early libraries

The first libraries weren't seen as libraries at first, it was more of a record or archive center. The Mesopotamians started their libraries as documentation center to record the inventories and commercial transactions on clay tablets. On accounts of historians, these libraries and archives mark the end of the prehistory and the start of history. It is not known if those archives were "living archives" ^.

Living archives refer to practices and environments that connect the organisation, curation and transmission of memory with present-bound creative, performative, and participatory processes.

In simple terms living archives are archives that go beyond simple preservation and enable access and interaction with the materials. Although the archive as "living" isn't certain, they had well organised archives with archival relationships and considerations for long-term preservation.

3.2. Libraries in Antiquity

In the Ancient world libraries started to arise in bigger cities, it was a display of knowledge and power. A well-furnished library attracted scholars from around the region to come and study the texts. Beyond studying the texts they would go as far as write their own works there and copy existing works.

Although multiple copies of works by popular authors could be found, many works were scarce. Not just texts were scarce but so were libraries, the library was the place were you consulted books. If the library did not contain the work you wanted you would have to travel the Mediterranean basin to find a library that kept a copy or the original. Since books were scarce and prised, libraries practiced a system of on-site consultancy. Books didn’t leave the premises and were cared for and protected.

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3.2.1 The Library of Alexandria

One of the most prominent libraries of Antiquity was the gigantic library of Alexandria. This ambitious library was built by the Ptolemaic dynasty, they intended to create the world's repository of knowledge. A library added to the city's prestige, incentivised scholars study and thus provided assistance in the governing of the country. One could say that their ambitious role was met as they are remembered throughout history as the greatest library, it is noted that the library contained between 40'000 and 400'000 scrolls at its height. A project of this size was merely possible thanks to the royal funding of the Ptolemaic dynasty.

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To achieve their intent of being the universal knowledge hub, the Ptolemaic dynasty practised aggressive acquisition techniques and expensive book purchases. Every written work was of interest to the library, they would purchase works for astronomical amounts, pillage the libraries of vanquished cities and go as far as confiscate the scrolls from boats entering the port of Alexandria. Those confiscated scrolls were meticulously copied by hand, the library would keep the original and return the transcript to the waiting ship. Everything was welcome in the library, the more the better, the works were read, analysed and classified by the scholars.

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Although the library of Alexandria is considered a public library, it fails to be one considering modern interpretations. It wasn't accessible by all people of Alexandria, as a mere 10 percent of the population had decent enough literacy skills to do basic administrative work. To be able to read or enjoy the works collected in the library, one had to have a proficient reading level and the leisure to spend time at the library. Furthermore one had to have recommendation letters or be able to prove that they would tend to the libraries collection. This privilege was thus reserved to a limited elite. In a way the library of Alexandria functions like a modern research institution.

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3.2.2. Roman libraries

In Roman times one had access to a variety of different libraries. First and foremost, private libraries maintained by wealthy individuals was still the norm. To be able to access a private library one had to be a friend or relative, or important enough to impress the library owner. Possessing a private library was a symbolic sign of prestige. However, a form of "public" libraries were introduced for Roman citizens, a few bathhouses contained an attached reading room that was of use to the patrons. The reading room of a bathhouse would probably only have popular works, works that weren't rare or needing special care.

Julius Caesar built public library for roman citizens polio ((expand))

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3.2.3. Libraries in the middle ages

((expand))
The practice of a private library attached to a court or palace perdured in the Middle Ages but one saw the rise of monastic libraries.
In the Middle ages, monasteries became the principal location to encounter books. The European monastic communities embraced the written word and produced many transcript of their books in the scriptoriums. Books were still very prised objects as many had been lost during the Antiquity, rules were put into place as well as curses to anyone who would steal the books made available. Sometimes books were lent out to other abbeys and on rare occasions to an individual if guaranty was provided. This is in some ways an early form of a public library although the public was still limited to scholars having recommandation letters or nobles/merchants with assets.

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In those times the monastery with its library was the proto-university, later on universities would start acquiring their own collections. Libraries started to bloom in the late middle ages due to the universities.

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A notable feat marking the end of the middle ages is the invention of the printing press, this made book production more accessible to a larger public.

4. The library as a public space

A public library isn't merely a collection of books, it's a cultural hub with books at the center.
The most obvious feature of a public library is the ability to have free access to a body of knowledge, ranging from books to multimedia content. The first social aspect to consider is the interactions with the librarians who are helping you navigate to through the maze of content and help you locate the books related to your interest. It's a community center with activities, reading clubs, presentations and workshops. The library can be seen as an open learning garden for everyone. A public library nowadays provides access to computers and wi-fi which have become necessities for work purposes.

It's a working space for students and people who need a quiet room or access to reading materials. A space where you can create your personal curriculum and learn independently at your own pace.

Besides the library is one of the few "third places" left. A "third place"^ is a terminology coined by Ray Oldenburg to describe a place that fosters community life and social interactions in public, the first and second places are respectively home and the workplace. Generally "third places" are places where you feel at home, it's accessible socially and financially. A space, open for all, an area without discrimination where one can meet people, relax and feel welcomed.
It is a neutral ground for people to be in, a neutral ground outside of home or work. The library is one of the few public places left where people aren't expected to spend money.

5. Collectors, Collecting & Collections?

collector noun

someone who collects objects because they are beautiful, valuable, or interesting
https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/collector

This definition from the Cambridge dictionary is true but lacks subtlety in explaining a collector.
Collectors are passionate people that get involved in their subject matter and the intricacies of them. The collector assembles their collection with care and vision, it's a curated selection of books. Along the way they become part of the books history, ex-libris.
Ex-libris is a visual aid to show us this.

They are as much a repository of knowledge as the books.
The same goes for book collectors, they are constantly on the lookout and absorbing information. The act of collecting encompasses not just looking for an object, but also sourcing its provenance, cataloging, displaying and cleaning it (I probably forget a whole lot more). A whole process comes to life in collecting books and the creation of a collection, a process of care for the printed matter. During this process of scouting an item and putting it into the library, collectors slowly become experts on the subject due to accumulating knowledge about their collection. A book collector thus comes very close to being a librarian, the only distinguishing factor is that collectors don’t necessarily share their book knowledge with the world or their collection for that matter. A librarians primary function is helping people find the content they are looking for in the vast sea of information. It would be very constructive and valuable if collectors start identifying themselves as amateur librarians, sharing their amassed knowledge about their collection as well as the access to the books they have. Many collectors forget to think of the life of their collection after their passing, this model would put the collector forth as a valued member of the community able to share its knowledge with world. I have no idea if this is what some collectors want, I personally do and would love it if they would too.

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Furthermore there exists different kinds of collectors, collectors who collect because of the aesthetics, the subject matter or purely as a speculative investment.

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A book collector can oftentimes possess a number of other printed ephemera, included or linked with their books. To me as a graphic designer, these items are of particular interest. Examples of printed ephemera:
- invitation letters
- subscription letters
- stamps
- leaflets
- ex-libris
- cards
- pictures

Book collectors can maintain collections that aren't commonly found in a (special) library or elsewhere. Those could include older:
- instruction manuals
- guidebooks
- magazines
These are all materials that are personally of high interest to me, and I can but hope to discover by chance in a flea market.

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One of the bigger differences with book collections and other type of collections is that books have a utility value, they are repositories of knowledge.
They are repositories of culture as well, with literary novels, poems and artist books.

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Yet we can distinguish two different types of collectors, the ones abundantly collecting the book as an object and the others as a tool. This is a broad generalisation,

Seneca the Younger deplored ostentatious book collecting, asking: "What is the use of possessing numberless books and libraries, whose titles their owner can hardly read through in a lifetime?"^

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What's a collection of knowledge if it can't be shared with others?

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What I understand under collectors in this paper is broad, anyone with a few books can be seen as a collector in my eyes. A book collector is a bibliophile and doesn't need to have an extensive personal library.

6. Internet

The internet has disrupted the monopoly of the library in being the primary source of access to information.

7. Decentralised libraries

We've achieved scarcity like the ancient libraries although because of an excess supply of books. Public libraries or bookstores can't possibly acquire the vast proposal of new books. As I see it there’s a gap in the current library economy that can be bridged with an alternative model. The current models of libraries are public libraries, private ones and the digital ones (legal and pirate), each has its advantages and disadvantages. Although for me these current models are lacking, I sadly don’t always find what I’m looking for or need. A new model for a library could be a welcome addition to fill this missing link. This model would be a hybrid models of the aforementioned, a local library made out of the interconnected collections of the local bibliophiles and collectors. A version where private collections make out individual nodes in a bigger local library for public use. We are at a time where the production of books is so extensive that no single person or even institution is able to gather each published work. That might have been the case in the Renaissance where wealthy patrons could have an extensive body of works that encompassed most of the current published literature, luckily that time has passed. Books are now abundant, from zines to coffee table books to literature to scientific journals; you can find tremendous amounts of printed matter in almost any subject or language you can think of. However this still doesn’t mean that all that material is easily accessible or available in your library or even bookshop. Due to the invention of the off-set printing press in the early 20th century the cost of printing books have drastically been reduced, nevertheless books aren’t always cheap or produced in high numbers. Limited edition and/or highly expensive books are difficult to find, your local or national library probably doesn’t have a copy. A lot of smaller edition foreign books often don’t find many copies traveling overseas and definitely do not see a copy in a local public library. Furthermore libraries have specific acquisition criteria put in place for the acquisition of new books, a multitude of small editions, niche content or underground editions will never be acquired by them. Niche editions are an important part of culture as they contain specialised knowledge on subjects ranging from work, technical research, hobbies, literature and as well as the voices of minority communities that aren’t always well represented within the institutional system.

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An alternative to the current institutions would be a community-oriented library maintained and sourced from content originating from the collectors of the community. This local community library would have a catalog that represents its community as well as having content that wouldn’t easily be found elsewhere.

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On multiple occasions I have had the annoyance of not finding a single copy of the book I was interested in. Sometimes I would find one, but it wouldn’t be easy to get a hold of; in a different city in a special collection where I needed to have a membership and ask for access. I once also decided to order a copy from overseas, it was late at night and in my drowsy state I read that there were no extra costs or taxes involved. I happily purchased and went to sleep, imagine my surprise when 2 weeks later I had to pay a hefty tax to get the book delivered at home, the tax exceeded the price paid for the book. I complained to the seller and shipping company but never got a good explanation back, in that time the book was lost somewhere in a German UPS depot.
Any ways speciality books or just older books are difficult to find. Older books sometimes even more so as libraries practice a “weeding” out process, books that aren’t consulted enough get discarded over time to make place for others as well as books that are considered deprecated since the knowledge on the subject matter has evolved over time.
There’s a great example of the

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One of the benefits of interconnecting private libraries for public use is the ability to create wide body of accessible materials. New collections could be created out of the aforementioned private libraries using any possible type of associations, a hyperlinked library shying away from the old library culture. It is up to the community to decide on collection creation, there’s no restrictions as in an institutionalised public library.
Using a mix of controlled vocabulary and a folksonomy for the classification system will also allow users to be more in touch with the library and the creation of collections, they will use the terms they feel most ‘comfortable’ with.

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(describe folksonomy)

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Another important point of interconnected private libraries is the decentralised aspect of storage. It’s not ‘decentralised’ in a technological way but in the way that the collection is distributed amongst the several collectors. A library that uses the community as storage enables to have almost no discarding of materials, users provide their material to the library when needed. If the works aren’t displayed in the library, the works return to their respective owners. This system potentially enables the library to grow infinitely content wise. Following on this, an important aspect of having a distributed local library allows for a real inclusive view of the interest of the community, it’s a representation of their collection. But also what collections they want to create, show, or research using the materials at hand from the various private libraries.

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decentralised or distributed

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A decentralised system would permit the inclusion of a multitude of books that wouldn't be found in a traditional system.

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Benefits of a decentralised library would include:
- increased storage
- access to out of print materials
- access to rare/limited edition
- increase social interaction
- learning garden

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(include protocol writings, maybe rewrite a few things)

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_DAOs

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I’ll also describe/analyse a few notable unconventional library project that motivated and spurred my research.

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The first one is the Reanimation Library, a free public library consisting of discarded books containing visual imagery. The project started 10 years ago by artist and librarian Andrew Beccone, he sees it as both an art project and a library. Their mission as a library is to contribute to the cultural commons and enable collaboration among people. The book collection is can only be viewed on site, their intention is to motivate people to use the books for creative work. The reading room is equipped with scanners and computers so library users can scan and copy the works they are interested in to be able to create new (art)works.

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They want to point the visual richness of those sometimes seemingly ordinary books, the “outdated” visuals that can be used as building blocks for new content. These illustrations, drawings, etchings and schemas are incredible source material to create a multitude of new creative work. To them the library is a big learning garden where projects and ideas can bloom; they are quote that they want to “call attention to the generative potential of libraries”.

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The Reanimation library sees themselves as a beacon in between the digital and the analog worlds, trying to bridge the gaps with books, scanners, computer and reading access. A remix potential of the ages.

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In some way this project can be seen as an ecological and political critique of the consumerism in our society, old or “outdated” doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s obsolete. Older common books still have their merits even if not in the current views of the mainstream institutions. Relevant information is relative, it’s understandable that school books get replaced to teach students with the current matters but older textbooks are considerable resources to make comparative studies with the past.

[^1]: Information wants to be free

^: Molina, Manuel. "Archives and Bookkeeping in Southern Mesopotamia during the Ur III period", Comptabilités [En ligne], 8 | 2016, mis en ligne le 20 juin 2016

^: Sabiescu, A.G. (2020), Living Archives and The Social Transmission of Memory. Curator, 63: 497-510. https://doi.org/10.1111/cura.12384

^: Spar, Ira. “The Origins of Writing.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/wrtg/hd_wrtg.htm (October 2004)

1. Preface

My reflexion arose while I was thrifting, I was wondering "Can you be a socialist and a collector?". This very political question started me down a rabbit hole of how can a private "collection" have a public use and be accessed by the community. I personally love looking around and thrifting objects, but my quest is more in the finding of objects than owning them. All what I've found is to me worth sharing, I want to discuss, talk about it etc. It started from the fact that I love to thrift and look around for gems, I look around for all kinds of stuff but at the core I'm a graphic designer and a bibliophile second. I'll look at the cover, the form of the object, the type of paper, the typeface used, the printing method, the binding method, the illustrations and subject matter. All what makes a book a book is interesting to me, I'm fascinated by it's history or just as reference for other books I'd like to typeset or create. Along the way I have found quite a collection of beautiful gems but sadly only known to me. This sparked my thought process about collectors and if having a collection could have a more public/social use. It’s indeed quite political, is collecting solely an act of amassing or can it be something more social to be shared with others. I wish I could share my passions and finds with others as well as looking through their collections.

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Maybe collector isn't the right word, because nowadays collector is closely tied with someone gathering objects of value and thus their collections are sometimes immeasurable investments. I guess the word is bibliophiles, although creating a decentralised library with patrons who are big collectors would certainly give it more content and prestige.

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I started writing these reflexions on my laptop but I would get nothing done. All around me were distractions, maybe I could do the dishes, watch the homeless man on the bench in the street in front of me, water the plants, or go to the kitchen to find some food in the fridge. But most of my time I was just sitting behind my screen, scrolling endlessly on various platforms, reading tidbits of random information on twitter, checking my notifications, refreshing my mailbox but not reading emails. This isn’t new, we have all had this experience and so right now I started writing with pen and paper, coming to appreciate my subject matter, the creation of interconnected physical private libraries much more. There’s too much constant information and distraction on a screen compared to the black letters on a static white piece of paper. The information is right there and it just needs to be picked up. This is one more reason why I’m interested in the book as a physical object and not just virtual copies of books.

Preface