Library of Babel \\ Digital Libraries

I must admit, I had to read Borges’ story multiple times with numerous references to the cover-picture before I even could begin grasping what he was getting at.  On my first attempt, I couldn’t even finish the first paragraph for the quote: “To the left and right of the hallway there are two very small closets.  In the first, one may sleep standing up; in the other, satisfy one’s fecal necessities.”  left me very confused about what went on in the Library of Babel. 

While there are numerous interpretations and learnings to be gathered from Borges’ story, the one I chose to focus on was comparing Borges’ hypothetical (physical) library with the current reality of digital libraries, and the potential pitfalls we may run into.  Borges paints of a picture of a library that has amassed and stored so many materials that it is “perhaps infinite”.  No one knows how to interpret or find information that they are looking for, and the idea of a codices/ compendium/formula to interpret all the materials stored in the Library of Babel has become the stuff of legend and superstition.  The amount of materials house has become too large, and while it is where people spend their day-to-day, they don’t understand how to find it.  I find parallels between Borges’ library and potential that digital libraries have the chance to become.  Most of us use, and potentially store, digital materials on a daily basis, and I know a question that has been raised over and over in my various LIS courses is the fragility of information stored and created digitally.  What if the technology is no longer useable?  What is a server shuts down?  What if a virus terminates a storage program or infects information so it is no longer usable?  While more and more of our lives are being taken up by resources online, it is important to step back and think about how we are preserving the resources. 

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2 responses to “Library of Babel \\ Digital Libraries

  1. (I should mention that this blog’s icon/image in the upper left-hand corner is something I found after searching for images/artists’ conceptions of “Library of Babel” – very M.C. Escher!)

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