Dar al-kutub… On the House of Books

Note: This Post Originally featured on the WickedWriters Blog…  http://thewickedwriters.blogspot.com/

It has been a busy week for me, back here in the UK. I have taken up a new position in a London-based institute of Higher Education, and this has left me little time to think of something interesting to say to support you all, my good friends, in celebrating National Library Week. But, here goes!

The trouble with books and the libraries that hold them is that many people seem to think they are dying!

I had chance to read, this week (in keeping with the historical bent of Greg’s post), that the appearance of the Television led to a prediction that the shelf life of books was doomed! DOOMED, I say! (Repeating myself merely for effect.)

A future library?

Yet here we are, into the second decade of the 21st Century, and books and libraries are still with us. And as we can see from the posts of this week, books and libraries are for ever important to us and the communities we live in. It is no different to libraries here in the UK and, I dare say, in most other countries abroad. But, with i-technology and e-books… are the doom-sayers to have their time?

The book is dead! Long live the book!

Books captivate, inspire and draw the reader into a silent and personal world.

A Brave New World?

Books are written by authors, people like us here at Wicked Writers, because we have something to share with you, our readers. They are a means of sharing knowledge, whether that knowledge be factual, of a history passed or a moment of “now”, or of a fictional world of monsters and vampires. Consider the mundane science fiction of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World – inviting us to consider the state of our world in years to come – or, simply, a good old fashioned, hard-boiled crime novel. Books create, in the reader, a shared knowledge.

In the eighth century, the dar al-kutub’s of Central Asia, or “houses of books”, grew as centres of intellectual activity where writers and scholars talked of their work and ideas in discussion with mixed audiences of the young and interested lay people. Anyone and everyone could take part in the discussions. Professional scribes then copied the results of these discussions, creating books of knowledge.

A house of books...

In the 21st Century, anyone, young or old, knowledgeable or in search of knowledge, academics or lay people, can still call on the library – our “house of books” – to share in knowledge. A house of books is a tradition, centuries old, that unites individuals into communities. And long should they be celebrated as such, whether they be in the good ol’ US of A, the UK or any other country of the world we live in.

The book lives!

Under the threat of modern technology, books are not doomed, nor are the libraries that hold them. While people exist, there will, I suggest, always be a desire to share knowledge. A desire to come together to talk, discuss, write, read and do any number of things closely associated with the function of the venerable House of Books. There will always be a demand for a place in society where we can gain access to the silent and personal world that offers such inspiration and captivation – though the form, as with books, may change.

The Library is dying? No! Long live the Library, our House of Books.

  9 comments for “Dar al-kutub… On the House of Books

  1. April 19, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Chiming in late, of course, but I loved this history on the house of books. It’s certainly an idea that our communities continues to (r)evolve around.

    Another great post, David, and best wishes on the new job!

  2. Heidi Noroozy
    April 16, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Lovely post, David. I’m always fascinated by the history of things, and I won’t enter a library again without thinking about all those long-ago-discussion in the house of books. I never really thought about it before, but the modern Farsi word for library still translates as “house of books: ketab khaneh”.

    • April 16, 2010 at 7:07 pm

      I’m glad you liked the post, Heidi. I was facinated myself, when I came across the ancient reference. I, too, will not be able to divorce where we are now from those that went before, so long ago!

  3. April 15, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    The prospect of being able to borrow ebooks over buying them has me all atwitter — to buy the kindle or the ipad… decisions… decisions…

    Loved the info on House of Books. I know now where I’d want to live if I was around in the 8th century. How cool was that? Great post, David and I hope you’re doing well this week at the new job!

    • April 15, 2010 at 5:37 pm

      Thanks, C.J. It’s great when your job can actually give you ideas for a blog post!

    • April 16, 2010 at 12:23 am

      Great post, David. And thanks for going a little further back in history. As for CJ, I might pass on living in the 8th century, unless I could somehow come back to the present for a few things not available back then — deodorant, Febreze, soap, medicine, Febreze, Aleve, sun block, Febreze, Lysol, bleach, Febreze. You get the picture.

      • April 16, 2010 at 2:00 am

        Sure do, Greg. And where would we be without a computer each? :)

  4. April 15, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Absolutely not dead! Just evolving with technology. I can’t wait for the library to offer a check out/check in process from remote locations for eBooks. Won’t that be too convenient, and I think the trees will appreciate this advance in technology more than we will.

    • April 15, 2010 at 5:35 pm

      Don’t you just love evolution? I know I do! (Mind you, I am not averse to a little revolution at times!)

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