Asleep at the Wheel

Asleep at the Wheel by Bob Berring.

From the post:

In 1987, those roseate times before social media and Google searches, Dr. James Billington was appointed the United States’ Librarian of Congress. The appointment did not bode well. My voice was part of the outcry over the fact that at a crucial juncture for the role of libraries in the world, a person was taking the helm who was neither a librarian nor an information professional. The New York Times, which I had always viewed as the sage voice of national reason, opined that the job was too big for a librarian. It called for a scholar like Dr. Billington. So it goes.

Berring mentions The Enemies of Books (1880) as a history of the struggles of libraries for centuries.

Let’s hope that Billington’s replacement is a militant librarian who recognizes the need to preserve our existing cultural legacy while embracing what will be the future’s cultural legacy now.

I can’t repeat the one story I know of the dealings of the Library of Congress and an institution in another country but suffice it to say the Library of Congress was more concerned with its status than with finding a way to obtain access to fairly rare biblical materials. To be fair, so were the people I was working for.

I had mistakenly thought that furthering access to rare materials would be a goal of anyone who wanted to “foster biblical scholarship.”

Being assured by each other that they were in fact fostering biblical scholarship was more important than any actual deeds to foster biblical scholarship. As Nietzsche once said, they “told the correct time and made a modest noise while doing so.”

Comments are closed.