Cara biblioteca, ti amo…


Si sa… le biblioteche, e le istituzioni culturali in genere, sono in pericolo. Non solo in Italia, ma in tutto il mondo.

Ma ogni tanto spunta qualche bella iniziativa che vorrebbe sensibilizzare sulla loro importanza e sulla necessità che esse non chiudano.

E’ il caso della Scozia, che, in occasione del Book Week Scotland, che si terrà nei prossimi giorni, ha scelto di lanciare una campagna chiedendo ai lettori di inviare lettere d’amore alla loro biblioteca preferita, dove queste verranno esposte. Hanno aderito all’originale iniziativa anche molti importanti scrittori, le cui lettere saranno pubblicate sul The Guardian.

Oltre al ruolo essenziale dell’accesso generalizzato alla cultura, quale significato hanno per noi le “nostre” biblioteche? Quali ricordi personali fluiscono da esse? Quali cambiamenti hanno apportato nella nostra vita? Le biblioteche hanno un ruolo speciale nella nostra comunità?

Molte altre domande potrebbero nascere, e altrettante, differenti, risposte ne potrebbero scaturire, legate al vissuto di ognuno.

Scopriremmo anche come le nostre storie e quelle racchiuse nei libri, a volte si intreccino indissolubilmente. Questi i bibliotecari lo sanno bene: ogni libro che ritorna e che viene riposto nello scaffale è ogni volta un po’ più “pesante”, più vecchio, più logoro.

Ogni biblioteca è la nostra memoria, la memoria della nostra comunità e dell’umanità intera. “Senza le biblioteche non abbiamo né passato né futuro”, nelle parole di Ray Bradbury.

E se lanciassimo questa campagna anche in Italia? Chissà se i nostri politici si farebbero commuovere…!


Those precious seconds at Verona’s Biblioteca Capitolare

“There are 86,400 seconds in one day. It’s up to you deciding what to do with them”.

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This phrase was written behind the business card of a cafe just in front of the Duomo, Verona’s cathedral church. It’s no wonder that the cafe was called “Caffe’ e Parole”, which translates to Coffee and words. As for us, we had already spent some of those seconds well, when we had visited the library just left of the cafe, in the same square the Duomo stood. So, we decided to ‘freeze’ that moment in a recollection filled with historical memories.

Verona’s Biblioteca Capitolare, a downright gem placed in a seemingly anonymous building.

No tourist, only us enjoying that timeless treasure. There were tourists in Verona, don’t get us wrong. But in that corner, to our disappointment, there was absolutely none around.

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So, here’s our brief notes to let the world know something about one of the oldest libraries on the planet (where, to mention one, the earliest witness of the Italian language is preserved in a few lines of text). We don’t want to tell its history, which can easily be found on the net: we just want to gently guide you through those ancient and flaking walls to get a glimpse of time passed. The best things, for example, are those one doesn’t see.

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Manuscripts, incunabula, librarians such as Monsignor Turrini who during the war passionately defended and saved them. Petrarch and Dante, who often went there to study; the plague, which hit Verona in 1630 and seemed the nth threat to hit the library’s holdings… that were eventfully re-discovered by Veronese humanist Scipione Maffei. Undoubtedly, these stories are shared by many a library. But the Capitolare, Europe’s most ancient library seems a hidden gem, even though many know about its importance. It seems as though the cloister it encloses, which once hosted custodians such as Pacificus and Ursicinus, is enclosed in some kind of past that never went by.

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When we arrived, a theology symposium could not have found a better setting. There couldn’t have been a better welcome for us, too, from an old lady. She seemed to bear the weight of all those shelves on her shoulders, and warned us: “there are a lot of books here… very ancient ones!”.  Her innocence struck us, especially if we think of many Italian librarians who are bored of their job and jealous of the treasures they must preserve. I don’t know what that woman was called. But I remember how, when we asked her to show us the other rooms, she swiftly replied: “Come, I’ll show you the study room. There are many stories to be told here….”.

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It isn’t hard to imagine those stories, once you have gone through those ancient doors…

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Are Ranganathan’s laws obsolete?


Could the founding father of library science have imagined the challenges, the swift changes, the growing anxiety over the future of the book, or even the innovations in store for libraries in the 21st century?

A downright overturn compared to what was happening eighty years ago. So it seems obvious the Five Laws of Library Science of 1931 should be called into question when it comes to their current value.

A group of researchers has done just that. They also wanted to ‘tidy up’ and reinterpret the 5 laws in the light of contemporary changes in information services (for example those concerning electronic data and the Web).

Reordering Ranganathan: Shifting User Behaviors, Shifting Priorities is the title of a report published by OCLC on June 30th 2014 and edited by researchers Lynn Silipigni Connaway and Ixchel Faniel.

So how have the fundamental laws been reconsidered?

  1. “Save the time of the reader” (the former fourth law): libraries must make their resources available by embedding them into the users’ existing workflowsIn a word, they must provide online services that appeal to their specific communities.
  2. “Every person his or her book” (the former second law): knowing one’s community and its needs is its foundation.
  3. “Books are for use” (the former first law): this law is still all about access; the interpretation offered by the authors is focused on the development of physical and technical infrastructure needed to deliver ‘analog’ and digital materials
  4. “Every book its reader” (the former third law): libraries must nowadays increase discoverability, access and use of resources within users’ workflows.
  5. “A library is a growing organism” (the former fifth law): the authors of this report particularly underline a feature of libraries that is subject to growth: the users’ share of attention, that is the total time a person is willing to spend using library resources and services in order to efficiently retrieve information.

The latter seems like a demanding challenge – if I may say so – with Google, wikipedia and social networks.

You can find this extremely interesting report free to download here.