Library Workplace Mythology


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This presentation is an overview of how Joseph Campbell's definition of mythology helps us understand libraries as workplaces both historically and in the future.

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Library Workplace Mythology

  1. 1. Reworking Myth:Casting Lots for the Future of Library Workplaces
  2. 2. Using the Alexandrian Librariesto see Past, Present, and FutureAncient Alexandrian Library Bibliotheca Alexandrina
  3. 3. The Ancient Library • Established by Ptolemy IThe Mouseion (Soter) • Connected to the Temple of the Muses, or “Museum” • Was located within the palace area. • Subsequent Ptolemies, notably Ptolemy II and III , added substantially to the collection • Ptolemies I, II, & III all brought scholars to live in Alexandria and use the library
  4. 4. The Ancient LibraryDaughter Library • Probably created as an overflow for the original library. • Housed in the Serapeum, or Temple of Serapis, outside the palace, but still within the city of Alexandria. • Stored, among other items, the results of Ptolemy II (Philadelphius)‟s active efforts to enlarge its collections.
  5. 5. The Ancient LibraryDestruction? Both libraries probably shared separate fates: •The Museum Library is said to have burned in 48 B.C. at the hand of Julius Caesar—if it happened, it was probably an accident •The Daughter Library may have been destroyed more than 400 years later, when Christians destroyed the Serapeum and, presumably, the daughter library contained within it. •More than one scholar suggests that the libraries vanished from lack of upkeep and fragile collections.
  6. 6. The Modern Library According to J. TocatlianProject Genesis (Formerly of UNESCO) “The design of the [Bibliotheca Alexandrina] is in the form of a circle, which becomes its predominant symbol…the circle is a symbol of unity and continuity that embraces the past, present and future…[the library‟s] cylindrical masonry form emerges from the earth like the rebirth of an earlier form” (43).
  7. 7. The Future Library •“The granite exterior wall [of theProject Goals Bibliotheca Alexandrina] is patterned in alphabets, an assortment of characters and hieroglyphs from 200 different writing systems ancient and modern. •They mingle to project the sense that the building is a mysterious receptacle of some sort…crammed with strange messages. •And the impression is exactly right, because the building promises an implausible but somehow still thrilling answer to an old dream.” Amy E. Schwartz, writer for the Washington Post
  8. 8. The Future LibraryProject Goals • A call to collect „the writings of all peoples‟ • Constructing the “universal” collection • Shifting toward Internet-Based Collections
  9. 9. The Modern Disconnect Claims of the The Archaeological and Bibliotheca Alexandrina Historical Record From the Library‟s Website Grzegorz Majcherek explains:“The new Library of Alexandria, the “Archaeology has proved almostBibliotheca Alexandrina, completely powerless in the face ofis…[l]ocated on a superb site on the this myth, failing to keep step withhistoric eastern harbor of Alexandria, changing reality. The Bibliothecaalmost exactly where the old library Alexandrina stands rebuilt in newand the royal palace of the Ptolemies form, as an ultra modern library, yetonce stood…” we are still looking for an answer to…simple questions of key(“The Landmark Building,” emphasis importance [including]: Where wasadded) the original Library?” (Academic Life of Late Antique Alexandria: A View From the Field 191, emphasis added)
  10. 10. Ancient Alexandria
  11. 11. Ancient Alexandria
  12. 12. Ancient Alexandria
  13. 13. Ancient Alexandria
  14. 14. Modern Alexandria
  15. 15. Ancient/Modern Alexandria
  16. 16. Ancient/Modern Alexandria
  17. 17. Layering and Mythmaking•The order created by mythology is not fixed, as is sometimesassumed in historical thinking.•Mythological order comes from the placing of like stories ontop of one another simultaneously until specificity is blurredand only the similarities between stories is recognizable.•This allows an order to form from the hodgepodge of storiesand a mythology forms based upon this order.
  18. 18. Joseph Campbell: Four Functions of Myth•“Myth basically serves four functions. The first is the mysticalfunction…realizing what a wonder the universe is, and what awonder you are, and experienc[ing] awe before this mystery…”•“The second is a cosmological dimension…showing you whatthe shape of the universe is but showing it in such a way that themystery comes through…”•“The third function is the sociological one—supporting andvalidating a certain social order…”•“[and] there is a fourth function of myth…that is thepedagogical function of how to live a life under anycircumstances.”(The Power of Myth 38-39, emphasis added)
  19. 19. Hierarchy of Functions Primary Mythological Functions • Sociological • Mystical Secondary Mythological Functions • Cosmological • Pedagogical
  20. 20. Examples of Library Workplace Pedagogy The Five Laws of Library 2.0 Pedagogy Library Science1. Books Are For 1. Libraries Act as a Use Crossroads of Information2. Every Person His or Her Book 2. Libraries Conduct3. Every Book Its Their Core Business Reader on the Web4. Save the Time of 3. Libraries Service the Reader Small Niche Groups.5. The Library is a 4. Libraries value Growing Organism Quantity in Users
  21. 21. Common future-library scenarios portrayed by scholars:•The internet is a unique event unlike anything inthe history of libraries.•The arrival of the internet is the beginning of theend of libraries.
  22. 22. A Myth to Call Its OwnLibrary future, viewed through the lens of libraryworkplace mythology, shows library workplaces asthey have always been:Groups of people and structures that have been,are, and will be capable of adapting to cultural,religious, political, and technological changes,while maintaining a core identity that represents adesire to learn, a love of information, a willingness toadapt, and a fascinating mythology all their own.