21st Century Libraries – Part 1

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Libraries have changed their functionality since the Internet. How do we define the modern library? A definition that has appeared repeatedly from multiple sources refers to “21st century libraries (provide) a welcoming common space that encourages exploration, creation, and collaboration between students, teachers, and a larger community. wide. They bring together the best of physics and digital to create hubs of learning.” (https://www.edutopia.org/blog/21st-century-libraries-learning-commons-beth-holland) Sources on the design of modern library space include: (https://altamira.edu .co/), “School Libraries: The Heart of the 21st Century” (https://www.education.act.gov.au › assets › pdf_file), “NCCA Library Learning Commons” (https://newton.instructure. com › courses), and “21st Century Libraries: Changing from the Ground Up” (https://www.libraryjournal.com › history › technology)

First experiences. My first experience with the Internet in libraries dates back to my studies at Jochi Daigaku (Sophia University) in the late sixties. Besides its main campus in Yotsuya in the heart of Tokyo, I remember having sessions in Ichigaya, one of its four campuses. My first contact with computers was at the Ichigaya Library. It made me wonder about the new style of typewriters working differently from typewriters in the Philippines. Later, I learned that they were computers. Back at my home university, when I was writing my thesis in the late 70s, we had in the research office a heavy metal platform, the size of a writing table, which could use statistical tools. I loved the squeak as I fed my research data, forgetting it was a computer. While studying in the UK (mid 80’s) my band mates and I would go to one of the many libraries for our references, leaving them with the lady at the counter, who shortly afterwards gave us a list of the books we chose. We pick up the books at the counter in our dormitory. I never bothered to ask how they got there. Less these new experiences distract me, I tried to focus more attention on my studies. In the libraries of the University of Surrey and the University of London Institute of Education, there were no usual keep quiet signs posted on the wall as we walked home. A detour from the collections leads to several rooms in the library where we students worked together on our essays. Once our teacher was with our team for a special session. I have never tried to use computers. One of our lot (probably from a more advanced country than ours) offered to format my essay using computers. A cozy place for coffee/snacks was available after a turn from the room where we had learned as a group. Working on this article made me realize that the design of library space in those years was a precursor to what we see and expect in libraries today.

Origins of the library. In the ancient Middle East now known as Nineveh, modern Iraq is said to have been the site of some 30,000 cuneiform tablets systematically organized according to subject. (Google, Nov 17, 2016) As the attached reference states, “The oldest known library in the world was founded in the 7th century BC for the ‘royal contemplation’ of the Assyrian ruler Ashurbanipal.” History describes Ashurbanipal as an extraordinary king. His entries boasted “of the breadth and depth of his learning”. While other Assyrian kings “led the army into distant campaigns”, “Asurbanipal stayed at home.” The walls of his palace “were decorated with carved reliefs, including many kings depicted with a stiletto inserted into his belt.” (https://blog.of reeds or clay shelves” cataloged using colophons. Colophons are “the imprint of a publisher on the spine of a book, or in this case a tablet that shows the name of the series, the title of the tablet, and any additional information the scribe needed to indicate.” “Eventually the clay tablets were organized by subject and size.” The older ones were removed in due to limited space in the library as new tablets were added, which is why some tablets were missing from excavated cities in Mesopotamia.(http://en.wikipedia.org/History_of_libraries#Early_libraries) In 612 BC, Nineveh was destroyed by a coalition of ancient Iranians, “who when the palace was burned down, a great fire must have ravaged the library. “This caused the cuneiform tablets to be partially baked of clay. and what event helped to preserve the tablets.” Those “inscr ites on wax panels which, due to their organic nature, have been lost.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_of_Ashurbanipal)

The Ashurbanipal Library Project. With the Nineveh fire, all is not lost. The British Museum database of 30,943 “tablets” in the entire collection of the Nineveh Library, as “part of Ashurbanipal’s library project came from those recovered by the English archaeologist Austen Henry Layard in 1849 (under fragmentary form) in the ruined library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh (Mosul, Iraq).” Among the finds is the Epic of Gilgamesh which depicts a traditional Babylonian view of creation. This epic in English translation reminds me that we covered several other epics during my studies for a bachelor’s degree in literature. These other epics include Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey”, Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, “Beowulf”, Virgil’s “Aeneid”, and Sophocles’ “Antigone”. Gilgamesh is “the semi-mythical king of Uruk in Mesopotamia, best known from ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’ (written c. 2150 – 1400 BCE), the great Sumerian/Babylonian poetic work that predates the writing of 1500-year-old Homer… (it) stands as the oldest piece of epic world literature.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_n of_libraries#Early_libraries)

Writing this piece makes me curious if these days, our students as part of their liberal education, would come across these classic early pieces, and also, the much later Bard of Avon.

Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, PhD, one of the Philippines’ most accomplished educators and experts in the management of higher education institutions, studied at top universities in the Philippines and in Germany, Britain and Japan. She has held senior academic positions at Xavier University, Ateneo de Cagayan; was appointed by the president after EDSA 1986 to standardize campus operations at state institutions and served 17 years later as president of SUC. She is the director of the internationalization office and a lecturer at Liceo University in Cagayan. Awards include the CHEd Lifetime Professional Achievement Award, the British Council Valuable Services Recognition Award, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the Ministry of Education Award for his initiatives as a pioneer member of the Philippine Teacher Education Council.

E-mail: [email protected]


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