“Among the many things the Japanese people are mourning this week are their libraries,” writes The Book Bench’s Macy Halford in memoriam. The 9.0-magnitude earthquake that kickstarted a ring of Pacific tsunamis, displaced thousands of people, and terminally damaged multiple nuclear reactors recently has also shaken the Japanese library system to its knees.
Halford noticed an odd, semi-social photographic trend rumbling under the internet’s surface: Japanese people were uploading hundreds of images of denuded library shelves and fields of unorganized books. “Why libraries?” Halford wondered,
I think it has to do with what is not shown in the pictures more than with what is. Books shaken to the floor provide a good visual measurement of the power of the quake: we can easily visualize how the rows looked before, how nice and tidy they were, and we can imagine the sort of force needed to dislodge them. But the images also allow us to glimpse the destruction in a relatively benign environment—books are not people. We hope that the libraries’ caretakers are safe, and, in the buildings where only the books, not the shelves, have tumbled, we reassure ourselves that they are. In many of these photos, we can easily envision someone coming along to set things right. These are images of hope, as much as of disaster, and they speak to the idea that the things most fundamental to a culture—in this case, its codified knowledge—have not been lost.
We know how important public libraries are to a seamless, functional democracy, so we hope all of those books get shelved quickly and the wheels of knowledge start spinning again.
Source: The Book Bench