What kills libraries? Governments.

This is the Universiteitsbibliotheek in Leuven. It was a casualty of both World Wars. In 1914 the Germans destroyed the city after they were duped into thinking there was an Allied onslaught on the way. Article 247 of the Treaty of Versailles dictates Germany’s reparations:

Germany undertakes to furnish to the University of Louvain, within three months after a request made by it and transmitted through the intervention of the Reparation Commission, manuscripts, incunabula, printed books, maps and objects of collection corresponding in number and value to those destroyed in the burning by Germany of the Library of Louvain. All details regarding such replacement will be determined by the Reparation Commission.

Earlier today Brewster Kahle from the Internet Archive spoke to the librarians at UC Berkeley about digital libraries and the the future. He reminded us all that the most common way to destroy a library is to burn it, not pull the plug on a server. Of course the Library of Alexandria is the most famous example, but throughout history many libraries have been destroyed in war or acts of political aggression. The book burning entry on Wikipedia has a pretty good list of libraries that were destroyed by fire.

It was a little weird watching The Great War tonight and hear about Leuven. I suppose this post would have been more timely last week.

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