Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bibliotheca Alexandria

The historic Bibliotheca Alexandria was founded in the 3rd century BCE. It was the largest library in the ancient world. (Any ships landing at Alexandria were required to turn over all scrolls to the librarians—a copy was made and given to the ship—the library kept the original.

The new Bibliotheca Alexandria was finished in 2002 with the help of a number of nations and UNESCO. It seems to be a great library building—designed to function as a library. It includes an antiquities museum, a science museum, a planetarium, and a small art museum—this seems to follow the functions of the ancient Bibliottheca Alexandria. (Now it's the only library with a Planetarium--hopefully we'll succeed in getting the Minnesota Planetarium added to the Minneapolis Central Library as planned.) It has a 2000-seat reading room on seven tiered levels, and space for 8 million hard copy volumes. (currently the collection is quite small-- 800 thousand volumes). It has the copy of the Internet Archive, lots of computer terminals and an instant publishing service.

It is not a “Free Public Library” like US libraries. Everyone needs to pay a fee to enter (Annual fee for Egyptians is about $12 per year (less for students, children and retired persons), about $65 per year for non-Egyptians.

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