Today, at the Library of Congress, Dr. Ismail Serageldin, the Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt, delivered an exhilarating talk called “The Loss and Rebirth of the Library of Alexandria.” His talk began with a discussion of the ancient library in Alexandria including some of its earliest advocates to today’s modern library complete with digital materials. Over the 2,500 years of history, the library’s ambitious mission of acquiring and making available universal knowledge has been a challenge, but mostly a reward to the global community.
Recently, the National Academy of Sciences named the original Library of Alexandria the “first knowledge institution” in the world. Today, the Library is one of the biggest Francophone libraries in the world thanks to a huge donation several years back from France of 500,000 books. They are also the only institution outside of their home base on San Francisco where the Internet Archive servers are being used. For those of you unfamiliar with Internet Archive, read here. Dr. Serageldin compared the goal of capturing the Internet to the original goal of acquiring scrolls and books.
One of my favorite of his quotes from today’s lecture deals with Cleopatra’s request of Marc Antony during their courtship:
What kind of woman, whose way to her heart, is a massive donation to the National Library? My kind of woman!
You can read the Press Release about this lecture and his other lectures here. And to learn more about this wonderful library, check out their website here. And here is the message from the Dr. Serageldin.