ELAINE CHAN-DOW

ELAINE CHAN-DOW

VISUAL ARTIST & PHOTOGRAPHER

LIBRARIA : Evolution of Literary Spaces

 

The term Library as we know it is a term given to a building or an institution that stores books, periodicals, films and music. It is a derivative of the Latin word libraria meaning bookshop.

 

Many of the libraries we see today stemmed from the idea of a reading room formed by a collective of wealthy individuals that paid dues to build and maintain a book collection. A major shift of the library in North America is seen in the early 1900’s during the Industrial Revolution, when the idea of ‘knowledge is equal to personal improvement’ became the focus of the library institution. It was through hard work and perseverance that the library became what we see today through public funding and private sponsorship such as the Carnegie Funds, allowing the general public to have access to ‘knowledge’.

 

The library as it exists now is no longer just a knowledge warehouse. In fact as Lorne Bruce writes in his article Public Libraries and the Information Age in 1995: "Libraries need to re-imagine themselves as important learning organizations where services continually change and improve". This sentence is the perfect inspiration for Libraria, a photographic art series based on the idea that Libraries are not only a source of knowledge but were conceived as part of a democratic ideal that in the modern era enable all members of society open access to learning. Libraria also touches on the evolution of the library concept from the classical idea of libraries housing and archiving reading materials to the modern idea of libraries as a focal point for community outreach, collaboration and social support while addressing the role of technology in this evolution. Libraries are not only a sacred place where one can visit to find solitude from the business of the city, where children can access technology and games, but more importantly it provides a sanctuary for those less fortunate to give them access to knowledge via computers and the internet or through the traditional methods: books. Ultimately Libraria is posing a question to the viewer: What do you think would happen if libraries no longer existed?

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