Global Library Grovels for Books


Deseret News has this article about a new library in Egypt that has it all....except books.

\"Surrounded by a reflecting waterpool, the library has 17 elevators, self-cleaning windows and a safety system so advanced it can extinguish fires without leaving so much as a drop of water on a rare text.
The library is short on one crucial element. Books.\"

\"— The new library in this storied Mediterranean city abuts the blue sea, its foundation sunk so deep that the first four floors are below ground.\"

\"The Egyptians have cut no corners on concrete, but not so with content. The $200 million project is meant to be a sort of modern-day version of the Great Library of Alexandria, where the ancient Greeks gathered texts from throughout the known world, only to have them vanish into the mists of antiquity. But months before it is to open, the new library\'s budget for actually acquiring books is so puny that the library\'s chief, an Egyptian architecture professor named Mohsen Zahran, must grovel for books whose main virtue is that they are free.\"

\"Nearby, Raina Samaha catalogs a batch of volumes donated by people as far away as Japan and Canada. Here are \"Best Travel Deals 1996,\" a lonely report on the \"Proceedings of the 17th International Congress of Orientalists\" (held in 1928), and a Chinese book on \"hip kneading and pressing therapy.\" There is a guide to buying global stocks, published by Dow Jones & Co., which owns The Wall Street Journal. It\'s the 1995 edition.
These aren\'t the kind of rare texts the library\'s masterminds were expecting when they launched the project more than a decade ago. \"If you want to donate books, send us a list and we select from it,\" says Shawky Salem, a librarian at the University of Alexandria and a professor of information science. \"But we should not be collecting the garbage of the world.\"

\"Mr. Zahran thinks this view is uncharitable. With room for eight million volumes, \"We\'ve got the space.\" As the collection grows, he adds, the library can always \"swap\" books with others.\"