Libraries initiate and increase knowledge

Libraries are indispensable for gaining and increasing knowledge. What are libraries, anyway? They are institutions entrusted with acquiring, disseminating, and preserving knowledge. They are purveyors of knowledge, although they do not generate profits. Cambridge Dictionary defines a library as a room or building that contains a collection of books and other written material that you can read.” Yes, the name library conjures up written materials intended to be read out of no cost. Dissimilar to a bookshop where customers buy books, libraries make books and other print and non-print materials available for readers for free. 

Library shelf

Libraries have been around for a long time and come a long way. They have evolved and kept abreast of varied circumstances and trends. Their origin goes back as far as the seventh century BC (That is 2800 years ago.) The first library was built by King Ashurbanipal of the Assyrians, who once formed a great empire stretching from Iraq to Turkey. The king built the library in his royal palace located in a town called Nineveh, located in northern Iraq, near Mosul city. It is said that Nineveh was the biggest urban centre in the world at the time. King Ashurbanipal is credited with the first collection put in a library. Employing some very primitive tools, his library put together as many as 30,000 clay tablets, inscribed with cuneiform writing, which was a form of writing used by the Assyrians. Using the Cuneiform, they wrote on clay tablets and produced their written literature. No books existed back then; clay tablets and soft stones were the norm.

Ancient Assyria library

Without dwelling that much on the history of libraries, let us come to the point at hand, which is how libraries have contributed to gaining and augmenting knowledge. Literary communities transitioned from writing on surfaces of stones, bones, and clay tablets to papers, first founded by China 2000 years ago. The invention of that paper somewhat simplified writing, though everything was handwritten still. Later on, another more suitable paper was invented in Egypt. This sheet of paper made of a Papyrus tree had become the standard paper for writing until more modern, efficient papers emerged. 

Shelves of clay tablets
Shelves of clay tablets

 As literacy grew so did the production of books. Those who could write would roll up their sleeves to generate as many books as they could to sell them for profit. Their livelihood depended on them. Back then, however, illiteracy overwhelmed those communities, and only a few numbers of people could read or write. Because books had to be handwritten, it would take a lot of effort and a long time to write them. 

While some people could buy handwritten books, others were unable to buy them due to their expensive prices. They did not have the opportunity to read unless they lay their hands on donated books. Communities’ rulers and chiefs would buy books and donate them to the public, placing them in public rooms, free of charge to read. With notes attached to their covers, the books would be tied to thick, unmovable wooden poles in the public rooms. “Please God, cut the hand that steals this book.” 

Harking back on those times of history and paying close attention to where libraries are today are two different things. They are incomparable times. Nowadays, books are abundant and assorted in these modern libraries, not to mention their varied genres. Libraries hold both academic books and others meant for entertainment and recreational reading. Although communities of the world are not on the same footing when it comes to accessing suitable, satisfying libraries, their existence is prevalent. Every country’s development and how it values knowledge can be gauged by the quality and number of libraries that the particular country builds and sustains. Libraries are the backbone of every civilization and development. They stand for knowledge and self-nourishment. Any nation that cannot value libraries and ignores to invest in them cannot keep abreast of this twenty-first century fast-paced progress.