Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Day 5: The Library of Alexandria

Our next stop was a sort of bus driver's holiday for me: we were driven to the Library of Alexandria. Not the original, of course - that's gone and nobody really knows quite where it is, though the Alexandrians claim the new one they've built is just a couple hundred yards from the old site. This one has only been open since about 2002.

The facade is pretty nifty: they've decorated it with letters and words from every known language.


Once inside, they arranged for us to have a tour. The guide took us to the reading room first. They did a nice job with it, filling it with columns that evoke ancient lotus-capital columns

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and creating hundreds of "scroll niches"


that really function as sound baffles. The huge slanted windows let in enough natural light that they need very little artificial lighting during the day. The Egyptians are extremely proud of this place, which was built to house something like 8 million volumes, though they have only a tiny fraction of that number now.

We were given about 45 minutes of free time before leaving for our lunch, so I decided to try to contact civilization via that Internet thing. There's a desk you can go to to get an hour on a computer - they give you a slip with the location of your PC, and the person who is on it gets automatically alerted and logged off a few minutes later. Sounds like what I do all day, except on a larger scale and with better software. They ask that you not do email on them, but I finessed the restriction a little tiny bit - I went to the Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library web page and did an interlibrary loan request, but instead of typing book info in the online form, I typed a note to my colleagues. When I got back I found out that the person who processes the requests read the note and enjoyed it, and then DELETED IT AND DIDN'T PRINT IT OUT OR SHARE IT AROUND THE DEPARTMENT! Really! What's wrong with these people!

Here I am next to the statue of Demetrius Phalereus, who suggested to Ptolemy Soter that maybe he'd like to have a library.

IMG_0516 alexandria

The only bummer was learning, almost at the moment we were leaving, that they have a special "library professionals tour" that I could have gone on, where they take you behind the scenes to see the nuts and bolts. If only!

Next, lunch at the Palace!

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