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The Fiesole Retreat 2022: The Role Of The Library

by | Apr 14, 2022 | 0 comments

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BY MICHAEL UPSHALL

ON APRIL 8, 2022

National Library of Greece, Athens (photo by Georgios Liakopoulos)

What are libraries for? If you are going to have a public discussion, why not start with the big questions, and that question came up repeatedly at the 2022 Fiesole Retreat, the first in three years, which took place at the ravishing new National Library of Greece, in Athens. Designed by Renzo Piano, the library is the building to the right of the ensemble above, part of a trio of landmark buildings, which also include the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Foundation, and the Athens Opera.

What makes the Fiesole Retreat so special? For a start, it is a small event – around a hundred people. This means it provides a more informal meeting place, where the conversations are as valuable, and enjoyable as the presentations. The themes are those that concern librarians, researchers, and publishers, and for this year it was Tradition meets Innovation – rather wide-ranging, but a sufficient starting point to get the discussion going.

Rather than summarize each of the presentations here, I have listed what for me were highlights of the show. Filippos Tsimpoglou, Director General of the National Library, set the scene well by asking the question: Is the future passive or active: do you just wait for a streetcar to come along, or do you design the route, identify user needs, and build new tools? Clearly the expected answer is the latter, and Tsimpoglou located some remarkably prescient writers from the 1930s who anticipated the present-day library. Walter Schuermeyer in 1935 wrote “One day we will see our reading rooms deserted”, and Paul Otlet, a Belgian information scientist, in 1934, described a future where “from a distance anyone will be able to read a passage extended or limit to the subject of his interest, project on his personal screen.” Touchingly, Tsicmpoglou showed all the words in his English-language presentation in blue where they came from a Greek origin. We could talk about the future using a vocabulary from an ancient civilization.

To read the original, full article see: https://www.consultmu.co.uk/the-fiesole-retreat-2022-the-role-of-the-library/

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