The Future of the Library: From Electric Media to Digital Media
Robert K. Logan and Marshall McLuhan
Chapter 3 : The Library: A Figure in Many Different Grounds
The poets were the librarians of oral society. The very first things that were recorded and preserved by a culture when they acquired the ability to write were its national sags or epics…
The library of the oral society is democratic. Every member has equal access to the information, since the epic poems were recited in public for all to hear. It is only with literacy that learning became the domain of the privileged, those who had the leisure to learn the art of reading and writing.
The library of the oral society stores its information in the collective memory of the entire society. The form of poetry is conductive to memorization through devices such as plot, meter and rhyme. Writing, an extension of man’s memory, actually had a deleterious effect on memory. It created a dependency for its users…
Writing necessitates the library, since it destroys memory.
Every day we seem to piling heaps of ashes on the divine light within us. Men who read the Times every morning or it may be serious works on such different subjects as geology, philology, geography or history are systematically ruining their memories. They are under the suzerainty of books and helpless without them. (Müller, 1901)
Let us trace how the dependency on the book developed. With literacy, the role of the poet as preserver of the culture, passed on to the scribe.