James H. Billington RIP

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John F
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James H. Billington RIP

Post by John F » Tue Nov 27, 2018 10:59 pm

An important historian and the longest-serving and most influential Librarian of Congress, he died last week at 89 of complications from pneumonia. The Washington Post's long obituary is worth reading:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/ob ... da364e3b2e

I'll quote just its conclusion:
Reflecting on the era in which he led the library, Dr. Billington remarked that “it’s significant that we call it the Information Age” rather than “the Knowledge Age.” “Our society is basically motion without memory,” he told The Post, “which, of course, is one of the clinical definitions of insanity.”

In books, he saw a remedy. “We treasure books because they are the individual’s portable, affordable link with the memory, mind and imagination of the rest of humanity,” he once said in a speech, “a moral antidote, if you like, to the creeping passivity, parochialism and shortened attention spans of our video culture.”

He also reflected on the value of silence, such as can be found in a library, where one can be quiet and think. “This is easier for readers than for viewers,” he said, “for adventurers than for spectators.”
John Francis

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