Monday, June 25, 2007

Vatican Library

This article from Saturday's New York Times provides a glimpse of a rarefied world most librarians (certainly not most law librarians) will never see--the Vatican Library. A frenzy was set off in the scholarly world when the Vatican announced the library will close next month for a renovation that will last at least three years. The article describes how "dozens of scholars have been lining up each day at ever earlier hours to snatch one of the 92 available spots in the manuscript room, where they can pore over archaic texts in forgotten languages." Not surprisingly, the staff is having a hard time keeping up with the demand. Scholars have even addressed petitions to Pope Benedict XVI, some asking that the renovation be delayed so that they finish up works in progress, some asking that the public have access to the Vatican's precious collection of rare manuscripts during the renovation. There are microfilm copies of the most important manuscripts, but scholars and library officials agree that "there is no substitute for an original manuscript." The Pope plans to visit the library today so that he will be able to understand the issues himself. No one disputes the fact that the library needs work due to "dangerous structural weaknesses." The hope is that some compromise can be reached to allow the renovations to go forward while at the same time giving scholars ongoing access to the materials, some of which are unique.

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