Publication Date

August 2015


Books and libraries figure prominently in apocalyptic and related forms of literature. The representations of libraries in these imagined, catastrophic futures reveal important roles libraries have had and continue to have in helping individuals, communities, and cultures find ways forward through time. This paper explores the long history of library eschatologies—including ancient apocalypses of the Dead Sea Scroll Library and the book of Revelation, modern apocalypses from Mary Shelley to Margaret Atwood, and the dystopian anti-libraries of Jorge Luis Borges’s Babel and Tlön—and highlights deep continuities connecting our historical memories, future expectations, and present experiences of libraries. In the apocalyptic imagination, libraries are often signs of and structures for hope. This is an enduring mark of what libraries have been, are, and will continue to be.

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