Libraries as Belated Spaces

Like many of my colleagues, I tell students I work with, especially undergraduates, that research is an invitation to join a conversation. What I do not tell them is that one always comes to the conversation too late. By this I refer only in part to the petty narcissism that, on the occasion of writing this piece, and following a number of trenchant blogs about librarianship — Barbara Fister’s, of course, and also Feral Librarian, Beerbrarian, and others — compels me to feel unfashionably tardy to the party, bearing old wine in new bottles or beer gone flat. Facing up, in a way, to that fear, I want to make the case that belatedness is actually of the essence of conversation (essence, as Jacques Derrida tells us, being always supplemental to itself). And I intend to come to this point by way of the claim that such belatedness is what libraries are all about.

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