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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

July 14, 1996|Merle Rubin

LIBRARY: The Drama Within Photographs By Diane Asseo Griliches, essays by Daniel J. Boorstin (University of New Mexico Press: $35, 132 pp.). A person sitting in an armchair, absorbed in a book, imagining the scenes of high drama unfolding in its pages, is still, to all outward appearances, a person sitting in an armchair. This irony is not lost upon Diane Asseo Griliches, whose poignant black and white photographs manage to hint at the invisible visions evoked in the process of reading. Her subject is libraries, from the humblest bookmobile to the grandeur of Paris' Biblioteque Nationale.

Accompanying the pictures are provocative captions and quotations that underline the obvious but often forgotten importance of libraries as repositories of wisdom of the ages and as beacons of self-help for the poor and disadvantaged. The stark image of a desolated branch library, closed for lack of funds, is an eloquent reminder of how much society stands to lose. Other images from a variety of countries beautifully illustrate the wide range of functions that libraries serve: the relaxed, inviting ambience of a university browsing room, the friendliness of a public library checkout desk, the hush of scholars poring over rare manuscripts, the rapt faces of children at a storytelling hour.

The introductory essay by historian (and librarian of Congress emeritus) Daniel J. Boorstin offers a sprightly defense of books as the ultimate "any time, do-it-yourself, energy-free communication device" and deftly refutes the fallacious notion that new technologies invariably spell the end of earlier forms. A book is still a book, as time goes by.

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