The Soul of a Library


Every line I’m about to say has already
been written. Written long before I started this script. Jorge Luis Borges’ Library of Babel contains
every book, article, and poem ever written. It has the script for every one of my video
essays. It has every diary entry you’ve ever scrawled, then torn up out of embarrassment. It also has everything that will ever be written.
The best selling novel of 2029, the acceptance speech of the next president of the united
states, the perfect plot analysis to Death Stranding 2. But mostly, it has a near-infinite amount
of…nonsense The rules of Borges’ library are simple.
Each room is a hexagon, 4 walls filled with shelves. Each wall of shelf holds 160 books.
Each book is 410 pages, each page has 40 lines, each line has approximately 80 characters.
The walls that aren’t filled with books open onto other galleries, identical in dimension. The books have a defined alphabet, spaces,
and periods. And that’s it. Every single tome, 410 pages of those characters, haphazardly
smashed together, from cover to cover. And the library contains every single combination
of letters possible given that ruleset. Are you getting it now? Starting to understand
the scale of this thing? A thousand monkeys smashing typewriters for a thousand years
is a grain of sand on the beach that is The Library of Babel. And as such, the library
has the answers to everything that has ever been wondered and everything that hasn’t. One which my father saw in a hexagon on circuit
fifteen ninety-four was made up of the letters MCV, perversely repeated from the first line
to the last. Another (very much consulted in this area) is a mere labyrinth of letters,
but the next-to-last page says Oh time thy pyramids.
Somewhere in this collection, there is a book that tells your exact future, every event
that will ever happen to you for the rest of your life. As a matter of fact, there are
millions of copies of this book, each separated by a single typo or choice of phrase. There’s
also, somewhere, a perfect guide to the location in the library of the location of the book
that tells your future. Of course, there are also billions of books that will erroneously
claim to be that perfect guide. In Borges’ short story, the library is all
that exists. And, as far as the narrator knows, all that has ever existed. The Library exists ab aeterno. The universe,
with its elegant endowment of shelves, of enigmatical volumes…can only be the work
of a god. The Library of Babel is the logical endpoint
on a sort of spectrum of libraries. On the other side, we’ve got the ones we typically
interact with in real life. They’ve got computerized search systems, or card catalogs,
or the dang dewey decimal system. There are librarians who work there but even without
any people, the buildings themselves are designed to facilitate you finding the knowledge you
need. Modern libraries don’t actually want to
have every book ever written available. That would be logistically unmanageable, prohibitively
expensive, and- maybe most important of all- completely unhelpful to people who actually
come to the library to learn things. A big part of the upkeep of a library is actually
taking books out of circulation, what they call “weeding.” There’s actually a hilariously
apt acronym for this process: MUSTY “M is for Misleading, or factually inaccurate.
U is for Ugly S is for Superseded by a new edition or a
much better book, and they last two letters are
T for Trivial and Y for Your-collection-has-no-use-for-this-book.
Because they really want this acronym to work.” Public libraries, tending to their paper garden,
are in a constant process of reviewing, removing, and preparing for future growth. This is good!
And necessary! MUSTY books are almost never works in high demand- many haven’t been
checked out for years. But even still, I have a hard time not seeing this process as a little
sad. Even if it’s a history book that refers
to America’s great 48 states, it’s something that someone put sincere time and effort into.
Yeah, it’s probably misleading and ugly and superseded and all of that, but it’s
also something that someone poured their heart into, and that’s hard for me to just cast
aside. There are libraries that agree with this sentiment,
that literally every book has value- though not all of them are real. When I was a kid, I thought the library of
congress had a copy of every book ever written. I desperately wanted that to be true. I didn’t
really care about every book, but I was extremely interested in the fact that they might have
a copy of the animorphs book that was never at my own library. I mean, if anyone is gonna
have a copy of Alternamorphs 2: In the Time of Dinosaurs, it’s gotta be the library
of congress, right? (oh my god it does)
It also has 14 million photographs, 5 million maps, 72 million manuscripts, 8 million pieces
of sheet music. It doesn’t have everything. But I feel like I’d be hard-pressed to think
of something that I couldn’t find in their collection- I mean, they have Alternamorphs
2!! The library of congress is actually held in
a bunch of off-site locations, which makes sense, but I kinda wish it was just one superstructure
of books and records and everything else. In my imagination, the library of congress
is built like The Duke’s Archives in Dark Souls- a groaning tower of books, not built
to be read or categorized or understood accessed. You don’t walk into this room in Dark Souls.
You’re held captive in it. You’re killed, but unlike every other time in the game where
you come back somewhere you’ve been before, this time you wake up in a jail cell in a
tower. And while the key to the cell is fairly easy to get, stepping out of your cell means
reckoning with the colossal weight of the knowledge held here. The Souls games tie a pretty close connection
between unmitigated access to knowledge and madness. In Dark Souls lore, The Duke’s
Archives was given to the dragon Seath the Scaleless, who betrayed his brethren-dragons
and spent his life searching for immortality. And he succeeded! At a price. Somewhere among
the hundreds of thousands of books locked away in the Duke’s Archives, his mind slipped
away. Protecting his own eternal life, and his eldritch collection became the only thing
that mattered. So much so that he turned parts of his library into a prison. Seath isn’t the only victim of his library.
Big Hat Logan, a legendary wandering sorcerer you encounter several times, takes up residence
in the Duke’s Archives. As you could imagine, the draw of all that knowledge was impossible
to resist for a scholar like him. “The tomes stored in these archives are
truly magnificent. A great pool of knowledge, the fruits of superior wisdom, and an unquenchable
desire for the truth.” But just like Seath, he couldn’t handle
it. It’s hard to know how many books he consumed before the last of his sanity left
him, “Or, were you just here? This fascinating
place defeats my sense of time…” but we do know where he ends up- at the peak
of the tower, naked, having abandoned his life’s work under the weight of what he’s
learned. Bloodborne is a game full of unhinged characters,
but no one more than Micolash. “Ahh, Kos, or some say Kosm, Do you hear
our prayers? No, we shall not abandon the dream” Micolash is a scholar who locked himself away
in a nightmare, but it’s no coincidence that your fight with him leads you in maddening
loops through his dusty library. In Bloodborne, you have a counter called “insight”
that ticks upward as you discover more about the hallucinatory world you’re fighting
your way through. With enough insight, you can perform techniques that are more or less
indistinguishable from magic. With enough insight, you can see the monsters that cling
to the spires of the city, hidden in plain sight. It’s not hard to imagine that with
enough insight, you’d end up just like Micolash; cackling among his stores of knowledge, screaming
his supplications for more eyes to learn with. “Grant us eyes, grant us eyes, grant eyes
on our brains to cleanse our beastly idiocy” The opportunities hidden in these massive
stores are irresistable. A few years ago, Harvard discovered that it
had a copy of “Des Destinees de l’ame,” or “Destinies of the Soul,” that was bound
in human skin. There’s actually a term for this: Anthropodermic Bibliopegy. The book in question actually even had an
inscription by the author This book is bound in human skin parchment
on which no ornament has been stamped to preserve its elegance. By looking carefully you easily
distinguish the pores of the skin. A book about the human soul deserved to have a human
covering: I had kept this piece of human skin taken from the back of a woman. What’s chilling about this discovery is-
well, everything. It’s a book covered in skin. But what really gets me about it is
Harvard obtained this book in the 30s! Did no one realize what they were holding? Or
did someone know and tucked it away regardless, waiting for nearly a century before it was
discovered again? There have been attempts to catalog every
book. The most recent, and maybe most promising, was by that friendly face who definitely has
never done anything evil, Google. Around 2004, Google started borrowing books from libraries
by the truckload. One by one, a person would flip through the pages of a book while some
very specifically-designed equipment scanned the pages. They did this with 25 million books. Their stated goal was to scan all 129,864,880
books in the world- and that was in 2010, presumably there are more now! But, as often
happens with these enormous tech companies and their perceived-as-unlimited power, they
didn’t check with uhh, laws first. Under the crushing weight of concerns from living
authors, and the inability to figure out what to do with dead ones, Google eventually shelved
the effort. The compendium would have to wait for another time. But here’s the thing- it’s not like they
deleted those 25 million books. Google has billions of perfectly scanned, searchable
pages of rare books and out-of-print ones and maybe even Megamorphs 2: In the Time of
Dinosaurs, and they’re just sitting on a hard drive somewhere. James Somers, who wrote
this fantastic piece in The Atlantic, described it just as I imagined- like the end of Raiders
of the Lost Ark, where these petabytes of data are just rolled into a warehouse and
left there. “What’s standing between us and a digital
public library of 25 million volumes?” Somers asks. A google engineer answered. “You’d get
in a lot of trouble but all you’d have to do, more or less, is write a single database
query. You’d flip some access control bits from off to on.” As powerful as our stories of hoarded libraries,
however, are the tales of their destructions. Most famous of all is likely the library of
Alexandria, a true site that has taken on absolutely mythic status in the hundreds of
years since its destruction, once home to anywhere between 40,000 and 700,000 scrolls. Alexander the Great did not found the library
of Alexandria, although he was the city’s namesake. He was, historically, not a big
fan of them. Alexander’s wars and quest for cultural dominance led him to do stuff
like burn the massive collection of books in ancient Persepolis. The founder of the library came about after
Alexander’s death, thanks to a guy named Ptolemy Soter. And we…honestly, don’t
know a ton about the specifics of the place. It is definitely more real than the Duke’s
archives or the library of babel, but its hyperbolized place in history, its just as
hard to fully understand. I don’t think I’m the only person who’s heard that we
would be livin on mars, sippin space martinis with robot butlers, if only the library hadn’t
burned to the ground. Well, big news! The library didn’t burn
to the ground! Not really. There was a time when it kind of burned. Not
intentionally! See the thing was, there were just too many ships in the harbor and Caesar
was like “what’s the best way to get all these ships out of the harbor” and obviously
the answer is to burn all the ships, and then some floating ash drifted over and landed
on the library and torched some tens of thousands of scrolls. Not great. But the library continued
to function! And the other stories, of crusades by Christian
fanatics or a ransacking by Amr inb al-as and his invading dudes…lemme just say, rumors
of the library’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. It’s kinda fun to think of
it as some great tragedy, eons of knowledge destroyed by a stray match. But things just
aren’t that exciting. Most likely it was just a casualty of the
general de-emphasis of Alexandria as a world-important city after it came under Roman rule. There
were other libraries, and so having this one store of all knowledge just wasn’t a priority.
It was eventually destroyed, in one of those good ol wars between people with names like
“Aurelian” and “Zenobia.” But by that time, many of the scrolls had most been copied
or just given away. In Borges’ story, there are cults that live
within the bookshelves that sought to rid the library of all gibberish- that is, almost
the entire library. They would preserve the books that they could comprehend. They would
throw every book into the bottomless void that exists between floors, ridding themselves
of the undeserving in a crusade-like quest for meaning. “Others…thought the first thing to do
was eliminate all worthless books. They would invade the hexagons, show credentials that
were not always false, leaf disgustedly through a volume, and condemn entire walls of books.
It is to their hygienic, ascetic rage that we lay the senseless loss of millions of volumes.” But, as the narrator in the story muses, there’s
no number of books they could destroy that could actually affect the library. When it
comes to almost-infinity, millions of books don’t even qualify as a footnote. But the reason the semi-fictional “destruction
of Alexandria” is so magnetically tragic, the reason I still get a little pang of sadness
when I read about people throwing nonsense books into a void, is that libraries are important
for reasons more than just practical day-to-day knowledge. They’re a way of preserving who
we are, and were, and could be. In our modern day though, there have been
threats of catastrophic losses of libraries- and heroes who have stepped in. In 2013, a group of men swept into the Ahmed
Baba Institute in Sankoré, Mali, a government library. They grabbed thousands of centuries-old
manuscripts threw them into a courtyard, and torched the whole lot of them. The attack was predictable, at least to one
man, named Abdel Kader Haidara. He knew that Al-Qaeda had been sweeping through the region,
incinerating the written history of Mali. He knew that the arson wouldn’t be an isolated
incident. And he that Timbuktu’s Mamma Haidara Library, a collection of manuscripts he fought
tooth and nail to save, could be next. So immediately he starts buying…trunks.
Thousands of trunks. He buys every trunk in Timbuktu, and then he gets metalworkers to
tear apart oil barrels and start welding them back into trunks. Why? Because he’s going
to save his entire library. Some backstory: from around 1500 to 1600,
Timbuktu lived in an absolute Golden Age of writing and research. Scholars wrote endlessly
on astronomy and medicine and law and how to have good orgasms (which was, seriously,
groundbreaking.) And the pages that they wrote on were gorgeous too, with way more flourishes
than your average science textbook. They used different colors of inks, filled the margins
with geometric designs, occasionally even pressing the pages with gold leaf. Timbuktu’s
writers were using the Koran as a jumping-off point to explore basically all the mysteries
of the universe in a legitimately beautiful and expansive way. BUT, as always seems to happen, the golden
age came to an end. Morocco took over Timbuktu and demonstrated a willingness to destroy
books that pushed bibliophiles into hiding. Later, French Sudan occupied and colonized.
Soldiers frequently stole the manuscripts and took them home to display in museums and
private collections. More damaging, though, was the language itself- French became the
language taught in Timbuktu schools, and as such, the manuscripts- written in Arabic-
became inaccessible to more and more people. But there were people who remembered and appreciated
the meaning of those pages, people like Haidara. And after years of convincing folks that the
manuscripts were worth saving, him and other collectors slash librarians were able to compile
a genuinely inspiring collection. And then, after yet another occupation- this time, Al
Qaeda, they realized that the centralized nature of those libraries made them targets.
To save the manuscripts, they were going to have to break up the library. So Haidara and volunteers buy every trunk
in Timbuktu, and then he and other volunteers start packing them. And remember, these aren’t
bound books as we think of them, they’re much closer to stacks of really delicate papers.
But Haidara and helpers are just tetris-ing hundreds of thousands of them into these chests.
AND they’re doing it at midnight, because this was all extremely not cool with the bad
guys and they knew if they were caught, the whole plan- as well as the manuscripts- would
go up in smoke. Eventually, they get everything packed up,
and Haidara sent one of the volunteers- his nephew- to Bamako, with a jeep loaded with
5 chests. The nephew gets harassed at checkpoints and thrown in jail twice along the way, but
eventually makes it all the way to Bamako. He distributes the chests among private houses
in the city, people who have promised to keep them safe and secret. And then he drives back,
and does it again. And again. And again. He drives the 600-mile, checkpoint filled round
trip 30 times. Eventually, even that trip was made impossible
though, and Haidara and the volunteers realized they had only one other option- sending the
manuscripts down the Niger river. You know, a river. Made of water. You ever dropped a
book in the bathtub before? You ever done that with a centuries-old manuscript? 791 trunks got sent down the river, paying
bribes and dodging literal attack helicopters the whole time. But they all made it. Every
single trunk, by land and by sea, made it to Bamako, kept safe by people who willing
to literally risk their lives to protect these books.
The first time I got to pick out a PG-13 movie for myself was at the Morris Public Library
in Minnesota. I was visiting my grandma there over the holidays. I picked out Men in Black. The first time I got to pick out an R-rated
movie to watch for myself, it was also at the Morris Public Library. This time, it was
The Matrix. Though I was usually only up there once a year, that library has power over me.
I wandered around the shelves when it was -15 outside. I spent hours pouring over their
movies. I checked their collection to see if they had the Animorphs that my local library
didn- YES I’M STILL ON THIS BEAT. A few months ago, I was back in Minnesota
and went into the library and literally just coming out of the winter air and smelling
those stacks was like being hit by a uhh, nostalgia truck. I don’t think I realized
how much of myself now is based on the time I spent in these spaces as a kid. And that’s just me as a dorky kid, I can
only imagine the meaning, the self-defining, that could come from a library like the one
saved in Timbuktu. I understand why someone would risk attack helicopters and imprisonment
to save it. In Borges’ story, everyone has defined themselves
by the library they live in- of course they have, there’s literally no world outside
of it. But the philosophies that arise from living inside an infinite library are…weirdly
relatable? Sheer joy at the thought that the answers we’re looking for are out there,
already written down. Followed by the realization that the answers aren’t the hard part, not
really. It’s understanding that infinite collection, wrapping your brain around all
the pieces of information we’ve already discovered, already have access to. Libraries can be intimidating, exclusionary.
They can be MUSTY! But they are, overwhelmingly, beautiful. And
if you’re lucky enough to spend time in one, it will help you know yourself. the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary,
infinite, perfectly motionless, equipped with precious volumes, useless, incorruptible,
secret. My solitude is gladdened by this elegant hope.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

100 thoughts on “The Soul of a Library”

  1. faka juu says:

    8:55 Aaaagh!

  2. Ique says:

    I can't believe you made me feel nostalgic for all-nighters in my college library

    I love that place

  3. Ricardo Salinas says:

    commenting for the algorithm, this video needs to be seen

  4. RastafarianPilgrim says:

    Aw shit I KNEW I recognized that voice, it's friggen Simone! Mr. Geller, are you applying for the Polygon Arts & Literature department?

  5. Cassiano Barcellos says:

    How would we preserve what's on the internet, if it came to an end before the human species? What kind of information lies abandoned in forgotten sites, blogs, etc.? Who's to say there isn't some all-important, providential knowledge just lying somewhere, but no one has asked the questions that it answers? Contemplated the matters it concerns? Considering its size, the internet is effectively our own Library of Babel, written by people.

  6. alexander Neronov says:

    Dislike for being too pretentious

  7. Caphine says:

    wow..your videos man..nothing but love to you <3<3<3

  8. Morena De Liddo says:

    awesome video, as usual <3 I expected you'd talk about the library/labyrinth in The name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, which sparks tons of interesting reflections and questions. Keep up the great work, I'll keep spamming everyone I can with your haunted houses essay!

  9. BantamSam says:

    I definitely played myself when I suggested using For River to you on twitter. That immediately brings the tears.

  10. wankle1234 says:

    I love Borges and the fact that you made a video about The Library of Babel make me like you even more

  11. The Sapphyre says:

    Fantastic video. I can always click on your new videos knowing itll be very high quality in both production and insight. You're like a new-age vsauce in a way; I learn things I never knew I wanted to learn about, but now am super glad I did!

  12. Lolailo says:

    Shave that bared

  13. Jacob Geller says:

    I'll be releasing a full-length video "Director's Commentary" on my patreon for this vid, including lots of ideas that didn't make it in the final cut AND many ramblings on Animorphs.

  14. Austin Rearick says:

    This is some high-quality YouTube. Thanks, Jacob 🙂

  15. Valentin Bonnarde says:

    This channel is low key all about architecture

  16. Gregory B says:

    This video made my Monday quite a good bit better. As thanks, allow me to give you superficial compliments that are not really related to the content of the video.

    You got a really nice face. The beard works well for you. Keep that whole nice face thing up. Fits your equally nice voice very nicely. Big fan of the way you style your hair as well. Whole look just works. The suspenders really tie the whole aesthetic of everything together and I think that's just great.

    Have a nice day.

  17. Mechasshole says:

    The description of The Library Of Babel sounds a lot like an allegory of the universe.
    Especially the part about the books containing someone's future with countless alternate versions, each with minor differences.

  18. happy03 jaume says:

    Oh ffs why do you have to be so fucking good? Now I feel sad there isn't more… You're destroying me

  19. Jason Frankhouser says:

    I don’t think a YouTube video has ever moved me quite the way this one has. Incredible job

  20. Jupiter says:

    haha hey I know zenobia. that's the dude that the final fantasy 13 monster with tentacle arms that got destroyed by a tonberry instantly was named after.

  21. snaK says:

    wow I really did not expect to cry during this video, but the fantastic efforts made to save all those manuscripts is among the most beautiful things I've ever heard

  22. Edward Albright says:

    Dude I get chills from every one of your videos. Keep it up

  23. gmoshkin says:

    Hi, vsauce, Jacob here

  24. Monolith Preacher says:

    My most nostalgic library story actually comes at a bit of a crossroads. A few mates and I were searching through random occult pages on the early internet in the late 90s, and one of us came across mention of "The Book of Nod". Having only recently heard of apocrypha, we eagerly devoured what little information this website mentioned about a book allegedly describing what happened to the biblical Cain after his exile. My friends soon moved on to other things, but it became something of an obssession for me.

    I scoured libraries and databases from London to York, from geocities and angelfire to the nascent, desperate to find this book which eluded me at every turn. The more times I found nothing, the more frantic my search became. Watching "The Ninth Gate" only made things worse towards the end of my school years. By that time I'd fallen in and out with a few genuine Satanic covens in the hopes one of them might have it tucked away amongst their grimoires, and had long discussions with actual bishops regarding the validity and catalogue of apocrypha trying to track down this most elusive – and therefore obviously most valuable and enlightening – ancient tome.

    Cue college. As an avowed tabletop nerd freshly emerging out of DMing a four year AD&D campaign, I decided to try a new system. A few mates were into White Wolf games, and the story behind it made me decide to chill out on my obssession for a while and just enjoy some fiction w/ my friends. One night, having played a few stories, killed a few of our characters, and generally showed our worth, the guy who'd been DMing let us see his almost complete library of source books. I rifled through a few clan books and some of the stuff concerning character classes, then decided to ask him where best to start on a lore book to really get a hang of the story from a top-down view. He nonchalantly handed me "The Book of Nod" and said to start there.

    I could've thrown up if I wasn't so busy laughing. He asked what was so funny, but how could I possibly explain? My young teenage self had read a fanfiction website about an RPG book and sent himself on a quest for an occult biblical text which didn't exist.

    Which reminds me, I still need to track down Byron's "Cain: a Mystery"…

  25. Emmy Wilson says:

    This is a really cool video! I love how you do these video essays, just, like, taking a topic and exploring it through the lenses of video games and movies and real events all together. It's fascinating, love your work!

  26. Null Set says:

    The Library of Babel but with funkopops

  27. Kenionatus says:

    I have a complete catalogue of the library of babel on my computer.

    It's called Notepad 😉

  28. Nipsicles says:

    I remember bieng quite upset that my public library did not carry copies of mad magazine when i was a kid. This was devastating to a young me that had no job or income.
    Mad magazine was my "animorphs 2"

  29. Alyssa Johnson says:

    I can not believe how similar your hunt for that Animorphs book mirrors my own for the most fucking niche book I’ve ever read. Mine was the Gorillaz “Biography” Rise of the Ogre, and I also thought the Library of Congress had it, to the point that when my family and I visited D.C. I insisted we head there on the small hope I might find this one book… Only to be turned away because you have to be 16 to enter and at the time I was a determined 14. Luckily Amazon was a thing at the time, although it was still books only, and my parents got it for me for my birthday.

    I’m proud to say that I have had a steady 7 1/2 year career of library work that started in high school and stuck with me when I flunked out of college. Weeding can be sad, especially in the small libraries I’ve worked in. Our Central library in downtown Buffalo has floors between floors where they store books no longer checked out or are outdated. I can remember shelving books there when I worked on the Bookmobile, and seeing the 1989 Canadian Index and thinking “Wow… This place has everything.” Despite being intimately aware that it really didn’t.

    Libraries are… So much more than people can really understand. We’re a place of shelter for the homeless, a place of comfort for the lonely, and a place of knowledge for the curious. But even then it feels like so much more… My coworkers are like family. We take care of each other. When I didn’t have a microwave I was given a toaster oven by my coworkers. These people want to see me succeed and grow and I’m so grateful for everyone who has pushed me forward.

  30. yorenfromabove says:

    A recent version of a burning up the scale of Alexandria – but as a total burnout -, while not a library, is the burning of Brazil's National Museum. Which housed 200 years worth of Brazil's history. It burned because there was no more budget for the maintenance of the hydrants, so it was a victim of Brazil's long term austerity politics. While the whole thing is disastrous for everybody, the museum also housed many objects which were once stolen from Brazil's indigenious peoples, including cultures which are no longer around. There were also audio recordings of indigenious languages which are no longer in use, as writings and physical remains. Basically: we lost 200 years of cultural memory of a country that is only ~500 years old, and the proof of existence, culture and languages of peoples that have been made extinct through colonialism.

  31. This is not a Name says:

    Libraries are very bizarre… things. Their purpose is defined by their utility. It's great to have a large collection of books for people who need them, but once those books become "musty", they stop having any purpose. They pile on top of one another, stacks upon stacks of random, useless knowledge. The texts will ultimately collapse upon themselves in their own lack of meaning. What is the point of a book that is not read, or a library that is not visited? And can we call "knowledge" what we decide is not to be known?

  32. Citylitlena says:

    This video has a brilliant pace to it and a genuine love that comes through very well. I hope the story of the library of Mali lives on.

    (Also shoutout to the To the Moon soundtrack at the end because I'm crying now in such a good way)

  33. Thatmanjames says:

    The story of de-centralizing the library in Timbuktu is so reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451 where to protect books people had to individually remember them so physical copies couldn’t be destroyed.

  34. Jakob says:

    3:55 thanks for calling me a hero. You're the first person to do so ❤️

  35. Jack Copland says:

    Your videos really are something else, I’m so glad I stumbled upon you and to think, if it hadn’t of been for this video I never would of been aware of anything that happened in Timbuktu. The more I think about it the more I could imagine it being a Hollywood blockbuster.

  36. KarolaTea says:

    I helped out at my school library, and I've picked out books from the trash, taped the cover back on and took them home to read. I don't even own many books, I'm happy just borrowing everything from libraries. But thrown away books make me sad.

    Holy wow. So much respect to Haidara and his colleagues.

    Beautiful video, thank you.

  37. Alex Tiegen says:

    Good job. I could talk about that type of stuff all day. Libraries in the U.S. will sometimes sell off their weeded books in book sales so they're not entirely a lost cause. They also keep records of their metadata so the knowledge is maintained and patrons can find books weeded from one location elsewhere. Making the tough call to weed requires justification (as the video notes) depending on the skill and experience of the librarian, the politics of the library and the relationship of the librarian to their manager. The decision of which books to keep and which to weed also figures into making good use of space since modern libraries are also hubs for connecting people with social services (and continuing to do the latter is a big part of securing funding from the governments and nonprofits that support them). TOSS A COIN TO YOUR LIBRARIANS AND TELL YOUR LOCAL AND NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS TO SUPPORT THEIR PUBLIC LIBRARIES.

  38. DonLasagna says:

    Great video, and I know this is insignificant, but it made me smile to hear someone else whose first rated R movie was The Matrix.

  39. Silas NIchholson says:

    I adore your videos, there are rarely any video essayists that prompt me to watch and rewatch their videos. The amount of thought that you put into your writing clearly shows and it is a shear joy to learn and enjoy it all at the same time. I salute thee good sir I salute thee.

  40. I'm Very Angry It's Not Butter says:

    So what would you do if you came across an archive maintained by NAMBLA? Would you burn it down, or let it be?

  41. Hahahahaaahaahaa says:

    "I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life."
    Thank you yet again, Jacob; what a wonderful video.

  42. e.a. schmidt says:

    Mannnnnnn I can’t even lie, this one brought me to tears

  43. Gabe McKelvey says:

    Jacob is gonna rep Megamorphs til he drops

  44. glowsticksuit says:

    An amazing essay!!

    Also Megamorphs 2 isn't the best Megamorphs, you gotta go with 3, where they debate about whether or not they should kill alternate timeline Hitler

  45. Slim Jim says:

    Every time I think your videos can't get any better, you prove me wrong. Some of the best content on youtube man, keep it up!

  46. Pockettes says:

    22:50 tears started

  47. Alexander Henriquez says:

    Funnily enough, Jorge Luis Borges has another story called "The Aleph" that instead of borrowing from an infinite supply of books, concerns itself with a what if scenario of: What if there's a point in space from which everything in the universe was visible. The process of being born in a well of infinite knowledge and then trying to close the scope, gets repurposed into the process of being born with a small view and understanding of the world, which then expands to infinity. Needless to say, Lovecraft portrays that same sentiment with most of his characters who eventually go insane after learning of what lies beyond the veil of human understanding. Which then leads me to think that the way lore is approached in Dark souls and Bloodborne it's kind of like a mercy of the developers, who have obscured most of the strokes while giving us a tiny sliver of the story so we don't go crazy!

    Anyways, great video Jacob!

  48. Satal de Rihannsu says:

    Librarian here:

    Thanks for this ode! I had a couple notes, tho'.

    Weeding doesn't just mean "get rid of." It means re-evaluating the PURPOSE and PRESENTATION of the book. If a science book is wrong, it is removed from the shelf that says "The books on this shelf are accurate and vetted to the best of our ability." That book is not necessarily toosed away for nothingness. Some get moved into special collections. Some are donated to better collections. Some are replaced with updated editions. The vast majority are sold in the yearly library booksales. I, for one, work with dime novels, which are cheap 19th fiction with loads of racism and 1800s nonsense. But we preserve this and make them available. We just don't call them accurate medicine (in the case of the "make your own medicines" handbooks).

    Other books weeded are transformed into art projects, furniture, recycled for new works, or the reprint of old or heck, even the same texts.

    Every single book is meaningful. But books are temporal objects, even if the meanings and thoughts within them are theoretically eternal. When one works in rare books and special collections, you're faced with the idea that everything eventually crumbles. Our jobs are to delay that crumbling, but entropy will get them all. Every illuminated German manuscript. Every Javan glass painting. Every Coptic-bound codex. The atoms themselves have half-lives. But. We do what we can.

  49. The Carrot Clarinet says:

    Libraries are the one constant that never stops to fascinate me

  50. Puppy Puppington says:

    0:50 please someone help me find the name of this song/movement!!!!!! I used to have it in my collection but I lost it all 🙁 I misss this song so much

  51. MayBurgers says:

    I own a copy of that Megamorphs book. You can borrow mine.

  52. Chris Holben says:

    Thanks for this, man. I work in my campus library, and even though I don’t work with books or anything, this just speaks to me on a deep personal level. There’s nowhere else on campus that I’d rather be, ever.

  53. Bad Dragonite says:

    Never read Megamorphs 2 In the Time of the Dinosaurs. Waiting for the video game adaptation

  54. pierp says:

    the thought of people throwing volumes of "gibberish" away makes me wonder… how much of it is completely gibberish and how much is simply knowledge we have yet to comprehend. what if in the future that gibberish is language, holding knowledge that is incomprehensible to us now but is invaluable to future cultures. i wonder if cultures in the past would interpret our contemporary writings as gibberish, as worthless. one of the most interesting part of books to me isnt just the stories and information they hold, but the context in which they were created, the experiences of the author and the importance they held in the cultures they were created.

  55. Lauren Velentzas says:

    Reminder from a former library worker to SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY! <3

  56. Julio Laurian says:

    You're an intellectual that is very much needed and appreciated on YouTube, thank you Jacob!

  57. Proper Sir Academy PSA says:

    Another beautiful video, thank you!

  58. DeoMachina says:

    While not a library, every now and then I'd stop by the local charity book shops. They all seem to have a shelf that isn't quite in step with the usual categories, one where none of the books were printed less than 50 years ago. I call them the "grandpa died and we have no space for this shit" shelves. 90% of those books are doomed. But I'd make a point to save a few and be the first person to read them again for possibly generations. The last one I got was an engineering textbook that is so old there's a section where it admits we just don't know what electricity is yet, but this new fangled "atomism" might explain things.

  59. sociallyevaded says:

    Well done as always.

  60. Jonte Deakin says:

    Hey jacob I know your trying but I really prefer your videos when they aren't using your camera

  61. Robin says:

    With regard to knowledge, the Library of Bable is surely nearly pointless. The books being generated the way they are, those correctly expounding my "exact future" (or a great scientific truth, etc.) are indistinguishable from the millions which have it wrong. What is interesting is the fiction! The Library of Bable would have infinite stories suited to the tastes of every reader…

  62. Jonte Deakin says:

    Tbh the internet is just future library of babel

  63. Cruros says:

    For River ;(

  64. LovecraftianToenail says:

    new Jacob Geller video comes out, IMMEDIATELY opens with Borges.

    yeah. yeah that is my Jam.

  65. Hexed Decimals says:

    My familiarity with the library of babel actually comes from the website which I found from a vsauce video. Though the fictional version is much better at encompassing infinity, the website version has the same structure, with the hexagonal walls and 410 page books, and you can search through the myriad of books for anything you type. You can find every page that contains the phrase you search for amongst the sea of gibberish, or you can find the perfect match, in which the rest of the page consists of spaces.

    What I find interesting is that my weird 13 year old self did something that the inhabitants of the fictional library of babel would do too, were they given the searching capabilities of the website. I would write a short paragraph describing myself, search the library for it, and assign myself a number based on the page of the book with the perfect match. If I recall correctly, my number was 225. I would do this with my friends too. While assigning yourself a number seems kinda bleak, it seems like something the inhabitants of the library of babel would do, considering the library is their whole world.

  66. Succ Man says:

    I recognize the music you started to play at 13:40, it comes from NieR Automata doesn't it?

  67. Kobe Dancil Coo says:

    Jacob, you are also describing SCP-4001, although rather way way different from your description. In fact, there's an important lesson to be learnt from that article, that history is much connected to our lives and culture – burn them, down they go, never to be experienced indirectly again.

  68. Claire Cohen says:

    this is beautiful

  69. pavel molin says:

    This video is a perfect example how history lessons can be easily be made very interesting for pupils putting videogame references into such educational videos. (AC:Origins is amazing for that)

  70. Jocelyn Suarez says:

    Funny, I watched this video in my university’s library. Great video!

  71. Psychotic Sage says:

    I love all your videos, but when I heard that music from 'To The Moon' kick in… my dude, your content makes me feel things, and that's the best compliment I can ever offer something. Although, a more articulate person could probably say it better than I can.
    Anyway, you have my respect and admiration.

  72. Dana Howl says:

    I'm just happy someone finally published a good video essay on Uru: Ages Beyond Myst

  73. Dolly says:

    I'm a historian by schooling and a librarian/archivist by trade, i'm super excited about this video!

  74. Dylan Graves says:

    This video is pure art. This is a gorgeous way of exploring the topic of books, knowledge, writing, and manuscripts. If you have created something close to a masterpiece of an essay, this is it, truly excellent.

  75. Dylan Wetzel says:

    Such a nice beard.

  76. a52Productions says:

    This video was posted at the same time as Adam Neely releasing a video about all possible melodies being stored on a hard drive!

    Admittedly in that case it was more about the absurdity of copyright law than any philosophical point, but the coincidence is amusing nonetheless.

  77. Tim Jong says:

    HOLY FRICK this video is one of THE BEST i've ever watched, bravo for giving me hella nostalgia dude

  78. John Smith says:

    I wonder how big the library would be if it were made digitally. Considering that wikipedia is only 5~ Gigabytes

  79. Isaiah Tomoana says:

    This is a whole ass Scp..

    (library if Alexandria Scp)

  80. Cayugalolly :p says:

    Librarian here-

    Thank you, so, so much. This needs to be said, shouted, screamed from the heavens, and with your audience, I pray someone will hear it.

  81. Xabier Gutierrez says:

    Thomas Moore, 1942-2020?

  82. Don Reynolds says:

    Those cultists who try to throw out the senseless volumes makes me want to have a program that reads through the programmatic library of babel and extracts all of the books that make sense. It could start with those that use actual words (though that would preclude new words that will be later invented like "television" and "Nintendo"). As the machines get more advanced it could start sorting out those that are readable. We can continue to refine the algorithms and get more and more "sensical" collections to browse through.

  83. You know more than me, but, says:

    How is your beard so dense? It's so damned distracting.

  84. Laura Angel Espada says:

    CGI beard

  85. TheTotoyesyes says:

    Lol what's with this coincidence, merely 5 days ago, one of my fav french youtubers release a video on Jorges Luis Borges' "Libraby of Babel".
    Never heard of it in my life before and now here it is on two of my favorite channel in the span of a week.

    Are you guys fucking watching me ?

  86. Kev Yff says:

    this was so hot brother

  87. Shaharyar Nadeem says:

    this was a beautiful video. I loved the soft tone used through out it.

  88. Seboilba says:

    your videos are poetry

  89. Nicholas Boudreau says:

    the library of bable irritates me
    noone seems to mention that by holding all information, it actually holds none, as there is no way to verify the truth to anything that is held within, any truth is rendered meaningless by the context.

  90. Elfenohr says:

    While I was writing my Ph. D. thesis on a book from 1520 someone found another copy. It's so weird to think some treasures in libraries are just lying there but no one has noticed. (It's even stranger considering the book is kinda huge and heavy.)

  91. Derps With Wolves says:

    I was waiting for Jacob to show us which section of the Library of Babble this video's script is from.

  92. NPC says:

    bruh using to the moon music is just emotional manipulation at this point.

  93. JakEnglish says:

    I'm??? Gay?? Wow

  94. Jack Landis says:

    Starting off with Borges. Fuckin rad.

  95. Diglet Miner says:

    Man, don't fuck with the librarian.

  96. Matthew Maneri says:

    18:12 does my man have a zelda scarf on?

  97. Diglet Miner says:

    The Virgin guy montag vs the Chad library of babble librarians

  98. James Fussell says:

    yep, this one’s going in my legend playlist

  99. realityChemist says:

    As always, an excellent video! And cheers for the use of the theme from To The Moon!

  100. Andriy Predmyrskyy says:

    I'm a huge fan of Abdel Kader Haidara, the amazing librarian with the Hylian Legend of Zelda scarf.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *