|The Library of Unborrowed Books by Meriç Algün Ringborg: an installation of hundreds of books that have never been borrowed from the Center for Fiction’s library.|
"The Library of Unborrowed Books bases itself on the concept of the library as an institution manifesting language and knowledge, of the passing of awareness and the openness to all types of people and literature. This work, however, comprises books from a selected library that have never been borrowed. The framework in this instance hints at what has been disregarded, knowledge essentially unconsumed, and puts on display what has eluded us. Why these books aren’t ‘chosen,’ why they are overlooked, will never be clear but whatever each book contains, en masse they become representative of the gaps and cracks of history, or the cataloging of the world and the ambivalent relationship between absence and presence. In this library their existence is validated simply by being borrowed, underlining their being as well as their content and form by putting them on display in an autonomous library dedicated to the books yet to have been revealed."
My husband, the anthropologist, was immediately fascinated by the question of why these books weren't checked out. Who decided to buy these particular books, and what agenda did this person hold? Was he or she trying to shape literary taste through the purchase of these books, or was he or she catering to the whim of perceived popular taste? Many libraries face budgetary crises, so book purchasing is no longer so automatic. Individual books represent a much more significant investment in the library's growth.
I, however, find myself incredibly taken by the symbolism of these unread books as unconsumed knowledge. Does the knowledge truly exist if it isn't ever disseminated? (If a tree falls in a forest...?) As an academic, I intend to publish books, but I recognize that academia is a small market and that it's likely very few people will ever truly read my work. Does that make it worthwhile? If my books sit unread on library shelves, were they worth writing in the first place? Has my work truly been shared?
This installation makes me desperately want to go to Manhattan and rescue a few of these unloved, unread, unconsumed books.
You can read more about it here.