11 May 2009

Books Out of Reach at Bodleian

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Oxford’s Bodleian Library

The news has even reached India’s DNA news service (Bombay) that librarians at Oxford have banned step ladders and refused all access to books on upper shelves.

Britain, to make up for the monstrosities it perpetrated on its colonies during its empire days, has since the culmination of the Second World War been celeritously progressing on a path of political correctness — to the extent of first starting to call a spade a wilting water lily and then beginning to nurse a whimpering nanny state.

Now, an old stanchion of olde Blighty has caught the contagion. The Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford, where many a ruminative afternoon was spent by the likes of Gladstone and Attlee, Wilde and Shelly, and Hawking and Tim Berners-Lee, has made the books in its uppermost shelves out of bounds for students — or anyone else for that matter.

The reason: three-year-old British health and safety regulations that the library’s authorities happened to trip upon recently. Better late than never, the library has deemed the use of stepladders to be too risky for a scholar’s life and limb. The momentous decision has been arrived at irrespective of the fact that in the centuries of its existence, no untoward incident is on record to have occurred in the Bodleian owing to the use of ladders for reaching books in the higher rows.

So is there a way to access the books? In one word, no. The authorities say, respecting the national love of tradition, the books stay where they are: in their “historic” locations. If one wants access to a particular volume, one can always try at the British Library in London. And yes, there are also the digital versions.

It was several decades ago that Yale closed all the fireplaces in in residential dorms after the fire marshal declared that they constituted a fire hazard.

One of contemporary nincompoopery’s most characteristic features is an infatuation with the idea of Progress so complete that it excludes totally the ability not only to draw lessons from the evidence of the past, but even to recognize that the possibility of continuation with the past exists. Revolutionary change today is always vital and obligatory. And anytime events produce the slightest break with ordinary routine, as in the case of Islamic terrorists captured post 9/11, a group of experts must be hastily assembled to re-invent the wheel.

Oxford librarians simply cannot recognize that people have climbed stepladders to reach books for centuries, just as Yale’s administration could not access the fact that people heated homes and cooked with fireplaces for centuries, all with entirely acceptable rates of untoward incident. Similarly, the Bush Administration could not grasp the fact that American military commanders had previously encountered illegal combatants and that practically effective policies and customs applying to such circumstances have existed throughout the history of human conflict. Instead, George W. Bush had to invent new policies and order policy drafts from Justice Department attorneys.

The Bodleian’s high shelf books are exactly like mankind’s history, tradition, and the experience of all our deceased predecessors: out of the reach of contemporary idiots.

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Maggie's Farm

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Alex

This is easy to fix. Some scoundrel pulls all the books down off the upper shelves, use a boat hook, and now they can never be put back. Access ensured.



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