Building for storage of and access to texts. Over time the format of texts has changed, from papyrus rolls and cuneiform tablets, to codices, to printed books, to microforms, and the technology of storage and the notion of ‘access’ have also changed significantly. Library buildings in turn have evolved.
Libraries have often hosted other activities, including lectures and the display of art and artefacts. These roles extend back to the Hellenistic period (323–31 bc), were revived in the Renaissance and Baroque libraries of Europe, and have found new emphasis in the 20th century.
Libraries also have performed important symbolic roles: they preserve knowledge, inspire scholars, and measure cultural achievement for institutions or entire nations; they also provide an opportunity for enlightened patronage. These symbolic functions have been expressed in various furnishings: for example, gates and chains protect medieval bookcases; allegorical motifs or emblems serve to glorify the arts and sciences; authors’ portraits may inspire readers; and donors’ portraits immortalize their dedication to literature....