An interesting item in The Guardian today:
More than 9,000 books are missing from the British Library, including Renaissance treatises on theology and alchemy, a medieval text on astronomy, first editions of 19th- and 20th-century novels, and a luxury edition of Mein Kampf produced in 1939 to celebrate Hitler’s 50th birthday.
The library believes almost all have not been stolen but rather mislaid among its 650km of shelves and 150m items – although some have not been seen in well over half a century.
Now I only have around 1,100 books on a little over 100 feet of shelves and I still misplace some of them. Thus, not only can I understand how the British Library can be missing that many books, I’m actually surprised the number isn’t higher. After all, although only established in the early 1970s, the library has more than 14 million books. And if you’re like me and never understood metric, 650k is equal to 403.9 miles. That’s a lot of shelves on which to accidentally misplace a book. In fact, the library brags that if you saw just five items a day in its collection (which would include more than just the books), it would take you more than 80,000 years to see it all.
In comparison, the Library of Congress has more than 138 million items on approximately 650 miles of bookshelves. Its collections include more than 32 million books and other print materials. Of course, it also has more than a century and a half head start.
[W]hen you’re in a library it might seem really boring and dusty to most people. But for me, it was a place where I could just let my imagination roam, and you ventured into sanctuary unbounded by space or time.
Iris Chang, quoted in Finding Iris Chang