Information policy for Borges's Library of Babel

Copyfighter James Grimmelman — now at the New York Law School — has just posted a new draft paper: "Information Policy for the Library of Babel." It's a lovely allegory about the Library of Babel proposed in 1941 by Jorge Luis Borges, in which all possible books are available — and about the information policy the library's guardians would have to implement to make it the best library possible. James proposes that the Internet bears striking similarities to the Library of Babel — and applies the lessons from its infinite depths to the question of information policy for the net.

Or, looked at another way, the Federal Library Commission must serve the inhabitants of the
Library (or "librarians," as Borges calls them). There is no one else for it to serve. The
inhabitants, however, encounter the Library first and foremost as readers. Indeed, their search for
information in its stacks (or the repudiation of that search) is the principal act that gives their own
lives meaning. They search for their Vindications, for "the books of the Crimson Hexagon,
books smaller than natural books, books omnipotent, illustrated, and magical." 12 On the shelves
somewhere are "the detailed history of the future, the autobiographies of the archangels, . . . the
treatise Bede could have written (but did not) on the mythology of the Saxon people,"13 and
other informational treasures beyond measure. We do our job well if we help our constituents
find the true and beautiful books and steer them clear of the false and ugly ones.

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