Fantasies of the Library – out of print

Anna-Sophie Springer & Etienne Turpin (Ed.)


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  • The MIT Press
  • 2016
  • ISBN 9780262536172
  • 147 pages
  • Paperback
  • 21.5 × 14 × 2 cm

Fantasies of the Library lets readers experience the library anew. The book imagines, and enacts, the library as both keeper of books and curator of ideas—as a platform of the future. One essay occupies the right-hand page of a two-page spread while interviews scrolls independently on the left. Bibliophilic artworks intersect both throughout the book-as-exhibition. A photo essay, “Reading Rooms Reading Machines” further interrupts the book in order to display images of libraries (old and new, real and imagined), and readers (human and machine) and features work by artists including Kader Atta, Wafaa Bilal, Mark Dion, Rodney Graham, Katie Paterson, Veronika Spierenburg, and others.

The book includes an essay on the institutional ordering principles of book collections; a conversation with the proprietors of the Prelinger Library in San Francisco; reflections on the role of cultural memory and the archive; and a dialogue with a new media theorist about experiments at the intersection of curatorial practice and open source ebooks. The reader emerges from this book-as-exhibition with the growing conviction that the library is not only a curatorial space but a bibliological imaginary, ripe for the exploration of consequential paginated affairs. The physicality of the book—and this book—“resists the digital,” argues coeditor Etienne Turpin, “but not in a nostalgic way.”

Erin Kissane, Hammad Nasar, Megan Shaw Prelinger, Rick Prelinger, Anna-Sophie Springer, Charles Stankievech, Katharina Tauer, Etienne Turpin, Andrew Norman Wilson, Joanna Zylinska

About the Editors
Anna-Sophie Springer, a curator and writer, is the codirector (with Charles Stankievech) of K. Verlag, an independent publishing imprint and curatorial-editorial platform (Berlin and Toronto).Etienne Turpin is the founding director of anexact office, a design research practice based in Jakarta.


“When we think of the library we often focus on its systems of order—the even-spaced rows of shelves, the discrete call numbers on the spines of books. But Fantasies of the Library reveals that our experience of the library is instead one of chaotic discovery and unexpected interconnections, a true reflection of the often nonlinear and dreamlike state of our own minds.”
Dan Cohen, Executive Director, Digital Public Library of America
“In an age of engineered serendipity and algorithmically generated enlightenment, of Big Data and semantic webs, it’s easy to forget that so many of our database dreams (and nightmares) began on a bookshelf. Fantasies of the Library reminds us that our library collections have long served as sites of discovery and fortuitous accident, epistemological inquiry and ontological re-orientation. These dreams and dialogues unfold not only between the library’s book covers, but in its architectures of knowledge, both physical and conceptual. Here we can reimagine the library as a site of creative inquiry, where rearranging books and interleaving pages can spark new fantasies, revelations, and revolutions.”
Shannon Mattern, Associate Professor of Media Studies, The New School
“This book is a space of the curatorial. Its pages serve as sites to exhibit knowledge, while pointing to the library as a locus of discursive excavation. Playful pagination creates unexpected juxtapositions which reveal the limits of linearity; this book-as-exhibition reminds us that reality is full of irregularities and unforeseen layers. These fantasies of the library are more real than fiction.”
Ute Meta Bauer, Professor and Founding Director, NTU CCA Singapore
“The library as digital-analog remix, as labyrinth, as madness—a spectacular exploration of knowledge infrastructures in transition. Brilliant, restless, searching: Fantasies of the Library is a meta-tour of the archive with the ghosts of Foucault, Borges, and Flaubert.”
Paul N. Edwards, Professor of Information and History, University of Michigan