On the Facebook, I said:
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I don’t have a copy of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. I should get one.”?
Because I have.
Because, well, I have..
I’m reading a book about Thomism–you’ll hear about it eventually–and I thought that I haven’t read much of Aquinas, even in my Catholic university Philosophy studying days. This book I’m reading mentioned some of Aquinas’s work, and I don’t have anywhere handy where I could physically look up the primary text.
One might think go to the library, but that would be a misunderstanding of what the local library is. It’s a service designed to meet the needs of its customers, and most of the public doesn’t want to read Summa Theologica. They want to read the contemporary thrillers and pop nonfiction books. So the libraries can’t waste valuable space on product that their clients don’t want all the time.
I could go to the university library, maybe, and get a day pass or whatever they offer itinerant amateur scholars. But that’s a thirty minute car ride away plus whatever fees.
I know, I know: You can get this for your phone or computer for free by downloading it from Project Gutenberg or the free Kindle editions floating around. But I don’t read from a small device. Brothers and sisters, as you know, I work on computers and whatnot all day. When I want to unwind, I want to sit in a chair with a cat on my lap and a book.
So I got to looking around the Internet for them.
Look at that set. Note the volume numbers: This is only the ten volumes in the complete works of Thomas Aquinas. Now I want that, too.
Most of them run a tad over two hundred bucks (they’re obviously not priced for a consumer, but for a collector or an academic with a budget). Still, I only have to sell a little plasma or a couple of software testing articles and I could have one of these.
5 thoughts on “It Wasn’t A Joke, Sadly”
A few years ago, when I needed Summa Theologica, I was delighted to learn there was one in my own library. All I had to do was go downstairs.
You’re at a college library, right?
I did a study a couple years back comparing the holdings of our local library vis-a-vis the current holdings in contemporary works versus-a-versus seminal documents in Western political thought and philosophy. There were something like 20 copies of Barack Obama’s book, 10 of Sarah Palin’s bestseller at the time, and 0 works by John Locke.
Public libraries are a little more than publicly funded Internet cafes with contemporary reading to borrow and are not vast troves of the accumulated knowledge of man. Of course, they exist to serve their customers, and fewer and fewer of their customers need deep books.
Yes, I’m at a college library.
There’s a school of thought in collection development that says libraries should acquire the classics and that libraries should acquire what people want as demonstrated through circulation statistics. When a library is supported by extracting money from taxpayers, I’m inclined to support the latter as the least immoral.
It’s always a balancing act between several competing demands.
Fortunately, some librarians in the past thought it appropriate to acquire the classics, so there’s no need for me to purchase Plato, Marx, and the like.
I get the thought behind the collections management strategy. I’m as much lamenting the customers of the library and what they’re looking for as the libraries’ choices themselves.
I remember the good old days when I was a college student at the university, and its vast library holdings had pretty much every thing I looked for, and in my wandering reading of my early years there–where I cut class to go read in the library–I looked for a lot. Throughout my university career, the library saved me a bunch in textbook costs as I could always find the primary texts I needed for my English and Philosophy classes.
However, in the general library sense, the number of classics held seems to be declining. You can find a couple copies of Plato’s dialogues floating around the system unless a philosophy student, saving on text book costs, has checked it out.
But, ah, the limitations in the joys of browsing and following reading paths wherever they wander.
At least there’s ILL for those who know what it is.
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