“The Library of Unborrowed Books,” by Meriç Algün Ringborg

Sometimes when I’m in the library, I’ll pick a shelf, open the back cover of every book on it, and take with me the one that’s apparently gone the longest since being checked out. I don’t read the whole thing, but maybe a chapter or two, or captions of all the pictures, or a few poems. It’s a quiet, pleasant moment of symbiosis: I see something–and maybe learn something–that I wasn’t expecting, and one author’s work remains alive a little longer.

So while Meriç Algün Ringborg’s Library of Unborrowed Books may not be the most visually scintillating art installation, it’s composition and idea are tremendously appealing to me. The first section of The Library opened in Stockholm this year with 600 books that have never been borrowed from Stockholm’s public library. Ringborg writes:

There is a selection made of what books accompany us into the future…This comes natural, a selection is necessary, and it’s made in different instances either conscious or unconscious. Nevertheless, the books that are left behind — those deemed useless or for unknown reasons are abandoned — still exist in physical form, organized and systematized within the one institution representative of knowledge in all its forms, the library.

The Library of Unborrowed Books bases itself on the concept of the library as an institution manifesting language and knowledge, of the passing of awareness and the openness to all types of people and literature. This work, however, comprises all the books from a selected library that have never been borrowed [and] hints at what has been disregarded, knowledge essentially unconsumed, and puts on display what has eluded us.

Why these books aren’t ‘chosen,’ why they are overlooked, will never be clear but whatever each book contains, en masse they become representative of the gaps and cracks of history, or the bureaucratic cataloging of the world…In this library their existence is validated simply by being borrowed, underlining their being as well as their content and form by putting them on display in an autonomous library dedicated to the books yet to have been revealed.

(Found at Meriç Algün Ringborg.)

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