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Donna McCracken
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  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Harvard librarian to speak at UIS

October 21, 2003

SPRINGFIELD - Matthew Battles, author and rare book librarian at Harvard University, will speak on "The Library and the Liberal Arts" at 7 p.m. Monday, November 3, in Brookens Auditorium, located on the lower level of Brookens Library at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

The program is sponsored by Friends of Brookens Library and will be followed by a reception and book signing. All portions of the event are free and open to the public. A native of Petersburg, where his parents still live, Battles works at the Houghton Library, Harvard's rare books library, and is the coordinating editor of the Harvard Library Bulletin. His essays and criticism have appeared in the Boston Book Review, the London Review of Books, and Harper's Magazine. He is also the author of the recently published book Library: An Unquiet History (W.W. Norton & Company, 2003), which explores how libraries have accumulated, preserved, shaped, inspired, and even obliterated knowledge.

"Libraries have always been important to me," he explains. "I can remember spending summers in the Petersburg library reading for hours. And that is really what I am interested in — how libraries interact with people. I didn't want to write a dry history of library facts, I wanted to look at the interplay between knowledge and cultures."

Accordingly, Battles' book is an account of how, from earliest times, libraries have been built and organized, how they have evolved — and how they have been destroyed — that is at the same time a literary tour and a look at the history of knowledge. The Los Angeles Times calls it a "sprightly narrative" that "blows the dust off our stodgy, conventional conception of the library to reveal the living heart of cultures that beats beneath its stone facade."

Battles is currently working on two new books, one documenting the history of Widener Library — Harvard's flagship library of more than five million books, journals, and other materials comprising one of the world's most comprehensive research collections in the humanities and social sciences — and the other on the history of writing.

For more information about Battles' appearance at UIS, contact University Librarian Jane Treadwell at 217/206-6597.

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