"Libraries, over the centuries, have been the most important way of keeping our collective wisdom. They were and still are a sort of universal brain where we can retrieve what we have forgotten and what we still do not know. If you will allow me to use such a metaphor, a library is the best possible imitation, by human beings, of a divine mind, where the whole universe is viewed and understood at the same time. A person able to store in his or her mind the information provided by a great library would emulate in some way the mind of God. In other words, we have invented libraries because we know that we do not have divine powers, but we try to do our best to imitate them."
(Umberto Eco in a speech delivered at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina on November 1, 2003.)
Eco, of course, knows he is echoing Borges here, and he goes on to discuss some of modern variations of "book" before coming back to the idea that a book is a fixed text, a way of dissembling the universe that is fixed and immutable. A library, then, is a collection of the frozen apprehensions of the world. Yes, they are records of the passage of God, but they are the historical records of God. They provide proof of the existence of God, but fail to illuminate where He might have gone.
That is not to say that libraries are useless, moldering piles of vegetable matter that are better used for providing mulch for sunflowers or cherry trees. I, personally, love a good library. Reading the catalog of Dr. John Dee's collection makes me feel like the mysteries of the world can be comprehended if one were to assemble enough texts, if one were able to read everything. Much like those librarians in Borges's hexagonal infinity who dream of the catalogue of catalogues. But such an assimilation of knowledge would simply inform of us of the world as it has been. (Borges, to his credit, posits that among the cryptic infinity of texts on the library's shelves there exist tomes that predict the future, if one could actually read them.) Such an assimilation would inform us of God as He had been, and by doing so, would make us God. And, at that moment, the library—as it was defined—would cease to exist because it would be incomplete. (Though one could argue that whoever read all the books and became God would understand that the act of reading was synonymous with writing and that the library was created—will be created—by this act.)
Libraries are, in varying degrees, an expression of order. They refute the possibility of chaos. Their shelves are the walls that protect us from the mean-spirited emptiness of random chance. They are the persistence of our need for a Rational Existence, a God who has a Plan and who isn't a Blind Idiot Creator, wracked by insanity and inconstancy.
I have been seeking order in my dreams; I have been trying to discern the Plan that informs the symbols and images that have been flooding my sleep. I have been attempting to gain access to that room in the library where I will find the book that will make my confusion comprehensible. But, even that book (yes, that one, the one she was devouring as she was being devoured—echoes of cycles of recursions) was filled with too many pages, too many possibilities. Every key could have been the right one.
The search for the key is a trap, I think. To seek the key is to be a cataloguer.