For centuries the library has represented the paradoxical attempt to collect all human knowledge in a finite space. Every library tends to exclude because its selection, however vast, closes out of its walls infinite shelves of writings that for reasons of liking, time and space could not be included. “Every library evokes its own dark ghost, every order carries with it, in its shadow, a library of absences”.
Michel Foucault talks about for the first time about Heterotopias at a 1966 radio conference. Heterotopias are a kind of utopias but really localizable, spaces that have the power to juxtapose in a single real place more incompatible spaces.
Heterotopia starts to work when people are in a sort of absolute break with their traditional time. Libraries can be considered a particular type of heterotopias of time that accumulates indefinitely. The library itself arises from the idea of wanting to accumulate everything, it is wanting to organize a sort of perpetual and indefinite accumulation in a place that does not move.
As a consequence of these considerations, the library becomes a space in progress of changeable and indefinite dimensions. Every library is, by necessity, an incomplete creation in which every empty shelf announces the books that will come, but it is thanks to those empty spaces that it is possible to accumulate other knowledge. Indeed, emptiness can be considered as a symbol of the whole universe.
“Being one thing is, inexorably, not being all other things; the confused intuition of this truth has led men to imagine that not being is more than being something and that in a certain way it is being everything. This error contained in the words of that legendary king of the Indostan who renounces the power and goes to beg in the streets: From this moment I have no kingdom or my kingdom is unlimited, from this moment my body does not belong to me or the whole earth belongs to me”.