English Is Weird: Why is it called a “library”?

Why specifically that word, I mean. Library.

Most western languages, be they Romance, Germanic, Hellenic or Slavic, use a word based on the Greek biblio (meaning “book”) and theke ( meaning “container, “receptacle” and/or “collection”). Makes total sense, right? Even the Latin-speaking Romans borrowed the word from the Greeks (along with their land, religion, art and various aspects of their architecture and culture, but that’s a topic for another time).

Bosnian – biblioteka
Danish – bibliotek
Dutch – bibliotheek
French – bibliothèque
German – Bibliothek
Greek – βιβλιοθήκη (bibliothíki)
Italian – biblioteca
Latin – bibliotheca
Latvian – bibliotēka
Lithuanian – biblioteka
Macedonian – библиотека (biblioteka)
Norwegian – bibliotek
Polish – biblioteka
Portuguese – biblioteca
Romanian – bibliotecă
Russian – библиотека (biblioteka)
Serbian – библиотека (biblioteka)
Spanish – biblioteca
Swedish – bibliotek
Ukrainian – бібліотека (biblioteka)

Short answer for busy people: English has a complicated history.

Snarky answer for people that have traumatic flashbacks to English class: English wouldn’t be English if it didn’t make everything more difficult than necessary.

Actual answer for the genuinely curious: So… England (where modern English comes from), for being a relatively small island within conquering distance, has been pretty good at repelling invasions throughout much of its history; at least for the last thousand years or so. Before that it was a bit more touch and go.

In the 5th century, when the Romans (who took the island from the Celts about 400 years earlier… who had themselves taken the island from an earlier culture 400 or 500 years before that) bailed due to problems at home, and because 400 years of English weather and angry Celts throwing spears at you would get to anyone, the Anglo-Saxons were there to take advantage of the power vacuum. They brought the Anglo-Saxon language from their original home in what is now northern Germany with them to the island (Anglo-land, Angland, England, English). That’s why English is a Germanic language. But we’re not done with invasions yet! Then this guy named William the Conqueror (guess what he was good at) showed up in 1066 from what is now northern France with a bunch of guys that speak French.

So French became the language of the ruling class but it didn’t push out the existing Germanic Old English (Anglo-Saxon) language, it just layered over the top of it and added a ton of Old French (Romance language) words to a Germanic language (just one of the reasons English is a weird as it is). One of those words was librairie (meaning “a collection of books” or “a bookseller’s shop”)!

We’re in the homestretch now, I promise. 

The weird thing is that librairie was an Old French word that came from librarium, the Latin word for “chest of books” or “bookcase” (which is in turn from liber, Latin for “book”). You remember Latin, the language that took the Greek word for library, bibliotheke. So when Romance languages, that came from Latin, went looking for a word to mean “library” they kept the borrowed Greek word that meant “library” (go figure), but the Germanic language with romantic influences adopted a different Romantic word that meant “bookshop” and gradually changed it to mean “library”. There are, I’m sure, all sorts of cultural and historical reasons that would help explain why this might have happened but we won’t get into it here – I’m tired. Meanwhile, guess how to say “bookshop” in French. If you guessed librairie have a croissant!

Fascinating. And horribly convoluted. It makes you feel for anyone trying to learn English as a second language, doesn’t it?

In a world of Google and Amazon, libraries rethink their role

More information is available online than ever. Libraries are stepping in to make sure everyone can access it.

Close-Up Of Books By Laptop On Table

Not everyone has access to tech resources many take for granted, including laptops and an internet connection. That’s where libraries can help.
Chnit Siri Kan Ti N Cheiynghim / Getty Images

One night a few years ago, Tony Marx was closing up a Bronx library when he noticed a kid sitting on the steps. The boy was pecking away on the oldest laptop Marx had ever seen. Puzzled, Marx asked him what he was doing.

The boy told Marx he was doing his math homework. The assignment was online and the boy’s family couldn’t afford broadband at home. So the youngster camped out on the library stoop to pick up its leaked signal.

“Holy moly,” Marx, the president and CEO of the New York Public Library, remembers thinking. “‘In the information capital of the world, this kid can’t do the math homework we want him to do to succeed.'”

Since then, the NYPL has rolled out a host of services aimed at closing the digital divide, which is exactly what it sounds like: the gap between those who can easily get online and those who can’t.

Read the whole article by Abrar Al-Heeti on cnet.com.

Questions about the upcoming 2020 census?


Image result for censusStop by our lobby to meet Recruiting Assistant Sunday Saunders.  She will be available to answer questions about the upcoming 2020 Census and discuss the many job openings available to Rock Island County residents.

Planning for college?

college planning

This workshop is for those persons who are  planning to attend a college or for those persons who know someone college bound.

Ryan Biniak and Ray Kozicki of the Foundation for Financial Education will discuss:

  • The MYTH of financial aid
  • Sources of money
  • Need-based vs. non need-based
  • College funding vs. financial aid
  • Advice
  • The reward

The free workshop is part of Money Smart Week.  No registration is needed but seating is limited.  The library information desk can be reached by phone  309-524-2470.

Being German in Illinois during WWI

Crime to Be German

Historical actor Barbara Kay of Glen Carbon, IL,  portrays her great-grandmother, Margaret May, a resident of southern Illinois who saw and felt anti-German hysteria a century ago.

The United States was involved in the “Great War,” and some Illinoisans considered anything German evil – including their fellow Illinois residents of German descent. Although German immigrants and first-generation German Americans had been present throughout Illinois for decades and formed a large proportion of the state’s population, mob hysteria and violence against them escalated in Illinois during the World War I years.

Kay illustrates her presentation with photographs, newspaper headlines, and editorial cartoons of the time.  Through her first-person, costumed portrayal, she brings the struggles of World War I-era German Illinoisans to life and engages audiences with questions and discussion.

The performance is funded by the Illinois Humanities Road Scholars program and the Friends of the Moline Public Library Foundation: Part of the “Becoming American: A Documentary Film and Discussion Series on Our Immigration Experience is a project of City Lore in collaboration with the Immigration and Ethnic History Society and the International Coalition of the Sites of Conscience.  The project has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities:  Exploring the Human Endeavor.”

A program series for all us

The story of our ancestors, our country and us.

Becoming American Slide

No registrations is required to attend any of the programs in this Quad Cities-wide film and discussion program series.

Becoming American: A Documentary Film and Discussion Series on Our Immigration Experience is a project of City Lore in collaboration with the Immigration and Ethnic History Society and the International Coalition of the Sites of Conscience.  The project has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: “Exploring the Human Endeavor.”