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Robert Darnton: Libraries, Books, and the Digital Future

Date:     Thursday 16 June 2016

Time:     17:30 – 19:30

Venue:  Robert Emmet Theatre, Arts Building, Trinity College Dublin

The Library of Trinity College Dublin was delighted to host the well-known historian, author and public intellectual, Robert Darnton, speaking about Libraries, Books, and the Digital Future. The Vice-Provost and Chief Academic Officer of Trinity College Dublin, Professor Linda Hogan, moderated this event and reflected on The Library of the Future; the Future of the Library at the ‘omega’ of this year-long programme of events.


Despite a lot of loose talk about the death of the book and the obsolescence of libraries, books and libraries are more important than ever in the current digital environment; and their importance will increase as we design the digital future – if only we can get it right. One way leads through excessive commercialization to a future in which the public will cease to have access to most of the material that belongs in the public domain. Another way is to democratize access to knowledge. The Digital Public Library of America, which went online on April 18, 2013 exemplifies the possibilities of democratization.  It is a distributed network of digitized collections from research libraries scattered across the U.S., and it aims to make America’s cultural heritage available, free of charge, to all Americans and in fact to everyone in the world.


Bob DarntonRobert Darnton was educated at Harvard University (A.B., 1960) and Oxford University (B.Phil., 1962; D. Phil., 1964), where he was a Rhodes Scholar. After a brief stint as a reporter for The New York Times, he became a junior fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard. He taught at Princeton from 1968 until 2007, when he became Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library at Harvard. He has been a visiting professor or fellow at many universities and institutes for advanced study, and his outside activities include service as a trustee of the New York Public Library and the Oxford University Press (USA) and terms as president of the American Historical Association and the International Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies.

Among his honors are a MacArthur Prize Fellowship, a National Book Critics Circle Award, election to the French Legion of Honor, the National Humanities Medal conferred by President Obama in February 2012, and the Del Duca World Prize in the Humanities awarded by the Institut de France in 2013. He has written and edited many books, including The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopédie (1979, an early attempt to develop the history of books as a field of study), The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History (1984, probably his most popular work, which has been translated into 19 languages), Berlin Journal, 1989-1990, (1991, an account of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of East Germany), and The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Prerevolutionary France (1995, a study of the underground book trade). His latest books are The Case for Books (2009), The Devil in the Holy Water, or The Art of Slander in France from Louis XIV to Napoleon (2009), Poetry and the Police: Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris (2010), and Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature (2014).

linda-hogan-1Linda Hogan is Professor of Ecumenics and a Fellow of TCD. She is a theological ethicist with research interests in the field of social and political ethics. She has published widely on the ethics of human rights, on intercultural ethics, and on gender. She has been the Principal Investigator on a number of research projects focussing on religious pluralism and inter-religious ethics.