An excerpt from an excellent post from cacopolis.
The librarian showing us around said something striking. The library has a view of building collections regardless of current demand, where perhaps the particular section on, say, the history of Afghan-Persian relations in the 17th century, may be of interest to some members in 50 years time. So while it is strapped for funding, its 1m book collection continues to grow in esoteric directions. This is powerful stuff not only because it is forward looking in the preparatory sense: that we want to have resources to satisfy future member’s needs. But also there is the underlying spirit—unavailable in the Arab world I regret—of future knowledge. That is, the very secular notion that our knowledge of the world today is incomplete, but also that progress will be attempted in time. Moreover, we don’t know what the future will hold, that is, we don’t know what histories people will be interested in. There is a profound optimism and enlightenment embedded here, and it is because of this forward-looking commitment that I say this institution is not steeped in the past, but in history. The former being dead, the latter alive, in construction and adventurous.