The Social Life of Books From a Librarian to Walter Benjamin’s 'Unpacking My Library' Section Creative Encounters


Aaron Austin Locke


In this short essay, the author uses Walter Benjamin's 'Unpacking My Library' to explore the social life of library books. The author examines how numerous actors will come into contact with the book(s) across their social journey into the present and how the librarian is required to make judgments on their supposed 'use value' in any particular setting. Simultaneously, the author considers the process of commodification and de-commodification of library books and how it often falls upon the librarian to determine whether a book will retain its de-commodified status or whether it is no longer needed in that particular setting and will be regressed to the status of a commodity. But while books may be withdrawn from library stock, does that mean that the moments of history embedded within them and their unique identities are lost for history? The author argues not.