What defines a city? Some suggest the mundane (the state of electrical wiring for utilities and phone lines). Others point to basic needs like the quality of affordable housing and public facilities. But the heart of every city is defined by two things: the state of its public spaces, and the quality and condition of its public libraries. Indeed, a public library defines not only the city in which it sits, but the state of the society that created it.
Great cities in history were known for their libraries: the ancient cities of Ebla (probably the oldest known, around 2500 BCE) and Ugarit in Syria, Nineveh in Iraq, Alexandria, Rome, Constantinople and Takshashila in India all had vast libraries. Alexandria's was said to be one of the largest. The ancient university of Nalanda, now sought to be revived, and said to be one of the first great universities in known history, had a magnificent library.