Banks, Iain M. The Algebraist (San Francisco: Night Shade Books, c2005) 434 p.
In the year 4034 A.D. humans have achieved interstellar travel and made the acquaintance of a race they call "Dwellers." Dwellers live on gas giant planets, are very long lived, have good memories and very large libraries.
Dweller memories, and libraries, usually proved to be stuffed full of outright nonsense, bizarre myths, incomprehensible images, indecipherable symbols and meaningless equations, plus random assemblages of numbers, letters, pictograms, holophons, sonomemes, chemiglyphs, actinomes and sensata variegata, all of them trawled and thrown together unsorted—or in patterns too abstruse to be untangled—from a jumbled mix of millions upon millions of utterly different and categorically unrelated civilisations, the vast majority of which had long since disappeared and either crumbled into dust or evaporated into radiation." (p. 18).
A human named Fassin Taak visits the Dwellers and tries to extract information from these vast disorganized libraries.
The library had a roof of diamond leaf looking directly upwards into the vermilion-dark sky.... Around him, the walls were lined with shelves, some so widely spaced that they might have doubled as bunk space for humans, others so small that a child's finger might have struggled to fit. Mostly these held books, of some sort. Spindle-secured carousels tensioned between the walls and between the floor and a network of struts above held hundreds of other types of storage devices and systems: swave crystals, holoshard, picospool and a dozen more obscure. (p. 214).
The room was almost perfectly spherical, with no windows, just a circle of dim light shining from the ceiling's centre and further luminescence provided by bio strips inlaid on each shelf, glowing ghostly green. Further stacks of shelves like enormous inward-pointing vanes made the place feel oddly organic, as though these were ribs, and they were inside some vast creature. (p. 217).