Libraries and librarians are icons of civilization. In many works of fiction, they serve as emblems of civilization itself. In addition to being real fixtures of society around the world, they have played important roles as settings or even as characters of a sort in fiction, films, plays and so on.
Today, I would like you to participate in our observance of libraries. Call to mind the notable library or libraries (or librarians) you recall, whether from your own life, from history, or from books and movies. Use the “comment” button, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll include them all in Friday’s wrapup of National Library Week.
Here is a list of some of the great libraries, real and imagined, off the top of my head. I know you can add significantly to this paltry list:
Henry Higgins’ multistory library in the film of “My Fair Lady;” Don Quixote’s own library, which is what inspired him to undertake all those adventures in the first place; the monastery library in “The Name of the Rose;” The Reading Room at the British Museum, where uncounted famous writers and scholars have studied (I tried, but couldn’t get in to see it — have to have a pass, these days: I doubt Karl Marx needed a pass); The Library at Alexandria, symbol both of brilliance and ignorance, which once contained the greatest collection of the world’s knowledge and was destroyed by a string of ignorant conquerors; the excellent and entertaining library at Hogwarts; Leonardo Da Vinci’s collection, which ranked as one of the great libraries of the Renaissance; I think there’s a scene in “Love Story” in which Oliver and Jennifer meet in the library, please correct me if I’m wrong; Yale University has a fascinating library building with a wonderful collection of rare books, one of the world’s largest collections of same, the Beinecke Library, built of white marble that, from the inside, glows amber with the light coming through it (HERE is a link).
Only a couple of librarians come quickly to mind, though I feel like I should be able to rattle off a dozen without a hiccup. Our friend M. Proust, compelled to find gainful employment by despairing parents weary of his lollygagging, fared poorly in some public examinations for a respectable post in Paris and was relegated to a third-level unpaid position at a library, and managed to hold the job for a considerable period without ever really showing up for work. And, of course, dear to all our hearts, Marian the Librarian, heroine of “The Music Man” who certainly Meredith Willson created at least in part for the joy of writing a song that had a rhyme for “carrion!” Certainly you can add to this list.
And my challenge to you is to name a library more stunning that Borges’ amazing creation, the Library of Babel in the short story by that name. Worth looking up if you haven’t read it. It’s included in his book, Labyrinths.
Now it’s up to you. Comment or e-mail. I hope you’ll have some fun thinking of additions to the list.