When my niece was still a little girl, her infant brother and I spent a rainy Saturday afternoon watching Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on video. I remember one scene when (– and hey, spoilers here, if you’re about 17 years behind on your animation DVD stack–), the awkward Beast attempts to impress the reticent Belle by opening the doors of his wonderful, personal library. Neatly arranged, if undusted, books tower inside the cavernous space, and the astonished bookworm, Belle, has that expression on her face that says, “Hey– forget the dancing china, I could get used to this!” (Or perhaps that was just my reading.)
As they say, ‘He did good.’
My niece, quite the reader at the time, had that equally impressed twinkle in her eye when the castle library doors opened to a lifetime of books without renewals. She’d already learned, in her young life, the power inside libraries, but, more surprisingly, so did I. By that time in my own life, I was already a longtime library employee, and had forgotten the wonderful and occasionally untapped treasure that surrounds me daily. Familiarity breeds.. well, disinterest it seems, and I learned that afternoon that it’s good to be reminded. I turned to her, and pointed excitedly to the TV.
“I work there!”
This did not impress her. She gave me the raised eyebrow snarl of a skeptical child. “Really?”
“Yeah. I work in a library.”
Wow indeed. To this day, I am still quite dazzled by the wonderful resources and reads in our library, my knowledgeable and esteemed colleagues, and the breadth and depth of our collection. Just now, for example, the beautiful and brilliant Head of Acquisitions handed me 7 volumes of the acclaimed graphic novel series, Y: The Last Man, to add to our collection… Guess what I’m checking out next? Finally, I appreciate the fact that our collection has no cobwebs or backtalking candlesticks anywhere nearby– well, as far as I know, anyway.
I will also admit that I remain continually delighted when I watch a scene of a library in the entertainment media, or hear its reference in a story. So I was pleased to find that Public Radio International’s current download for their wonderful Selected Shorts series, is a program called, “Loving Libraries,” an hour of commercial-free readings of short stories about libraries, read by truly wonderful reader/performers. Like most episodes of the series, you can download this program from iTunes (it’s free), and it’s great if you have low-vision, or you’re on MUNI, or washing dishes, and just want to zone out. But for those of you who prefer to have a classic, timeless, version 1.0, hard copy– for when you do that Belle imitation walking down the street– we do have the stories from the program in Gleeson’s collection.
Italo Calvino’s, “A General in the Library,” appears in his collection, Numbers in the Dark: and Other Stories. Edith Wharton’s excerpt on Henry James reading poetry in her library, is from her memoir, A Backward Glance, and we have the original, 1934 edition of this book in our collection. Finally, Ray Bradbury’s short story, “Exchange,” appears, along with other wonderful short stories, in a book called, In the Stacks: Short Stories about Libraries and Librarians— which includes a little Borges, a little LeGuin, a little Saki (everything’s good with a little Saki), and many, many more.
So all this brings me to ask, are there any other stories or scenes about libraries that particularly impressed you or someone you love? We’d love to hear them in the comments section.