Saturday, June 09, 2007

Library Stories Part 4

One of my favorite short stories is The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges and perhaps I love it more for the concept (that of a library containing every single book) more than for the writing style. There's something about the library as a location that makes it fascinating. It's easily a place of power just as churches or cemeteries or camp sites or virgin forests are sites of adventure. Except libraries are usually the havens of the underdog, the geeks, the nerds--those who wouldn't otherwise adapt to society as much as their peers wanted them to.

For some strange reason, my mental picture of a library will always be that of a huge, looming place with endless shelves twice as tall as any human. The books always sport a leather cover and there's a cloud of dust whenever you pull them out. It's probably the product of TVs and movies yet it's still an image I cling to, even if I know that's not how real libraries look like. But the same can be said of churches. Whenever one speaks of a church, one imagines cathedrals with wooden doors and gargoyles and stained glass windows and a large crucifix with Jesus in the middle. I'm a Protestant so I've been to churches that have more in common with corporate offices than small castles yet that's similarly the impression I get when I hear the word church.

To put it bluntly, there's something romantic about the library.

A few of you probably have their own share of adventurous stories in the library. I haven't been gaming for a long time but friends who've been playing RPGs since grade school have stories about lurking in the library rolling dice and acting out their characters. I even have a friend whose brother literally set camp in a library, eluding the school authorities for several days. There's probably even a ghost story or two that involves libraries. It's as if the library is a nexus for thrills and experiences despite its otherwise serene appearance.

I think each library has its own story to tell. In the collectible card game, an old slogan was "You'll never play the same game twice," due to the fact that cards are dealt randomly and one constantly changes their deck. The same can be applied to libraries. No two libraries are the same as their selection of books are ever shifting and changing. And perhaps at the end of the day, it's not about the books inside the library--it's about the people in it be they librarians, students, researchers, bibliophiles, or the janitor.

Library Stories Part 1

Library Stories Part 2

Library Stories Part 3

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