Wednesday, May 19, 2010

the library vault

rijkmusuem library, amsterdam, the netherlands
image via it doesn't get any better than this

new york public library, ny, usa
image via idlethink on flickr

nottebohm library, antwerp, belgium
image via spotted by locals

wren library at trinity college, cambridge, england
image via diary of a dandelion diva

the other day someone who sometimes seems to know me better than myself suggested i look into working at the main branch of our public library. at first i balked at the idea. i imagined myself bored, stunted, and trapped— bloodlessly gathering up misplaced books, tediously putting call numbers on book spines. but then i really thought about it. i have always loved libraries, even the ones lacking grandeur and history, even the ones that are a depressing block of drab concrete from the outside. because on the inside there is always the surprise and triumph of discovery. even if it's a tiny discovery...just one line, from one book that i would have otherwise never come across, that maybe i won't even check out, that maybe i will never come across again in my lifetime, but that one line flaps on and on inside me like bird wings on a windowpane, desperate and relentless, forever remembered. i can spend hours walking the aisles, running my fingers across titles and names i don't know, until something flashes out at me and i stop and take a closer look. i don't get embarrassed to sit on the floor. i like the eerie quiet. i like the smell of paper and metal. i like the feeling that arises when someone else wanders into the aisle that i have been occupying for a long while without anyone else present— it's part irritation, part bewilderment, part relief. i like the stamped due dates, resolute, non-negotiable. i like the lighting, sometimes pale and morbid, sometimes warm and softly yellow. but mostly i guess it's about being surrounded, overwhelmed really, by the hard work of writers... a seemingly endless inventory of writers working out their ideas, obsessing on their characters, their landscapes, their imagined places... fiction, non-fiction, reference, anthologies... it doesn't matter...a writer and a story...everywhere you turn.

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