[T]he fact of not going to the library [as a kid] never bothered me much until as an adult I found myself in one. It was a bit like a religious experience. Tall ceilings, imposing windows, rows of books, wooden tables with green lamps that loomed like ancient scholars bent over their ancient work. And silence, silence, everywhere silence. It was then that I realized that libraries are not just about the books. Yes, they are about the books, about voices from around the world that invite you into to slip between their covers, voices from the places one has not heard about, from people one could not have imagined. But it was the silence – being away from voices of one’s family, friends, inner voices of home-bound concerns, things to do, being away from voices that fills one’s mind so persistently and steadily that one mistakes them for one’s own – it was the silence that shocked me into listening, very hard, for faint whispers of a voice of my own.
The rest of this quote is nice, but the sentence that got me was: “Tall ceilings, imposing windows, rows of books, wooden tables with green lamps that loomed like ancient scholars bent over their ancient work.” You mean there are actually libraries like that in the real world?!
Chalk this one up as one of the Great Disappointments of my youth. Every time I walked into a new library, I imagined it would be The One with the “[t]all ceilings, imposing windows, rows of books, [and] wooden tables with green lamps.” I spent the whole summer before junior high dreaming about the library, imagining it would be like this.
Why did I expect libraries to look like this? Because this is how libraries were depicted in books. And movies. But especially books.
When the junior high library turned out to be the usual—drop ceilings, metal shelving, Formica tables and plastic chairs, uncomfortably bright fluorescent lighting)—I was crushed. It was then gave up my dreams of wooden tables with green lamps. I still held my breath a little when going into a new library, but never in quite the same way, all wide-eyed anticipation unmitigated by cynicism.