On the Pleasure of Libraries as a Place

Hello, this is Erik Sean Estep. I’m one of the new bloggers here. I’ve been a librarian for over ten years and I’m currently the Social Sciences Librarian at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

I’m honored to be a contributor because I think that this is one of the most intellectually compelling blogs in our field. Many times, this space has caused me to think more deeply and philosophically about library and information science issues. I hope to continue that tradition.  For my first post, I’d like to draw attention to one of the best things I’ve read about the wonders of the library.

A nostalgic piece about going to the library as a young man is in one of the recent issues of The London Review of Books. Alan Bennett is one of England’s great writers and he elegantly gets at the tactile joys of going to the library without resorting to the sentimentality of pining for a lost world.  Bennett is a true Renaissance Man and you get the sense that his inspiration came from going to the library. He was raised in a working class family and the library was his gateway to a wider life of the mind. Sometimes it takes an outsider to bring to our attention the important work that we do and the value we bring to our society.

One comment on “On the Pleasure of Libraries as a Place

  1. Bennett’s piece in the London Review of Books reminds me of the time I first fell in love with libraries. I suspect most of us have such stories, so I’ll be brief about mine. I was in middle school and was assigned to write a paper on early American history. My mother took me to the public library where the librarian ushered me into the the reference room. It was filled with adults pooring over big intimidating books. I felt that I had been given a special exemption to enter the adult world of learning.

    After being shown a number of encylopedias, I began reading articles on my topic. I was amazed by how the various encyclopedias confirmed their respective historical accounts, but often also added a tidbit of new information. I found myself taking copious notes. It was perhaps the first time I was really doing my homework in a serious fashion.

    Sometime in the early afternoon, my mother asked if I wanted to stop, but I was hooked. Hours passed without my noticing, and my study of early American history continued well past the assigned historical era. When I finally had to leave, I saw the reference room very differntly. It was as a place I could call my own — a place where I could learn about anything that struck my fancy.

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