By Carey Dunne, 23, reporting from New York City on her volumes of affection for cool rooms full of books for borrowing
Libraries get a bad rap. They're dismissed as fusty nerd havens or avoided in post-traumatic student disorder as exam study hellholes.
Unfortunately, it is not well known that they are actually fun, and also, cool.
I love libraries: They are cathedrals of free knowledge. I got my first library card when I was five, from the New York Public Library on 42nd Street. White marble lions sit guarding this library, with Lego lion replicas just past the entrance. (Amazon.com is not guarded by lions, and also does not have a big ceiling painted with cherubs.) I knew that cards of this size and shape were important objects usually meant only for grown-ups. I flashed it at all who walked by on my way home, so they would see that I held the key to infinite wisdom and power.
For years, fiction writer Jorge Luis Borges was the director of the National Library of Argentina. In his famous short story The Library of Babel, he considered the institution's infinite power: “I suspect that the human species... is on the road to extinction, while the Library will last on forever: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly immovable, filled with precious volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret.” I would add quiet to its virtues—in the city, sometimes the only haven of silence I can find. And, as Borges says: “Everything is there: the minute history of the future, the autobiographies of the archangels... the Gnostic gospel of Basilides, the commentary on this gospel, the commentary on the commentary of this gospel, the veridical account of your death, a version of each book in all languages.” Libraries also help build your muscles. I recently checked out Carl Jung's Red Book and weighed it: 10 pounds. Kindles and Nooks and iPads keep readers weak.
Most public libraries also have various free programs, say, an anime club for teens, story readings for kids and film screenings. Libraries also happen to be the best places to get new releases of DVDs—you don't have to buy them or wait months for them to be available on Netflix.
Plus, in the tradition of Borges's Babel and great storytelling, we present some of the Coolest Fictional Libraries:
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer: At the Sunnydale High School Library, Giles, like many librarians, is only disguised as a fuddy-duddy. In truth, he possesses ancient mystical wisdom. Buffy goes to him for vampire-slaying guidance and books about werewolves and demon eggs. The library is her main hang, aside from the cemetery.
In The Breakfast Club: Being stuck in the library goes from punishment to party.
In The Music Man: Marian, and the song about loving her madly, is proof that “librarian” is one of the world's most desirable jobs.
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Hermione Granger's discovery of gillyweed in the “restricted section” means that Harry Potter would have died in book four if it weren't for libraries.
In Party Girl: I mean, this is the story of a broke dance club queen (Parker Posey) who discovers the seductive allure of the Dewey Decimal System. If you're not convinced, watch Posey dancing epically on library tables.
Three whispered cheers for libraries.