The city library is open! And it is a magical place, with far far more books than the transient library that I had to use during the re-build! Ok, the new library opened in November, but I wasn’t able to get through the Christmas shopping crowds to get there during December. I have now visited. It’s huge. It’s amazing. I picked up three books and then had to leave before I took home more than I could read in a fortnight.
I’ve decided to start doing a weekly list called Five… where I talk about five things, bookish or filmish, and based on my library epiphany this week, I have decided that this week’s list should be:
Five Fictional Libraries I Wish Were Real
Libraries in books and films are generally bigger, more decorative, with volumes and volumes of hardback books that you probably wouldn’t want to try pulling off a shelf without doing a few press-ups first. However, there is something about fictional libraries that seem even more magical than the libraries we step into to get our magical fix delivered intravenously. Picking five was quite hard. After some serious thinking I had my list down to eight, and I have to confess that the Jedi Temple library (from Star Wars II) very nearly made the cut.
The Cemetery of Forgotten Books
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron
I always imagined the Cemetery of Forgotten books to look like a cross between the Room of Forgotten things (from Harry Potter and the half-blood prince) and an extensive charity bookshop – a veritable labyrinth of books piled and squished into every available space, twisting and turning deeper and deeper until you aren’t quite sure where the exit is anymore. Books piled higher than you can reach, with all the secrets of the universe, all the forgotten mysteries of time, hidden deep within their pages.
The downside to this library is that you are only allowed to claim one book. It’s based on instinct, the book chooses the person and so forth, but still – that must feel absolutely impossible!
The Harry Potter Series
Hermione’s spiritual resting place, the Hogwarts library is full of that ye olde time aesthetic the castle (and the wizarding world) has going on. It’s beautiful, the books in the restricted section have chains, there are small desks that look frightfully uncomfortable, the books are either A5 or paving slabs, the books have fancy ornate covers and look impressive. The library has sections on all sorts of practical (and impractical) magic and can we really blame Hermione for wanting to absorb all that information via osmosis? However, while the Hogwarts library is literally filled with magic, and books on magic, it looks a little like all the books are academic texts. So, it would be like going to the Bodleian every day. I like studying, I like learning, and I love books, but I would have to ask Madame Pince “Where do you keep the novels?”.
Doctor Who Series 4: Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
A library PLANET. Can you imagine calling one of your friends and saying, “oh, by the way, I’m spending my vacation week at the Library, hopefully I’ll be able to finally read the final book in [insert series here]. See you when I get back!”. There are whole continents devoted to different genres. Can you imagine their fantasy and sci-fi section? It would be nearly impossible to know where to even start! You’d have to do some serious catalogue searching before you got there, and would need to know where the intra-Library teleport nodes were, for zapping over to different sections!
Downside, by the time the Doctor and Donna get there, the library has been overrun by some super fast flesh eating parasites, and they only gave 24 hours for evacuating al 4,022 people on the planet (after much negotiation). I like books but I don’t want to become a snack for the biographies section.
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
When I was a child, I adored Beauty and the Beast (1991), but I never much cared for the beast turning into a Prince (according to my mother). I loved Belle, and I loved her library. To a kid in the middle of nowhere with a local library of about three shelves, I didn’t realise a library could actually be that big for a very long time. In the 2017 remake with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, the Library seems even more magnificent and like it definitely belongs in a mysterious hidden castle filled with magical objects! I wonder what is in those shelves. Can you imagine trailing fingers over spines and just marvelling at what is found there? Unlike Hogwarts, this library seems to include novel-esque books (Beast reads Guinevere and Lancelot).
Downside to this fictional library is not that it’s fictional, I imagine there is a very real library that provided the set, or at least something very similar, but I’ve found that in big ornate libraries there isn’t much to actually read. I love non-fiction, but there are only so many books you can read on the history of something before the rest of the collection becomes obsolete. I imagine there is a shelf or two of books that are not covered in dust, but the rest is a little less than light-reading.
Aunt Elinor’s library
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Perhaps an unusual choice given the fictional libraries on this list cover entire planets, or parts of castles, but the fictional library that has been my favourite has been Aunt Elinor’s library in the book (and film) of Inkheart.
Aunt Elinor is Maggie’s maiden Aunt, living in Tuscany and collecting books. In the film, she swears by Thomas Hardy. Her library isn’t full of books on magical lore, or in a castle, or anything truly exciting, but it’s a library full of magic, and wonder, of fact and of fiction, of rare books in cases and books piled up on sides where she’s forgotten to put them away. It feels like the kind of library that I would probably have if I had a large enough room and enough money to fill the walls. She even has a window seat. It’s a library that is borne of love of the written word, that developed through her care and attentions and to me, it didn’t feel like a showpiece library, it was personal. Her personal collection of things she loved.
Downside, when the fairytale characters kidnap the family, they burn the library. You could feel Elinor’s heart break. And mine too.