This post is from Brad Krautwurst, who is interning with the Richmond Public Library in Virginia.
We heavy readers all have those moments. You know, the ones when we realize the book we're reading is so good that we just have to tell our significant other/sister/brother/friend/hairstylist/feline friend about it? I'm having that moment right now, and even better, the book is relevant to my internship! So I decided, since my internship hasn't started yet, I would tell you all about it, faithful blog readers.
The book I'm currently reading is called The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel, and at this point it is mostly just getting me even more excited about my internship. Ostensibly it chronicles the completion of Manguel's own personal library of over 30,000 volumes, in his home located in the Poitou-Charentes region of France. In writing about that, though, he also tells of a great many different kinds of libraries, and different ways of looking at them, from the library as mythology, to the library as home, to the library as island. He chronicles the mysterious demise of that fabled colossal library of old, The Library of Alexandria, the crafting of the Laurentian Library by Michaelangelo, and even of the creation of the Dewey Decimal System. It is both personal memoir and something of a history of libraries, though by no account does it attempt to be extensive; I think of it right now as a love letter to libraries.
Ths is a bit of a long quote, but it is a story I particularly enjoyed and wanted to share. Recounting a story told in Oudane, Mauritania (a country located in the northern tip of West Africa), Manguel writes:
[A] beggar [....], early in the fifteenth century, appeared at the city gates, famished and dressed in tatters. He was taken into the mosque, fed and clothed, but no one succeeded in making him reveal his name or the city of his birth. All the man seemed to care about was spending long hours among the books of Oudane, reading in complete silence. Finally , after several months of such mysterious behavior, the imam lost his patience and said to the beggar, "It is written that he who keeps knowledge to himself shall not be made welcome in the Kingdom of Heaven. Each reader is but one chapter in the life of a book, and unless he passes his knowledge on to others, it is as if he condemned the book to be buried alive. Do you wish such a fate for the books who have served you so well?" Hearing this, the man opened his mouth and gave a lengthy and mavellous commentary on the sacred text he happened to have before him. The imam realized that his visitor was a certain celebrated scholar who, despairing of the deafness of the world, had promised to hold his tongue until he came to a place where learning was truly honored. (Manguel, 167)
I have found this book particularly inspiring to read before the internship I am about to embark upon, and I think many Shimerians will also enjoy it. I also own, but have not read yet, his A History of Reading, which is more relevant to Shimerians in general.