Libraries- Our Sacred Spaces of Literacy


Boston Public Library

Libraries are the center of literacy. It is one of the first places a person looks for when they enter a town, a university or a school.  You know that when you see a library, you have truly reached civilization as we know it.  It is a place of refuge, a shelter and a friend to the homeless. It is a place that will take you in when no other place is willing.

This is true whether it is a public, university or school library.  Libraries are as American as Coca Cola and apple pie.  They can offer inspiration and offer a lifeline to the dejected or those down on their luck.

They can offer solace, and opens doors to the curious.  Libraries allow the reading public to go in two or three notches deeper.  For example, when I was reading some the classics for the first time, I discovered a third Bronte sister, Anne.  We knew of Charlotte and Emily.  But Anne, also wrote and I clearly remember the description of her character of Mr. Huntington in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.


When I was at a transition period in my life, the space and the books in the library gave me so much.  And, when, I was ready to relocate, I was able to give back as I donated quite a few rather new books to the library.

When, it comes to university libraries, there are many stories to tell.  They give students a place to wait when there is a three-hour lull time between classes. One friend shared that her university library had a couch that she used to take naps on during the semester.  I cannot say that I ever slept in a university library, but I can say that finding a quiet cubicle was nice when I wanted to tuck myself away from the frenzy and mad pace of campus life.

Actually, I started my first book in a college library as I waited for mother to finish teaching her classes.  I do not think that I would have had the discipline to start it at home nor the sturdy table to draw out my thoughts.  So waiting to drive her home was spent using the library in a wonderful way.  And university and college often stay open very late to accommodate night students. Again, the expectation is that it will be there- open and ready to serve those in need.

We simply expect it to be there.

And, lastly there are our school libraries. Again, once you enter a good school, you will look for the main office, maybe the lunchroom or gym and of course, the library.

In French, la bibliotheque!


Library of Congress – Interior

I recently compared the librarian to a bartender in a conversation.  A fellow librarian agreed by giving a nod of the head.  I made the analogy because, people like to venture into our sacred spaces and tell us all of their life dilemmas.

We are skilled listeners, and we will say, “Uh huh,” as we continually scan books; catalog or put books back on the shelf.  It is where students and staff come in and take a seat and start talking.  I have heard many private tales and I am able to keep working as the speaker “spills the beans.”

Even my most disagreeable students may appear with a sweet, soft voice asking for the use of some tape or a table to spread out and complete a project.  Or, they may need to print something on the color printer so they are extra kind and soft-spoken.  In the back of your mind, I am thinking, is this the same kid?  But it reminds us that they know how to act when they really want something.

And, they also know that librarians are wonderful people and that we will not deny them the use of these materials.  So, in closing, when people enter a public, university or school library, they fully expect there to be a knowledgeable, attentive, keeper of the books who is organized and methodical and approachable.  Libraries are truly sacred spaces!

Library of Congress 2012

Library of Congress-DC

Lynn                                                                                           September 3, 2014


2 thoughts on “Libraries- Our Sacred Spaces of Literacy

  1. Ahh, such good memories of time spent in libraries, both school and university. My best memories are of the many city blocks we walked to the Hall Branch library in Chicago as a young person. My mother called it our “summer field trips”. Loved the smell of the books. Yes, libraries are such sacred places!

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