Three books written by Alberto Manguel are included in my personal library, The Library at Night, A History of Reading, and A Reader on Reading. I refer to these texts on a regular basis, pulling them out to read at night during which I realize that being a librarian is who I am, not only what I do professionally. Books are a passion for me, a place of refuge, leaning, laughter, and awe. They seduce me by their titles, the feel of them in my hands, and the promise of hours of pleasure or challenge.
Manguel’s Library at Night was inspired by the creation of a library in his 15th century home in France. He meanders through various definitions of libraries, remarking at one point that he has been seduced by the labyrinthine logic of libraries. Originally, I was in awe and a bit frightened by the labyrinth of collections within our vault. Yet, as I discovered its amazing collections, many of which are still my favorites, I relaxed and realized the responsibility I had to steward the collection and to share it with others.
In A Reader on Reading, Manguel states Reading a book from centuries ago, the ideal reader feels immortal. No matter the age of the patron, a sense of excitement and privilege is displayed as each works with the books and manuscripts in the collection, not concerned with genres but intent upon finding connections and creating new ideas to share, proving Manguel’s point in The Library at Night, that Reading. . .is a ritual of rebirth.
Recently, I came across several items in our collection written by Henry Ward Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stow’s brother. One article, The Duty of Owning Books, caught my attention. After discussing the landscape around a home and the flower boxes that might be affixed to it he states, Give me a house furnished with books rather than furniture! Further on he writes:
Books are the windows through which the soul looks out . . .Books are at once our master and our servants. They have a silent independence, an unchanging voice, a calm declaration of truth . . . they wait for our moods and our leisure.
Now that the Phillips Library Reading Room has reopened, I hope our patrons find those books that provide the connections necessary for their research.
For more stories from the Phillips Library, see the library blog, Conversant.