I am completely sold on this idea. Chaining books to the library shelves? Think of the savings. Whose idea was it to let people take them home, anyway?
This lovely picture is of the chained library at Hereford Cathedral. Although many of the books are older, the shelving and chains date from the early seventeenth century (thank you, “Treasures of Hereford Cathedral” guidebook). The library was both an archive and a reading room, hence the chains. I like to imagine a conversation between a time-traveling modern library patron and a 17th-century cathedral librarian:
Patron: How many books can I check out?
Librarian: What do you mean, check out?
Patron: Well, I want to get some DVDs, too. Where are they?
Librarian: Let’s see…DVD…500, 5, 500…God, I hate Roman numerals.
Patron: Yeah, I never could understand that Roman numeral decimal system, either. Just show me where your self-check is.
Librarian: This is a public library, sir. I don’t think that’s appropriate.
When I thought about a name for this blog, I considered “The Unchained Library” because, you know, we live in such a mobile kind of society. And then I thought about how my laptop battery lasts thirty seconds when it’s unplugged and I have to drag a bunch of cords and ethernet cables around when I want to plug in the printer, and I felt a real sympathy with what may be a fading idea of permanence in our information and communication systems.
So, it’s chained because a chain is something to grab hold of and something that keeps valuable things in their rightful place. It’s chained because there are always limits on how free and unconnected we think we are, evidenced by the growing number of reasons to connect online even as we ditch our cords and cables (well, as some of us ditch them). But the number one reason it’s not “The Unchained Library”?
Because I am not the Righteous Brothers.
What I am is someone who likes to writes about books, particularly but not exclusively children’s books; new books and old books; reading; writing; um, and almost anything having to do with books and libraries. For example, did you know that in early libraries books lay flat, which is “the most comfortable position for the traditional codex structure of a book”? (Thanks again, “Treasures of Hereford Cathedral.”) So, chains and no more standing books on their ends. I’m going to have to talk to my director about this.