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The Still Point of the Turning World

Sometimes, there is an article that is so eye-catching, so interesting, so about what you're about at that moment, that it's almost a blog post in itself. I came across one such article in the middle of June, when I saw the cover of the Travel section of the Sunday edition of The New York Times (never mind that it was delivered on Saturday -- that's an old gripe). A single photo took up the entire above the fold page, a magnificent picture of the reading room of the Biblioteca Angelica in Rome. Actually, it wasn't even clear that the photo was of the reading room, because all you could see above the fold were stacks and stacks of beautiful old books, along with the curved tops of reading lamps and the bent head of a person. Nor was it clear what the article that accompanied the photo was about, because both the rest of the photo (showing the elegant tables and chairs of the reading room, the rest of the lamps and the rest of the reader), along with the headline and descriptive sub-heading, were below the fold. But the picture was enough to stop me from whatever else I had been doing, so I could stare at it in awe.

The article, Libraries That Speak Volumes, is about the author, David Laskin's, visit to several libraries (bibliotecas in Italian) during a trip he recently took to Italy. Laskin writes: "In the madness of late spring at San Marco Square in Venice, amid the hordes pouring in from land and sea, hard by the hissing espresso machines and sizzling panini presses of overpriced cafes, I found the still point of the turning world. I found it in the library."

Much has been written in the past few years about why, in the Internet age, when information is everywhere available in (over) abundance, libraries are still both important and relevant. This blog post isn't about that. It's about libraries' beauty, both in what they are and in what they have to share. Even if you don't read Laskin's article and look only at the photos that accompany the text, you will begin to see what I mean. As the subtitle of Laskin's piece points out, libraries are often viewed as "sacred spaces," filled with art as well as with books and housed in magnificent buildings. Why? Because the books are valuable, because what they contain is important, and because both the collection and those who visit it are worthy of respect.

This is not a phenomenon unique to Italy.  A quick Google search yields numerous articles filled with photographs of the most beautiful libraries in the world. I want to visit them all. And it isn't just to gaze in wonder at the books and at the buildings that house them.  I've always felt that the mark of a good bookstore is that it makes you want to grab a book, sit down and start reading. The same is true of a good library. It's hard not to start to roam the stacks, randomly pulling one book and then another off the shelves, reading the opening paragraph or flipping through a few pages and deciding to take it home and give it a try.

Come into the Wallingford Public Library for a specific book. Stop by the Info Desk to chat with one of us about the kind of book you're looking for. Start to look around: at the stacks and stacks of books, the warm wooden reading tables, the cozy chairs by the front windows, the beautiful views (and, in the evening, the amazing sunsets) out the huge glass windows of the Collaboratory. Wind up leaving with five books.  Happens all the time.


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