e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the tag “library”

One of life’s pleasures – a guided tour

P1020860_2One of my favourite activities is going on a guided tour: never mind of what, any tour thrills me. Houses, gardens, cemeteries, caves, farms, factories, warehouses, exhibitions – all reveal their specialness under the leadership of a knowledgeable guide.

There you are in the company of a group of like-minded people, most of whom are out to enjoy themselves and hence are showing the nicest sides of their characters. Your guide points out features of the terrain you would never have noticed unguided and lets you in on snippets of history and its secrets:

… and here, concealed in the globe, is the hiding place of the first Lord X’s will leaving everything to his gardener.

There are numerous tours possible in your average town, most of them well supported, so I’m not alone in my appreciation.

My most recent one was a behind the scenes look at a library – books and store-rooms, old manuscripts and new purchases, the original chief librarian’s room and miles of stacks and corridors and staircases. Is there a better way of spending a couple of hours?


National Libraries Day (UK) on 9th February


Tomorrow is National Libraries Day. A day when we can celebrate those amazing collections that have inspired so much and given so many of us a haven of knowledge.

I love libraries – all of them – from the dark panelled, near silent enclosures where the spirits of past readers brood over me, to the modern, brightly lit, wide open ones where children sing and readers sit for hours in a cafe.

Tomorrow there are a range of special events (I’m going on a ‘backstage’ tour), and maybe someone who has never been in a library before will join in and discover something wonderful.


The books that bind – Jane Austen and Timbuktu

burning book

Yesterday the BBC TV news carried two literary-related items.

Yesterday marked the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Yesterday the French army seized Timbuktu, only to discover that a library of ancient manuscripts had been burned and most of the books destroyed.

What a contrast! The peace of English village life/the violence of war; a book loved/books destroyed; appreciative readers celebrating/an act of childish spite.

The arsonists have achieved nothing but to rob the world of a treasure, and to weaken an age old connection between the local people and their ancestors.

I sometimes think of books as links in a chain joining the past to the future via the present. The chain is anchored in the past when the book was first made and its links uncoil into the future for as long as it’s remembered. Each generation adds a new one.

If the book still exists the links are strong, but once it’s gone the chain depends on human memory to keep forging.

Memories of some of those old scholars who built the library and wrote the books will start to fade. They do not deserve to be forgotten.

Austen however goes from strength to strength and this year will be celebrated all over the world.

Picture from dontstepinthepoop.

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