I stopped abruptly at the doorway, unintentionally blocking the entrance. People maneuvered to pass me, while I stood rooted in the spot. My eyes drank in the sight of thousands of old leather-bound books, each proudly holding its proper place on the towering oak bookshelves. In awe, I thought to myself, “This must be what heaven feels like.”
This is “The Long Room” at the Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland. The room is two-thirds the length of a football field, and stands two stories high. It houses over 200,000 old books. From the moment I walked in I felt wrapped in the comfort and stability of a library.
I have always loved being in a library. I remember my first library card. It was light blue cardstock, with a rectangular metal bar, embossed with my card number. My full name was typed, and very official looking, on the top line. It was my prized possession.
With that prized card I could take any book home with me, as many as three at a time. And it was free! It was like having the key to a magic kingdom. In that kingdom I could explore the world and be transported into the lives of other people, in other places. It loved that I could come back every week, and get three more. Sometime I choose different ones, sometimes I would get the same one again and again. It was a thrill, and privilege every time.
In our small desert town, outdoor summer heat would regularly exceed 100 degrees. The library was one of the few air-conditioned buildings. Walking through those doors was sweet relief. I could spend an entire afternoon, lounging in the cool, reading and deciding which books to take home with me.
I adored the summer reading program. I coveted winning the certificates of achievement in reading excellence. But I had a secret. I would sometimes pick easy books, ones that I could read quickly, just so I could get more points towards the next level. What a rebel!
As I grew older, and changed schools many times, the library became my sanctuary. At each new school, I could go and find my “friends,” Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and The Bobbsey twins. They were the familiar, in an unfamiliar place.
In my high school years, at each new school I would always find the library first. From that safe place I could retreat, and not be forced into the harshness of new people, unfamiliar schedules and trying to fit in.
When my children were young the library again became my escape. Children’s story time , was an hour of peace for me. In the evenings I could “run-away” to the quiet there. I would enjoy reading magazine that we couldn’t afford to buy, or immerse myself in a romance novel. I cherished those moments of being able to be off parenting duty.
Between Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon, I can choose an entire universe of books from which to read. But nothing else can feel, or smell like the comfort of a library. Yes, I think heaven must feel like a magnificent library, warmly embracing me in safety, comfort and in all that it has to offer.