My love of libraries began at a very young age. I had one of those amazing elementary-school-teacher-turned-stay-at-home-mom moms that did a lot of interactive learning activities with us when we were tiny. We finger painted and made homeade playdough and visited musuems. We wrote “books” which consisted of Mom writing down stories that we made up and binding the books using small scraps of patterned wall paper or drawer liner or something that she stapled to the outside as the cover. (Mind you, this was long before Pinterest.) The final step was us adding our illustrations. They are hilarious to look at now, let me tell you. We frequented the local library where my mom volunteered. My younger sister (now a graphic designer) was more into the art projects, but our trips to the library were a great favorite of mine. We had our own library cards and could pick out five books per visit. How thrilling and overwhelming it was to search the shelves reading titles and exploring catagories. I still love getting lost in an unfamiliar world and caught up in plot twists. I still love the smell of old pages and the majestic shelves standing tall in the stillness. Each one holds a wealth of knowledge on any topic your imagination can dream up.
As a student, I have been blessed to enter some of the most beautiful libraries in the world. I spent the spring of my sophomore year in college studying in Oxford, England–“The City of Dreaming Spires”. It was an incredible experience. In addition to traveling around Europe, we invested a lot of time in exploring this beautiful city and it’s rich history. Our tour of the Bodleian Library was the highlight for me. If there was a book heaven, this would be it. This is a little bit of the history, take from the Bodleian’s official website.
Oxford’s libraries are among the most celebrated in the world, not only for their incomparable collections of books and manuscripts, but also for their buildings, some of which have remained in continuous use since the Middle Ages. Among them the Bodleian, the chief among the University’s libraries, has a special place.
First opened to scholars in 1602, it incorporates an earlier library erected by the University in the fifteenth century to house books donated by Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester. Since 1602 it has expanded, slowly at first but with increasing momentum over the last 150 years, to keep pace with the ever-growing accumulation of books and papers, but the core of the old buildings has remained intact.
These buildings are still used by students and scholars from all over the world, and they attract an ever-increasing number of visitors…
I went to Baylor University for grad school. Sic ‘Em, Bears! To my great delight, I discovered that Baylor is home to the Armstrong Browning Library (yes, as in Elizabeth Barrent Browning, whose poetry I love). It was recently listed as one of the ten most beautiful libraries in the US. And I got to study there! Being, you know, historic and everything…it doesn’t have a lot of outlets for laptops. I would go with a stack of articles and text books and just sit and read. It was heavenly. Here is some of the background information on the Armstrong Browning, taken from their official website:
The Armstrong Browning Library, free and open to the public, is located on the campus of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. It is a 19th-century research center dedicated to the study of the lives and works of Victorian poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and houses the world’s largest collection of Browning material and other fine collections of rare 19th-century books, manuscripts, and works of art. Scholars take advantage of the Library’s annual journal, Studies in Browning and His Circle.
The Library opened in 1951, the culmination of the dedication and determination of Dr. A. J. Armstrong, former chairman of the Baylor English Department, and his wife Mary Maxwell Armstrong. It has also become a popular stop for travelers and school groups who are attracted by the love story and poetry of the Brownings or by the unique beauty of the building. It is an ideal setting for a wide array of scholarly and public programs. These include lectures, musical occasions, cultural events, conferences, and exhibitions. It is supported by Baylor University and by generous endowments provided by a patron organization of “Guardian Angels.”
If you’re still reading, thank you for accompanying this English nerd on a journey of sweet, sweet library memories. What places inspire you?