The Wood Between the Worlds

Libraries are a sanctum to book lovers everywhere.  A library is a place where words are respected.  Where the full spectrum of literature is displayed.  And where anyone can access the greatest masterpieces of the written word.

You can imagine my shock when I recently searched in our local library’s catalog for John Keats’ Endymion and received a “0” in the search box.

My library does not have a copy of Endymion.

This, my friends, is travesty.  Nothing short of literary travesty.

John Keats was a master of the English language, his work ranked with Shakespeare and Milton.  I assumed that every library would have at least his major masterpiece.  But my library does not have Endymion.  Not even any excerpts.

This is not the first time the library has disappointed my expectations.  Apparently, our county system no longer owns a copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, unless I want to listen to it on MP3 Audio Files.  Indeed, it seems that if I want Ray Bradbury material other than Fahrenheit 451, I will have to listen to it.  And the list of disappointments goes on–

The most famous book by Elizabeth Goudge?  Sorry, but they do stock her more obscure books.

Young adult non-fiction you’ve scoured the library for?  Oh, that’s mixed in with the adult non-fiction.  Right, I knew that.

And the fines for returning items after hours.  I hang my head in shame.

Perhaps, I just have high expectations for my library.  Perhaps I just want to be able to walk in to any location and find the book I seek.  (Project Gutenberg doesn’t have everything, you know.)  Why can’t every good book be available at every library?  Why can’t I just read the name of a book and have it magically whisk out of the library and appear in my house, much like how Mo reads characters out of their own books in Inkheart?  Why can’t all libraries be as amazing as the library in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast?  Why can’t the words come alive with moving pictures like the magic book Lucy reads in Voyage of the Dawn Treader?  Next to fictional libraries, real-life libraries can look rather wimpy.

So as I meander through the stacks, I may weep at the lack of some beloved favorite or regret the absence of a literary masterpiece.  I may even cry “Treason!” when Keats has been neglected.  But in the end, I forgive my library.  For all its imperfections, the library is still a magical place–“the wood between the worlds” as in The Magician’s Nephew–a conduit between taxing reality and the most incredible, adventurous lands.  When you step through library doors, you enter a passageway where entire worlds, dormant and still, await your fingers to open them.  Don’t let the brick and mortar walls fool you.  On each shelf is a new book and a new world.  On your journey through that new world, you will grow and change, perhaps encounter a villain or two.  And when you come safely back home, you will be different than when you began.

That, my friends, is amazing.  Keats or no Keats.

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