Wednesday, 16 February 2005

A Labyrinth of Libraries

Libraries seem to have featured a great deal in some of the recent books I've read.

I just finished Uncle Stories (J.P. Martin) last night, and Uncle (who is a millionaire elephant who goes around in a purple dressing robe) has a HUGE library which has MILLIONS of books (and Uncle buys more than a thousand for it every year) a patent chair that can bring you to the top shelves with a push of a button, a magical ink fountain, and a bear-shaped stationary machine which shoots out postcards from its mouth if you hit it in the right eye or paper and envelopes if you hit its nose.

A wondrous library indeed.

Now, compare that to the pathetic excuse for a District Library we had in the little Pahang town of Temerloh, where there were only about 12 shelves of books, and most were outdated encyclopedias, worn-out Malay novels, and you can imagine my envy at libraries I read about in books.

Well, at least it DID have a few fiction novels and Dr Seuss books, as well as a set of 'How To Be a Spy' children's books that I used to read for HOURS. I can never find those now.

My school library was even worse. Most of the English books there were children's books and Nancy Drew novels.... And this was a SECONDARY school, for crying out loud!

I've heard enviously, time and again about Erna's school library back in Sabah (which turns me green all the time), in which she was a LIBRARIAN, and read almost every book in it. I'll leave it to her to elaborate more on that Wondrous Library in Sabah.

I've been so disappointed with libraries after my experiences with the ones in Temerloh, so I've never really bothered to go to the ones here in KL.

I like the ones in Singapore though, especially the one above Takashimaya on Orchard Road. Now THAT is one cool library. If you get bored of reading, just go downstairs and go shopping. There's even a Kinokuniya downstairs! Some kids even go to the library to hang out! Now THATS something you won't see here.

You're likely to see more people hanging out at MPH or Kinokuniya than in the National Library here. The current one is pretty inaccessible (unless you happen to live in the area), being stuck in the middle of Jalan Tun Razak, one of the busiest roads in KL, and with no LRT in sight. Which is why I've never bothered going there.

Anyway, one of my favorite literary libraries is the one in Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, the one in the Unseen University, to be exact.

The Librarian there is an Orang-Utan (who was once a man but was turned into an Orang-Utan by magic, and seems to prefer being an ape), and the library is filled with dangerous books, some which have to be chained to prevent it from hurting people.

Also, Pratchett's theory is that whenever there are too many books in one place, it bends the time continuum, and one can get lost for hours in the library (or something like that).

Libraries also feature heavily in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke), as Mr. Norrell's library of books on magic is the most extensive one in England, and much of the magic done in the novel depends on the books in his library.

Also, in The Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco) (another over-mentioned book in this blog) the library is again central to the entire plot, as the Abbey in which the murders take place is home to the most extensive library in the land, and life in the Abbey revolves around books.

Can anyone recommend any more good libraries (real OR literary)?


PS: BTW, I will be away on holiday until Sunday, so obviously there won't be any updates until at least Monday, when I get back to work. Until then, have fun! :-)

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