Libraries, Passageways to the Universe

Without libraries, I would not be the person I am today. Without free access to books that libraries (and taxes) provide, I would have been bereft indeed as a child. My family only owned a couple of copies of the Bible foisted on my father by Baptist grandmother and volumes of novels from the Book of the Month Club, in highly excerpted form.

For me, as you can surmise, libraries represented Paradise. I spent many hours in the public library, huddled with books stacked all around me. I first learned of the horrors of the Holocaust in my school library. And I handled antique cookbooks from the sixteenth-century at the Library of Congress. I even became a librarian in middle age.

I can’t help but see libraries as mystical places, where other worlds appear and disappear, where where heroes and villains fight it out in fiction or real wars, where I might learn to decipher the mysteries and questions blowing through my life, where dreaming becomes permissible and incarnate.

And so for a recent assignment for a photography class, I wandered through the stacks and into nooks and crannies in the local university library.*

The iconic card catalog, the first step to exploration, now extinct (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)
Rare books, or libraries as museums (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)
Stairwell reminiscent of Escher, complete with feet (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)
Studying alone, seeing the light (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)
An isolated carrel, a place to burrow into (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)
Reflections (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)
The new card catalog (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)
Special Collections, where the old, rare books live (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)
One of many globes throughout the library, an artifact in itself (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)

* With thanks to Dean Tyler Walters and Associate Dean Brian Matthews for permission to photograph.

© 2012 C. Bertelsen


  1. Kurt says:

    Great captures and write up. Libraries really are magical.


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