I pause in the midst of my pre-Japan madness (visas! not visas! travellers’ cheques! cashcards! JapanRail passes! car rental! contact-making! research! endless, endless lists!) to bring you instalment #2 in the occasional series, Tales From Inner Libraria*, if only because if our esteemed government has its way, said Librarias may be unrecognisable in the not-so-fullness of time (40% funding cuts? Can you be serious? And if so, may I humbly suggest you begin with the plasma TVs and leave the books alone?).
Today’s library is a rather less humble establishment than that featured in Instalment #1. It has high ceilings, excellent natural lighting and an overall feeling of space and muted elegance.
It is not the kind of library where you raise your voice. Story time takes place in a dedicated room, behind closed doors and some kind of advanced soundproofing technology.
I don’t entirely like this, I must admit. I like some buzz in my library. Not the buzz of a plasma TV or a librarian chatting altogether too brightly about her anatomy.
And I would much rather have the melodic strains of barely subdued book-related excitement than some of the other noises peculiar to this particular library, namely:
#1: floor-scraping chairs.
This library has a reading room. It is a delightful space, detached from the rest of the library (and curiously so, I think, as if a ‘reading room’ were somehow something apart from a library itself, rather than in fact being the stuff of the library; as if the library were not itself a reading room, plain and simple). It is filled with newspapers and magazines and tiny carrels in which to sit and read them.
The floor is tiled. The chair legs are metal. Need I say more? The slightest shifting of weight in said chairs is enough to elicit a screech that resembles the cry of a prehistoric raptor.
In this reading room, raptor cries appear to go unnoticed by everyone but me. However, the too-loud tapping of laptop keys is frowned upon, repeatedly. After my third caution by two different gentlemen, I became reluctant to hit the space bar. My WIP now looks like this:
“I am a girl on a wire** and thewireisthinandsilvery.Itunrollsahead (orunderneath me??Imagineshe’sholdingabendbackonthe wire– is this possible?) ofmelikea shimmeringribbonandIpointonefootandsetitslowlydown, like I’mdippingmytoesintoatoo-cold lake.”
Do you think it could catch on, this unspaced writing? It seems to work for the Japanese. Also Gertrude Stein.
#2: the beeping of doors.
I’m not sure what they keep out the back in the staff quarters of libraries but so many of them seem to be accessible only by loudly beeping swipe cards. I have no idea what the function of any of this is. Would the patrons storm the area if it were left unsecured, hoping to grab that newly minted Jodi Picoult or Stieg Larsson before the teeming hordes in the reservations queue can get their hands on it?
But why the beeping? Why the constant “I’m coming in!” “I’m going out!”? For the love of libraries, just come and go (talking or not of Michelangelo) and be quiet about it.
Perhaps I have become too curmudgeonly. I did not find this library’s combination of sterility and screeching appealing. I lasted 45 minutes/400 words. 400 words is better than nothing, of course. Unfortunately, most of them are stuck together in an illegible mash. Still, I’m sure my editor can sort that out …
I must return now to my pre-Japan madness. There will be two libraries between now and departure, but I may have to hold my reports over for a later date. Meanwhile, I will be sampling the delights of Japanese libraries, including the National Diet Library, which, the last time I visited, was a startlingly anachronistic law unto itself, but strangely soothing for all that.
* with continuing apologies to Shaun Tan
** with new apologies to Jon Doust