Until the line of words becomes a trail of crumbs that we follow across a page…
“From the heart of this dark evacuated campus
I can hear the library humming in the night,
a choir of authors murmuring inside their books
along the unlit, alphabetical shelves,
Giovanni Pontano next to Pope, Dumas next to his son,
each one stitched in his own private coat,
together forming a low, gigantic chord of language.”
– excerpted from “Books” by Billy Collins
I am drawn to library work because of the idea that this poem expresses…it’s more than the caretaking of dusty old books that seem so outdated. When I walk through rows of books, the wealth of knowledge available is overwhelming, this congregation of authors from over the course of history who have expressed their many ideas through the written word. That is something I want to be a part of whenever I can.
Of course, I get that an emotional reaction to libraries is probably a good thing to have, but that the work is very practical. I am in the process of learning about the intricacies of cataloging, that extremely organized task that ensures that library patrons will actually be able to find and access the information they need. Working at the library desk has introduced me to the non-receiving end of customer service and helpfulness, as well as the practical duties associated with circulation – checking books in and out…you know the drill. Those things have very little to do with the grand purpose that libraries have in society, but without the very specific systems under which a library operates, everything would fall apart. That is what I am learning as I see more and more of what really goes into running the organization, so that the chords of language can be heard by all those who want to take in the music.