I have always imagined that Paradise
will be a kind of library.
(Jorge Luis Borges)
Mundane things can often transport me back to where I once roamed, in libraries and bookshops, wanting to take every book home with me.
These days, books have replaced a long list of bookmarks. And if they are anything to go by, you’d have taken me for a very active library assistant waiting impatiently to sort non-fiction books according to the Dewey Classification.
It left me mesmerising out loud that you can take the girl out of the library, but you can’t take the library out of the girl. I was destined for some type of professional role in a library in some shape or form from early in life.
I always felt that a child with a book can achieve more than any adult with a gun.
And that’s what I ended up doing: studying library sciences. Via word of mouth, I moved to different libraries to update and integrate their manual indexes, lists and catalogues with electronic ones. Often Herculean at best, since each library had thousands of books, CDs, videos, newspapers and other items waiting to be added.
There was no task I felt like skipping. Laminating, repairing and shelving books, writing ISBDs, not even a fall down the library staircase while carrying a box of heavy books could keep me away. Ruptured tendons and blue/purple/yellow Picasso-like artwork on my ankle were the results, the cast included. Like my Nana used to say, “Girl if you want to get somewhere in life, do it well, or don’t start at all.
”Needing a cast twice in six months, that was part of “doing it well.” Typical Nana-wisdom. She was born in the middle of the First World War and lived through the Second World war, eating potato peels to survive. She passed away when she was 70, for she had wisdom worthy of being published in Encyclopædia Britannica.
This was passed to my mother, who should have been a lawyer because of her loquaciousness in different languages. We still laugh at the funny dialect we spoke and still speak, as more formal language slowly took over children’s language, pushing back our native words into oblivion.
Sadly, I lost a lot of my native dialect over time, but I inherited her love for words and books. My library quest has always been one searching for more paper, more literacy and more knowledge.
I love words, unusual ones, cranky ones, utterly ridiculous ones. Justified paragraphs make me giggle, great fonts a playful thing and long sentences that shout for shortened versions. I’ve been living in Ireland for 12+ years now, and honey let me tell you we just don’t write short sentences in Ireland.
Ask Joyce, who once wrote something so flabbergastingly fantastic that he forgot to add punctuation, a sentence of 4,391 words. Molly Bloom must have gasped for air once she finished dreaming or thinking it. I am still gasping for air after tackling Ulysses.
Talk about kick-ass literature.
In fact, were James Joyce still alive today, I’d ask him to write my biography.No better man than Joyce to write about life in Ireland.
Language corrosion, however, has become easy because new forms of communication allow people to be as impartial or free of their spelling as they can be.
For me, despite not liking the English Crown, the Queen’s English is the only English I can or will write in text messages, emails, long-form or grocery lists. I honestly am a sucker for great words and correct spelling. When I find mistakes in newspaper articles, for example, I often feel I want to use hard-line ninja tactics on people’s grammar.
Shortcut rambling used on Twitter was something I needed to learn when I started writing four years ago. I now adore my followers and have learned a lot from them. Before, I was blissfully unaware of this form of rambling.
An original idea. That can’t be too hard.
The library must be full of them.
My health reminds me all too often about its crooked hinges and hardened brain matter, I don’t feel like turning into an addicted social media user.
As you can tell, I am not overly in sync with the newer types of social media and technological tricks to help you live a life that much more comfortable.
I missed the time when you had to drag five books from a library shelf to your table and turn page after page, looking for answers to your homework. Now Wikipedia and other encyclopaedias are an online two-second-click on my menu bar, something I use every single day for the silliest of reasons, but the hunger remains.
The internet is at the cost of public libraries and those trying to pen word after word when writing big, heavy, beautiful encyclopaedias.
However, just like Mr Google and Mrs Bing are the worst doctors on the internet, Wikipedia is not always correct either, so check your resources wisely. Trying to get this into the mind of young people who forgot to finish their homework on time, is a lost cause.
In a digital, information age as today, seeing libraries shut down, books were thrown out and people becoming information-lazy is painful. While tons of new info is dropped online each day, the scent of a new book can still take me back to when it was just about pen and paper.
Me against hundreds of books waiting to be shelved again on Monday morning.
My hunger for real books and libraries still makes me wonder about the vast amount of knowledge that was lost when the library of Alexandria burned down in 48 BC, and during its following three known times of destruction. It almost pains me not knowing.
In the end, I would not have been who I am today was it not for the endless hours I spent in a library while growing up. I would not have lived in Ireland or have learned that besides languages, books are all you need in life.
If you’re interested in doing Library Studies in Ireland, you can find more information here:
©Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2015