8 Quotes About Libraries and Books

I love libraries. 

I have over 2000 pictures of libraries on two Pinterest Boards. Libraries in the home, public libraries, university libraries, monastic libraries, book shops, reading nooks... I love books and the places we find them, organize them, and enjoy them. I just finished The Meaning of the Library, a collection of 12 essays that look at libraries from antiquity, through the middle ages, on through the Enlightenment and now in to our digital era. This is not a book for the common reader, even one who loves libraries. Most of the essays are pretty specialized. Although the final essay by James Billington, head librarian of the greatest library in history - The Library of Congress, was profoundly moving for me.

But, here are several quotes on libraries, books and readings from this 300 page volume which I enjoyed.


The library, we find, means many things over time...
It is a collection of books,
a center for scholarship,
a universal memory,
a sanctum,
an archive for stories,
a fortress,
a space of transcendence,
a focus of wealth and display,
a vehicle of spirituality,
an emblem of wisdom and learning,
a mind or brain,
an ordainer of the universe,
a mausoleum,
a time machine,
a temple,
a utopia,
a gathering place,
an antidote to fanaticism,
a silent repository of countless unread books,
a place for the pursuit of truth.

Alice Crawford



"No book shall be taken out. We have sworn it!"
This is an inscription that was used at the library built by Trajan, at Athens in 132 AD. Books were not allowed to be removed from the library.

Here is the oath required of those who would use the magnificent Bodleian Library of Oxford. The only thing missing is the penalty to be inflicted on those who violate the oath!

You promise and solemnly engage before God . . . that whenever you shall enter the public library of the University, you will frame your mind to study in modesty and silence, and will use the books and other furniture in such a manner that they may last as long as possible. Also that you will not steal, change, make erasures, deform, tear, cut, write notes in, interline, wilfully spoil, obliterate, defile, or in any other way retrench, ill-use, wear away or deteriorate any book or books, nor authorise any other person do do the like. 


"Without Enlightenment there might still be libraries, but without libraries there can be no Enlightenment."

This is from the introduction to Libraries and the Enlightenment, Wayne Bivens-Tatum and speaks of the wisdom creating function of reading, fostered by the collecting, preserving and distributing of the repositories of wisdom - books.... thousands of books organized on shelves.

Here is an advertisement for the advantages of reading, provided by the members of the Carlisle Library of England... to which I add a hearty A-men.

The advantages of Literature to the population of a large and opulent city are obvious to every one capable of appreciating them. An advancement in morals, manners, and taste, is a never-failing attendant upon a habit of reading and reflection. 

One of the great books that features a library is The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. The movie by the same name has scenes that take place in this amazing library. Here is a statement made by Adso about the library.

Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: It is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.


Finally, here are two quotes from James Billington.

Books are our guardians of memory, tutors in language, pathways to reason, and our golden gate to the royal road of imagination. Books take us to new places where boundaries are not set by someone else's pictures on a television screen and out thoughts are not drowned out by sounds on a boom box. Books help us to pose the unimagined question and to accept the unwelcome answer.

Reading a book can become a private conversation with someone from a time and place other than out own -- a voyage into both mastery and mystery.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International


The meaning of the word library...