I can’t think of a place with more possible functions than a library. Throughout my life, it’s been a perfect location for hide-and-seek, alone time, contemplation on small or large scales, and entering worlds that could make me forget my sense of time, place–even selfhood. There has always been an inherent magic to exploring the labyrinth of towering shelves with the smell of old books in the air and new knowledge in every nook and cranny.
When applying to college, I began feeling overwhelmed and boxed in by the pressure to stand out. One evening, I drove to the public library so that I could remember how much bigger the world was and get lost in other stories. I returned home in an entirely new headspace, inspired to take a slightly different approach to my college essay. Unsurprisingly, it was the draft I ended up submitting.
When I heard this podcast episode (entitled, “The Room of Requirement”) on This American Life, it instantly resonated with me. But the magic of the libraries mentioned in the podcast is distinct from the magic I’m used to.
Imagine a library that allows anyone and everyone to drop off unpublished manuscripts. Or one that can reunite families separated by the travel ban. Though they might sound too good to be true, the podcast reveals that these places are, in fact, very real.
Nearly everyone has a unique story connected to libraries. It’s the kind of conversation topic that can lead down entirely unforeseen paths, but it’s worth inquiring. You never know what you might discover.