Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On Lewis and Librarians

As a child, I spent a good deal of time in the Brighton Branch of the Boston Public Library.  It was (and still is) a "modern" building, built in 1969 to replace a venerable old brownstone.  The link above includes a slideshow of the old facility and its patrons, as well as still photos of the new facility, with a teen cafe-style lounge, and reading nook (and I note that the old interior photos always seem to include folks reading books, whereas the new photos show no patrons...odd).  I can't help but think the older building had a charm and warmth that I never felt in the newer one.  Still, the children's librarian was cheery, and I soon discovered that she had a special place in her heart for C. S. Lewis.  

I had discovered Lewis in 2nd grade, under the influence of a young teacher who came in as a maternity replacement halfway through the school year.  My school was a public school, so she never mentioned any Christian themes in the Chronicles of Narnia as she read them aloud to the class.  After that introduction, I read them and reread them over again, always thinking there was some message just out of reach.  A few years later, while sitting in the library's children's reading room, I overheard some of the 6th graders from the local parochial school asking the librarian for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Somehow in the conversation I overheard  her say the name "Jesus" and the whole message dawned on me.  How could I have been so dense?  

Imagine my delight, then, when visiting the library at Thomas Aquinas College last week, and seeing a well-stocked Lewis section.

L immediately reached for the books she so loves.  We looked at the covers of older editions of his works, and tried to find which were the oldest copies.  It's a book thing, I guess.  T, meanwhile, was reading through his first assignment, which was Lewis' essay, "Learning in Wartime."

As we left, we passed the checkout desk to pay for a book (they were having a discard sale) that L picked up on Danish literature.  We were delighted to find this admonition:

A bit later in the day we were back in the library for a tour with the librarian, the very amazing and enthusiastic Viltus Jatulis.  L whispered to me (it was a library, after all) that it would be worth going to TAC just to enjoy her company in the library.  High praise.  I wish I had taken a video of her presentation and tour of the rare book collection; her tour should be on the TAC website so students get an idea of the kind of place this really is--a place where learning is cherished.  I could spend years in that room alone, perusing the medieval manuscripts!  

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Love2Learn Mom said...

Oh, what a fun post to read right now! I love Viltis - got to work for her for two years of work study in the old library and we've enjoyed her rare books tour several times in recent years. Love, love, love the note with the bell!!!! Thanks for posting this. :)

Leonie said...

I love it!,

Helenrr said...

Love it too, and if you can find the book, "C. S. Lewis's Letters to Children", that will give you even more insight. :)

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

So, from what exact book or essay of C. S. Lewis is the quote about misfortunes preparing ordinary people for extraordinary destinies?

Not Narniad, I am sure.