Cambridge University Library Exterior, photo used under CC terms, original here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevecadman/2353585565

Day 2: A place to revisit – the darkness of the library

Prompt: If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

Twist: Today’s twist: organize your post around the description of a setting.

Photo: Exterior: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevecadman/2353585565
Interior: (not shown here, but click through and take a look)
https://www.flickr.com/photos/camdiary/4422532247/in/gallery-stonebridgedapper-72157623703651969/

There is a place that I have been only once and that I would like to see again, and that is the main library at Cambridge University.

The University Library is a sprawling building. I do not remember it well. I do recall high ceilings, many people, and the heavy, sweet stink of books. When I visited on that one occasion many years ago, it was mid-term and packed with readers. A friend and I bluffed our way inside to have a look around, since I was soon to leave the city and it would have been a shame to have missed it.

The main reading rooms of the library were impressive; bright, snooty, academic. But the memory that stuck with me isn’t there. Beyond the reading rooms, with their high shelves and frowning scholars, there are quieter wings with far fewer people. Here I seem to recall stairs and floor upon floor of rack upon rack of books. These rooms are stark, institution-grey places, metal shelves, ugliness. Hard, square angles and dust, and darkness. In the absence of readers, the rooms were unlit except for what sunlight could get in through filthy windows.

I am sure that my recollection is corrupted, but it felt that the shelves and racks extended for ever.

This is my single, distorted memory of the Library; away from the busy reading rooms and deep in the endless unlit shelves of the specialist collections.

If I could travel anywhere, it would be to explore these dark shelves at night. It would not matter if I could not read the books. I do not recall noticing even one familiar language.

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