Pilgrimages

The Book Beetle's Travelogue

#NeologismAlert

bookworm (BW), a.k.a. a bibliophile, is a voracious reader and displays an insatiable appetite for books whereas a book-beetle (Thank you! Thank you!), a la the data-beetle, not only indulges in the BW's commendable pursuit, but also admires and appreciates what could be called the birthing process of book, which involves...

1. envisioning ➔ [1.5. commissioning] ➔ 2. writing ➔ 3. editing ➔ 4. publishing ➔ 5. selling ➔ 6. distributing ➔ 7. rinse and repeat steps 4-6

[Rinsing in the final step could involve some form of #2 and #3]

So, as a self-proclaimed book-beetle, following two book reviews, I present to you a travelogue of my pilgrimages to ...drum roll... libraries!

Starting at the beginning

A library might be one of the perfect examples of the sum being greater than its parts. It gives one access to all its books, of course, but the cozy warmth its bookshelves and the environs exude is also palpable. Visiting a library is the nearest I come to making a trip to a temple these days and going to a public library in a new city is my pilgrimage .

My love for libraries started in my undergrad days in Loyola College, Chennai, when I spent umpteen hours lost in my college library, particularly in the fiction section, which was in a sort of dungeon in a hidden corner so nobody would go there (I know what some of you must be thinking, but no, it wasn't like the Palaeontology section in Ross's library).

Next stop: The Island at the Center of the World

Then, almost half a decade later, I was introduced to the world of public libraries when I went to New York through my company. I was pleasantly surprised when a colleague gave me the visitor's card during my orientation at the NY office but forgot about it. Then I chanced upon the main building, the Stephen A Schwarzman Building, while strolling around Midtown Manhattan, and was awestruck but the beauty of the place and its collection. It was a surreal experience, and ever since, I’ve made it a point to visit that library whenever I go to NYC. On one such trip, my company actually had its year-end party at the Stephen A Schwarzman Building. No kidding!

Cruising ahead: The Islands at the Center of my World

Life took an interesting turn when I left that company to study for a Master's degree in Singapore but my love affair with libraries continued and my appreciation for the environs part of the deals increased immensely. I spent endless hours in the central library of the university and never missed a chance to go to the public libraries whenever I was out and about in the city/country. As per life's plans, my current home is in Hong Kong and public library system here is definitely pride-inducing.

And the best thing about all these systems is that they’re usually the first to embrace technological innovations and improving the UX in tasks like online cataloguing and making book recommendations based on your search/reading history.

There and back again

My affairs with facts/trivia, books, and libraries were all serendipitous and started in the city of Chennai (which was Madras for at least two of those happenstances), so it was only fitting that I found the formidable Anna Centenary Library, Chennai, in the same fashion. Visiting it was one of the most pleasantly surprising events of my life. I was blown away by their collection, the building, and the technological innovation but its beauty is best captured by this piece that describes a love affair of a special kind.

All these public library systems have reinforced my belief in the power of knowledge and I’m sure that they are some of the biggest factors in taking these cities where they are in terms of progress and development. This is the materialisation of the Latin aphorism, Scientia potentia est (Knowledge is Power)!

Originally published here.