Friday, May 10, 2013

A Purpose-Driven Library

Peabody Library, Baltimore

Have you seen this library? It is unforgettable – multi-storied stacks and a skylight that spans the entire roof, sending down a shimmer of sunlight. For about an hour, it was ours. Expertly guided through its incredible holdings and history, we soaked up the ambiance and information.
Illuminated Liturgical Song book
This rare liturgical book of songs was created in the 1400s, explained Paul Espinosa, our guide and curator of the Peabody Library. It was the work of several monks who lined, inked notes and illuminated letters. Paul handled the pages of this book as if touching a 15th century artifact was something he did every day – in other words – quite naturally and without gloves.
When someone asked about touching the vellum pages with bare hands, Paul told us that our fingers are exquisitely sensitive; they apply just enough of the right kind of energy to carefully turn pages. Gloved hands, he reports, are much less sensitive and despite the best intentions, can rip or tear pages. Research has shown that clean, bare hands are the best archival tools.

At this point in our tour, there was a murmuring in our group,
“Sing it, Tinsley….”
“Do you want me to sing it?”
“Yes, yes!”
And then it began: a Song of Benediction -filling the space, lifting the notes off the 15th century pages and into the present-surrounding us with emotional resonance. I don’t think anyone drew a breath until Tinsley sang the final “aleluia." *

The Peabody Library makes an excellent justification for libraries, yet none of their collection circulates. Somehow, our Chandramohan Library with its circulating collection, clarifies the justification for a library; the community is at the center of its purpose.

-Mrs. Eldridge
* Thank you, Tinsley, that was a peak experience.

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