I love the library, and I love thinking and reading about the library, too. This week I've been enjoying Tessa Hadley's novel, The London Train, and this morning I encountered this perfect depiction of the exchange between librarian and patron in a public library:
At first she had thought it might be her duty to encourage the borrowers, talking to them about the books they were choosing, but she quickly learned that they looked at her with shocked faces if she tried, as if their reading was a private place she'd intruded into. The whole point of her role was to be neutral, she realised, not engaged or committed. The hand-to-hand exchange at the issue desk—taking the books, opening them, date-stamping them, handing them back—was a soothing ritual of community. Even when she was helping the asylum seekers who came in to research information on the Internet in support of their appeals, she never discussed the content of what they were looking for; they only strove together through the process of finding it. This exemption from the effort of relationship seemed to her to be a relief to them both.