Illustrated image for article Those who are afraid must not go to the library!

Those who are afraid must not go to the library

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The book is like a time machine with a premium feature of dimensional travel. When you read, your brain works a little differently than when you watch a movie. It's also said that a person has lived as many lives as they've read books. The wise proclaim that they fear those who have read one book. In general, reading is considered something very beneficial. In my opinion, it is not quite so; there is a light and a dark side to the matter. Those who are afraid must not go to the library.


When I was taught to read and shown the library on a field trip with my elementary school, I immediately fell in love and I wasn't alone, more of my classmates were looking at the books with admiration. I soon made a reading book. In the 1990s, there were no cards like there are today and the librarian wrote out every book I borrowed by hand in a borrowing book.


It seems like yesterday that I picked out a book and walked up to the counter with it. An adult said to me: "Don't take that one, you won't enjoy it. It's got a picture on it like you know from TV, but it's a memoir of an old man who's in those cartoons." I looked at the librarian and she said, "Well, whatever."

I obediently did not borrow the book that day. I realized that day that I wanted to go to the library alone. There's no one there to tell me what to read, it's quiet, and the shelves are full of stories and answers to life's burning questions that you always find where you wouldn't expect them. In school, one is rather tested to see if the student has understood well what he was supposed to learn; in church, one is commanded to have an opinion and one's explanation of existence is taken as absolute. I loved the library for the freedom of thought I felt there. There was only one other time that I was told what book to check out by someone in the library. And I've never even been told what book to read by anyone in the library.


I had a book checked out, IT by Stephen King. I wasn't allowed to watch the movie, it was 18 plus. I read it for a long time and when someone asked me what it was about, I said there was a little boy who liked books and went to the library and one of the characters was even a librarian. So they praised me for reading it nicely, for being a smart, good little girl. Of course, the book scared me, I was reading about the dark town of Derry, a darkness so scary it haunted me all through my childhood, and my teenage years, and still haunts me now. A darkness you don't get in a movie, a darkness between the lines that if you don't read it you stay safe in your level-headed mind. The darkness that everyone has deep in their subconscious and some people don't even try to open that dark door sometimes. They live their decent, orderly lives, the darkness belongs to the wicked, not in their lives. Together with the children's book, I learned to face dark thoughts, early on. Maybe if I'd been born with a silver spoon at my mouth, I'd never have needed it. But I live a life of the ordinary, the real/ the bizarre. So the hardening of my childhood comes in handy.


When I was 15 (or so), a classmate took me to the big city library in downtown Prague's Marianske Namesti. Actually, I must have been exactly 15, I already had my ID, but a classmate from elementary school brought me there. Lenka, I'm always friends with her, you just can't forget friends who take you to a big library. I had no idea about the National Library next door, they say the study room is even quieter. But you're not allowed in there until you're 18, and the books are the same. I kind of get it, they don't want to be disturbed by kids and I kind of see the mystery in it, a place I'll look into someday. My parents would be willing to go there with me, accompanied they are allowed, but I prefer to go to the library alone, I have my reasons. At the city library, they only needed a signature from my parents, which they saw me forge. I mean, they didn't see it, my mom was around the corner, of course. Surely no one would ever commit such an offence as giving a child a reading card without the consent of a legal guardian. In case you didn't know, the librarian is synonymous with the word respectable girl, always pedantic about following the rules, and you rarely hear her say anything other than psssssst.


I've come to love the spiritual literature in this library. Philosophy, meditation, that sort of thing. At the time, I didn't admit to liking to read horror books, too. Throughout high school, I frequented it as time allowed. I was also already taking part-time jobs to get used to the harsh world of employment. From all the spiritual wisdom mixed with work experience, I decided to live like a bohemian for a while. A few months, a very spiritual period. I was pretty much skipping school, working in a tea shop, and a little disdainful of the rules the social system protects us with. I met some interesting people, read a few books, and most importantly, didn't return them to the library for a few months. When I was overdue to return a book in my childhood, my dad heroically went there for me, returned it, and paid the penalty. I then came in as if nothing had happened and borrowed more books. But now I was 18, my dad went in and they told him to come in himself. What a shame! In the library! I consider it a test of my maturity that I went there. The librarian gave me a reproachful look and called her supervisor to go see the sinner who pays so much. I bought a flower that day, a Clivia, it's been 17 years and I still have the flower at home. In a bigger pot, actually it's spread over five bigger pots, it's doing well.
I first went to the adult library next door when I was about 25 years old. I walked in like I was entering a cathedral, curiosity in my eyes, my heart pounding harder than a marathon. I had reserved a magazine from the Library of Library Literature, the city one where I had a card didn't have that. I went there for practical reasons, to prepare for the application process to Charles University, majoring in library science. I found the professional part of the library a bit strict. But then I entered the general reading room. A huge hall where there are 200 seats, full of students who are concentrating so that the concentration of attention is almost visible. Just being there has an effect better than coffee.


For some reason, I felt like the librarians there were gods, and applying for a job in such a place was not worth it at all. The audacity of even thinking about it made me ashamed. But it's not for nothing they say you become what you think about. As I sat there and studied often, the romance fell away a little. Since I was accepted into the university, I had to study a lot. There was no time to read books as I used to know them. Work, school, and nothing else. The mystery of it all was overshadowed by duty.


And then a miracle happened. I was hired as an employee. Full-time, with the understanding that they'd support me in my studies. They didn't take me directly to the study. From the point of view of a fellow student I later became friends with, I was just better off. I was in an office, hours Monday to Friday, weekends and public holidays free, money the same as those who work in the study hall on shifts, the study hall is open on weekends and late into the evening. It was an honor for me to be in the office. And I had books there too.
At this time, I liked to read science fiction and fantasy. Clevia reminded me every day that I was an adult. Not just the one I bought as a coming-of-age present. The library was full of flowers, even the Clevias that have been there for generations, all over the hallways and in every office. The symbolism of it was very meaningful to me. Science fiction and fantasy, on the other hand, reminded me that something of the child in me remains. Imagination, playfulness, openness to all emotions and possibilities. I also discovered a book called The Little Prince. It's not a problem to grow up, but to forget about being a child.


I worked in a library for 7 years. Perhaps I was too safe, perhaps I was afraid of taking over the books. "Better to have lived one life than read a thousand books", say others. Not that a life in the library isn't a life. Now that I go there as a reader, I find it more unusual and mysterious. And I've got Stephen King's IT on the shelves again. Life is full of changes. The library is a refuge. I don't necessarily always find rest and relaxation there. Not every decision I make in the library is a good one. I go there because I'm not irritated by the light of truth or frightened by the potential for darkness. It's a good concentration of attention, a good space to have a nice experience. And sometimes, when one is going crazy, to escape from reality into a book. There should be a warning on the door of every library, like on a pack of cigarettes.



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Background Photo of the author Ludmila Cerovská!
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Ludmila Cerovská

Praha, Czech Republic

Writing is a way for me to be happy and to help others to be happy. I make a lot of mistakes along the way, and I learn from them. And it's that searching, full of traps, that is the point....

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