I’m the lead publican here at the Pub, and, if I must say so myself, a damn fine concertina player even though I need to find more time to play these days. I’m also an avid reader, so I’ve made many a visit to the Library here which is why you’re getting this tale today…
The Kinrowan Estate Library is full of dark paneling, with darkly stained walnut shelves up to the ceiling, with an open atrium of several stories, topped by an opaque skylight, with several stories of bookshelves, so that one can look up and see the books, or peer over the wrought iron balcony, over the white marble floors, or see a reader curled up below in a lovely overstuffed, winged armchair. All the shelves have those brass ladders attached to a sliding rail, so that one can climb up and get to the things tucked away on the top shelves. Many of the shelves have sliding glass doors, some with leaded stained glass, so that one is never sure of what might be inside. And some are locked! One must ask the Librarian for the key, if one has a pressing need. There are also study rooms with long tables, with lamps in the middle. And one can ask the assistants to get things from the stacks. Ah, the stacks. Given the nature of the filing system it is difficult to say what might be in there….
As one staffer put it, it has ‘Nooks. Crannies. Things you can hide under…. Capability to find exactly what you are looking for immediately — invaluable for research… Capability to find exactly what you really, really want to be reading right now, whether you knew it or not — invaluable for fun… Ambient lighting that adjusts automatically for print size, strength of bifocals — or lack thereof…’ Sounds like a pretty normal library, eh? But the Library here is like none other as it straddles, like the GMR offices, the Border. As Maria Nutick once noted, ‘The Library may be the only place where you can go to read William Shakespeare’s The Trapping of the Mouse or Edgar Allen Poe’s The Worm of Midnight while listening to the music of Gossamer Axe or Snori Snoriscousin and His Brass Idiots. The world of literature is a big, big place, and it’s an intrepid and meticulous soul who can keep track of the shifting tapestry that we call reality.’
If you think the Library is a bit strange, wait ’til you meet the Librarian! Have you seen John Hurt as The Storyteller in the series of the same name? Iain MacKenzie is every bit as scruffy as The Storyteller was. Tattered old clothes that have seen much better times, long hair and a very scraggly beard… Now I know that one expects Librarians to be bespectacled boring and rather quiet beings. Sure. You obviously haven’t spent anytime here, as ‘normal’ is never what happens around here! No one here remembers when he first showed up, nor are we sure how he came to be the Librarian, but he’s living proof that knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and that those who search for it must be brave, if not foolhardy.
The Librarian presides over a collection that holds as much delight as it does difficult truths and disturbing stories. No, the scruffiness is not accidental, it’s the product of long years looking clearly into corners that might have preferred not to see the light of day. After awhile knowledge sticks to a person, so that you don’t just see their face when you look at them, you see some of what they’ve seen as well. In our case those memories are bolstered through an appreciation of a certain beverage, aged in wooden casks, and bottled only after some years in the cellar. It’s clear why he likes it — they have a lot in common!
It’s best not approach the Librarian with trivial requests — after all, the magic of our library is the unexpected things one finds when searching. But more than that, he must find the applicant worthy, or he’ll send you on a goose chase down a maze leading to a dead end. Or perhaps it’s just hazing — but we’ve found that it takes more than breezy persistence to crack the code — you have to know your stuff, and be willing to accept what you find — whether or not it’s what you are expecting. In these days of search engines, it’s important to remember that wisdom trumps knowledge is a living thing, and her keeper is not to be approached without caution.