Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Potential of Paranormal Libraries

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I grew up enjoying a lot of time in my local library*. But libraries really took on a whole new level of "wow" for me the first time I watched Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. Flying books, books with an attitude - and a bite.

It got me to thinking that paranormal** libraries have a lot of potential.  I'm not referring to libraries containing paranormal publications, but libraries with their own paranormal qualities. Kind of like a haunted house, but better, because it's full of books, and with that much great literature, it's gotta have a ton of personality.

But just how much has the concept been used in literature, already?

I found this list "great libraries in fiction" on Amazon, but only a couple of these books sounded like they might have some paranormal elements:

Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr by Garth Nix. The list author says: "If I ever die and go to fantasy heaven, I hope it resembles Nix's immense library beneath glacier and mountain, where each door opens into a separate mystery."

Sourcery by Terry Pratchett. The list author says:  "This Discworld novel features the Librarian (who happens to be an orangutan) of the Unseen University's sorcerous library where the books have to be chained to their shelves to keep them from harming innocent browsers."

I also recently discovered Brenda Drake's blog, and she's written a book called Library Jumpers.  Her logline: "The gateways between the great libraries of the world don't require a library card, but they do harbor dangers..."  And if that isn't enough to entice you, she's collected pictures of AMAZING libraries from around the world.

Finally, I just came across a book (not yet released) by Victoria Schwab called The Archived. It's about "a teenage girl who must return the restless, ghost-like Histories of the dead to their rightful place in a labyrinthine supernatural library known as the Archive; when more Histories begin to wake and escape, she must stop the doors between the worlds of the living and dead from breaking open, all without falling victim to a beguiling History who is more human – and more disarmingly attractive – than the others."

OH my OH my do I want to read that one!!! (who am I kidding? I want to read ALL of them) 

I'm definitely going to have a paranormal or magical library in one of my stories someday. In the meantime... while I firmly believe the true beauty of a library is in its books, rather than its architecture, I still love to visit beautiful libraries. I leave you with picture of the A. White Room at a library I had the pleasure of studying many hours in during my years at Cornell University. It was part of a paranormal scene in this great book, Fool on the Hill by Matt Ruff, though the library itself didn't have any paranormal qualities. Darn.


* I started researching this post a couple days ago, before I realized this is National Library Week. Somehow, the libraries were speaking to me. Proof of their paranormal potential, indeed.

** I debated using the term "fantastical libraries" instead of "paranormal libraries". Which resulted in googling the difference between fantasy and paranormal - here's author Michelle McLean's excellent research on the matter.

Have you read any books with wonderful libraries - real or magical? And where's your favorite library?

25 comments:

  1. I do like a spooky old library, but any place full of books has a certain charm. I think the library in the Discworld books is a great invention. Also the secret one in The Shadow of the Wind was a neat idea, although it wasn't used much (not as much as i would have liked anyway).
    regards
    mood
    Moody Writing

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  2. Of course my favourite library of all time and forever more (apart from the one from my youth at Wood Green shopping centre, North London) is the one at the Unseen Universtiy run by my most favourite librarian who happens to be an Orangutan.

    :-) Take care
    x

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  3. When you mentioned paranormal libraries my first thought was Terry Pratchett's. Those books'll tear you a new one or transport you to a different dimension if you give them half a chance. My local library is my favourite despite being small because I go there every week to pick up my reserved books and the regulars now know my name. But I do miss having access to my big university library-- four floors! Two wings! It wasn't nearly as beautiful as the libraries in Brenda's photographs, though.
    - Sophia.

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  4. Terry Pratchett has a theory called L-space in which he explains why second-hand bookshops are always bigger inside than they appear from the front. I THINK he first expounds it in Good Omens (which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman). It goes something like ... books are words and words are knowledge and knowledge is power, so when you put lots of books next to each other they can create enough power to warp the space around them.

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  5. @Old Kitty - I used to go that library!

    @Margo - your micro/macro tension (as mentioned on my blog) idea is very interesting, hope you consider doing a post on it. I'd read it.

    regards
    mood
    Moody Writing

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  6. Check out Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, which is set in the BookWorld. The first book is called The Eyre Affair. In this series, real people can enter books and interact with the characters. There's also a Great Library, which includes all the books ever written.

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  7. What perfect timing for this post about libraries. The Archived looks good. I think we're going to have to wait a bit for it though. :)

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  8. Oh now I'm totally inspired!! I want to write about one too!! Don't forget Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness where the paranormal library is such an integral (and cool) part of the story!! :D If you haven't read them yet, go get them!!

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  9. Yes, you must check out the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde!! The Eyre Affair is a bit slow compared to the rest, but it's still fun. My favorite is The Well of Lost Plots. I love the store of plot devices.

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  10. Ditto, ditto to Lisa's comment. The Caster Library in Beautiful Darkness and Beautiful Creatures are both intriguing and terrifying.

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  11. Ah, I see others have already mentioned the Thursday Next books -- fantastic literary fun, love them.

    I'm with you, I love libraries in books, especially when there's something magical about them.

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  12. Bonus comment, I have an award for you over here!
    - Sophia.

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  13. Wouldn't it be great to go to a paranormal library?

    LOVE the pic!!!!

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  14. The Angel's Game by Carlo Zuis Zafon has The Labrinth of Forgotten Books where a book chooses you. Very haunting. And I adore the library movie scene in Beauty and The Beast (disney)! I've always wanted to tour libraries of the world, so off to explore virtually through Library Jumpers. Thanks for the link!

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  15. Happy Library Week! Now I need to get to my local library as it has been too long since I was last there.

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  16. Funny enough, Margo, I just came from The Slight Detour and she brought us on a trip through from wild libraries. Bizarre coincidence.

    I'm passing on one lovely blog award to you. Stop by my place and pick it up. Congrats. (Yup this means my blog is back up. yay!)
    tanyareimer.blogspot.com

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  17. I love the concept of a paranormal library, Margo! And I definitely want to read Brenda's and Victoria's library-related books. Terry Pratchett has been on my list for a while, and I hope to someday get there.

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  18. Suddenly my local library seem soooo boring. ;)

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  19. Hi, Margo! It looks like we both had libraries on our mind this week :D I don't know if you watch Dr. Who, but your post made me think of its "Silence in the Library" episode. You can catch a snippet here if you're curious: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvEv2JBOMTk&feature=related :D Hope you have a great weekend!

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  20. I read a lot of books that have magic libraries in a single volume, like the Wizard's Manual in Diane Duane's young wizard books, and the Book of Magic in Piers Anthony's Apprentice Adept series.

    The library in Chrestomanci Castle is pretty amazing, though it does have a good nonmagical fiction section too.

    There's the planet-wide library in the Doctor Who S4 episode 'Silence in the Library', and in my Naveli Brussard books I know that the Brussards must have a library of their greatest magik secrets hidden somewhere, though I haven't written that part yet.

    I'm starting up a 'Critiquing Crusaders' program, where participants in the Second Crusade can find other writers to exchange critiques with or form critiquing circles. If you're interested, come by The Kelworth Files to check it out!

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  21. If I had the finances, I would absolutely start a paranormal themed library for readers. Wouldn't that be awesome?
    Other than "The Archived", I'm not familiar with any great book with an out of the ordinary library.
    Does the library in Harry Potter count? :D
    Have a great week-end.

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  22. How interesting. I've always thought of libraries as special places. Add a paranormal twist, even better.

    The Archived is something I'd like to read.

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  23. Paranormal libraries. I never gave it much thought. Harry Potter's library (and bookstore, for that matter) was wonderful to learn about. I put libraries in my first two fantasy books, but they didn't get published. Maybe I'll dust them off and work on them in the future.

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  24. Alma Alexander's World Weavers series has a REFERENCE to a wild and woolly library, but you never really get to hang out in it. :( Of course, Isaac Asimov's Foundation series has THE library in it - kind of like being able to stand within a physical representation of the internet and work with literature. The original holodeck. LOL

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  25. You know, I just came across this and was so excited to read it. Library Jumpers releases February 2014 from Month9Books. I just loved this post - thank you for sharing. I think libraries are magical too, especially the older ones.

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