Saturday, March 19, 2011

La biblioteca - ბიბლიოთეკა - Library

These are the Spanish, Georgian, and English words for "library."

Sometimes I like thinking about the word for something in different languages. Often there are similarities. In the words for "library," the Spanish and Georgian are exactly the same except for the letter used for the "k" sound -- in Spanish it's written with a "c," and in Georgian it's the strong "k."

I love libraries. When I was 14 I was hired for my first job working as a library page. The Monson Free Library in the little town of Monson, Massachusetts is in an old, stone building with wide-plank wooden floors and wrought-iron spiral staircases. I used to shelve returned books, process new books, straighten the books on the shelves, and check out books for people. I remember often getting side-tracked by the books themselves while re-shelving or straightening books. If I read a paragraph or two of something that interested me and got really absorbed by it, I would sit down on one of the rolling footstools in the stacks and read until the librarian found me and spurred me on to finish my job.

And what is it about the smell of a library that makes me happy? That musty, dusty paper and leather smell evokes in me a need for knowledge and quietness. (This may be the reason that I do not enjoy reading books electronically. I have tried reading books from my Iphone and computer, but the experience is not the same. I need the smell of the book along with the feel of it in my hands to fully enjoy reading.)

When I was packing to come to Georgia, I packed a few books from my own personal library: a Lonely Planet guide to Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, a Bradt guide to Georgia, a New Testament, C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I thought these would keep me occupied for a few months. While in Tbilisi at Christmas time, I bought Dicken's A Christmas Carol at the English language bookstore. It's only March, and I have read them all. So when I'm out of books to read and neither Amazon nor B&N online delivers to Shamgona, what am I to do?

Find a library.

My school just happens to have one. The library is in a room at the end of the tiled hall on the second floor. Instead of a blackboard and desks filling the room like the classrooms, there are three desks with chairs for reading and researching surrounded by three bookshelves that are packed full of books -- so full that there are double rows of books on the shelves. The small library is a far cry from most U.S. school libraries, but it is a start.

On my first day at the school, I was given a tour of the facility, including the library. Lika proudly showed me the section of English-language books available for loan. I made a mental note to see if there was anything that I wanted to read when I finished the books that I brought with me. I read slowly, but I knew that what I had brought would not last seven months.

We had school today -- our second make-up day from the surprise spring break we took a couple of weeks ago. While I had a break from teaching, I asked Irina, our librarian if I could look at the English books in the collection and maybe check one out. She smiled and jangled the keys with a, "Tsavedit!" (Let's go!)

I had no idea what kind of titles I was going to find. I was a little afraid that the selection would be like a summer flea market -- acres and acres of boxes of faded, discarded books that I had never heard of for good reason. There are few things worse than trying to slog through sub-par literature, and I didn't want to spend the next three months doing so..... Irina unlocked the door and opened it, revealing the beloved book-scent. I wanted to breathe it in deeply, but I half-held my breath in uncertainty while I scanned the spines for something worth reading. There were some flea-market left-overs (patience, patience), but there were also some gems. (Joy!) I pulled three from the shelf -- three that I have been wanting to read for quite awhile: E. M. Forster's Where Angels Fear to Tread, Edwin Abbott's Flatland, and Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. What a combination! Now to decide what to read first..... (If I were my sister, I would read all three at the same time -- a chapter at a time in each -- I don't know how she does that.)

I laid the three books out in front of me and analyzed them. Sebold's novel is a touching story from the point of view of a dead girl in Heaven.... it could be an emotional read. The Forster is about a wayward English girl who goes to Italy and falls in love (typical Forster)....  a lovely read with wonderful Forster semantics. Flatland is a short sci-fi that is going to stretch my thinking into the fourth dimension. The order I read them in matters. What I have read in the past influences the way I think about what I read in the future -- especially if one book directly follows another. Flatland is the shortest, but I don't think I should read it first. To follow it with Forster just wouldn't be right. But if I followed it with the novel from Heaven's vantage point, thinking from the fourth dimension may work. And just a few months ago, I read Forster's A Room with a View, so starting with Where Angels Fear to Tread seemed like a good idea, then Flatland, and finally, The Lovely Bones.

On the very first page, I knew that I had made the right decision. I read, " is only by going off the track that you get to know the country." A perfect follow-up to my recent read, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. And a perfect thought for where I am living presently.....'s a rainy day. Nothing better than a book and a cup of tea.

No comments:

Post a Comment