Locked in the library?

The reference to being “locked in the library” is in part a reference to Virginia Woolf who writes in her essay “A Room of One’s Own” about being forbidden from entry to an academic library:

[…] here I was actually at the door which leads into the library itself. I must have opened it, for instantly there issued, like a guardian angel barring the way with a flutter of black gwn instead of white wings, a deprecating, silvery, kindly gentlemen, who regretted in a low voice as he waved me back that ladies are only admitted to the library if accompanied by a Fellow of the College or furnished with a letter of introduction. (1993, p. 7)

Woolf is so angered that she curses the library and vows never to return. (Fortunately, this experience did not stop Woolf from writing and helping to pave the way for women.)

Although being locked out of a library is hardly a problem for me, I take heed from Woolf’s words and am careful not to be locked in the library in both the literal and figurative sense. Since libraries are for the most part filled with media, it could be argued that they contain a record of the recent and historical past. When Woolf was locked out of the library she had the opportunity to come up with her own ideas and her own style of writing. Academic communities share and build upon one another’s work in order to create new ideas, but at the same time, some academics may feel limited to pursuing only academic work for fear of ridicule by colleagues. Thus, although libraries open up many doors to knowledge, they are not the only place where answers can be found; thus, it is increasingly important for me as a librarian not to be locked in the library.

Work cited:

Woolf, V. (1993). A room of one’s own. In V. Woolf, A Room of One’s Own/Three Guineas (pp. 3-103). Toronto, ON: Penguin Books.


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