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The Library

Let me tell you about the Library.

The Library is a large building near the heart of the City. It is made of stone with columns out front and guardian animals and large, leaded windows. The main doors do not open easily for the casual traveller, and when they do, the answers they find are not always the ones they want.

Ancient as it looks, the contents of the Library vary widely. Like most places I visit in the City, it is larger on the inside than on the outside. Inside are everything from maps to ancient scrolls to modern trashy paperbacks, stored in narrow aisles. Aside from the many floors of stacks, there are also small rooms and carrels for study.

It's the archetype of every library you've known - old and gothic, new and spacious, a little of everything. Most people find there way in on the first floor, a large, open space with tables and map books as well as reading areas. The reference desk is here as well; if you have questions, that's the best place to start.

The main reading room, where the Librarians meet with guests, usually has tall, gothic ceilings and wide worktables when I'm there. Between the reading room and the vestible is the circulation desk, where various regular inhabitants of the Library can often be found. There is always at least one person at the circulation desk, sometimes more.

The upper floors are packed with narrower walkways between the stacks, and they seem to change as you walk through them, the shelves and flooring shifting. Another way to access the Library, usually by accident, is by starting in a branch library, some real world library or personal collection, and taking a turn that feels like it shouldn't be there, and then ending up among the stacks.

Branch Library

There is also a sub-basement that is far more modern than anything else found in the library, including a room dominated by a very large computer. This space uses data storage crystals in a way that could easily be interpreted as Atlantean or Lemurian, if you were looking to make such a connection.

The Library always smells faintly of ash and salt.

It isn’t just the big things – the Library of Alexandria, the Hanlin Academy, 焚書坑儒, and the like, though names like Aurelian, Itzcoatl and Qin Shi Huang and not even whispered in the halls – but the flames of chance as well. Hundreds of thousands of individual manuscripts were committed to paper or papyrus and then lost forever. Paper burns, vellum is scraped clean, clay tablets crumble, languages are forgotten. War destroys stories even as it destroys lives. And the ashes end up there in the Library.

There are the lost works of famous authors, books we only know about by the references to them in other books, and then there are the stories written by second graders, manuscripts that were never rescued from drawers, journals that their owners burned. Scrapbooks packed to the margins with pictures of landmarks that were never celebrated, families that never began, children who never grew up.

The closest thing I’ve ever heard described is the Akashic Records, but I’ve never met anyone whose worldview I meshed with that worked with it, so it’s hard to figure out. I often go there when I’m not sure what to do next or I don’t know what I’m dealing with, just as I do with my local library. In this case, though, it’s more like journeywork than just hopping on the bus.

I have, on occasion, used a combination of pathwalking, where I wander with the otherworld overlapping this one, and bibliomancy in the library/Library itself. It can be brutally efficient, but I can’t recommend it lightly.

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