Travelling as a Librarian
November 19, 2012
On a recent (and marvelous!) trip to Italy, I had a few goals:
- Spend time seeing a new part of the world with my husband.
- Enjoy delicious food!
- People watching to my heart’s content (and having the good sense to keep my thoughts to myself)
- Visit the libraries!
We enjoyed our trip immensely, experienced a new culture, ate enough pasta to last us quite a while, observed the locals (and more frequently the fellow tourists), and, lo and behold, visited the libraries… sort of.
By "sort of," I mean I made it as far as the cramped entryway in Florence’s Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze before being told I wasn’t permitted beyond the ticket-taker-like window. Alright, so this wasn’t what I had in mind; I’m going to be honest. While I got some amazing pictures of the outside of the buildings (and they were amazing buildings!), I really wanted to visit beyond the beautiful façade and see, ya know… the books. The atmosphere. The practices of the librarians in a different culture. The way patrons interact with the space. The layout of the space itself. Alas, I managed to get to the window in front of the person informing me that those other sights were beyond my access, seeing as I wasn’t there on official business.
For me, libraries have always been a welcoming environment (not too surprisingly, I guess, as I chose this line of work for my career), and to be turned away was a new experience. I understand an institution only granting access to its members; it is simply not something I had ever associated with libraries.
Again, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to visit Italy, but next time I will do my homework a little better and make sure I visit libraries that are accessible to the public without special requirements needing to be met in advance (these libraries do exist, I just didn’t know about them at the time). In the meantime, I can enjoy the libraries we have here stateside, brush up on my Italian with Mango (or Muzzy for kids), read some of our travel guides, browse our travel-related Online Resources, and get information on some of Florence’s libraries online through travel blogs (no passport required)!
Lone Jack Branch