If you love books like crazy, and if you adore libraries, you probably understand that restricted libraries are like speakeasies for geeks. Regular libraries are cool. Anyone can enter, borrow a book, and share ideas. Amazing!
But restricted libraries are full of books that just some people can read. Now, Gentle Readers, I do not believe that knowledge should be restricted to the few. I think that the trend of digitizing manuscripts is fantastic. Anyone from anywhere can now see texts that were previously only available to certain scholars. Huzzah for dissemination of the written word!
But being able to enter a restricted library and look at special copies of books that most people can never see (because they’re too delicate, too fragile, or too obscure) is wicked awesome. How do I explain why my egalitarian heart beats just a little bit faster when I have a reading pass for special collections somewhere? It’s like you’re being let in on a secret. Like you’ll discover something just by turning the pages that most people will never touch. Like the smell of the book alone will make you smarter.
It’s a totally geeky high. Add in a bag check to guard against contraband, white gloves, a weighted fabric snake, and a foam book support, and I am in heaven! But what really cinches it is that you need a special library card. You need an ID. You need to be on the list.
For some, this thrill becomes passé. If you work in special collections, I’m sure it’s quite normal. But I am a Book Geek with Capital Letters and I am still Quite Excited when I get Reading Passes. But it’s true, Gentle Readers: a girl never forgets her first time.
I cannot begin to tell you how amazing it was to be (an uncouth American. An undergrad.) able to flash that Reading Pass and swan on by the guard to the Reading Rooms. A speakeasy for geeks, people. Secret knowledge. Many are called but few are chosen. Name of the Rose stuff, I tell you.