The Death of the Library

I love old libraries. And Texas certainly has its own set of ancient libraries to explore. Years ago in the 1980’s I spent a lot of time in the Fondren and DeGolyer Libraries at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas researching various histories and events.

An Old Texas Library

I remember getting almost forgotten and shut in some nights when the library would close late at night and all you heard was the sound of some ancient air conditioning unit from the 1960’s dripping in the back corner of some forgotten corner of the library. The idea of being trapped in a dark, dusty old library was exciting to me, I guess.

The Fondren Library used to have this old, dirty elevator that would rattle and creak as it took you up through 10 floors of old forgotten books nobody ever read, dark old books too obscure or too important to sell at library sales, I guess. I love the fact large old libraries chose to keep such large collections even as the years age them past their use in any modern study or research. Yet something mysterious remains in those old tomes we cant quite grasp.

There was some amazing books in the West Stacks at SMU. I remember one year I stumbled upon a 19th century encyclopedia of Western pioneers and cowboys – some forgotten bibliographies of old guys who left a brief description of their wild lives riding through the west, hunting buffalo, and being chased by Indians. Each story was vibrant, full of life but tragic in a way. Such old pioneers seemed to have been forgotten and lost to time, their colorful adventures in the old west now stuck in a book in some obscure corner of the library for perpetuity.

Old bookstores and libraries come with so much mystery, as if they are the epicenter of all our forgotten history. They remain a portal to the spirits of the people of our past. For eventually all our lives get portrayed in those books. Yet something important yet remains most people today still cannot quite grasp…..a Gold Age of America now lost to time that reminds us of the dark and doomed future ahead of us, possibly. Creepy!

I feel the souls of the people that wrote all those old books when I’m in a really old library. The musty almost damp smell of the pages, the dusty tomes, the strange flowery, Victorian language used that seems so rich and vivid compared to the dumbed down drab language used today. When you open a 100 year old book it has an aura about it the Internet and ebook world just cannot recreate. It has a Truth the Digital Age has wholly lost…..that in carefully crafted words holds many meanings and lost wisdom society refuses to value much less may ever grasp.

Maybe that’s the real reason libraries are dying and may die, someday soon. Ignorance.

They say the West Stacks at SMU are haunted. I’ve been stuck in moldy-smelling hallways of old Fondren library and isolated parts of that library many times alone. And it’s pretty spooky, I will admit. Supposedly some old professor died there in the 1950’s. I believe it was old Umphrey Lee in 1958, whom my Grandfather years ago knew at SMU in the 1920’s. Some say students had seen his ghost in the West Stacks before. I almost believe I may have, as well.

My Library Ghost Story

Years ago I was researching various things in the older part of that library on the 3rd floor. I remember hearing the rain and thunder outside. It was some late afternoon on a Sunday in the summer when a Texas storm built up in the west and came crashing over the old building. Every had left the West stacks at Fondren Library but me. And I was enjoying that quiet time to research uninterrupted.

I had hid myself in the back corner, pouring furiously through some stack of tomes which held some secret to a lost treasure I was research….when I heard something. I thought it was a book drop. Then strangely I heard a chair move. I thought it odd another student would pick a place to study in this very isolated part of the library I had not seen all day. So I walked by where I heard the sound and there was no one. No books, no chair. I figured at that point it was the thunder.

But as I turned I saw a faint form disappear behind a shelf. Yet no body, footsteps, or sound was heard. Only the sound of thunder in the distance as the summer storm outside raged. Years later I would read that the 3rd floor was where the old professor died. Yes, libraries are creepy!

Old bookstores and libraries deserve a place in society. We’ve lost many of them, I’ve read. It’s made me wonder what the digital age has brought us and what it’s left us? Are the closing of book stores a sign we are devolving back down to a more “primitive society”, one less involved in history and culture and knowledge? Or is information now just more convenient? After all, Google has started to scan all our old books and make them public online. Still I worry.

There seems to be a bias against history and a demonization of history by many young people today. To reject history as one thing, such as racist or violent, is ignorance. For no part of history will ever be free of evil. History can only be rediscovered, never rewritten. That’s why libraries are so important.

Sadly, I think our culture is changing. The role of the old library in America is over. Sad. (The last Barnes and Nobles in our part of town shut its doors years ago). Here in Texas I’ve predicted eventually all that will be left are bars, social clubs, and gun stores. The death of institutions of learning is increasing.

Still I’ve fantasized some enlightened person would build an old bookstore in America in a library style format for our young people to remember the value of old books and the knowledge they contain. If it doesn’t happen, I’ll have to dream about it, write about it, cry about it. 🙁

I’ve got several ideas for stories I want to write about concerning old libraries and old book stores and they coming death. I want to remember our libraries and write about their mysteries; libraries with secret passages or ghosts or strange portals to fantasy worlds, etc.

But lets all pray that old libraries will remain funded, somehow, and some future generation beyond the current ones see again their hidden wealth and treasure old book again.

– the Author

Created Jul 17, 2016, 5:26 AM

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