The balmy, dog days of summer have come to a close. The hours of daylight sheepishly creep back into their cave to hide out for the winter. Lake visits have come to a halt and while, yes, it’s still warm enough to dine outside, the darkness of winter is encroaching.
This, the cusp of frigid temperatures, is the time of year when weather-neutral distractions are welcome. It’s also an ideal time to take your wellness into careful consideration by finding activities that ease you into the new season. Enter: the library, a charming way to spend a few cozy hours out of the cold.
As social media would have us believe, there’s always something thrilling to explore. A new café to visit, a film to see or a restaurant to try. But with libraries, there’s a world to devour that tickles all of the senses with a triumphant permanence.
A library delivers on all fronts – a serene activity that’s low in cost, peaceful with endless discoveries – all laid out as a book lover’s buffet.
Take in the librarian’s scent as you walk past the check out desk. (Is it an unwritten rule that librarians must spritz themselves with an ambiguous fragrance before work?) A sandwich, hidden in another library patron’s back underneath a pile of notebooks, wafts your way. Said patron is well aware of the fact that food is strictly forbidden but decided to take the chance and sneaks bites when no one is looking.
But the overwhelming scent of a library is, of course, that of books. Some books’ pages have morphed to a tea-stained yellow, while others are dog eared or even completely ripped out and still their fragrance persists. The scent of an old book is that of oaky optimism, at times melancholy, and a mustiness that can only be found in places and objects that have seen their fair share of decades. The pages, the ink and the cover.
The amalgamation of these smells provides a comfort to anyone who sets foot in a library’s walls.
Laid out upon rows and rows, sometimes spread across multiple floors, libraries have a soothing appearance like a carefully mapped course of dominoes. Shelves that snake around the building and emphasize the architecture, fit neatly into the walls like puzzle pieces.
Children are distracted by the colourful kids books, while their parents find a brief respite. Doctoral students are lost in a world of academia. Librarians, sometimes disgruntled, sometimes syrupy, flitter back and forth, juggling the tasks of re-shelving titles and efficiently checking out guests.
Everyone is in their own world but it all convenes for the sake of the library.
To enjoy it, to make it run smoothly, and for the greater good of literature and prose. There’s no need to rush in a library. Words never expire.
Ditch the headphones and other useless distractions and be engulfed by the sound of… nothing. You might hear the gentle sweeping sound of a page turning in the distance, or the intermittent squeak of a book cart’s wheels perfectly timed with a librarian’s footsteps as they reshelve books nearby.
Barely audible whispers are exchanged from somewhere in between a row of shelves. The library is a place to all at once enjoy the presence of others while basking in solitude and silence.
Each year, nearly 2.3 million books are printed worldwide. And because one tree can make about 16.6 books, a very roughly estimated 140,312 trees are cut down each year to provide books globally. If you’re concerned about your environmental footprint, e-books are a thoughtful way to ensure authors and publishers get their proper financial due. But if you love the look, smell and feel of a physical book, a trip to the library can help to cultivate a well-rounded sustainable lifestyle.
The cultural awareness
Libraries have historically served as a gathering point for communities, but also they’re a place to browse through lesser known reads by independent publishers. Events and workshops offer you the opportunity to become acquainted with artists from underrepresented communities.
There will be books written by people you won’t like on topics you won’t agree with. As if you needed any additional reason to make the trip to your local library, you can keep an open mind while seeing another side of the story – even if it simply cements an idea you already had.
Few activities could replace intimate belly laughs with friends or a memorable meal, but spending quality time in a library isn’t meant to. Instead, think of visiting a library as an act of a quieter, more introspective self care and let it be a welcome addition to your routine.
Where to unwind this weekend
- Geschwister-Scholl-Straße 1-3
- Öffentlicher Bücherschrank
- Various locations throughout Berlin