Michaela Merz

The library

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I love libraries. These huge halls with countless books. The collected knowledge of mankind. The sacred silence in there. The people one meets there.

I love libraries because I am convinced that they are in danger of extinction. I suspect that digital transformation will make them superfluous and slowly, quietly and without protest, one after another will die. In 20 years there might be one as a museum of the 20th century and books will be ordered electronically from home.

I spent countless hours in libraries. I studied there for exams; I searched sources for my book. When I was working on my book, I needed tons of books. My two daughters were very small back then, did not yet know how to read and a scientific library was not very interesting for them. But I had to take them with me because there was no one to take care of them. It was stressful. I had to take care that they keep silent and do not disturb anyone; I had to fetch my books and at the same time entertain the girls so that they do not get bored. Luckily the university library was being rebuilt at that time and the books were stored in old barracks. Thus it was less likely that anyone would complain. I promised my daughters that both of them would be allowed to borrow one book each. While I was searching for my books, the girls played hide and seek between the book shelves. At the age of 3 and 4 years this works pretty well. I found all my books and wanted to go home with the girls. But I only found the older one. I asked where the younger one was but she did not know. We started to search together. Shelf after shelf, row after row. The little one had disappeared. At the beginning I thought it was great how well she was hiding herself but as the time passed it got more and more eerie. I had horror images in front of my eyes of what could happen to the younger one.

Silence or not, we started shouting. Loud and louder. Nothing! Only the worried librarian came in order rebuke us. When I explained to her what had happened she helped us searching. We separated and continued searching systematically. We also continued shouting. And suddenly I saw her. She was lying under a shelf and did not move. I ran to her. She was sleeping. Very peaceful on the dusty floor. I woke her and she held a book towards me. That was the book she had chosen. On the cover was a picture of a huge strawberry. That was the only picture in the entire book. The rest was a scientific paper on the prevalence of strawberries. We took the book home, eventually I had promised it.

And another book from a library fascinated me. When I received my diploma at Irchel university, I saw a book behind glass in the library – “Switzerland at the turn of the century” with an old photograph reminding of the 19th century. That was 20 years ago. But when I am at university every now and then I go there to have a look. And it’s incredible, the book is still there, at the same place as 20 years ago. And I promise myself that when I come the next time I will borrow the book. So far I did not manage. Perhaps next time. It seems that there is no need to rush anyway.

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