Why Libraries Exist

I normally blog about library technology, but I'd like to take a break from that today and do a fun post from the "great writers in the library" genre. I've heard a million of these stories, but I never get tired of them (btw, does anyone know of a site where they're collected?). This one is the story of Carl Sagan's first visit to the library from Cosmos (pg. 133):

Even with an early bedtime, in the winter you could sometimes see the stars. I would look at them, twinkling and remote, and wonder what they were. I would ask older children and adults, who would only reply, "They're lights in the sky, kid." I could see they were lights in the sky, but what were they? Just small hovering lamps? Whatever for? I felt a kind of sorrow for them: a commonplace whose strangeness remained somehow hidden from my incurious fellows. There had to be a deeper answer.

As soon as I was old enough, my parents gave me my first library card. I think the library was on 85th Street, an alien land. Immediately, I asked the librarian for something on stars. She returned with a picture book displaying portraits of men and women with names like Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. I complained, and for some reason then obscure to me, she smiled and found another book--the right kind of book. I opened it breathlessly and read until I found it. The book said something astonishing, a very big thought. It said that the stars were suns, only very far away. The sun was a star, but close up.


"does anyone know of a site where they're collected?" I don't know if a site like that exists, but it's a GREAT idea!